Looking back over Telehealth & Telecare Aware’s predictions for 2014, part II

click to enlargeEditor Charles has treated you to a look back on his 2014 predictions, daring Editor Donna to look back on hers. Were they ‘Decidedly so’, ‘Yes’, ‘Reply hazy, try again’ or ‘My sources say no’? Read on…

On New Year’s Day 2014, it looked like “the year of reckoning for the ‘better mousetraps’”? But the reckoning wasn’t quite as dramatic as this Editor thought.

We are whipping past the 2012-13 Peak of Inflated Expectations in health tech, diving into the Trough of Disillusionment in 2014.

There surely were companies which turned up ‘Insolvent with a great idea’ in Joe Hage’s (LinkedIn’s huge Medical Devices Group) terms, but it was more a year of Big Ideas Going Sideways than Crash and Burns.

Some formerly Great Ideas may have a future, just not the one originally envisioned. The Great Idea of setting standards for, certifying and giving doctors apps to prescribe came to an end when GNYHA unloaded sold Happtique to an obscure health experience dashboard creator (of the defunct Cigna GoYou for one) called SocialWellth which vowed to get into “prescriptive digital health curation”. IMS Health’s AppScript certifier hasn’t made much of a splash since its announcement in 2013 but you have to forgive the company for concentrating more on its IPO and staying on the positive side of valuation. Meanwhile the small team over at the highly specialized iMedicalApps peer reviews professional, and a few consumer, medical apps on a fairly constant basis, though as working physicians (for the most part) one wonders where they get the time. But they are now partnered with Everyday Health’s MedPageToday, and with a far spiffier website than just a few months ago.

One of the most ironic stories belongs to Virginia-based AFrame Digital. They were one of the first developers (2010) of a wrist-worn device combining vital signs monitoring, fall detection, activity/ADL tracking and the time. It was an early version of a smartwatch, developed by primarily a team of women for the older adult ‘aging at home’ market. By 2013 they appeared to be stuck in ‘pilot/research hell’ and your Editor lost track, missing them at ATA. An update brought to my attention that they were sold to Neos Technologies of Maryland which plans to develop the company’s patents in the field.

This year, we heard a lot less about the Quantified Self obsessives and more about how to get the low and medium-risk individual to take up monitoring and not toss their Fitbit away after a few weeks or months. QS DQ’d? Or calming down into the Eric Topol Doctorless Patient?

The Magic 8 Ball says: ‘Reply hazy, try again’. (Well, at least it wasn’t ‘Better not tell you now’.)

 Comes the dawn and sobering realizations

The graceful pivot seems to be the new dance. After a long time developing multiple systems that didn’t fit together, Care Innovations reworked its offerings into Health Harmony and behind care management, adding the UK’s buddi to its consumer-facing device partners, Lively (sensor based home activity monitoring) and iHealth. (And QuietCare resurfaced.) Vivify Health, seen at the mHealth Summit, rebranded from Intuitive Health this spring as it finalized its move from consumer-directed software-as-a-service for personal health and home monitoring to a more tightly focused software and kit for the 5 percent deemed the highest-risk patients for health systems–and gained a $15 million investment in November. Certified Grizzled Pioneers (your Editor can be in the Certification Game too) pivoted too. GrandCare (founded 1993!) rebranded, relogoed and refocused their LTC efforts into better outcomes in hospital-to-home transitional care management (TCM), again against the highest-risk for readmission patients, presently premiering at International CES’ Digital Health Summit. At mHealth Summit, Viterion (2003) displayed some fruits of new ownership: a new logo/look and more importantly, a new tablet with proprietary software and a straightforward focus on chronic care/population health management versus ‘monitoring’. Vitaphone USA (1999) staked a new direction, partnering with QualcommLife’s HealthyCircles care management plus the 2net platform, and adding a CEO.

Even Tunstall dances. Their Active Health Management mobile platform via Tactio in the UK/EU is a first in moving the Big T away from long-term, high-acuity patients to “supported self-management” and transitional care–and, surprisingly, using a device-agnostic system developed by another company. Last but not least, in a pivot worthy of Nureyev in his prime, 23andme, which made much of bringing genomics testing power to the people (800,000 to date) and only secondarily using the data for medical research, but got waylaid by FDA over those pesky device clearances, is selling the data big time to Big Pharma as predicted: Genentech is investing between $10 and $50 million to use that rich data (by consent). It will be one of several pharma companies to partner extensively with Ms Wojcicki and take some investor pressure off (Matthew Herper, who predicted this early in 2014, and David Shaywitz contemplate the ka-ching in Forbes).

And when you can’t pivot, exit stage left and pay off the VCs and shareholders. Aetna CarePass passed, its parent Healthagen retreating to a more traditional payer services model. Alere Health, after considerable work in less than two years absorbing and redeveloping MedApps, integrating it into case management and patient analytics, sold the kit and kaboodle to giant Optum which will find a place for it. (One hopes for the best outcome for Kent Dicks, a key part of the AH transformation.) Zephyr sold to Covidien, eCardio to Merck, robotic developer Lift Labs to Google, Ameridoc to Teladoc in telemedicine, Siemens Health to Cerner in HIT, and last but not least Corventis to Medtronic. (See Rock Health’s 2014 roundup, slide 16) A trend that they expect will accelerate in 2015.

Even concepts pivot: certification into telemedicine (ATA) and Care Innovations’ Validation Institute, though the latter is likely too closely tied to a competitor to be comfortable for population health-engaged vendors and consultants

The Magic 8 Ball says: ‘You may rely on it.’ Then, Take two aspirin. Drink fluids.’

This Editor concludes that the romance with Whiz-Bang Gizmos is over for good. They didn’t transform the world (yawn). But now we are dealing with another, greyer but equally overhyped category–data analytics and big data–which equally promises to Change Everything. But more about that in 2015 predictions.

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