Short takes: Livongo buys myStrength, Apple Watch cozies with insurers, Lively hears telehealth and $16 million

Livongo gets behaviorally stronger with myStrength. Extending from their base in diabetes and chronic disease management into behavioral health, Livongo made a logical extension with early-stage behavioral health company myStrength. A large percentage of those with chronic conditions are also struggling with a behavioral health issue–Livongo cites 20 percent but in this Editor’s opinion, the estimate is low. Both Livongo and myStrength have been very successful in the payment game, with both companies achieving payment and reimbursement by employers, insurers, health systems, and state/Federal payers. The other factor is that employers and payers want single, integrated platforms for wellness and disease management. Livongo last year bought Retrofit for its weight management program. Competitor Omada Health recently acquired the behavioral health technology of defunct Lantern. MedCityNews, Fortune, Livongo release

Apple Watch wastes no time in partnering with insurers. Or vice versa! Confirming that Apple Watch’s growth strategy hinges heavily on health via its new features are fresh agreements with Aetna/CVS Health and a rumored reach into three Medicare Advantage plans. The Aetna partnership is with an app called Attain, which blends Apple Watch activity tracking data with users’ health history to create personalized programs. The program is limited to about 250,000 slots plus additional slots for employer plans, and will debut this spring. Late last year, United HealthCare announced Apple Watches would be added to existing wellness program called Motion and their Rally platform. Both Aetna and United have tiered payment programs for the watches, with United adding a HSA reward. For Medicare Advantage plans, Apple is rumored that they will subsidize the watch for use as a health tracker and coach. FierceMobileHealthcare 30 Jan (Aetna), 14 Nov 18 (UHC), and 29 Jan (Medicare Advantage).

Lively adds telehealth to hearing assistance. Lively’s mobile-connected, direct to consumer hearing aids are adding more telehealth features such as remote tuning, virtual video consults with an audiologist, and an online hearing assessment/uploading audiogram for assessment. The NYC-based company also announced closing on a $16 million seed/Series A fundraising round led by Declaration Capital with participation from Tiger Management. There are an estimated 35 million Americans with hearing loss in a $10bn annual market. Hearing aids are rapidly adding digital and DTC features–others in the field are Eargo and ReSound. Lively releaseAlleyWatch, Mobihealthnews. (Lively is not to be confused with Lively!, acquired by GreatCall two years ago)

Our wrapup of news and tart takes on HIMSS 16 (updated redux)

Lions Lie Down With Lambs, and Other Miracles!

HIMSS 16’s main ‘breaking news’ centered on HIT interoperability. The lead was US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell’s announcement on how Lions Will Lie Down With Lambs, Or Else. 17 EHRs that cover 90 percent of electronic health records used by U.S. hospitals–including the bitterest of rivals, Epic (the EHR everyone likes to hate) and Cerner, 16 providers including the nation’s five largest private healthcare systems, and more than a dozen leading professional associations and stakeholder groups (including HIMSS) pledged to implement three core commitments that allegedly will improve the flow of health information to consumers and healthcare providers. They are consumer access, no information blocking and standards. When? Where? How? Strictly TBD. HHS release, MedCityNews, Modern Healthcare, which dubbed it ‘another year, another promise’.

Innovate or Die. For companies and providers, it’s not about compliance anymore but about improving patient outcomes due to value-based care and incentives. Providers will increasingly be responsible for patient care throughout the community to make their numbers. Having made this sound point, Dr John Halamka then proposes they will need a ‘care traffic control’ system through data aggregation, with a laundry list of ‘enablers’, directories and connectors surrounding the EHR. How this all will work together, and who will buy in already challenged practices and ACOs, plus how those 17 notoriously territorial EHRs will work with said ‘enablers’ — or complicators — is a mystery to this Editor. Pass the Advil, please. MedCityNews

Read on for more Top 10s, roundups, DOD and VA EHR news, the Super Bowl-winning quarterback tackles the closing keynote, and 10 ways you can become a HIMSS speaker! (more…)

Advanced haptics advancing behavioral mHealth

Haptics is the feedback you receive through a sense of touch–think of the slight vibration you receive on a mobile touchscreen when you touch a ‘button’. Marry haptics to behavioral health and remote monitoring, and you have some interesting devices from MIT’s Touch Lab (formally the Laboratory for Human and Machine Haptics) which have reached clinical testing stage. The four are Touch Me, Squeeze Me, Hurt Me, and Cool Me Down. Touch Me is an array of sensors that vibrate at the caregiver’s remote command to simulate touch. The related Squeeze Me is a vest that inflates, also remotely controlled, to simulate holding, similar to the T.Ware T-Jacket vest [TTA 22 Mar]. Both are for autistic children or those with sensory processing disorders. The touch is to calm and reassure them. Hurt Me is not for the local “dungeon” or Client #9–it’s to assist in the therapy of those who deliberately harm themselves such as ‘cutters’ by simulating the feeling of being bitten on the arm. The pins against the skin deliver controlled pain without breaking the skin. (more…)