Better’s fast fail, ending health assistance service 30 Oct

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Better.png” thumb_width=”150″ /]Better is sadly not. This two-year old service that provided personal health assistance, including a real, live health assistant, to guide members through health questions, the thickets of insurance claims, finding doctors and specialists, apps and more, announced earlier this week that it was ending operations as of 30 October. While it was announced via their Twitter feed on Tuesday, most of the industry learned of it through Stephanie Baum’s article in MedCityNews today. Better formally debuted only 16 months ago [TTA 23 Apr 14] and at the time this Editor felt that it was a service in the right direction, a kind of ‘concierge medicine for the masses’ needed when individuals have to direct more and more of their own care.

A solid start, as our Readers have seen, does not guarantee success, but this fast fail is still fairly shocking. A concern at the time was the pricing for the full service model at $49/month, which later became the family price (individuals were $19.99/month). CEO/co-founder Geoff Clapp was among the most Grizzled of Health Tech Pioneers; he had been a co-founder of Health Hero/Health Buddy from 1998 to its sale to Bosch Healthcare, a very long pull in telehealth, and he had spent much of his post-Health Hero time generously advising other startups. Yet despite the involvement of blue chip Mayo Clinic as a service provider, its financial backing from their investment arm and socially-oriented VC Social+Capital Partnership, it managed to raise only its initial seed funding of $5 million (CrunchBase).

So what happened? (more…)

Telemedicine’s 25 things to know better–and Better

For those of us who have been Terminology Warriors going back to the oughts (see founder and EIC emeritus Steve Hards’ summary in ‘What is Telecare’), this is a useful summary of not only what is telemedicine and who is authorized to perform it, but also how it is developing (US focus) in state law and reimbursement (private and Medicare). Despite being published earlier this month, it is already dated as reimbursement parity laws have been passed in Connecticut and Delaware [TTA 10 July]. The richly IPO’d Teladoc is omitted on the provider list in point #21; Better is anomalous as it is less telemedicine than a personal health assistance service.  25 things to know about telemedicine (Becker’s Health IT and CIO Review)

About Better: they have joined with Johns Hopkins’ Sibley Memorial Hospital Innovation Hub to provide support for orthopedic episodes of care. These generally are for a 90 day period which extends from scheduling the procedure through post-discharge recovery, and are usually tied into a bundled payment from an insurer or Medicare. Johns Hopkins press release Hat tip to CEO Geoff Clapp.

Do startups truly threaten the ‘healthcare establishment’?

Or are successful startups fitting into their game? Chris Seper in MedCityNews paints the picture of one side of a quandary. The ‘healthcare establishment’ fundamentally and to its detriment does not understand and is threatened by the startup and innovation process. A startup may begin with an idea which is, in his words, ‘almost always flawed, sometimes deeply’. If the founders are smart, they will test their ideas, validate them and change them appropriately. If not, they will fail. But it is easier for the Establishment to point at the most egregious of the bad ideas and use them to rationalize the status quo.

But being congenital contrarians, we paint the house on the other side of the street. Has the Establishment caught up with–or in some cases, co-opted startups, making them and their funders ‘do their diligence’ and be more cautious before emerging? This Editor would argue yes, and largely for the better.

**The ‘Wild West’ days are over. A few years ago, a truly bad or deeply flawed health tech idea or could easily find funding, because it was all blank slate, new and ‘transformative’.The sexiest hooks were Quantified Self, sleep, employer health incentives, interactive coaching, genomics, app prescribing and (last) wearables. A lot of founders imagined themselves as the Steve Jobs of Healthcare, down to the black turtleneck. Now there is a history of success and failure. The railroads reached the dusty frontier towns.

**There’s now a ‘Startup Establishment’. National accelerators (more…)

Telemedicine’s boffo year? Some confirmation. (US)

Big bets were made on telemedicine (video doctor-patient consults) in 2014. This Editor closed her 18 December article with ‘telemedicine providers received a $200 million+ vote of confidence from tough-minded investors. We’ll see if 2015 results fulfill these whale-at-Monte-Carlo wagers.’ Here may be the start of a tipping point. New York State’s new law requiring insurer reimbursement for telehealth services went into effect 1 January, making NY the 22nd state to require payers to pay up for virtual visits. Permitted providers are physicians, dentists (!), physician assistants, psychologists and social workers. This provider list is considerably broader than Medicare’s new rules applying telehealth for patients with two or more chronic conditions, which is tied to physicians’ offices and contracted third parties. Also cheering the industry are that Indiana, Iowa and Tennessee are holding hearings on potential legislation, with Missouri at the legislative bill stage. (more…)

The smartphone as great healthcare leveler: Eric Topol

Eric Topol MD, cardiologist, Chief Medical Advisor for the rebooted (but so far quiet) AT&T ForHealth and Chief Academic Officer at Scripps Health, is no stranger to the ‘big statement’ and is well known as an advocate for all things mHealthy. For at least two years, he has been promoting the smartphone’s ‘equalizer’ capabilities in health not only via apps and ‘add ons’ but also as a storehouse or central repository for individual health information, including genetic screening, which can be transmitted onward to a practitioner, lab or PHR. Dr Topol’s ‘big statements’ were fully on display in his keynote at HealthLeaders’ CFO Exchange conference. A promoter of the ‘creative destruction of medicine’ (the title of his most recent book, WSJ article), he believes that everything from the office visit (virtualized) (more…)

Apple Health, minus the ‘book’, announced

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/healthkit-apple-wwdc-2014-87_verge_medium_landscape.jpg” thumb_width=”170″ /]Breaking and developing… Apple announced their long-rumored health tracking app [TTA 22 Mar] this morning at their WWDC (World Wide Developers Conference) in San Francisco. The consumer app is called Health (not Healthbook) and the developer platform HealthKit which are both part of iOS8 for iPhones and iPads in the fall. HealthKit facilitates pulling in of health data from third-party developers so that all health-related information for the consumer user is in one ‘hub’, similar to what Apple’s Passbook app does now as a ‘virtual pocket’ for airline boarding passes, movie tickets and coupons. Apple’s Craig Federighi, senior VP of software (pictured, courtesy of The Verge), made the announcement of the app and platform as part of the broader debut of iOS8 this morning.

Already on board is Mayo Clinic with an app that logs information like blood pressure, tracking normal range and it appears from reports that a severe enough deviation will initiate a contact with medical professionals. Nike was prominently featured as an app provider, further confirming that it’s leaving the hardware to their close corporate partner now that it’s out of the FuelBand business [TTA 22 April]. Epic Systems, a leading large system (hospitals/practices) EHR, appears to be integrating integrating its personal health record (PHR) with HealthKit, “suggesting a framework for getting information collected via HealthKit into patients’ MyChart (Epic PHR–Ed.) app.”

Editor Donna wonders if the still-in-early-days Better iPhone health personal assistant app (PHA), developed in conjunction with and backed by the aforementioned Mayo Clinic [TTA 23 Apr], will prominently integrate into Health. (We’ll cover when this develops, as we think it will–but mum’s their word for right now.)

In Mashable, the news was applauded by the CEO of leading app MyFitnessPal as a big validation. In his opinion, Apple would work with the existing field of apps and devices. Leading fitness bands Jawbone and Fitbit had no comment. Fitbit was shown during the presentation: CNET (one of six pictures here) and The Verge (article below). The latter makes the excellent point that Jawbone, Fitbit and the Nike FuelBand have all been sold in Apple’s stores.

The speculation is that Health will be a key part of the features of the iWatch to come, but Mashable in quoting Skip Snow of Forrester Research does bring up a significant wrinkle. Bluetooth LE as a network protocol chews up a lot of battery power, and bigger batteries make for clunky devices. Not exactly the Apple design ethic. Could it be that what’s delaying the iWatch is development of a new, more power-efficient network standard?

Update 3 June: With iOS8 having apps communicating with each other, have the Apple-oids opened the door for a Happy Hacking Holiday?  Stilgherrian in ZDNet points out that the ‘attack surface’ in info security-ese just got a whole lot larger. A future ‘oopsie’?

Hat tip to Editor Toni Bunting

More information: Mashable can’t stop mashing stories: Apple Reveals iOS 8: Interactive Notifications, Health App and MoreApple Gets Into Fitness Tracking With Health App and HealthKit for iOS 8Apple’s First Step Into Health Tracking Is Small But Powerful. Mobihealthnews gets into the act noting Epic’s involvement: Apple reveals tracking app HealthKit and partners with Mayo Clinic, Epic. The Verge positively is on said verge with Apple HealthKit announced: a hub for all your iOS fitness tracking needs.

Getting ‘Better’ with a personal health assistant

Is Better going to where better healthcare should be?

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/pha.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Making its formal debut last week was Better, an iPhone app (Android to come) developed in conjunction with and backed by the Mayo Clinic. The aim of Better is to deliver information and care no matter where people are located. The analogy co-founder/CEO Geoff Clapp uses is ‘AAA (RAC or AA=UK) for healthcare’ but it seems to be a bit more developed than emergency tows and TripTiks. In its free version, it provides complete access to Mayo Clinic educational content tailored to the user’s interests and provides access to a personal health record (PHR) for the family. In the $49/month premium version, Mayo provides 24/7 national access to a personal health assistant available by phone and video. The PHAs can coordinate your and your family’s providers, help navigate your insurance and billing and coordinate follow up care. If needed, the PHA can connect the user with a Mayo Clinic nurse who can explain symptoms, potential causes and recommend next steps. The paid version also provides a symptom checker, built with algorithms and using the Mayo database.

According to Mr Clapp (interviewed in Mobihealthnews), Better is ‘early’ and trying to define a market. He is encouraged by remarks such as “I’m not sure I totally get it and not sure the world is ready for this” which is similar to what he heard when co-founding Health Hero (now Bosch Health Buddy) in 1998 (among the most Grizzled of Grizzled Pioneers). Also in this interview, he cites a focus on underserved disease groups such as Crohn’s Disease and cystic fibrosis where help is not generally available; eventually they will also move toward telemedicine. Since the sale. he has been mentoring companies at Rock Health. Better has raised $5 million to date between Mayo and Social+Capital Partnership and is located in Palo Alto, California. It’s an interesting spin on concierge medicine–can it be considered ‘concierge healthcare for the masses?’ Given the pedigree and the partners, we expect to hear bigger, better things from Better in the next few months. Also MedCityNews,  the PSFK Labs blog and FastCompany. Video (YouTube)  Hat tips to Bob Pyke, Editor Toni Bunting