A Gimlety look at fitness trackers and startup bloviation

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/gimlet-eye.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]It must be summer and The Gimlet Eye is looking for amusement and diversion. In a Real World of shotdown passenger aircraft and Middle East war, even Neil Versel in Meaningful HIT News is opting for the lighter side. He draws our attention to the humor of Steven Colbert on the subject “The Golden Era of Digital Toys”. Instead of actually running a marathon, simulate it with your Fitbit by mounting it to a paint shaker. But beyond these yuks, Mr Colbert aptly points to the vaporous language used by every DH3-er (Digital Health Hypester Horde) to promote their ‘revolutionary’ device.

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Vessyl.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Case in point: Vessyl, a cup that reads out what you are drinking down to the brand, flavor and calorie count and tosses the information to an app on your smartphone. (Of course, you could read the container, but that would be soooo uncool.) Colbert uses Vessyl to skewer Healthcare Startup Bloviation. There’s the Founder with red oblong glasses on ‘tracking real time hydration’. Then another principal, of whom The Gimlet Eye notes must be so dedicated that has no time to shave, tweeze his eyebrows, comb his hair or put on a clean shirt for the promo video, uttering their mission statement like Moses Bringing Down The Tablets from Sinai: ‘we help people make healthier and more informed decisions in real time.’ The final reductio ad absurdum is the creative director whispering in awe on its seven years of intensive design work. For a drink cup. Retail $200 if it meets its early 2015 ship date. Raising $50,000 via MarkOne’s oh-so-hip ‘n’ cool glossy demo website. With the requisite hipsters (none over 25) livin’ large in San Francisco’s glam settings, of course clutching their Vessyl.

This is what gets funded? As in the proverb, has the mountain labored to bring forth a mouse? Mr Colbert’s device in counterpoint is brilliant. It should be funded shortly. Colbert Video.

Additional breathless D3H coverage: VentureBeat. CNet traces its ties to the Jawbone UP designer. (Editor Donna note: the cup readout on brands and accuracy re sugar and caffeine does sound a bit too good to be true. Let’s see if it’s for real in 2015.)

Another Khosla pronunciamento: self-promoting but myopically correct?

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/gimlet-eye.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /] The Gimlet Eye returns and delivers some hefty weekend reading…. Like General Douglas MacArthur, The Eye had to return from my Remote Pacific Island sometime. What better reason than to deliver to our readers Mr Vinod Khosla’s, tech investor and now Health Futurist, latest pronunciamento via VentureBeat.

It is, as they said in 1950, a beaut. It’s apparent Mr Khosla need not even speak at conferences anymore, because he can publish on his investment company’s website a ‘Draft’ entitled ’20 percent doctor included: Speculations and musings of a technology optimist’. It is being treated in certain quarters like Moses toting The Big Tablets down Mount Sinai; at the bottom the DH3 (Digital Health Hypester Horde) swoon in the usual places.

Mr Khosla reiterates some of his bomb-thrower memes from a couple of years ago: 80 percent of doctors could be replaced by machines, doctors were clinging to ‘voodoo-like practices’ and eventually we will not need doctors because we’ll be weller through technology and Big Data anyway. But the Eye’s Review of the ‘Draft’–which Eye was prepared to give the Gimlety Treatment–is that his prior attention-getting statements are not only more qualified (or stated more gently), but also backed up with real data, examples and mostly memorably, legitimately forward thinking whch largely avoids blaming doctors and shifts it onto the laggard Medical Establishment. “In fifteen years, data will transform diagnostics, to the point where automated systems may displace up to 80-percent of physicians’ standard work. Technological developments will AMPLIFY physicians’ abilities (more…)

Picture murky: 23andMe and the FDA

Genetic testing company 23andMe seems to be in no rush to resolve its differences with the FDA, and the digitalhealtherati a/k/a D3H (Digital Health Hypester Horde) are wondering why. In late November, 23andMe executives undoubtedly had a depressing Thanksgiving when the FDA ordered them to stop providing health reports (interpretation of genetic results) and marketing kits. Four months later, 23andMe continues to sell its kits for $99, providing only raw genetic data and ancestry reports–and according to its 31 March blog posting, will do so for the foreseeable future as they complete the regulatory review process. The blog quoted CEO and co-founder Anne Wojcicki, “My main priority is resolution with the FDA,” but actions speak louder than words–and the FDA isn’t talking. The FDA standard is still validation–the company has to analytically and clinically validate 23andMe for its intended uses, which is why the FDA took action against them in the first place.

  • Is the lack of urgency more about continuing to gather raw genetic and health data unimpeded? Ms Wojcicki had widely stated her real aim was to build a 25-million-strong database (Fast Company).
  • Is the real revenue stream of the company not the kits but in monetizing a massive database, selling it to researchers and others (Matthew Herper in Forbes)–the Google model which Ms Wojcicki is quite familiar with? Consider that there’s $126 million into the company, that is a lot of $99 kits.

Most companies in this situation would be imploding. This one is not. Interestingly. FierceMedicalDevices, The Verge

Previously in TTA: all you ever wanted to know about the 23andMe kerfuffle in FDA tells 23andMe genomic test to stop marketing (including this Editor’s analysis of their pre-FDA website with copy breathlessly expressing potentially life-saving or critical lifestyle changing claims, countered by legal ‘educational use’ boilerplate) and The inevitable: class action lawsuit against 23andMe (a check of the Ankcorn blog has no updates)

Wearables solving real ‘jobs to be done’

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/orcam-device-web11.jpg” thumb_width=”200″ /]This Editor strongly believes that the heart of a great product is that it addresses, in Clayton Christensen’s terms, a ‘job to be done’–or as pre-social media marketing writing put it, ‘not a ‘nice to have’–a must-have’. Venture Beat, usually a facilitator of the D3H (Digital Health Hypester Horde), has an unusually sober and personal article from writer Christina Farr highlighting five wearable devices and how they could be ‘must-haves’, improving quality of life for significant groups of everyday people.

  1.  The OrCam computer-assisted vision device (above) for those with low vision, which interprets nearby visual inputs, including letters, faces, objects, products, places, bus numbers, and traffic lights–and describes them to the wearer through a bone-conduction device heard by the user only. From Israel and available only in the US at present, the initial pricing is around $2,500.
  2. Physician, surgical and law enforcement decision support may be the best use of Google Glass–not exactly the ‘hipster on the L train’ picture promoted by Google.
  3. Emotiv’s mind-controlled wheelchair, which is controlled by a headset (EPOC) capable of picking up electrical signals.
  4. For autistic children and adults, Neumitra and Affectiva are both bands that measure and alert for physiological stress that may lead to inappropriate wandering or acting-out.
  5. Red-green color blindness affects 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women. It can be dangerous–think of traffic lights and wiring–and EnChroma’s correcting set of glasses is a simple, useful solution. Reportedly there is a 30 percent improvement in color identification and a 70 percent improvement in color discrimination. The pricing is fairly standard at $375-460.

Quick Tuesday takes on health tech

Long-term sensors, smart thermometers and the Scanadu Nirvana

The first study of long term use of carbon nanotubes as implanted sensors has been published in Nature Nanotechnology. The nanotubes were implanted for a year in animals to track nitrous oxide (NO), an indicator of inflammation which is important in and of itself, but the level of NO is also not understood long term in cancer. To detect NO, the tubes are wrapped in DNA with a particular sequence and wrapped in an alginate gel to stay in place for a recorded 400 days. The MIT team working on this is also working on nanotubes for real-time detection of glucose levels, towards an accurate insulin pump that would end the diabetic’s perpetual Battle of Stalingrad. MIT News and FierceHealthIT.

The Kinsa smart thermometer for iPhone and Android received a glowing article in Fast Company Design. (more…)

Addicted to mobile health? Telepsychiatry to the rescue!

Dr. Joseph Kvedar of Boston’s Center for Connected Health counted himself in this Editor’s camp as annoyed by the mHealth hype (inflicted by those we’ve dubbed the D3HDigital Health Hypester Horde), and far more of a believer in SMS for health programs. His blog post is a ‘kind of edge’ towards thinking that mHealth can be habit-forming. In the CCH’s own clinical trials, more participants have smartphones (tracking the general population’s adoption) even with the lag among those with chronic disease (maybe a question of affordability?) and want apps. And then he sees the pattern of people checking their smartphone obsessively, like budgies with bells and mirrors….along with a study that indicates that patients with a passive sensor to upload blood glucose measurement, rather than pushing a button, were “significantly more adherent to their plan and had better health outcomes.” Not having to do something in the Diabetic’s Perpetual Battle of Stalingrad is addictive? Well, this is edging towards a nomination for ‘What in the Blue Blazes?” Could mobile health become addictive? (CHealth Blog) Hat tip to reader Bob Pyke via Twitter

Well, we can send Dr. K to a connected psychiatrist for a session of e-therapy.  (more…)

Now an accelerator for aging tech

Major Midwest non-profit aging services provider Ecumen and ‘innovation co-operative’ MoJo Minnesota are co-sponsoring The Age Power Tech Search, seeking young companies or subsidiaries of larger companies which have pioneered technology that improves the quality of life of older adults. To quote their announcement email, “AgePower differs from “incubators” or “accelerators” in that its focus is on transforming the future of aging and providing real-life test environments, along with access to business strategy experts in key areas necessary to fueling a successful new venture.” Advisory board includes many well-recognized leaders in aging services, thought and tech, refreshingly outside the usual Digital Health Hypester Horde (D3H). Four finalists gain a real-world test environment in Ecumen communities for six months. Both Ecumen and MoJo will take small equity stakes in the finalists as well.  Applications are due on 31 October; a 90-minute information session will take place on 13 August in Minneapolis (register here). Age Power Tech information and specs here.

Note to developers: This may be Minneapolis, but Ecumen is not only #17 on the 2012 Ziegler/LeadingAge list of US largest non-profit senior living organizations, but also a quick Google or LeadingAge search will uncover their large ‘thought leader’ role in both care and tech implementation. There’s no restriction on origination, but since MoJo’s put is developing business in MN,  if you are outside the state this Editor would expect a major factor would be a commitment to establishing a base there.