TTA’s Holiday Runup 2: Outcome Health exec pleads guilty, Proteus runs out of road, malware-ridden 2020 forecast, HHS execs fight, Leeds leads, DOJ looks at Fitbit, more

 

 

Barely two weeks to Christmas, but a blue one for Proteus Digital Health employees and six former Outcome Health execs. HHS leadership mixes it up in public, malware bites Hackensack, but it’s lovely in Leeds–and if you have a new job.

News roundup: Proteus may be no-teous, DOJ leads on Google-Fitbit, HHS’ mud fight, Leeds leading in health tech, malware miseries, comings and goings (Proteus runs out of road for 300, DOJ looking at Fitbit acquisition, HHS execs no lika each other, malware 2020, and it’s Leeds leading)
“There were practices going on there that were wrong”: Outcome Health’s Desai pleads guilty, cooperates with DOJ. (One pleads guilty, three not guilty, with the major players pleading on Monday)

Snow falls, what’s left of freeze-dried leaves clog the gutters, and we’re revving up the charge cards in our run up to the Christmas holidays. Dr. Halamka follows the AI Star to Mayo. But already there’s coal in the stocking for six former Outcome Health-ers.

News roundup: Philips allies with Humana for pop health, Dexcom’s outage outrage, Halamka ankles Lahey for Mayo, Google and NHS Wales changes, Agfa’s health sale, Victrix/WhatsApp, more

SEC, DOJ charges Outcome Health founders Shah and Agarwal, others, with $487 million fraud, 26 counts of indictment (Club Fed looms for decades)

BRRR! Winter’s preview has hit the US East Coast. Walgreens Boots Alliance and Google’s Project Nightingale may be feeling the chill. And NHS tries to find a workaround for app vetting.

Walgreens Boots going private in the largest ever leveraged buyout: reports (Maybe too big for the market?)
Google’s ‘Project Nightingale’–a de facto breach of 10 million health records, on a bridge too far? (Is there no end to Google intrusion?)
A change of vetting for the NHS Apps Library by spring 2020 (Outsourcing the accreditation problem)

Leaves are turning–and falling–as fall gets on. Getting on, many face the care gap that happens after a hospital discharge. Teladoc looks healthier, but Walgreens is rethinking its clinic strategy. Outcome Health avoids a reckoning with the DOJ. 

Short takes: Outcome Health pays up, Teladoc’s up in double-digits, Walgreens closing 40% of clinics, a health kiosk for hospital employees?
The biggest care gap: the fear of going home after discharge (What do you do–when you can’t do for yourself? The British Red Cross is applying some answers.)

Autumn’s more pleasant this week. As leaves fall, questions on age tech rise. Dissatisfaction with healthcare continues despite digital health’s rise. Cleveland Clinic’s telehealth tieup with American Well, Amazon’s buy of Health Navigator, and more. And get away to a digital health conference in historic Trondheim.

Short Takes: Amazon buys symptom checker Health Navigator; Ettain Group acquires EHR consultant Leidos Health (Amazon’s new foray into Amazon Care)
Is ‘age-tech’ a stereotype that misses the larger mark–and market? (A pernicious belief that helps no one)
Over half of Americans of all ages use digital health tools, self-diagnose after internet search: ResMed/Edelman survey (High levels of dissatisfaction with healthcare despite digital tools)
Cleveland Clinic, American Well extend partnership to high-acuity telehealth services with ‘The Clinic’ (Health system growth pinned to telehealth–and virtual visits specializing in complex conditions)
Tyto Care partners with Avera eCARE for telehealth delivered to medically underserved populations (Tyto Care obviously building a use case)
Call for abstracts extended: ISG’s 12th World Conference of Gerontechnology (Norway) (A chance to visit Trondheim)

Autumn’s rainy days set the stage for much M&A, departures, and company moves from Appello, NHS Digital, Babylon Health, Verita, Tyto Care, and more. And slow gait=fast aging in Duke University five-decade study. 

News, moves and M&A roundup: Appello acquires RedAssure, Shaw departs NHS Digital, NHS App goes biometric, GP at Hand in Manchester, Verita Singapore’s three startup buys, Novant Health and Tyto Care partner
Slow gait speed at age 45 as an accelerated aging predictor–and result: Duke University study (A Must-Read if you are interested in aging and its causes)


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Telehealth & Telecare Aware: covering the news on latest developments in telecare, telehealth, telemedicine and health tech, worldwide–thoughtfully and from the view of fellow professionals

Thanks for asking for update emails. Please tell your colleagues about this news service and, if you have relevant information to share with the rest of the world, please let me know.

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News roundup: Proteus may be no-teous, DOJ leads on Google-Fitbit, HHS’ mud fight, Leeds leading in health tech, malware miseries, comings and goings

Proteus stumbles hard, cuts back. The original ‘tattle-tale pill’ company, Proteus Digital Health, plans to lay off 292 people in the San Francisco Bay Area and to permanently close its three Redwood City and Hayward locations, starting 18 January, according to notices sent to California state and local offices, including the state employment development department. It is unclear where Proteus will be located after the closures.

This followed after Proteus failed to launch a twelfth funding round of $100 million. According to reports, they furloughed most of their employees for two weeks in November and are reorganizing. This is after a substantial number of investors have put in about $487M in funding through a Series H (Crunchbase), including a game-changing investment by Novartis dating back to 2010.  Proteus achieved unicorn status about three years ago, but its high-priced pill tracking technology with a pill sensor tracked by a skin-worn monitor reporting into a smartphone has a built-in limited market to expensive medication. Otsuka Pharmaceutical in 2017 partnered with Proteus for an FDA-cleared digital medicine system called Abilify MyCite that basically put an off-patent behavioral drug back into a more expensive tracking methodology. But Proteus remains a great idea on tracking compliance in search of a real market, and may not have much of a future. San Jose Mercury News, CNBC

But ingestible detectable pills are still being tested. On Monday, as Proteus’ bad news broke, eTectRx announced its FDA clearance of the ID-Cap System and its testing at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Fenway Health, focusing on HIV medication when used for treatment and prevention. Release, HISTalk

Department of Justice taking the lead on scrutinizing Google’s Fitbit acquisition. The Federal Trade Commission also sought jurisdiction over the transaction. According to the New York Post, “both agencies are concerned that a Google-owned Fitbit would give the search giant an even bigger window into people’s private data, including sensitive health information, sources said. Under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act, all large mergers must file proposals with both the DOJ and the FTC, but only one antitrust agency reviews the merger.”

Coal from stockings being thrown about at HHS. According to POLITICO and the New York Times, the disagreements between Seema Verma, the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and the Cabinet-level Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Alex Azar, have boiled over, enough to have to be settled by the President’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney. According to the Times, both President Trump and VP Mike Pence have told them to find a way to work together. Both are administration appointees, but President Trump has not been reluctant to cut a mis-performing or overly contrary appointee loose. The latest salvo from those obviously not on Ms. Verma’s side was the revelation that she requested compensation for jewelry stolen on a business trip, contrary to government policy of course. She was compensated for other items which is standard. (Isn’t that what homeowners’ insurance is for? And what sensible person actually travels with valuable jewelry?) Under Ms. Verma, CMS has been quite progressive in developing new business models in Medicare fee-for-service, moving providers to two-sided risk, and innovating in both Medicare and Medicaid. It will either be settled, or one or both will be gone. Pass the popcorn.

Leeds picks up another health tech company. Mindwave Ventures is opening an office there, as well as appointing Dr Victoria Betton and Dr Janak Gunatilleke to the roles of chief innovation officer and chief operating officer. Mindwave develops technologies around digital products and services in healthcare and health research. Leeds reportedly is home to over 250 health tech companies and holds an annual Leeds Digital Festival in the spring [TTA 11 April].

Ransomware attack hits Hackensack Meridian. Systems were down for about a week. While this large New Jersey health system hasn’t admitted it, sources told the Asbury Park Press that it was ransomware. And if it’s not ransomware, its Emotet and Trickbot. Read ZDNet and be very apprehensive for 2020, indeed, as apparently healthcare is just one big target.

Comings and Goings: There may be some end of year bombshells, but after last week’s big news about John Halamka, it’s been fairly quiet. Paul Walker, whom this Editor knew at New York eHealth Collaborative, has joined CommonWell Health Alliance as executive director. Mr. Walker was most recently Philips Interoperability Solutions’ vice president of strategy and business development. CommonWell’s goal is improving healthcare interoperability and its services are used by more than 15,000 care provider sites nationwide. Blog release, Healthcare Innovation ….Dr. Jacqueline Shreibati, the chief medical officer for AliveCor, is joining Google Health in the health research area. Mum’s the word when it comes to Fitbit (see above). CNBC ….Peter Knight has pleaded guilty to falsifying educational credentials to gain his position as chief information and digital office at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. He held that position from August 2016 until September 2018. BBC News

Google’s ‘Project Nightingale’–a de facto breach of 10 million health records, off a bridge too far?

Breaking News. Has this finally blown the lid off Google’s quest for data on everyone? This week’s uncovering, whistleblowing, and general backlash on Google’s agreement with Ascension Health, the largest non-profit health system in the US and the largest Catholic health system on the Planet Earth, revealed by the Wall Street Journal (paywalled) has put a bright light exactly where Google (and Apple, Facebook, and Amazon), do not want it.

Why do these giants want your health data? It’s all about where it can be used and sold. For instance, it can be used in research studies. It can be sold for use in EHR integration. But their services and predictive data is ‘where it’s at’. With enough accumulated data on both your health records and personal life (e.g. not enough exercise, food consumption), their AI and machine learning modeling can predict your health progression (or deterioration), along with probable diagnosis, outcomes, treatment options, and your cost curve. Advertising clicks and merchandising products (baby monitors, PERS, exercise equipment) are only the beginning–health systems and insurers are the main chance. In a worst-case and misuse scenario, the data modeling can make you look like a liability to an employer or an insurer, making you both unemployable and expensively/uninsurable in a private insurance system.

In Google’s latest, their Project Nightingale business associate agreement (BAA) with Ascension Health, permissible under HIPAA, allowed them apparently to access in the initial phase at least 10 million identified health records which were transmitted to Google without patient or physician consent or knowledge, including patient name, lab results, diagnoses, hospital records, patient names and dates of birth. This transfer and the Google agreement were announced by Ascension on 11 November. Ultimately, 50 million records are planned to be transferred from Ascension in 21 states. According to a whistleblower on the project quoted in The Guardian, there are real concerns about individuals handling identified data, the depth of the records, how it’s being handled, and how Google will be using the data. Ascension doesn’t seem to share that concern, stating that their goal is to “optimize the health and wellness of individuals and communities, and deliver a comprehensive portfolio of digital capabilities that enhance the experience of Ascension consumers, patients and clinical providers across the continuum of care” which is a bit of word salad that leads right to Google’s Cloud and G Suite capabilities.

This was enough to kick off an inquiry by Health and Human Services (HHS). A spokesperson confirmed to Healthcare Dive that “HHS’ Office of Civil Rights is opening an investigation into “Project Nightingale.” The agency “would like to learn more information about this mass collection of individuals’ medical records with respect to the implications for patient privacy under HIPAA,” OCR Director Roger Severino said in an emailed statement.”

Project Nightingale cannot help but aggravate existing antitrust concerns by Congress and state attorneys general on these companies and their safeguards on privacy. An example is the pushback around Google’s $2.1 bn acquisition of Fitbit, which one observer dubbed ‘extraordinary’ given Fitbit’s recent business challenges, and data analytics company Looker. DOJ’s antitrust division has been looking into how Google’s personalized advertising transactions work and increasingly there are calls from both ends of the US political spectrum to ‘break them up.’ Yahoo News

Google and Ascension Health may very well be the ‘bridge too far’ that curbs the relentless and largely hidden appetite for personal information by Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook that is making their very consumers very, very nervous. Transparency, which seems to be a theme in many of these articles, isn’t a solution. Scrutiny, oversight with teeth, and restrictions are.

Also STAT News , The Verge on Google’s real ambitions in healthcare, and a tart take on Google’s recent lack of success with acquisitions in ZDNet, ‘Why everything Google touches turns to garbage’. Healthcare IT News tries to be reassuring, but the devil may be in Google’s tools not being compliant with HIPAA standards.  Further down in the article, Readers will see that HIPAA states that the agreement covers access to the PHI of the covered entity (Ascension) only to have it carry out its healthcare functions, not for the business associate’s (Google’s) independent use or purposes. 

News and event roundup: Amazon PillPack, Humana joins CTA, NH’s telemedicine go, Fitbit Lives Healthy in Singapore, supporting Helsinki’s older adults, events

Now that we are past the unofficial end of summer, it’s time to spin that lasso and rope us some news.

Amazon’s PillPack loses a critical data partner. Electronic prescriptions clearinghouse Surescripts terminated their data contract with ReMy Health, which supplied PillPack with information on patients’ prescriptions. Surescripts found fraud in several areas of their relationship with ReMy Health including medication history, drug pricing, and insurance billing. Now PillPack has to obtain it the old-fashioned way–by asking the patient. This can lead to errors and inaccuracies in things like dosages and whether a drug is brand-name or generic. Now PillPack, in the lurch, is seeking a direct relationship with Surescripts. Seeking Alpha, CNBC

Health plan Humana is the first payer to join the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). Humana has been building up his data analytics and digital health capabilities with new ‘studios’ in Boston and hiring USAA’s CTO.  It’s piloting an app for Medicare Advantage patients to connect them with pharmacists and medication management via Aspen RxHealth plus working on a virtual digital primary model with telemedicine provider Doctor on Demand. Fierce Healthcare

New Hampshire is joining the telemedicine reimbursement bandwagon, with its legislature and Gov. Sununu approving primary care providers and pediatricians to bill Medicaid and private insurance for telemedicine visits starting in January 2020. This also ties into rural telehealth. AP, Mobihealthnews

Internationally….Fitbit is partnering with Singapore’s Health Promotion Board (HPB) for the Live Healthy SG behavioral change program, based on the Fitbit Premium program, starting in late October. Mobihealthnews A-P   In Finland, Digital Service Center Helsinki is creating digital tools and virtual care systems to enable older adults to safely and independently live at home, including socialization to prevent loneliness. It’s a significant challenge as over 22 percent of Finland’s population is over 65. Mobihealthnews Europe-UK

Events:

The 9th International Digital Public Health Conference series (#DPH2019), 20-23 November, Marseille, France. This conference is billed as the digital health partner of the 12th European Public Health Conference and brings together the areas of public health, computer and data science, medtech, and NGOs. Conference information here.

Aging 2.0 New York Global Innovation Showcase 4 December, NYC. One of a series of global Aging 2.o events, startups will present aging-focused innovations. Want to pitch? It’s still open–apply here. Register to attend here. Additional information on this and on CREATE’s Design for Older Adults Workshop on 21-22 October at Weill Cornell is here.

 

Can chronic disease apps get adopted? Is it as simple as four steps? HBR states the obvious.

“Why Apps for Managing Chronic Disease Haven’t Been Widely Used, and How to Fix It” is an enticing title, and in the Harvard Business Review no less.

Here’s the advice that two Harvard Business School professors have for app developers. First, find an organization–an employer, an integrated health system that includes a payer–that’s willing to pay for your app. Then work the “adopt-diffuse-use-improve” cycle. Get them to adopt it, diffuse it through potential users (as in getting them to try the app), get them to continue using it, and improve the product.

You have to sled through about 500 words of exposition to get to this conclusion, obvious to anyone who’s worked in the field more than a couple of months. And oh, as if these steps were so easy to achieve! There’s the given example of Fitbit buying the Twine Health tracking/coaching app in a bid for a more integrated chronic disease management (CDM) approach–for those who’ve tracked Fitbit, and even the professors, its success remains to be seen. 

There are some nuggets of confirmation useful for presentations, such as you can’t generally sell monitoring apps direct to consumer because managing chronic disease is largely something to be avoided, except for the few with a different attitude, and most believe that insurers should pay for them at least in part. For clinicians, reimbursement and the differential between remote patient monitoring and in-person visits is a big factor.

What’s not mentioned: sustainable pricing that’s low enough for a health system, high enough to support a business; clinicians fitting All That Data into a clinical workflow, much less a patient record in an EHR. 

The race to develop a blood glucose skin patch monitor speeds up with UCSD pilot

Are thin-film/adhesive patch glucose monitors the thing this year? University of California San Diego Health (UCSD Health)  opened earlier this month a clinical trial of their self-adhesive ‘tattoo’ type glucose monitor. This monitor measures the glucose present in perspiration through two electrodes embedded in the thin adhesive film that apply a small amount of electrical current to make glucose molecules in the skin rise. The clinical trial sampling people with Types 1 and 2 diabetes ages 18-60 with fasting plasma glucose (FPG) > 126 mg/dL, or hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) > 6.5%. Those in the trial will be comparing their readings from the thin film monitor with a standard glucometer through June 2019. Patients wearing the sensors will receive a minimum of two doses of pilocarpine gel to induce sweat, at fasting and at time points ranging between 15 to 200 minutes post meal. Neither the article nor the clinical trial explain the reading process.

In a Mobihealthnews interview with Patrick Mercier, codirector of UCSD’s Center for Wearable Sensors, the sensor can be produced for under $1, comparable to a blood glucose test strip.

Tattoo-type sensors and strips made the news about two-three years ago in their early stages of development and now are resurfacing with both trials and investment. Sano received $6 million from Fitbit for its combination of sensor and mobile app. The University of Bath has designed a multi-sensor patch that doesn’t need gel to raise a sweat; it measures interstitial fluid located between cells within the body-hair follicles [TTA 24 Apr]. We are rapidly moving towards less-invasive monitoring systems and better diabetes management.

End of year action: Vivify/InTouch, InTouch/TruClinic, Medtronic, NYCEDC winners, ActiveProtective, Adidas exits wearables, Fitbit (updated)

  • Dallas-based Vivify Health is partnering with California’s InTouch Health to integrate their telehealth remote patient management with InTouch Health’s acute care video consult/device platform. For InTouch, it is a move into the home by using Vivify’s Managed Kit and BYOD and related APIs. For Vivify, this helps in their post-acute RPM sell to large healthcare organizations. (Is their VA partner Iron Bow somewhere in the mix?) Their VA Home Telehealth rival Medtronic announced their partnership with American Well a few months ago [TTA 21 Oct]. InTouch release via Telecom Reseller
  • Updated. InTouch also announced their agreement on Jan 4 to purchase DTC telehealth provider TruClinic furthering their move into home telehealth. TruClinic will be merged into InTouch. Heading it up will be recently appointed EVP of Marketing and Consumer Solutions Steve Cashman, who founded and headed pioneering but overly ambitious for the market health kiosk HealthSpot [TTA roundup here]. Release  (Our update on the state of health kiosks here)
  • Speaking of Medtronic Care Management Services, MCCM touted its VA Home Telehealth ties to Healthcare Analytics News. Intriguing claim: they’ve treated 310,000 veterans since 2011 (Cardiocom, the 2011 awardee, was purchased in 2013). VA itself credits only 156,000 patients to Home Telehealth in Federal FY 2014 (the last official count), 43,000 patients in 2010 and 144,000 in 2013. A very rough estimate by this Editor is that they were about 25 percent of the veterans in the program.
  • Announced at last week’s NYC Economic Development Commission (NYCEDC) Health 2.0 Digital Health Forum attended by this Editor were the winners of the third annual NYCEDC/HITLAB’s Digital Health Breakthrough Network accelerator program for pre-revenue startups: Altopax (VR behavioral health), Navimize (doctor/hospital scheduling), Tatch (sleep quality biometrics), and PainQX (pain level monitoring). The Forum also had Digital Health Marketplace matchmaking meetings for 65 NYC-based health tech companies with prospective clients. The Marketplace furnishes competitive grants to offset the cost of piloting between growth-stage tech companies and providers. Release, MedCityNews
  • ActiveProtective‘s controversial protective airbag to cushion hips from falls by high-risk older adults [TTA 10 Jan] gained $4.7 million in Series A funding led by Generator Ventures. Mobihealthnews
  • Adidas is shuttering its wearable device development unit and condensing its offerings, focusing on the Runtastic GPS-guided exercise offering and a shopping app. It follows similar moves at Nike and Under Armour proving that big names in sports fitness clothing couldn’t pull off wearables. Mobihealthnews
  • Meanwhile, Fitbit’s Ionic continues to develop with now an App Gallery with 60 apps–11 of which are health/fitness related–and more than 100 watch faces. (Wonder if any are Mickey Mouse?) What we termed a ‘Hail Mary’ pass may actually get past the goal line. Mobihealthnews

Some quick, cheerful updates from Welbeing, CarePredict, Tunstall, Tynetec, Hasbro, Fitbit

It’s Friday, and in search of cheerful topics, here are some updates on doings from telecare, telehealth, and related companies we’ve recently noted on TTA:

Welbeing‘s opened a new head office at Technology Business Park in Moy Avenue in Eastbourne….CarePredict‘s AI for ADL system using the Tempo wearable has new implementations at LifeWell Senior Living’s community in Santa Fe, New Mexico (their third with CarePredict) and a three-year commitment with the Avanti Towne Lake community, Cypress, Texas. Dave Muoio has an interview with CEO Satish Movva on Mobihealthnews….Tunstall is partnering with Milpitas, California-based noHold’s Albert bot to create a virtual assistant for Tunstall’s mobile Smart Hub product, currently in Australia and in trials in Europe and the USA….Tynetec (advert above) has been closely associated and fundraised with the Dementia Dog Project and DogsforGood. An article in the Express highlights both in the beneficial role of pets with Alzheimers and dementia sufferers…. In robotic pet news, Hasbro is upgrading its ‘Joy for All’ companion pets through a Brown University research program, Affordable Robotic Intelligence for Elderly Support (ARIES) to add medication reminders, basic artificial intelligence, and more (Mobihealthnews)….Fitbit continues its march to a clinicalized product touting diabetes management partnerships with Medtronic and DexCom, plus clinical trials detecting sleep apnea through its SpO2 sensor. 3rd quarter sales were up 23 percent to $244 million and 40 percent from repeat purchasers, but they took an $8 million loss from a distributor (MedCityNews).

Fitbit unveils Ionic smartwatch earlier than expected. Their ‘Hail Mary’ pass?

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Ionic-photo.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Surprisingly, Fitbit has formally unveiled today (28 August) its first smartwatch, the Fitbit Ionic, on its 10th anniversary of its first tracker. It’s a slow news week in the US, being the week before the Labor Day holiday 4 Sept and in the UK this Monday with the summer bank holiday. The announcement also feels a bit like a soft reveal in a slow period. However, the industry expected an announcement later this year, so this is considered to be positive.

There’s plenty of functionality, though the watch itself from the photos (this is Engadget’s, as the press release did not supply close up pictures) is rather brick-like on the wrist. Balancing that out is a knockout of a 1.42-inch, 348 x 250 px display, the best and brightest yet in the reviewer’s estimation. It also curves a bit through nano-molding technology (NMT) to fit more comfortably on the wrist than the previous Alta tracker.

Engadget‘s test drive of an early version of the Ionic is thorough. It confirms that Fitbit went with its own proprietary OS, contactless payment and a subscription-based custom workout guide called Fitbit Coach, a rebranded Fitstar. More functions related to healthcare are:

  • Updated heart rate monitor
  • A new SpO2 blood oxygen sensor. There’s a bit of tease in the release which gives its potential in health use: “…a relative SpO2 sensor for estimating blood oxygen levels opens the potential for tracking important new indicators about your health, such as sleep apnea”
  • Sleep tracking through monitoring pulse and movement for stages of sleep (deep, REM, light, etc.). The Engadget reviewer noted the uncertain quality of tracking.
  • Integrated connection to the new edition of the Aria weight scale (release), also due in the fall

Pricing has been set at $300/£300 with the usual extra accouterments of dress and sport bands. If you can’t wait, pre-sale starts today on Fitbit.com with retail on-sale globally starting October 2017, without a specific date. For developers, the Fitbit app software development kit (SDK) will be open to developers in September 2017. 

Will this ‘Hail Mary Pass‘ save Fitbit? Like most smartwatches, it feels like a solution in search of a problem. It depends on how many true believers will upgrade from the Alta to the Ionic, or buy this rather than an Apple Watch, where first-half sales are up 50 percent versus last year to an estimated 2-3 million new units, partly on Fitbit’s faltering back. The big roll of the dice is going with a proprietary OS. Health and other apps are dependent on developers, who are going to have to make a business decision on the watch’s sales and acceptance to commit to a one-off app. 4th Quarter sales will tell….Our earlier coverage of Fitbit and related smartwatches is here.

 

Shouldn’t we be concentrating on digital therapeutics rather than ‘health apps’?

Where the money and attention are going. The first generation of Quantified Self apps was all about viewing your data and storing it online in a vault or graphs…somewhere, usually proprietary. Your Pebble, Fitbit, or Jawbone tracked, you crunched the numbers and found the meaning. At the same time, there are wellness companies like Welltok, ShapeUp, Keas, Virgin HealthMiles, and RedBrick Health, usually working with companies or insurers, that use various methods (money, gamification, other rewards) to influence lifestyle and improve a person’s health in a quantified, verifiable, but general way. What’s happened? There are now apps that combine both data and behavior change, focusing on a specific but important (again) condition, coach to change behavior and verify results rigorously through clinical trials. Some, like Omada Health, prove through those clinical trials that their program successfully changes pre-diabetic indicators, such as weight loss, decrease cholesterol and improved glucose control–without medication. This results in big savings for insurance companies, one reason why a $50 million Series C was led by Cigna. Another model is to work with pharmaceutical companies to better guide treatment. Propeller Health with its asthma/COPD inhaler tracker is partnering with pharma GlaxoSmithKline on a digital platform to better manage lung patient usage, and surely this will go through a clinical trial. We will be seeing more of this type of convergence in medical apps. (The rebooted Jawbone Health Hub is moving in this exact direction.) The Forbes article, while short, is written by someone who knows the business of apps– the co-founder of the AppNext distribution/monetization platform. He does achieve his aim in making us think differently about the potential of ‘health apps’. 

Fitbit’s smartwatch on track; Intel exits the game

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Fitbit-smartwatch.jpg” thumb_width=”200″ /]Fitbit’s ‘Project Higgs’ in-house designed smartwatch is, by all reports, on schedule to hit the market later this year in time for the holidays, at least in Wall Street’s expectations. To the FT (may be paywalled) CEO James Park reassured, “The product is on track to meet our expectations and the expectations that we’ve set for investors. It’s going to be, in my opinion, our best product yet.” It will be waterproof, a battery that lasts several days, have mobile payment capability (from the Coin acquisition), simple health tracking,  heart rate monitor, sleep tracking, stream music (Spotify and Pandora are rumored), and its own app store. It will be either Wi-Fi or smartphone connected. TechRadar’s agglomeration of rumors include pricing ($199 to $299 –about £231), swappable bands, a full-color screen with 1,000 nits of brightness, an aluminum body and built-in GPS. The most interesting part is the proprietary operating system which uses Javascript. Also Pocket-Lint articles 18 July and 19 July

Intel, however, is giving up the smartwatch and fitness tracking chase. In 2014 they acquired Basis in a well-publicized move and enlisted hip celebrities like 50 Cent to endorse their products versus the likes of Apple and Fitbit. In November about 80 percent of the group was let go, according to CNBC, and entirely eliminated this month. The New Technologies Group is now focusing on augmented reality. CNBC

‘Record-shattering’ Q2 for digital health deals: Rock Health’s volte-face

In a pirouette worthy of Nureyev in his prime, Rock Health’s latest Digital Health Funding review for Q2 and the first half of 2017 bangs the drum loudly. With $3.5 bn invested in 188 digital health companies, it’s a record in their tracking. (∗See below for their parameters, which focus on larger fundings and omit others by type.) Q2 reversed the muddling results of Q1 [TTA 11 April] and then some. If the torrid pace is maintained and the market doesn’t take a pratfall, this year will easily surpass 2016’s full year venture funding at $4.3 bn and 304 investments.

Looking at trends, the average deal size has ballooned to $18.7 million from the 2015-16 range of $14 million. Seven $100 million+ deals led the way: Outcome Health, Peloton, Modernizing Medicine, PatientPoint, Alignment Healthcare, PatientsLikeMe, and ShareCare. Of these, three are consumer health information (Outcome, PatientPoint, ShareCare), with PatientsLikeMe closely related with a patient community focus; as the lead category of investment overall, there’s now gold in consumer health. All seven businesses are located outside of Silicon Valley, a refreshing change. A surprise is Modernizing Medicine in the settled (we thought) EHR-clinical workflow category. There’s also an interesting analysis of the shift in top categories from last year to this, which takes out the $100 million+ deals (click to enlarge): [grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Top-Funded-Categories-Midyear-Funding-Report-2017-1200×744.png” thumb_width=”200″ /]

Other changes from the usual: no IPOs and a slowing pace of M&A: 58 this year versus first half 2016’s 87 and full year 146. Their public company index is brighter, with positive gains in first half led by Teladoc (up 110 percent YTD), Care.com (up 80 percent), and consulting favorite Evolent Health (up 70 percent–with United Healthcare’s acquisition of The Advisory Board’s healthcare practice, can an acquisition be far away?). Remaining in the doldrums are NantHealth, Fitbit, and Castlight Health. Rock Health Digital Funding Review First Half 2017

Soon up will be StartUp Health’s first half analysis, which takes a different cut at the companies and looks at the balance of deals by funding series.

∗ Rock Health tracks deals over $2 million in value from venture capital, excluding government and grant funding. They omit non-US deals, even if heavily US funded; healthcare services companies (Oscar), biotech/diagnostic companies (GRAIL), and software companies not solely focused on healthcare (Zenefits), but include fitness companies like Peloton. 

Jawbone finally T-bones, founder starts Jawbone Health Hub (updated)

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/The-End-Pic-typewriter.jpg” thumb_width=”200″ /]Confirming the decline of the fitness tracker/wearables business, Jawbone is finally over and done. Their liquidation this week was initially reported by The Information (subscription only) and that co-founder/CEO Hosain Rahman has started a new company, Jawbone Health Hub. JHH will work on medical software and hardware, as well as eventually servicing the buggy existing Jawbone products† which were sold off to a third party last September. JHH is also reportedly hiring many former Jawbone staff and on job boards such as Glassdoor. 

Jawbone’s demise comes after a troubled 18 months, starting with a $165 million private equity raise in January 2016 led by the Kuwait Investment Authority, rumors of financial problems, repositioning into clinical medical monitoring, and abandoning what was left of consumer market support. There is also the continuing saga of court actions with Fitbit over trade secrets, employee poachings, and IP–all additional reasons for the founder to walk away. The only value left in Jawbone is that IP which includes BodyMedia patents and anything left that wasn’t voided by a court. Fitbit shares are also sinking, currently trading at a near 52-week low of just above $5.

‘Death by overfunding’? Updated During its lifetime from wireless audio speaker innovator Aliphcom to wearables leader with the Jawbone UP, Jawbone raised $938 million (Crunchbase), and at one point was valued at $3 billion. An interesting take from a Reuters article was that one consensus among Silicon Valley tech funders was that the company would have been far easier to acquire had it raised less money. Jawbone ranks only behind solar tech Solyndra among largest failures among venture-backed companies. (The difference, of course, was that Jawbone didn’t take $500 million of public stimulus money, as Solyndra did before it failed.)

The words ‘Chapter 7’ have not been included in reports but Sherwood Partners, a busy Mountain View CA financial restructuring company that has wound down plenty of startups through unicorns, was reported to be in charge of the liquidation process plus any remaining legal actions with Fitbit. None of the usual sources have been able to obtain statements from Mr. Rahman and ‘the information’ remains limited. The Verge, TechCrunch, Business Insider 

†Editor Charles’ struggles with seven personal Jawbone UPs were often typical of the user experience.

Fitbit reaching out to NHS–but new smartwatch ‘a giant mess’ (updated)

There have been sketchy reports of Fitbit’s CEO James Park meeting with the NHS last month to get Fitbits into the ‘big moves’ in wearables and apps promised by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Mr. Park’s interview with the Sunday Times (limited access) indicated that Fitbit’s NHS project, should it happen, would be for exercise and activity monitoring, similar to the partnership with UnitedHealthcare which reduces premiums based on policyholder exercise monitoring. This move towards payers is in line with reports starting last year of Fitbit’s seeking clinical markets and moving away from the fickle B2C market. City AM

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Fitbit-Watch-FINAL.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Given this week’s leak/reveal and scuttlebutt on the new Fitbit smartwatch, Mr. Park needs to gin up a big payer, quickly. The advance buzz is not positive nor kind. It’s delayed from spring to end of year–in competition with the latest iteration of the Apple Watch. This advance photo of codenamed ‘Higgs’ from Yahoo!Finance indicates a certain clunkiness (and derivation from the panned semi-smartwatch Blaze). It’s pricey, rumored to be priced at around $300. Features include a 1,000nit, built-in GPS, heart-rate monitoring, contactless payments, Pandora and four days of battery life along with connectivity to new Bluetooth headphones. Yet TechCrunch notes “complaints about design, production delays, antenna issues and software problems.” in what they dub “a giant mess”. Forbes notes problems in waterproofing and GPS signal. There are other Android-based smartwatches that do the same for the same price or less. Will this save Fitbit? To be determined….

Update: CEO Park denies delays in the new smartwatch, saying “all new product introductions are on track”, but then again–it hasn’t been officially announced! On the earnings call Thursday, Fitbit stated that new products are now accounting for 84 percent of 1stQ revenue. The company also reported better-than-expected earnings for the first quarter of 2017, reporting an adjusted loss of 15 cents per share on revenue of $299 million. Full year projected at $1.5 – 1.7 bn. Marketwatch, The Verge

A stride ahead in gait analysis for detecting potential health issues

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/WiGait-wirelessly-measures-walking-speed-MIT-00_0.png” thumb_width=”175″ /]Readers experienced in senior healthcare know that changes in gait can be predictors or a proxy for negative change in physical or mental status, for instance when walking becomes slow or unsteady and the risk of falling rises. We’re familiar with various remote monitoring approaches such as pads, sensor arrays, camera systems such as the VICON tracker, worn sensors, and Fitbits but none so far have proven workable, widespread, or particularly accurate. A research group at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have designed a system using wireless signals which can measure the walking speed of multiple people with 95 to 99 percent accuracy, the same as clinical measurement and VICON. The WiGait device is the size of a small painting and emits signals at about the level of a smartphone. It analyzes reflected signals off the body and can differentiate through algorithms the type of movement, e.g. walking versus brushing teeth. It can also gauge stride length, since changes in that may indicate progression in diseases such as Parkinson’s. Since the WiGait can be used for longitudinal tracking, gait changes can be further correlated with disease state with the intent of avoiding hospitalization. The researchers built off of previous work on WiTrack, which used signals to track behaviors from breathing and falling to specific emotions.  MIT NewsPaper: Extracting Gait Velocity and Stride Length from Surrounding Radio Signals

Q1 digital health investment: two perspectives from StartUp Health and Rock Health

StartUp Health’s and Rock Health’s investment/M&A roundups from Q1 2017 have just hit the deck. Before we dig into them, let’s start with the differences in methodology:

  • Rock Health tracks deals only over $2 million in value; StartUp Health seems to have no minimum or maximum; the latter includes early stage deals at a lower value.
  • StartUp Health gathers in international deals at all levels, whereas Rock Health includes only US-funded ventures.
  • Rock Health omits healthcare services companies (citing Forward, Oscar), biotech/diagnostic companies (GRAIL, Theranos), and software companies not solely focused on healthcare (Zenefits)
  • StartUp Health defines ‘digital health’ differently than Rock Health, with categories of ‘patient/consumer experience’, ‘wellness’, ‘personalized health/quantified self’, and ‘research’

StartUp Health is ‘over the moon’, breathlessly (appropriately as the home of the 25-year Health Moonshot) with Q1 trending, seeing the biggest investment quarter since 2010 at $2.5 bn. Topping up this number was GRAIL, which is developing a blood test for early cancer detection, with a massive Series B at $914 million. Far behind it in the $85-110 million range were (in descending order) Alignment Healthcare (population health), PatientsLikeMe (patient/consumer experience), Nuna (big data/analytics), and PointClickCare (EHR). Population health, patient/consumer experience, and research top their investment activity. Most deals are still seed and Series A (59 percent), but that is down five points from full year 2016; Series B’s share is up three points to 25 percent. But it remains a difficult bridge to cross to C+ rounds.

Rock Health splits the difference and calls it ‘business as usual’, surprised that there hasn’t been a tailspin. Its Q1 sandwiches between 2016 and 2015, well above 2015 but trending 23 percent below Q1 2016. Their biggest deals include the aforementioned Alignment, PatientsLikeMe and Nuna, omitting GRAIL and PointClickCare. Their top three investment categories are analytics/big data, care coordination, and telemedicine (over $50 million). Rock Health tracked almost 20 M&A, noting that many transactions are now ex-California. They also uniquely track public company performance. Here in 2016 is where Readers first noted weakness in NantHealth, but Fitbit and Castlight Health also had miserable quarters. Teladoc, Evolent Health (consulting), and Care.com had a good winter as well. Let’s see what Q2 brings.