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…)

Is the fitness tracker eventually going to lose to the smartwatch? (Updated)

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/LG-Urbane.png” thumb_width=”150″ /][grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/fitbit-charge.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Which one would you prefer? 

The interest in fitness bands has quantifiably and substantially diminished since January, according to Argus Insights’ survey of online consumer reviews (!)–and since the debut of Apple Watch. And while Fitbit maintains its leadership in the band category (sorry Jawbone, though Editor Charles won’t be), the rising preference is for smartwatches like the Apple Watch and Android wear such as the Moto 360 and the LG Watch Urbane (pictured). While there’s a substantial price difference between smartwatches (~$350 versus under $150), and both Apple Watch and LG’s watches (versus LG bands) have limited fitness capability, there’s few new developments in fitness bands to create excitement. There have been enough problems with fitness band reliability, breakage, rising prices and a boredom with design to diminish interest while new brands enter the market, and smartwatch prices come down slightly. For the price, users also want more out of their watches. Neil Versel in MedCityNews.

Updated: Apple Watch, with 3.6 million units sold in 2nd quarter was immediately behind Fitbit with 4.4 million, according to IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker. 2 of every 3 smart wearables (capable of running third-party apps) was an Apple Watch. Another sign of the coming divide between fitness bands (which will be sold on price and fitness focus) and smartwatches (which will be sold on versatility as well as fitness justifying the higher price).  IDC release

Also by Mr Versel is a memorial to telemedicine pioneer  Dr ‘Red’ Duke. As a surgical resident at Parkland Hospital, he was on the team which saved the life of Texas Governor John Connally, shot with President John Kennedy in November 1963.

Is wearable IoT really necessary–and dangerous to your privacy?

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/is-your-journey-neccessary_.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]But does the average person even care? This Editor senses a groundswell of concern among HIT and health tech regarding the highly touted Internet of Things (IoT) and the dangers it might present. Our previous article reviewed the possibilities of hacking, system vulnerabilities in IoT networks and software bugs ‘bricking’ everyday objects such as refrigerators and cars. But what about wearables and the unimaginable amount of data they generate? Is it as unidentifiable as wearables makers claim? Columbia University computer science student Matthew Piccolella focuses in his article on healthcare ‘things’, primarily fitness trackers like Editor Charles’ favorite, Jawbone, but also clothing and even headsets that measure brain waves (Imec). Their volumes of data are changing the definition of healthcare privacy, which in the US has been synonymous with HIPAA. The problem is that health metadata are increasingly identifiable in a ‘big data’ world. (more…)

Rock Health’s mid-year report: 2015 investment leveling off

Rock Health‘s 2015 report is revealing in one aspect–that the authors try to put a game face on what is a flat situation in digital health investment for first half. Not even the most optimistic of the digerati expected a lift of 16 percent as we saw in 2014 versus 2013 [TTA 2 July 14], but the 8.7 percent fall off from 2014’s blistering $2.3 billion to $2.1 billion in 2015 year-to-date was unexpected. StartUp Health’s report indicated a slower start to 2015, though slightly less, so the reports correspond. Digital health still is growing faster than software, biotech and medical device.

Other highlights:

* The top six categories accounted for 50 percent of investment funding: wearables, analytics, consumer engagement, telemedicine, enterprise wellness, EHR/clinical workflow

*  In M&A action, this year’s first half has almost matched 2014’s full year total, but with only 13 percent of the investment. Most are digital health companies acquiring others for small amounts. (more…)

Kickstarting the 1st week of summer: news from all over

No deal yet between insurer giants. Cigna turned down a $53.8 billion bid from Anthem. According to Healthcare Finance, concerns ranged from corporate governance problems, their membership in the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, the probable chairman’s (from the Anthem side) qualifications and data security (ahem!). Given that Anthem’s 60 million record breach was an inadvertent inside job [TTA 11 Feb], the last is perfectly understandable. But the door appears to be open for the emollient of additional money (to mix a metaphor). Extra: a tart take on this from the WSJ…..Jaguar is looking to increase driving safety by reading your brain waves to detect if you are distracted or daydreaming, via sensors embedded into the steering wheel. It’s based on technology used by NASA and the US bobsled team. They are also working on mood enhancing lighting and a predictive system to speed your interactions with the dashboard to minimize eyes off the road. But will these detect if you feel good to be bad, as their adverts say? Gizmag….The FT gets into digital health via business, profiling startups such as Lyra Health, Genomics England and Heartflow, as well as 23andme and Google X (including the glucose-detecting contact lens we profiled 18 months ago. Hat tips to Eric Topol and David Doherty (mHealth Insight) via Twitter….The NY Times looks at the dark side of ‘senior independence’ with a group of NYC homebound seniors, but other than tut-tutting the desire of older mainly limited income New Yorkers to remain in familiar surroundings, our ‘national celebration of independence’ (!) and not to be institutionalized (their words), the article doesn’t offer much in the way of solutions. And solutions are badly needed for the nearly 2 million over 65 who rarely or never leave their homes, because not all of them will be in assisted living. Hat tip to Joseph Coughlin of MIT AgeLab via Twitter…. But in Australia, they’re exploring ‘future proofing’ and ‘dignity enabling’ homes for an aging population to make them more livable and accessible, via landscaped ramps, larger bathrooms, and sensor rich floors that connect to gait tracking and analysis. Smart Homes 2.0. Sydney Morning Herald…..Neil Versel over at his new MedCityNews stand reports on Doctor On Demand‘s test of tablet-based medical kiosks adjacent to the pharmacy department at four Wegman’s grocery stores here in the Northeast. Is Weis Market far behind?….And Fitbit has a bit part in ‘Law and Order’…well, not the TV show in perpetual reruns, but in a real-life case in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania which is not all Amish farms, black carriages and the so-called Amish Mafia. The police used Fitbit activity data to determine that a local resident (and Fitbit wearer), who claimed she was raped by a stranger, staged the crime scene with overturned furniture, a knife, and a bottle of vodka in her home. ABC27 News via David Lee Scher.

Guilt and money: the manipulative side of fitness tracking

Show me the money! The bottom line of fitness apps can now be cash rewards, much like many credit cards. There’s FitCoins that exchange into bitcoins, the digital currency much in the news and recognized by some legitimate (and non legitimate) retailers; Pact which makes you invest in your goals with a pool of others, rewarding you if you make them, deducting from your account if you do not; GOODcoins which rewards you only with ‘positive things’ (no chocolate or anything that contributes to, say, global warming). But after all, you should only bask in the glow of doing GoodThings for yourself, eh? Getting paid to stay fit (Ozy)

But then there’s always guilt. Fitness tracking is on the way of becoming so omnipresent that it becomes a part of you. Beyond the wrist, fitness clothes, implants and digital tattoos or bandages will be tattling (via your smartphone or directly) on your vital signs, activity and weight gain from too much to eat at dinner. On one hand this can be a good thing in shaping behavior. A study by two researchers associated with University College London and Ashfield Business School, Berkhamsted found many positives in Fitbits shaping female wearers’ behaviors, with 76 percent self-reporting healthier eating habits (more…)

Fitbit and Teladoc: big IPOs, big questions

This week’s big news (so far) of Fitbit’s $732 million initial public offering–the largest consumer electronics IPO ever–comes despite the Jawbone IP lawsuits [TTA 11 June]. Count us among those who question this ‘vote of confidence’ as raising unrealistic expectations for health tech by a fitness tracker not truly part of real digital health. Telemedicine provider Teladoc appears headed on the same track with an IPO estimated to come in at $137 million, probably by next week. This generous pricing (~$20/share) comes despite never being profitable in 13 years. Like Fitbit, Teladoc is facing lawsuits from its major competitor American Well on IP [TTA 9 June], with Teladoc asking the US Patent and Trademark Office to review the validity of several American Well patents. Both IPOs are on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). MedCityNews examines Fitbit and Teladoc.

What’s news at the end of the week

Care Innovations harmonizes seniors, Panasonic adds diabetes, Jawbone and Fitbit bite, the first EHR/PHR Hack and Concussion in Cleveland. Converging its interests in remote patient monitoring with its long-time footprint in senior housing resident monitoring (QuietCare), Intel-GE Care Innovations is testing its Health Harmony remote patient monitoring system, partnering with two California-located Front Porch communities and the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing. The residents selected have poor chronic condition management or have returned after a discharge from a skilled nursing facility. No disclosure on projected number or duration–and it doesn’t appear that QuietCare is part of the monitoring. Release….Panasonic just bought Bayer Healthcare’s diabetes/blood glucose monitoring device unit for $1.13 billion as Bayer continues to shed non-life science businesses. While old-school prick-and-bleed monitors are being eclipsed by continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) and mobile-based devices such as Telcare in the US and in Europe, there’s plenty of market remaining in the West, and new ones in Asia and the Middle East for simple devices. It joins Panasonic’s existing blood pressure monitors. MedCityNews….Jawbone and Fitbit continue to snap at each other in court, with the former on Wednesday filing a second lawsuit on patent infringement, specifically “a wellness application using data from a data-capable band”, with the added fillip of going to the International Trade Commission, which could ban the import of Fitbit products or component parts. The 28 May lawsuit was about Fitbit’s hiring of five former Jawbone employees who allegedly stole IP. The companies between them have hundreds of patents, and as this Editor has noted in previous IP and patent troll articles, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is not especially rigorous in ensuring that patents are not overbroad. Wonderful for the IP attorneys, but not exactly what Fitbit wants as a runup to their expected IPO next week. Wall Street Journal….Now an EHR and PHR join Hackermania Running Wild. Medical Informatics Engineering reported Tuesday that in May their server was cyberattacked, exposing PHI of patients in five clients and separately information contained in the NoMoreClipboard PHR subsidiary. POLITICO reports that this is the first recorded instance of an EHR compromise. MIE ReleasePOLITICO Morning eHealth….If you are in the Cleveland, Ohio area and have an interest, Concussion: A National Challenge is a free, two-day event on detection and diagnosis sponsored by the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, Metro Health and Taipei Medical University. Advance registration required.

Fitness/wellness trackers have amazing potential–to annoy

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/keep_calm_and_smash_watch.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Your Editors have previously noted some interesting personal experiences with fitness bands/trackers. Editor Charles, at last report, was on his third Jawbone Up in a year; this Editor has remained immune to their mostly clonky charms (tempted by the classic Swiss watch looks of Withings Activité [TTA 26 June 14], put off by the $450 price, but now notes that the sporty, analog Activité Pop is available in the US at $150.) Even if not among the Quantified Self avant-garde, we who write about tech can deal with most of it without blinking too much. Over at FierceMobileHealthcare, Judy Mottl, a regular writer for their FierceHealthIT website, took “the plunge into the wearable device pool” and hit her head on the bottom. Her experience of mostly frustration with the app, bad data generation, inability to sync with the smartphone, saying you’re awake/sleeping when not and so on indicates that this is one wearable she should have returned to the store–or treated according to our picture. Is this one isolated example or a more common experience than the healtherati who adore wearables let on?

There’s some evidence that the leaders in fitness bands realize their shortcomings on the app side. Fitbit acquired fitness coaching app developer, FitStar, for at least $17.8 million. Mobihealthnews

Update 2 April: Editor Charles reports on his third Jawbone Up, and his daughters’ experience:

I took to wearing the third Jawbone UP the other way round – i.e. with the two ends in line with the back of my hand, and the thicker bit in line with the inside of my hand and that seems to have done the trick. However my older daughter (more…)

MWC 2015 Part II – a few companies, some of potential interest

The Mobile World Congress in Barcelona does, as the name suggests, cover the whole mobile world. It can come as a disappointment then to find quite how insignificant Health is when compared to items like hardware, payment or even ‘4G backhaul’ (whatever that is). There certainly now seems to be a case for a sparate health stream, as finding the pearls proved very challenging for this reviewer. Relying on the search engine on the site too often revealed a company where too many boxes had been ticked. There was also an alarming number of healthtech ‘no shows’ on the when I reached the country stands of eg Finland, Greece & Italy.

However, there were a few exciting finds. These included:

Coros which are offering incredibly low-priced wearables: washable vests that do HR, respiration, temperature & ECG. If the prices I was quoted by Ethan Wu, Sales Director of a few $10s are good, and the kit works, they’ll be struggling to meet demand.

Dr Security offers an app that enables you to track all the people in your party, call for help, find your mobile device and more. Impressive and I’d have thought most welcome particularly for teachers with school parties or those with really any large outings.

Essence is an Israeli company that has been around for 20 years that offers an activities of daily living (ADL) monitoring service similar to (more…)

Fitbit accurate in measuring energy expenditure: AHA presentation

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/acitivity-trackers_wellocracy_chealth-blog-kvedar.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]The current judgment on commercial fitness monitors is that they are worthwhile directionally, but accurate–not so much [TTA 10 May 14]. This may be changing, albeit on a specific, non-clinical measurement. A Columbia University Medical Center (New York, NY) team tested the Fitbit One and Fitbit Flex for tracking energy expenditure during treadmill walking and running exercise, versus energy expenditure assessed by indirect calorimetry, and found themto be valid and reliable devices. Correlation between measurements was 0.95 – 0.97. These devices were interestingly placed on wrists and hips; perhaps a user can enlighten me.  Poster presentation/Abstract MP11 published in the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation.

Tunstall adopts new Tactio in patient management

Tunstall Healthcare is partnering with Canadian mHealth developer Tactio Health Group in what is a distinct first for them: creating a mobile care management system that is 1) smartphone-based for the patient and 2) prominently integrates non-Tunstall apps and devices. The patient uses the smartphone and the Tactio-developed mTrax app to collect a wide spectrum of data–everything from activity, sleep, pregnancy, body fat and mood tracking to the traditional constellation of vital signs. This uploads to the care provider’s tablet mPro Clinical App which overviews, details and reports the data for each patient and patient groups in care. The data comes from well-known mHealth apps outside the Tunstall world: BodyMedia, Fitbit, Fitbug, Garmin, Jawbone UP, Medisana and Wahoo Fitness, as well as connected (presumably Bluetooth) medical devices from A&D Medical, Mio, iHealth, Telcare, Withings and Nonin. Tunstall has also added two-way patient coaching and  health journal features.

Tunstall’s positioning for what they call Active Health Management or AHM is “supported self-management” and “shift(ing) from reactive care to cost-effective active care.” (more…)

The ultimate ‘comfy sensor patch’–an implant

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/3036175-inline-i-2-from-the-designers-of-fitbit-a-digital-tattoo.jpg” thumb_width=”175″ /]John A. Rogers and his ‘skunkworks’, take notice. From the design shop that brought you Fitbit, NewDealDesign (FDR would be puzzled), comes the next big step in wearables–a sensor patch concept which would be implanted in your hand and multi-task till the cows come home. Project Underskin would detect fitness levels, vital signs such as blood glucose or body temperature, unlock your door or pre-authorize your credit card. The curved implant (more…)

Yesterday’s Apple intros and implications for health monitoring

A knockout or a catch up? Now that the Hype Dust is settling (along with Apple’s stock price), let’s take a look at what we know today about the new, larger iPhones and the Apple Watch regarding health monitoring.

Where it was a catch up:

  • Size and screen in phones. Apple got the message: squinting at tiny type and swiping to enlarge is rapidly becoming yesterday’s pain. As smartphones and larger screens knocked out the Blackberry, Samsung led the way in sizing up and higher resolution–and others followed suit. The awful fact is that the smartphone market is aging, both in users and who’s left in the market to grow it, and we want to see, not squint.
  • [grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/apple-watch-beauty-shot.png” thumb_width=”150″ /]Finally (drum roll), a sleeker smartwatch with fitness tracking, out sometime next year–and not just a sports model. The basic model is a rubbery Sport watch, the mid-line has a sapphire crystal, stainless steel case and (proprietary) swappable bands. The beauty is the upmarket version in gold with a leather band (left, courtesy re/Code).
    • Here Apple is up against multiple in-market competition from Fitbit to Moto to Withings to Samsung Gear–whose pricing is well below the starter Apple Watch at $349 in the $200 and below range.
    • The Apple Watch looks seriously great, distinctively thinner and it’ll be a prestige item. But does it track more and better? No. According to reports (updated today) this is what it has: heart rate monitor, pulse, daily activity for which you need the phone. No sleep monitoring. It also has to be charged every night. There may be other features from developers, but they are under wraps for now and will likely require phone tethering. (re/Code) It’s not a comprehensive lifestyle watch–yet.

Where it could be a knockout in healthcare:

  • Finally, a compelling reason for health care providers to ditch the old iPhone and not go Android. Healthcare providers in the US are heavily wedded to iOS: (more…)

2015: mHealth’s breakout year–or more of the same sideways?

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/the-thinker-statue-flickr-satyakam-khadikar-480.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Adopting or Ditching It? We’re barely into September, yet the first 2015 prediction-of-a-sort is on the record from Center for Connected Health‘s Dr. Joseph Kvedar in The eHealth Blog. Does Apple HealthKit+Samsung‘s SHealth’s iterations+Google Fit+smartwatches everywhere (including LG’s G Watch R) equal $7.2 billion in wearables alone by 2018 as part of a mHealthy $49 billion by 2020? He’s optimistic, yet he hedges his bets with the caveat

“The challenge in health care is that, though we know what patients/consumers need to do to improve their health, most of them don’t want to hear about it.”

Which indicates that Dr. Kvedar has joined our small group of Thinkers puzzling out why health apps haven’t taken off beyond their Quantified Selfer early adopters and what Parks Associates termed ‘Healthy and Engaged’ [TTA 11 Aug]. With 1/3 of the purchasers of activity trackers putting them in the drawer after six months and the unstickiness of apps (80 percent are abandoned after a shocking two weeks), the winning combination isn’t obvious. But is it ‘focus on engagement’ and ‘personal, motivational and ubiquitous’? Certainly key factors, but how do we get the ‘Challenged but Mindful’ with a chronic condition–or two or three–to track and reward their real progress, even on a bad day–which an activity tracker which constantly presses you to exceed your performance has trouble gauging. (more…)

Forced to wear a fitness tracker for insurance? (US)

For those covered by corporate health policies, the day is not far away where employee health insurance programs will require wearing a fitness tracker and meeting certain metrics, such as walking a million steps or sleep quality. Already some programs have the employee log food, exercise, blood glucose, heart rate and other vital signs to qualify for a discount. The trajectory is much like BYOD–once unheard of, now it is expected to be the norm in 50 percent of US companies by 2017, with a concomitant loss of personal security and privacy. CVS Caremark and other companies have already made the stick, not the carrot, the norm of employee wellness programs [TTA 12 April 2013]. Writer Adrian Kingsley-Hughes asks: “How much access do we want our employers to have to our medical data? How much access to our daily activities do we want our employers and insurers having?” And what about spoofing those Fitbits and Jawbones? His ZDNet article notes the interest that Apple (plus Samsung and Google, despite Sergey’s and Larry’s vapors–Ed.) has in health, then takes it out a few more yards with Wearables and health insurance: A health bar over everyone’s head (and do check out the comments.)