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…)

Breaking news confirmed: Bosch exiting healthcare and telehealth in US–UPDATED

Breaking News–UPDATED with Bosch response

Bosch has confirmed they are closing their telehealth business in the US. Please see their statement at the end of this article.

A home care industry newsletter, along with our own reliable industry sources, have confirmed the recent industry discussion that Bosch Healthcare, since January a solely US operation, is winding down its business without a definite turnover to a buyer. This Editor, in calling various departments in their Palo Alto, California offices for confirmation on Thursday, was (when she reached a human being) forwarded to HR where she could leave only voice mail. An email to marketing also received no response. All sources indicate that staff layoffs took place last Monday.

Editor’s Note: Bosch’s official press response follows this article. We have also made certain corrections to this article (see in red).

  1. The Home Care Technology Report, published by industry consultant Tim Rowan, on Wednesday posted two articles stating that Bosch laid off nearly all of its staff on Monday (15 June) save for customer service and some key operating areas. His information indicated that Health Buddy sales–new and existing orders–have been terminated. This includes orders placed through its McKesson partnership. Non-VA service will be terminated in 60 to 90 days.
  2. Home Care Technology also reported that Bosch’s business with the Veterans Health Administration (VA) will be maintained through April 2016, which is near to the contract end in May, but no new units will be delivered. The original contract was with Health Buddy hub developer Health Hero Network, sold to Bosch in 2008With the later acquisition of ViTel Net, Bosch developed into one of the two leading VA Home Telehealth remote monitoring hub suppliers–the other being Cardiocom. VA Home Telehealth is the largest telehealth program in the US with over 156,000 patients (Federal Year 2014) (Ed. Note: VA has a third authorized and active VA supplier, Viterion).

As Mr Rowan did, this Editor will speculate on the reasons why there is this reported exit without a sale or spinoff, despite the substantial VA and other healthcare placements of Health Buddy. Our take is somewhat different than his: (more…)

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