Philips dives into global consumer health tech with new wearables ‘ecosystem’

Philips has made another substantial, if traditionally risky, move into the direct to consumer (DTC) health monitoring segment with a limited wearables ‘ecosystem’ under a new Personal Health Solutions division. It contains five FDA-cleared products for monitoring vital signs. Four peripherals download via a watch to iPhone/Android phone apps which run on version 2.0 of the Philips HealthSuite (with Salesforce1) mobile app. Earlier the apps were marketed in NL and BE.

While the release states they are globally available, initially it appears they are being marketed direct to consumer for the US only. Purchase is direct on the site. All devices are Bluetooth LE and sync with the watch and smartphone app/dashboard (available on Google Play and the Apple Store). The watch/app also tracks exercise with activity recognition, calorie tracking and sleep patterning, with the app providing some education content.

  • Watch $249
  • Body Analysis Scale (weight, body fat, BMI) $100
  • BP/pulse (upper arm) $100, (wrist) $90
  • Ear Thermometer $60

Interestingly, their existing DTC PERS enterprise, Lifeline, is not linked to or mentioned.

Prices are mid-range to high, making this a prima facie tough sell. (more…)

Tunstall Goes Hawaiian with Kupuna Monitoring acquisition

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Big-T-thumb-480×294-55535.gif” thumb_width=”150″ /] Tunstall Americas is acquiring Kupuna Monitoring Systems of Aiea (northwest of Honolulu), Hawaii, a medical alarm and medication manager provider. In the press release, CEO Casey Pittock confirmed that Tunstall Americas’ strategy is to acquire regional monitoring services, as we noted in their Mountain Home (Denver) purchase last year. Locally owned (kama’aina) and serving the four major islands, Kupuna (‘elder’) is currently using Philips Lifeline monitors and Philips med dispensers. We hope they are welcomed with warmest aloha. (Hawaii as a market and culture is like no other in the US, and in this Editor’s experience in a totally different industry, can be fiercely local.)

Home telehealth now focused on the ‘superusers’ of healthcare

A noticeable trend in telehealth has to do with focusing less on the generic virtues of at-home vital signs monitoring for routine patient care and more on managing specific high-cost populations to avoid or reduce costs. Some of the impetus in the US has come from new regulations by CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) intended to move Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) patients into a reimbursed chronic care management (CCM) model. Banner Health is Arizona’s largest private employer (which does say something about Arizona as a retirement haven) and since 2006 has been experimenting with remote monitoring since 2006. Starting in 2013 Banner piloted Philips‘ post-discharge program now called ‘Hospital to Home’ as Banner iCare, combined with Philips Lifeline PERS, but made it available to those only with a stunning five+ chronic conditions–the top 5 percent that is reputed to account for 50 percent of healthcare spend. Banner combined the tech with intense support by a multi-layered care team. At ATA they announced the following results with the initial cohort of 135 patients, now up to 500:

  • 27% reduction in cost of care
  • 32% reduction in acute and long term care costs
  • 45% reduction in hospitalizations

The article in Forbes is a bit breathless in profiling the program and the ‘superusers’ of healthcare (with a windy but false analogy from John Sculley) but provides a level of detail in the program that most articles do not. One wonders how Philips makes money on supplying what is at least $2,500 worth of kit, with peripherals that must all be Bluetooth LE. It’s also not stated, but the TeleICU and TeleAcute programs also appear to be Philips’. Video

Philips finally gets to GoSafe

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/img-gosafe-button.jpg” thumb_width=”160″ /]At long last… the Philips Lifeline GoSafe mobile PERS with fall detection and GPS, announced with fanfare at International CES 2013 and delayed well over 18 months from its original debut date, has quietly entered the market. The chunky and somewhat ‘cartoon alien’-ish pendant, while connected in-home to a conventional base station communicator, also uses GPS, ‘intelligent tracking’ to determine the user’s last known location, Wi-Fi, audio beaconing and voice response via cellular to alert for assistance. Pricing has settled at $149 for the device and a $54.95 monthly subscription. GoSafe joins the Philips Lifeline mPERS smartphone app introduced in August [TTA 28 Aug] and Lifeline with AutoAlert extensively debated here. No indication of distribution outside the US. PRNewswire release, Lifeline website, Mobihealthnews.

Philips, Salesforce dive into health data integration

Philips Healthcare and Salesforce announced last week their partnership to construct a connected, multi-point and collaborative data platform to benefit providers, payers and patients. The initial step is the launch later this summer of the Philips eCare Coordinator app for healthcare providers and a patient-centered Philips eCare Companion app, which will uptake data from Philips Healthcare medical devices into a variation on the Salesforce1 cloud platform. What’s emphasized in the releases and information from media sources is that it will be designed as an open platform for other device and software providers. (Data security problems down the line are anyone’s guess.) While Philips’ global CEO was part of the announcement and it’s expected that Philips will be lead dog for this, the only two customers mentioned were US and Salesforce’s. There were also few details on how clinical staff would access and use the data.

Cui bono from this? Philips of course, which of late has been lagging (more…)

Tunstall’s unhappy lenders and the consequences of debt service

A ‘slipped under the radar’ story (in this Editor’s judgement, based on the lack of news references) is Bloomberg News’ exclusive on last week’s (12 May) meetings between Tunstall Group Ltd and its creditors over the company’s recent performance. According to Bloomberg’s sources, the meeting was called “after income plunged and management changed following a refinancing in September.” In a statement from Charterhouse that cleverly tap-danced past the reason for the meeting, “Tunstall continues to be a successful, profitable, cash-generating business and comparable to many other organizations, experiences short-term fluctuations in performance.” and “The group has been impacted by a number of factors including specific market factors and the continued strength of sterling against the major-trading currencies.” The business has also been hurt by delays in awarding major contracts, according to the statement.

From the Bloomberg article:

As Tunstall’s profits have declined, its ratio of debt to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization increased to 5.6 times as of March, from 4.7 times in September, the people said. The loan terms in the March test dictated that the leverage ratio shouldn’t exceed 6.3 times, they said.

Lenders are expecting the company to give a new profit forecast today for the 12 months to September 2014, according to the people. The company didn’t comment on earnings targets or leverage in its statement.

AND: Its 350 million pounds ($590 million) of loans dropped to as little as 77 pence on the pound, according to broker quotes, from 99 pence in September. (Ed. note: these loans are publicly traded and a lowered value is highly significant as to the debt quality.)

The outcome of the meeting is not yet known.

As our readers know, private equity firm Charterhouse Capital Partners LLP acquired Tunstall Group in 2008 from Bridgepoint Capital  for £514 million (US$ 1 billion), funded in part with over £242 million in debt and with Bridgepoint and management retaining small shares (FT.com). The September 2013 refinancing was for £350 million ($590 million). This paints a picture of a highly leveraged company beholden to many beyond its owners and its contractors in local authorities and housing associations. Tunstall and Charterhouse also received negative publicity when the Guardian did an exposé on their use of the (wholly legal) ‘Quoted Eurobond Exemption’, where they pay loan interest at high rates to their parent companies through a mechanism via the Channel Islands Stock Exchange.

Management changes over the past six months have also rocked the top layers of the company. (more…)

The ‘grey’ market is where it’s at for ‘quantified selfing’

Surprisingly in the tech-addicted (and young-skewing, based on subject matter) Gigaom is this short piece on how health tech companies are missing the boat by targeting the young, healthy fitness addict or plain addicted-to-the-data Quantified Self (QS) market, rather than those over 50 and their families. ‘Simple’ and unobtrusive are the keywords, especially for what the late and much missed MetLife Mature Market Institute termed the ‘old-old’–those over 80. Mentioned are home activity monitoring systems such as Lively, BeClose and GrandCare Systems supplanting the PERS pendant (Lifeline) and the additional alert capabilities offered by GreatCall/Jitterbug. (This Editor will also mention a new telecare system entering the European and Americas markets, Essence Care@Home, which premiered at Mobile World Congress 2014. More on this in the next few days.) What’s notable about the article is the emphasis on the market size (via expert Laurie Orlov): $2 billion now, ten times that in 2020. What’s incomplete about the article is no ‘look-ahead’ to how devices like smartwatches (and watch-like forms such as AFrame), sensor-based wearables which connect to smartphones–and sensor-equipped smartphones, tablets and even Glass-type devices with simple apps which can help with self-or group-monitoring, prompts for those with cognitive difficulties, and more. Worldwide, we are also running out of carers [TTA 24 April]. Who will crack the code on tech for seniors?

Delays in ‘game-changing’ PERS

Both Philips GoSafe and Lifecomm have apparently blown past at least two in-market dates.

Philips Lifeline GoSafe: Announced at CES in January [TTA 11 Jan], it is a mobile, souped-up PERS chunky neck-worn pendant with the fall detection features of Lifeline Auto-Alert plus GPS detection through multiple systems such as Skyhook, Wi-Fi and ‘intelligent bread crumbing’. The CES-announced debut was March, reconfirmed in February to Leading Age [TTA 14 Feb]. Then a small blog, The Senior List, confirmed with Philips in June that in-market would be delayed till fall. Now that fall is here, an industry insider tipped us to the further delay till December, confirmed by a later article in the The Senior List blog. Notably Philips is beefing up its website and video demo presence, apparently building up to an announcement near the end of the year. In the PERS category, one of the peak selling seasons is post-New Year’s, after holiday get-togethers bring the realization that a loved one is getting frailer and in need of some protection.

On the polar opposite, the Lifecomm PERS (from the Qualcomm/Hughes Telematics-now-Verizon/AMAC-now-Tunstall JV) seems to be hanging in limbo–again. (more…)