3rings goes Internet of Things with ‘Things That Care’ (UK)

3rings is launching another extension of its smart plug sensor that monitors daily use of a key appliance like a tea kettle or TV with a multi-sensor IoT system. click to enlargeThings That Care‘ uses proprietary ‘things’ (sensors) to monitor patterns of activity and the home environment to create a safety net for an older adult, perhaps growing frailer, usually living at home alone, so that family or caregivers can ‘look in’ to see if all is fine. It also integrates the Amazon Echo interactive personal assistant as announced in June [TTA 27 June].

The other 3rings development is the system’s ability to analyze data for trends and insights (screenshots below). The introduction of self-learning algorithms to detect potential changes in activity that may be early signs of a change in health is a proactive care advance similar to capabilities in the far more complex and expensive QuietCare and Healthsense (now Lively) but affordable for families. It also puts the 3rings system into the professional space for councils and sheltered housing. According to 3rings CEO Steve Purdham, “our new platform gives professionals real time information to support efficient care planning and delivery, and provides a cost effective means of managing risks and providing tailored care to people to enable them to stay independent at home.” Again, we wish 3rings the best with these new developments. Release (PDF)  

click to enlarge   click to enlarge

GreatCall’s acquisition: a big vote for older adult-centered healthcare tech

This midweek’s Big News has been the acquisition of the mobile phone/PERS company GreatCall by Chicago private equity firm GTCR. Cost of the acquisition is not disclosed. GTCR stated that they expect to make capital investments to GreatCall to fund future acquisitions and internal growth. GreatCall has over 800,000 subscribers in the US, generates about $250 million in profitable revenue annually, and employs about 1,000 people mainly in the San Diego area and Nevada. According to press sources, senior management led by CEO David Inns will remain in place and run the company independently. 

Our US Readers know of GreatCall’s long-standing (since 2006), bullseye-targeted appeal to older adults who desire a simple mobile flip phone, the Jitterbug, but has moved along with the age group to a simple smartphone with built-in health and safety apps. Along the way, GreatCall also developed and integrated the 5Star mPERS services on those phones, served by their own 24/7 emergency call center and developed an mPERS with fall detection. Their own acquisitions included the remnants of the Lively telecare home monitoring system in 2015 [TTA 5 Dec 15], adding the Lively Wearable mPERS/fitness tracker to their line; and senior community telecare service Healthsense last December. The original Lively home system and safety watch are sold in the UK (website) but apparently not the Jitterbug. In the UK and EU, the Jitterbug line would be competitive with established providers such as Doro.

What’s different here? GTCR is not a flashy, Silicon Valley PE investing in hot, young startups or a traditional senior health investor like Ziegler. Its portfolio is diversified into distinctly non-cocktail-chatter companies in financial services and technology; technology, media and telecommunications (including an outdoor ad company!); and growth businesses. It has real money, investing over $12 billion in 200 companies since 1980, and strategically prefers leadership companies. Their healthcare businesses have primarily been in life sciences, specialty pharma, dermatology, specialty services such as healthcare in correctional institutions, and device sterilization. Recent acquisitions have been San Diego-based XIFIN, a provider of cloud-based software to diagnostic service providers, RevSpring in billing and communications, and data analytics firm Cedar Gate Technologies. It also has partnered with newly formed medical device companies.

GreatCall crosses over into GTCR’s telecommunications sweet spot, but the older adult market and direct-to-consumer sell are different for them. Because it is unique in their portfolio, this Editor believes that GTCR sees ‘gold’ in the ‘silver’ market. Larry Fey, one of their managing directors, cited its growth and also GreatCall’s recent moves into senior communities with their products. GTCR also has expertise in the security alarm monitoring sector, which along with pharma clinical trials can bolster better utilization and broaden the utilization of GreatCall’s call centers.

However, this Editor would caution that the US senior community market has been having difficult times of late with overbuilding, declining occupancy, resident/labor turnover, and rising expenses–as well as recent coverage of security lapses and resident abuse. Telecare systems like Healthsense are major capital expenses, but the flip side is that communities can use technology to improve care, resident safety, and to differentiate themselves. To make the most of their Healthsense acquisition, GreatCall needs to bring innovation to the V1.0 monitoring/safety/care model that Healthsense is in its current state, and make the case for that innovation in cost/financials, usability and reliability. San Diego Union-Tribune, Mobihealthnews

In-home video monitoring acceptable to 90 percent of dementia carers: Age NI study

What used to be the ‘third rail’ of caring may no longer be. The idea of cameras in the home to view activity of an older family member was so abhorrent to caregiving relatives that it was a key in selling purely sensor-based monitoring systems from the early 2000s on, such as QuietCare, GrandCare, Alarm.com Wellness, Healthsense, Lively, Tynetec/Legrand and many others. Today, in the age of selfies and video on social networks, video surveillance doesn’t seem so foreign. Age NI‘s study conducted through Ulster University had the surprising finding that over 90 percent of participants in several focus groups supported it, with two important caveats; that there was initial consent from the older person being monitored, and that only family members could view the video. With that, they found it ‘useful’, ‘ethical’ and ‘moral’. It would support the person’s safety in aging at home longer, and provide peace of mind for carers. Hat tip to Toni Bunting of TASK Ltd. PharmaTimes, Ulster University News

Was 2016 a great or off year for digital health funding, M&A, IPOs? (updated)

It depends on the study you read and how jaundiced your view is. If you believe the StartUp Health Insights 2016 ‘Health Moonshots’ report, 2016 digital health funding has hit a zenith of $8.18 bn (up 38 percent from 2015), with 500 companies enjoying funding from over 900 individual investors. Yet over at fellow funder Rock Health, the forecast is far more circumspect. They tracked only half the funding–$4.2 bn in funding–with 296 deals and 451 investors, down from the $4.6 bn over 276 deals in 2015.

There are significant differences in methodology. Rock Health tracks deals only over $2 million in value, while StartUp Health seems to have no minimum or maximum; the latter includes early stage deals at a lower value (their cross-section of ~$1 million deals has 15). StartUp Health gathers in international deals at all levels (pages 11-12),  whereas Rock Health only includes US-funded ventures. Another observation is that StartUp Health defines ‘digital health’ differently than Rock Health, most notably in ‘patient/consumer experience’, ‘wellness’ and ‘personalized health’. This can be seen by comparing their top 10 categories and total funding: (more…)

GreatCall enlarges remote monitoring profile with Healthsense acquisition (US) (Updated)

Updated. GreatCall, the older adult-targeted mobile phone/PERS company, on 20 December announced the acquisition of telecare/RPM developer Healthsense. Terms were not disclosed. Healthsense was one of the earliest developers (close after Living Independently Group’s, now Intel Care Innovations’, QuietCare) of a sensor-based residential system, eNeighbor, to monitor ADLs for activity and safety. It has been primarily marketed to senior living communities after an early start in home sales, and currently monitors 20,000 lives according to the press release. Healthsense acquired a similar system, WellAWARE, in 2013.

GreatCall is best known for its older adult-targeted mobile phone line, but in recent years they have expanded into mPERS services on phone and devices, including an emergency call center. The San Diego-based company acquired the remnants of the Lively in-home monitoring system a year ago and incorporated its watch-wearables into its medical alert product line.

This Editor speculates that one direction GreatCall may take is to expand into the senior community monitoring and home care business beyond mPERS. To date, GreatCall has been a highly successful, direct-to-consumer driven company which has popularized not only products to make technology simpler and more usable for older adults, but also led in a non-condescending approach to them. If the company decides to enter senior housing and home care, it presents a different and new marketing challenge, as both have been to date late technology adopters. Another concern is the cost/financial model, usability and reliability of Healthsense’s remote monitoring system.

The other direction is more conventional–GreatCall could incorporate the Healthsense technology and ADL algorithms into home monitoring, with a design resembling Lively’s original self-installed, attractively designed in-home telecare system.

Minnesota-based Healthsense in 15 years of operation raised what some would term a paltry $46 million of equity and debt financing in ten rounds (Crunchbase). Over this time, Healthsense’s investors were a small group, including New York-based Radius Ventures, Mansa Capital, West Health and Fallon Community Health Plan. After the $10 million venture round in 2014, the last investment was a small $2.6 million in February. Early investor Ziegler HealthVest Management, which purchased a significant interest in 2007, is not listed in Crunchbase’s roster, though one of their senior financial managers is on their board. This Editor senses (sic) that the investors were seeking to exit after a long time in.

The release has a summary of an earlier Healthsense study of interest to marketers of telehealth and telecare as a reference:

An independent 12-month study with Fallon Health (an investor–Ed.) found that using Healthsense remote monitoring in connection with Fallon’s model of care for seniors reduced total medical expenses by $687 per member per month — a nearly 16 percent reduction for pilot members as compared to a control group. The Fallon population using Healthsense demonstrated a 32.2 percent reduction in fees for inpatient hospital visits, a 39.4 percent reduction in emergency department costs and a 67.7 percent reduction in expenses for long term care vs. the control during the year-long study.

More in Mobihealthnews, MedCityNews, Minneapolis-St Paul Business Journal

(Updated with further information on early investor Ziegler and the senior housing market; hat tip to reader Andrea Swayne)

Tunstall Americas introducing Vi+ telecare home monitoring

click to enlargeWe don’t hear much from Tunstall Healthcare in the US other than their traditional/mobile PERS business (formerly AMAC‘s). That may be changing with their introduction (finally) of the Vi+ telecare home unit. It has medical alert, fall detection (via ‘intelligent pendant’) and integrates with home monitoring an array of what they call ‘Virtual Sensors’–motion and other sensors to monitor activity in the home, including wireless sensors for fire, flood and gas leaks. They do make a point of having an integral ambient temperature sensor which will alert their response center if an unsafe high or low temperature is detected.

Other than the press release, no information on Vi+ is on the Americas website yet, including pricing. (Vi without the sensor array has been sold for some time.) Vi+ is marketed in most Tunstall countries in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The fact sheet from Ireland is representative of Vi+ in most markets.

It’s interesting that Tunstall Americas has chosen to enhance their PERS/call center services with sensors, versus entering the hotter telehealth area. Sensor-based activity/danger monitoring is hardly new. (more…)

Telecare innovator Lively acquired by GreatCall (updated)

click to enlargeGreatCall, which markets the popular Jitterbug simple phones and ancillary safety/security services (5 Star, mPERS) targeted to older adults, has acquired the assets of home activity personal monitoring system Lively. According to GreatCall’s press release, Lively’s technologies will be integrated into GreatCall products. These include a tastefully designed brace of self-installed in-home motion sensors, which made quite a splash when introduced in 2012, and a fairly stylish mPERS watch introduced last year. From the announcement, it’s easy to deduce that Lively was largely inactive despite partnerships led by Care Innovations: the press release on both Lively and GreatCall’s site was issued from GreatCall only and not joint contact; Lively’s last round of funding was in 2013 (only $7.3 million total, another Series A to B casualty) and there are no Lively employees transitioning to GreatCall for the good reason that there are none left (Mobihealthnews). No word on founder Iggy Fanlo’s next plans save a squib on LinkedIn saying that hardware was hard and his next move would likely be in software. With last year’s sale of AFrame Digital (with no further word from the purchaser) and BeClose now Alarm.com Wellness (not a surprise as it was built on an Alarm.com platform), as we close the year it is further confirmation that it is No Country for Small Players in digital health. Photo: Lively.

Update: Tart take from seasoned Aging Tech business observer Laurie Orlov on Lively’s rise and fall, with additional history. Her POV is that as attractive as Lively’s concept was, its business strategy should give pause to the Silicon Valley investor and entrepreneur crowd thinking this is just another kind of direct-to-consumer hardware-service sell, the long payout of any tech in this field and the opposed short time frame of VCs. It’s also not like there haven’t been a few predecessors fallen on the field, either. Aging in place tech firm Lively is out of business – what can we learn?

Big home health win for telehealth confirms trend: must expand services, analytics

One of the most logical places for telehealth, remote care management (RCM) and transitional/chronic condition management (TCM/CCM) is with home health providers and post-acute care, yet perennially it has been on the ‘maybe next year’ list for most telehealth providers. That ‘next year’ may be getting a little closer with the news that Intel-GE Care Innovations has inked a multi-year deal (no pilot-itis here) with major (~400 facilities) home health provider Amedisys using their PC/tablet-based Health Harmony platform.

The initial focus is an ambitious one: reducing hospitalizations and ER/ED visits among patients with congestive heart failure (CHF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, depression as well as patients who have two or more of these conditions (co-morbidities). The most interesting to this Editor is the parenthetical mention of analyzing ADLs (activities of daily living) with clinical data. Does this imply the engagement of their venerable ADL monitor QuietCare? (It’s something the founding company worked on circa 2006 while this Editor was there; one would think the analytics have advanced since then.) Another aspect is that Care Innovations will manage Amedisys’ complete RCM program from recruiting to logistics, data analytics and application integration services. Business Wire

What this means: Telehealth (and telecare) companies are now increasingly obliged in these big wins to provide a plethora of additional related services. Health care providers demand services beyond the monitoring technology. They want the turnkey package, from nurse evaluations, care coordination/management, to analytics and logistics.This ‘service creep’ implies alliances and mergers to add on to technological monitoring capabilities–and beaucoup financing. (more…)

‘Déjà vu all over again’ or critical mass? NYTimes looks at older adult care tech

“It’s like déjà vu all over again” as Yogi Berra, the fast-with-a-quip Baseball Hall of Fame catcher-coach-manager once said. About 2006-7, telecare broke through as a real-world technology and the tone of the articles then was much like how this New York Times article starts. But the article, in the context of events in the past two years, indicate that finally, finally there is a turning point in care tech, and we are on the Road to Critical Mass, where the build, even with a few hitches, is unstoppable.

Have telehealth, telecare, digital health or TECS (whatever you’d like to call it) turned the corner of acceptability? More than that, has it arrived at what industrial designer Raymond Loewy dubbed MAYA (Most Advanced Yet Acceptable) in keeping older adults safer and healthier at home? The DIY-installed Lively! system keeps an eye on a hale 78 year old (more…)

An interesting COPD telehealth pilot, mangled in the reporting

click to enlargeOur first ‘Blue Blazes’ of 2015 is the kind of press coverage that makes a PR pro or marketing director cringe.

Intel-GE Care Innovations along with OSF (Order of St. Francis) HealthCare and the University Of Illinois College Of Medicine at Peoria, the latter which have an interestingly named collaborative called Jump Trading Simulation and Education Center, are using the home telecare activity tracker Lively in a COPD patient tracking pilot. Reading the two articles found to date, one can eventually glean that vital signs like weight, blood pressure, O2 levels, lung capacity and qualitative feedback questions, as well as activity, is being tracked. The combination of activity + vital signs is interesting and different, but it takes detective work–viewing the video on the CIProud.com website (which charmingly turns sensors into senors in the headline)–to discover that the activity tracker is Lively, a CI partner. Lively does not report vital signs. How they are being collected remains a mystery as the Peoria Public Radio website article doesn’t furnish details other than a picture with an unidentified desktop hub/display (Health Harmony? It doesn’t look like it). Lack of detail + abundance of typos = bad reportage. In any case, the pilot of 30 patients continues into March, when it will be expanded to 200. Related: OSF/Care Innovations announcement from June 2014.

Lively telecare system adds smartwatch-flavored PERS

click to enlargeThe Lively home telecare system, which uses a series of passive activity sensors wirelessly connected to a cellular monitoring hub, announced a ‘safety watch’ addition to its system. The wristband has a watch form factor, is waterproof and contains an emergency button with analog/digital option on its time/date watch face. The smartwatch-ish features are medication reminders and a pedometer for step tracking. When out of home, the wristband tethers to an Android (only) smartphone. Battery is good for about six months. If the button is pushed, there is a ‘countdown’ during which a call center attempts to reach the user by phone (watch is not two-way voice) prior to dispatching emergency (more…)

Telecare helping Alzheimer’s patients live in the ‘connected home’

click to enlargeThere’s life in telecare–it’s (finally) morphing into ‘connected home’. Is this ‘slope of enlightenment’ and ‘plateau of productivity’ time?  We haven’t had a spotlight on the part of telecare which is sensor-based behavioral monitoring, but here’s one that shines on not just one but four systems which indicates a big change in focus, long developing: SmartThings, Lively, BeClose and certified Grizzled Pioneer GrandCare Systems. CNN.com crafted an article out of a fairly obvious placement by the Alzheimer’s Association, but all to a good end.

Notably SmartThings by Physical Graph (just purchased by Samsung for a reported $200 million after raising $15.5 million through Series A, undoubtedly for their algorithms and in its health reach strategy versus Apple Health) pitches itself on its website as simple home automation, yet this article is all about older adult safety. Lively, which is depicted with an interesting connected pill dispenser (above) and BeClose carve their approaches close to caregivers.  All three are DIY systems. GrandCare remains the anomaly, with the highest (custom) home install price ($699 and up) but with a home tablet that engages the older person with virtual visits, music, pictures, daily updates and family/clinician connectivity. They were also first to move in this direction; this Editor recalls their pioneering in the home automation area with CEDIA, the home electronic design association.

After years, are we finally seeing a shift in consumer perception?  (more…)

Ding! Telecare developer Healthsense raises $10 million in 8th round

Sensor-based remote monitoring company and certified Grizzled Pioneer Healthsense has completed a raise of $10 million, its eighth round of funding since its founding in 2003. This round was led by new investor Mansa Capital with previous investors Radius Ventures and Merck Global Health Innovation Fund. Mansa has current investments in only two other companies–smartphone med adherence platform HealthPrize Technologies ($3 million from Mansa just yesterday) and employer behavioral health risk manager E4 Health (CrunchBase) with a third, Independent Living Systems, listed on its website, but was a prior investor in well-known Athenahealth. Earlier investors Ziegler HealthVest Management (2007) and West Health did not join in this round. The VentureBeat article alludes to home monitoring pilots with home health providers Humana Cares/Senior Bridge and Fallon Health–odd since Healthsense has always had units in home health. Last year Healthsense bought rival telecare company WellAWARE [TTA 2 July 2013] after the latter experienced difficulty (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?

Some ‘Lively’ness in telecare with $4.8 million in funding

click to enlargeOur April profile of Lively (or Live!y)’s telecare system for monitoring ADLs in private homes ended with their (imminent, then actual) failure to acquire $100,000 in Kickstarter funding. Last week, they announced a reversal of fortune, with $4.8 million in Series A VC financing from Cambia Health Solutions including a contribution from their seed investor Maveron. Our earlier article discussed their setup, pricing, (more…)

Telecare as entrepreneurial platform (US)

Telecare ‘grizzled pioneer’ GrandCare Systems, which extended some time ago into both telehealth and socialization, is profiled in this Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article on local entrepreneurship and the relationship of intellectual capital to economic success. CEO Charles Hillman, COO Gaytha Traynor and VP Marketing Laura Mitchell are interviewed in the video (05:26).

click to enlargeBut telecare has attracted a new entrant, Lively (or Live!y). It’s an in-home behavioral monitoring system which uses neatly-designed motion sensors and M2M connectivity. It strongly resembles to this Editor QuietCare as originally positioned for older adult independence and safety in the home, but developed out in a version 2.0 or 3.0. Activity information feeds over to a web/smartphone platform which generates alerts when something is off the routine (again, like QuietCare). Pricing is right with an equipment cost of $149 (same as the original QuietCare) but with a far lower per month subscription of $19.99–lower than PERS which averages around $35-45–and unlike QuietCare, it is fully self-install. The connectedness overlay is (hold the presses!) direct mail–a ‘LivelyGram’ every two weeks which turns friends and family photos, news and updates into a booklet. The sticking point may be the usual–the older person finding this intrusive and ‘I don’t need this.’ Their Kickstarter appeal has unfortunately started off slowly even with initial discount pricing of $99 for the system; as of 23 April, $11,534 pledged of a $100,000 goal with 21 days left. Neil Versel reviews at Mobihealthnews.