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)

A trip back in time to telecare, circa 2009–and maybe the future

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Cape-May-Point-fade-to-dark.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]As the season winds down, our thoughts turn backwards. Your Editor remembers Jersey Shore vacations, travel, great airshows, collector car shows, old friends and good times. She also remembers When Telecare Was New (2006-9) with Living Independently Group (now Care Innovations), helping to pioneer the QuietCare system in senior housing. At that time, universities like Virginia and Florida were on the cutting edge in developing smart homes and pioneering systems for monitoring health in older adults and the disabled. Those smart homes and research initiatives vanished years ago, replaced by incubators, accelerators, the size of your funding round, Big Data, wearables, IoT….

Sigh. Your Editor is in Error. The University of Missouri is still at it 12 years later with its sensor-based behavioral/activity/proactive care system in the Tiger Place assisted living community near Columbia. And it seems much the same: bed and residential motion sensors, fall detection tracked by a variety of sensors, gait analysis and analysis of activity changes (changes in behavior=changes in health, which still doesn’t excite those in senior care the way it should) . You have to admire the persistence of vision the founders/researchers have had (Marilyn Rantz, professor emeritus with the School of Nursing, and Marjorie Skubic, a professor with MU’s College of Engineering). Their research model has now spread to 13 communities and hospitals in Missouri, and they are commercializing it with a former student, George Chronis, with Foresite Healthcare to convert it into a reliable, robust assisted living/hospital monitoring/care transition system with a simpler, affordable ‘health at home’ version. Besides the nostalgia and supporting fellow ‘true believers’, what they have designed is still needed AND not achieved by RFID (a big fizzle) or ancient PERS. We can all wish them luck in a competitive and much changed market. MU researchers taking sensor system from lab to marketplace (Columbia Daily Tribune)

Previously in TTA: Quantifying early detection capabilities of telecare (July 2012) and Editor Steve’s first look in October 2009 at ‘magic carpet falls’.

The NHS fail at encouraging digital health startups

While Minister of Life Sciences George Freeman MP speaks very highly of the need for innovation and digital health in an NHS integrated health system, the reality is less encouraging for UK startups and their growth. The story of Big Health’s Sleepio and its move from the UK, told by Bloomberg, illustrates the difficulty that new companies and technologies have in fitting into a national framework, then selling into the 209 NHS regions plus related healthcare spenders. The long cycle and the narrowness of the frameworks are disincentives for many digital health technologies and their funders. Even if you win clients as part of being on the framework, when it expires after a few years, the business can be lost.

It’s hard to crack the code, and small companies are dependent on partners. A personal anecdote from this Editor’s time at Living Independently: the company achieved getting on a national framework with the QuietCare telecare product (2007) through partnerships with several larger telecare providers. We relied on them to offer QuietCare to the regions and councils. This had limited success and the US business far outstripped that in the UK.

Ten years ago, the situation was reversed. NHS, Government and council funding helped the earliest development and acceptance of telehealth and telecare, much as the Veterans Health Administration (VA) did with home telehealth and telemedicine in the US.  Other European markets and Canada have established private spending in this area, but these smaller markets–and funders– don’t have the potential that is possible in the US private market, even without reimbursement. The trend is reflected in investment: $4 bn in the US, less than €100 million in Europe. US developers now have a bonus in the potential of Asia, with China having the greatest interest and now funding. [TTA 23 July].  How the NHS Is Locking Out Britain’s Digital-Health Startups

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

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/140825141047-lively-pillbox-sensor-story-top.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]There’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…)