A short but canny look at consumer behavior as a driver of health technology

Whether the global ‘smart home healthcare’ market actually totals $30bn by 2023, as a Research and Markets study trumpets, is debatable, but one thing that this Editor agrees with is that successful home health devices need to take a chapter from Steve Jobs’ Apple and famed industrial designer Raymond Loewy’s playbooks (search our Loewy references here) and design for how the consumer lives and would use their product. It isn’t flashy design awards, but how that technology can not only fit into a person’s life but also be an asset that they’d miss if someone took it away–a point often forgotten in the rush of initial design, testing, and funding.

Writer Scott Thielman of Product Creation Studio, a Seattle-based industrial design and engineering firm, outlines four health tech products/services that represent technology that is intuitive, easy-to-use, accessible, and, I would add, have a little something extra that makes them indispensable.

  • Athelas, a next-generation immune monitoring device that resembles an Amazon Alexa in being a 3D black cylinder. Instead of playing music, it measures neutrophils, lymphocytes, platelets, white blood cells, morphology, and cell activation all within minutes from a test strip inserted in the cylinder. (Investigational device awaiting FDA review)
  • Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT)’s smart toilet seat (which Editor Charles punningly referred to here) was tested with heart failure patients. It measured nine clinically relevant features, including weight, single-lead ECG, systolic/diastolic blood pressure, blood oxygenation and localized pulse timing, and a ballistocardiogram (BCG) for measuring the mechanical forces associated with the cardiac cycle. Normally, the patient would have to use several devices for these measurements rather than taking a seat. Speaking of the seat, it is standard white and replaces the one in the bathroom. Results were published in JMIR mHealth and uHealth.
  • ResMed’s connection of its continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) sleep apnea treatment devices to the cloud before the patient uses them, plus their patient smartphone app helps them to claim that 84 percent of new users reach the necessary usage threshold for Medicare adherence in the first 90 days of treatment.
  • Clarify Medical’s build-in of user feedback for its home vitiligo and psoriasis treatment that goes direct to their in-house customer service also registers patient usage, needed fixes, and outreach to those who need additional coaching and training.
  • Livongo’s acquisition of myStrength’s behavioral health app [TTA 31 Jan] also points to the importance of consumer behavior in a somewhat different aspect–the 20 percent and more who are struggling with behavioral health issues along with one or more chronic conditions managed by Livongo for employers and health plans.

How to design home healthcare devices that people will use (Medical Design & Outsourcing)

 

Short takes: Livongo buys myStrength, Apple Watch cozies with insurers, Lively hears telehealth and $16 million

Livongo gets behaviorally stronger with myStrength. Extending from their base in diabetes and chronic disease management into behavioral health, Livongo made a logical extension with early-stage behavioral health company myStrength. A large percentage of those with chronic conditions are also struggling with a behavioral health issue–Livongo cites 20 percent but in this Editor’s opinion, the estimate is low. Both Livongo and myStrength have been very successful in the payment game, with both companies achieving payment and reimbursement by employers, insurers, health systems, and state/Federal payers. The other factor is that employers and payers want single, integrated platforms for wellness and disease management. Livongo last year bought Retrofit for its weight management program. Competitor Omada Health recently acquired the behavioral health technology of defunct Lantern. MedCityNews, Fortune, Livongo release

Apple Watch wastes no time in partnering with insurers. Or vice versa! Confirming that Apple Watch’s growth strategy hinges heavily on health via its new features are fresh agreements with Aetna/CVS Health and a rumored reach into three Medicare Advantage plans. The Aetna partnership is with an app called Attain, which blends Apple Watch activity tracking data with users’ health history to create personalized programs. The program is limited to about 250,000 slots plus additional slots for employer plans, and will debut this spring. Late last year, United HealthCare announced Apple Watches would be added to existing wellness program called Motion and their Rally platform. Both Aetna and United have tiered payment programs for the watches, with United adding a HSA reward. For Medicare Advantage plans, Apple is rumored that they will subsidize the watch for use as a health tracker and coach. FierceMobileHealthcare 30 Jan (Aetna), 14 Nov 18 (UHC), and 29 Jan (Medicare Advantage).

Lively adds telehealth to hearing assistance. Lively’s mobile-connected, direct to consumer hearing aids are adding more telehealth features such as remote tuning, virtual video consults with an audiologist, and an online hearing assessment/uploading audiogram for assessment. The NYC-based company also announced closing on a $16 million seed/Series A fundraising round led by Declaration Capital with participation from Tiger Management. There are an estimated 35 million Americans with hearing loss in a $10bn annual market. Hearing aids are rapidly adding digital and DTC features–others in the field are Eargo and ReSound. Lively releaseAlleyWatch, Mobihealthnews. (Lively is not to be confused with Lively!, acquired by GreatCall two years ago)