News roundup: Phreesia’s IPO, Chiptech enters UK telecare market, PatientsLikeMe goes to UHG, Medopad-Tencent UK Parkinson’s pilot, Oxford VR goes to HK, Cigna Singapore’s telehealth intro, HIMSS exiting Cleveland

Patient check-in tablet Phreesia is preparing for an IPO, filing of its S-1 form this week. The number of shares and pricing is not yet announced. Phreesia, which specializes in patient intake in the office via a rugged PhreesiaPad tablet and software that integrates with major EHRs such as Epic, Cerner, and Allscripts, has survived not only 14 years, but also in New York City. Phreesia has enjoyed a relatively low profile on the health tech scene, yet it has raised close to $100 million through a Series D (Crunchbase) and maintained much the same founding leadership (Chaim Indig, Evan Roberts, Michael Weintraub). Their business includes 1,600 health firms and 70 million patient intakes annually, for $100 million in revenue in its last fiscal year, up 25 percent from previous. Timing of the IPO is not yet forecast. Mobihealthnews, Business Insider.

Coming to the UK and Europe markets are New Zealand’s Chiptech telecare systems. Chiptech has both traditional in-home and mobile monitored PERS, pill dispensers, and a smartphone-based lone worker alert device. According to their website, they are the leading provider of monitored personal alarms in Australasia. Chiptech also announced a new CEO, veteran David Hammond, whose background includes leadership roles at UTC and Chubb. 

In M&A news, UnitedHealth Group bought the contested PatientsLikeMe, which runs an online service that helps patients find people with similar health conditions. PatientsLikeMe had raised $100 million in 2017, selling a majority stake to Shenzhen-based iCarbonX, backed by Chinese giant Tencent. That investment put the company under scrutiny by CFIUS–Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. CFIUS is especially looking at Chinese investment in companies that deal with sensitive data, trade secrets, and national security–and coming down hard. Companies like Tencent are working with the Chinese government to amass millions of patient records and data points, with no regard for consent, and to build massive medical databases [TTA 17 Apr].

Tencent has multiple strategic investments in data-driven health companies, including an interesting Parkinson’s clinical trial in the UK with London startup Medopad, which developed an app that tests cognitive abilities across a series of tasks and captures it into what’s dubbed the Markerless Motion Capture and Analysis System (MMCAS). It is being tested on about 40 patients at a private mental health clinic in London called (appropriately) Dementech NeurosciencesForbes

Mental health is hot, and Oxford VR, a spinout of Oxford University, is pairing with AXA HK and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) to develop treatments for common mental health conditions such as social avoidance, anxiety and depressive symptoms. ‘Yes I Can’ uses virtual reality (VR) sessions over three to six weeks. In the true Chinese model (it’s free, but you don’t control where your data goes), it will also be offered to AXA’s corporate customers as part of their employee benefits services to drive better mental health outcomes in Asia. Mobihealthnews

Elsewhere in Asia-Pacific, Cigna Singapore launched a telemedicine service, Cigna Virtual Clinic, where users can access real-time doctor consults via a mobile app. Cigna is using Doctor Anywhere for the service. Telemedicine in Singapore is supervised by the Singapore Ministry of Health’s Licencing and Adaptation Programme (LEAP), “a regulatory sandbox initiative that allows the safe development of new and innovative healthcare models to be piloted in a controlled environment”. Insurance Business Asia

Back in the US, HIMSS is exiting its 30,000 square foot bricks-and-mortar office in downtown Cleveland’s Global Center for Health Innovation (a/k/a the Medical Mart). The exit will be over the next year. This is after a three-year extension of its lease inked in 2018. According to Crain’s Cleveland Business, their sources “described the move as a shift in strategy by the nonprofit that has gone through a leadership change.”

Best Buy buys Critical Signal Technologies, increasing telehealth footprint

Late last month, Best Buy with little fanfare bought Critical Signal Technologies (CST) of Novi, Michigan. CST is a device-agnostic telehealth monitoring and social work services platform through its Care Center, covering services such as PERS monitoring, medication management, and remote patient monitoring. Terms were not disclosed for this private company founded in 2006, but CST cares for 100,000 patients and has partnerships with 1,500 payers, including many Medicare Advantage plans. 

For those seeking the sunnier uplands of digital health, it’s surprising but gratifying to see Best Buy place another sizable bet in the home health area. The recent acquisition of GreatCall for $800 million is larger, but GreatCall is a turnkey, profitable company. The partnership with Tyto Care [TTA 17 April] to retail their system is relatively low risk, limited in scope, and follows their Midwest intro pattern (followed over 12 years ago with, believe it or not, QuietCare when owned by Living Independently).

Best Buy has gained kudos for moving into specialty areas in healthcare when its fellow retailers have been falling by the wayside. It covers both their bricks-and-mortar–where older adults still like to shop–and online, delivering a large slice of health tech directly to consumers. One asset, the tech-oriented Geek Squad, is a ready made unit for installing and walking older adults through using home tech. MedCityNews, MarketWatch

3rings’ well-handled transition to their March shutdown (updated)

In late summer [TTA 19 Sep] we learned that one of the most innovative UK companies in sensor-based assistive technology, 3rings, was ceasing operations as of March 2019’s end. We noted it was a planned shutdown that gave subscribers nearly six months to switch over to other technologies. Steve Purdham and his team have recommended three companies that in their estimation are good alternatives to 3rings in both their original electrical Plug (electric usage as a proxy for being up and around) and cloud-based IoT service. Three companies are recommended in detail based on needs. 3rings presents all three in detail with special offers, including a handy ‘how to’ on transitioning services.

  1. Clever Contact from Alertacall–a daily contact and reminder service
  2. Canary Care--motion sensor/IoT service which is fairly close to the way that 3rings developed. Canary Care has reorganized since last summer with new ownership [TTA 8 Nov].
  3. PPP Taking Care–pendant alarm

When asked to comment on Canary Care’s recent release (PDF) related to their service as a close fit to 3rings, Steve remarked that “As we plan our graceful close the key for us was to give all our customers significant notice of our intentions (almost 6 months) and where possible provide guidance as to ways forward. We also wanted to help as many of our customers to transition to technologies that would help them continue looking after their loved ones after March 1st 2019. Looking after all our customers means a lot to us so providing this help made sense. The team at Canary wanted to do a press release regarding their deal and I was happy to support it.”

The 3rings closing is regrettable, but the transition of their services to protect their customers deserves a ‘Well Done’. (Undoubtedly we will be hearing from Steve and the 3rings team in future.) Hat tip to Steve, Nicola Hughes of Canary Care/Lifecycle Software, and James Batchelor of Alertacall.

Unaliwear’s model/muse, Joan Hall, passes at 85

imageJoan Hall, the mother who inspired the creation of the stylish wearable PERS, Unaliwear’s Kanega watch, has died aged 85. Jean Anne Booth, Unaliwear’s CEO, founder, and Mrs. Hall’s daughter, wrote her memorable bio on the company’s website. 

Your Editor met Jean Anne in 2014 or 2015 at the mHealth Summit and in showing me the design, she explained that she wanted a wrist-worn emergency alert device/fall detection/assistant device that was stylishly designed to her mother’s exacting standards–and that didn’t require tethering to a smartphone. Mrs. Hall was also her chief style guide and model.

Joan Frances Goss Hall was an Auburn University graduate, professional model, and Army wife and mother who called Fort Sam Houston home. She opened and managed the gift shop at Fort Sam Houston, the well-regarded Army Medical Museum (AMEDD), created a memorial there, and consulted on clothing and props for the Vietnam War TV series, China Beach. For her extensive work, Lt. Gen. James Peake awarded Joan the Army’s highest civilian award, the Outstanding Civilian Service Medal, in 2000.

It strikes this Editor that through Mrs. Hall, we are reminded that this is not wholly a chilly business of seeking funding, avoiding data breaches, AI, sensors, and chips. There’s a human factor here that we are designing technology to help people.

There is much more, which you should read here

Our TTA team’s sympathy to Jean Anne and her family.

The Apple Watch, ECG and fall detection–a trend too far?

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/apple-watch-series-4-elektrokardiogram.jpg” thumb_width=”125″ /]Mid-September’s Apple Fans kvelled about the Apple Watch Series 4 debut. Much was made in the health tech press of Apple’s rapid FDA clearance and the symbolism of their further moves into medical devices with the Series 4 addition of a built-in atrial fibrillation-detecting algorithm and an ECG, along with fall detection via the new accelerometer and gyroscope.

This latter feature is significant to our Readers, but judging from Apple’s marketing and the press, hardly an appealing Unique Selling Proposition to the Apple FanBoys’n’Girls who tend to be about 35 or wannabe. The website touts the ECG as a performance feature, a ‘guardian and guru’ topping all the activity, working out, and kickboxing you’re doing. It positions the fall detection and Emergency SOS in the context of safety during or after hard working out or an accident. It then calls 911 (cellular), notifies your emergency contacts, sends your current location, and displays your Medical ID badge on the screen for emergency personnel, which may not endear its users to fire and police departments. 

Laurie Orlov in her latest Age In Place Tech article points out the disconnect between the fall risk population of those aged 70+ and the disabled versus the actual propensity (and fisc) to buy an Apple Gizmo at $400+. PewInternet’s survey found that 46 percent of those over 65 actually own a smartphone, though this Editor believes that 1) much less than 50 percent are Apple and 2) most smartphone features beyond the basic remain a mystery to many. (Where store helpers, children, and grandchildren come in!)

Selling to older adults is obviously not the way that Apple is going, but there may be a subset of ‘young affluent old’ who want to sport an Apple Watch and also cover themselves for their cardiac or fall risk. (Or have children who buy it.) This is likely a sliver of a subset of the mobile PERS market, which is surprisingly small–only 20 percent of the total PERS market. But monitoring centers–doubtful, despite it being lucrative for GreatCall.

Buddi looking for two dynamic Sales Account Managers (UK)

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/lavender_set_34.jpg-buddi.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]A note from reader Fiona Carmichael advises us that the Buddi personal emergency response system is seeking two professionals to become UK Sales Account Managers. “Your role will have a key focus on driving new business within a B2B environment, as well as building and developing existing customer accounts for organic growth.” Please contact Fiona directly after you read the job description (docx). (This closes 28 Feb.)

(A reminder to our Readers that Who’s Hiring–and Who’s Available–are free services of TTA and a great way to connect with thousands of readers in the UK and the US. We post initially in Latest News and archive in ‘Who’s available?’ and ‘Who’s hiring’.)

UnaliWear’s Kanega PERS watch nears US launch

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/531571-unaliwear-kanega-watch.jpg” thumb_width=”175″ /]Catching up with UnaliWear’s Kanega watch, which (unbelievably) we haven’t written about since 2015 but have noticed in the Austin tech news, we are cheered to hear that the company is nearing a market launch. This is after two 2016 raises: a November $3.5 million Series A at a $15 million valuation and a February $3.4 million seed round (CrunchBase). This Editor spoke with founder/developer Jean Anne Booth at the 2015 HIMSS Connected Health Conference/mHealth Summit (now PCHA Connected Health Conference) after seeing it in 2014, and was impressed by the design and workmanship of the watches at that time. Ms Booth, a self-described tech geek who developed and sold Luminary Micro, which created a microcontroller (MCU) platform, to Texas Instruments and is also an AMD alumna, wanted an emergency alert device that was stylishly designed to her mother’s exacting standards (a former fashion model and impeccable dresser, left above) and functionally advanced. Her initial designs were funded through a Kickstarter campaign [TTA 27 Mar 15]. As we reported before that in February, it’s quite apart from the usual run of PERS. [grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/531584-unaliwear-kanega-watch.gif” thumb_width=”100″ /]Kanega is fully cellular, self-contained and voice-controlled with no buttons: GPS, emergency response connection, fall/inactivity detection, ‘guide me home’ location based voice assistance and medication reminder/assistance behind a high-contrast digital time display which makes it look like a regular (albeit fashionably chunky) watch (left). In mid-year, which is the scheduled market launch, the activation fee will be $50 with a monthly charge of $49.99. If you can’t wait, pre-orders are being takenPC Magazine

A curious ‘Ripple’ of an announcement involving Tunstall Americas

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/ripplenetwork_5890862790fc7.jpg” thumb_width=”300″ /] A startup company in the US, Ripple Network Technologies, announced on 31 January its Kickstarter campaign for what appears to be a small, stylish personal safety device styled like a small metal lock or locket. The release states that “Ripple users can discreetly signal their monitoring team for help with the click of a penny-sized Bluetooth wearable, designed by the creators of 360fly and Misfit Shine” that connects to a smartphone. One of the features is that there’s a partnership with Tunstall Americas to provide that 24/7 monitoring, with an extensive quote from CEO/president Casey Pittock.

It’s clearly aimed at a younger market than typical for PERS, concerned with stylish safety in ‘lone’ situations and not with ‘falling and I can’t get up’. The stated Kickstarter price is also appealing: $129 for the standard sensor, $199 for a specially designed sterling locket style, both inclusive of one year of monitoring service. Release is scheduled for April.

Despite this announcement, the Kickstarter site is not up yet. The Ripple website has a flashy animation homepage without detail, found only through their LinkedIn company page which also is bereft of details. Other than the release pickup on ReadItQuik.com, this Editor cannot locate the release on the standard PR release sites such as Business Wire or PRWeb. (The Tunstall Americas website has not been updated for news since last August.) A curious start indeed.

Update: Ripple’s communications director in the Comments has supplied the Kickstarter link which went live on 1 Feb, and is here. The website now has an Order Now button which links to the Kickstarter page. Key features: click once to receive a call from the monitoring center, or click 3 times or more to summon emergency help or a call per your profile setup. A potential drawback: no two-way communication except via phone and the BTE connection, which if you are separated from it (for instance, your purse is stolen), the system won’t work.

The requested raise is $50,000 by 3 March. PRNewswire release.

Tunstall Americas adopts belle

We haven’t heard much from Tunstall Healthcare in the past two months, but Tunstall Americas has announced that the belle PERS unit has been added to the US line of products which now . The belle is on the AT&T GSM cellular network for two-way voice communication with their 24/7 call center and GPS location technology. The pendant has a rechargeable battery that can last up to 30 days on a single charge, and can be either worn or carried in pocket or purse. Also new in the line is the Tunstall flood detector which signals the call center through the Vi+ and CEL.  Release, Tunstall Americas website.

Ireland telecare monitoring a relative price bargain

Our former Ireland editor Toni Bunting, in her business development capacity with TASK Community Care in County Meath and Belfast, notes that Irish pendant alarm (PERS) monitoring charges are on average considerably lower than charges in the UK and in Europe. At current advertised rates of approximately €65 – €80 annually, the rates are lower than the 2010 study of UK rates of £170-200 and £200 – £300 in Europe. (Of course with fluctuations in the pound, that may change!) Toni is asking if there are rates in Ireland which fall substantially outside this range, so please be in touch here or on Telecare.ie-Ireland’s Telecare Magazine, which provides information on emergency pendant alarms, telecare and 24/7 monitoring for Irish individuals, community workers and health professionals.

Chubb expands Community Care into Scandinavia (UK)

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Care_Call_website_medium.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Chubb Community Care, a UK company which provides home and mobile technology enabled care solutions (TECS) for independent, assisted, sheltered and extra care housing, announced their expansion into Norway, Sweden and Finland, partnering with Norwegian equipment supplier HEPRO which provides local service and market knowledge. Their first project is in HEPRO’s home country with the new Chubb Care Call. Care Call (left) is a colorful wall-mounted mobile-connected unit with simple buttons that connects the resident to onsite staff and remote call centers in case of emergency or need for assistance. HEPRO will be installing the units in seven municipalities. Release. Earlier this summer, Chubb won a contract with Places for People to install their CareUnity at 16 independent living locations across the North West, Hull and Bristol. Care Unity is a PERS/carephone-based system that integrates a wide range of safety and security peripherals. Release

Tunstall Americas’ Vi+ offers free temperature monitoring

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Big-T-thumb-480×294-55535.gif” thumb_width=”150″ /]Last week Tunstall Americas emerged from a long period of quiet with their introduction of Tunstall’s Vi+ telecare home unit [TTA 3 Aug]. We noted that Vi+ included an integral ambient temperature sensor which could alert their response center on extremes in home temperature and that the release highlighted it. This week, we learned the reason why, as on Tuesday they announced marketing that capability as free Temperature Extremes monitoring for subscribers of their medical alert monitoring service. When the ambient temperature sensor is activated, their call center will be alerted when the room temperature rises above 89°F or falls below 50°F. The subscriber and registered contacts are then notified so that the person can be checked and the situation corrected. Tunstall release (PRWeb)

Tunstall and Boots go High Street with retail PERS (UK)

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Boots-Main-Logo.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Boots has entered the direct-to-consumer PERS business with Home Assist, supplied by Tunstall Healthcare. It’s a conventional (non-mobile) base unit and pendant with 24/7 response to Tunstall’s call center and a temperature sensor that will alarm at cold temperatures. The basic PERS is priced at £34.79 ($49) inclusive of VAT for the unit and a £19.99 ($28) monthly charge. Adding fall detection, the prices rise to £46.79 and £25.19. The most expensive option adds a smoke detector, reassurance calls and a bogus caller alarm for £58.79 and £31.19. Some end users may qualify for VAT-free pricing due to a qualifying disability or long-term illness, which lowers rates by £7-9. According to our former Editor and occasional contributor Mike Burton, this is a first for any High Street chemist and ups the game for all PERS and alert systems. It’s also a natural move, given that the US outpost of the Walgreens Boots Alliance has direct sold Tunstall (and earlier, AMAC) PERS units for 10 years. (Walgreens’ base monthly rate is about the same at $29.99 monthly for the same unit, but no unit cost on an annual contract.)  Home Assist website (Tunstall UK/Boots). The in-store leaflet link on the Boots website features Boots locations in London and Leeds only, along with a full application.

 

Technology for Aging in Place 2016

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/elderly-smartphone.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Laurie Orlov’s updated view of technologies that assist home caregiving/living, and her observations on trends for both boomers and those well over 65, is hot off the (virtual) presses and available here on her website. It is US-market oriented, but the trends explored here will be of interest internationally. The focus in this study is home-based systems for safety, alerts, activity/location tracking (telecare), home care/caregiving tools and what this Editor would call ‘health monitoring light’–med minders and logging apps versus medically-oriented telehealth (vital signs, save for AliveCor) and telemedicine (virtual visits/consults).

Highlights:

  • In communication, internet non-usage among 75+ has declined to 50 percent over the past 15 years.
  • The tablet form factor is losing ground as smartphones get bigger. Older adults and smartphones are beginning to ‘get along’ partly as they grow larger, but also that feature and simple phones are becoming less available.
  • Also losing ground is senior housing–residents are delaying entry to assisted living until they are mid 80s and frailer. Savings and debt in the boomer group is low and high, respectively.
  • Investors are caring more about home care, with large investments ($80 million) in three regional home care worker startups: Honor (San Francisco), Home Hero (Los Angeles), and Hometeam (New York/New Jersey), caregiving apps and chronic care management (CareSync, with an $18 million raise).
  • Dementia care support tools are (finally) developing into its own category.

Surprising conclusions: PERS alerting stays strong, but changes to be mobile-enabled and more cosmetic; a lot of convergence of categories and forms; and the term ‘health tech’ will replace ‘digital health’. Oh my!

How technology can help fight elder abuse–ethically

The increasing awareness of abuse of older people by their caregivers, whether at home or in care homes/assisted living/nursing homes, invites discussion of the role that technology can play. This presentation by Malcolm J. Fisk, PhD, co-director of the Age Research Centre of Coventry University, in the BSG Ageing Bites series on YouTube looks at technologies viewed by level of control and intrusiveness:

  • Social alarms, which include pull cords (nurse call) and PERS–what we think of as ‘1st generation’ telecare: high level of control, low intrusiveness–but often useless if not reachable in emergency
  • Activity monitoring, which can be room sensor-based or wearable (the 2nd generation): less control, slightly more intrusive–also dependent on monitoring and subject to false positives/negatives
  • Audio and video monitoring, while achieving greater security, are largely uncontrolled by the older person and highly intrusive to the point of unacceptability. (In fact, some feedback on tablet-based telehealth devices indicates that a built-in camera, even if not activated, can be regarded with suspicion and trigger unwanted reactions.)

The issues of consent, and balancing the value of autonomy and privacy versus factors such as cognitive impairment, personal safety and, this Editor would add, detecting attacks by strangers and not caregivers, are explored here. How do we ethically observe yet respect individual privacy? This leads to a set of seven principles Dr Fisk has published on guiding the use of surveillance technologies within care homes in the latest issue of Emerald|Insight (unfortunately abstract access only) Video 11:03Hat tip to Malcolm Fisk via Twitter.