Babylon Health’s expansion plans in Asia-Pacific, Africa spotlighted

Mobihealthnews’ interview with Ali Parsa of Babylon Health illuminates what hasn’t been obvious about the company’s global plans, in our recent focus on their dealings with the NHS. For its basic smartphone app (video consults, appointments, medical records), Babylon last year announced a partnership with one of Asia’s largest health insurers, Prudential [TTA 18 Sept 18], licensing Babylon’s software for its own health apps across 12 countries in Asia for an estimated $100 million over several years. Babylon has also been active in Rwanda and now reaches, according to their information, nearly 30 percent of the population. There’s also a nod to developments with the NHS.

Parsing the highlights in Dr. Parsa’s rather wordy quest towards less ‘sick care’, more ‘prevention over cure’, and making healthcare affordable and accessible to everyone ’round the clock:

  • Asia-Pacific: Working with Tencent, Samsung and Prudential Asia through licensing software is a key component of their business. By adding more users, they refine and add more quality to their services. (Presumably they have more restrictions on the data they send to Tencent than what they obtain in China.)
  • Africa: How do you offer health apps in an economically poor country where only 5 percent of the population has a smartphone? Have an app that works for the 75 percent who have a feature phone. Babyl Rwanda has 2 million users–30 percent of Rwanda’s population–and completes 2,000 consultations a day. Babyl also works with over 450 health clinics and pharmacies. The service may also be expanded across East Africa, and may serve as a model for similar countries in other regions.
  • UK and NHSX: About the new NHS-formed joint organization for digital services, tech, and clinical care, Dr. Parsa believes it is ‘fantastic’ and that “it is trying to bring the benefits of modern technology to every patient and clinician, and aims to combine the best talent from government, the NHS and industry. Its aim, just like ours, is to create the most advanced health and care service in the world, to free up staff time and empower patients.” (Editor’s note:  NHSX will bring together the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and NHS Improvement, overseeing NHS Digital. More in Digital Health, Computer Weekly.)

It’s Official: CES is now a health tech event (updated)

CES is now, officially, a health tech event. It’s not just the timing before CES of the flashy but apparently cratering JP Morgan annual healthcare investment conference in the absurdly pricey venue of San Francisco (FierceBiotech on the #MoveJPM backlash; the general disillusion with it expressed well here). It’s the fact that whatever mainstreaming health tech has actually accomplished, it’s far better represented in Las Vegas. Always a place of beginnings, endings, fun, gambles taken, lack of sleep, and sore feet, health tech fits right in, big or small.

CES reported that 2019 boasted an increase of 25 percent health-related exhibitors and a 15 percent increase in the amount of floor space dedicated to health tech. One winner was a big gamble by a small company–Living in Digital Times, which organizes and stages the Digital Health SummitTen years later, it turned out to be right place, right time for the founders who work hard to keep it on trend. Lifestyle, robotics, self-care, assistive tech (even exoskeletons), wearables, cosmetic “wellness” devices like P&G’s Opté, and Alexa-type home assistants/robots all now fit into the CES purview. Trial balloons by young companies, AI-powered concept devices from big companies, watches (including the Apple-beater Move ECG from the revitalized Withings TTA 10 Oct 18 and Omron’s HeartGuide), and robots all appeared. Samsung again brought out a brace of concept robots. Last year’s Best of CES ElliQ is finally available for pre-order after three years at a measly $1,500. The humanoid Sophia brought a kid sister, the equally creepy Little Sophia, both of whom failed during this CNET video. Yes, Pepper from Softbank made its appearance and apparently didn’t wilt as it did last year.

Sleep tech was another hot item, with a spin on sleep diagnostics or improvement from many products. A brainwave product, Urgonight from France, claims to be able to train your brain to sleep better. (Send one to Rick Astley who was a poster child for not Sleeping.)  Mental health is a natural crossover into sleep tech and robots, with a $5,000 Japanese robot, Lovot, capable of responsive cuddling and comfort.

Best of the coverage:

  • CNET has probably the best coverage and articles on health which stick to the facts (slim in some cases as they are); anyone who wants to catch up with the feel and flavor of this three-ring circus can start and stay there. Their full show coverage is here.
  • Dr. Jayne at HISTalk also did an excellent health-related product roundup in her Curbside Consult column.
  • Mobihealthnews also has a very long running list of health tech pictures and announcements as part of its limited coverage, including the mea culpas and promised transparency of onetime health ed unicorn Outcome Health [TTA 29 Jan 18].

Beyond the plethora of products encouraging ever more to come forward, what ones will even make it to market, far more be winners? Aside from the Samsungs and P&Gs, which of these young companies planting their stake at CES will be there next year?  As in past CES, the wheel goes round and round, and where it stops, nobody knows–not even the JPM investors. 

Instant GP, don’t even add water; Babylon Health taps into the corporate market via insurer Bupa (UK)

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/instant-gp-300×300.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Is digital health gaining some traction in the UK? One insurer is making the bet. Earlier this week, Babylon Health announced a UK partnership with Bupa’s corporate insurance area to open Babylon’s digital health services to corporate employees insured by Bupa.  Bupa’s Instant GP app offers these employees Babylon services, such as the ability to book virtual appointments with GPs, be transferred to specialists, and receive prescriptions. The app is free to download through the Apple App Store or Google Play for Bupa-covered employees.

Bupa and Babylon have been working together in a limited way since 2015–see this Bupa press release.

Some extras for employees in the program: unlimited 24/7 online GP consultations; Babylon’s clinical triage service, and access to the Babylon’s new “digital twin” service. This medical assessment method works with a smartphone tapping key parts of their body. It’s being previewed by Bupa and is scheduled to be released nationwide later this year.

Reportedly Bupa is seeking to provide Babylon services to their UK SME business (micro, small and medium-sized enterprises) later this year. Telegraph (paid access for full article), Digital Health News

For Babylon, it’s been an extraordinarily busy time. They have a new agreement with Samsung to be included in Samsung Health on smartphones [TTA 14 June], and China’s Tencent offering of Babylon through their WeChat platform. Babylon also recently announced passing the 26,500 patient mark with London NHS GP at Hand.

Nokia throws in towel on digital health, negotiates Withings sale to co-founder Eric Carreel

Nokia finally gave up on consumer health tech, confirming February reports that they were reviewing strategic options for its Digital Health business. Digital Health was a tiny part of Nokia Technologies and an even tinier part of overall revenue (under .2 percent at €52 million of revenues). The prospective buyer in the exclusive talks is Withings co-founder and former chairman Éric Carreel. “Nokia and Éric Carreel recognize that as an original Co-Founder of Withings, he is best positioned to carry the company forward into its next phase,” a Nokia spokesperson wrote to Mobihealthnews.

Withings sold itself to diversifying Nokia in 2016 for a hefty €170 million, becoming Nokia Digital Health in February 2017. The Withings purchase was positioned as a reverse takeover, with Withings staff taking over Nokia’s fledgling efforts in digital health. But the promised results and impact never took place and Withings faded from view, at least in the Americas.

According to their statement, “The planned sale is part of Nokia’s honed focus on becoming a business-to-business and licensing company.” Other interested buyers include Google’s Nest division and Samsung. The company may also head back to France.  TechCrunch, Mobihealthnews

Louisville’s Thrive Center showcases senior care technologies (KY)

Louisville, Kentucky is not the place our Readers would put at the top of their minds when thinking about assistive technologies for older adults, but the debut last week of The Thrive Center may change that. It’s a public-private partnership between the Commonwealth of Kentucky and Louisville Metro with private technology and senior living companies. It showcases technologies transforming senior care on a permanent, updating basis and demonstrated in use. 

The Center includes in their 7,500 square foot setting Samsung technologies integrated into a full-size kitchen, bathroom, living room and bedroom; AppliedVR virtual reality headsets; headphones from Eversound; brain fitness software from Posit Science; and music-as-medicine solutions from SingFit and wellness apps from EVŌ. The opening theme is assistance for memory care, which implies that the exhibits will be shifted to different themes in the future.

Companies which helped to establish Thrive include CDW Healthcare (IT), Samsung, Intel, Ergotron, Lenovo, HP/Aruba, Kindred Healthcare (post-acute care) and skilled nursing provider Signature HealthCare. Kindred and Signature are located in Louisville, which is a healthcare hub of the mid-South. It is also the headquarters of Humana and an operations center for Care Innovations–both notably absent from the partner list. CDW releaseSenior Housing News, Thrive Center website, Thrive Center release.

HIMSS17 dispatches: Mayo maps neonate telemedicine, Amwell-Samsung, Samsung-T-Mobile

Mayo maps out an enterprise telehealth (telemedicine) support structure. Here’s how the Mayo Clinic deployed neonatology remote telemedicine to their sites in Minnesota, Arizona, and Florida. There’s plenty of flow charts and summary points in this presentation deck around team building, staffing consistently and reporting that improves processes. Hat tip to our HIMSS correspondent on the scene, Bill Oravecz of Stone Health Innovations. Update: If you are using Chrome, you may have difficulty downloading session handouts from the HIMSS17 website Schedule pages. Try another browser. If you are interested, you may be able to obtain through contacting the two session presenters, Susan Kapraun and Jenna A. Beck, MHA, directly.

American Well and Samsung are partnering on integrating care delivery. Their joint release is low on details, but towards the end there’s an indication that American Well, its partners, and other providers and payers will be able to offer their services to Samsung customers. Other reports (Healthcare Dive) indicate the partnership is destined to enhance Amwell’s Exchange platform between payers and providers. Partners listed are Cleveland Clinic, New York-Presbyterian Medical Center and Anthem (undoubtedly resting after sparring with Cigna). Also Healthcare IT News.

Separately, Samsung also announced a partnership with T-Mobile for developing IoT in the senior care space. This would pair Samsung’s ARTIK Cloud with T-Mobile’s cellular network for Breezie, a social engagement for seniors interface built on a Samsung tablet which has apps and connects to various peripherals for post-acute care and daily living. It sounds interesting, but once again the release hampers the reporter by being as clear as mud in what it’s all about. See if you can decipher this: ARTIK Cloud permits “Amazon Alexa, Samsung SmartThings, iHealth Feel Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor and the Pulse Oximeter – to intelligently communicate with each other.” “Each Breezie interface has more than 40 preconfigured accessibility settings and sensor driven analytics to adjust for different levels of digital literacy, as well as physical and cognitive ability.” The Breezie website is far more revealing. Healthcare Dive also takes a whack at it towards the end of the above article.

South Korea’s ambivalence towards telemedicine

The surprising reasons why. 5.8 million South Koreans aren’t exactly tech-phobic, enjoying a nationally swift internet backbone and high personal smartphone penetration. The home of the two leading smartphone makers is pioneering mobile-first retailing and a national IoT network. South Korea (SK) also has the need–an aging population living in rural areas. Yet South Korea bans doctor-patient virtual visits in their Medical Act, and expects major demonstrations by doctors and activists when it comes up for a vote later this year in their National Assembly. Telemedicine and also telehealth/RPM may happen eventually, backed by powerhouses like SK Telecom, Samsung and LG, but will have to take into consideration some unique circumstances:

  • Cyberattacks from North Korea, which have already hit a Seoul university hospital’s software security contractor and demonstrated their system’s HIT vulnerabilities
  • The government’s glitch-ridden telemedicine pilot program with serious problems in data management, encryption and weak passwords
  • The fear that only the rich will be able to afford it–and in SK’s split system, the fear that funding may be withdrawn from the extensive network of community clinics instead of benefiting them

Medical professionals, including the 100,000 doctors in the KMA who successfully blocked telemedicine in 2014 and haven’t participated in the pilot program, are calling for “a slower, more collaborative plan of attack that establishes safety protocols and smart regulatory oversight.”  Quartz

‘Gear Blink’? Samsung patents an embedded camera in a contact lens (S. Korea)

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/samsung-smart-contact-lens-1.png” thumb_width=”150″ /]A Samsung news tracking website, SamMobile, has tracked down publication of a Samsung patent filing for a smart contact lens. This concept would have a camera with a display that would project directly into the eye, a tiny antenna that transmits images to the smartphone, and motion sensors that trigger by movement and blinking. This is different than the Google/Alcon lens in their new Verily Life Sciences division (TTA 17 July 14 and 1 Sept 15, pictured in the Mashable article) which is for measuring blood glucose. Samsung apparently filed the patent in 2014, and filed the ‘Gear Blink’ name for a trade mark in the US and South Korea. No clue on how comfortable a lens with a camera, antenna and display would be on a normal eye. Hat tip to former TTA Ireland Editor Toni Bunting.

HIMSS’ last full day highlights company partnerships

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/himss_chicago_2015-588×337.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]It’s almost time to Say Goodbye to Sinatra’s ‘My Kind of Town’, but there’s still news: Samsung+Partners Healthcare, IMS Health, AliveCor, Interoperability≠Humana, Panasonic+Cisco

  • Samsung and Partners HealthCare announced a direct-to-mobile partnership to develop chronic care management mobile software that monitors vital signs such as blood pressure, blood glucose and weight, as well as delivers mobile patient engagement, medication adherence and wellness self-management. Clinical trial is scheduled for June. Partners has always been a pioneer in the mHealth area, but playing with Samsung, Partners is flying at a slightly higher level than with Wellocracy and certainly the late Healthrageous. Partners release, Mobihealthnews (more…)

Wearables blog – update

Since this editors’ piece on wearables four days ago there has been a stream of news about interoperability of various apps, resulting in frequent updates to the original blog, to the point where it was beginning no longer to resemble the original.

Chris Bergstrom of WellDoc has now kindly pointed me to the Mobihealthnews item on Samsung’s digital health partners announcement, and to his company’s specific interoperability announcement with Samsung, enabling activity and other data to be obtained from other Android apps to help those with diabetes to manage their condition better.

WellDoc of course developed the first prescription app – this item from mHealthWatch in turn based on a Telegraph article that suggests that GPs in the UK will shortly be prescribing apps for patients in large quantities. The source of the Telegraph’s intelligence is none other than Personalised Health and Care 2020, the recently published NHS document that we covered extensively yesterday, which was perhaps a tad less optimistic about medical app take-up.

Yesterday’s Apple intros and implications for health monitoring

A knockout or a catch up? Now that the Hype Dust is settling (along with Apple’s stock price), let’s take a look at what we know today about the new, larger iPhones and the Apple Watch regarding health monitoring.

Where it was a catch up:

  • Size and screen in phones. Apple got the message: squinting at tiny type and swiping to enlarge is rapidly becoming yesterday’s pain. As smartphones and larger screens knocked out the Blackberry, Samsung led the way in sizing up and higher resolution–and others followed suit. The awful fact is that the smartphone market is aging, both in users and who’s left in the market to grow it, and we want to see, not squint.
  • [grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/apple-watch-beauty-shot.png” thumb_width=”150″ /]Finally (drum roll), a sleeker smartwatch with fitness tracking, out sometime next year–and not just a sports model. The basic model is a rubbery Sport watch, the mid-line has a sapphire crystal, stainless steel case and (proprietary) swappable bands. The beauty is the upmarket version in gold with a leather band (left, courtesy re/Code).
    • Here Apple is up against multiple in-market competition from Fitbit to Moto to Withings to Samsung Gear–whose pricing is well below the starter Apple Watch at $349 in the $200 and below range.
    • The Apple Watch looks seriously great, distinctively thinner and it’ll be a prestige item. But does it track more and better? No. According to reports (updated today) this is what it has: heart rate monitor, pulse, daily activity for which you need the phone. No sleep monitoring. It also has to be charged every night. There may be other features from developers, but they are under wraps for now and will likely require phone tethering. (re/Code) It’s not a comprehensive lifestyle watch–yet.

Where it could be a knockout in healthcare:

  • Finally, a compelling reason for health care providers to ditch the old iPhone and not go Android. Healthcare providers in the US are heavily wedded to iOS: (more…)

2015: mHealth’s breakout year–or more of the same sideways?

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/the-thinker-statue-flickr-satyakam-khadikar-480.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Adopting or Ditching It? We’re barely into September, yet the first 2015 prediction-of-a-sort is on the record from Center for Connected Health‘s Dr. Joseph Kvedar in The eHealth Blog. Does Apple HealthKit+Samsung‘s SHealth’s iterations+Google Fit+smartwatches everywhere (including LG’s G Watch R) equal $7.2 billion in wearables alone by 2018 as part of a mHealthy $49 billion by 2020? He’s optimistic, yet he hedges his bets with the caveat

“The challenge in health care is that, though we know what patients/consumers need to do to improve their health, most of them don’t want to hear about it.”

Which indicates that Dr. Kvedar has joined our small group of Thinkers puzzling out why health apps haven’t taken off beyond their Quantified Selfer early adopters and what Parks Associates termed ‘Healthy and Engaged’ [TTA 11 Aug]. With 1/3 of the purchasers of activity trackers putting them in the drawer after six months and the unstickiness of apps (80 percent are abandoned after a shocking two weeks), the winning combination isn’t obvious. But is it ‘focus on engagement’ and ‘personal, motivational and ubiquitous’? Certainly key factors, but how do we get the ‘Challenged but Mindful’ with a chronic condition–or two or three–to track and reward their real progress, even on a bad day–which an activity tracker which constantly presses you to exceed your performance has trouble gauging. (more…)

Samsung vs Apple: Go big or go home

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/gear-s-hands-on.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Implications for mobile health abound in the fight for the innovation throne. Kicking off the autumn intro season was Samsung’s big reveal Wednesday at IFA Berlin and NYC of their new phablets (Note 4, the oddly curved/fallaway screen Note Edge), the big ‘n’ curvy almost-phone Gear S smartwatch and the virtual reality headset Gear VR for the Note 4. Clearly Samsung is pushing the boundaries on size and innovation leadership–as well as the sheer number of phones/phablets/wearables in market with something for everyone. Its health developer platform SAMI and the Simband hardware [TTA 30 May] plus joint research with UCSF on ‘novel vital signs’ [TTA 2 June] positions it in the health tech area as the alternative to Apple. ZDNet, Gizmag (Gear S), CNet (Gear VR) which may have some health uses.

Next Tuesday is Apple’s premiere of two new iPhone 6 models with 4.7 inch and 5.5 inch screens to go on sale this month, plus an announcement for a yet-unnamed Apple wearable, but a rumored price of $400 for on-sale next year. Their developments with (more…)

Forced to wear a fitness tracker for insurance? (US)

For those covered by corporate health policies, the day is not far away where employee health insurance programs will require wearing a fitness tracker and meeting certain metrics, such as walking a million steps or sleep quality. Already some programs have the employee log food, exercise, blood glucose, heart rate and other vital signs to qualify for a discount. The trajectory is much like BYOD–once unheard of, now it is expected to be the norm in 50 percent of US companies by 2017, with a concomitant loss of personal security and privacy. CVS Caremark and other companies have already made the stick, not the carrot, the norm of employee wellness programs [TTA 12 April 2013]. Writer Adrian Kingsley-Hughes asks: “How much access do we want our employers to have to our medical data? How much access to our daily activities do we want our employers and insurers having?” And what about spoofing those Fitbits and Jawbones? His ZDNet article notes the interest that Apple (plus Samsung and Google, despite Sergey’s and Larry’s vapors–Ed.) has in health, then takes it out a few more yards with Wearables and health insurance: A health bar over everyone’s head (and do check out the comments.)

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…)

The smartphone as great healthcare leveler: Eric Topol

Eric Topol MD, cardiologist, Chief Medical Advisor for the rebooted (but so far quiet) AT&T ForHealth and Chief Academic Officer at Scripps Health, is no stranger to the ‘big statement’ and is well known as an advocate for all things mHealthy. For at least two years, he has been promoting the smartphone’s ‘equalizer’ capabilities in health not only via apps and ‘add ons’ but also as a storehouse or central repository for individual health information, including genetic screening, which can be transmitted onward to a practitioner, lab or PHR. Dr Topol’s ‘big statements’ were fully on display in his keynote at HealthLeaders’ CFO Exchange conference. A promoter of the ‘creative destruction of medicine’ (the title of his most recent book, WSJ article), he believes that everything from the office visit (virtualized) (more…)