News roundup: Teladoc acquires MédecinDirect, Blue Cedar closes $17M Series B, Hill-Rom buys Voalte, Withings bolsters sleep tracking

Teladoc grows its global reach with the MédecinDirect acquisition. Paris-based MédecinDirect currently has 24/7 telehealth operations within France, with patients able to text, video, or phone GPs or specialist doctors 24/7. Terms were not disclosed and the sale is subject to regulatory approval, but expected to close within the first half of this year. Founded by François Lescure, a pharmacist, and Marc Guillemo, a digital marketer, in 2008, the company’s client base grew to more than 40 leading insurance partners and nearly half of the top 30 private medical insurers (PMIs) in France.  MédecinDirect will become the French unit of Teladoc, which now has operations in the UK, Australia, Canada, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, China, Chile and Brazil, covering 130 countries in more than 30 languages with a growing specialist base from earlier acquisitions Best Doctors and Advanced Medical. Teladoc seems to have moved on from its financial and accounting problems that marred 2018, but still is not profitableRelease, Mobihealthnews.

App security innovator Blue Cedar closes on its Series B for $17 million. New investor C5 Capital, a specialist venture capital firm focused on cyber security, joins $10 million (2016) Series A investors Benhamou Global Ventures, Generation Ventures, Grayhawk Capital, and Sway Ventures. Daniel Freeman from C5 Capital will join Blue Cedar’s Board of Directors, Blue Cedar pioneered the approach of securing data from the app to the provider location on a client’s servers or in the cloud, without the smartphone or other mobile device being managed and without additional coding. TTA last year profiled Doncaster UK-based MediBioSense Ltd. using Blue Cedar to protect their VitalPatch app [TTA 23 Jan 18] and later as a case study in how digital partnerships happen and develop [TTA 17 Feb 18]. Release, Blue Cedar blog.

Hill-Rom increases its technology bets with Voalte. Voalte is a mobile communications platform used by hospitals and large healthcare organizations for care teams to securely exchange information and data. The privately held company from Sarasota Florida currently serves 200 healthcare customers, 220,000 caregivers, and more than 84,000 devices. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed but is expected to close during Hill-Rom’s fiscal third quarter of 2019. Hill-Rom, primarily known for its ubiquitous hospital beds, late last year teamed with Israeli company Early Sense to create a smart hospital bed that monitors heart and respiration rates [TTA 12 Dec 18], which ties nicely with Voalte’s monitoring. Release.

Tossing the sheets in your bed at home? The newly reconstituted Withings comes to the rescue with deepening its sleep monitoring with an upgraded sleep sensor mat that detects sleep breathing disturbances in frequency and intensity. The connected Withings Sleep app monitors sleep cycles, heart rate and snoring, displaying scores through the companion Health Mate App. Not quite a sleep apnea diagnostic, but significant breathing interruption detected during sleep could indicate the need for further investigation.  Mobihealthnews

Fitbit unveils Ionic smartwatch earlier than expected. Their ‘Hail Mary’ pass?

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Ionic-photo.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Surprisingly, Fitbit has formally unveiled today (28 August) its first smartwatch, the Fitbit Ionic, on its 10th anniversary of its first tracker. It’s a slow news week in the US, being the week before the Labor Day holiday 4 Sept and in the UK this Monday with the summer bank holiday. The announcement also feels a bit like a soft reveal in a slow period. However, the industry expected an announcement later this year, so this is considered to be positive.

There’s plenty of functionality, though the watch itself from the photos (this is Engadget’s, as the press release did not supply close up pictures) is rather brick-like on the wrist. Balancing that out is a knockout of a 1.42-inch, 348 x 250 px display, the best and brightest yet in the reviewer’s estimation. It also curves a bit through nano-molding technology (NMT) to fit more comfortably on the wrist than the previous Alta tracker.

Engadget‘s test drive of an early version of the Ionic is thorough. It confirms that Fitbit went with its own proprietary OS, contactless payment and a subscription-based custom workout guide called Fitbit Coach, a rebranded Fitstar. More functions related to healthcare are:

  • Updated heart rate monitor
  • A new SpO2 blood oxygen sensor. There’s a bit of tease in the release which gives its potential in health use: “…a relative SpO2 sensor for estimating blood oxygen levels opens the potential for tracking important new indicators about your health, such as sleep apnea”
  • Sleep tracking through monitoring pulse and movement for stages of sleep (deep, REM, light, etc.). The Engadget reviewer noted the uncertain quality of tracking.
  • Integrated connection to the new edition of the Aria weight scale (release), also due in the fall

Pricing has been set at $300/£300 with the usual extra accouterments of dress and sport bands. If you can’t wait, pre-sale starts today on Fitbit.com with retail on-sale globally starting October 2017, without a specific date. For developers, the Fitbit app software development kit (SDK) will be open to developers in September 2017. 

Will this ‘Hail Mary Pass‘ save Fitbit? Like most smartwatches, it feels like a solution in search of a problem. It depends on how many true believers will upgrade from the Alta to the Ionic, or buy this rather than an Apple Watch, where first-half sales are up 50 percent versus last year to an estimated 2-3 million new units, partly on Fitbit’s faltering back. The big roll of the dice is going with a proprietary OS. Health and other apps are dependent on developers, who are going to have to make a business decision on the watch’s sales and acceptance to commit to a one-off app. 4th Quarter sales will tell….Our earlier coverage of Fitbit and related smartwatches is here.

 

Wearables: it’s a journey, but is it really necessary?

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/is-your-journey-neccessary_.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Increasingly, not in the opinion of many. We’ve covered earlier [TTA 21 Dec, 6 Feb] the wearables ‘bust’ and consumer disenchantment affecting fitness-oriented wearables. While projections are still $19 bn by 2018 (Juniper Research), Jawbone is nearly out of business with one last stab at the clinical segment, with Fitbit missing its 2016 earnings targets–and planning to target the same segment. So this Washington Post article on a glam presentation at SXSW of a Google/Levi’s smart jeans jacket for those who bicycle to work (‘bike’ and ‘bikers’ connote Leather ‘n’ Harleys). It will enable wearers to take phone calls, get directions and check the time by tapping and swiping their sleeves, with audio information delivered via headphone. As with every wearable blouse, muumuu, and toque she’s seen, this Editor’s skepticism is fueled by the fact that the cyclist depicted has to raise at least one hand to tap/swipe said sleeves and to wear headphones. He is also sans helmet on a street, not even a bike path or country lane. All are safety Bad Doo-Bees. Yes, the jacket is washable as the two-day power source is removable. But while it’s supposed to hit the market by Fall, the cost estimate is missing. A significant ‘who needs it?’ factor.

Remember the Quantified Selfer’s fascination with sleep tracking and all those sleep-specific devices that went away, taking their investors’ millions with them? Fitbit and many smartwatches work with apps to give the wearer feedback on their sleep hygiene, but the devices and apps themselves can deliver faulty information. This is according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine called “Orthosomnia: Are Some Patients Taking the Quantified Self Too Far?” (abstract) by Kelly Glazer Baron, MD with researchers from the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. “The patients’ inferred correlation between sleep tracker data and daytime fatigue may become a perfectionistic quest for the ideal sleep in order to optimize daytime function. To the patients, sleep tracker data often feels more consistent with their experience of sleep than validated techniques, such as polysomnography or actigraphy.” (more…)

Smartwatches, fitness trackers: overload in several ways

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/acitivity-trackers_wellocracy_chealth-blog-kvedar.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Dedicated Quantified Selfers, who have more than one device strapped to their arm and wrist, know that when like measurements are compared from two different devices (e.g. step counts, weight, activity, blood pressure), like stock or mutual funds, their performance will vary. Sleep trackers are among the worst offenders. But newbies just ‘into’ this may be confused. Not to worry! The prescription from Dr Kvedar is: “Expecting these consumer devices to have scientific accuracy is unrealistic. Expecting them to help you keep your activity level top of mind and measured in context from day to day is realistic and in most cases helpful.” They set a tone and help motivation, with other tools such as social groups and coaching. Reassuring words, especially as Dr Kvedar has launched Wellocracy to help individuals to understand that.

There’s of course pressure from clinicians to upgrade fitness monitor readings to clinical quality so they can use it…but absolutely no clarity on exactly how they would use it, a seemingly contradictory statement which centers on the quality of analysis and what alerts would be pushed to the clinician, who memorably has his or her ‘hair on fire trying to do what they do right now.’   (more…)

Apple-ologizing Healthbook

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/healthbook-book.jpg” thumb_width=”300″ /]With the same obsession that Kremlinologists had during the Cold War, the Apple-ologists at 9to5Mac observe emanations and permutations emitting from Cupertino. Based on their inside sources, they have the lowdown on how Apple will Go Big into healthcare monitoring and fitness tracking.

  • ‘Cards’ in the Healthbook allowing entry for vital signs such as blood pressure, blood glucose, breathing rate, weight, hydration and oxygen saturation (O2). (photo at left above a ‘recreation of screenshots’ by 9to5Mac)
  • Sleep tracking. Apple in February hired Roy J.E.M. Raymannone of the world’s experts in sleep tracking including wearables and sensors, out of Philips.
  • Emergency Card with customer’s name, birthdate, medication information, weight, eye color, blood type, organ donor status, and location.

The rumors tie it to the introduction of iOS 8, the iWatch or both. But beyond the sensors on the phone and/or the iWatch–there’s no information on how telehealth apps, devices or sensors would wirelessly transmit the information. “While Healthbook is capable of tracking, sorting, and managing various types of health and fitness-related data, it is currently uncertain where this data will actually be sourced from.” But Editor Toni noted in February (link below) that Apple just patented headphones which are capable of monitoring temperature, heart rate and perspiration levels. This is Healthbook, Apple’s major first step into health & fitness tracking (9to5Mac). And Wired thinks Apple’s Upcoming Health App Is the Start of Something Huge (Wonder if South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety will impound it as an unapproved medical device!)

Previously in TTA: Apple-ologists discern ‘new’ interest in health tech and telehealth [20 July 13], Apple’s tarnished luster, Round 2 [29 July 13], Apple purchasing 3D gesture control developer PrimeSense [19 Nov 13]Apple patents health monitoring headphones with ‘head gesture’ control [19 Feb]

The CES of Health preview

International CES in Las Vegas will be the annual ten-ring circus it always is, but this year even the tech watchers are concentrating on health. There appears to be no blockbuster consumer electronics debuts this year, so what you will see in the rinse-and-repeat cycle are the connected categories of Wearables and The Internet of Things. Basically everything will be connected, automated…and gathering lots of data on you (what ZDNet’s Jason Hiner in his CES preview article has dubbed Contextual Computing, and he likes it). Lisa Suennen of Psilos Group, writing in MedCityNews, coins her own slightly dismissive term, ‘The Internet of Wearable Things’, and makes the entirely sensible point that sensing your fitness is one thing, doing something about it another. But the critical health app that soars over her goal posts is the Surf Life Saving WA Twitter account. If you’re in Western Australia and hitting the water, you want to know where the sharks are. This gives it to you. This Editor also sees that Samsung received FDA 510(k) approval for their heavily hyped S Health app built into the US-released Galaxy S4 smartphone. While the UK enjoyed third party device connectivity back to the S3, the US version of S Health, according to Mobihealthnews, only connected to three unreleased Samsung peripherals and relied on manual entries. This undoubtedly will change–expect there to be buzz about where Samsung will now take this at CES. And there’s always hay to be made with sleep analysis tracking–high-end multi-sensor fitness watch Basis Science has now added advanced sleep tracking to its BodyIQ analysis of running, walking and biking, as well as upgrading its looks (VentureBeat).

Certainly more to come out of CES and conferences within CES this coming week!

Wellocracy launched to explain fitness tracking, apps

Partners HealthCare’s Center for Connected Health has launched Wellocracy, to explain to consumers how you can get the most out of their fitness trackers, health apps and related devices. It won’t be a ‘Consumer Reports’ of devices or apps (though provides a comparison chart), ‘curate’ them as the now seemingly dormant Happtique once intended to do or screech at you on your ‘issues’ as Cigna’s Go You does, but offers sensible advice on how to get the most out of the kit you just bought and the information it provides. Also it addresses the ‘stickiness factor’–staying with a regimen–connects to outside news and adds a large dollop of social engagement with sharing ‘The New Fit Revolution.’ Coincidentally, The Center’s Joseph Kvedar, M.D. just co-authored a book, Wellocracy: Move to a Great Body, with Carol Colman and Justin Mager, MD. Release includes a useful Harris Interactive survey that indicates that fitness and sleep tracking are seen favorably and perceived as valuable but is still large on potential, short on customers.

Quantified Self fail: nighty-night for Zeo

Brian Dolan in Mobihealthnews exclusively broke the news this morning that Quantified Self darling and pioneer (2009) Zeo has likely shut down, turning in not just for the evening but for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately for the founders, employees, investors and users, it illustrates how Clayton Christensen’s disruptive innovation works fast, fast, fast in the real world. Its sleep monitor/coach was perhaps too good or complex for the market, and certainly too expensive at $400. Consumers traded off sophistication and features for less expensive (Lark at $160) and better value in the wider ‘jobs to be done’ in health tracking (fully mobile, multiple activity monitors/trackers such as FitBit and Jawbone Up now include sleep.)

It also demonstrates how the ‘better mousetrap’ does not trump a (more…)