Seeing into 2017: Fitness trackers’ chill, clinical and specialized wearables warm up

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/crystal-ball.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]The first in a series of brief projections for 2017. Fitness wearables aren’t even lukewarm anymore, and it’s visible in consolidation and the nay-saying articles. In late November, Fitbit bought one of the pioneers, Pebble, for a cut price of $40 million (TechCrunch). Fitbit shares are also cut price at below $7.50, whereas the 2015 IPO debuted at $50. Editor Charles’ favorite, Jawbone, is moribund; the springtime rumors of company sale and shutdown of the fitness band line have not been contradicted since [TTA 27 July]. Research/analytics company CB Insights calculated that 2015 wearable computing (a broader category) investment funding fell 63 percent from 2014 to a level comparable to 2012-13, in large part due to the cooling of the fitness segment.

A sure sign that fitness bands have chilled is negative play in the consumer press. ‘My fitness band has made me fat’, spun off the JAMA article [TTA 28 Sep], is now the theme of hilarious ‘dieters gone wild’ articles like this from the New York Post (warning, eye bleach photos!). But The Sun (UK) waves a warning flag that the information could be sold, sent to your employer or insurance company to profile and/or discriminate against you, or cyberhacked. All this can knock a pricey band off the Christmas shopping list. And no, it hasn’t shifted to smartwatches as most insiders predicted, as smartwatch sales have leveled off–as expected–until their functionality and appearance improve to justify their high price.

What’s in our crystal ball? Clinical-quality and specialized wearables will rise from these ashes.

  • Doctors are simply not interested in the current poor quality of data generated by current wearables–‘it’s worthless, Jim!’ ZDNet’s much-discussed article on this subject paradoxically stresses this, then focuses in on the clinical quality data generated by startup VivaLnk’s eSkin for temperature and stress. Clinical quality data is what is required for a health and wellness research partnership like the one recently announced by RTI and Validic.
  • Industry buzz is that Fitbit bought Pebble for its better IP, apps and stable of developers, not its smartwatch hardware, and that IP includes clinical quality measurement.  Other biosensor companies on the rise according to CB Insights are Thync, Thalmic Labs, YBrain and mCube.
  • In specialty wearables, there’s the recent funding success of Owlet, the High Cute Factor baby monitor sock. Lifebeam transfers multiple sensing technology to helmets and hats for richer data.

And if sensor patches develop with speed, in two to three years they may eliminate all of these!

Rock Health announces its Top 50 in digital health (US)

This Editor observes that digital health is at the state of maturity (so to speak) where entities assemble a Top 50 list and host a dinner to pass out awards. Rock Health, Fenwick & West, Goldman Sachs and Square 1 Bank cast a wide net from investment to startups in their just-released list. (Of course there will be a glitzy dinner, soon, at the kickoff of the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, 9 – 12 January 2017 in San Francisco. Want an invite?)

Of great delight is an award to John Carreyrou of the Wall Street Journal as Reporter of the Year for his investigative work on Theranos. Other highlights are Validic (clinical/wellness data integrator) as Fastest Growing Company, Evolent Health for Best Performing IPO and BSX Technologies‘ LVL hydration monitor as Crowdfunding Hero (having raised $1.1 million when goal was $50,000). Rock Health website

What is increasingly curious to this Editor is that digital health companies, in nearly all cases, aren’t crossing borders and oceans. Every one seems to stick and be unique to its own country of origin, creatures of their own unique petri dish.

Also in other Rock Health news, having evolved a position as a venture fund/business support provider, they have added to their list of prominent partners kidney care and medical group operator DaVita. Rock Health release.

Philips, Validic partner on health data integration

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/image001.jpg” thumb_width=”200″ /]Earlier today, Philips and health data ‘connector’ Validic announced a partnership where Philips’ multi-part HealthSuite digital health platform will expand with Validic’s access to third-party device data. The surprise is how much data Validic now can access: a claimed 223 million people in 47 countries, which was a surprise to this Editor. Philips’ HealthSuite includes Personal Health Programs, the Lifeline PERS line, eCareCoordinator and eCareCompanion eHealth applications. Exactly how Philips will use this access is not disclosed. Philips release

A diagnosis of why digital health startups die–an old (and new) story

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/upside-down-duck.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]For years now, your Editors have championed integration of data and system interoperability–search on these terms and you’ll find a wealth of articles and views. This Editor also included how data is integrated in patient records as the Fifth Big Question (FBQ) in 2012 [TTA 8 Aug 13]. Many digital health companies, not just startups, have failed at the data integration (and security) tasks, whether with EHRs, hubs, billing and practice management systems or with other devices. (Let us not forget that the initial impetus for Continua back in 2007, the US state/regional HIXs and for HL7 now, was to have common data and interchange standards.)

So there’s no real element of surprise here by John Sung Kim’s pleading in TechCrunch re ‘integrating into legacy systems’ and the troubles his own startup DoctorBase encountered in what he tactfully puts ‘political and technical hurdles’ encountered. But then the velvet gloves come off about EHRs and their less-than-scrupulous idea of ‘partnerships’. (more…)

Better’s fast fail, ending health assistance service 30 Oct

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Better.png” thumb_width=”150″ /]Better is sadly not. This two-year old service that provided personal health assistance, including a real, live health assistant, to guide members through health questions, the thickets of insurance claims, finding doctors and specialists, apps and more, announced earlier this week that it was ending operations as of 30 October. While it was announced via their Twitter feed on Tuesday, most of the industry learned of it through Stephanie Baum’s article in MedCityNews today. Better formally debuted only 16 months ago [TTA 23 Apr 14] and at the time this Editor felt that it was a service in the right direction, a kind of ‘concierge medicine for the masses’ needed when individuals have to direct more and more of their own care.

A solid start, as our Readers have seen, does not guarantee success, but this fast fail is still fairly shocking. A concern at the time was the pricing for the full service model at $49/month, which later became the family price (individuals were $19.99/month). CEO/co-founder Geoff Clapp was among the most Grizzled of Health Tech Pioneers; he had been a co-founder of Health Hero/Health Buddy from 1998 to its sale to Bosch Healthcare, a very long pull in telehealth, and he had spent much of his post-Health Hero time generously advising other startups. Yet despite the involvement of blue chip Mayo Clinic as a service provider, its financial backing from their investment arm and socially-oriented VC Social+Capital Partnership, it managed to raise only its initial seed funding of $5 million (CrunchBase).

So what happened? (more…)

Integrating mobile apps between clinicians and patients

Your Editors have noted many well-funded companies working in the wings to link up and find meaning in the hugeness of Big Data generated by a gazillion medical systems and devices (Validic, the recently seen QpidHealth at HealthIMPACT East). However what’s been scarce on the ground are companies that are front-end, point of service, integrating mobile communications between clinicians, then with consumers/patients, then with EHRs, operations and patient portals. We noted ZynxHealth at HealthImpact, interestingly part of media giant Hearst, but they confine their secure messaging to clinicians. Now spanning both worlds is an early-stage company, Practice Unite, out of New Jersey Institute of Technology’s (NJIT–metro NY-ers of a certain age remember it as Newark College of Engineering!) NJ Innovation Institute accelerator. Inspira Health Network, located in southern NJ, is adopting their single clinician/patient platform. In conjunction with Futura Mobility, this will facilitate clinician/patient secure texting, voice communications, patient-directed communications and delivery of EHR data. Practice Unite has previously developed apps for at least ten health systems and home care providers. Their three-minute demo here illustrates a very wide span among clinicians, hospital operations, home care operations and patient engagement. (This Editor will be finding out more on Friday when visiting their offices at the NJIT Enterprise Development Center in Newark.) Release.

Breaking news out of the mHealth Summit

mHealth Summit this year had an abundance of digital health company news announcements, not only from the conference but also timed to coincide with the heightened interest around it. Your Editor looks over the most interesting of them, briefly. Thanks to Ashley Gold of Politico’s Morning eHealth (@ashleygold, daily reports archived here), Stephanie Baum of MedCityNews (@stephlbaum) and Anne Zieger of Healthcare Dive for their coverage and their company in the press room!

Partners HealthCare researches, Validic expands, AliveCor and Omron ally, Happtique sells out, Doctor on Demand is telemental, Orange goes dental, VA Innovation Rocks

  • Partners HealthCare/Center for Connected Health’s cHealth Compass will use panel and other research to help companies, device manufacturers, startups and investors determine what end users–consumer and provider–want out of personal health tech. Focus groups, interviews and usability testing will help to determine product design, evaluation, assess applications and feasibility as well as interim/final product testing. Partners is already organizing in Massachusetts a 2,000-patient database which rewards participants $50 on registration and $110 annually to be in a monthly survey panel. cHealth Compass website, BetaBoston (Boston Globe)
  • Health data connector/aggregator Validic demonstrates the attractiveness of Anything Big Data on with new clients including the Everyday Health consumer/professional website and the adidas Group’s sport and fitness apps. Recently they added WebMD, Pfizer, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), NexJ Health and MedHost to their client list. The company claims that their ‘ecosystem’–probably the most popular buzzword at this year’s conference–of healthcare companies and tech developers now reaches over 100 million people with devices such as Omron, Alere, Qardio, Telcare, Jawbone and Withings. Release
  • AliveCor accentuates the retail with Omron. AliveCor, which developed the first FDA-cleared ECG for smartphones and gained clearance for an atrial fibrillation algorithm in August, is collaborating with Japanese device manufacturer Omron on developing its retail presence. Omron’s devices are available in major drugstores such as Walgreens, RiteAid and Walmart so certainly AliveCor is due to benefit. AliveCor is also part of a revived QualcommLife (more on this in an upcoming article)  ReleaseMobihealthnews (Your Editor had the pleasure of meeting at last AliveCor’s CMO and founder Dr. Dave Albert.)
  • Happtique sold to SocialWellth. Last year’s floor talk was about Happtique’s first class of certified apps and a security expert’s untimely discovery of major flaws (more…)

digihealth pulse Virtual 2014

19-21 May 2013, Virtual

Can’t make ATA 2014? Possibly the first fully virtual conference in digital health, DHPV 2014 has 25+ speakers and is fully accessible online plus archived (helpful as all times are NY/Eastern). Speakers include Unity Stoakes of StartUp Health, Esther Tyson of HICCup (The Way to Wellville–more here), Bertalan Meskó, MD, PhD: medical futurist, Matthew Holt of Health 2.0, Ryan Beckland of Validic [TTA 27 Jan], Jim Lefevere of Roche digital marketing, and more. Register here: pre-event price is $195.97 which goes up on 10 May to $225.97.  Agenda  Hat tip to Fard Johnmar of the Enspektos digital health consultancy organizing the event.

Digital health attracting small–and very big–investment action (US)

Last week Validic, a data integrator for payers, providers, preventive wellness companies and pharma, received $1.25M in convertible note funding from SJF Ventures. Recently profiled by guest columnist Lois Drapin [TTA 27 Jan], in August 2013 they received $760,000 in seed funding and are bridging with this to their Series A. According to Mobihealthnews, they are building out their team and adding three senior executives in marketing, business development and operations. They are also presently registered as a Class 1 MDDS device with the FDA. Styling as a mobile health conduit for payers, providers and preventive wellness seems to be a persuasive position. Also CrunchBase.

On the other side of the continuum is Castlight Health with a Friday IPO that raised $180 million and eventually created a valuation for the company at a blindingly bright $3 billion. Not bad for a company with but $13 million in 2013 revenues and $100 million in forward customer contracts. Castlight’s tech platform enables employers to manage healthcare costs better and for employees provides better information for making decisions based on quality, pricing and convenience. Here at the top of the market is another attractive position–drive down big enterprise healthcare cost. Mobihealthnews