Diabetes management: the Next Big Health Tech Thing?

Big Data? Passé. Health IT security and hacking? At a peak. So what’s the Next Big Thing? If you’re tracking where the money’s going, it’s diabetes management. This week saw the joint venture Onduo formed by the controversial [TTA 6 Apr] life sciences-focused Verily (Google Alphabet) and Big Pharma Sanofi with a nest egg of $500 million. Onduo will be combining devices with services to help Type II diabetics. Based upon CEO Joshua Riff’s statements to MedCityNews, their platforms are yet to be developed, but “will be a digital platform that will involve software, hardware, and very importantly service” to change patient behaviors. Partnerships with Sutter Health in Northern California and Allegheny Health Network of western Pennsylvania will test their approaches in a clinical setting. Xconomy, Reuters

Verily’s other diabetes project include the £540 million bioelectronics partnership announced in August with UK-based GSK in Galvani Electronics [TTA 3 Aug] with a focus on inflammatory, metabolic and endocrine disorders, including Type II diabetes. With Dexcom, Verily is also building an inexpensive, smaller next-gen continuous glucose monitoring sensor; Mr Riff was coy about whether this sensor would be used but allowed that sensors might be used in Onduo’s approaches. Verily is also developing the well-known glucose-reading contact lens with Novartis [TTA 1 Sep 15].

Also this week, Glooko and Sweden’s Diasend announced their merger (more…)

Ford disconnects research on heart attack-sensing car seat

click to enlargeThe Gimlet Eye returns and hopes that Ford has a better idea, because this wasn’t it. The automaker announced over the weekend that it is abandoning research on car seats that would detect cardiac anomalies such as a heart attack and then (presumably safely) bring the car to a halt (and also presumably, call for medical assistance). A corporate statement to the FT stated that Ford was ‘transitioning’ to other projects, based on advances in consumer wearables. No indication of spend out of a $5.5 billion budget. Undoubtedly, the potential for sensor problems in seats and the danger of shutting down a car while driving were insurmountable. No tears though…. (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.

Dr. Topol in the AT&T house: a reboot of ForHealth?

HIMSS14 will tell. The big news that kicked off this snow-bound week in large parts of the US was Dr. Eric Topol joining Dallas, Texas-based AT&T ForHealth as Chief Medical Advisor. Well-known for his personality and evangelism of all things mHealthy, certainly Dr. Topol lends a certain star power to Big Blue’s efforts in this area–a shine that went completely dark in 2013 after a promising start in 2011 and strong partnering moves in 2012 (Alere and WellDoc diabetes management TTA 10 Aug 12VRI monitoring in May). The quietude of 2013 deserves a closer look. Dr. Geeta Nayyar joined with fanfare in September 2011 as Chief Medical Information Officer and departed exactly two years later to join engagement company PatientPoint with the same title. ForHealth made no waves at International CES save for being an example in the controversial ‘sponsored data’ plan announcement (GeekWire). Even finding ForHealth on the AT&T website is not easy. It is buried under ‘Business>>Enterprise Business‘ and then in a dogpile of footer links as ‘Healthcare Solutions‘–not ForHealth. In marketing, this is a state usually termed ‘dead in the water.’ The fact that Dr. Topol is remaining as Chief Academic Officer at Scripps Health also indicates that he is no direct replacement for Dr. Nayyar, despite being cited by AT&T SVP Chris Hill as a “change agent” who will help “drive our competitive strategy”. We’ll see if HIMSS14 on 23-27 February where AT&T will be exhibiting and their subsequent activity marks a genuine reboot for ForHealth, putting Dr. Topol’s impressive abilities to work beyond a twinkle. AT&T press release, MedCityNews article

WellDoc raises $20 million from Merck, others

click to enlargeWellDoc, developer of a prescribable Type 2 diabetes management smartphone app (BlueStar), announced today a $20 million Series A round from Merck Global Health Innovation Fund and Windham Venture Partners. The interest by Merck is understandable in several ways. Pharma companies are moving beyond the meds into other management models as blockbuster drugs become scarce (those cuts in R&D do hurt down the line), operating costs higher and profitable drugs go off patent. Because it is prescribable, BlueStar is reimbursable by US insurers (not disclosed by WellDoc); it is currently offered as a pharmacy benefit by Ford Motor and major drugstore chain RiteAid. In addition to these, WellDoc has developed strong partnerships (AT&T, Alere) since their founding in 2005 (see below). BlueStar also can be considered a strong fit for a Merck subsidiary, Vree Health.  (more…)

Ford and WellDoc give a new meaning to mobile health (US)

As a postscript to yesterday’s post on mHealth apps, WellDoc Health have introduced BlueStar, a prescription-only, reimbursable app that majors on encouraging improved self-care by those with type II diabetes. Apart from being the first prescription-only app in the US, it is apparently also downloadable directly into a car (Ford).

Editor Donna comments 29 August: Aside from WellDoc being the only mHealthy company I can think of located in Baltimore, MD (for our ex-US readers, a city perched uneasily between Washington and Philadelphia), wasn’t the idea (or one of the ideas) originally behind Happtique a process to certify health apps, with a prescribing tool (along with patient ed) via their mRx platform? In June, they sought primary care physicians to beta test their catalogue, formularies and mRx prescribing tool [TTA 28 June]. With Happtique now firmly under the GNYHA Ventures wing [TTA 17 May] and a much lower profile, there may be plenty of room for a private competitor with an established name and its own FDA-cleared apps to establish a prescription app model.