Novartis extends ViaOpta app for visually impaired to smartwatches

[grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”200″ /]New to this Editor (and I suspect our Readers) in assistive technologies for wearables are Novartis’ ViaOpta apps to aid the visually impaired and facilitate their independence as well as safety. Now available for smartwatches as well as smartphones, its features are primarily centered on assisting with navigation, including (new) points of interest and worldwide maps. Another new feature, recognizing and ‘reading’ both scenes and objects, is for smartphone only because it is dependent on the phone’s camera. Cues are both audio, vibration and visual (see left). Novartis claims this is the first wearable app designed specifically for the visually impaired and blind, now estimated at 285 million worldwide. It’s available in 11 languages and best of all, it’s a free download. Smartwatch demo is on YouTube. Novartis release. Mobihealthnews.

Breaking (holiday weekend) news: Aetna does the ‘deal deal’ with Humana

Crap Game (Don Rickles): Ya make a DEAL!
Big Joe (Telly Savalas): What kind of a deal?
Crap Game: A DEAL DEAL.

Kelly’s Heroes (1970), on getting the German Tiger tank and commander to help them in their bank heist

A $37 bn deal, that is. Announced on the Friday before the US Independence Day holiday (a day which may define media ‘black hole’), Aetna and Humana announced either their merger or the acquisition by the former of the latter, depending on what account you read. If approved by the Feds, the combination of #3 and #4 insurers (by revenue) respectively will exceed 33 million insured, making the combined entity #3 in insured individuals (after UHG and Anthem) and #2 in revenue. The announcement also stated that Louisville, Kentucky, Humana’s current headquarters, will continue to manage the Medicare, Medicaid and military Tricare businesses. Both are in Medicare Advantage, which is problematic due to market share and anti-trust considerations in at least four states, according to Reuters. (Humana has about 20 percent of national Medicare Advantage private policies.) We’ve previously noted the unfavorable comparison to the end stages of airline deregulation–consolidation reducing competition and consumer-favorable pricing. No word on the future of the Humana brand and marketing, which has always been executed well.

As to the outlook for digital health support–the prognosis by this Editor of this combination is, in the Magic 8 Ball’s answer, ‘reply hazy, ask later’.

  • Humana was known in the industry for being fairly open to opportunities and backed them with funding (Healthsense, Vitality, what remained of Healthrageous) under business such as Humana Cares. Humana at Home also owns a home care management company, SeniorBridge. Will this be of interest to Aetna in population health management, or an early ‘For Sale’?
  • Aetna, by contrast, has pivoted several times. CarePass consumer apps was a patient engagement experiment that proved the point that policyholders don’t want apps from insurers. Healthagen (an acquisition) was first positioned as an ’emerging businesses’ skunkworks of sorts umbrella-ing over iTriage (now integrated into the parent), ActiveHealth, Medicity and other digital health/analytics related businesses, then scaled back in early 2014 [TTA 28 Feb 14]. Repositioned as ‘population health management, the ACO business dominates.

Various reports: Daily Mail, Forbes (which likes it not at all and sees none of the touted ‘economies of scale’) and the WSJ.

Onward the 76 Hundred! Healthcare M&A, funding jam the news

Healthcare mergers, acquistions, investments and joint ventures are doing their own Charge of the Light Brigade as we cross the mid-year bar.

* Onward the 76 Hundred! 7,600 startups around the world are developing solutions in digital health, according to accelerator/investor StartUp Health’s 2015 mid-year report. It also notes that ‘personalized solutions’ are the It Girl of digital health, and that data analytics/big data has fallen to third in investor interest after wellness/benefits (largely skewed by Zenefits) and patient/consumer 
experience received large funding rounds. Cheering news is that StartUp Health notes that investment in 50+ health companies is remaining steady. But the rest might be a bit frothy. The Gimlet Eye’s tut-tut: “whatever Zenefits is, it can’t produce enough Employee Wellness and manage enough HR to be worth an investment of $500 million”. For our Readers, we give you a direct link to their 2015 Midyear Funding Insights Report. (We await RockHealth’s take on the the Year to Date.)

* Onward with an IPO! Telemedicine darling Teladoc (TDOC, NYSE) is even more so with a smashing initial public offering, targeted to open at $19 which closed on Wednesday at $28 and today (Thursday) at same. Rosy forecasts abound despite those annoying losses ($12.7 million in 1st quarter ’14) and court action (Dallas News, TTA 9 June) . We at TTA are sticklers on terminology; still, we were happily surprised to see USA Today in our corner chiding Mr Gorevic on his misapplication of telehealth for telemedicine.

* Onward to Invest in Each Other! The new Allscripts-NantHealth deal gives new meaning to swap. EHR Allscripts bought a $200m, 10 percent equity stake in NantHealth, the health informatics chunk of Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong’s NantWorks mini-conglomerate. Meanwhile another Soon-Shiong company bought stock valued at $100m in Allscripts. Neil Versel in MedCity News

* Onward from Amsterdam to Tel Aviv! MedCity News and Reuters also report that Teva Pharmaceuticals and Philips Healthcare have inked a joint investment (more…)

Nortek Security acquires Numera (Updated)

Updated. Numera, which those of us with long memories remember as iMetrikus (before 2011, and also a Grizzled Telehealth Pioneer), announced late on Tuesday that it has been acquired by Carlsbad, California-based Nortek Security & Control. Nortek is known for security and home controls/automation (2GIG), with a significant holding in generally white-labeled traditional PERS units mostly under the Linear brand. Numera’s Libris and Libris+ PERS with telehealth connectivity will be sold under the Numera brand and be fitted into Nortek’s existing health-related business and home controls, according to the press release. The EverThere telehealth/activity/location reporting platform, according to Nortek’s FAQs, is especially important as this cloud-based health and wellness software platform can integrate into their home controls area. The transaction, according to Nortek, is valued at $12 million and they disclosed that the acquired businesses recorded unaudited net sales of approximately $5 million in 2014. It does not include the Numera Social behavior change/social engagement business which will be “rebranded”.

Upcoming international telehealth events

In summer, the mind does turn to attending conferences in more interesting places. Here are three of interest:

27-29 July: 2nd International Conference on Health Informatics and Technology, Valencia, Spain at the Melia Valencia Palacio De Congresos. Information and registration

Their sister conference is the Global Conference on Telemedicine and eHealth at the Crowne Plaza Houston River Oaks. As it’s 17-19 August, in Houston, pack a personal air conditioner and dehumidifier. Otherwise, it’s a nice city with much to recommend it. Information. Both are organized by the OMICS Group.

[grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”125″ /]Finally, if you are looking for a startup boot camp and something truly different, here’s one with real ambiance. At M.E.S.H.–Medical Entrepreneur Startup Hospital–you’ll be camping in tents and sleeping in cots in a forest just outside of Berlin, Germany. 9-10 September. They invite investors as well–no information on if they get better tents. The objective? The fusion of humans and technology, including what gets under your skin.  Organizer is the interestingly named (and logoed) DocCheck Guano AG (above) along with KPMG and Grants4Apps.

Worcestershire County Council seeking vendors for ‘Future Lives: New Technology’ (UK)

Susanne Woodman of the WCC was kind enough to inform this Editor that they are seeking up to five businesses to create a technology-based social care solution. They are inviting interested companies to meet with them for a presentation and informal discussions on Wednesday 22nd July 2015 at 10.30am County Hall, Spetchley Road, Worcester WR5 2NP. More tender details and how to apply for Future Lives is here.