News and deal roundup: Babylon’s $200M raise, Best Buy buys Current Health, Virgin Pulse-Welltok, Devoted Health’s $1bn raise, Withings watch gains FDA ECG clearance

Babylon Health adds $200 million to the accounts–in advance of its SPAC. Babylon’s raise of $200 million (€173M) in a ‘sustainability-linked investment’ came from the strategic capital investment firm, Albacore Capital Group. With the SPAC and PIPE, Babylon will now have access to over $800 million in capital [TTA 7 Oct]. Whew! Mobilhealthnews, Babylon release 

A score for Edinburgh. Current Health, a biosensor-based monitoring and home care management/remote patient monitoring system based in Edinburgh and Boston, sold itself to US retailer Best Buy. The company recently raised $43 million in an April Series B, which makes its quick sale somewhat unusual. Terms were not disclosed other than it was a cash deal and that Current’s CEO Christopher McCann will be remaining with the company. Best Buy extends its reach into digital home health, following on their 2019 buys of GreatCall, Critical Signal Technologies for RPM, and partnership with Tyto Care.

Current had achieved FDA Class II clearance in early 2019 [TTA 7 Feb 2019], had piloted with Mount Sinai Brooklyn and in the UK, Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust for a post-discharge monitoring program, and recently had created a “Community” initiative to build diverse longitudinal datasets for decentralized clinical trials [TTA 18 Feb]. Current Health announcement, Best Buy release, Mobihealthnews, Healthcare Dive

The wellness app-employee/health plan engagement program area continues to consolidate with Virgin Pulse’s acquisition of Welltok. In recent years, Welltok has concentrated more on data analytics and predictive capabilities in its member experience and patient acquisition/retention platforms for health plans and systems, after a start in employee wellness programs. Virgin Pulse, which exited the Richard Branson universe (despite the logo) when sold to Morgan Equity Partners in 2018, is now backed by Marlin Equity Partners. Terms and leadership were not disclosed. Virgin Pulse release, HISTalk

‘Insurtech’ Devoted Health raised a hefty $1.15 billion Series D led by Uprising and Softbank Vision Fund 2, along with a long list of returning and new investors. Icing on the cake is that they are closing in on an additional $80 million in funding to accommodate an investor. Devoted is led by former athenahealth and government IT leaders Ed and Todd Park. It’s one of the smaller in footprint tech-based Medicare Advantage providers but combines their plans with health coverage via Devoted Medical, a telehealth and in-home care provider, and partner providers. FierceHealthcare

The ECG monitoring space is now a little more crowded. Withings finally received FDA clearance for their ScanWatch’s ECG and SpO2 monitoring, nearly two years after its introduction in January 2020. It received clearance in Europe a year ago. The cleared features are atrial fibrillation detection alerts, which advises users to take a 30-second ECG readings, and SpO2 blood oxygen monitoring for detection of respiratory issues. Withings joins the Apple Watch, Fitbit, Samsung, and the grandaddy of them all, AliveCor’s KardiaMobile, for ECG monitoring–but packs this monitoring into a good-looking watch. Mobihealthnews

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

[grow_thumb image=”https://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.