At Internet of Things hearing, industry groups petition Congress for light regulatory touch

By: Jonah Comstock | Jul 30, 2015        

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The App Association Executive Director Morgan Reed

The App Association Executive Director Morgan Reed

Yesterday the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee held a hearing about the Internet of Things, and though the conversation was broad and far-reaching, mobile health and healthcare connectivity did hold some floor time. Both Morgan Reed, executive director of ACT The App Organization and Gary Shapiro, CEO and President of the Consumer Electronics Association, spoke about health in their testimonies.

Shapiro listed a number of different facets of the the Internet of Things that CEA has seen over the past few years, and ended the litany with a reference to mobile health tools.

“I am especially excited about how the IoT will help us care for our older loved ones in years to come,” he said in his prepared remarks. “As our population advances in years, and the number of caregivers shrinks, smart home devices enable seniors to live independently and comfortably at home, retaining their quality of life into their golden years. Connected devices can remind seniors to take their medication, refill their prescriptions, and help prevent accidental over- or underdoses.”

Reed, meanwhile, focused his talk entirely on the mobile health segment, describing how, in the future, “rather than a yearly update on one’s vitals in a doctor’s office, sensors will empower people to share it with a care team, have it incorporated in a cloud-based health record, or shown on a dashboard app in just a few taps.” Services like Microsoft HealthVault, Apple Health, and Apple ResearchKit are already moving in that direction, he said. Yet as of now, few doctors are willing to prescribe these tools to patients, because of regulatory uncertainty. Keep reading>>

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Healthbox adds 10 startups to new Chicago next class

By: Aditi Pai | Jul 30, 2015        

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WelltwigsDigital health accelerator Healthbox has added ten companies to its next accelerator, which will be located in Chicago. This is the fourth program Healthbox has run in Chicago and its 14th programs overall.

Healthbox partnered with insurance company Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC) and Edward-Elmhurst Healthcare to launch the class. Since launching the accelerator in 2012, Healthbox has worked with 105 healthcare startups and invested in 85 to date.

Healthbox previously offered startups $50,000 in seed funding in exchange for seven percent equity in the participating startup, but it’s recently moved away from that model. New Healthbox Studios receive no upfront investment, but also don’t have to give up any equity. Instead, Healthbox connects them with investors at the conclusion of the program.

One portfolio company, SwipeSense, which has developed a smart hand hygiene sensor, raised $9.6 million in funding last month. Healthbox counts SwipeSense among the graduates of its very first class.

Here are the 10 companies in Healthbox’s next class:

Keep reading>>

Cigna adds claim submissions via phone camera to international app

By: Jonah Comstock | Jul 30, 2015        

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Cigna Claims appCigna Envoy, the insurance company’s app for American employees living abroad, has added a mobile claims function that allows users to file a claim by taking a picture of a receipt. The functionality is mostly unnecessary for the domestic version of the app, MyCigna, because for those users claims are submitted by their provider.

“We’ve been able to submit claims using the Cigna envoy website but not using the app,” Leah Cotterill, leader of Cigna’s Global Client Manager team in the United States, told MobiHealthNews. “This is what’s recently been launched and we’ve taken it from not just being to submit the claim, but being able to take a photograph submit the claim through the app. It’s truly a paperless and a quick process. That’s what customers were asking for: make this as easy for us as possible.”

According to a Cigna statement, the mobile claims process is actually faster than the online version: it takes 10 minutes to submit a claim, but only 4 minutes via the app. The app is available for both iOS and Android. Cigna competitor Aetna added a very similar functionality to their app for non-US-based members two years ago.

The Cigna Envoy app also includes a function that lets “globally mobile employees” find providers in their network nearby using geolocation and a virtual insurance card that members can present to some providers if they lose or misplace their physical card. In addition to submitting claims on the app, users can track that claim via the app or website as it’s processed by Cigna.

Even outside the United States, Cotterill said, most providers will still file the claims themselves.

“The primary tenet of our value proposition globally is access to a network,” she said. “Seventy-one percent of all our claims are paid to a network provider directly. [Users] don’t have to worry about an app. But if you have to pay the claim yourself or you’ve chosen to pay the claim yourself, let’s make sure that it’s simple and easy.”

Report: 4.9M members use Kaiser’s online health management platform

By: Aditi Pai | Jul 30, 2015        

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Kaiser PermanenteAround 4.9 million members in health system Kaiser Permanente’s 9.6 million member network are using Kaiser’s online health management platform, called My Health Manager, according to Kaiser’s 2014 annual report, which came out today.

In 2014, through Kaiser’s online and mobile health services, 37.4 million lab test results were viewed online, 20 million secure emails were sent, 4.1 million online appointment requests were made, and 17.5 million online prescriptions were refilled.

Kaiser also released app download data from one of the company’s apps, also called Kaiser Permanente, which reached 1.3 million all-time downloads in 2014, up from 455,512 downloads in the company’s 2013 report. Through the app, members can email physicians, schedule or cancel appointments, get refills for a prescription, and access lab results. The app also helps users find nearby KP medical facilities.

The Kaiser Permanente app passed the 1 million downloads mark in June 2014.

“We’re seeing that members are using the app most often to securely email their doctors and manage appointments,” Kaiser Permanente’s Madhu Nutakki, vice president of digital presence technologies, said in a statement at the time. “Giving members the ability to quickly and easily connect with their doctors and other care providers, no matter where they are, empowers them to become actively engaged in their health care.”

Kaiser has four other apps including an activity tracking app called Every Body Walk! and a preventive care app for members in northern California.

In December 2014, Christine Paige, senior vice president of marketing and digital services at Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, said Kaiser Permanente had 70 percent of its 9 million members as active users of its online and mobile offerings.

Recently, a Validic whitepaper reported that Kaiser Permanente saw more than 10 million patients by e-visit in 2013 and expects to see more patients through telehealth than in person in 2016.

Glow launches new app to help young women track sexual health, cycles

By: Aditi Pai | Jul 30, 2015        

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RubySan Francisco-based Glow, which has developed a suite of women’s health apps, launched a new app today designed to help women manage their sex life and their menstrual cycle, called Ruby.

“We’re taught in school to avoid, delay having sex for as long as possible, and when the topic of sex comes up in the classroom, it’s introduced as something fearful: ‘If you have sex, you might get pregnant and you probably don’t want to do that’,” Glow VP of Partnerships and Marketing Jennifer Tye told MobiHealthNews. “What’s not being taught is how to have open and empowering sexual relationships. How to figure out what the right birth control is for you if any and why it’s even important to track your cycles to understand your health as a woman.”

Glow’s other two apps include their eponymous app, which helps women conceive or just track their fertility if they don’t have plans to conceive, and Glow Nurture, which women can use to track their pregnancy once they’ve conceived. Tye said that part of the inspiration for Ruby came from the Glow app.

“Roughly half of our users actually use the Glow app to actively avoid pregnancy,” she said. “Based on that, we wanted to develop a whole new app and experience just for them that could more fully reflect their lifestyle.” Keep reading>>

How Garmin plans to be a contender in the activity tracker space

By: Jonah Comstock | Jul 29, 2015        

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Garmin VivosmartGarmin has been in the wearable business since at least 2003, but the company has only been in the highly competitive consumer fitness tracker market — with its VivoSmart and VivoFit lines — for a little under a year. And in that time, the company has only managed to capture between 10 and 15 percent of the market, according to their own estimates. Their fitness segment posted a sluggish 5 percent year over year growth.

On a second quarter earnings call, CEO and president Cliff Pemble talked to investors about this slow growth and, though he didn’t mention it by name, about the steps Garmin is taking to compete with the elephant in the room: Fitbit, which raised $732 million earlier this year in a record-breaking IPO.

Pemble said in his prepared remarks that slow growth in the second quarter was due to a number of factors including unfavorable currency markets, competitive pricing dynamics, and a lack of new products released this quarter. And margins were lower because the company has chosen to make significant advertising and R&D investments in order to set itself up for longer term growth.

“The operating margin decline reflects the significant investment in advertising and research and development to support our long-term goals in the segment,” the company said in a statement. “We believe these investments are appropriate and timely given the sizeable opportunity that exists in the global fitness and wellness industries.” Keep reading>>