EEOC lawsuit against Honeywell asks: ‘When does employee wellness go too far?’

By: Jonah Comstock | Oct 30, 2014        

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JONAH_COMSTOCK_HEADSHOTEmployers are turning more and more to preventative wellness programs to keep down their employee’s eventual healthcare costs, including biometric screenings to determine early risk factors. But when those screenings are mandatory, and incentivized through sanctions for opting out rather than rewards for opting in, does that cross the line into violating employee’s privacy? Has the employer overstepped its role as a healthcare payor?

That’s the question that’s at stake in a Minnesota lawsuit, filed last week against Honeywell by the Chicago-based Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal law enforcement agency charged with enforcing employee discrimination laws. The suit alleges that Honeywell’s employee wellness program can cost employees up to $4,000 in surcharges and lost HSA funds — $2,000 of which is referred to as a “tobacco surcharge” — if they and their spouse refuse to undergo a biometric screening that includes a blood test. They say that this violates both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondisclosure Act. (Although genetic testing is not involved in Honeywell’s program, the EEOC claims that requiring spouses to be tested constitutes an unlawful demand for family medical history.)

Honeywell called the lawsuit frivolous in a public response that stressed their programs’ compliance with two other federal programs — the Affordable Care Act and HIPAA — while not directly addressing the complaints about the ADA and GINA.  Keep reading>>


Highmark insurance to cover Iagnosis web-based dermatologist vists

By: Aditi Pai | Oct 30, 2014        

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DermOnCallIagnosis, parent company of virtual visit skin care company DermatologistOnCall, announced that starting in 2015, health insurance company Highmark will cover web-based dermatologist visits for its commercial members in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Delaware.

“We need to make sure our members get the right care in the right setting, and telemedicine is a key tool to help make that setting more patient-centered,” Highmark Senior Vice President and CMO Donald R. Fischer said in a statement. “Telemedicine is a resource that is critical to transforming the delivery of health care. It ensures faster access to high-quality health care while also helping to control costs.”

DermatologistOnCall offers online, tablet, or smartphone-based consultations, although Highmark seems to only cover the web version. Patients who want to use the service first fill out a questionnaire that verifies whether or not their issue is appropriate for online care. Once he or she is confirmed as a viable patient, they set up a profile with demographic info and other basic facts.

After that, patients are matched with a doctor so that they can send pictures of the skin condition that needs treatment. Users without coverage pay $59 per consult — the price dropped from $65 sometime this summer — and the information is sent to the dermatologist. The average time patients wait to get a response is 10 hours. The max time users wait is 3.5 days. After the diagnosis, patients can message back and forth with the dermatologist for 30 days.

Dermatologists in the company’s network can address over 3,000 skin conditions, according to the company.

In May, Iagnosis Chief Strategy Officer and cofounder Larry Eakin told MobiHealthNews that DermatologistOnCall plans to develop more channel partners across what he calls the “skincare value chain” too, with insurers, hospital systems, pharamacy retailers, large dermatology groups, and large pharmaceutical companies.

This isn’t the first digital health service that Highmark has covered. In 2012, Highmark began covering primary care sick visits through Teladoc. That same year Highmark began promoting DermatologistOnCall to its members in the three states as an out-of-pocket expense.

AliveCor’s ECG device now works with GreatCall smartphones

By: Jonah Comstock | Oct 30, 2014        

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alivecorSmartphone-enabled ECG medical device maker AliveCor and Greatcall, which makes a line of mobile phones and health services marketed to seniors, have partnered to bring the AliveCor device to GreatCall phones.

“Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, claiming about 1 million lives each year,” David Inns, CEO of GreatCall, said in a statement. “With access to an easy-to-use, affordable mobile health tool, patients can instantly communicate data to physicians without an office or hospital visit. This can positively impact access to care, costs and, potentially, outcomes.”  Keep reading>>

Microsoft launches Band, its fitness-focused smartwatch and Microsoft Health app

By: Aditi Pai | Oct 30, 2014        

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Microsoft BandMicrosoft has officially launched a fitness-focused smart watch, called Microsoft Band as well as a new health tracking platform, called Microsoft Health. This announcement came just a week after another report leaked about the device.

The product has been in development since 2010 when Microsoft launched the Kinect motion sensor for Xbox, Microsoft explains in a feature post.

Microsoft Band, a small, plastic, black band with a long screen, looks similar to the Nike FuelBand and Samsung Gear Fit. Microsoft explains in its video that the band is meant to be worn either on the inside of the wrist or the outside depending on how its being used.

Microsoft Band offers a 24-hour heart rate monitor that tracks heart rate during exercise to help users understand how many calories they’ve burned, but also during sleep to understand sleep patterns. The smartwatch includes a built-in GPS, making it more similar to Fitbit’s new smartwatch, Surge, and less like the Apple Watch, which only tracks GPS through its connection to the user’s iPhone.  Keep reading>>

Proteus Digital Health quietly launches consumer-facing wearable for athletes

By: Jonah Comstock | Oct 29, 2014        

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Proteus RecoverProteus Digital Health, which offers medication adherence and wellness monitoring built around an ingestible sensor pill, has quietly launched a new, consumer-facing offering. Proteus Recovery, which now has a Twitter account, a trademark filing, and a section on Proteus’s website, is a biometrics monitoring patch for athletes to help them recover from a workout faster.

“Proteus Recover is the only system that supports the 24-hour optimization of athlete recovery and daily physiologic load,” the company writes on its website. “Understanding an athlete’s entire day and night will provide information to drive simple yet impactful changes, maximizing athletic performance.”

Based on Proteus’s website and the trademark filing, it seems the Recover system doesn’t make use of Proteus’s famous ingestible sensor, instead relying entirely on the sensor-laden patch.  Keep reading>>

Cycling, running app maker Strava raises $18.5 million

By: Aditi Pai | Oct 29, 2014        

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StravaSan Francisco, California-based running and cycling app maker Strava raised $18.5 million in a round led by Sequoia with participation from existing investors Sigma West and Madrone Capital Partners. This brings the company’s total funding to at least $34.6 million.

Strava will use the funds to expand its service globally.

“Strava is building tomorrow’s sporting network in the manner that Facebook and LinkedIn have developed today’s social and professional networks,” Sequoia Capital Chairman Michael Moritz said in a statement.

The company’s mobile app, available on iOS and Android devices, syncs with GPS trackers including Garmin Forerunner, Soleus, Garmin Edge, and Timex Run Trainer, but can also work as a standalone app. Users can choose to track runs or bike rides with the free app and create routes, follow old routes, get stats on their runs, like distance, pace, speed, and elevation, and sync heart rate statistics through a participating activity tracker.

If users upgrade to Strava’s premium offering, they can create custom leaderboards that match them against people in the same age or weight group, set weekly goals, or access a fitness analysis so they can workout more effectively.

Last year, Strava modified its app to make use of Apple’s M7 motion coprocessor a few months after Apple added the chip to its phones. And this year, the app announced that it would offer integration with Google’s newly launched fitness app, called Fit, and Apple’s health platform, HealthKit.

This summer, Strava announced a new service, called Strava Metro,which analyzes bike routes and commute patterns around the world. The company explained that the service is designed to help advocacy and government organizations understand how different communities bike around their city. Data for Strava Metro is based on uploads of millions of Strava members around the world. Strava sees 2.5 million new GPS-tracked activities and more than 300 billion GPS points, the company said.