Viverae acquires mobile-enabled, behavioral health company OneHealth

By: Brian Dolan | Sep 17, 2014        

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OneHealthOnTheGoEmoticonCheckinDallas, Texas-based employee wellness company Viverae has acquired behavioral health company OneHealth for an undisclosed sum. Viverae counts 300 clients in various industries throughout the US that use its health management programs. OneHealth’s offerings will bolster Viverae’s by allowing users to anonymously support each others’ emotional and physical health.

OneHealth offers members 24/7 structured peer support, education and tools to aide in the recovery from substance abuse and other behavioral health issues. The program uses social media and real-time tracking to monitor emotional states and to provide anonymous peer supports to help the member or their dependents stay sober.

“Viverae and OneHealth are well matched, because we share a passion for helping people get healthier,” Michael Nadeau, founder and CEO of Viverae said in a statement. “We’re emotionally invested in this business because we see the impact every day, and we know we’re making a difference. Our combined resources will help individuals navigate through a maze of health concerns while increasing productivity and preventing or mitigating the risks associated with chronic disease.”

Just a few weeks ago, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts announced that it had added mobile and online tools from OneHealth to its members.

Last summer Boston Medical Center, a safety-net hospital and affiliate of Boston University School of Medicine, began using the OneHealth system – which was originally designed to treat substance abuse, depression and other behavioral issues — to its patient-centered medical home initiative. Boston Medical Center offers low-income patients access to the OneHealth online and mobile platform to promote self-management of chronic diseases, offer peer support and engage them in between office visits.  Keep reading>>

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Privacy concerns lead Fitbit to hire a lobbyist in DC

By: Brian Dolan | Sep 17, 2014        

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FitbitAbout a week ago Fitbit hired a lobbyist firm to represent its interests on the Hill, as the National Journal reported. According to the official lobbyist registration form, Heather Podesta + Partners will help Fitbit “educate lawmakers regarding health and fitness devices”. The form also lists two general issues of interest to Fitbit: health care issues and consumer issues around safety and protection. Considering the lashing Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) gave Fitbit in early August, the move to hire a lobbyist isn’t a surprising one.

“US Senator Charles E. Schumer revealed today that personal health and fitness data – so rich that an individual can be identified by their gait – is being gathered and stored by fitness bracelets like ‘FitBit’ and others like it, and can potentially be sold to third parties, like employers, insurance providers and other companies, without the users’ knowledge or consent,” a release from Schumer’s office stated in early August. “Schumer said that this creates a privacy nightmare, given that these fitness trackers gather highly personal information on steps per day, sleep patterns, calories burned, and GPS locations… There are currently no federal protections to prevent those developers from then selling that data to a third party without the wearer’s consent. Schumer therefore urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to push for fitness device and app companies to provide a clear and obvious opportunity to ‘opt-out’ before any personal health data is provided to third parties, who could discriminate against the user based on that sensitive and private health information.”

About two week’s later, Schumer touted Fitbit as a model for other fitness tracking companies to follow after it tweaked its privacy policy.

“Schumer today praised Fitbit’s new privacy policy which now clearly states that they will never sell personal data that identifies an individual,” the senator’s office wrote. “Fitbit will only share data when it is (1) legally necessary or (2) when the data is de-identified and aggregated, or (3) when the user opts-in and directs the company to share data.”  Keep reading>>

Google Glass could help surgeons spot complications sooner

By: Jonah Comstock | Sep 17, 2014        

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vitalmedicalsA new pilot study from Stanford University shows that Google Glass can help surgeons monitor patients’ vital signs more closely during surgery, potentially helping them to prevent more complications. Researchers used a software called VitalStream from VitalMedicals, a startup led by a Stanford surgeon who was involved in the study.

“During conscious sedation procedures where you don’t have an anesthesiologist, it’s just you and the nurse administering the medications, it’s unfortunately very common to get so focused in on the procedure and for the nurse to get distracted with all the multitasking that is required of them that you can lose sight of the patient’s vital signs and condition,” Dr. Oliver Aalami, a surgeon at Stanford Hospital and CEO of VitalMedicals, said in a video demo. “And what Google Glass provides through VitalStream is an amazing opportunity to have this information in front of your face when you need it and also when it’s critical, by getting alerts, for example when the blood pressure drops, when the oxygen saturation drops. So I see tremendous value being able to have vital signs on the Glass during procedures.”  Keep reading>>

Report from large employers explores wellness, healthcare cost strategies

By: Jonah Comstock | Sep 17, 2014        

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CEOInfographicChief executive officers from nine large American companies, healthcare and otherwise, released a 130-page report detailing a number of ways the private sector can help reduce the country’s rising healthcare costs, including explaining a lot of the work their own companies are already doing. The CEO Council on Health and Innovation was formed by the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Five CEOS from the council presented a panel to launch the document: Aetna’s Mark Bertolini, Verizon’s Lowell McAdam, Bank Of America’s Brian Moynahan, Nant Health’s Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, and Muhtar Kent, CEO of the Coca Cola company. Representatives of the other companies (Johnson & Johnson, McKinsey Company, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Walgreens) also attended.

The report outlines three major areas where large employers can improve healthcare: they can focus on improving the health and wellness of individuals through their own employee wellness programs, they can improve the health of communities by working with local organizations, and they can improve the healthcare system by pushing their employees into provider organizations that offer value-based care, and supporting new care delivery technologies like telemedicine and mobile medication adherence tools.

“I think most of us know we don’t have very good outcomes when you look at how we stack up against the rest of the world, especially considering what we spend,” MdAdam said. “We spend well over half a trillion dollars every year. At Verizon it’s $2.2 billion, and on this stage we represent a million employees and 150 million people in our healthcare system when you count retirees.”

He said that the companies had come together about a year ago to compare notes on healthcare strategy, and decided technology was at something of a watershed moment to enable real change in the healthcare system.

“Those of you that are wearing Fitbits and you’ve got monitors, the technology now is so pervasive, and will become even more so with wearables as we go forward, that we thought we could really make a difference,” he said. “So … this is the report. A year later, we think we’ve got a great roadmap other companies can use to lower their costs and improve their healthcare.”

In the employee wellness sector, companies talked about both technology-driven and non-tech-driven strategies. Aetna’s Bertolini highlighted workplace wellness programs that focus on mindfulness and yoga, for example, while Bank of America’s Moynahan spoke at length about his company’s experience tracking health factors with connected devices.

“We noticed throughout the member CEOs and other organizations [on the Council] that this is taking hold and you’re starting to see these devices on peoples’ wrists,” he said. “But the real question is what makes it take hold and stick? So we have been at this a few years and we have 100,000 employees involved in tracking weight, steps, and exercise minutes. And that’s not particularly unique, lots of companies do it. But the unique thing was we got a high participation. So 100,000 people did it the first time, 70,000 people did it the second time. But the real question is how do you drive that across a broader population? How do you translate that into activity and make that fun and interesting so people do it?”  Keep reading>>

HCSC, five providers sponsor Healthbox’s third Chicago accelerator program

By: Aditi Pai | Sep 17, 2014        

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CubiiDigital health accelerator Healthbox has added eight companies to its next accelerator, which will be located in Chicago.

This is the third Chicago-based Healthbox accelerator. Chicago is also home base for Healthbox Global Partners, the parent company of Healthbox since 2013.

Healthbox partnered with a number of companies to launch the class, including insurance company Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC) and five providers: Advocate Health Care, Ascension, Community Health Network, Edward-Elmhurst Healthcare and Ridgeview Medical Center.

In April, HCSC was part of a $7 million investment round in Healthbox Global Partners. It was the first time strategic investors invested in Healthbox’s parent company.

“The market is crowding with healthcare startups touting their newest disruptive solution that is addressing healthcare’s largest challenge,” Healthbox CEO and founder Nina Nashif said in a statement. “The eight companies entering Healthbox Chicago though, have really differentiated themselves not only by their technology and passion, but through a solid understanding of the strategic support they need to validate their product in the market and grow a solid business.”

Here are the eight companies in the accelerator:  Keep reading>>

Health insurance company HCSC to launch app with emphasis on activity, meditation

By: Aditi Pai | Sep 16, 2014        

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HCSC CenteredInsurance company Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC), which offers insurance plans to residents of Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, has made available its first wellness app for its members, called Centered. The app focuses on activity tracking and meditation.

The app will make use of the M7 and M8 motion coprocessors on Apple’s iPhone 5S and newly released iPhone 6, respectively. Apple’s previous motion coprocessor, M7, tracks activity with a gyroscope, accelerometer, and compass, but the M8 chip also takes in data from a barometer so it can track changes in altitude.

The inclusion of a motion coprocessor in Apple’s mobile devices has led to a flurry of passive activity tracking app launches over the course of the past year.

Centered will display a daily summary of calories burned, miles walked, and time spent being active every day, but it also offers meditation sessions for users to complete every week that range from four to 19 minutes. The app will send users tips on how to have a successful meditation session and provide them with a history of meditation sessions completed. Before the session begins and afterwards, users can use the app to get their average relaxation rating.

An HCSC spokesperson told MobiHealthNews that the app was developed based on a study conducted by the Adler School of Professional Psychology and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. The study found that short meditation sessions lead to reduced stress levels and an increase in a user’s ability to focus.

This is the second digital health-related project HCSC has been involved in recently. In April, HCSC was part of a $7 million investment round in Healthbox Global Partners which has been the parent company of digital health accelerator Healthbox since 2013. It was the first time strategic investors invested in Healthbox’s parent company.