The apparent shortage of digital health names

By: Jonah Comstock | Aug 15, 2013        

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JONAH_COMSTOCK_HEADSHOTWhen Medtronic acquired Minnesota-based home health company Cardiocom last week, it was easy to get confused. Medtronic, a company whose most famous product is an implantable heart monitor, could just as easily have bought Cardiocomm Solutions (two M’s), a company with a mobile ECG monitor as its flagship product.

With a boom of young companies and, apparently, only a certain number of health- and telecom-related words, suffixes, and prefixes available, name similarity is something we see all too often in mobile health. Another big acquisition in the space, athenahealth’s purchase of Epocrates in January, led a commenter to ask a great question about what it meant to have Epocrates owned by a health insurer. The only problem is Aetna is the health insurer, and it didn’t buy Epocrates — athenahealth, a software company, did.

And this confusion can even lead to legal ramifications. The name similarity is part of Fitbug’s case against Fitbit in a recent lawsuit, which also takes into account other alleged similarities in product marketing. Here’s a no-doubt incomplete list of health and fitness companies and products to watch out for as you read about developments in digital health. Be sure to add your own in the comments below.

WellDoc and WellTok: Hopefully WellDoc, makers of BlueStar and its first product, through AT&T, Diabetes Manager is well known enough that it can escape brand confusion. But in the world of employee wellness, an early test case for their products, the company may very well have run up against WellTok, makers of the employee social network CafeWell. It’s not so bad in print, but one can imagine a “who’s on first” situation talking about these companies on the telephone.

Pebble smartwatch and Fitlinxx Pebble: A pebble is a tiny stone that can make big ripples — a pretty good metaphor for what a connected device might do for your health or your overall lifestyle. So it’s not surprising more than one startup thought of it for a name. For Fitlinxx, an employer-focused activity tracker company, the pebble is a small, minimalist clip-on tracker. For Pebble, it’s one of the most hyped entrants into the burgeoning smartwatch category and, interestingly, a fitness tracker through its integration with Runkeeper. We first noted the two Pebbles when they both launched at this year’s CES.

Careverge and Caremerge (and Zensey and Sensei): File this one under “dodged a semantic bullet”… well, maybe. Audax Health’s employee health social network, once called Careverge, is now Zensey. Prior to that change, it wouldn’t have been hard to mix up the offering with Caremerge, a practice management software for managed care organizations. Of course, the change now puts them at audible odds with Dr. Bob Schwarzberg’s mobile health company Sensei.

Tonic Health and Tonic: Tonic Health is a provider-facing patient engagement app, whereas Tonic (from serial mobile health entrepreneur Rajiv Mehta, whose latest venture is called Unfrazzle) was a consumer app for healthy behavior change. But since Tonic Health is just now taking off and Tonic is no longer around, this one will only confuse researchers poring through MobiHealthNews archives.

GoHealth and GoGoHealth: GoHealth and GoGoHealth both make patient-facing mobile apps. The GoHealth app and website let patients compare health insurance quotes from different payors to help save money on doctor visits, while the GoGoHealth app aims to put patients in touch with providers to eliminate the office visit altogether. GoGoHealth users report symptoms via the app, and the doctor can respond with advice or even a prescription. Surprisingly, neither are fitness apps. But if you’re looking to start one, as of this writing, GoGoGoHealth is still available.

AgaMatrix and Augmedix: Is Augmedix the new AgaMatrix? The new Rock Health startup Augmedix is one of the first companies to be focused on medical use cases for Google Glass. AgaMatrix‘s IBGStar was one of the first connected health devices for the iPhone. Of course, it’s still an open question how much consumer traction Glass is going to get, especially compared to the Apple’s flagship product.

MapMyFitness and MyFitnessPal: When two companies in the same space also have similar names, it can make anyone do a double take. MyFitnessPal is an online portal with apps that helps users lose weight and stay in shape by helping them track their diet and exercise. MapMyFitness is a set of apps with an online portal that helps people trying to lose weight or stay in shape to track their exercise and diet. Both have a bevy of partnerships and integrations, and both have some big funding raises under their belts — $18 million for MyFitnessPal, and $23.5 million for MapMyFitness. Here’s hoping for a merger — MapMyFitnessPal really rolls off the tongue.

Charles Huang and Charles Huang: This one doesn’t have anything to do with company names, but we’d be remiss not to mention it. Charles Huang, VP of Equity Healthcare and advisor for both StartUp Health and BluePrint Health, probably got mistaken for Charles Huang, co-creator of Guitar Hero, before last week. But now that the Guitar Hero Huang and brother/co-founder Kai Huang have emerged from stealth mode with a new, wellness-related company it’s probably only going to get worse. Their new game studio, Blue Goji, is developing a gym-equipment based hardware for fitness gaming.

Maybe this trend isn’t a sign of lack of creativity or declining thesaurus sales, but rather a positive sign of the times — that so many companies are emerging in digital health, they’re literally running out of names.

  • KatieT

    Great informative article!

  • Allen D

    Trying to find a unique company or product name is very hard frustrating work. Having participated in this type of activity several times over the past many years with different hi-tech start-ups, I know how difficult it is. Not only that their appear to be two schools of thought regarding the naming process. The first school recommends do not spend a lot of time on the process. Just pick a name, any name and go with it. The second school of thought recommends taking whatever time it takes to get the name just right. I suspect the answer lies somewhere between these two approaches. But in the end, the process is not easy. So whenever I see a clever company or product name, I have a new appreciation for the individual or individuals who slogged through all the mundane permutations to identify a name worthy of their company or product.
    Best regards,

  • Ian Shakil

    As the person who coined the name Augmedix … I have to say … great article!

  • Tommy W

    Great article! When picking a name just make sure it just clicks. Make it witty, memorable and make it fit.

    Coming from a company called “Firefly”, we make wireless digital video otoscopes and dermatoscopes with LEDs in the front. With a little imagination our devices actually look similar to a firefly. It’s simple and it works.

    A name like Firefly makes many of our customers think that they have heard of the company before, while in fact they’ve only watched the TV series. This helps too!

    Check us out at http://www.fireflyglobal.com

    Kind Regards,
    Tommy

  • Melissa Thompson

    Proteus Discovery and Proteus Digital Health (PD: therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases, PDH: ingestible sensors)

  • Matthew Holt

    Hysterical. And Smartpatient and Smartpatients, both launching at Health 2.0 at the end of the month… we did warn them