RWJF initiative to explore health data in communities

By: Jonah Comstock | Oct 16, 2014        

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Data for Health co-chairs Dr. Ivor Horn and David Ross.

Data for Health co-chairs Dr. Ivor Horn and David Ross.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has begun an initiative to explore how health data can best serve not just individuals, but communities. The new initiative, called Data for Health, will be led by an advisory committee co-chaired by David Ross, director of the Public Health Informatics Institute, and Dr. Ivor Horn, medical director of the Center for Diversity and Health Equity at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

“The sheer volume and velocity of data at our fingertips today is unprecedented,” RWJF President and CEO Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey said in a statement. “As we build a Culture of Health—a nation where everyone has the opportunity to live longer, healthier lives—it will be critical to ensure communities can effectively use and manage this information in ways that help people get healthy and stay healthy. The Data for Health initiative will be a starting point for identifying what infrastructure is needed to turn this information into an effective tool for improving health nationwide.”  Keep reading>>

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Report: Apple to drop Fitbit from its retail stores

By: Jonah Comstock | Oct 15, 2014        

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Fitbit Flex__ColorsAccording to a report in Re/Code, Apple will stop selling Fitbit products in Apple stores in the near future. Apple didn’t make an official statement as to the reasons for the decision.

The timing of the report comes on the heels of Fitbit’s surprising decision not to integrate with Apple’s HealthKit. The company said it found the technology interesting but it didn’t yet see the value in integration for its customers. In a statement issued after our coverage of that decision, the company also emphasized the device’s multiplatform approach.

Fitbit remains committed to supporting all of our users, whether they sync their Fitbit products with iOS, Android or Windows Phone devices, Macs or PCs,” the company wrote in an email to MobiHealthNews. “While HealthKit works only on the iOS platform, we also plan to maintain direct integrations with our partners so that Android, Windows Phone and PC and Mac users in addition to our iOS users can benefit from our partnerships.”

MobiHealthNews proposed at the time that Fitbit might be posting up against HealthKit, which it might see as a threat to its business. Viewed in that light, this would be a bold retaliatory move from Apple.  Keep reading>>

Will patient-generated data from HealthKit reshape the EMR?

By: Jonah Comstock | Oct 15, 2014        

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Apple Health AppSome industry stakeholders from providers to investors to consumer device makers think something like Apple’s HealthKit could be the catalyst that finally brings the patient — and patient-generated data — into the healthcare ecosystem in a way that electronic medical records have persistently failed to do. While the conversation at Jannssen Labs and Johnson & Johnson Innovations’ Digital Diagnosis event in Cambridge, Massachusetts this week ranged over an impressive number of topics, HealthKit and EMRs were two of the big themes.

“I really believe this Apple HealthKit thing is a transformational opportunity,” Andy Palmer, a serial entrepreneur and healthcare seed investor, said during a panel discussion. “Credit to Microsoft and Google for trying with HealthVault and Google Health, but the time has come now, and all that patient-generated data has a safe place to live in HealthKit. The Google guys have to come back with something on Android and that competitive dynamic is really going to deal with that opportunity. Because all that data that’s being generated can’t live in an EMR. They don’t want to manage it in any way, shape, or form.”

Palmer was joined by Boston Children’s Hospital CIO Naomi Fried, Microsoft Healthcare Strategist Clifford Goldsmith, and John Wilbanks, Chief Commons Officer at Sage Bionetworks, a nonprofit focusing on changing the way healthcare data is collected for research. The panel was moderated by Chris De Luca, digital innovation lead at Johnson & Johnson.

Palmer and Goldsmith led the charge against big EMR vendors like Epic, with the latter suggesting that the US government’s early prioritization of EMRs has led to a point where one of the groups with the most power over what innovations take hold is also a group with the greatest interest in the status quo.  Keep reading>>

Welltok raises $25 million to build out CafeWell platform

By: Aditi Pai | Oct 15, 2014        

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CafeWellDenver, Colorado-based Welltok raised $25 million in a round led by Bessemer Venture Partners (BVP). The company hopes to raise another $12 million by the end of this year. The $25 million brings the company’s total funding to at least $72.7 million.

(Correction: This article originally misstated the additional amount Welltok plans to raise this year.)

Existing investors include IBM’s Watson Fund, Emergence Capital Partners, InterWest Partners, and New Enterprise Associates (NEA).

Welltok has developed an online and mobile platform called CafeWell, which curates health management programs, apps, and tracking devices for patients. The platform provides patients with a personalized health plan including articles, videos, and condition management programs. CafeWell also encourages patients with rewards after reaching health goals and connects patients with coaches and health experts when they need help.

Last November, Welltok announced that it would be one of the first companies to integrate with IBM’s supercomputer, Watson. Welltok incorporated Watson into its app CafeWell Concierge, for users of its existing CafeWell health social network. CafeWell has not yet launched, but in June the company said they were busy getting ready for the beta launch of the program. CafeWell is only available to people whose employers, health plans, or providers offer it to them. CafeWell Concierge will be a premium offering.

By linking to existing CafeWell apps, Watson can answer users based not only on their question but also on specific information like their location, health status, health benefits, health improvement programs and incentives available from their insurer, physician or local pharmacy.

In March, Welltok announced the acquisition of wellness app maker Mindbloom. Welltok said it would incorporate Mindbloom into its CafeWell Health Optimization Platform. The Mindbloom apps are still available separately from the CafeWell program.

The acquisition came just five months after Welltok’s acquisition of healthcare incentive design and management firm IncentOne, which creates incentive programs meant to deliver rewards to consumers after they fulfill a requirement from the program.

Report: Fitbit to launch two new devices, one with heart rate tracking

By: Aditi Pai | Oct 15, 2014        

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Fitbit Force

Fitbit Force

Details and images of two upcoming Fitbit activity tracker devices, called Charge and Charge HR, have leaked, according to a report from Gizmodo.

Fitbit first mentioned their new generation of devices in February when they voluntarily recalled the Fitbit Force after just less than 2 percent of Force owners complained of somewhat mysterious bouts of skin irritation, usually occurring a number of weeks after they began wearing the tracker.

Keep reading>>

GreatCall phone to be sold in 4,000 Rite Aids, pharmacy app preloaded

By: Jonah Comstock | Oct 15, 2014        

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GreatCall Touch3San Diego, California-based GreatCall, the company that makes smartphones and flip phones for seniors, has partnered with Rite Aid to distribute Great Call products in more than 4,000 Rite Aid pharmacies. In addition, as an extra facet to the partnership, the Touch3, GreatCall’s current smartphone model, will now come with the Rite Aid pharmacy app pre-loaded.

“Today’s older adults are redefining the way we age, and GreatCall’s mission is to provide them with usable solutions to keep them thriving,” Bill Yates, CMO of GreatCall, said in a statement. “Through Rite Aid, a company that shares our mission, we are bringing this vision to life. This is a critical step in a broader active aging strategy.”

By mid-October, Rite Aid customers will be able to buy GreatCall’s three major products: Touch3, the company’s newest smartphone; Jitterbug5, their latest flip phone model, and Splash, the waterproof emergency response device the company launched in May. The devices will be set up in custom displays that include demo phones and brochures.

Rite Aid is not the first pharmacy to offer GreatCall products; Walmart and Publix pharmacies have already had them available, as do Best Buy, Fry’s Electronics, RadioShack, Sears, and Shopko. Of course they can also be bought directly from GreatCall’s website.

GreatCall launched the Touch3 at the beginning of September. Like all GreatCall’s products, the $169 smartphone is pitched as an easier-to-use smartphone for seniors, with preloaded apps including health and safety apps Urgent Care, GreatCall Link, MedCoach and 5Star (the company’s emergency response app), which require additional, ongoing monthly fees in some cases. Touch3 is an Android smartphone built by Samsung.

“Our customers told us they don’t like to wade through numerous difficult-to-read screens to get to what they want,” CEO Dave Inns said in a statement at the time. “We focused on essentials, so accessing meaningful functions – help, phone, camera and text – is quicker and easier and technology becomes a key part of the solution.”

GreatCall’s Link app, which launched this past January, is for the caregivers of users of GreatCall’s 5Star service. The app shows family members information about the 5Star dedicated device, like whether the device is on or off, the battery level of the device, where the device is on a map, and if the button was pushed. It also provides family members with a record of all calls made from the 5Star device and the status of each interaction with one of GreatCall’s agents.