Notable digital health hires and departures

By: Brian Dolan | Oct 18, 2012        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsWithout a doubt the number of digital health startups has grown considerably these past few years and many more larger companies have dedicated teams or business units focused on digital health. With that kind of growth comes job opportunities. As it happens, in recent weeks a few digital health hires and departures caught my attention.

Julie Kling, who has served as the mobile executive business lead at Humana for nearly three years, joined Verizon Wireless as a director of product management for mobile health. Kling led mobile health initiatives at Humana and her purview at Verizon Wireless is similarly far-reaching. Kling is responsible for leading product management staff in developing, piloting and launching Verizon Wireless’ mHealth services. She’s also responsible for partnerships with other vendors and ensuring legal (HIPAA) and regulatory (FDA) requirements for Verizon Wireless’ mHealth services are met. A high profile mobile health lead at a major health plan joining a top tier mobile operator to lead health initiatives is a clear sign of the times.

Another notable hire: Paulo Machado, former Innovation Officer at AstraZeneca, who has been a seemingly permanent and ubiquitous fixture on the digital health conference circuit for the past four years as a digital health consultant, has landed at a new startup called United Preference as chief commercialization officer. United Preference was one of the startups that presented at Morgenthaler Venture’s DCtoVC event last week in San Francisco. The organizer of that event, Morgenthaler entrepreneur in resident Missy Krasner, explained United Preference like so: “They offer flexible payment architectures on an easy-to-administer card platform for the delivery of employee and health plan incentives that help drive healthy behavior.” The startup, which went through the Healthbox incubator program in Chicago, already has a Fortune 500 company client and a Blue Cross Blue Shield from the east coast as clients.

One of the demos attracting press coverage from Wired Magazine’s health event this week has been Dr. Alan Greene’s demo of a prototype device from Scanadu. Greene, who has served in many notable roles over the years including as the founding president of The Society for Participatory Medicine, left HealthTap, where he was medical director and physician lead for the past two years, to join the Tricorder company Scanadu as chief medical director.

Mobile operators hiring health plan talent. Longtime consultants settle down into startup life. High profile physicians helping to build the Tricorder. Interesting times for the increasingly competitive digital health job market.

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AT&T 4G to power Embedded Wireless mPERS, home monitoring

By: Neil Versel | Oct 18, 2012        

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01Embedded Wireless Labs, a Dallas-based maker of a remote patient monitoring platform and a new mobile personal emergency response system (mPERS), has signed an exclusive deal with AT&T to add 4G LTE connectivity to its products.

AT&T will provide the ultrafast mobile data service for continuous monitoring of the elderly, people with chronic diseases and others recently discharged from hospital care, regardless of whether patients are at home or out and about. “We’re teaming up with Embedded Wireless to make in-home remote patient monitoring simpler and more effective for healthcare organizations to deploy and scale,” Chris Penrose, senior vice president of AT&T Emerging Devices, says in a press release.

Specifically, the Zilant Wellness Platform, already available in a 3G version, is centered around a base station that takes readings from Bluetooth and ZigBee home medical devices and uploads data over the wireless Internet connection to a server that authorized caregivers can access. The new offering, which Embedded Wireless promises to launch at an unspecified time before the end of the year, adds 4G LTE connectivity as well as support for an mPERS pendant.

The pendant passively monitors the wearer’s activity and location and detects falls, calling for help automatically or manually in case of emergency. At home, the mPERS device communicates with the Zilant base station by Wi-Fi, and switches to the 4G LTE network when the wearer goes out.

“With Zilant Wellness Platform technology and solutions built around it, Embedded Wireless aims to enable high-quality and low-cost remote patient monitoring and eldercare services across the US and globally,” Embedded Wireless CEO Dr. Rama Shukla says. “Patients and their loved ones will enjoy peace of mind and a sense of security knowing their activity and biometric data allows quick response to any adverse event.”

AT&T says it can have the systems up and running within a few hours of a patient being discharged from the hospital.

AirStrip scores reported $10M investment from UK’s Wellcome Trust

By: Neil Versel | Oct 18, 2012        

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AirstripRPMAirStrip Technologies, maker of mobile patient monitoring software, has landed a substantial investment from British charitable foundation Wellcome Trust, which supports commercialization of breakthroughs in biomedial research. The San Antonio-based company will use the funding to realize previously announced plans to help physician users extract data from electronic health records.

Per company policy, AirStrip is not disclosing the terms of the deal, but Dow Jones VentureWire pegs the amount at upwards of $10 million.

“We greatly appreciate this show of support from Wellcome Trust, which recognizes both the current impact and future promise of the AirStrip platform, particularly as AirStrip aggressively advances its plans to expand globally,” AirStrip CEO Alan Portela says in a press release.

AirStrip is developing Apple iOS and Android mobile apps to offer users access to live readings from medical devices as well as patient data from EHRs, another step in the rapidly accelerating movement to integrate mobile technology in physician workflow. Portela tells Dow Jones that this will be the first native smartphone or tablet app able to pull in data from another vendor’s EHR.

AirStrip acquired the technology in June from San Diego healthcare system Palomar Health.

100Plus app to highlight how small health behavior changes tweak life expectancy

By: Brian Dolan | Oct 16, 2012        

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100PlusAt the Health 2.0 event in San Francisco last week, 100Plus, the first startup to leverage Practice Fusion’s data set demo’d a number of concepts from its upcoming app, which aims to help people get interested in the “small things” they can do to live a healthier life.

100Plus co-founder Chris Hogg told Health 2.0 attendees that his startup was not interested in activity at the gym but rather in alerting people to health opportunities or “hops” like walking hills with views in your neighborhood and “healthifying” your commute by taking stairs instead of the escalator. Hogg said that these small things have become very undervalued and people have been trained to think that the only way to be healthy is to go for a run or head to the gym.

Perhaps the most interesting concept embedded in 100Plus’ forthcoming signature app is its Lifescore, which gives users a sense of how these small actions can affect their longterm health by adding small increments of additional time to their life expectancy, which starts at 78.1 years for everyone since that is the general life expectancy, according to Hogg.

“As we learn about you the Lifescore changes,” Hogg said. “Because I’m a man my score actually automatically goes down because women live longer than men on average… because I live in San Francisco it goes up because people here live longer on average.” Age, height, and weight can affect the Lifescore based on a comparison between a user and the average BMI of people like them. Hogg said the data is all based on CDC data sets available from the federal government as well as structured clinical data from its parent company PracticeFusion.

Users of the 100Plus app will be able to see how these small actions — these hops — might change their Lifescore if they did them on a regular basis. The app also shares a hop that one user creates with others and 100Plus users can see how their hops have inspired others to lead healthier lives. Currently each hop requires the user to snap a photo of the activity, which — given the requisite image and crowd sourcing strategy is reminiscent of Massive Health’s The Eatery app.

For more: 100Plus has a promo video that explains some of the concepts featured in its forthcoming app and that can be viewed over at Vimeo here.

NY state accelerator commits $4.2M, enlists major providers as mentors

By: Neil Versel | Oct 16, 2012        

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Nirav Shah NYeCThe latest in a growing line of accelerators for small digital health companies is distinct from many of the others in that it is backed in part by public money and the mentors are provider organizations seeking technological help in delivering better, more efficient care. It also claims to be the best-funded health IT accelerator in the nation, with an initial commitment of $4.2 million.

The New York Digital Health Accelerator, which announced its inaugural class of eight companies Monday, is backed by the New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC), a not-for-profit funded with federal and state grants to promote health IT in New York state, as well as by the Statewide Health Information Network of New York (SHIN-NY) and the Partnership for New York City Fund, a private group promoting local economic development.

Funding for the eight companies comes from investors including Aetna, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Healthcare Innovation, Milestone Venture Partners, New Leaf Venture Partners, the Partnership for New York City Fund, Quaker Partners, Safeguard Scientifics and UnitedHealth Group. Other public and private groups are providing operating capital for the New York Digital Health Accelerator.

“The accelerator provides much-needed, valuable tools for providers in support of New York State’s Medicaid Redesign initiative,” New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav R. Shah says in a statement.  “The initiative, which promotes a shift from the costly fee-for-service model to a more effective and efficient managed care approach, is resulting in better care — at lower cost — for patients across the continuum of care. The accelerator is an essential first step to stimulate the market and nurture innovation within the entrepreneurial community,” Shah adds.

These companies will be the first software vendors to gain direct access to the SHIN-NY platform, according to said David Whitlinger, executive director of the NYeC. Each will receive $300,000 and mentoring from executives at 22 providers across the state, including the New York City Health and Hospitals Corp., New York-Presbyterian Hospital, North Shore LIJ Health System, Catholic Health System, Adirondack Health Institute and Stony Brook University Medical Center.

In exchange, the companies have agreed to open offices in New York State. Accelerator officials believe the initial $4.2 million investment will create 1,500 jobs over the next five years and say the eight companies could attract as much as $200 million in additional venture capital as they grow.

Here is information about the companies, from the press release: Keep reading>>

Elderly still not using apps for health, but tomorrow’s seniors might

By: Neil Versel | Oct 16, 2012        

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Neil_Versel_LargeAs baby boomers age, many are taking greater control over their own healthcare than any generation before them, and mobile technology is be a big part of that movement. But today’s elderly might not be interested in gadgets and apps.

“Seniors aren’t using apps for health,” healthcare technology consultant and futurist Mary Cain, managing director of San Francisco-based HT3, said at last week’s Health 2.0 Conference in that same city. In fact, that’s pretty much how Cain led off a session she moderated on digital tools for healthy aging, in case any of the many startup companies and venture capitalists in attendance had any wrong ideas.

Calling someone “senior” or “elderly” is tricky business in the context of healthcare, and those terms do not mean what they did a generation or two ago. Average life expectancy at birth in the U.S. hit 78.5 years in 2009, up from 76.8 in 2000 and 73.7 in 1980. Turning 65 makes you eligible for Medicare, but it sure doesn’t make you elderly in today’s America. There’s a big difference between being 65 and being 85.

While I admittedly don’t talk to as many poor, uneducated people as I perhaps should in this line of work, just about every 60-something I know now has a smartphone and is just as willing to download apps and send text messages as younger adults. But that’s not so much the case with those over the age of 80. That might change as the boomer generation hits their 70s and 80s in the middle of next decade, but I can’t imagine my 93-year-old grandmother ever having a smartphone.

(You may remember that I was looking for home monitoring technology for her earlier this year, but my family determined that even the most basic touch-screen tablet would be too confusing for her. We were leaning toward a “passive” wearable monitor that would automatically summon help in case of a fall, but we eventually moved her into an apartment building where all residents are issued “active” monitoring pendants that require the wearer to push a button – not exactly practical when the person is unconscious or disoriented. Old, tired technology that somehow is considered acceptable, just like so many other aspects of healthcare. But I digress.)

Sure, there are some companies selling gadgets for aging in place that have made apps, but that’s not their primary line of business and the apps aren’t for the seniors themselves, but rather for clinicians and caregivers.

Laura Mitchell, VP of business development for GrandCare Systems, maker of communication and monitoring systems for independent living since 2006, said that the West Bend, Wis.-based company has no immediate plans to create an Android, iOS or Amazon Kindle version of its software. GrandCare’s technology for delivering news feeds and communications from clinicians, family and friends and for collecting “observations of daily living” and vital signs from patients is proprietary code written in Linux, and that works just fine for now, Mitchell said.

I just hope there is interoperability with electronic health records at some point because the last thing healthcare needs is more data silos. But the EHR vendors need to get serious about breaking down the silos, too. I think they are heading in the right direction, though we might not be there until Stage 3 of “meaningful use,” which will not begin before 2016.

I’ve now been to four of the six annual Health 2.0 events since Matthew Holt and Dr. Indu Subaiya launched the movement in 2007. Each time, I’ve seen a little bit of the breathless hype fade away and a little more realism set in. It’s no longer a novelty for older Americans to have mobile phones, but marketing smartphone apps to them isn’t like selling games to younger people.

The time for apps will come. Just don’t count on the World War II generation being your best customers.