Jawbone temporarily halts making UP, offers refunds

By: Chris Gullo | Dec 9, 2011        

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JawboneUPIn response to criticism, Bluetooth headset maker Jawbone announced this week that it has temporarily ceased production of its Jawbone UP continuously-worn wristband sensor and created a full refund program for current owners. Purchasers of the $99.99 UP device can receive a $109.43 cash refund or $150 in Jawbone store credit through a dedicated website, while still being able to keep their current UP device.

The news was announced via a press release by Jawbone CEO Hosain Rahman: “We recognize that this product has not yet lived up to everyone’s expectations – including our own – so we’re taking action,” he stated.

Jawbone UP launched on November 6 and was sold at national retailers including Target, Apple Stores, and Best Buy. The UP band’s sensors track steps walked, pace, calories burned, and active versus inactive time. Its sleep sensor tracks phases of sleep, hours slept, and overall sleep quality. The device plugs into a user’s iPhone to upload data into its companion app.

Upon its release, some users found issues with the wristband not holding a charge and syncing failure with the device’s buggy mobile app.

One blogger, Garrett Murray, summed up dissatisfied user’s reviews of the device, writing that “Don’t buy this piece of ****. It doesn’t work, it will fail, and the software is terrible.”

Rahman stated that charging issues came down to issues with specific capacitors in the wristband failing and that the “glitches” did not present a safety risk. He also noted that the company was listening to user feedback on the UP’s iOS app, which received criticism for its user interface and numerous bugs, and will release software updates for the app.

“We regret any disappointment we’ve created for our community of users and appreciate the trust you’ve put in us,” Rahman stated. “Our customers have always been part of our team and we’re incredibly grateful for that.”

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Read the full text of Rahmnan’s letter after the jump.

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Why the Qualcomm Life 2net launch matters

By: Brian Dolan | Dec 8, 2011        

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2netHubQualcomm has been developing its wireless health strategy for the past decade –grooming health startups along the way, supporting a number of major mobile health events, co-founding various wireless health industry associations, and lobbying policymakers on the pertinent issues. That makes its announcement this week all the more important. It also means the industry should take note of its timing. Why now? Because, after a decade of planning, Qualcomm apparently thinks that the time is right.

This week it launched a major initiative: Qualcomm Life, a new, wholly-owned subsidiary of the company, focused on wireless health. Its first product: 2net.

“2net is a cloud-based end-to-end connectivity platform that enables us to get the data to a place where it can be accessible to application developers, service providers, and other device manufacturers,” Qualcomm Life’s Vice President and General Manager Rick Valencia told MobiHealthNews in a recent interview.

“This is an enabling platform,” Qualcomm’s Vice President of wireless health, global strategy and market development Don Jones told MobiHealthNews. “It’s a b-to-b play from Qualcomm and the implication down the road here is not only making it easy to connect things to the Internet for a single device but also to make it easy for any one patient to have multiple devices simultaneously connected, simultaneously sending information, to a backend system that provides software interfaces that enable patients to self-manage and share information about their health conditions.” It’s also designed to meet HIPAA security requirements and is ISO 13485 certified.

Few companies have been as instrumental in guiding the development of the budding mobile health industry as Qualcomm, which is why its move to create a new wholly-owned subsidiary focused exclusively on wireless health this week was the biggest news to come out of the mHealth Summit.

Along with the 2net platform, Qualcomm Life is offering up four ways to connect health devices and medical information to the new platform. Qualcomm describes these as the four “gateways” to connecting to their platform: through a Class I FDA-listed, standalone gateway called the 2net Hub; an embedded cellular connectivity component; medical data sent from mobile phones; and an API that enables service integration between the 2net platform and a service provider’s own platform.

The 2net Hub is designed to be very easy to use. For one, it’s a nightlight, which is reminiscent of the gateway used by Vitality for its GlowCap medication adherence offering. When the 2net hub device is plugged in and it connects to the patient’s health device, a light turns on to indicate the connection. Qualcomm said it plans to work with device manufacturers to ship the hub with the device so that the two (or more) devices are pre-paired.

Qualcomm said that the 2net hub is the best gateway for health devices that require episodic downloading of information instead of continuous or near-real-time data transmissions. Embedding cellular makes sense for devices that require more frequent data transmissions and for data that needs to be acted upon quickly — typically critical care applications.

During the past year it seems that a new connected health device or platform has launched each week. Take your pick of wireless connectivity options — Bluetooth, WiFi, ANT+, 3G — and you can find at least one personal health device for managing each of the major chronic conditions that leverages it.

“The hub enables us to wirelessly enable existing devices that are in the market today without requiring manufacturers to go back through a development cycle or back through an FDA clearance process,” Valencia said. Some medical device companies with Bluetooth-enabled devices in the market have many patient users that have never leveraged their device’s connectivity because they don’t have WiFi or other means of connectivity at home. “This hub can connect those devices,” Valencia said.

Some of the 40 companies that have already signed on as partners for Qualcomm Life include: A&D Medical, Advanced Warning Systems, AirStrip Technologies, Asthmapolis, AT&T, BiancaMed, BodyMedia, Emergency Medical Services Corporation, Entra Health Systems, Ingram Micro, MidMark Corporation, Hello Health, Nonin Medical, Numera, ResMed, U.S. Preventive Medicine and Venture Corporation.

The Qualcomm Life 2net platform is currently available in the US, but the company plans to offer it in Europe sometime next year.

Qualcomm also launched a new $100 million fund carved out of Qualcomm Ventures and specifically set aside for wireless health investments. Five previous investments will be moved into the new fund, including Sotera Wireless, Telcare, AliveCor, Cambridge Temperature Concepts and WorkSmart Labs. That group already includes a wide variety of startups working in and around fitness, remote patient monitoring, chronic condition management, fertility issues, and more.

MobiHealthNews’ coverage of the mHealth Summit is sponsored by Preventice.

Investor: Payor plans to acquire 30 health startups

By: Brian Dolan | Dec 8, 2011        

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Aetna iPhone app“Most [acquisitions] in healthcare get done between $100 million and $200 million,” Radius Ventures Partner Dan Lubin told attendees at the mHealth Summit during a panel session this past week. “Most deals are under $100 million — that is the exit… I think we can build companies, make them really attractive, and sell them to strategics for $100 million. I think that’s a four to [six year] time frame. If we want to build billion dollar companies — and healthcare has billion dollar companies [usually biotech and sometimes medtech] — well, that’s going to take longer. It all depends on how much money you plow in and how long you are willing to wait.”

While Lubin allowed for the possibility of billion dollar valuations in the future, he said that he does not expect to see a company in mobile or wireless health worth $20 billion or $25 billion.

“I agree,” Dr Mohit Kaushal, the co-manager of the West Health Investment Fund, said. “It’s hard to see something at that value just based on proxies.”

Kaushal, who was formerly part of the team at the FCC that drafted the healthcare chapter of the National Broadband Plan, said that he is a deep believer in market opportunities emerging following a change in regulations or policy. Kaushal said the FCC’s Telecom Act in 1996 created “billions of dollars in value” after it passed.

“I think in healthcare we are at a similar inflection point,” Kaushal said. Then he dropped a bomb: “An unnamed payer, I heard, has got 30 companies in the pipeline that they want to acquire. So, I think in the next five to six years there will be a lot of interesting new companies that emerge from… these exits.”

MobiHealthNews’ coverage of the mHealth Summit is brought to you by Preventice.

HIMSS: Most hospitals still developing mobile policies

By: Neil Versel | Dec 8, 2011        

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CentricityHow ubiquitous is mobility in healthcare? In a new survey from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), just five of the 164 mostly hospital-based respondents said that no group of professionals in their organizations used mobile devices to access information necessary for their everyday activities. And just one was an organization with no plans to offer mobile access to IT systems.

Some hospitals are farther along than others, though.

The first-ever mHIMSS Mobile Technology Survey, released Monday at the mHealth Summit in National Harbor, Md., revealed that 38 percent of healthcare organizations had a formal strategy or policy regarding the use of mobile devices. But another 51 percent said they were developing a policy, according to the new mHIMSS, a subgroup of HIMSS that officially launched Monday. MobiHealthNews reported about mHIMSS two weeks ago.

Like so many others in healthcare, HIMSS VP Pat Wise has been hearing for a long time that mobile technology is disruptive. “We wanted to see how disruptive,” she tells MobiHealthNews.

Among those with policies, 90 percent said the policies covered smartphones, 87 percent laptops and 82 percent all cell phones. About 70 percent addressed tablets, and computers on wheels, while 63 percent had a policy for pager use.

Of particular note, four in five survey participants—predominantly IT directors and CIOs—said that many clinicians were interested in mobile technology. “This survey validates observations that clinicians are embracing mobile technology,” Wise says. “I see that all the time,” adds Wise, a registered nurse who often leads HIMSS site visits to Davies Award candidates. Keep reading>>

Mobile point-of-care spending to hit $4.4B by 2015

By: Neil Versel | Dec 8, 2011        

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israel ipadHealthcare providers in the U.S. will spend more than $4.4 billion on mobile point-of-care technology in 2015, up from almost $2.8 billion in 2010, representing an annual growth rate of 9.9 percent, according to a new forecast from Intel and research firm IDC Health Insights. The market will expand slightly more rapidly in other Western countries. Counting North America and Europe, spending will increase by 10.5 percent a year, from $4.4 billion last year to $7.2 billion in 2015, including hardware, software and IT services.

By 2015, clinical mobility should represent about 10 percent of the worldwide health IT market. Much of the spending will be on software and back-end support, not just gadgets. “Pervasive computing” is putting more demands on IT staff and infrastructure in, particularly in the areas of connectivity, performance, usability, manageability and security, according to Scott Lundstrom, group vice president of IDC Health Insights.

“A  lot more time, a lot more money and a lot more energy goes into the back end than a lot of people think,” Lundstrom said at this week’s mHealth Summit. Intel and IDC took advantage of the gathering to release a white paper on what they call the “second wave” of clinical mobility.

“For 30 years, we’ve been talking about this market being right around the corner, and here it is,” Lundstrom quipped. Keep reading>>

US Surgeon General pitches nationwide radio dance minutes

By: Chris Gullo | Dec 7, 2011        

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rmbenjamin“We need to make healthcare more positive,” US Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin told the audience at the mHealth Summit this week. Benjamin’s keynote focused on her enthusiasm for mHealth as a key tool in preventive care. She also announced a new developer challenge sponsored by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS): The Surgeon General’s Health Apps Challenge.

Benjamin told the audience that some members of her family were not able to attend her appointment to her current position by President Obama because they had passed away because of complications from preventable diseases.

“My family couldn’t be there because of preventable diseases,” Benjamin said. “I don’t want anyone else to suffer the loss of a loved one from something that can be prevented… If we truly want to reform healthcare in this country, we need to prevent people from getting sick in the first place,” she said. “We need a new approach to promoting prevention in our communities.”

Benjamin said she wanted to launch the new app challenge because she recognizes that “prevention needs to be profitable.” Apps that have already been developed can be entered as well as those made specifically for the competition, but the deadline for the competition is near: December 30. Winners will be announced in late January. Keep reading>>