13M wearables to be used in corporate wellness plans by 2018

By: Aditi Pai | Sep 26, 2013        

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Fitbit Zip Fitbit One

Wearable activity tracker Fitbit

Over the next five years, 13 million wearable devices embedded with wireless connectivity will be integrated into wellness plans offered by businesses, according to ABI research’s new report. In 2013, principal analyst Jonathan Collins said less than 200,000 wearable devices have been integrated into wellness plans.

The report factors in the social and economic drivers supporting the integration of wearable wireless device adoption, such as the point at which people start taking more responsibility in healthcare, Collins told MobiHealthNews.

“There’s certainly wider impetus to have patients not just see healthcare as a doctor but also as their daily life,” Collins said. “These devices are monitoring daily activity, social aspects around sharing that data or pulling that data across health groups.”

The report accounted for white label devices as well as direct to consumer devices like those made by FitBit, BodyMedia, and FitLinxx.

“While some device vendors are hoping that strong consumer awareness will drive corporate wellness adoption for their products, they also need to understand and focus on the most influential parts of the healthcare value chain,” Collins said.

Over the past few months, there have been quite a few announcements about wearable integration with and other updates regarding employee wellness plans. Earlier this month, Virgin HealthMiles, a gamified employee wellness program, announced that, starting in October, it will let employees invite up to three family members to use the program for free. Between adding family members and drawing in new members because of the perk, Virgin HealthMiles said the company expects its user base to see a big boost in the next year. A few weeks after this announcement, Virgin HealthMiles added Fitbit integration to its online employee health offering. The company also plans to launch its own new device at CES.

In June, three other employee wellness announcements were made. First, Jiff, best known for its JiffPad patient education platform, announced a partnership with Towers Watson and a pivot from provider-focused patient engagement to business-to-business employee wellness curation, with a service called Health Outcomes Marketplace. A week later, Mayo Clinic announced last week a new online platform called Mayo Clinic Healthy Living that will leverage mobile health tools to provide preventative care to employees of Mayo’s B2B employer clients. The company plans to launch the product in October. At the end of the month, corporate wellness platform Keas raised $8 million and also partnered with Fitbit.


Medivo acquires OnTrack, its second app buy

By: Jonah Comstock | Sep 26, 2013        

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OnTrack Diabetes

OnTrack Diabetes

Medivo, a healthcare IT company based in New York City, has acquired OnTrack Diabetes, an Android-only diabetes management app, for an undisclosed amount. This is the second disease management app acquisition for the company, which bought WellApps last year.

OnTrack helps users track blood glucose, food intake, medication, blood pressure (BP), pulse, exercise and weight. It also produces charts, graphs and reports the user can share with a physician. Medivo will use the app to coordinate patient care in a clinical setting and offer it as a tool that physicians can recommend to their patients. According to Medivo, OnTrack has been downloaded 500,000 from the Play Store.

“We are extremely excited about adding the powerful OnTrack Diabetes app as a resource for patients to monitor their symptoms and to create reports that can be shared with their physician,” Sundeep Bhan, Chief Executive Officer and a Co-Founder of Medivo, said in a statement. “This acquisition also fits with our growth strategy, enhances our consumer app portfolio and furthers our plans to develop new patient and physician engagement services.”

Medivo’s business model is built on giving patients easier access to their lab results and giving physicians access to an aggregated dashboard of patient labs and other data, as well as giving patients tools to monitor chronic conditions. The company raised $15 million in June, bringing its total funding to $22 million.

In March 2012, Medivo acquired WellApps, makers of a similar app, GI Monitor, that helps people to monitor and track Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. In that case, the app was rebranded and integrated into the Medivo Monitor platform for patients and the Medivo PatientPath platform for physicians.

Similarly, Azumio acquired SkyHealth, makers of Glucose Buddy, in July of 2012. In both cases, it’s likely that a significant user base was a large part of the value of the acquired app.

Sharecare has raised $91M total for patient engagement

By: Aditi Pai | Sep 26, 2013        

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Screenshot of Sharecare’s website

Atlanta-based online health advice portal Sharecare raised an undisclosed sum from Nashville-based investment firm Heritage Group, bringing its total funding to $91 million. Up until this week, the company’s only disclosed funding was the $14 million the company raised last year.

Sharecare will use the funding to support patient engagement between health systems, payers and employers and patient populations.

Launched by WebMD Founder Jef Arnold, Sharecare is an online portal that connects healthcare professionals and patients. It offers a question and answer service for patients to connect with experts and health systems, a portal to connect with other patients dealing with health issues and a 16-week program to help users get fit. Sharecare also has a “RealAge Test” for users to find the true age of their body.

“Sharecare is helping bridge the gap between the US health care system’s fee-for-service structure, and the rapidly evolving focus on accountable care and population health management,” Heritage Group Managing Director Rock Morphis said in a press release. “We are impressed by Sharecare’s unique approach, track record and proven ability to meaningfully engage the consumer, and see great growth potential for the company.”

A high profile company, Arnold created the company in collaboration with television personality and physician Dr. Mehmet Oz, in partnership with Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios, Remark Media, Sony Pictures Television, and Discovery Communications.

Last year, Sharecare acquired physician directory app Little Blue Book and raised $14 million from Galen Partners and TomorrowVentures. At the time, the website’s main offering was the question and answer feature on the website although the company planned to add a video conferencing feature. The option to have a consultation with a doctor has not been added yet.

Heritage Group has previously invested in remote monitoring startup Vivify Health and real-time location systems provider Awarepoint.

A similar company, HealthTap, which also has a question and answer platform for physicians and patients to use, raised $25 million from Khosla Ventures in May bringing its total announced funding to $37.9 million. At the time, HealthTap counted more than 38,000 physicians as part of its network — marking a near quadrupling over the past year, the company said.

Infographic: 205 Hospital-branded apps for patients

By: admin | Sep 26, 2013        

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Get your copy of MobiHealthNews report: 205 Hospital-brands Apps for Patients today!

Reimbursement for home monitoring gradually expands

By: Neil Versel | Sep 26, 2013        

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Neil_Versel_LargeBarriers to reimbursement for telehealth services are falling, slowly.

One of the most recent victories came in Massachusetts, where lawmakers this summer approved a general appropriations bill that included Medicaid reimbursement for remote monitoring services in patient homes. This action, passed over a veto by Gov. Deval Patrick, makes Massachusetts the 12th state to approve Medicaid payments for home monitoring, according to the American Telemedicine Association.

The ATA reports that 19 states have mandated private insurance coverage for traditional, clinician-to-clinician telemedicine services, but reimbursement for home monitoring when a healthcare professional is not always present has been much harder to come by.

In fact, the Massachusetts legislation has a bit of a catch: it applies only to home health agencies, not hospitals or physician practices, which is why the Massachusetts Medical Association declined to comment. The Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts, however, was ecstatic.

“This is a huge deal for us,” James Fuccione, director of legislative and public affairs with Home Care Alliance, representing home care agencies in the Bay State, told MobiHealthNews. “It’s been one of our main priorities, getting MassHealth reimbursement for telehealth.”

MassHealth encompasses the federally funded but state-administered Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in Massachusetts.

“This isn’t just the future,” Fuccione continued. “Telehealth is happening, and it has been for a while.”

Medicaid, of course, covers some of the sickest, most vulnerable populations in every state, and the Massachusetts appropriations bill made clear that lawmakers there see coverage for remote patient monitoring as a way to save money by investing in better care. “[F]or purposes of long-term health care cost savings and enhanced patient care, the commonwealth shall recognize telehealth remote patient monitoring provided by home health agencies as a service to clients otherwise reimbursable through Medicaid,” the legislation said.

The idea, according to Fuccione, is to keep people out of the hospital and to prevent post-discharge readmissions by having home health agencies intervene at the first sign of a problem. “It’s about [providing] the best care at the appropriate time,” Fuccione said.

A lot of work remains to be done, though. MassCare needs to set reimbursement rates for home telehealth and establish a payment infrastructure before Medicaid providers can start billing.

And then there’s the little issue of the 38 other states that don’t pay for home monitoring through their own Medicaid programs. Some – perhaps most of them – will claim poverty as they often do when it comes to covering new services, but I have a feeling the efficiency and safety benefits of remote patient monitoring are starting to become more apparent to all but the staunchest defenders of the status quo.

A decade and a half ago, health IT advocates worked state-by-state to get e-prescribing legalized nationwide, as it is today. It looks like a similar movement for home monitoring is picking up steam.

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