@WLSA: PepsiCo tests the wireless health waters

By: admin | May 24, 2012        

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Photo Credit: Paul Savage Photography

Photo Credit: Paul Savage Photography

By Padma Nagappan

Venture capitalists have begun to see interest in leveraging wireless healthcare technology from different quarters, including Starbucks, Procter & Gamble, retailers and even PepsiCo.

Explaining why PepsiCo was participating at the WLSA Convergence Summit in San Diego this Wednesday, Physic Ventures partner Andy Donner said the company wants to drive growth through innovation, and wireless technology would play a role in advancing its reach to highly empowered consumers who make informed decisions when choosing snack foods and beverages.

Margaret Dohnalek, Global Head of Technology Scouting, PepsiCo Corporate R&D/Long Term Research, plays a role specifically created for her, in order to explore and identify innovative technologies and build new technology platforms that will form the basis for innovation with existing Pepsi products.

“We’re now a full member of WLSA and we’re participating, because it’s a way for us to get visibility, for when PepsiCo is ready to engage,” Dohnalek said, specifying that the company was still exploring technology options and not yet ready to deploy them.

She trotted out Pepsi’s by now well-known slogan coined by CEO Indra Nooyi — “performance with purpose” — which means focusing on providing people with choices that are fun, healthier and good for them; aiming for meaningful innovation; launching products that deliver value and supporting the planet.

“The reason PepsiCo is here and its appropriate for many of you to engage with us, is that we believe our business is not our products but our consumers. The consumer is our business,” Dohnalek said. “And we are looking at consumer-focused innovation.”

Consumers are becoming better informed and knowledgeable about their health and eating choices, and satisfying the consumer will lead to business growth, she said. To this end, PepsiCo has identified several mega-trends over three years of research, which it believes will drive innovation: Keep reading>>

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@WLSA: Misfit Wearables expects unfashionable devices

By: admin | May 24, 2012        

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Sonny Vu, Misfit Wearables

Photo Credit: Paul Savage Photography

By Padma Nagappan

Misfit Wearables, the wearable computing start-up with $7.6 million in funding, founded by Sonny Vu and Sridhar Iyengar, co-founders of AgaMatrix, and former Apple CEO John Sculley, has kept mum on what it’s developing. During his presentation at the WLSA Convergence Summit in San Diego this week, Vu didn’t reveal any secrets, but rather focused on the future of wearables and how the next generation of wearables might look.

“We had the PC revolution in the 80s, something my co-founder John Sculley was a part of. Then we had laptops, smart phones, tablets – now its wearable computing,” Vu said.

Vu noted recent progress in fitness technology, too, by pointing to companies like BodyMedia that have pioneered straps, armbands, watches and other products that measure vitals: “You have some sleep related products that are really cool. You have patches from Duofertility, Dexcom, Metria, Corventis and Proteus,” he said. “There are shoe worn products like the Nike+, internet connected weighing scales and wireless blood pressure monitors.”

Vu said that “Wearables 1.0″ compete with fashion, require users to to remember to wear them, and have no function outside of sensing.

“If wearable technology is going to get proliferated, one of the directions it will head in [will be to] get less fashionable,” Vu said. “Someone tweeted me asking if we’ll go with fashions and I said ‘Absolutely not, because then some day we won’t be fashionable.’ So with ‘Wearables 2.0′ we’re going against fashion. Second, you have to wear it without thinking about needing to wear it. Third, it has to have other functionality. And as a bonus, it may even get reimbursed.”

A while ago someone asked Vu when wearable technology would become socially acceptable, and he replied that it first has to cross the hurdle of not making someone feel like Iron Man or a Tron.

Wearables hold great promise for medicine, Vu said, starting with big data generation — the challenge and advantage of having highly wearable products is that they will generate boatloads of information, without using a lot of labor. However, we will need to learn to mine it.

Vu predicted that wearables will be easy to use and reimbursed business models will come about. There will also be a broader research community surrounding these devices, not just hackers and fashion designers, but the medical research community and others, he predicted, while fending off questions about what Misfit is developing specifically.

Vu characterized a successful wearable device as one that someone would return back home to pick up if they forgot to take it with them and were already halfway to work.

@WLSA: Time to secure reimbursement is not a bottleneck, CMS says

By: admin | May 24, 2012        

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CMS

Photo Credit: Paul Savage Photography

By Padma Nagappan

David Sayen, regional administrator for the western states with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, recalled meeting Rob McCray, president and CEO of WLSA back in 2006 when the iPhone was not even out yet: “Rob talked about wireless technology and I wondered ‘what’s this guy talking about?'” Sayen recalled during his keynote address at the start of the WLSA Convergence Summit in San Diego this week.

Things have evolved quite a bit since then, Sayen said, to the point where he thinks the ‘C’ in CMS could represent “convergence”, more than anything else.

Sayen said he is beginning to see pioneers embrace all sorts of wireless technologies that will lead them to the savings they seek. While he does not see CMS investing in mobile technologies, since it’s for the providers to choose, he said CMS will drive the business so it delivers the right services to the consumers.

Asked about the delay in reimbursement and coverage, he said he doesn’t think the time it takes to get coverage for a device is a bottleneck.

“Maybe we can expedite it but we’re also the gatekeepers and need to ensure that only the essential technologies get coverage.” Keep reading>>

Mobile is improving care even if many hospitals aren’t

By: Neil Versel | May 24, 2012        

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Neil_Versel_LargeI’m getting a sense that a lot of people in health IT in general and mobile health in particular are losing sight of the big picture. This isn’t about making a quick buck, exploiting the prevailing inefficient fee-for-service environment or impressing young, healthy people with flashy apps. It’s about saving lives, preventing harmful errors and building a smarter, safer health system. Do the right thing and the money will be there.

That’s the message I got from Kaiser Permanente President and CEO George Halvorson earlier this month at the World of Health IT conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. “If something makes care better, then you use it and you don’t look at the cost,” Halvorson told me in an interview at the official residence of the U.S. ambassador to Denmark, Laurie Fulton.

He then cited the late management guru W. Edwards Deming. “Deming basically said you don’t focus on costs, you focus on the most elegant process and nine out of 10 times, the most elegant process will cost less,” Halvorson said.

Lest you think I was living it up in Europe while all of you were toiling away at your regular jobs, I had to cut my trip short—scrapping a planned week of vacation in Italy—and fly to Washington on very short notice because my father was dying from a rare, insidious, little-understood, degenerative neurological disease called multiple system atrophy, or MSA.

He passed away peacefully and without pain at Georgetown University Hospital on May 11, just a day after I arrived from Denmark. The people and care at Georgetown were great, but they could not in my dad’s final four days make up for the terrible experience my dad had for 3½ weeks at a community hospital plagued by broken processes, inadequate communication and neglect for what is really important: care quality.

As sad as it has been to lose my father to such an evil disease at the relatively young age of 68 and to know that he was suffering at hospital that apparently cared more about generating revenue and protecting its reputation, I was heartened to find that some people really do want to build safer healthcare environments. The compassionate, well-coordinated care my dad received at Georgetown was one example, but I’m supposed to be talking about mobile health in this forum. I’m happy to report that some in m-health are ready right now to effect systemic change for the better.

On Tuesday, just hours before I returned home from my 18-day odyssey, I covered a forum at the Brookings Institute that examined how mobile technology influences health innovation. The discussion provided hope that some people do have their eyes on the right prize.

“If you have access to information, you can save a life. You can make better decisions,” Dr. Antonio Marttos Jr., director of teletrauma at the University of Miami’s William Lehman Injury Research Center, said during the event, which was webcast live. Mobile devices are sparking a “cultural change,” Marttos added, something physicians are slowly starting to understand.

But the transformation is not happening fast enough for a lot of people. According to epidemiologist Alain Labrique, director of the Johns Hopkins University Global mHealth Initiative in Baltimore, the “pilotitis” that plagues adoption of new technologies needs to disappear. Instead, he said people need to think about how to “mainstream m-health into health systems. How do we integrate these technologies to enhance the way we deliver public health on a global scale? How do we make these technologies help us do things better?”

Sure, nobody wants to act irrationally and implement something that will only exacerbate problems, but too many administrators seem to be making excuses not to take action. HIPAA often is the culprit, and not necessarily for the right reasons. “HIPAA risks seem more important to some than whether technology works,” suggested Darrell West, vice president and director of governance studies at Brookings.

That may be because doctors and those who run hospitals don’t want to cede control of important health care decisions to patients. Julie Kling, mobile executive business lead for health insurer Humana, noted that mobile apps can lower the cost of getting health information to consumers and help people manage their own health. That can lead to better care and, as an extra benefit, save money, which is why Humana is not dragging its feet while academics study the efficacy of innovations that one does not need a medical degree to use.

“We’re not waiting for that analysis to make these tools available for our members,” Kling said.

The status quo is deeply entrenched in our badly broken healthcare industry, and people like my dad suffer needlessly every day because of it. Improvement cannot and should not have to wait. Better ideas are out there, and many of them are as close as your mobile phone.

“The fact is, most folks are never more than 4 feet away from their phones, and that includes [when they are in] the bathroom,” noted Morgan Reed, executive director of the Association for Competitive Technology and a member of the mHIMSS advisory council. Better health is right at your fingertips. If only it could also be in every hospital.

Pfizer offers Lipitor app as generics hit market

By: Brian Dolan | May 24, 2012        

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Pfizer Recipes2GoHealth economist Jane Sarasohn-Kahn has a must-read column this week over at Health Populi. She noted that this Wednesday Pfizer announced a partnership with the magazine EatingWell to co-launch a mobile app aimed at patients who take Lipitor. While there are a few mobile apps in the market specifically focused on one particular pharmaceutical product, it’s a safe bet that none were launched eight days before multiple generic versions of that drug hit pharmacists’ shelves.

That’s right: Generic versions of Lipitor will drop to $10 or less for a month’s supply at the end of this month, according to Sarasohn-Kahn:

“This is Pfizer’s first foray into a prescription drug-affiliated app. The free mHealth app, Recipes 2 Go, was launched as part of the Lipitor Smart Living website and is available from the Apple App Store for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, and for Android phones and tablets from Google Play. The app includes recipes from EatingWell magazine, a shopping list tool, a timer for cooking, and a recipe search finder. The app also has a copy of the Lipitor $4 co-pay card where patients enrolled in the Pfizer Lipitor for You program can keep their ID and use the digital card for refilling Lipitor prescriptions at the pharmacy.”

The app could be a helpful tool for people taking Lipitor and anyone else looking to eat healthier, but as Sarasohn-Kahn argues, the timing is a bit curious. Mobile-enabled services for patients with chronic conditions are a huge opportunity for pharma companies. Just look to Sanofi’s recent launch of the iBGStar iPhone-enabled glucose meter and companion app for a much more substantial example.

Sarasohn-Kahn writes that strengthening the relationship between patients and pharma companies through mobile health services is a real opportunity, especially in the coming years as so many big name drug brands fall off their patent cliffs. That’s the curious part: Mobile health apps for smartphones have been around for years, and Pfizer has been aware of the launch date for generic Lipitor drugs for years.

So, why wait until the last week to launch this app?

As blockbuster drugs go, Lipitor was the biggest, which makes this move look like rearranging the chairs on the Titanic.

Comcast Ventures tops up BodyMedia’s $12 million round

By: Brian Dolan | May 23, 2012        

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iOS+BMWWearable body monitor company BodyMedia has raised another $9.3 million in its most recent round of funding, which we reported on in late March, to make for a $12 million funding round. Newcomer Comcast Ventures led the round, which also included previous investors Draper Fisher Jurvetson ePlanet, Draper Triangle Ventures, Ascension Health Ventures and InCube Ventures. The company plans to use the funds to expand the use cases for its wearable body monitoring business. BodyMedia already has partnerships with Jillian Michaels and Jenny Craig for device-assisted weight management, but the $12 million will help it conduct new R&D and to expand to different health conditions.

The addition of Comcast Ventures to BodyMedia’s financial backers is a notable development. BodyMedia was one of the first high-profile mobile health companies to form partnerships with the television industry — last year BodyMedia announced plans to synch its device’s data to Panasonic televisions. Could the investment by Comcast Ventures lead to greater integration between the wearable device maker and TV services?

This $12 million round was the first one BodyMedia has raised in years: Its last round of funding, according to SEC documents, was a $4 million round that included debt and equity back in October 2010.

Earlier this year BodyMedia announced a partnership with Avery Dennison, which leverages Proteus Biomedical’s peel-and-stick patch technology, to develop a disposable, wireless sensor patch device for use in preliminary evaluations for weight management. The patch, which is meant to be worn for up to seven days, makes use of BodyMedia’s array of sensors to track calorie burn, steps taken, activity levels, sleep patterns and more. BodyMedia says it collects more than 5,000 data points each minute. BodyMedia’s other tracking devices are typically worn around the user’s upper arm. BodyMedia has been making such devices since 2001.

In late April BodyMedia and Withings partnered up to integrate weight data from Withings’ WiFi scale into BodyMedia user’s online dashboards and apps. Last year BodyMedia also added cellular-connectivity to its armband device via Sprint’s network and integrated its data with RunKeeper’s Health Graph.

More on the $12 million investment round in the press release below: Keep reading>>