Investor: Health startups, forget about employers

By: Chris Gullo | Jan 13, 2012        

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SkipFleshmanSkip Fleshman, a Managing Partner at Asset Management Ventures, shared a few tips for those mobile health startups looking to become more that just “one-trick pony” developers of successful apps. In order to capitalize on their real potential and become a long-term, viable business, Fleshman has a few lessons learned to share based on his firm’s investments in a number of health startups, including, perhaps most notably, HealthTap and Proteus Biomedical.

Fleshman acknowledges that there has been explosive growth in mHealth over the past year, but cautions that many startups are targeting niche audiences. His most controversial piece of advice? Startups should forget about self-insured employers offering their wares to employees and find a different business model.

“This is a sector that venture capitalists, health care providers, insurance companies and physicians should be paying much more attention to,” Fleshman writes over at Xconomy. “Entrepreneurs already are.”

For more advice, check out our article on seven tips for health startups looking to raise venture capital, which includes comments that a panel of investors made at last year’s mHealth Summit.

Read on for a few highlights from Fleshman’s article: Keep reading>>

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Lloyds Pharmacies to sell Proteus smart pills, sensors

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 13, 2012        

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Proteus Biomedical's Raisin system, which Helius is based on.

Proteus Biomedical's Raisin system, which Helius is based on.

UK-based retail pharmacy chain Lloydspharmacy has inked an exclusive deal with Proteus Biomedical to launch Proteus’ first commercial product, Helius, an offering that includes sensor-enabled pills, a peel-and-stick sensor patch worn on the body, and a mobile health app. The patch records when a pill is ingested, tracks sleep patterns, and records physical activity levels. The Helius offering is based on Proteus’ Raisin system, which secured a CE Mark and is expected to roll out commercially in other countries across Europe.

Lloyds will offer the Helius system as part of a personalized, medication adherence pack to its customers, which its pharmacists assemble for each individual customer. (This is a common practice in the UK and other parts of the world, but not so much in the US.)

The new Helius packs will include the components of the Helius system as well as blister packs of the customer’s drug regimen. For example, if a person takes five medications each morning, one blister pack would include all five of those medication, but it will also include a Helius tablet, which has an embedded sensor to track when it is ingested. That way, the Helius system can track when a person takes each group of pills in their drug regimen. If there are three groups of pills to take morning, noon, and night — the Helius packs include a sensor-enabled tablet with each group.

Three years ago I was on a panel with Proteus Biomedical’s CEO Andrew Thompson who estimated that his company’s market opportunity was $100 billion. The deal with Lloyd’s marks the first commercialization of the company’s intelligent medicine offering.

“Lloydspharmacy is committed to improving positive health outcomes for patients and the Helius system is an exciting development which takes our current medication adherence offering to a whole new level,” Steve Gray,  Director of Lloydspharmacy Healthcare Services Director stated in a company press release. “There is a huge problem with medicines not being taken correctly. Anyone taking several medications knows how easy it can be to lose track of whether or not you’ve taken the correct tablets that day. Add to that complex health issues and families caring for loved ones who may not live with them and you can appreciate the benefits of an information service that helps patients get the most from their treatments and for families to help them remain well.”

In an email to MobiHealthNews, Proteus Biomedical’s Chief Product Officer David O’Reilly, said that Proteus believes all retail pharmacies will eventually make similar moves to the one Lloyds made this week:

“The Helius product we launch with Lloyds in the UK this year represents the direction we see all pharmacy businesses in the US and Europe headed — away from selling just pills and toward selling information-based health solutions with the community pharmacist at the core,” O’Reilly wrote.

The World Health Organization estimates that about 50 percent of patients do not take their medications correctly, which can result in not getting the medications full benefit or being at-risk for harmful reactions. According to the companies, the UK’s NHS pegs the costs of unused prescription medicine in that country at around 396 million British Pounds annually.

In mid-2009, Proteus Biomedical CEO Andrew Thompson predicted that China would likely be the first market it launched its system in — not the US or UK. In early 2010 Novartis announced that it had invested $24 million in Proteus and that it had exclusive rights to use the technology with specific types of therapies, including those used for organ transplant patients. While Proteus has yet to launch Helius or a similar technology commercially in the US yet, it did receive FDA clearance for the peel-and-stick sensor patch in early 2010. Proteus first announced that the UK’s NHS began testing its system back in mid-2010. Last July the company secured a patent for the technology. Proteus inked a deal with Avery Dennison and has licensed the technology to other companies, including BodyMedia for the disposable fitness patch it just launched at CES. Proteus also has partnerships with Medtronic, ON Semiconductor, and Kaiser Permanente.

For more on the deal Proteus inked with Lloydspharmacy, read the full press release below: Keep reading>>

GSK offers MyAsthma management app in the UK

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 12, 2012        

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GlaxoSmithKline MyAsthma appPharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has offered up a new, free asthma management app, called MyAsthma, for iPhone and Android users in the UK. The app’s core offering is an Asthma Control Test (ACT), which is a simple 30-second test that provides users with an index score for how well they are managing their asthma overall. UK-based Replay Digital developed the app for GSK. Dr. Mike Thomas, Senior Research Fellow with the University of Aberdeen and Chief Medical Advisor, Asthma UK, helped develop the app along with Professor Rob Horne, a behavioural psychologist at the University of London.

GSK reports that nearly 50 percent of people in the UK with asthma do not have their condition under control. Some 5.4 million people in the UK are affected by asthma, according to GSK. That includes 4.3 million adults and 1.1 million children.

The MyAsthma app keeps users posted on local information about asthma triggers, including pollen count, pollution, and weather. It also helps users track symptoms and their ACT scores over time to see trends that they can share with care providers. GSK has also developed an algorithm based on this data that generates a selection of messages to the user based on their ACT scores and other data.

In a recent interview Dr. Thomas explained to the Wall Street Journal that the app could help people with asthma control their condition without having to use their reliever inhalers.

“They accept they have to use reliever inhalers on a frequent basis just to get thorough the day,” Dr Thomas said. “But for people who understand asthma, that should rarely be necessary. If you are taking the right meds and have the right lifestyle measures, most people can achieve good control.”

“MyAsthma can also be used by carers of people with asthma, especially parents and is a great way to teach older children the importance of taking control of their asthma. This creates a habit that they can carry into adulthood, a significant and positive step for the future of asthma care in the UK,” Dr. Thomas stated in a GSK press release. “Empowering patients to take more control of long-term conditions not only leads to improved health outcomes but also cost savings.”

Replay Digital told the WSJ that there were no immediate plans to develop BlackBerry or Windows Phone 7 versions of the app. Versions of the app for other countries in Europe, however, are expected to launch over the next year.

Other more robust asthma management apps are under development or already available for download. A similar app to MyAsthma, called AsthmaMD, received a big mention in the FCC’s National Broadband Policy report in 2010. One of the first asthma management apps for the iPhone was Ringful’s Asthma Journal, which was also the first iPhone app to connect to Google’s now defunct Google Health PHR. AccuWeather’s WeatherMD app, which launched in mid-2010, also features some alerts for those with asthma. However, more than any other asthma-related app, Asthmapolis, which works with a companion connected inhaler device, has received the most praise. It is still under development, and while it was expected to launch last year, it should be available soon.

(Most of these apps also fall into geomedicine, which we reported on back in 2009 as part of our TEDMED coverage.)

Read more details in GSK’s MyAsthma press release after the jump: Keep reading>>

Health apps, devices generated $718M in 2011

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 12, 2012        

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chart-mHealth-1.2012A new report from Research2Guidance estimates that the total 2011 revenues generated by mobile health apps, companion health devices and related services totaled $718 million, which marked a seven times increase over 2010’s $100 million estimate. Still, the research firm said that mHealth is still in its “embryonic state” and it could grow substantially in the years to come. Mobile health revenues will climb into the billions by 2016 when mobile health services and related device sales will each account for a couple billion dollars in revenues.

While the specific dollar amounts were withheld in Research2Guidance’s sample documents about the report, some of the trends are clear from the graphs. Revenues from paid downloads, mobile health related advertising revenue, and transactional revenue will grow considerably over the next four years, according to Research2Guidance, but device and services sales will take over as the dominant revenue streams this year, and especially in 2013. They will  hold that trend in the years to follow.

Last year when ABI Research predicted that the overall market for health and fitness apps would total $400 million by 2012, most of those working in the industry sighed a collective groan: That’s it? Venture capital firm’s Psilos Group’s co-founder and Managing Member Lisa Suennen summed it up in a widely cited post on her Venture Valkyrie blog:

“ABI Research, reports that the mHealth market is growing so fast that it will more than triple to $400 million by 2016. If you are an investor like me, and I’m sorry to use such a technical finance expression, that sucks. We are trying to build companies that we can sell for $400 million. If that is the size of the whole market three to four years from now, it’s hard to see it as a good investment today.”

ABI’s numbers specifically focus on paid app downloads, while Research2Guidance includes service revenues and device revenues, which considerably boost the numbers. ABI seems to agree that these companion devices — the firm points to Bluetooth Smart-enabled fitness devices as prime examples — will drive adoption of companion mobile apps. ABI does not seem to include revenues from those devices in the mix, however. As an example of the type of devices it included in its revenue estimates, Research2Guidance points to Sanofi’s recently FDA-cleared iBGStar glucose meter.

For more details from Research2Guidance’s report, read the press release below.

Keep reading>>

Merge Healthcare focuses on mobile access (not apps) for remote medical imaging

By: Neil Versel | Jan 12, 2012        

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Gilbert Gagne

Merge Healthcare's Gilbert Gagne

Count imaging software vendor Merge Healthcare among those offering a mobile option for remote viewing of medical images. But rather than assume everybody wants an app for Apple or Android devices, the vendor is relying on the Web and the cloud to deliver high-quality images and access to radiology reports on mobile devices.

With the Merge iConnect Access system, users can just go to a URL on the iPad or other tablet, without having to download any special apps, to access images and related reports away from their imaging workstations. Yet, physicians still can take advantage of the iPad’s advanced touch-screen capabilities for image manipulation.

Sliding one finger across the iPad screen changes the contrast and grayscale of a radiological image, Merge’s team leader for enterprise solutions, Gilbert Gagné said during a demonstration of Merge iConnect Access at the company’s new Chicago headquarters. (Following an accounting scandal and a reorganization, Merge brought in new management, relocated its home office from Milwaukee in 2010 and adopted orange as its color.)

Using two fingers pans the image. Zoom in and out with the pinch motion or double tap to see a larger version of the image in full screen mode. Buttons on the screen allow for additional image manipulation.

From the main screen, select a patient and up comes a study list. A patient history fly-out menu on the edge of the patient screen allows viewers to bring up as many as three studies simultaneously for side-by-side comparison. “I have full access to two studies,” Gagné explained while demonstrating this feature with a pair of image sets.

Apple’s iPad and iPhone cannot run Flash animations, and the browser-based system does not require Active-X or Java. “It’s all done through what we call server-side rendering. Basically, everything takes place on the server, and then we render either a JPEG or a PNG file in either lossy or lossless, depending on the user preference, back out to the user,” Gagné said.

“The other benefit with this is that it works really well in low-bandwidth situations. Since we’re not transferring DICOM across the Internet, we are really working with small image files.” Keep reading>>

Microsoft, Healthrageous join Ford to research in-car health monitoring

By: Neil Versel | Jan 12, 2012        

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Ford Heart Rate Monitoring SeatsFord Motor Co. is building on its in-car health monitoring initiative by teaming with Microsoft and Healthrageous to research how people can monitor their health and promote wellness with connected devices while in their vehicles. The companies are taking advantage of the spotlight at the massive 2012 International CES trade show in Las Vegas this week to show off a prototype called “the car that cares.”

Healthrageous, a Boston-based producer of online and mobile apps for self-management of chronic diseases and preventive health activities, is embedding its “digital coach” technology into the Microsoft-powered Sync communications and entertainment system now common in Ford vehicles.

“Sync will be Ford’s key technology supporting activities in the health and wellness sphere,” Gary Strumolo, manager of “infotainment,” interiors, health and wellness in the Ford Research and Innovation division, said Wednesday at the CES Digital Health Summit.

Stromolo noted that some people spend dozens of hours a week in their cars, making vehicles a convenient and private environment in which to deliver health and wellness coaching. “It’s the only logical place for people to manage their health while on the go,” he said.

This new initiative will collaborate with previously announced Ford partnerships to connect health monitoring devices to the onboard Sync computer. The auto-maker already is working with Medtronic to measure blood sugar for people with diabetes and report on serious conditions such as whether a driver is going hypoglycemic or whether a child in the back seat might be going into a diabetic coma rather than merely napping. Keep reading>>