Habit Labs calls it quits, sells Health Month

By: Neil Versel | Jul 25, 2012        

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HabitLabs_2Habit Labs, the product of a 2011 merger between health gamification startups Health Month and Y Combinator-funded Contagion Health, is winding down its operations.

“It was the classic ‘we ran out of money’ story,” co-founder and CEO Buster Benson tells MobiHealthNews. “We probably could have raised more,” he adds, but says he decided not to pursue additional funding. Angel investors had put up $250,000 in August 2011.

“We’re selling off various parts and looking for ways to open-source others,” Benson says. Seattle-based Habit Labs this month sold Health Month, a game platform to encourage people to embrace and practice healthy behaviors, to Digitally Justified Technologies of Surrey, British Columbia. The principals of that company, Derek Thornton and Billy Cooter, promise in a blog post that they will improve mobile access to the site.

Benson says Health Month has 60,000 users, 15 percent of whom are paying customers. Keep reading>>

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SecuraTrac teams with Vital Connect to launch mPERS device

By: Neil Versel | Jul 25, 2012        

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lifetrac-quarterSecuraTrac, maker of GPS-enabled tracking devices for health and safety, is teaming up with body sensor manufacturer Vital Connect to produce a passive mobile personal emergency response system (mPERS).

The joint product, called SecuraFone Health, detects falls, changes in heart and breathing rate and other vital signs, thanks to a sensor worn on the chest or back. When the sensor notices a fall or other health threat, it sends a signal to the wearer’s smartphone, which then automatically alerts designated caregivers and health professionals with data including the person’s location.

Hermosa Beach, Calif.-based SecuraTrac provides the app and tracking technology, based on its existing SecuraFone mobile app, an Android and Apple iOS product that, among other things, helps families track the driving of teens and seniors. Vital Connect, a year-old company from Campbell, Calif., that recently changed its name from Vigilo Networks, is contributing the biosensor, in the form of a water-resistant patch that provides continuous monitoring for two to three days at a time.

“Doctors, caregivers and family members will now not only be able to monitor and receive alerts related to the whereabouts of their patients, children or aging parents, but also will receive alerts related to that person’s vitals in real time,” SecuraTrac CEO Chris Holbert says in a joint press release. “The monthly service is tied to a 24/7 emergency response center with trained healthcare staff, and so we expect that our mobile health and safety innovation will greatly reduce response times for those in need of emergency assistance as well as improve the overall care received by the user.”

According to Vital Connect Executive Vice President Bill Brennan, the wireless sensor “will provide users an unprecedented sense of security while providing doctors, caregivers and loved ones with increased peace of mind.”

SecuraTrac already offers an mPERS device called LifeTrac MobileProtector, but that is a more traditional “active” system that requires the user to press a panic button to summon help.

A SecuraTrac spokesperson was not immediately available to discuss pricing or specify the wireless technology being used. The companies say they will release the SecuraFone Health app before the end of the year.

Summer reading: Are mobile asthma management tools effective?

By: Brian Dolan | Jul 24, 2012        

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AsthmapolisA recent must-read report from the New England Health Institute (NEHI) identified about a dozen different promising digital health technology trends and offered up an analysis of the market readiness of each. Central to NEHI’s determination of how evolved a particular digital health technology was, rested on its efficacy evidence base. The report is actually organized into sections that group the technologies into four separate “classes” – from “Class I” technologies that already have significant evidence base and fewer barriers to entry to “Class IV” technologies which have next to no evidence base yet but still point to promising ideas.

Mobile asthma management tools fell somewhere in the middle of the spectrum for market readiness based on evidence base. As a “Class III” technology, mobile asthma management tools “leverage well- established clinical interventions recognized in the literature to have clinical or financial benefit,” according to NEHI, but they also have “limited evidence to support the technology itself having clinical or financial benefit.” These technologies also “only [have] a transitive link between the clinical intervention and the technology itself.”

NEHI describes the state of mobile asthma management offerings as GPS attachments to inhalers, mobile tracking manual entry apps, and early warning software for asthma triggers. NEHI specifically points to Asthmapolis, which just received FDA clearance for its GPS-enabled device, as well as AsthmaSense and Asthma Signals in its report.

The institute also included a fairly comprehensive roundup of efficacy studies that have leveraged mobile of digital asthma management tools, here’s the summary from NEHI: Keep reading>>

Three new trends for consumer health apps

By: Brian Dolan | Jul 24, 2012        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsOf the more than 13,600 consumer heath apps we analyzed in April, the vast majority fit snugly into one of our 12 main subcategories, which include cardio fitness, dieting, stress relief, chronic condition management, and medication adherence. Since we began tracking consumer health apps in early 2010 we have noticed a handful of emerging categories of apps that are only now becoming large enough that one might consider them a trend.

Here’s a list of three mini-trends that didn’t make it into our consumer health apps report this year:

The first emerging group of consumer health apps focuses on seasonal allergy management. Many allergy-related app launched during the past 10 months, and in our most recent report we grouped them with the chronic condition management category. At least two allergy apps are rated among the most successful apps in that category, based on our analysis and categorization of Apple’s list of Top 1000 apps for its medical category and health & fitness category of app in its AppStore. The top ranked allergy app, according to Apple, is pharmaceutical company Meda Pharmaceuticals’ app Allergy Advisor. The free app launched in late January 2012 and ranked as the 95th top app in Apple’s Medical category when we completed our analysis of the AppStore’s health offerings. The other allergy-focused app to make an appearance on the list was STARx Technical’s iPollenCount, a $1.99 app that launched in March.

Another new and emerging group of apps are those branded by individual care providers – the doctor’s office app. While this group has had a few members since the very beginning, we noticed a huge uptick in apps that were branded for particular medical and dentist practices. These app had a variety of features and services, but all of them included contact information and general reference about services provided by the practice. Many also included appointment booking through the app. Even fewer included a messaging component that enabled users to exchange messages with the practice that the app represented. Perhaps not surprisingly, many of these apps had nearly identical descriptions save for the name of the practice. These “custom” apps represent a small but growing threat to appointment booking apps like iTriage and ZocDoc. However, as those companies are likely offering, why shouldn’t practices do both?

A third and final mini-trend that we noticed during our apps analysis was a rise in the number of physical therapy apps. We counted almost three dozen PT app launches over the past year, which made for a noticeable new contingent. The PT apps often focused on one specific issue, like how to help your shoulder rebuild and heal after surgery. PT apps could be a very effective way to help patients remember to practice their PT exercises at home. These will likely be among the first crop of apps that are “prescribed” by healthcare practitioners.

Given the rise of these new categories of apps, our next consumer report will include additional and new categories to capture the changing dynamics of the AppStore.

Azumio acquires SkyHealth; aims to launch new fitness platform

By: Neil Versel | Jul 23, 2012        

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Glucose BuddyAzumio, maker of the Instant Heart Rate smartphone app and other mobile biofeedback technologies, said Friday that it has acquired mobile health and fitness app developer SkyHealth.

With the purchase, a transfer of an unspecified amount of cash and equity, privately held Azumio, based in Palo Alto, Calif., now owns Glucose Buddy, which the company says is the world’s most downloaded app for diabetes care, and Fitness Buddy, the top-selling paid health/fitness app on iTunes. Azumio also picks up SkyHealth CEO Tom Xu, who will serve as a partner and head of product development for the acquiring company.

“The future of bringing mobile health applications to a wider audience is here, and starts by creating a single source for the best mobile health and fitness solutions,” Xu says in a press release. “Now, with Azumio, we have the resources and experience to create a mobile health and fitness platform that will impact hundreds of millions of consumers.”

Azumio now claims more than 25 million downloads of its products, which also include the Instant Heart Rate, Stress Check, Stress Doctor and Sleep Time apps. “Both Azumio’s and SkyHealth’s mobile apps have seen massive adoption because we have been among the first to provide a simple solution to live a more healthy lifestyle, directly from your smartphone,” Azumio CEO Bojan Bostjancic says in the same company statement.

“Smartphones are playing an increasingly important role in helping people improve their health and wellness, but success pivots around ease of access to new solutions — mass adoption will only result from building apps that catalyze motivation and increase user commitment to their health and fitness goals,” Bostjancic adds.

Azumio’s own apps are available for Apple iOS and Android. The former SkyHealth primarily focused on Apple, but Glucose Buddy became available for Android a little more than a month ago. In May, the Glucose Buddy user base surpassed 10 million logs.

WellFX secures investment from CMT Ventures

By: Neil Versel | Jul 23, 2012        

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Female Doctor with Tablet

WellFX, creator of an online and mobile social platform for healthcare providers and patients to manage chronic diseases, says it has received a reported $5 million investment from private investment company CMT Ventures. The Series A financing will allow Petaluma, Calif.-based WellFX to, among other things, complete two pilot tests of its technology, put the platform in general release and develop mobile apps.

The company would not comment on the size of the investment other than to say it was a seven-figure deal, but Xconomy pegged the funding at $5 million.

Indeed, mobile is at the heart of the company’s strategy. CEO Jock Putney notes that physicians see patients with chronic conditions perhaps every three months at best. But by offering services wherever people may be, doctors can better engage patients in their care. “You can spend 30 minutes in the morning doing ’rounds’,” Putney says.

“The mobile part is absolutely critical,” he adds. It lends immediacy, so people don’t have to wait until they get to computer to take action. It also facilitates what Putney calls “electronic onboarding” to allow providers to deploy patient self-management programs faster.

The private, secure, cloud-based WellFX platform goes beyond physician social media communities by drawing in patients, according to Putney. “Providers kept saying all of this technology is great, but there’s nothing really for the patients,” Putney says. “Patients who communicate with each other have better health outcomes,” and they’re more likely to be active in their own healthcare. Keep reading>>