Asthmapolis raises $5 million from Social Capital

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 4, 2013        

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AsthmapolisMadison, Wisconsin-based Asthmapolis, which offers a FDA-cleared inhaler sensor and app for people with asthma, COPD, or cystic fibrosis, announced that it has raised $5 million in its first round of funding. The investment was led by The Social+Capital Partnership, a relatively new venture fund started by Chamath Palihapitiya, an early executive at Facebook who left to start the investment fund in 2011. Social Capital has also invested in digital health companies like Glooko and Simplee.

Asthmapolis told MobiHealthNews it plans to use the funds to build new sensors that work with the variety of inhaled medications being prescribed today. It will also use the funds to accelerate plans to secure regulatory clearances in countries outside of the US, like Canada and the UK. The new money also will help it with marketing and to ensure that people all along the socioeconomic spectrum who are dealing with a condition like asthma have access to Asthmapolis.

The company’s device is a sensor that sits atop (most) inhalers used by patients who have asthma or COPD. The sensor transmits data to a companion app on the user’s mobile phone every time the inhaler is used. The app can then track the time and location of each medication discharge, which can then be used to help patients and their care givers better understand their asthma triggers. Asthmapolis has a partnership with Qualcomm Life to ensure that people without smartphones can use their inhaler sensors, too, by synching them to the 2net hub when they’re at home.

“Until now we have been really focused on building the product and demonstrating efficacy, which we have done,” Asthmapolis CEO and co-founder David Van Sickle told MobiHealthNews in an interview. “We are in the market, as you know, and now it is time to scale up and meet these populations wherever they are. Asthma isn’t a disease of just a certain demographic or geography — it is a part of every population.”

Van Sickle said that people with asthma have various levels of technology and health literacy, and Asthmapolis does not exist “to build digital health solutions for the upper crust of the socioeconomic spectrum,” he said, “but for everybody, for the whole population.”

“My personal take is that I can care less about the technology,” Van Sickle said. “What we care about is improving outcomes to give people more asthma-free days. If that required us to send them a giant cheese basket from Wisconsin, we would go that route. You can’t go to [a payer managing a] Medicaid population and say: ‘We are only going to help your members who have iPhone 5s’.”

In the past year Asthmapolis has inked deals with a variety of healthcare organizations including Dignity Health in California, Amerigroup in Florida, and the City of Louisville.

“This is where there probably is a creative tension between my own opinion and the industry’s,” Van Sickle said, “but I don’t think patient engagement should be a goal. What the goal should be is more asthma-free days… That whole patient engagement thing I’m hoping it’s just a liminal period we go through. I’m not saying people shouldn’t be involved in their disease — but I am saying that people don’t sell washing machines with the promise that you are going to ‘engage’ in the washing cycle. You want to put your clothes in, set it to wash, and be done.”


StartUp, GE reveal 13 startups in new class

By: Jonah Comstock | Apr 4, 2013        

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Caremerge_mobile_2Last January StartUp Health announced a special class of consumer health startups that would benefit from mentorship and support from GE Healthcare. Now the company has announced its first class of 13 companies (up from 10 originally announced) to participate in the 3-year program, funded through GE’s $6 billion healthyimagination initiative.

As we reported at the time, companies in the program won’t have to relocate, allowing a wider international range of companies to apply. In addition, participation in the program doesn’t guarantee a monetary investment from GE itself, just an investment of mentorship. GE will, however, hold a 2 to 10 percent equity stake in the companies, and could possibly take a closer interest in companies that catch its eye.

More than 400 companies from 22 countries applied, according to StartUp Health, and the class includes companies from the United States, Ireland, and Israel.

Although the program is nominally focused on consumer health, the companies in the new class define that category pretty broadly, and at least one company, hospital hygiene startup IntelligentM, isn’t really consumer focused at all. This is an interesting shift, considering how StartUp Co-Founder and President Unity Stoakes described the focus in a January interview with MobiHealthNews.

“This particular program is focused on consumer health,” Stoakes said at the time. “We do expect that in the future we’ll do other classes — we might do one on medtech, quantified self, companies focusing on aging solutions. This is just 10 companies of hundreds we plan on inviting in the next two years.”

In addition, many of the companies are further along than is typical for an incubator. At least a few are already members or recent graduates of other accelerators. Stoakes told MobiHealthNews in January that this is an intended feature of the program.

“We do have companies even at the idea stage, but some companies are onto their B-round,” he said, speaking about StartUp Health in general. “We’re stage agnostic, but most companies already have some traction. Oftentimes these are serial entrepreneurs, they may or may not have done something in healthcare before. We work together as a collaborative to speed up the cycle of innovation, connecting them to customers, capital and expertise.”

Here are the 13 companies: Keep reading>>

AliveCor names longtime medtech entrepreneur new CEO

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 4, 2013        

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Dan Sullivan AliveCor CEOThis week AliveCor, which offers the FDA-cleared iPhone-enabled Heart Monitor (formerly called the iPhoneECG), announced a new president and CEO: Dan Sullivan, a longtime medical device industry executive and entrepreneur. Sullivan sold his most recent venture, SuperDimension, to Covidien last year for more than $300 million. The company’s first president and CEO, Judy Wade, who served in the role from mid-2012 until the end of the year, is no longer with the company.

AliveCor announced FDA clearance of its device in early December 2012, shortly before Wade left the company. AliveCor began pre-selling the $199 clinical-quality, ECG monitor, which has the form factor of an iPhone case that fits iPhone 4 and 4S devices, directly from its website at the end of last year. It began encouraging physicians to prescribe the device to certain heart patients in early 2013.

“Last year I was reading a magazine on an airplane and saw an article about [AliveCor],” AliveCor’s new CEO Dan Sullivan told MobiHealthNews in an interview. “The article showed [the AliveCor Heart Monitor] device being used by Dr. [Eric] Topol, who’s an old friend of mine from the early days of angioplasty. So, I called Topol, asked him about it, was impressed, but then didn’t think too much more about it. I get recruiters calling all the time, but recently I got a call from one working for AliveCor, and — remembering [the article] — I took the call… and here I am.”

Sullivan said what intrigued him most about AliveCor was that its initial offering points to a massive opportunity for converged medical devices to help reduce the significant cost issues facing healthcare both here in the US and globally.

“AliveCor’s [Heart Monitor] arrived at a time when mobile technology is coming of age and when [healthcare] is facing this tremendous cost squeeze,” he said. “Having people become much more involved in their own care not only after an illness but also for wellness” has become much more important in the face of that, he said.

Sullivan’s only been with AliveCor for about a week and as such he’s not sharing much about the company’s product roadmap. He did promise that currently iOS-only AliveCor Heart Monitor will work with the various phone platforms in “the not too distant future”. AliveCor’s site promises that an iPhone 5 version of the device is expected to become available during Q2, pending an additional FDA clearance, of course.

“When I look way into the future, the opportunity is for every kid in grade school to start off their life with a personal wellness device that lets them track their blood pressure, EKG, diet, and exercise,” Sullivan said. “Obviously we’ve got a long way to go before we get there, but that is viable in the future.”

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Delos M. Cosgrove, MD, Chief Executive Officer and President, Cleveland Clinic

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Jeffrey Brenner, MD, Executive Director, Camden Coalition of Health Care Providers
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Digital health could solve primary care shortage, Frost analyst says

By: Neil Versel | Apr 4, 2013        

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Apple Hello HealthIf digital health technologies take hold the way many believe they will, the U.S. may no longer have to worry about a pressing shortage of primary care physicians, projected by the Association of American Medical Colleges to reach 65,800 doctors by 2025.

“There are a lot of ways to deliver primary care,” explains Greg Caressi, senior vice president for healthcare and life sciences at market analysis firm Frost & Sullivan. A key function of primary care is to screen to determine if a patient needs to see a specialist. Remote technology and midlevel providers are more than adequate for triage and testing, he says.

Caressi noted that Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, predicted last year that technology eventually could replace 80 percent of physicians. Accountable care organizations and other payment reforms – as well as changing consumer preferences – are going to force healthcare organizations to reevaluate how they deliver care in the next dozen years or so, according to Caressi.

Caressi shared these ideas at Frost & Sullivan’s 18th annual executive exchange on medical devices last month and spoke to MobiHealthNews this week.

“Some of the business aspects really need to change radically,” Caressi says. “If hospitals are going to survive, they’re going to have to leverage telehealth.”

And makers of medical devices are going to have to pay attention, he added. Quite a few device companies are only contemplating incremental changes in care delivery, says Caressi.

“The world has changed and the way people get information has changed,” he continues. There is a strong opportunity here for healthcare providers to reach young adults and others in generally good health who might not care about seeing a particular physician as long as they can get care when they need it.

This is like the Kaiser Permanente model, where patients are tied to a clinic rather than a single primary care doctor, Caressi notes.

This notion may seem to conflict with the patient-centered medical home, which stresses care coordination by making sure patients have a “home” for all their healthcare needs, in the form of a primary care physician. “This is almost at odds with that,” Caressi says, but he asks an important question: “Is the primary care physician the hub or is primary care the hub?”

In his vision, primary care, not the physician, is the focus, and the most important individual in the entire equation is the patient.

Though he did not say this in his talk last month, Caressi tells MobiHealthNews that electronic health records and interoperability of health data underlie this whole concept because clinicians need accurate information to make informed decisions. Having a complete patient history, medical record, data from remote monitoring devices and clinical decision support makes it easier and safer to care for patients, he explains.

Caressi says clinicians of all levels need to practice to the fullest extent of their licenses, saving physicians for the most difficult tasks. He says hospitals have given lip service to this idea, “but they could do more.” This includes beefing up telehealth services and relying more on call centers staffed by nurses to expand access to care and manage larger panels of patients.

“If you want higher touch at lower cost, you need to leverage technology,” Caressi says.

Top 10 digital health tweets of the week

By: Aditi Pai | Apr 4, 2013        

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MobiHealthNews curated some of our favorite tweets from this past week related to mobile health and digital health news and analysis below. Share some of your favorite tweets with us @MobiHealthNews or in our LinkedIn group and we might feature a few in our next Twitter round-up. Here’s our list in no particular order. Keep reading>>