Welltok raises $18.7M for healthy social network CafeWell

By: Jonah Comstock | Apr 10, 2013        

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CafewellOnly four months into 2013, we’ve already seen several big moves from companies presenting as “health social networks.”

In late January, Audax Health raised $21 million for its social network Zensey, and announced a partnership with Cigna. In February, employee wellness program Keas announced a new product that signaled a pivot into the health social network sphere. Last week, OneHealth raised $9 million for its health social network and announced a slew of employer and health plan partners.

Now Welltok, makers of the CafeWell social health management platform, have announced an $18.7 million raise. And although the company didn’t announce employer or health plan partners, their platform is clearly targeted at what they call population managers — reps for employers, providers, and especially health plans — as well as at consumers. The company has only disclosed one customer, Coventry HealthAmerica, but it reports that it has two of the nation’s largest health plans among its customers.

This is the second round of funding for the Denver-based company that’s been around since 2009. Emergence Capital Partners, InterWest Partners and New Enterprise Associates (NEA) contributed to the round, which the company says it will use to “accelerate product development and strategic partnership efforts, expand into new markets, and build account teams to support the rapidly growing base of clients.”

Welltok also announced that Jeff Margolis, the company’s executive chairman for the last year and a half, has been appointed CEO. Margolis founded TriZetto, a healthcare SaaS company that was acquired for $1.4 billion by Apax Partners in 2008.

“I have a lot of confidence that we have a significant enough capital base to go and win this space,” he said. “Not be one of the winners, but win it. And that ties very much with my excitement that we’re doing something that’s very important.” Margolis says he thinks Welltok can provide value not just to its shareholders and customers, but also activate “the missing leg of the stool in healthcare, which is the consumer,” and save money for the healthcare system in general.

Health plans sponsor consumers to participate in CafeWell. Once in, participants have access to health information, competitive wellness and fitness challenges, reward and incentive programs for healthier lifestyle changes, support for chronic conditions from peers and professionals, and anonymous social networking. The population managers, in return, get access to de-identified metrics on employee wellness and participation.

In a recent case study, the company found that engaging with CafeWell activities brought consumers up from 50 percent satisfaction with their health plan up to 66 percent.

The category of “health social network” is a hard one to pin down — online patient communities like PatientsLikeMe have a social component (although the company resists the label “social network”), as do most wellness and fitness consumer apps. And many of the latter are directly or indirectly gunning for the employer and health plan markets as well (for instance, we wrote about EveryMove’s backdoor employer strategy last week). What’s clear is that it’s an emerging and crowded field.

Unlike Facebook, whose back-end value to advertisers became clear after the juggernaut of adoption had already set in, these health social networks don’t have much choice but to be upfront about their business model: they are selling patient health engagement — and data to back it up — to employers and health plans. But the people who need to really buy into these networks to make them succeed are the patients, users, and employees themselves. It’s clear that many investors believe these platforms can secure that kind of engagement, and deliver value to payers. It remains to be seen if that confidence is justified.


Zinc raises $850,000 for ear lobe sensor, stress relief app

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 10, 2013        

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Zinc Software Zen SensorDublin, Ireland-based Zinc Software recently announced a seed round of about $850,000 (€650,000) in funding from Kernel Capital, AIB Seed Capital Fund, and Enterprise Ireland. Zinc is developing wearable health sensors, including the Zen Sensor, which clips to a user’s ear lobe to collect heart rate data. The Zen connects to an iPhone or iPad app to provide heart rate variability biofeedback, which the company says can reduce blood pressure and levels of stress hormones. Zinc also announced that it was entering product development and supply chain management company PCH International’s accelerator program.

Zinc aims to have the Zen sensor up for sale online sometime in mid-2013 for about $99 both in the US and Europe.

“Regular exercise and good diet will be big part of this but we also believe good health starts in the mind and creating time in your day to be mindful and refocus is an excellent basis to build a healthy lifestyle,” Darran Hughes, CEO of Zinc Software said in a statement. “The Zen Sensor provides the perfect context to learn meditative breathing techniques and in only 10 minutes, become refocused and re-energized.”

Zinc’s sensor device and app is similar to other devices already on the market, including HeartMath’s Inner Balance sensor (which also clips to the ear) and companion iOS app, which that company unveiled at CES this year. Inner Balance also costs $99.

As MedCity News reported, the PCH Accelerator launched following the company’s partnership with sleep and health monitoring device company Lark. It has also worked with smart sports watch startup MetaWatch and the makers of Autom, the weight loss-focused, personal robot.

FDA clears ResolutionMD diagnostic imaging app for Android

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 9, 2013        

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Calgary Scientific ResolutionMD AndroidCalgary Scientific announced this week that the US Food and Drug Administration had cleared its ResolutionMD software for diagnostic medical imaging on Android devices, including the Samsung Galaxy. The software is already cleared by the FDA for iOS devices and by regulatory agencies in Europe and Canada.

In early 2011 the FDA cleared a competitive offering, called Mobile MIM, as the first diagnostic imaging app to secure FDA Class II clearance for use on iPhones. Calgary Scientific claims that its ResolutionMD software, which now has six FDA clearances — including for iPhone and iPad back in September 2011 — this is the first diagnostic imaging app cleared for use on mobile devices, according to the company.

Calgary Scientific has inked a number of deals since it received its first FDA clearance for the mobile version of its diagnostic imaging offering. ResolutionMD is used by neurologists at the Arizona location of the Mayo Clinic for remote consultations, and the company also has deals with Sprint and AT&T.

In 2012 a study at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix found that radiologists using ResolutionMD Mobile versus a traditional PACS workstation were able to access CT scans of stroke victims 24 percent faster, according to the company. Calgary Scientific says the study found its software saved an average of 11 minutes per patient. This data appears to be new as our report at the time focused on the accuracy of the diagnoses instead of the specific time to diagnosis.

About a year ago a study from the University of Maryland found that radiologists using iPad 2s to evaluate patients for tuberculosis (TB) took twice as long to make a diagnosis as they did when using a 27-inch LCD monitor. However, that study used a different imaging software from Osirix.

Prediction: Alere won’t acquire WellDoc this quarter

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 9, 2013        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsIn a recent blog post about its quarterly funding round-up, San Francisco-based health incubator Rock Health wrote that it’s “hearing WellDoc will be the first major acquisition announced in Q2.” Given WellDoc’s stature in mobile health, such a deal would be quite a story.

MedCity News was sure to mention the prediction in its coverage of Rock Health’s funding report and VentureBeat appeared to have built on that by doing some homework and coming up with “sources” that told it that WellDoc had “found a buyer”. One such source told VentureBeat that the buyer might be Alere, which has a partnership with AT&T to market WellDoc’s DiabetesManager offering.

While I have no inside information on this rumored acquisition, I think it’s pure speculation. It’s not going to happen.

WellDoc has been moving at a good clip since it secured FDA clearance for its mobile-enabled diabetes management offering in 2010. Most recently WellDoc President Anand Iyer told The New York Times last year that sometime early in 2013 two insurers would begin reimbursing patients $100 a month if their doctor suggests they use DiabetesManager.

For a company that eschews the “mobile app” designation and prefers terms like “mobile integrated therapy”, it’s clear that getting to the reimbursement phase of its DiabetesManager rollout is a huge milestone. Over the years it has also made mention of plans to move into other chronic conditions with similar offerings. In some ways, it’s really just the beginning for WellDoc.

It’s probably worth noting that MedCity News, which syndicates much of VentureBeat’s health-related reporting, removed the VentureBeat Alere-WellDoc piece after publishing it on its site. And, much more interestingly, WellDoc’s Chief Commercialization Officer Chris Bergstrom took to Twitter to joke that he heard from sources at Rock Health that VentureBeat had found a buyer and would be acquired in Q2.

While WellDoc won’t officially comment on the rumor, I don’t think this one has any substance.

FDA clears iPhone vision test

By: Jonah Comstock | Apr 8, 2013        

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MyVisionTrack2The FDA has granted Class II prescription-only 510(K) clearance for an iPhone-enabled vision test. The software, called myVisionTrack, was developed by Vital Art and Science. The FDA clearance applies to the software when run on an iPhone 4S.

Vital Art and Science has developed the test for patients with serious degenerative eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy (DR) and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), who will be able to use it to monitor their vision regularly at home. The software compares results to previous results, and can automatically alert a physician if a significant change has occurred, so the physician can respond with an appropriate therapy in a timely way. As the product is developed, the company also plans to enable it to send patients’ results to their EHRs in a safe, HIPAA-compliant way.

According to President Mike Bartlett, the company hopes to have a downloadable app version of the platform eventually. But because the software is only currently cleared for prescription use, the initial form factor will probably be to distribute pre-loaded iPhones to patients.

“Right now we’re looking for collaboration opportunities like clinical drug trials,” he told MobiHealthNews. “In all of the clinical drug trials [for degenerative eye diseases], all of the data is being collected in the clinic. We want to enable them to collect data as often as hourly or daily instead of every month or so. Because of the nature of vision problems, we expect the first big deployments will be done by the drug companies.”

The company is already in talks with Novartis, makers of Lucentis, which is prescribed for DR and AMD. Novartis funded a clinical trial of myVisionTrack. Bartlett hopes the software will be prescribed along with drugs like Lucentis and paid for by patients’ health plans.

The app runs a test called shape discrimination hyperacuity (SDH), which is licensed from the Retina Foundation of the Southwest, whose research showed it to be one of the most likely vision tests to work on an electronic device. This is partly because, unlike the famous Snelling test typically used in opthamologist offices, the SDH is distance insensitive, which means patients using it at home can hold it at any natural distance from their faces without effecting the accuracy. In two different clinical trials, Vital Art and Science found the test to be equal to or better than a Snelling test in terms of accuracy. In the test, patients are repeatedly presented with three shapes and have to tap the one that looks different.

Bartlett believes over-the-counter clearance is something that will come along for diagnostic apps, once they’ve become more commonplace.

“We felt from the beginning we wanted to develop the regulatory approved version,” said Bartlett. “The one that’s going to be used and trusted by doctors.”

How some physicians create apps for their patients

By: Neil Versel | Apr 8, 2013        

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Physician practice appsA British-Australian company has entered the US market with a low-cost template for individual physicians, dentists, orthodontists and small practices to customize mobile apps.

The company, Lexington Creative, which has built an app for people with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder called ADHD Organizer and notably has designed a mobile app for Dick’s Sporting Goods in the US, last month had a soft launch internationally of Apps for Doctors, according to Alex Harrington, Australia-based head of client relations.

For $749 plus a $99 annual maintenance and support fee payable to Apple, practices get the app template for both the Apple iOS and Android platforms. Reached by phone from Sydney, Harrington says this price is far less than commissioning someone to create an app from scratch.

“Apps cost thousands,” Harrington says. “So we pre-made one with the most important features that we think doctors want,” he explains. “If the important parts are already done, it can really drive the cost down.

Others already operating in the US offer app-building templates for physicians at comparable or even lower prices. A basic Mobileapps4Docs package from a company called Awesomefat costs $497 plus the $99 annual Apple fee, though that currently is available only for dentists.

Cloud Nine Development‘s basic Android app builder is free to download but has a monthly fee of $44.99. Physicians can add Apple iOS for $499 plus the $99 yearly Apple charge and the monthly hosting fee, while a $999 “platinum” package includes Windows and BlackBerry apps as well. A foreign-language option costs another $500.

Lexington Creative’s app includes each physician’s photo and biography, practice address, office hours, list of available services, electronic appointment requests, health tips and one-touch dialing of the practice’s phone number. Practices can provide coupons and other special offers for new patients, as well as add links to their websites, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and YouTube pages.

The app lets practices send pop-up notices to remind patients of appointments they have already made and appointments they should make for recommended testing and follow-up care. “When we surveyed doctors and dentists, that was quite a popular thing,” says Harrington.

Lexington Creative charges standard design rates for adding features not part of the template.

While the app template is not built for a specific country and thus does not follow local privacy laws like HIPAA in the US, Harrington says pop-up push messaging has been designed to be more secure than standard email. He also says that practices are encouraged to state their privacy policy for using the app on the appropriate iTunes and Google Play download pages.

The “Email us” and “Make an Appointment” buttons in the app are not intended for sending protected health information that would be subject to HIPAA, according to Harrington.

Apps for Doctors right now is meant for office-based physicians, dentists and orthodontists. Lexington Creative promises future versions for other medical professionals.

To date, Harrington says the company has not advertised the app template other than through social media and word of mouth, but he expects to begin more outreach in the next few weeks. Current customers are only in the UK and Australia, he says, though the product has been priced in US dollars.