FDA cleared, app-enabled toothbrush now on sale

By: Neil Versel | Jan 8, 2013        

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Beam BrushThe Beam Brush, touted as the first toothbrush connected to a mobile app, officially hit the market on Monday, with consumer and professional offerings as well as a gamification aspect.

Beam Technologies, of Louisville, Ky., is selling the manual brush with embedded brushing sensor and Bluetooth radio, for $49.99. A free companion app for Android or Apple iOS tracks brushing habits, including frequency and duration, as well as time spent in each quadrant of the mouth. Users sync data to the smartphone app by pushing a button on the brush handle.

The app supports multiple users so families can compare statistics, and then upload data to their dentists. Beam Technologies is providing the connectivity free to dental practices that want to participate, and will be selling targeted advertising on the app for dentists to promote their services, the company says.

In a spin on gamification, Beam Technologies is providing a rewards program for people who meet certain targets, including the basic goal of brushing at least twice a day for two minutes each time. The app can play user-selected music for those two minutes. Beam says the music and an on-screen timer makes people 50 percent more likely to brush for the recommended two minutes, rather than the typical 46 seconds.

As MobiHealthNews previously reported, Beam Brush and the smartphone app gained FDA 510(k) clearance last June. Beam Technologies also is a member of the current class of digital health accelerator Rock Health.

The Beam Brush is available in blue or pink, with adult or child-size brush heads. Replacement brush heads cost $3.99. The brush draws power from one AA battery.


Merck Fund ups PatientSafe’s latest round to $20M

By: Neil Versel | Jan 8, 2013        

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PatientSafe SolutionsJust weeks after disclosing it had raised $13.3 million in venture capital, mobile clinical software developer PatientSafe Solutions has upped the total to $20 million to close its Series C financing round, the company said Monday.

The Merck Global Health Innovation Fund, a unit of pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co., led the round, which also included Camden Partners, TPG Capital and Psilos Group. As a result of the investment, San Diego-based PatientSafe has added Max Kahn, a Merck GHI principal, to its board.

PatientSafe, formerly known as IntelliDot, is not detailing how much each investor kicked in, but says it will use the money to ramp up marketing of its PatientTouch platform, a point-of-care suite that runs on iPod Touch enclosed in a waterproof case. The company also intends to add features aimed at helping hospitals meet “meaningful use” standards for electronic health records, increasing efficiency and preparing for the era of accountable care.

The PatientTouch package currently includes a barcode reader for patient identification and various communications technology to encourage collaboration. An iPhone version of the system supports Internet telephony.

A company statement suggests PatientSafe will be working with other technology vendors as well.

“This Series C round is an affirmation of our vision and strategy to move healthcare forward by arming providers with real-time actionable data and making care team workflows easier and more productive,” PatientSafe President and CEO Joe Condurso said. “I am delighted to work with Max Kahn and the Merck GHI team to build an open ecosystem of partners to continue to serve our current and future clients across all settings.”

According to CrunchBase, PatientSafe has raised more than $70 million in private equity to date, including a $30 million venture round that closed in February 2010.

Report: 179 digital health investors in 2012

By: Jonah Comstock | Jan 8, 2013        

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Digital health incubator Rock Health has released it’s 2012 year in review report, and it shows that venture capital investment in digital health is robust, if still tentative by some measures. Overall investment is up, but a large percentage of the numbers are accounted for by a few big deals and a few big investors.

rock health report

Venture capitalists invested $1.4 billion in digital health in 2012, a 45 percent jump from 2011, when $968 million was invested, the report states. The total number of deals was 56 percent higher. These numbers are even more impressive, the report suggested, when compared to declining venture capital investment in traditional health segments like biotechnology and medical devices.

More than a fifth of 2012 funding, however, was from just five major deals: a $100 million round for healthcare shopping platform Castlight Health, $50 million dollar rounds for GoHealth, Care.com, and 23andMe, and a $45.5 million dollar round for Best Doctors. Four of those five can be broadly described as healthcare shopping platforms: GoHealth is a tool for comparing insurance costs, Care.com helps families find caregivers, and Best Doctors helps employees choose the right physician. So it’s no surprise that Rock Health rated Health Consumer Engagement as the top category for digital health investment, with a total of $237 million invested.

The next category down, at $143 million, was personal health tools and tracking, followed by emergency medical records at $108 million and hospital administration at $78 million.

Perhaps the most striking number in the report, however, is that of the 179 digital health investors in 2012, 145 did only a single deal, and only eight did three or more. Within those eight, most major healthcare players are represented: telecommunications company Qualcomm Ventures, pharmaceutical company Merck (through the Merck Global Health Innovation Fund), insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield, and non-profit West Health. The other four are also familiar names to MobiHealthNews readers: Aberdare Ventures, NEA, Council Capital, and Khosla Ventures. Rock Health’s new Angel Group hopes to see that another major player is well-represented among investors next year: physicians themselves.

Forbes writer David Shaywitz, in his analysis of the report, suggested the surprising number of one-time-only investors could have several explanations, but one is that investors are still tentative about digital health startups — willing to try one out, but not willing to sink a substantial portion of their portfolio into the space.

The report also included some demographic statistics about digital health CEOs. Only 7 percent are women — a surprising figure considering, for comparison, the high percentage of women in the medical field. On the other hand, only 5 percent of digital health CEOs are MDs, compared to 37 percent with Bachelor’s degrees and 32 percent with MBAs.

The report was compiled by Rock Health Strategist in Residence Malay Gandhi and CEO Halle Tecco from information found in Capital IQ , the SEC, company websites, CrunchBase, the NVCA and the Rock Health‘s own funding database.

BodyMedia unveils fashionable armband, disposable patch still to come

By: Jonah Comstock | Jan 7, 2013        

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The BodyMedia Core 2 Armband, with "jewelry-like" customization.

The BodyMedia Core 2 Armband, with "jewelry-like" customization.

This weekend at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, BodyMedia announced the Core 2 Armband, a smaller, more streamlined version of the company’s wearable tracker.

Although the Core 2 (about the size of an iPod Nano) is considerably smaller than the existing FIT armband, lately famous for its use on the newest season of NBC’s The Biggest Loser, it has all the same functionality of the larger device, due to advances in sensor technology. It houses the same four FDA-cleared sensors as their current Core armband offering: skin temperature, heat flux, galvanic skin response, and a 3-axis accelerometer.

“It has all the same sensors, the same analytics, the same validation and levels of accuracy,” CEO Christine Robins told MobiHealthNews.

The device will also add a fifth sensor as an optional add-on: a continuous heart-rate monitor. Rather than using an optical sensor like the Basis Band, the heart rate sensor will use dry electrodes embedded in the band.

The Core 2 also sports Bluetooth Smart connectivity, whereas previous models synced via a USB cable. This allows BodyMedia data to be uploaded to BodyMedia’s smartphone apps in realtime. This new BlueTooth technology also requires less power than previous Bluetooth offerings, the company said in a statement.

Robins told MobiHealthNews that unlike the armband currently on the market, which is merely water-resistant, the Core 2 will be fully waterproof: it can even be worn while swimming.

The company is also touting customizable face plates, straps, and cuffs for the new armband that the company describes as “jewelry-like” — a first for BodyMedia. Keep reading>>

Withings adds activity tracker, air quality sensor

By: Jonah Comstock | Jan 7, 2013        

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Withings Smart Activity TrackerA flurry of new activity trackers has been announced at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week, with a number of companies rounding out their product lines. Withings is no exception: the “smart” health device company that began offering a wireless weight scale in 2009 and a wireless blood-pressure monitor in 2011 is finally getting into the activity tracker scene, with the Withings Smart Activity Tracker. Longtime activity tracking device maker Fitbit made a similar, but opposite move at last year’s CES, introducing its Aria WiFi Smart Scale.

As well as offering the features consumers have come to expect in an activity tracker, including Bluetooth syncing with Apple and Android devices, the Withings device has a built in heart rate sensor – something that’s far from standard on activity trackers. Currently heart rate tracking is available on the Basis Band and BodyMedia’s FIT armband, although Withing’s device doesn’t monitor heart rate continuously like those devices do. Instead, a user places a finger on the back of the device to take a heart rate reading before and after workouts. Withings says the device also measures duration and quality of sleep.

The device weighs 8 grams and has a similar form factor to the Fitbit One. Despite being only the size of a USB drive, the tracker has a touch screen, from which users can toggle the display among steps taken, strides run, distance covered, stairs climbed and calories burned. It can be carried in a pocket, but also comes with an arm band and belt clip. It includes a micro-USB port for charging the battery, which the company says will last two weeks.

In addition to its new foray into the popular, if crowded, tracker space, Withings also announced a new version of its core, flagship product: A new connected weight scale, called the Withings Body Analyzer, that also measures heart rate and, somewhat surprisingly, air quality.

“We’ve challenged ourselves to once again reinvent the smart scale, a segment we pioneered three years ago with our WiFi body scale,” CEO Cedric Hutchings said in a statement. “We have added functionalities that have never been seen before on a home scale.”

The company claims that CO2 can build up in confined spaces like bedrooms, leading to poor air quality that can negatively affect health, so having access to air quality readings can be part of an overall health strategy.

Both devices, slated for release in the first quarter of 2013, will connect to a smartphone app, the Withings Health Mate app, a free app already available in the iOS AppStore and the Google Play store. In conjunction with a smartphone, the system can track and record activity, weight, and heart rate data, and the user can also set up alarms, sent to their smartphone, to remind them to move if they become too sedentary.

The Body Analyzer, which also won a CES 2013 Innovations Award, will sell for $149.95. Withings hasn’t yet announced a price for the activity tracker, though most competitive devices hover around the $100 range.

With an activity tracker, weight scale, and blood pressure monitor, all Bluetooth-enabled and compatible with both Apple and Android, Withings is positioning itself as a comprehensive self-monitoring vendor. With analysts predicting continued growth for the tracker space through 2017, this doesn’t seem like a bad place to be.

AthenaHealth buys Epocrates for $293M

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 7, 2013        

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Athenahealth iPhone appAthenaHealth, a provider of cloud-based EHR and practice management software, announced a definitive agreement to acquire Epocrates, a popular mobile medical app provider, for about $293 million in cash. Epocrates agreed to the offer, which was specifically $11.75 per share, a 22 percent premium over Epocrates closing price last Friday. Piper Jaffray & Co. and Cooley advised Epocrates on the deal, while Goodwin Procter served as Athena’s legal counsel.

Last May, following remarks made by AthenaHealth CEO Jonathan Bush, MobiHealthNews speculated as to whether the company might be considering an acquisition of Epocrates. (See: Why AthenaHealth might buy Epocrates.) At the time Bush noted how popular Epocrates was among hundreds of thousands of physicians who use the app to look up drug information on their mobiles before writing prescriptions. He also said that while his company may not be interested in Epocrates product itself, they “sure would like to be in front of 200,000 doctors”.

Bush said as much to Bloomberg this week when discussing the acquisition: “Our biggest obstacle is that 70 percent of doctors don’t even know we exist. Epocrates is to healthcare IT what Angry Birds is to games.”

In a statement, Bush said: “No other company has been able to replicate the brand awareness, familiarity, and trust that Epocrates has across the clinical mobile user base. We are confident that we can provide Epocrates with the stewardship and resources it needs to grow and develop within health care, and that Epocrates’ capabilities are going to mesh exceptionally well with athenahealth’s cloud-based physician and patient services. Together, we’re excited by the opportunity to redefine the mobile toolset for care givers.”

The deal will lead to a combined company that can leverage Epocrates’ mobile expertise and Athena’s cloud-based network to develop “new mobile applications that deliver high-value information to the clinical community when, where, and how they want it,” according to the companies. Moving forward Athena will work with the Epocrates team to develop “new mobile workflows” that initially might include ones that focus on care coordination, provider-to-provider communication, and patient engagement tools. Some of which may fall into the future plans Epocrates CEO Andrew Hurd laid out for MobiHealthNews in a recent interview.

Given how slowly Athena has been to embrace mobile in the past — its first mobile apps were only just announced at last year’s HIMSS event — the Epocrates acquisition helps the company play catch-up in a major way.