Interview: Cell phone inventor on mobile health

By: Brian Dolan | May 5, 2011        

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Marty CooperThis week at the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) conference in Tampa, Florida MobiHealthNews sat down with Marty Cooper, the inventor of the modern cellphone to discuss mobile health’s future, tech hype, current challenges and more. The New York Times’ technology columnist David Pogue interviewed Cooper on-stage at the event during a plenary session this past Sunday, but their conversation only briefly touched on mobile health. Cooper is co-founder and chairman of GreatCall, which offers the Jitterbug phone service. He is also executive chairman and co-founder of ArrayComm, a wireless antenna solutions provider.

MobiHealthNews: How do you describe the mobile health opportunity?

Marty Cooper: The introduction of mobile telephony, the cell phone, was a revolution. A revolution changes your behavior—makes you live differently. And there’s no question that people live differently because they have cell phones.  But I think there are going to be two new revolutions, both of which have already started. The one that’s most underway now is mobile health, also called telemedicine. The other one is social networking.

Telemedicine is really important because our healthcare system is broken. In fact, when I talk to the experts they tell me we don’t have a “healthcare system” we have a “sick care system”. The focus of our entire system today is on curing disease. There is a belief that all diseases are preventable and that’s really profound. We don’t know how to stop all of them, but that vision is a realizable one. The beginnings of telemedicine, are things like remote diagnosis and things of that nature. And those things are starting to become very common, but the dream is being able to monitor people continuously. I get a physical every five years whether I need it or not. And all the doctor gets is a snapshot. Most of it is meaningless. Instead of having an annual physical, with telemedicine you can have one every minute. Then we’d have a reference point for every measurement. That way when things go awry you can anticipate somebody getting a disease and stop it before it becomes a disease. That’s the dream. Keep reading>>

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NeuroVigil lands venture funding, impressive valuation

By: Neil Versel | May 4, 2011        

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NV-iBrainNeuroVigil, the La Jolla, Calif.-based neurotechnology company that created the non-invasive iBrain wireless EEG sensor, announced Monday that it had closed on its first round of venture financing. The unspecified investment was led by “an anonymous American industrialist and technology visionary, with participants distributed across the U.S. West and East coasts,” the company says in a press release.

NeuroVigil spokeswoman Kathleen Murray responded to a series of e-mailed questions with a form letter declining to provide any additional details about the investment.

The press release does indicate that Dr. Howard Morgan, of venture fund First Round Capital, and Silicon Valley technology investor Alexis Flint are advisors to NeuroVigil founder Dr. Philip Low and investors in the company.

NeuroVigil’s press release claims that the investment round puts the company’s valuation at twice the combined valuations of both Google and Facebook back when they each received their initial rounds of funding. Fast Company did the back-of-the-envelope calculation on it: “Facebook’s Series A funding in May 2005 was at $12.7 million, valuing the firm at $98 million. Some figure put the series Series A funding of Google, on a $25 million co-investment from Sequoia and Kleiner Perkins, at $75 million in late 1999… it would seem NeuroVigil got tens of millions in early cash, enough for a valuation of roughly $250 million.”

The iBrain, NeuroVigil and Low have garnered numerous accolades since Low founded the company while a graduate student at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, also in La Jolla. (The press release says Low invented the iBrain in 2009, although NeuroVigil won the $250,000 prize in the Draper Fisher Jurvetson Venture Challenge another $30,000 in prize money in a UC San Diego Entrepreneurship Challenge in 2008). Last year, NeuroVigil won the annual CONNECT Most Innovative New Product Award in Life Sciences.

As MobiHealthNews reported, Low presented the technology at TEDMED 2009. Around the same time, NeuroVigil signed a deal to provide Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche with iBrain sensors to help researchers collect and analyze data during clinical trials for drugs to treat neurological disorders. Keep reading>>

Interview: Humana talks mobile strategy

By: Neil Versel | May 4, 2011        

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Neil PierceIn February, MyHumana Mobile, the iPhone and Android app for Humana health plan members, won the medical category in the first-ever Appy Awards at the 2011 Online Media, Marketing and Advertising (OMMA) Global Conference. Naturally, the Louisville, Ky.-based health insurer immediately set out to redesign both its web portal and the app in HTML5 to give both a common look and feel.

“Whenever you win an award, you have to step back and redesign something,” jokes Neil Pierce, executive business lead for e-communications at Humana, who serves as a point person for mobile products and services. That’s because, like so many companies, Humana is still learning when it comes to mobility. Plus, consumer demands tend to change so quickly in this emerging field.

In this case, the app is finally going to catch up to the web. Since the mobile app launched in March 2010, changes to the member portal have tended to happen on the web first. “We have always stayed 1-2 features ahead of our apps,” says Pierce, since it’s generally easier to add features to a website first, he explains.

Like so many other payers, Louisville, Ky.-based Humana is looking to customer service as an avenue for engaging members to take more control over their own health and ultimately reduce medical expenditures. Humana has been working for years to get members involved in self-service options, mostly on the web and through automated telephone channels, but in the last year and a half, mobile has become a centerpiece in those efforts.

Pierce cites figures from Morgan Stanley predicting that by 2014, more people worldwide will access the Internet from mobile devices than from desktop or laptop computers.

“We really started with mobile in ’09,” Pierce notes. Humana first deployed mobile technology in December 2009 with a mobile version of its member website and a text service so enrollees can update their information and check FSA and HSA balances, Pierce says. iPhone and Android apps followed four months later.

Since the app was introduced, there have been twice as many downloads of the iPhone version than the Android counterpart, but in April, Android OS took the top spot in terms of mobile web access to the portal, Pierce reports. Keep reading>>

Investor: Health tech is next big opportunity

By: Brian Dolan | May 3, 2011        

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Don Ross HealthTech CapitalBy Don Ross, Managing Director & Founder, HealthTech Capital

Early-stage investors in traditional healthcare companies are certainly having a tough time these days. Many biotech, diagnostic and medical device firms have simply become too risky, as the current uncertain FDA regulatory environment increases cost and time to exit. In fact, venture funding for these companies fell during the fourth quarter of 2010 to the lowest level since 2003, and the number of deals dropped further in the first quarter of 2011, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

This overhanging “exit challenge” is leading many angel investors and venture capitalists to seek new types of investments – companies with lower capital requirements and faster exits. Nowhere was this quest more evident than at the 2011 Angel Capital Association Summit, a premier angel investor event, held last month in Boston.

During the event, I participated on the “Future of Life Science Investing” panel, where the discussion quickly left traditional life sciences and zeroed in on what is emerging as the next big investment opportunity arena: healthtech.

Healthtech companies use mobile, cloud, and other information technologies to increase healthcare delivery efficiencies and deliver consumer-centric applications. Unlike traditional “health IT,” healthtech companies target applications everywhere along spectrum of health and wellness—from in-hospital workflow to in-home monitoring to consumer wellness applications.

Healthtech markets are propelled by technical advancements, an aging population, and government regulations and subsidies to drive adoption of electronic medical records. And, although the FDA is turning its attention to healthtech, most companies in this sector are expected to face comparatively low regulatory requirements.

How big is the healthtech opportunity? Data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) show that the U.S. spent $2.5 trillion on health care in 2009. Of this, 84 percent was spent on healthcare delivery, which includes costs associated with clinicians and insurance companies. In contrast, only 16 percent was spent on therapeutics, including medical devices and drugs. Although venture investors traditionally have put their money into therapeutics rather than delivery, the balance is shifting.

In fact, healthtech was a “star” topic at the recent J.P. Morgan Annual Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, where panelists included Eric Schmidt, Google’s then-CEO, and other technologists not typically associated with health care. Further evidence of the shift in investor attention towards healthtech is the recent establishment of HealthTech Capital, the first angel investing group to focus exclusively on this space. Barely a year old, the group’s membership already is larger than many long-established angel groups and includes individual investors, VCs, corporate venture arms, and healthcare providers.

Healthtech is a complex domain, with several factors that can make or break a company. Existing contracts and relationships may have locked up a market segment. Standards of proof are much higher than in the tech world. Lack of reimbursement can kill a company. A sale often must address a multi-part customer with separate value propositions for the patient, doctor, hospital, and insurance company. Improving patient care alone is insufficient. One physician put his requirements for new technologies to me succinctly: “Will I get paid, and will I get sued?”

Melding a deep understanding of the staid healthcare world with the fast moving technology world is a key to success. Healthtech investors are particularly interested in applications of new technologies to solve old problems in innovative ways. Here are a few examples: Keep reading>>

Google to launch Android video chat

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 29, 2011        

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iPad2FaceTimeWhile the ability to conduct video calls via iPhones is likely not the driving factor moving US physicians to adopt the devices, Apple’s built-in video chat feature FaceTime, has helped set the iPhone 4 apart from the competition. Video chat is one feature that Android users had to turn to third party app developers to use — until now.

Google announced that it will be launching its own native video chat service for devices running its Android OS — including tablets — through its Version 2.3.4 upgrade set to release over the next few weeks. The system will interoperate with anyone using Google Talk video chat on their computer, and unlike Apple’s solution, Google’s solution will work with PCs, according to various reports. Video chatters will be able to make calls over WiFi or on a 3G/4G connection if their carrier supports it.

Android users with the Nexus S will be the first to get the Android 2.3.4 upgrade with the video chat feature enabled. Other users will be receiving the upgrade over the air in a slower roll out.

Opening up native video chat on the Android platform will have some interesting ramifications for the mHealth would if the launch of FaceTime was any indication. Shortly after FaceTime launched the 3G Doctor service in the UK began offering by using doctor consultations over Apple’s video calling app.

Polycom, one of the biggest players in video conferencing for healthcare, announced its intent to create a mobile video service app for Samsung’s Android Galaxy Tab last November.

For more, read this mocoNews post or this PC World article

Mobile health on the road again

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 28, 2011        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsConference season is upon us once again. During the next week I’ll be making a couple cross country trips to attend various mobile health events in DC, Florida, and California.

The events begin today with the West Wireless Health Institute’s Health Care Innovation event in DC. This afternoon I’ll be moderating a panel of mobile health companies that have already secured FDA 510(k) clearance: WellDoc, Mobisante, and AirStrip Technologies. A representative from the FDA will also sit in on the panel to keep me and the other panelists in line. I’ll be sure to pull from some of the emails readers sent in last week in response to my column on the costs associated with FDA regulation for the discussion.

This weekend we’re off to the American Telemedicine Association in Tampa, Florida to catch a keynote from the inventor of the cell phone: Marty Cooper. He’s a big proponent of mobile health and also sits on the board of GreatCall, which offers the Jitterbug service. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to ask Cooper a few questions about his thoughts on the industry. Be sure to drop us a note if you have any questions for him.

After Tampa the MobiHealthNews team is heading to Palo Alto, California for Stanford University’s Mobile Health 2011: What Really Works. This event is largely focused on behavior change and design in mobile health, but this year will include a broader scope. I’ll be moderating a business models session later in the afternoon on Thursday.

Action-packed week ahead. Tune into my Twitter feed for live updates from the road: @MobileHealth and expect full reports over the coming days.