Spirometrix raises $8.6M to develop nitric oxide asthma sensor

By: Jonah Comstock | Nov 11, 2014        

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spirometrixPleasanton, California-based Spirometrix, a company working on a breath analysis sensor for early detection and treatment of asthma and COPD, has raised $8.6 million in second round funding. The round was led by NGK Spark Plugs, a Japanese company  that manufactures spark plugs and oxygen sensors, which contributed $5 million. Existing investor Simul Investments also contributed. The raise brings the company’s total funding to $12 million.

Spirometrix’s device, which is still under development and not yet FDA-cleared, measures nitric oxide in the breath as a biomarker of asthma and other respiratory diseases. The Fenom sensor system will work similarly to a spirometer — the user will exhale into the device for 10 seconds and get results returned in a minute. But the test has a high sensitivity — it can detect NO in 5 parts per billion.

The sensor device will also include standard sensors like a peak flow meter, GPS, and an environmental sensor for pollen counts. It will be used both as an initial diagnostic test for asthma and to predict episodes in people with existing respiratory conditions. The company says data will be transmitted to patients and physicians via the cloud.  Keep reading>>


Can this Utah health plan reel in 20-somethings with a gamified app?

By: Jonah Comstock | Nov 11, 2014        

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Arches beginningJust in time for the start of open enrollment, a Utah health plan has devised a mobile app solution to the problem of convincing so-called “young invincibles” to sign up for health coverage: a gamified app they hope will educate users about the costs of being uninsured. Arches Health Plan is a 27,000-member co-op health plan funded by provisions in the Affordable Care Act.

“We were on college campuses talking to this demographic,” Tricia McGarry-Schumann, Chief Marketing Officer for Arches, told MobiHealthNews. “It became pretty evident they did not understand how costly [health] services are, particularly services related to the typical lifestyle in Utah which is a very active one. We have a lot of skiers here, hikers, bikers, cyclists, and they generally have no idea services are so expensive.”

The app, called “Arches Saves Your Bacon” aims to give users an idea of how different behaviors affect their health risks and how much they can cost them. First, the user spins a wheel to generate six behaviors that range from mundane behaviors (binge-watching Netflix) to extreme sports (skiing or skateboarding) to just plain silly entries (one just says “BEES!!”, for instance).

After the user answers a few questions about themselves, the game has them click through each month of the year as it randomly flashes from green to yellow to red. If it’s green, the user is rewarded with a safe month, yellow turns out a minor incident, and red is a catastrophic accident that leads to a game over. The incidents are paired with two money amounts — the cost with and without insurance — but also with a little story tied to one of the risk factors the user initially selected.  Keep reading>>

MDLive acquires virtual therapy visits provider Breakthrough Behavioral

By: Aditi Pai | Nov 11, 2014        

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BreakthroughSunrise, Florida-based MDLive, which offers telehealth services including patient-to-physician remote visits via mobile devices, has acquired online therapy provider Breakthrough Behavioral. The financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Breakthrough Behavioral has raised at least $5.9 million to date.

The acquisition will allow MDLive to expand its services and offer patients access to a larger network of medical and mental health specialists.

Keep reading>>

HealthCare.com raises $7.5M from former Priceline execs for health plan shopping tool

By: Aditi Pai | Nov 11, 2014        

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HealthCare.comHealthCare.com, not to be confused with the federal government’s HealthCare.gov, raised $7.5 million from Jeffery H. Boyd, former CEO of Priceline, and Robert J. Mylod, former CFO of Priceline.

The website helps consumers compare the cost of different healthcare plans. HealthCare.com offers comparisons of the state-based exchange plans, federal exchange plans and many private, off-exchange plans.

The company aggregates these healthcare plans from public and private sources, develops tools to help consumers pick the plan that’s right for them, and then provides consumers with several purchase options — online, over the phone, or with a licensed insurance agent. HealthCare.com generates revenue by connecting consumers with insurance agencies and carriers and also through targeted advertising.

The website added its price comparison tool just a few months ago. It also announced a tax subsidy calculator that estimates potential financial aid from the federal government; a tax penalty calculator to measure how much tax would be due if someone decided not to buy health insurance; and a shopping guide to compare various insurance plans. At the time, the company said it offered 200 carriers and more than 90,000 health insurance plans.

“HealthCare.com is the ‘Kayak’ for health insurance purchases – the most comprehensive health website in the marketplace, offering simple resources to help individuals select the best health plan for them,” HealthCare.com CEO and cofounder Jeff Smedsrud said at the time. “Our goal is to become a destination website for a variety of healthcare searches, similar to how travel or real estate websites aggregate thousands of options with a few clicks.”

Earlier this year, HealthCare.com raised $2 million in a founders round of financing.

HealthCare.com’s announcement comes just a day after the federal government’s HealthCare.gov site was updated to include a new feature that offers consumers detailed information about health insurance plans offered in their area before they apply for health insurance. To use the feature, consumers will be asked to enter some personal information, such as their location and family size. From there, consumers can compare health insurance plans and get an estimate on how much financial assistance they qualify for.

Randomized trial finds SmartQuit app 60 percent more effective than NCI’s smoking cessation app

By: Aditi Pai | Nov 11, 2014        

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SmartQuitSeattle-based behavior change company 2Morrow has launched an app, called SmartQuit, that aims to help smokers quit.

2Morrow partnered with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to create the app. In October, 2Morrow published a randomized control trial of 196 participants and found that users of SmartQuit were 2.5 to 3 times more likely to quit than those who try to quit on their own. The researchers also found that SmartQuit was 60 percent more effective than the National Cancer Institute’s application for smoking cessation, called QuitGuide. (Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated that SmartQuit users were 2.5 to 3 times more likely to quit than those who used QuitGuide.)

The RCT also found that while SmartQuit participants opened their app on average 37.2 times during the trial period’s two months, QuiteGuide participants opened their application 15.2 times.

SmartQuit is based on the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT-based program. Users of the app are prompted to identify what matters to them. They are also asked to become aware of their urges to smoke and let those urges come and go without acting on them. Using this method, the user is tracking their urges rather than tracking their smokes.

“[Mobile health] has a challenge because the technology has outpaced the research,” 2Morrow CEO Brandon Masterson said in a statement. “With SmartQuit we were able to prove the efficacy as well as discover what really works.”

The app, which is available on iOS and Android devices, offers a free version and a paid version. In the free version, users can create their quit plan and become more aware of their urges. But the premium plan, which costs $49.99, teaches users proven ways to deal with their urges.

Since the initial RCT, Life Sciences Discovery Fund fund awarded 2Morrow $250,000 to pilot the program with smokers in Washington state.

Utah health system deepens partnership with accelerator Healthbox

By: Jonah Comstock | Nov 10, 2014        

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Intermountain app

When Intermountain Healthcare, a large Utah-based hospital system, invested in digital health accelerator Healthbox last April, they announced that Intermountain would be one of the first testbeds for a Healthbox “foundry” program. Now more details have emerged about Healthbox and Intermountain’s three-part collaboration.

One part is fairly standard: Intermountain will serve as a partner for a new Healthbox location in Utah, which launched in August. In addition, though, Healthbox will help Intermountain establish an in-house incubator program for Intermountain employees called the Intermountain Foundry. Finally, the health system is working with Healthbox to create a fund to invest in startups that come out of its Foundry program.

“It’s based on a lot of the feedback we’ve gotten from clinicians and others, talking to internal physicians who’ve had ideas and they’re not sure where to go, they kind of scramble around the organization to sort of get the support they need to help their ideas grow,” George Hamilton, vice president of business development at Intermountain told MobiHealthNews. “We thought, why should that be the case? If an idea is meant to transform healthcare, that’s what Intermountain is all about, why shouldn’t we develop a structure to support that, to make it as easy as possible? It’s hard enough just to create a new product or a new device or a new piece of software. It’s challenging enough to try and go outside and develop it and get funding, but if we streamline that and provide not just the business support but all the ties to the clinical side where they can get clinical evaluations, you end up with better products you can get into the market faster.”  Keep reading>>