Report from large employers explores wellness, healthcare cost strategies

By: Jonah Comstock | Sep 17, 2014        

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CEOInfographicChief executive officers from nine large American companies, healthcare and otherwise, released a 130-page report detailing a number of ways the private sector can help reduce the country’s rising healthcare costs, including explaining a lot of the work their own companies are already doing. The CEO Council on Health and Innovation was formed by the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Five CEOS from the council presented a panel to launch the document: Aetna’s Mark Bertolini, Verizon’s Lowell McAdam, Bank Of America’s Brian Moynahan, Nant Health’s Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, and Muhtar Kent, CEO of the Coca Cola company. Representatives of the other companies (Johnson & Johnson, McKinsey Company, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Walgreens) also attended.

The report outlines three major areas where large employers can improve healthcare: they can focus on improving the health and wellness of individuals through their own employee wellness programs, they can improve the health of communities by working with local organizations, and they can improve the healthcare system by pushing their employees into provider organizations that offer value-based care, and supporting new care delivery technologies like telemedicine and mobile medication adherence tools.

“I think most of us know we don’t have very good outcomes when you look at how we stack up against the rest of the world, especially considering what we spend,” MdAdam said. “We spend well over half a trillion dollars every year. At Verizon it’s $2.2 billion, and on this stage we represent a million employees and 150 million people in our healthcare system when you count retirees.”

He said that the companies had come together about a year ago to compare notes on healthcare strategy, and decided technology was at something of a watershed moment to enable real change in the healthcare system.

“Those of you that are wearing Fitbits and you’ve got monitors, the technology now is so pervasive, and will become even more so with wearables as we go forward, that we thought we could really make a difference,” he said. “So … this is the report. A year later, we think we’ve got a great roadmap other companies can use to lower their costs and improve their healthcare.”

In the employee wellness sector, companies talked about both technology-driven and non-tech-driven strategies. Aetna’s Bertolini highlighted workplace wellness programs that focus on mindfulness and yoga, for example, while Bank of America’s Moynahan spoke at length about his company’s experience tracking health factors with connected devices.

“We noticed throughout the member CEOs and other organizations [on the Council] that this is taking hold and you’re starting to see these devices on peoples’ wrists,” he said. “But the real question is what makes it take hold and stick? So we have been at this a few years and we have 100,000 employees involved in tracking weight, steps, and exercise minutes. And that’s not particularly unique, lots of companies do it. But the unique thing was we got a high participation. So 100,000 people did it the first time, 70,000 people did it the second time. But the real question is how do you drive that across a broader population? How do you translate that into activity and make that fun and interesting so people do it?”  Keep reading>>

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HCSC, five providers sponsor Healthbox’s third Chicago accelerator program

By: Aditi Pai | Sep 17, 2014        

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CubiiDigital health accelerator Healthbox has added eight companies to its next accelerator, which will be located in Chicago.

This is the third Chicago-based Healthbox accelerator. Chicago is also home base for Healthbox Global Partners, the parent company of Healthbox since 2013.

Healthbox partnered with a number of companies to launch the class, including insurance company Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC) and five providers: Advocate Health Care, Ascension, Community Health Network, Edward-Elmhurst Healthcare and Ridgeview Medical Center.

In April, HCSC was part of a $7 million investment round in Healthbox Global Partners. It was the first time strategic investors invested in Healthbox’s parent company.

“The market is crowding with healthcare startups touting their newest disruptive solution that is addressing healthcare’s largest challenge,” Healthbox CEO and founder Nina Nashif said in a statement. “The eight companies entering Healthbox Chicago though, have really differentiated themselves not only by their technology and passion, but through a solid understanding of the strategic support they need to validate their product in the market and grow a solid business.”

Here are the eight companies in the accelerator:  Keep reading>>

Health insurance company HCSC to launch app with emphasis on activity, meditation

By: Aditi Pai | Sep 16, 2014        

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HCSC CenteredInsurance company Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC), which offers insurance plans to residents of Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, has made available its first wellness app for its members, called Centered. The app focuses on activity tracking and meditation.

The app will make use of the M7 and M8 motion coprocessors on Apple’s iPhone 5S and newly released iPhone 6, respectively. Apple’s previous motion coprocessor, M7, tracks activity with a gyroscope, accelerometer, and compass, but the M8 chip also takes in data from a barometer so it can track changes in altitude.

The inclusion of a motion coprocessor in Apple’s mobile devices has led to a flurry of passive activity tracking app launches over the course of the past year.

Centered will display a daily summary of calories burned, miles walked, and time spent being active every day, but it also offers meditation sessions for users to complete every week that range from four to 19 minutes. The app will send users tips on how to have a successful meditation session and provide them with a history of meditation sessions completed. Before the session begins and afterwards, users can use the app to get their average relaxation rating.

An HCSC spokesperson told MobiHealthNews that the app was developed based on a study conducted by the Adler School of Professional Psychology and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. The study found that short meditation sessions lead to reduced stress levels and an increase in a user’s ability to focus.

This is the second digital health-related project HCSC has been involved in recently. In April, HCSC was part of a $7 million investment round in Healthbox Global Partners which has been the parent company of digital health accelerator Healthbox since 2013. It was the first time strategic investors invested in Healthbox’s parent company.

Stretchable, flexible sensor maker MC10 taps ex-Broadcom SVP as CEO

By: Brian Dolan | Sep 16, 2014        

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MC10_BiostampCambridge, Massachusetts-based MC10 announced former Broadcom executive, Scott Pomerantz has joined it as its new CEO and president, replacing David Icke, who is leaving the company. At semiconductor company, Broadcom, Pomerantz most recently served as the SVP and GM of wireless connectivity, Broadcom’s biggest business. He joined Broadcom in 2007 after it acquired his GPS company, Global Locate.

This isn’t the first wireless industry executive to join MC10 in recent months, Motorola’s Sanjay Gupta was tapped as their VP of product development this summer.

A spokesperson for MC10 told Xconomy that the CEO “change is consistent with MC10’s trajectory of growth as an organization. We are bringing in leadership with the background and experience to best position MC10 moving forward.” Icke was not mentioned in the press release announcing Pomerantz as the new CEO.

MC10′s highest profile product is its CheckLight mesh cap, co-developed with Reebok, designed to provide realtime feedback about athlete head injuries. Lately, though, the company has discussed a number of different wearable sensors, all predicated on the idea of “stretchable” or flexible electronics. The company is developing a patch that measures hydration in near realtime, a wristband that tracks heart rate and activity, and a skin patch that alerts the wearer’s smartphone when it’s time to reapply sunscreen.  Keep reading>>

Survey: 30 percent of patients offered online medical record access in 2013

By: Aditi Pai | Sep 16, 2014        

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ONC medical record survey

Around 30 percent of patients have been offered access to their online medical records by their healthcare provider or insurer, according to a survey of more than 2,100 people conducted by the ONC last year.

The survey was conducted prior to the implementation of Meaningful Use Stage 2 and CLIA rules.

“This may in part reflect the limited view, download and transmit (VDT) capabilities of health care providers prior to MU2,” ONC wrote in response to the low number of consumers who were offered access to their medical records. “Fewer than half of all office-based physicians in 2013 had the computerized capability to provide patients the ability to VDT electronic health record data, and only about a quarter routinely used this capability.”

Within the group of consumers who were offered access to their medical records, 48 percent were offered access by a healthcare provider, 44 percent were offered access by both a healthcare provider and insurer, and just 7 percent were offered access to their records by an insurer alone.

Of those that were offered access, 46 percent viewed their records at least once in the last year. And within that group, 21 percent viewed their records one to two times, 15 percent viewed their records three to five times, four percent viewed their records six to nine times, and 6 percent viewed them over 10 times.

The patients who accessed their records did so for several reasons. Seventy three percent viewed records to keep tabs on their health, for example they checked their medication regimen and test results. Another 44 percent used their records to share data with someone else, some 39 percent downloaded the information to their mobile devices and computers, 11 percent sent the information to a PHR or an app, and 10 percent requested corrections in their data. Only 3 percent of consumers who accessed their data said they did not find it useful, while 60 percent said they found it very useful.

Within the group of patients who were offered access, many cited multiple reasons for why they didn’t. Seventy four percent of those that didn’t access their records said they didn’t need to use the records, 28 percent were wary of privacy risks, 23 percent didn’t have internet access, and 16 percent said they found it difficult to use websites.

Overall, 70 percent of consumers surveyed said that online access to medical records was very or somewhat important. Of those that were offered access to their medical records but did not view them, 62 percent said online access was very or somewhat important.

“Together, these findings suggest that even in the early stages of online medical records, individuals do value and find use from basic capabilities to access their online medical record,” ONC wrote.

Self tracking goes meta: Apps to track your app use

By: Jonah Comstock | Sep 16, 2014        

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JONAH_COMSTOCK_HEADSHOTTime Magazine’s post-Apple Watch cover story suggests that Apple might finally bring wearables into the mainstream in a way they’ve never been before — and that this might not be a good thing.

“Nobody anticipated the way iPhones exert a constant gravitational tug on our attention,” Time’s Lev Grossman and Matt Vela write. “Do I have e-mail? What’s happening on Twitter? Could I get away with playing Tiny Wings at this meeting? When you’re carrying a smartphone, your attention is never entirely undivided.”

But help might come from an unexpected quarter: Developers are now turning to smartphone apps to solve the problem of people spending too much time on their smartphones. In fact there are now at least two apps for people who check their apps too much.

The newest one, Checky, is a simple application that tells users how many times they’ve checked their phone today, and maps out where they’ve checked it throughout the day. Another app, Moment, gives the amount of time the user has spent on his or her phone instead. While Checky is free, Moment is $4.99, but Moment does deliver some kind of an intervention, not just tracking: the app can alert you after you’ve spent a preset amount of time using your phone.  Keep reading>>