In-Depth: State of the Industry Digital Health Q1 2014

By: MobiHealthNews | Apr 11, 2014        

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The first three months of 2014 have proven to be eventful. Among arguably much more important events, Apple hired a whole lot of medical sensor experts for some unknown reason – most suspect for the rumored iWatch. More NBA players started wearing health tracking devices. The Google Flu Trends debacle got some scholarly attention. Disney helped launch a tooth brushing app for kids. Facebook bought a virtual reality company for $2 billion that it might use for remote doctor visits someday. And a company called HealBe said it had developed a device to passively track caloric intake.

Apple’s rumored digital health debut looms as others step up

Oculus RiftThe increasing number of digital health hires made by Apple fueled rumors about an iWatch and a rumored all-in-one health tracking app that Apple is reportedly working on, called Healthbook. Meanwhile, Samsung has started embedding heart rate sensors directly into their newest smartphones. And after a quiet meeting with the FDA became big news, Google announced that its moonshot lab is working on contact lenses that it hopes will be able to noninvasively monitor glucose. In the past three months Sony, LG, Virgin, and Epson also all announced activity tracking devices. At the same time passive activity tracking via smartphone apps has trended up thanks in part to the addition of the M7 chipset to Apple’s latest generation of mobile devices.

Mergers and acquisitions stay strong in digital health

During the first quarter of 2014 MobiHealthNews tracked eight acquisitions for digital health companies – almost none of which disclosed the financial details.

UnitedHealth division Optum acquires a majority stake in Audax Health Solutions. The deal “included cash, options, preferred stock, and significant working capital,” according to the companies. The near-acquisition will not affect Audax’s existing relationships with customers, including Cigna, whose CIO Mark Boxer sits on Audax’s board.

Basis Band Carbon SteelIntel confirmed rumors that it had bought Basis Science. Basis Science, the activity tracker company that makes the high-end Basis B1 Band, got snapped up by Intel for between $100 million and $150 million, according to press reports. Earlier this year Basis was reportedly soliciting Google, Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft for a buyout at a price point below $100 million. Notably, Intel Capital became a Basis investor last October and joined the company’s board at that time. Other Basis investors included Norwest Venture Capital Partners, DCM, and Mayfield Fund. The startup raised just over $30 million in total.

AirStrip buys assets of Sense4Baby. San Antonio, Texas-based mobile healthcare company AirStrip acquired the assets of wireless monitoring startup Sense4Baby and licensed the associated technology that the startup was founded on from the Gary and Mary West Health Institute. The companies did not disclose the financial terms of the transaction. Sense4Baby raised $4 million from the West Health Investment Fund in early 2013. The FDA-cleared Sense4Baby offering is a packaged kit that includes the wearable monitoring device and either a dedicated smartphone or tablet with pre-loaded Sense4Baby software. The company also offers providers a web-based portal that allows them to view or review all that data entered through the mobile app as well as the monitoring data. The offering is currently FDA-cleared for use by providers to conduct non-stress tests on high-risk pregnancy patients in clinical settings. AirStrip said it plans to roll out Sense4Baby to providers as planned, but it also aims to develop a version of the offering that patients can use at home.  Keep reading>>

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Connected glucometer company LabStyle partners with nutrition app FatSecret

By: Aditi Pai | Apr 10, 2014        

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DarioIsrael-based LabStyle Innovations, maker of a smartphone-connected glucometer called Dario, partnered with nutrition app maker FatSecret.

Dario is a small glucose meter that syncs with a companion app. It works with Apple iPhone 5, iPads and iPods and Android devices like the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Tab. The app includes a nutrition guide, logbook, insulin calculator and monitoring system. A data overview within the app displays a radial chart of blood glucose measurements. It also shows how many measurements were above, below or within the blood glucose target range and if they were before or after a meal.

“What we have seen in the market is existing players are taking a glucose meter and integrating it into a smartphone, which is using the smartphone mainly as a presentation of the blood glucose and also capturing information as a logbook,” LabStyle Innovation CEO Erez Raphael told MobiHealthNews. “We, as a company, took the solution two steps forward. We thought that by providing a smart software with pattern recognition and good user experience, we could create some stickiness of users to our app and also provide them with a level of personalization that will help them define exactly what to do next and how to take care of themselves better.”  Keep reading>>

Omada Health raises $23M to double team, launch new products

By: Aditi Pai | Apr 10, 2014        

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Omada healthSan Francisco-based Omada Health, an online and mobile diabetes prevention program, raised $23 million in a round led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from Kaiser Permanente Ventures and return backers U.S. Venture Partners and The Vertical Group. This brings Omada Health’s total funding to $28.5 million.

Omada Health’s program, Prevent, lasts 16 weeks and aims to help those that are at-risk for Type 2 diabetes make positive health behavior changes. The program was based on a 2002 NIH Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) intervention that produced significant results for prediabetics.

Users are paired with a health coach who monitors their progress throughout the program. Each week, users take an interactive health lesson that covers a range of topics including exercise and nutrition on a mobile device or computer. As part of the program, users receive a wireless-enabled scale and pedometer so that they can track their progress digitally.

Since their last investment round in March 2014, Prevent has signed on more than 10 enterprise customers including “major organizations, integrated delivery networks and health plans such as Blue Cross Blue Shield Louisiana, Kaiser Permanente, and Stanford Hospital & Clinics,” Sean Duffy, co-founder and CEO of Omada Health, told MobiHealthNews in an email.

Some of the funds from this round will be used to expand Omada Health’s product line to include more services that focus on preventive health. Duffy said they are actively exploring potential areas that they could create programs in and hope to begin prototyping new programs this year. Omada Health plans to have one to two new programs in the market at some point in 2015.

Omada Health also expects to double in size, from 30 to 60 people, by the end of the year. Another portion of the most recent round will go toward hiring engineers and designers.

PatientsLikeMe signs five-year data access deal with Genentech

By: Jonah Comstock | Apr 10, 2014        

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patientslikemeBoston-based PatientsLikeMe, a hub for crowd-sourced patient data and an open research platform, has announced its most wide-reaching pharma partnership yet, a five-year agreement to share data with Genentech, a division of Roche.

“They are a forward-looking company in the health IT space, and … I think they’re really looking at new forms of evidence and how that can improve their business and impact their products and services,” PatientsLikeMe President and Co-founder Ben Heywood told MobiHealthNews. “They are a patient-centered business and they’re really trying to improve their leadership in that arena.”

PatientsLikeMe has opened up its data to pharmaceutical companies several times in the past. They worked with Sanofi to recruit for clinical trials a year ago, a similar arrangement to one Merck made with the company in August of 2012. Last summer, PatientsLikeMe announced a partnership with clinical consulting firm inVentiv Health to use the platform for clinical trial recruitment for InVentiv’s pharmaceutical clients. They also launched an open-participation research platform with a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation last year.  Keep reading>>

European Commission asks for help from industry to regulate, encourage mobile health

By: Brian Dolan | Apr 10, 2014        

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European Commission Mobile HealthThis week the European Commission announced a consultation — similar to a public notice from the FDA here in the US — that asks digital health companies and others for help in identifying ways to encourage and regulate mobile health, which the Commission defines as ”ways to enhance the health and wellbeing of Europeans with the use of mobile devices, such as mobile phones, tablets, patient monitoring devices and other wireless devices.”

The EU is looking to move the needle on a number of issues related to mobile health in Europe, including: the safety of health apps, concerns over data misuse, lack of interoperability, and lack of understanding of legal requirements for wellness apps.

While the Commission’s “green paper” on mobile health poses about a dozen specific questions to those working in digital health, a few example questions include: What safety and performance requirements should apply to lifestyle and wellbeing apps? Which security safeguards could ensure health data is safe in an mHealth context? What is the best way to promote mHealth entrepreneurship in Europe? The EU is also looking for early evidence of mobile health’s impact on healthcare systems in Europe. The Commission has given a July 3, 2014 deadline for comments and it expects the consultation to inform policy decisions set to be announced sometime in 2015.

The European Commission has also funded a handful of mobile health initiatives with about €100 million already committed and about that much still available over the course of the next two years. Some of the mobile health projects that have benefitted from the EU’s funding to date, include:  Keep reading>>

Nielsen: More fitness devices purchased in-store than online

By: Aditi Pai | Apr 10, 2014        

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misfit shine t-shirtOnly 15 percent of consumers use a nutrition-tracking website or mobile app to stay healthy, according to a Nielsen survey of 471 respondents called the Health and Wellness survey conducted in February 2014.

The post from Nielsen combines insights from not only the Health and Wellness Survey, but also the Connected Life Report, which MobiHealthNews covered at the end of March. This report surveyed 3,956 respondents last November.

According to Nielsen, 13 percent of consumers use a fitness game on a mobile devices or game console to stay in shape. Social interaction is a big motivator for consumers who want to get healthy — 49 percent of respondents said their family and friends were the most helpful for staying motivated. This could explain why the social aspect of health programs such as Weight Watchers are more popular than other features.

When shopping for a fitness device, 48 percent of fitness band owners and 54 percent of health device owners did research on what device to buy online. The top source of information, after online research, was recommendations from friends and family — 36 percent of fitness band owners and 25 percent of mobile health device owners asked their peers for advice before purchasing a device. Thirty percent of both fitness band owners and mobile health device owners shopped in stores for their fitness devices. Nielsen explained that the “mobile health” devices include pedometers.

While online shopping yielded the highest results for researching devices, 33 percent purchased the device online through the brand’s website and 27 percent purchased their device online through a third party. More consumers, 37 percent, purchased their device in stores and Nielsen noted that ”manufacturers of fitness bands in particular should take note of the sway that a hands-on experience can provide”.

Once they purchased their devices, 62 percent of fitness device owners were most interested in tracking miles traveled and calories burned. Nearly half of fitness device owners used their device to monitor their heart rate.

Nielsen found that 62 percent of fitness device owners used their device daily and 29 percent of this group used their device multiple times a day. Of course, another recent survey from Endeavor Partners noted that one-third of consumers who own a wearable device stopped using it within six months. Still, according to Nielsen, the number of smartphone owners who used a fitness device increased 18 percent from January 2013, when there were 39 million users, to January 2014, when there were 45.8 million consumers.

Only 28 percent of fitness band users say their device was worth the price. People were most concerned with the device’s level of privacy and the lack of unique features. For 30 percent of consumers, the privacy issue was important because they believed their devices would make it “too easy” for others to access personal information. Twenty eight percent of consumers wanted more unique features because they felt like they could have used a device they already own, likely their smartphone, to do what their fitness device does.

Apps with fitness tracking features, such as Moves by ProtoGeo, have been advertising for a while now that the software on a smartphone could be just as effective as a fitness device. Most recently, Jason Jacobs, CEO of RunKeeper, said that dedicated trackers are on the “road to nowhere.” He went on to compare these fitness trackers to cameras and music players, which were swallowed by the smartphone.

For those consumers that don’t already own devices, 17 percent said they would consider purchasing a device when it drops to “a reasonable price” and 9 percent would consider purchasing a device when the bugs have been worked out.