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  • News & Updates

    New York-Presbyterian Hospital is renting space at the Blueprint Health accelerator, installing its own computers and servers at the accelerator’s SoHo offices to create an “innovation space.” The hospital says it is also open to commercializing technologies developed by Blueprint’s startups.

    Chinese electronics company Xiaomi debuted a new fitness band that will retail in China for just $13 (79 RMB). The device will track activity, act as a silent alarm, and do will unlock the user’s phone in lieu of a password.

    England-based HealthUnlocked, which calls itself “LinkedIn for Health” in connecting people with a given condition to each other and to providers, plans to expand globally as it releases a new mobile app.

    Walgreens introduced its new “Balance Rewards for healthy choices” initiative, which is the third iteration of the Walgreens Balance Rewards program’s digital health components. This latest update will see Walgreens training some of its pharmacists and online customer reps in Stanford psychologist and mobile health expert Dr. BJ Fogg’s behavior change methodology, called Tiny Habits.

    The New York eHealth Collaborative announced the first seven health care startups selected to participate in the 2014 New York Digital Health Accelerator. The 2014 class includes: AllazoHealth, Clinigence, Covertix, iQuartic, Noom, Quality Reviews, and Sense Health.

    HealthEquity, which offers an online health savings account management system, announced plans for a $100 million IPO.

    According to a new market report published by Transparency Market Research, the global e-clinical solution software market is estimated at $3,005M in 2014. It is expected to grow at a CAGR of 13.8% from 2014 to 2020 to reach $6,515.3M in 2020.

    OBGYN.net will publish relevant content about events that impact obstetrics and gynecology, including the Hobby Lobby decision, the FDA‘s investigation of the use of mechanical power morcellation in minimally invasive gynecological surgery, and the American College of Physician‘s recommendation against pelvic exams.

    NoInjuries.com, a non-profit initiative, is offering a free support kit for implementing and sustaining a facility-wide health care injuries prevention program. It includes handy assessment guides for conducting a facility self-assessment, helpful hints on organizing a team, changing the workplace culture, an early patient mobility guide, and ongoing updates.

    News & Updates

    Breezie, a UK-based personalized web system designed for people who are less familiar with digital technology, easily exceeded their £1,008,000 fundraising goal on CrowdBnk.

    Apple periodically lists apps for particular people, and even with their new Health app, Apple recently added a new list: “Apple’s Apps for Diabetics.” The apps aren’t all from the US, and they don’t all target diabetes specifically; most are consumer-facing apps, but there is one app for doctors, one for kids, and one for pregnant women with diabetes.

    French provider search startup KelDoc is raising $1.4 million (€1 million) from Alven Capital and business angels. Managing doctor appointments is a very regulated market across the pond, and KelDoc has a deep understanding on how this kind of service needs to be adapted to the French and European markets.

    General Mills, the makers of Wheaties, teamed up with MapMyFitness (now a subsidiary of Under Armour) to allow customers to choose the next Wheaties athlete for the first time. Customers will vote with their feet: each workout logged with MapMyFitness will count as votes toward their athlete of choice.

    Aetna will soon offer a new service called NeoCare to members who are new parents with infants in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). NeoCare Solutions, a startup in Aetna’s Healthagen’s unit, offers a tablet-based app that keeps parents connected to a NeoCoach (a registered nurse or social worker) who supports them throughout their child’s NICU journey.

    eRelevance Corporation, a health IT services company, raised another round of seed funding. This brings the company’s total funding to $1.3M. The new funding will be used to support the company’s go-to-market strategy.

    Equinox, a gym franchise, launched a new iOS mobile app that combines data from wearable devices and workout sessions, and gives users a fully personalized fitness experience.

    Second Wind Dreams, a non-profit organization catered towards aging, re-launched its Family Edition of the Virtual Dementia Tour. VDT is a scientifically proven system that builds sensitivity and awareness in individuals by temporarily altering participants’ physical and sensory abilities with props and circumstances, which simulate changes associated with the physical and cognitive impairments of aging.

    IHRSA’s Global Report 2014 surveyed fitness club members in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong, and found that 30% of them use a mobile app to track their health and fitness. The survey also found that roughly 5% use a paid mobile app for this purpose.

    Pilot Health Tech NYC 2014 Winners Announced!

    Health 2.0 congratulates the winners of Pilot Health Tech NYC 2014 announced at today’s Pilot Day in New York City. We had a competitive pool of 65 applicants and have chosen 11 winners to receive a total of $1,000,000 in funding for their pilot proposals.

    Pilot Health Tech NYC, which is now in its second year, is an initiative of NYCEDC to match early-stage health care technology companies with key NYC health care service organizations, including hospitals, physician clinics, payors, pharma companies, nursing associations, major employers and retailers.

    The 11 winners are:

    Smart Vision Labs / SUNY College of Optometry
    Smart Vision Labs and the SUNY College of Optometry in New York City are conducting a pilot to validate the portable wavefront aberrometer, optimize the product design, and improve user experience. The outcome of the study will be used to evaluate the accuracy and repeatability of low order refractive error (myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism) measurements.

    GeriJoy / Pace University
    GeriJoy and Pace University are leveraging the relationship between older adult patients and the GeriJoy Companion to provide health coaching and clinical insight for the top 3 preventable readmission risks for hospitals. The Pilot will evaluate the efficacy of the GeriJoy Companion in reducing hospital readmissions as well as usability for patients who suffer from co-morbid cognitive and behavioral issues, a particularly high-risk population.

    QoL Devices, Inc. / Montefiore Medical Center
    QoL Devices and Montefiore will pilot Alv.io, an advanced, mobile-connected respiratory training and monitoring device, which uses interactive games to increase lung function testing in children to improve asthma management. The device will be piloted in 100 children with asthma who seek care in a Bronx Federally Qualified Health Center to improve the quality of their asthma care and reduce costs.

    Hindsait, Inc. / NY Blood Center
    The NY Blood Center will work with Hindsait to pilot the innovator’s predictive analytics software to predict and classify the behavioral traits of prospective donors. Hindsait’s pattern recognition algorithms and predictive analytics will compute and assign a unique ‘donation probability’ score for each potential donor that will trigger automated ‘score-sensitive’ personalized motivational messaging to the prospective donor.

    Nonnatech / ElderServe
    The pilot will focus on the early detection and intervention of physiological changes that may prevent hospitalizations. By using Nonnatech’s system of smart sensor technologies the pilot will generate data that shows changes in behavior or lack of behaviors that would signal physiological changes.

    The Fit4D solution delivers patient-specific preferred modalities (e.g. phone, email, text, web etc.), addresses patient-specific issues and shares content in patient-specific preferred formats (e.g. articles, videos, webinars, support groups). Through this pilot with HealthFirst, Fit4D will be able to measure the effect of these interventions on diabetes patients in the HealthFirst network by comparing patients with poorly managed diabetes with a control group.

    AllazoHealth / Accountable Care Coalition of Greater New York
    ACCGNY will implement a medication adherence program powered by AllazoEngine’s predictive analytics. This pilot will focus on ACCGNY’s 6,353 attributed beneficiaries, 63% of whom are intellectually/developmentally disabled (IDD). The pilot will evaluate the accuracy of the predictions, the impact of interventions and the savings associated with adherence.

    Canopy Apps / Visiting Nurse Service of New York
    The pilot will examine the impact of the Canopy Medical Translator app to improve patient-provider communication, improve workflow and satisfaction for providers, and reduce staffing inefficiencies for VNSNY. The Canopy Medical Translator application, which enables providers to access a library of pre-translated medical phrases in 15 languages, will be deployed to VNSNY nurses and physical therapists to help them communicate with non-English speaking patients.

    Urgent Software, LLC / Mount Sinai Health System
    Urgent Software will work with Mt. Sinai Health System’s Cardiovascular Institute (CVI) cardiologists and their out-of-network referring physicians. The platform will be used to allow local physicians to search for a nearby CVI physician who accepts the patient’s insurance, schedule an appointment that’s most convenient for the patient, share medical information independent of EMRs and register the patient, collecting demographic and insurance information.

    Healthify / VillageCare
    VillageCare’s Health Home will utilize the Healthify platform to screen patients for their needs, connect them to the appropriate resources for treatment and engage them through text messages. In addition, the case managers will utilize the Healthify resource database to rate and review different community and government resources so service quality can be considered.

    Tactonic Technologies / NYU Langone, Rusk Rehab Center
    Tactonic pressure imaging sensors and software enables objective gait and balance measurements that can enhance the sensitivity and specificity of the Timed Up and Go Test (TUGT), which measures a patient’s ability to walk and balance. By partnering with NYU’s Rusk Rehab Center, Tactonic will be able to improve the TUGT diagnostic yield by making it more objective and, improving the sensitivity and specificity of the tool by obtaining additional rich data.

    Health 2.0 is excited to see the results of this year’s Pilot Health Tech initiative and we’re looking forward to the success of the winners’ pilots!

    News & Updates

    Verizon launched Verizon Virtual Visits, which connects patients remotely to a clinician for colds, flus, sore throats or other simple, acute conditions. Users complete and send intake forms to providers and can then “see” a doctor via video on their smartphone, tablet or computer.

    Adidas may be launching a new activity tracker to its product line, a wristworn wearable called the miCoach Fit Smart. In a trademark filing Adidas posted, the company explains the Fit Smart will track “heart rates, calories burned, time, duration, stride rate, pace, speed, distance and steps taken”.

    A slew of funding deals were announced this week with Truveris netting $13 million, CoPatient raising $3.6 million, CareCloud raising a $25.5 million venture debt round, and new continuous heart rate monitoring wrist band Whoop closing $6 million in funding.

    Philips will deploy clinical applications in a Salesforce.com-powered cloud environment that’s centered around patient relationship management. Two care collaboration platforms for monitoring chronic condition patients at home will be launched this summer, and Philips says future offerings will incorporate information from EMRs, medical devices, home monitoring, and wearables.

    Microsoft will launch a new Israel-based accelerator in partnership with medical technology company Becton Dickinson (BD) that will be focused entirely on health startups. Microsoft expects this to be a one-off, health-focused class of startups and it doesn’t plan to host another health-focused accelerator program again.

    NeedMe is a new health care social network for patients. It connects newly diagnosed patients to successful past patients who have had the same conditions, tests, treatments, and procedures at the same locations. All information is provided anonymously.

    InvisAlert Solutions developed a HIPAA compliant digital clipboard that uses audio and visual cues to help medical staff monitor psychiatric inpatients every 15 minutes. These checks will not be recorded unless the staff observer and consumer are within close, line-of-sight proximity which is adjustable from 1-20 feet.

    PointClickCare, a provider of cloud-based software for the senior care industry, implemented VASCO Data Security‘s DIGIPASS GO 6 one-button authenticators to enable health care practitioners to conduct secure, HIPAA-compliant mobile conversations, and approve and sign patient orders.

    A study by Aetna and GNS Healthcare (published in the American Journal of Managed Care), found that analysis of patient records using analytics can predict future risk of metabolic syndrome. The accuracy and short speed to insight of this study allowed Aetna to develop targeted cost-effective care management programs for individuals with or at risk for metabolic syndrome.

    Google launched GoogleFit, an open platform for digital health app and device developers that will allow users to control their fitness data more effectively. Google Fit provides developers with a single set of APIs so that different apps and devices can talk to each other freely and give users more context around their various fitness metrics.

    5 Ways to Engage Patients in Digital Health: Part I

    I packed my bags leaving my family, a medical career and a health startup behind in Egypt and headed out to San Francisco to learn more about health innovation. As the plane took off, a flurry of questions raced through my mind regarding digital health’s future (and mine!). Can patients truly be empowered to engage in their own health decisions? Would entrepreneurs be able to make a living by providing those tools? Will highly institutionalized US health care systems allow for such a change to happen?

    Being the Marketing Director for KryptonWorx, a digital health company located between Cairo and Charleston, I was forced out of my fact-based physician mindset and into a right-brained designer mentality. It is obvious that design can radically change human beings and their behavior, but what makes us want to interact with digital solutions? How do successful companies keep their patients engaged? I was determined to find out.

    I interviewed two insightful and inspirational innovators in the digital health space to get answers to my questions:

    1. Lori Scanlon, the sharp VP of Marketing for PatientsLikeMe, an online solution that focuses on building game-changing bridges between patients with similar diseases, while empowering researchers with open data.
    2. Jacob Sattelmair, the highly spirited Co-Founder and CEO of Wellframe, which is revolutionizing the interactions between patients and their care managers in a very human-oriented mobile approach.

    Even though the two companies focus on different aspects of the health care system, there were certain design elements that both speakers emphasized, which make their solutions disrupt the system in a meaningful way, while engaging their users.

    After listening to their stories, I extracted 5 golden nuggets of wisdom essential to anyone looking to reinvent the health care experience in an engaging way.

    1) Empathy: Know thy patient.

    Understanding your users lies at the heart of smart design, as any design thinker would tell you. Engagement starts with what people already know and then takes them through the journey of behavioral change, not vice-versa.

    As Lori eloquently puts it: “We try to understand what our patients need, where they want it and try to meet them where they are at”. PatientsLikeMe was inspired when the co-founders’ brother was diagnosed with ALS and built their first community about something they actually cared about.

    In Wellframe’s case, Jacob and his team recognized that those who they could really help were high risk patients tracking specific triggers. With that problem in mind, Wellframe only reached their final product after spending months with these patients in clinical trials.

    2) Positive Feedback Loops: Always have a give and take.

    Defining the patients’ interactions, and identifying what they care for makes all the difference. As Dan Saffer mentions in his new book, the details within Microinteractions are what make for good digital products.

    The PatientsLikeMe website prompts users to answer questions about their disease, and in return, instantly shows them how they compare to others through open and public reports. As opposed to clinical trials, where the participants rarely get any feedback, Lori stressed how PatientsLikeMe provides their users with “At least the topline results within weeks”.

    Wellframe, on the other hand, focuses on collecting data from patients about their medications, activities and mental state. Wellframe then relays that information to the care manager who provides users with recommendations and personalized treatment, completing the feedback loop. “The patients understand that they could get the best care, the more you put in, the more you get out of it,” Jacob noted, “We give them that with a feedback loop that is human rather than an algorithm”.

    3) Education: Humans seek knowledge and mastery.

    One reason why WebMD got so popular is that it gave people the knowledge they wanted about their specific disease that was otherwise locked up in medical books. With the advancing power of medical A.I, companies are taking education a notch further, and providing patients a very personalized education.

    PatientsLikeMe provides customized communities where more personalized knowledge can be found, and that knowledge is a big reason why the patients keep coming back. “I remember that one patient who was diagnosed with MS and was on Baclofen for a while, but had the problem of spasms and stiffness and he couldn’t walk too well,” Lori recounted, “ Then he found out through our charts that most patients were taking a higher dose, and once he convinced his doctor to change the dosage, his problems were solved. He could walk normally again.”

    Wellframe converts the tedious educational regimen outlined by physicians to “Little pearls of information via text or personalized videos,” Jacob explained as he showed me how Wellframe breaks down the videos that are recorded by the actual Care Manager in charge of the patient. The patients are then asked a set of follow up questions to verify their learning. This gives the patient not just an engaging, but also a very personalized learning experience.

    4) Social Connectivity: Finding those who understand us.

    In a world where we stare at our devices more than we talk to the people around us, solutions that engage us must build on human connections that would enrich our lives – especially when it comes to health.

    This is where the PatientsLikeMe forum comes into play strongly in recreating the health care experience. You can connect with, talk and compare yourself to people going through the exact same thing you are. That is very powerful.

    When I asked the charismatic and energetic CEO of Wellframe about that topic, he replied: “Our whole mobile solution is based on that human interaction which solves a basic emotional need for the patient who wants to interact with the care manager on a personal basis.” Perhaps what is even more interesting is that patients have a sense of accountability because of the fact that someone is paying attention to them.

    5) Canoes of data between isolated islands.

    As outlined by Jonathan Bush in his recent book Where Does it Hurt?, one of the major opportunities for entrepreneurs in the digital health space is the fact that health care is like a sea of islands, where different elements are isolated and do not communicate.

    PatientsLikeMe maintains its viability as the data link between patients with similar diseases, and between patients and researchers. This allows it to build a business model around pharmaceutical companies that wish to conduct customized studies, while providing the research community with a vast open sourced pool of data.

    The basic premise of Wellframe lies in its ability to enable the patients to share their data with care managers and receive personalized feedback in return.

    Despite the clichés that claim that “there is no formula” for designing an engaging solution, there are unquestionably certain elements that hold true regardless of company size or domain.  Developing a patient-centered solution that connects, informs and provides feedback will always capture the patients’ hearts if the creator looks through their lens first.

    In fact, after reflecting upon the power of these 5 nuggets, I found that these elements of design applied generally across a wide range of life experiences. As I will illustrate in Part II of this series, these nuggets still hold value whether it’s in a medical tent in the Egyptian Revolution or in a Yoga session at Burning Man.

    Omar Shaker completed medical school in Egypt, followed by internships in the US. He soon left primary care for the world of digital health, moving to San Francisco to work on his own projects. These posts represent his reflections on a series of interviews he conducted with some of the more exciting entrepreneurs working in digital health today. Omar can be reached at  shaker118@gmail.com.  

    News & Updates

    Grand Rounds raised $40 million in Series B funding led by Greylock Partners. Grand Rounds is building a consulting network for companies to provide their employees with access to health care advice and treatment from physicians and specialists across the U.S.

    Meet You, a Chinese app for period tracking and female community, closed US$35 million in Series C funding. Meet You started the business as a menstruation period tracing app and gradually shifted its focus to constructing a female community, where users can discuss and share tips on various topics, like parenting, fashion, keeping fit, relationships, etc.

    FreeWavz, a new set of smart, wireless earphones with built-in fitness monitoring, launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $300,000. The earphones were designed by an ENT doctor, and provide a complete heads up solution for fitness aficionados who don’t want to look down at an app for information during a workout.

    OMsignal, Health 2.0’s 7th Annual Launch! Winner and makers of smart clothing (seriously, go look), raised a $10 million Series A investment led by Bessemer Venture Partners (BVP).

    ZocDoc is raising a $152 million round at a $1.6 billion valuation, according to a Delaware Certificate of Corporation filing. In February, the company said it surpassed 5 million users and was available in 2,000 cities (40 percent of the U.S. market), with plans to be available everywhere in the country by the end of 2014.

    Physicians Interactive, a provider of web and mobile based clinical resources health care professionals, acquired MedHelp, an online health community and health application platform. The acquisition was financed by Merck Global Health Innovation. Terms of the deal were not released.

    Online health and wellness resource, Vertical Wellness launched the “Peel the Hate” campaign to bring awareness to racist behavior during sporting events. The campaign is asking people to take a unique photo of themselves with a banana, write or hashtag “Peel the Hate” on it, and post it on their social media pages.

    According to a new study by MarketsandMarkets, the global health care/medical simulation market is estimated to be worth $1.9B by 2017. The key driving factors are increasing health care costs, rising demand for minimally invasive treatment, and increasing consolidation of manufacturers.

    Sprint will launch Samsung Galaxy S® 5 Sport, a Spark enabled device with both the hardware and software targeted towards the growing health and fitness markets. The device will also offer mobile solutions in collaboration with companies like Under Armour and MapMyFitness.

    Health 2.0 8th Annual Fall Conference Announces Agenda Highlights

    Samsung Electronics President To Take Center Stage

    San Francisco, CA – Tech giants storming the digital health landscape will be center stage at Health 2.0’s 8th Annual Fall Conference in Santa Clara, CA. An impressive line-up of health and tech executives headline three full days of live demos and innovative sessions. Highlights include keynotes from visionary physicians Eric Topol and Patrick Soon-Shiong as well as Samsung Electronics President, Young Sohn in conversation with Health 2.0 CEO, Indu Subaiya. Leaders from Intel, Humana, myfitnesspalIBM Watson, Qualcomm Life, Merck, athenahealth, eClinicalWorks and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) will showcase and discuss their latest technologies and initiatives on the main conference stage this fall. As always, Health 2.0 features over 150 live demos of new technology, 250+ speakers, 50+ sessions, more networking, and deals-done than anywhere else in health technology.

    The main stage will feature the following panels:

    Smarter Care Delivery: Amplifying the Patient Voice: Matthew Holt, Co-Chairman of Health 2.0, sparks the discussion on how new technology platforms, payors, and providers are working together for enhanced patient care delivery and engagement.

    Consumer Tech and Wearables: Powering Healthy Lifestyles: Bringing together the most innovative wearables that are pushing individualized medicine into the future, Indu Subaiya, CEO of Health 2.0, leads this session focused on how consumers are experiencing new lifestyles centered around technology. Don’t miss the live fashion show featuring all the latest trends in digital health wearables!

    Buy, Sell, Exchange: New Markets for Consumers, Employers, and Providers: Nearly a year after ACA implementation, this session will dive into the new ways benefits are being offered to consumers, how employers are buying care directly, and what new technologies are enabling change in direct care provision.

    Data Analytics: From Discovery to Personalized Care: This panel focuses on how data analytics and powerful visualizations are pushing forward clinical research. Highlights will include genomics, non-invasive diagnosis tools, and integrated data collection are uncovering new discoveries, promoting personalized medicine and new care protocols.

    Returning crowd favorites include 3 CEOs … (and a President!), The Unmentionables hosted by Alexandra Drane, The Frontier of Health 2.0 hosted by David Ewing Duncan, and Launch! with ten brand new companies unveiling their products for the very first time! Many more sessions and panels can be found on the Health 2.0 online agenda.

    The Health 2.0 Conference attracts over 2000 attendees at the epicenter of new health technology in order to re-engage discussions and drive meaningful solutions in health care innovation. If you or your company is interested in demoing this Fall, submit an application today. Deadline is June 26, 2014 5:00pm PDT. Health 2.0 also offers reduced rate registrations for start-ups, and also a designated section of the demo hall at a reduced rate for early-stage companies.

    About Health 2.0
    Health 2.0 promotes, showcases, and catalyzes new technologies in health care through a worldwide series of conferences, code-a-thons, prize challenges, and leading market intelligence. Visit www.health2con.com for more info.

    Press Contact
    Sophie Park

    Physicians Interactive Acquires MedHelp In Move to Bridge Consumer and Provider Worlds

    Earlier this week, we promised some big news showing how the provider and consumer facing worlds of Health 2.0 are coming together. Today, we can officially share that Physicians Interactive has acquired MedHelp. Both companies are stalwarts in the Health 2.0 world, and their merging serves as further evidence that consumer and professional facing tools are continuing to connect in new and meaningful ways.

    Physicians Interactive has been onstage at Health 2.0 multiples times, but always in a professional facing role. Tools like Omnio, a provider-to-provider content sharing app, play to Physicians Interactive strengths, which center on accessing and communicating with an extensive provider network — some 300,000 doctors to be exact.

    MedHelp, on the other hand, another Health 2.0 staple, is nothing if not a consumer-oriented tool. Their web-based online health community helps individuals actively manage their health with a host of tools, including patient forums, physician search engines, provider communication tools, and personalized trackers.

    MedHelp has grown organically (CEO John deSouza always tells us “no bought traffic”!) and gone from communities to trackers to an active health data utility layer that takes in data from many devices and trackers. In one recent partnership, demoed at Health 2.0 last fall, MedHelp took a step towards connecting consumers and providers with an app that delivers both lab results and an expert opinion, if the consumer elects to receive one. However, connecting to providers was still on the edges of MedHelp’s capabilities.

    Now, together, Physicians Interactive and MedHelp will be working to better facilitate online communication and interaction between consumers and physicians.

    Health 2.0 tools for providers and consumers have traditionally looked and functioned very differently, and been developed by very different companies. However, we’ve consistently seen the lines between these two buckets blurring, highlighting the trend we illustrated last year at Health 2.0 with the following chart showing the merging segments of these two worlds, represented as two different sets of colored bubbles. The meeting of these two worlds is a significant step towards engaging consumers in their health in the 99% of time they spend away from the health system via — what else — Health 2.0 tools and services.



    Breaking: Consumer and Professional Worlds Continue to Collide

    Last year at the 7th Annual Fall Conference, a major theme was the merging of the consumer-facing and professional-facing worlds of Health 2.0. Tools and technologies that traditionally lived in one realm or the other are coming together in new ways to both connect the two worlds and provide unique services to each group.

    This theme has continued into 2014 and coming this week, we’ll hear more news confirming the trend we illustrated last September with the following chart — the professional facing world of Health 2.0, with its various segments represented in blue circles, colliding with the consumer facing side, segmented here into eleven different bubbles.


    Keep an eye on Health 2.0 News later this week to learn more about the continued merging of the consumer and professional facing worlds of Health 2.0, and what that means for digital health as a whole.

    News & Updates

    Drug makers are linking with eight British universities in a 16 million-pound ($27 million) public-private partnership to speed research into dementia by studying data from 2 million people. The new UK Dementias Research Platform will investigate the causes of dementia by tracking volunteers, aged 50 and over, who are taking part in existing population studies.

    Valencell, a company that powers health and medical sensors in wearable devices, including sensor-equipped headphones, raised $7 million in its third round of funding.

    Google-owned Nest acquired connected-camera company Dropcam for $555 million in cash. Dropcam recently unveiled the $29 Dropcam Tab sensor, and also announced a “people detection” feature.

    The California Department of Insurance tapped the University of California and the San Francisco-based Consumers Union to create a health care price transparency and quality database that will launch within a year. The database will rely on existing data streams, such as claims data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and from private payers.

    Flurry Analytics reported that health and fitness apps are growing at a faster rate than the overall app market so far in 2014. Flurry looked at data from more than 6,800 health and fitness and found that usage (measured in sessions) is up 62% in the last six months compared to 33% growth for the entire market, an 87% faster pace.

    WebMD has filed a lawsuit against Everyday Health for trademark infringement, false advertising and unfair competition. The lawsuit claims that consumers are being misled into believing they are visiting WebMD’s health and wellness resources. Everyday Health believes that the allegations do not hold merit, and is ready to defend itself.

    Dress.UP Fitness Bracelets, a Canada based fitness accessory maker, launched a new line of fitness wristband covers for the Fitbit Flex. It is aimed towards motivating women to incorporate wristband fitness trackers into their wardrobe outside of the gym by transforming their tracker into a chic fashion accessory suitable for evening wear.

    Ideomed, a Michigan-based developer of mobile health solutions, received a word from the FDA that its mobile health app Abriiz meets the definition of a “medical device” for which the FDA intends to exercise “Enforcement Discretion” i.e. “it is not subject to further FDA regulatory requirements at this time”. Hence, Abriiz can be connected to other FDA-regulated devices including blood glucose monitors, pulse oximeters, scales and blood pressure cuffs.

    Mercer launched Mercer/Signal: US Health Care Reform, a content portal containing information and insight on the rapidly transforming health care environment. It will feature Mercer’s own research and observations, as well as draw content from other credible sources, with commentary added by Mercer’s experts.

    Evolving patient rights in the research and delivery of health care

    Just a few years ago, even though “patient engagement” was the watchword of health care reform and patient access to records (as promoted by organizations like OpenNotes) was considered a nice thing for providers to do, I sensed that people talking about real patient empowerment were out on the fringe of health care and research. As the idea reached the proscenium this month at the Health Datapalooza, a conference founded by the US Department of Health and Human Services and now attracting more than 2,000 people, patient empowerment marks its entry into the mainstream.

    Greg Biggers, whom I interviewed 3 years ago, was one of the early pioneers of citizen science in clinical research. Regina Holliday and E-patient Dave DeBronkart expressed concerns for more patient involvement in care and cost containment. All were respected, but I think they were rarely heeded.

    Real patient empowerment doesn’t mean downloading one’s lab results from a web portal put up by one’s doctor or getting a second opinion. Rather, it means collecting observations of daily living, getting them into the doctor’s record, and discussing them with the doctor in conjunction with conventional diagnostic tools. More broadly, it’s choosing one’s lifestyle with thoughtful, understanding input from professional clinical staff. And it means choosing the goals and procedures used to conduct trials. Pharma companies have been experimenting with patient engagement for such trials, and it has become a national initiative with PCORI’s PCORnet project, which is trying to create a kind of super-network of groups representing patients for research.

    At the Datapalooza, patient empowerment took the stage along with keynoter Adriana Lukas, founder of London Quantified Self. She criticized current consumer devices and health apps for collecting our data and selling it to companies that use it for marketing or streamlining operations. Although such activities can turn up new treatments and improve care, she found it unethical to turn us into “data cows” whose main role is to “replenish the data milk bucket.”

    Even more disturbing is the potential of data analysis for introducing errors and bias into the ways institutions handle us, a theme found in many places nowadays, such as the long-awaited report from the White House on big data and the the federal PCAST report on big data privacy. Lukas called for a discipline examining “algorithmic ethics” so we can articulate values and determine the consequences of applying data analysis.

    But most challenging of all, I believe, in Lukas’s keynote was her suggestion that each patient apply all data to himself or herself, sharing “aggregate meanings” instead of raw data. This would rip away the lifeblood of the analytics firms–for both beneficial and manipulative purposes–but allow patients to connect purposefully with each other. We could learn things such as that adequate hydration helps one patient control his anxiety, a finding that might help others.

    Lukas was not alone in her vision. Stephen Friend of Sage Bionetworks , in a session discussing the use of patient data, claimed that “the conversation has been hijacked by data sharing” and said we should consider sharing “insights’ instead. Friend, having spent many years working for the pharmaceutical industry before launching into his grand plan for reforming clinical and pharmaceutical research, was making an enormous, conscious leap away from the way individuals are conventionally treated in these fields.

    At the same session Friend spoke, patient advocate Andrew Downing asked how data could be made relevant to the patient. At the other extreme of the data spectrum, high-tech venture capitalist Vinod Khosla talked in a keynote about replacing the system of clinical trials with big data analysis.

    His call from the proscenium was much less shocking than it might have been a few years ago, which double-blind clinical trials were still seen as the alpha and omega of medical research and Dr. Otis Webb Brawley’s impassioned, angry book How We Do Harm listed a refusal to accept the results of such trials as the main cause of medical errors. Now we all know that few scientific controlled experiments can be replicated and that bias enters research results in multiple ways.

    How can Downing’s plee for respecting the patient and Khosla’s paeon to data analysis be reconciled? They actually fit together quite well, but Khosla wants to put data and the results of research directly into the hands of patients, bypassing the professional caregivers. Khosla notoriously wants to replace doctors with machine learning–but that’s no so far from the agenda Lukas provided.

    Patient empowerment was even a stronger theme at next day’s Health Privacy Summit, where panelists decried the sharing of patient information (even supposedly deidentified information) without patient consent.

    There are several reasons the patient is now becoming the center of attention. Foremost is the “epidemiological transition” by which all countries see chronic illnesses become the drivers of health costs as incomes rise–illnesses that respond more behavior change than drugs or surgeries. The availability of data, electronic records, and tracking devices makes a revolution in behavioral care possible. Heightened concerns of privacy in the post-Snowden era also play a role.

    But Quantified Self has yet to prove its efficacy. Many people swear it has improved their lives, but it’s hard to judge whether these self-aware, highly educated, highly disciplined individuals would lead less healthy lives if they threw away their monitors. What we really need is tools for the worst of the worst, which also cost us the most money. As Atul Gawande said in his keynote, the sickest patients get the worst care. Will they respond to beeps and text messages telling them to put down that cigarette and eat some blueberries?

    The debate over patient empowerment parallels larger discussions about the source of current epidemics such as obesity. Is it the large food conglomerates, along with governments through their subsidies and school lunch programs, that make us sick, as narrators tell us in the movie “Fed Up”? Or are choices firmly in people’s own hands, as the stories of fat’s victims in that movie suggest? We need a concerted efforts by educated patients, forward-thinking doctors, and payers to get over the hump of indifference.

    Andy Oram is an editor at O’Reilly Media. Reach him on Twitter using @praxagora.

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