Companion Call for Help named finalist in AARP accelerator
SARASOTA, Fla. – Companion Call for Help, a voice-activated medical alert system developed by Ways Security, was named one of eight national finalists in the AARP’s Caregiver Accelerator Competition. Using Amazon Alexa’s voice technology, the system offers 24/7 emergency support by two-way voice, without the need for a wearable panic button or pendant, said Mark Gray, CEO of Ways Security, in a statement. “Just say, ‘Alexa, call for help,’ and our patented alert system will connect you instantly to our highly trained, urgent response agents,” he said. “With the U.S. population of older adults growing rapidly, we will need 40 million caregivers by 2025, so it’s essential to use innovative technology like Companion Call for Help to support those human resources.” Companion Call for Help allows seniors to speak up and request assistance from anywhere in their home, or from a car using a smartphone and mobile application. Ways Security provides Companion Call for Help subscribers with Amazon Echo devices preloaded with Alexa, and installs and maintains them as part of the service.
Livongo launches cell-enabled blood pressure monitoring system
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – Livongo Health, a digital health company for people with chronic conditions, has introduced a cellular-enabled blood pressure monitoring system. Cellular connectivity allows blood pressure checking and reporting from home, as well as provides real-time insights and delivers “Health Nudges” when it is most effective. Members are also supported in real-time through digital alerts and virtual coaching from a team of licensed professionals certified in chronic-condition management. “As the first organization with an integrated offering that is delivering both clinical and financial results in the marketplace, Livongo is leading the way in empowering people to manage multiple chronic conditions,” said Glen Tullman, CEO of Livongo, in a statement. “Our early results show that by addressing the health of the whole person with a personalized approach and a seamless experience, we are making a difference in the lives of people who need it most.” After introducing a combined hypertension and diabetes digital solution in January, Tullman said Livongo has expanded its footprint by launching new clients on the hypertension product, including Harris Health System, a public health care provider in Texas.
SnapMD raises $7.1M
LOS ANGELES – Telehealth technology provider SnapMD has raised $7.1 million in Series B funding to further advance its technology platform and accelerate sales and marketing efforts. The company’s Virtual Care Management telehealth software is a digital health system that enables providers to deliver virtual, high-quality and coordinated care. As a cohesive and complete suite of services in the cloud, the technology enables providers to launch and manage virtual care that can be scaled across a health enterprise and the care continuum. The white-label VCM platform is configured to support multiple hospital and health system service lines with unique operational requirements, and with architecture that can be integrated to work with existing and future systems. “Since our inception, SnapMD has been focused on improving patient care,” said Dave Skibinski, president and CEO of SnapMD, in a statement. “The new investment allows us to continue to further drive our marketing and business development efforts in support of our rapidly growing provider base across the country.”
Shulkin to lead innovation at Sanford Health
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Dr. David Shulkin, the former secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is joining Sanford Health as CIO. In this position, Shulkin will serve as Sanford Health’s top administrator in the innovation space, leading initiatives to advance work in research, Imagenetics, the Sanford Chip, and the Profile and World Clinic; and as a strategic advisor on its national growth strategy and overall public policy efforts. “After completing my work in the public sector, Sanford Health was an obvious choice to continue my health care career,” said Shulkin in a statement. “Sanford’s unique brand of innovation and clinical integration is bringing precision medicine to the bedside, which is rapidly improving patient care in unprecedented ways. I look forward to joining the Sanford team and bringing my background and skills to help drive these advancements in medical practice.” Shulkin will also be a director on the Sanford International Board, serve as an ambassador for Sanford Health on many of the system’s domestic and international projects, and work with others in academia and the health care industry, providing strategic direction and advice on national health care issues. “Secretary Shulkin is one of the most talented health care leaders in the country, and he brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to Sanford Health,” said Kelby Krabbenhoft, president and CEO of Sanford Health, in a statement. “His unique perspective, clinical expertise and powerful voice will further Sanford Health’s continued development and diversification, which is so critical to our ability to bring new treatments and cures to the patients we serve.”
Capitol Home Health selects HRS telehealth platform for CHF patients
AUSTIN, Texas – Capitol Home Health has partnered with telehealth technology company Health Recovery Solutions to deliver enhanced remote care to Medicare patients with congestive heart failure. Capitol Home Health selected HRS’s technology because of its ease of use for patients, caregivers and clinicians, said Cathy Bowen, administrator for Capitol Home Health’s San Antonio branch, in a statement. “Telehealth is a tool to increase a patient’s confidence in their ability to effectively and independently manage chronic symptoms,” Bowen said. “The ease with which patients will be able to monitor and manage the telehealth equipment will result in better compliance.” Patients placed on Capitol Home Health’s telehealth program are provided with 4G tablets pre-loaded with the HRS software. The tablets pair with disease-specific Bluetooth biometric devices that allow patients to take their blood pressure, weight, heart rate and more. The physiological data automatically transmits to the tablet and is electronically delivered to the patient’s nurse, allowing clinicians to address any medical abnormalities in a timely manner. The HRS telehealth software also provides patients with daily medication reminders and disease specific educational content, as well as the ability to communicate with their clinicians in real time using the tablet’s text, phone call, and video chat features.
Wellth raises $5.1 to continue growth
NEW YORK – Digital health startup Wellth Inc. has raised $5.1 million in a recent round of funding to expand its team to meet growing demand from the marketplace and to execute on strategic goals. Wellth works with insurers and providers to motivate patient behavior change and better adherence to treatment through the use of financial incentives and behavioral economics strategies via a mobile patient experience. “We are looking forward to working closely with our investors in this round to identify new opportunities within health insurance, life insurance, health systems and the pharmaceutical industry,” said Matt Loper, CEO and co-founder of Wellth, in a statement. “We hope to use these new avenues to establish a wider range of use cases to improve patient health and drive down costs for insurers and health systems.”
Wellth’s mobile solution includes daily digital contextual and personalized nudges, as well as quick “check-ins” for daily medications for patients with Type 2 diabetes, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other conditions.
Withings returns with new health-connected smartwatch
ISSY-LES-MOULINEAUX, France – After reacquiring itself from Nokia this year, Withings has introduced a new smartwatch that offers heart rate monitoring, connected GPS and fitness analytics. “The launch of the Steel HR Sport smartwatch marks a new chapter in the Withings story,” said Eric Carreel, CEO of Withings, in a statement. Carreel, the co-founder of Withings, sold the company to Nokia in 2016, and bought it back four months ago. “With its advanced sport and health tracking capabilities, Steel HR Sport is a perfect example of how Withings is delivering against its original mission to help better manage health,” he said. “The public reaction to the return of Withings is extraordinary and renews my belief that elegantly designed devices with health tracking abilities can dramatically improve individual and society’s health.”
Researchers develop paper-based biosensor
HEIDELBERG, Germany – Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research have developed a paper-based biosensor that can measure concentrations of metabolites such as phenylalanine in small blood samples within minutes. The researchers said the biosensor could become an important tool for diagnosing and managing various diseases. “Diseases or injuries can result in dramatic changes in metabolite blood levels,” said Kai Johnsson, lead researcher, in a statement. “It is therefore essential to have some means of regularly monitoring phenylalanine levels in blood. We introduced a fundamentally new mechanism to measure metabolites for blood analysis.” The biosensor was validated with patient samples obtained from the Heidelberg and Lausanne University Hospitals. “We are now looking for ways to further automatize and simplify the test,” said Johnsson.
Babylon Health investing $100M to develop AI technology for chronic conditions
LONDON – Babylon Health is investing $100 million to double the size of its London team and develop the next generation of artificial intelligence-powered health care technology. “The challenge we’ve set ourselves is to further evolve our technologies and services to tackle a health care problem endemic to both developed and developing nations, namely: chronic diseases such as diabetes, arthritis and mental health challenges,” said Ali Parsa, CEO of Babylon Health, in a recent blog post. The company’s AI research will build on technology the company introduced earlier this year. “We believe that at least some of the cost burdens associated with chronic care management can be eased by augmenting existing delivery and support models using proactive AI,” Parsa said. “To this end, we’re on our way to developing AI health assessment, planning, coaching and monitoring functionalities to enable patients to compile a more holistic view of their health and manage their conditions in ways that are most personalized and appropriate for them.”
InfoBionic raises $50M for remote cardiac monitoring system
BOSTON, Mass. – InfoBionic, a digital health company focused on patient-monitoring solutions for chronic disease management, has raised $50 million in financing to support the continued commercial expansion of its MoMe Kardia system for remote, wireless outpatient monitoring and diagnosis of cardiac arrhythmias. “Favorable marketplace developments, combined with our recently announced U.S. distribution agreement for our system, should result in continued customer traction and strong growth.”
Researchers develop smartphone-powered wearable ultrasound
VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Engineers at the University of British Columbia have developed a portable, wearable ultrasound transducer that is powered by a smartphone.
Conventional ultrasound scanners use piezoelectric crystals to create images of the inside of the body and send them to a computer to create sonograms, said Carlos Gerardo, lead author of a recent study on the technology that was published in Nature Microsystems & Nanoengineering.The researchers replaced the piezoelectric crystals with tiny vibrating drums made of polymer resin, called polyCMUTs (polymer capacitive micro-machined ultrasound transducers), which are cheaper to manufacture. “Transducer drums have typically been made out of rigid silicon materials that require costly, environment-controlled manufacturing processes, and this has hampered their use in ultrasound,” Gerardo said in a statement. “By using polymer resin, we were able to produce polyCMUTs in fewer fabrication steps, using a minimum amount of equipment, resulting in significant cost savings.” Sonograms produced by the UBC device were as sharp as or even more detailed than traditional sonograms produced by piezoelectric transducers.
“Since our transducer needs just 10 volts to operate, it can be powered by a smartphone, making it suitable for use in remote or low-power locations,” said Gerardo. The researchers are next developing a range of prototypes, including a flexible material that can be wrapped around the body for easier scanning and more detailed views. “You could miniaturize these transducers and use them to look inside your arteries and veins,” said study co-author Robert Rohling, in a statement. “You could stick them on your chest and do live continuous monitoring of your heart in your daily life. It opens up so many different possibilities,” said Rohling.
Stanford using VivaLNK wearables for stress study
CAMPBELL, Calif. – VivaLNK, a provider of connected health care devices, is providing the use of its Vital Scout devices to Stanford University for research on links between stress and depression. Stanford researchers in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences are studying whether there are longitudinal associations between stress and depression in teenagers. “Until recently, quantifying stress has been difficult,” said Jiang Li, CEO at VivaLNK, in a statement. “Now with wearable sensors, quality data, and a better understanding of physiological impacts, we are able to provide a window into how daily activities affect our well-being in a quantifiable way.” Vital Scout is a wearable patch that uses ECG sensors and established heart rate variability (HRV) algorithms to quantifiably measure the body’s response to physiological impacts from various activities throughout the day. In addition to stress and recovery levels, Vital Scout also tracks activity, sleep quality, heart and respiratory rates.
Wearable patch can monitor blood pressure deep below the skin, researchers say
SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Researchers at the University of California San Diego have developed a wearable ultrasound patch that non-invasively monitors blood pressure in arteries deep beneath the skin, which could help people detect cardiovascular problems earlier on and with greater precision. A study of their work was published recently in Nature Biomedical Engineering. In tests, the patch performed as well as some clinical methods to measure blood pressure. “Wearable devices have so far been limited to sensing signals either on the surface of the skin or right beneath it—but this is like seeing just the tip of the iceberg,” said Sheng Xu, an author of the study, in a statement. “By integrating ultrasound technology into wearables, we can start to capture a whole lot of other signals, biological events and activities going on way below the surface in a non-invasive manner.” Potential applications of the technology include real-time, continuous monitoring of blood pressure changes in patients with heart or lung disease, as well as patients who are critically ill or undergoing surgery, said Xu. The new ultrasound patch can continuously monitor central blood pressure in major arteries as deep as four centimeters below the skin.
Cigna, Omada Health partner to expand digital DPP
BLOOMFIELD, Conn. – Cigna is expanding its Diabetes Prevention Program in collaboration with Omada Health, offering an expanded suite of personalized, user-friendly digital health tools to help people prevent the onset of diabetes and other chronic diseases.
The program will be available to Cigna’s national and regional employer clients starting in January 2019.
As part of the digital lifestyle program, participants enrolled in a Cigna-administered health plan will be encouraged to make sustainable behavior changes under the guidance of a personal health coach and with the support from a peer group.
“We are excited to expand our relationship with Omada and integrate their program into our full suite of health services that encourage individuals to focus on preventing serious health conditions,” said Dr. Alan Muney, chief medical officer and executive vice president at Cigna, in a statement. “This collaboration represents some of the most important aspects of successful health care delivery—simplicity and convenience with tangible results for individual customers, and a seamless, data-driven approach with proven results for employers.”
Individual customers will have access to a fully integrated experience, with the program synchronized with other Cigna health services, including a discount gym-membership program, Cigna Health Coaches and a myCigna mobile application. Cigna also offers employers the opportunity to provide incentive programs such as premium discounts or contributions to health savings accounts that reward progress.
Omada’s digital program provides early identification of eligible participants, personalized engagement strategies, ongoing support from professional health coaches who provide one-on-one support, peer group support to drive accountability and interactive lessons on nutrition, physical activity, stress management and time management. Each Omada group contains an average 24 participants who experience the program together, and offer encouragement and accountability. Participants also integrate smart technology, including a wireless scale, pedometer, and a mobile application to track food and activity.
“Our integration with Cigna is the deepest, most comprehensive work we’ve done with a partner,” said Sean Duffy, co-founder and CEO of Omada Health, in a statement. “We look forward to working together to deliver results on a broad scale.”
Before Cigna launched the program nationally, Cigna and Omada ran a series of pilot programs with several large employer clients that demonstrated positive results across a range of measures, including a sustained weight loss of 3.5% to 5% for participants; and $424 to $972 net medical cost savings for participants.
FDA grants Breakthrough Device status to AliveCor
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted Breakthrough Device designation to AliveCor’s artificial intelligence-powered KardiaK software platform.
The designation means that the FDA will consider the technology on an accelerated clearance track designed specifically for medical devices that demonstrate the potential to address unmet medical needs for life-threatening or irreversibly debilitating diseases or conditions.
“We are gratified that the artificial intelligence work we’re doing at AliveCor has been deemed so meaningful that it has achieved FDA Breakthrough Device status,” said Vic Gundotra, CEO of AliveCor, in a statement. “We view it as a key milestone in our corporate history and look forward to the further development of our non-invasive Hyperkalemia detection tools.”
The KardiaK Platform screens for hyperkalemia—elevated levels of blood potassium—without requiring blood from the patient. The technology uses a proprietary deep neural network trained to detect hyperkalemia using data from electrocardiograms.
AliveCor aims to use the platform to enable home-based hyperkalemia detection for patients with kidney disease to record an ECG and use KardiaK at home.
“Noninvasive and convenient, the bloodless KardiaK platform has the potential to revolutionize the standard for diagnosis of hyperkalemia,” Gundotra said.
Fitbit launches connected health platform, expands Humana partnership
SAN FRANCISCO – Fitbit has launched the Fitbit Care connected health platform that combines health coaching and virtual care through wearable devices, self-tracking and personalized digital interventions.
The Fitbit Care health coaching solution is based on Fitbit’s experience in helping consumers make meaningful behavior changes and the clinically proven expertise of Twine Health, a coaching platform Fitbit acquired earlier this year. Coaches work with participants to create personalized care plans and connect with members through multiple channels that include in-app communications, phone and in-person meetings.
Following the launch, Fitbit has also announced that it is expanding its partnership with Humana to offer the potential to access Fitbit Care to the payer’s more than 5 million members.
“With health care costs and rates of chronic disease increasing, there is a clear need for innovative tools and services to help people make the lifestyle and behavior changes necessary to reverse this trend,” said Adam Pellegrini, general manager, Fitbit Health Solutions, in a statement. “Expanding our partnership with Humana allows us to accelerate our common goal of helping more people get and stay healthy, and I’m confident that together we can help drive better health outcomes.”
Humana serves members through a range of wellness programs and capabilities to help employers control rising costs related to worker health, such as increased health care consumption and lost productivity. Fitbit Care is the latest integration to those offerings.
“Working with Fitbit, we have been able to provide our members with wearable devices, data and insights they can use to achieve their best health and wellness,” said Jeff Reid, senior vice president of wellness solutions at Humana, in a statement. “By adding Fitbit Care’s new health coaching capabilities, we can offer even more personalized, meaningful support to our members who are focused on specific health goals, such as smoking cessation or weight loss, or the management or prevention of chronic conditions,” said Jeff Reid, Humana’s senior vice president of Wellness Solutions. “Fitbit’s intuitive technology and human coaches are powerful tools to engage and motivate members, creating more frequent, convenient touch-points that support our members beyond the walls of a doctor’s office.”