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Wearables Trendsetters Don’t Offer Much Value

Posted on June 1, 2015 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Today I was looking over my Twitter feed and this tweet popped up:

The referenced article appeared on the corporate site of Qmed, a supplier to the medical device industry. I found this interesting, as it’s pretty obvious that wearables and other mHealth toys will evolve into medical-grade devices over time.

But the choices the article made for hottest wearable firms, while worth a look, demonstrate pretty clearly that few wearables makers can point to any real, meaningful healthcare benefit they offer. (That’s obviously not Qmed’s fault — none of this is aimed at the editor who pulled this piece together — but it’s still a significant point.)

Some of the wearables listed are half-hearted medical device plays, others are fashionable eye candy for upscale geeks, and still others are tadpoles evolving from some other industry into a healthcare mode. Here’s some examples from the list, and why I’m skeptical that they deserve a high five:

* The list includes Apple courtesy of  its Apple Watch.  Right now nobody seems to know quite how the Apple Watch, or any smartwatch for that matter, serves anyone except gadget geeks with extra cash. How, exactly, will having a smartwatch improve your health or life, other than giving you bragging rights over non-owners?

* There’s Fitbit, which is undeniably the wearables success story to beat all others. But just because something is cool doesn’t mean it’s accomplishing anything meaningful. At least where healthcare is concerned, I fail to see how its cursory monitoring add-ons (such as automatic sleep monitoring and heart rate tracking) move the healthcare puck down the ice.

* The list also includes Misfit, whose $850K success on Indiegogo has vaulted it into the ranks of hipster coolness. Admittedly, its Shine is a lovely piece of wearables jewelry, and the Flash is cool, but again, should healthcare leaders really care?

* I admit to a certain interest in Caeden, a Rock Health wearables firm which apparently started out making headphones. The Qmed article reports that the company, which got $1.6M in funding this year, is creating a screenless leather wristband which does health monitoring. But I’m critical of the “screenless” aspect of this product; after all, isn’t one of the main goals of monitoring to engage patients in the process?

I could go on, but you probably get the point I’m trying to make. While the devices listed above might have their place in the consumer health device food chain, it’s not clear how they can actually make patients do better or feel better.

I do have to offer kudos to one company on the list, however. Chrono Therapeutics has an intriguing product to offer which could actually save lungs and lives. The company, which took in $32M in financing last year, has created a slick-looking wearable device that delivers doses of nicotine when a smoker’s cravings hit, and tracks the doses administrated. Now that could be a game change for consumers trying to beat nicotine addiction. (Heck, maybe it could help with other types of addiction too.)

I only hope other wearables manufacturers pick a spot, as Chrono Therapeutics has, and figure out how to do more than be cool, look good or sell to trendies.

The Week of Women in Healthcare

Posted on August 22, 2013 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

#XXinHealthWeek
Twitter fans – particularly #HITchicks – may have come across the hashtag above this week as part of the larger XX in Health Week, an initiative of Rock Health to connect and empower female visionaries to drive change in healthcare. I’m all for driving change, and know from personal experience that women, whether in the home or workplace, tend to be masters of multitasking, putting out small fires as needed, and soothing bruised egos and fragile psyches. We seem well suited to the task of driving change, but not surprisingly, are not well positioned to do so.

According to a slide deck put together for the XX in Health Week, women make up just 14% of healthcare companies’ BODs, and 0% of Fortune 500 healthcare company CEOs.  The statistics are a bit more hopeful when looking strictly at hospitals, according to the recent “Women in the Hospital C-Suite” report from Billian’s HealthDATA:

bhdchart

I’m not sure when we’ll get to female leadership numbers that are acceptable, or who will make that call. It will be nice when, as mentioned in the slide deck, we recognize leaders not by their gender but by their ability to lead.

Health 2.0
Atlanta has its own Health 2.0 movement – a meetup group focused on startups in healthcare IT that is finally getting some momentum. Numbers for female leadership are good. One of three companies that pitched at the most recent event was led by a woman. Brandi March of NovitaCare – a mobile solution that helps patients and the family members who serve as their caregivers manage and coordinate care in one central location – started the company after taking on the role of caregiver for her ailing mother. She described the task of obtaining and organizing her mother’s records, sharing news with other family members, trying to stay organized and trying to make sure six or seven different providers were all on the same page as a “nightmare.” And so NovitaCare was born.

novitacareready

All in all it’s been a good week for women in healthcare. It will be interesting to see if the statistics mentioned above have changed by this time next year. I feel like there are plenty of unsung female visionaries driving healthcare change RIGHT NOW. Please share the story of someone you know via the comments below.

VC Firms Eyeing Mobile Health App Investments

Posted on June 22, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Well, well, well. After years of industry growth and excitement that seems to have been lost on investors, the mobile health app industry has finally begun to attract their notice.

On one level, this is merely the logical,  predictable advance of money into an exploding space. The VCs are already all over the health IT space. According to the National Venture Capital Association, HIT investments shot up 78 percent between 2010 and 2011, reports iHealthBeat.

But there’s also a lot of investors looking for the next paradigm-rattling possibility, including both apps and enterprise tech. Just check out the rapidly growing number of VC-backed health incubators, including  Rock Health, StartUp Health, Blueprint Health and healthbox. (To learn more about the incubators, I strongly encourage you to check out the excellent overview of their business models and focus pulled together by The Health Care Blog.)

And the market is producing plenty of opportunities for them to consider. In fact, the market for mobile health apps could grow at 25 percent annually for the next five years, according to Kalorama Information. I’d argue that 2013 will see more like 50 percent growth, but either way, we’re talking big money.

These days, money from both incubators and VC funds is increasingly going to mobile apps, as the iHealthBeat wrap-up notes:

* AirStrip Technologies, which offers an app allowing doctors to view electrocardiograms on the iPhone, got fu nding from the $100 million Qualcomm Life Fund

* Sharecare, which offers doctors online tools helping them connect with potential patients, received $14 million in a funding round led by Galen Partners.

* Kinnser Software, which offers mobile apps and online tools to help home healthcare providers access and record medical data, got an eye-popping $40 million investment from Insight Venture Partners.

Also check out more healthcare IT investments on EMR Thoughts.

While these numbers are big wins for the startup companies involved, they still represent a small percentage of the overall money chasing good healthcare investments. But I predict that this won’t be the case for long.

With the number of highly practical apps useful in remote monitoring, patient care and even decision support increasing — and the bandwidth available on mobile devices climbing rapidly — I’m betting we’ll hear about dozens of pivotal investments in mobile apps this year.

Am I going to take a guess as to which apps are next? Not yet. But stay tuned and I’ll share overviews of the more interesting apps I hear about along the way.  And please feel free to share the news of great, practical, usable apps you’re seeing out there.