iHealth to launch smaller glucometer, drop test strip price

By Jonah Comstock

Picture iHealth Align - Device with iPhoneiHealth Labs, a San Francisco-based subsidiary of China's Andon Health, has received FDA clearance for iHealth Align, a new smaller, smartphone-enabled glucometer. iHealth announced the product along with a new pricing strategy for diabetes care, dubbed Simple Savings.

The new device is just slightly larger than a quarter in circumference and plugs into the phone's headphone jack, allowing it to be used with either Apple or Android phones. Because it connects to the phone while being used, it's able to use the phone's screen as a display, eschewing a native screen.

"We thought, we want to keep the cost down and removing the display will help with some cost issues," Adam Lin, president of iHealth Labs told MobiHealthNews. "More importantly, if we make a hard connection to the device, the display is your phone. And also I think, for some people, a hard connection onto something gives a sense of security. Sometimes with Bluetooth or WiFi, people will worry, 'Did I really connect properly?' With the hard connection, people think 'Wow, this is really that simple'."

The device will use the same cloud-based companion app as iHealth's previous glucometer, released last October, which will remain on the market as a higher end Bluetooth-connected option. The iHealth Align will retail for $16.95, compared to the $29.95 price tag on the Wireless Smart Gluco-Monitoring System. 

Of course, the real cost to consumers for at-home blood glucose monitoring is in the test strips that must be continuously reordered. Under its Simple Savings program, iHealth will drop the cost of its test strips for both devices to $12.50 for a box of 50 strips ($0.25 a piece), about a quarter of the price of many name brand strips.

"It’s probably more of a known secret in the marketplace that the real margins is within the strips," Lin said. "We just felt like, we want to pass on all that savings to the end users. It’s got to be simple to understand. You don’t have to go through all these issues for reimbursement. We brought it down to pretty much co-pay."

Lin thinks the lower cost will bring iHealth more market share, and it will be hard for the bigger players with larger overheads to follow suit. When users take their blood glucose with either of iHealth's devices, they first scan the QR code on the box of test strips, which allows the app to track how many strips are left. iHealth is developing a feature by which users will be able to auto-reorder their strips based on that data, but right now the app simply reminds the user if strips are running low or about to expire.

iHealth's Wireless Smart Gluco-Monitoring System was featured briefly at Apple's WWDC event as an example of a smartphone-connected glucometer. Lin said that iHealth has plans to integrate all of its devices with HealthKit.

iHealth Align will be available next month, at first directly from iHealth's website, and then at Walgreens, before being expanded into iHealth's other retail locations.