Bosch shutters pioneering telehealth service Health Buddy, US-based unit

By Jonah Comstock
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Bosch Health BuddyEven though telemedicine seems to be having its day in the sun, with Teladoc's forthcoming IPO and major funding for MDLive, Doctor on Demand, and American Well, one of the oldest, earliest telemedicine companies is shutting down. Bosch has officially closed its US subsidiary Robert Bosch Healthcare, reducing the scope its healthcare operations to a 50-person team based in Germany.

Telecare Aware reported on the news last week after the news broke on Tim Rowan's Home Care Technology Report. Bosch confirmed the shuttering in a statement soon after.

"Bosch is currently realigning its business in the medical and healthcare sector, and is examining its options in this market," the company wrote. "The company is currently analyzing future opportunities in this field. Its deliberations center on the company’s key competence in sensor technology, which results in improved diagnostics. To this end, Bosch has established an organizational unit in Germany at the beginning of 2015. It currently employs 50 people. As part of this realignment, Bosch has agreed to close its telehealth business in the US. Despite early entry to the telehealth market, the strategic and economic targets associated with Bosch’s telehealth business did not develop as expected."

The 125 employees of the US subsidiary will have the option of applying to open positions within Bosch or, failing that, will be set up with a severance package and outplacement services, the company added.

As far back as 2007, Bosch was offering home monitoring devices for people with chronic conditions. Health Buddy, acquired in 2007 from Health Hero, was a home management platform for CHF, depression, diabetes, hypertension, COPD, or weight management. It consisted of a small box with a screen and four buttons. Health Buddy would ask a patient survey questions daily, as well as prompt them to take their weight or blood pressure via connected devices, and send the data to a care provider. Recently, Bosch had begun to look for ways to update the Health Buddy platform to use the web, via a partnership with Remedy, or smartphones, via partnerships with Doro in Europe and GreatCall in the US.

Additionally, Bosch marketed ViTelCare T400, a home monitor for more acute and intensive cases that Bosch picked up in a 2009 acquisition.

But in recent years, Bosch became most well known for the ferocity with which it defended its intellectual property, energy that, in hindsight, might have been better spent adapting to the changing telehealth world.

In 2012, Bosch sued several remote monitoring companies, arguing they infringed on its Health Buddy patents. They expressed a willingness to partner with or license its patents rather than litigate, an offer that Waldo Health seemed to have agreed to. Of the other two companies Bosch sued, MedApps was acquired in the meantime by Alere, whose previous licensing agreements with Bosch may have ended the suit. It's unclear what happened with the third suit, against Express MD.

As Telecare Aware reports, that strategy turned sour for Bosch when it sued Cardiocom shortly before Cardiocom was bought by Medtronic -- forcing Bosch into a bigger fight than it bargained for. Medtronic appealed Bosch's patents with the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, which subsequently invalidated a large part of Bosch's portfolio.

Bosch won't produce any new devices. It is continuing to employ a small support team, and will support Bosch's ongoing contract with the VA until it expires in 2016. Those who are not VA members and have Health Buddy or other Bosch Health services will see them terminated within 60 to 90 days.