Canary Health acquires health startup bLife for its mobile expertise

By Jonah Comstock
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Los Angeles-based Canary Health, a startup that uses digital health tools to help populations prevent and manage chronic diseases, has acquired stress management app company bLife for an undisclosed amount. 

Canary Health sells its disease-management programs to hospitals and health systems, whereas bLife was a direct-to-consumer app company that created direct-to-consumer stress management apps as well as apps for clients including the Oprah Winfrey Network, Deepak Chopra, and the Huffington Post.

“Their DNA is in the consumer space,” Canary Health CEO Adam Kaufman told MobiHealthNews. “Being able to bring deep consumer engagement and design thinking into our fold is a big gain. We’re not going to be pushing into a consumer business model, but as we’ve worked with our clients, we’ve found that to a certain extent there’s a false dichotomy. Companies can have really rigorous clinical studies, but not the deep design thinking. And you have companies in consumer technology that have great design thinking [but not the evidence].”

Kaufman said Canary Health hopes to incorporate bLife’s technology and design in several different ways. Canary’s existing interventions, for arthritis and diabetes, can incorporate stress management tools because stress often goes hand in hand with chronic conditions. They’re also developing an a la carte stress management platform for health plan and provider customers. 

Additionally, they’ll continue to support the apps bLife already offers, but won’t be focusing on further development of them.

“The important thing for us is the emphasis on the whole person and the ability to talk to someone and not just asking ‘what’s your blood glucose level or your pain level’,” Kaufman said. “Not just around what’s happening to you as a patient, but also as a whole person. That’s what we already do, but now we’re able to take it a step further.”

BLife’s mobile expertise will also trickle down into all of Canary’s product development going forward, Kaufman said.

“[Mobile] was a big part [of our business already], but we had been a mobile complement to our traditional web app,” Kaufman said. “One thing we’ll be doing with the bLife team is we’re going to be more mobile-first or at least have mobile parity with our web apps.”

BLife CEO Paul Campbell will join Canary Health as Chief Product Officer while his cofounder Hamet Watt will join Canary’s board of directors. 

At HIMSS earlier this year, Canary Health announced that it had received funding from the CDC to launch an evidence-based digital arthritis self-management program.

“It’s a program designed at Stanford, we had the exclusive license,” Kaufman said at the time. “We’re very fortunate that for the last five years Stanford, a very large nonprofit called the National Council on Aging, the CDC, and the Arthritis Foundation have been collaborating to bring the program to thousands of people direct to consumer, and this year Canary Health is taking it to health plans.”

CMS’s announcement in March that Medicare would cover the Diabetes Prevention Program, including digital implementations, has also been a boon to the company, Kaufman told MobiHealthNews.