Philips launches health watch, connected scale, blood pressure monitor and Bluetooth thermometer

By Heather Mack
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Philips Healthcare announced the global availability of a suite of "clinically-validated" health monitoring devices, including a health watch, connected scale, blood pressure monitor and thermometer. The devices connect to a companion app designed for people who are at-risk of developing chronic conditions with an eye on helping them make healthier decisions.

Developed with doctors and psychologists – including Philips’ own in-house behavioral specialist – the devices connect to the HealthSuite Health App, which is now available for free on iOS and Android. The app is built on the Philips HealthSuite digital platform, an open and secure, cloud-based platform that collects and analyzes health and other data from multiple devices and sources. All of the devices use Bluetooth to transmit data, allowing the program to measure, monitor and, ideally, motivate behavior change to better health.

“Our focus is on people who are already at-risk, they’re overweight or pre-hypertensive, and they’ve just had a ‘wake-up call’moment,” Eline de Graaf, director of Philips Personal Health Solutions told MobiHealthNews. “These are people who have just gotten news from the doctor, or someone close to them has, and now they are searching for ways to intercept that moment and change their behavior.”

The richest trove of data comes from a wristworn device that continuously tracks calories burned, activity, sleep rate and heart rate. The company will not market it as an activity tracker. It’s not trying to be the next Apple Watch, the company says, but rather a health device that uses predictive analytics and offers educational support to intervene before wearers make health-damaging lifestyle choices.  

“Rather than telling people to work on their weight or sleep, the watch and app provide inferences that give ad-hoc education and motivation opportunities with pop-up articles and advice,” de Graaf said.

Dr. Mark Aloia, the global lead for health behavior change at Philips, said the company’s personal health programs are built to motivate rather than overwhelm and nag the user with metrics.

“Changes don’t need to be radical,” Aloia said in a statement. “In fact, small changes sustained over time are a good way to help us reach our health goals. Measuring and tracking helps us take the small steps needed to improve our lifestyle.”

During a product demonstration of the new devices, de Graaf explained how the program represented a new era for patients and health providers, as healthcare continues to move outside the hospital and increasingly into the home and everyday life. However, the company was cautious to not create devices that would simply amass an unmanageably large amount of data to be handed over to doctors.

“In the beginning, it was more about giving patients the tools to facilitate a conversation with doctors,” she said. “But now, we can see that the onus is a little bit more on ourselves, which is why we have a laser-focus on the at-risk population. This is approachable technology that will empower the user to be mindful.”

During this first direct-to-consumer phase of the launch, Philips expects most of its users will come from that at-risk target market who will come back from a doctor's office and Google their way to the devices. Next, as people start using them and conversations with providers emerge, Philips wants the devices to become a staple in clinical trials. It also hopes to establish more partnerships with retailers, researchers and digital health companies.

The watch, which is listed with the FDA but is a 510(k) exempt class II medical device, is being sold for $249.99. The body analysis weight scale, which is also listed with the FDA but is 510(k) exempt, will run $99.99. The FDA-cleared thermometer will cost $59.99. Finally, the two FDA-cleared blood pressure monitors (one for the upper arm, one for the wrist) will cost $99.99 and $89.99, respectively. The devices can be purchased directly from Philips’ website or Amazon, although plans are in the works to have brick-and-mortar stores stocking their shelves with the devices too.

“We’re looking at a 2017 rollout in stores, but making sure we can establish them as healthcare and not fitness devices,” de Graaf said, pointing to opportunities in places like Target, which recently announced plans for digital health-dedicated aisles.

Over the next several months, Philips also wants to get the program integrated with Apple HealthKit and Google Fit, and would “not rule out any other third party partnerships,” according to de Graaf.

In recent months the company has shown its increasing focus on connected health and population health. For example, it just acquired Atlanta-based Wellcentive to expand its population health program. In a statement accompanying the new device launch, the company stated, “Our aim is to connect the data between an individual’s health tracking app, his or her medical records, images, diagnostics and treatment information, reports and notes. The vision is to allow doctors and their patients to be better connected."

Dedicated MobiHealthNews readers may recall that Philips announced last year that they were working on this collection of devices at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin, and the devices were available in Germany in late 2015. The company will take to this year’s IFA to do another launch, this time with presentations featuring the stories of actual users of the program. Pointing to the notoriously difficult task of changing peoples' behavior, de Graaf see this as a critical part of the strategy. 

"The most important thing we have to connect with people is the story – how this can mean something to each person," she said.