Momentum for home monitoring of costly chronic diseases

By Neil Versel
03:18 am
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Neil_Versel_LargeThe U.S. spent $1.3 trillion in 2003 treating people with at least one chronic disease, according to a study in Health Affairs, and the price tag is projected to rise to $4.3 trillion by 2023. Chronic diseases account for about three-quarters of all healthcare spending in this country now, and that number won't be going down anytime soon if we continue on the current trajectory.

You haven't read a whole lot in MobiHealthNews lately about venture capitalists pouring money into more flashy, direct-to-consumer wellness and fitness apps with limited market potential (though MyTrak Health System scored a coup by landing coveted shelf space at Target for its SmartCoach mobile health tracker).

Instead, you've learned about Alere acquiring MedApps, maker of HealthPAL and other wireless home health devices for monitoring patients with chronic diseases. This comes just a week after Waltham, Mass.-based Alere announced plans to offer WellDoc's DiabetesManager mobile health program to disease management programs, in conjunction with a little telecommunications company that goes by the name of AT&T.

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WellDoc really is on a roll, actually. The New York Times reported this week that two unspecified health insurers have agreed to pay more than $100 a month per patient to supply DiabetesManager to help enrollees manage their conditions. WellDoc has it right: go where the customers are. And in healthcare, the customers usually aren't the patients who use devices like DiabetesManager, but third parties such as insurance companies. Have you noticed how many DTC companies have failed?

WellDoc recently raised the first half-million of a new round of funding the company hopes is in the $10 million range, and I don't see any reason why the rest of the money won't follow in short order.

In more examples of VCs learning where the money is in healthcare, Telcare, the first company to get FDA clearance for a cellular-enabled glucose monitor, scored $25.5 million from Sequoia Capital, backed by the Qualcomm Life Fund. And San Francisco-based startup HealthLoop picked up an undisclosed private investment to advance its "micro medical visit" platform for physicians that automatically sends post-visit messages to patients as part of follow-up care. Think medication adherence and lifestyle changes to help prevent costly hospitalizations.

This week, we get news that a venture with deep-pocketed corporations behind it, namely Intel-GE Care Innovations, has decided to put all of its eggs in the aging-in-place basket. "We decided that it's time to stop viewing the concepts of disease management and home monitoring as two separate entities," CEO Louis Burns told MobiHealthNews in an exclusive interview.

Indeed, the focus is sharpening on home health monitoring of people with chronic diseases. The shift may be happening faster than expected, but it's not a moment too soon. Look at how much money gets spent on chronic care, and tell me why someone needs to build another fitness app.