Roundup: Red flags for investors, Canadian EHRs, smart hearing apps

By Aditi Pai
06:00 am
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owletThis week in digital health, “social health management” platform creator Welltok's acqured healthcare incentive design and management firm IncentOne, Runtastic updated its app and announced a new product, and HealthTap launched of Siri-like app called Talk to Docs. It was a packed week, but there are still more stories to read. Here are some other stories we read this week.

When Smartphones Do Dumb Things -- Information Week

The best thing for a new parent might not be a device that continuously monitors a baby's vitals, Information Week's Paul Cerrato said in a commentary on the implications of growing numbers of mobile health apps. He references Owlet -- a smart sock for babies that will send vitals to a companion app. Cerrato then expands into the greater argument about these kinds of devices only gaining popularity because of a "global social disease," or, the medicalization of everyday life. Cerrato concedes on one point -- that there is a "high ground" mobile health apps can take so that they are only offering consumers "parameters that matter to people who really need them", like connected glucometers.

Embracing the Digital Age: EHRs, Meaningful Use, and Canadian Healthcare -- Tech Vibes

Over 80 percent of US hospitals have transitioned to an EHR system, while overall adoption in Canada is just around 57 percent, Tech Vibes reports. The writer notes that even though EHR adoption is falling behind, there are Canadian institutions helping, like Canada Health Infoways, which is supporting this transition. The writer believes this transition to EHRs will be "a way to lower costs, thereby lowering taxpayer burden, and a way to improve quality and quantity of care in preparation for the future."

While the EHR system in Canada may not be as widespread, in July, Canada took other steps to provide mobile health benefits to its populous. The government partnered with a speech therapy app to subsidize the cost for those who need it -- something MobiHealthNews has faulted the United States for not taking in the past. This week, Canada Health InfoWay commissioned a survey of 2,252 Canadians about their use of digital health technology that found 86 percent of Canadians agree that digital health will provide health information to a care team in an emergency situation and 86 percent believe it’s important that their doctors use electronic medical records.

Four Red Flags for Digital Health Investors -- Xconomy

Digital health investments are going strong, Xconomy's John Sung Kim wrote. While the rate of investments might not slow down, Kim offers four "red flags" for investors. The first is a "wrong ratio of hustlers to engineers," where hustlers means business people, mainly because, he says, most digital health startups will need to integrate with legacy systems, a task that needs many engineers. The second red flag is when these companies have "completely unrealistic assumptions about user acquisition costs." Kim says when startups try to target consumers, who, they hope, will eventually force doctors into adopting the new technology, they are mistaken and should instead realistically quantify the costs for getting doctors to use their technology.

Third, Kim says to avoid companies that are "ignoring the adoption requirements of the office staff." He sees companies go after the decision-maker who makes value-based judgments on ROI and cost savings, but the mid-level staff is the group that adopts the technology, sometimes without understanding what the benefits are. Doing quite the opposite, MIT's Little Devices Lab recently announced an initiative to find out what is most important to mid-level staff, specifically nurses, and create technology that fits their needs.

The final red flag is companies that display a "belief that more efficiency and 'doing good' sells themselves". Kim says doctors and nurses are jaded about improving patient experience, only because they've been promised this for years without seeing results. Instead, these providers are looking for technology that will make their lives easier and more profitable.

‘Smart Hearing Apps’ — a new frontier in mobile health - Venture Beat

In other investor news, Comcast Ventures Senior Associate Gavin Teo wrote a guest column for Venture Beat about the coming disruption of the hearing aid industry due to hearing aid apps. Today, he says, the retail market for hearing aids generates $5 billion in the United States and two and a half million hearing aids are sold each year. A competitive price for a hearing aid ranges from $1,500 to $2,000 per pair, while others cost closer to $3,000.

By comparison, Teo says new hearing aid apps are charging, at most, $3.99. Teo offers various examples of hearing aid apps that are on sale in the Apple App Store and Google Play store but also acknowledges that the apps maybe hit or miss. In April, MobiHealthNews compiled a list of iPhone hearing apps, which includes many that Teo also lists as examples.

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