One of the bigger names in the home telehealth space has closed up shop.
Robert Bosch Healthcare Systems, the U.S.-based subsidiary of the German tech giant, "is currently realigning its business in the medical and healthcare sector," according to a recent press release, and has closed its offices in Palo Alto, Calif., and Utica, N.Y., effectively putting 125 people out of work.
The developer of business-to-business telemedicine systems, including patient interfaces, software and platforms for patient care, has seen sales of its home patient monitoring platforms tail off following a series of legal battles over patents. Reports have surfaced that sales of the Home Buddy telehealth platform, which the company acquired from the Health Hero Network in 2008, and the T400 "Turtle" systems have dropped since reaching a high three years ago.
The "Turtle" was at the center of a promising home-patient monitoring project in Alaska a few years ago, in which the platform was used to connect Alaskans with chronic health conditions in remote locations to providers in Anchorage. More recently, however, state health officials reportedly had tired of the system's shortcomings and were looking to get rid of the devices.
There was little word out of Bosch about the shutdown, save for the press release. The company's Facebook and Twitter accounts have been shut down, and its YouTube page hadn't been updated in a year. Calls to the company were unanswered.
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"The company is currently analyzing future opportunities in this field," the Bosch release stated. "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."
According to press reports, sales of Health Buddy were shut down on June 15, with service concluding within three months; this includes orders placed through the company's selling partner, McKesson Extended Care Solutions. The company will continue to fill orders for the Department of Veterans Affairs, with which it has had a business agreement since 2002, but will accept no new orders and will support the VA only through April 2016.
The shutdown leaves the VA's Care Coordination Home Telehealth (CCHT) program with only a few approved telehealth vendors, including Cardiocom – which, ironically, had recently beaten back charges by Bosch that it had infringed on Bosch patents.
Aside from the battles with Cardiocom – in which Bosch had several patents invalidated – the company had also filed patent infringement suits against Alere Medical, MedApps, Waldo Health, Philips and Express MD Solutions through the years, with mixed results.
The company had been actively marketing its products recently, with a presence at the American Telemedicine Association's conference in Los Angeles in May and press mailings as recent as June 12. And just last year, Bosch received certification for program design in disease management for 16 health management programs (HMPs) from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA).
“NCQA certification of program design for our HMPs is unique in the telehealth industry and represents an enormous commitment by our company to rigor and excellence in the development of our telehealth-based disease management programs which have been demonstrated to improve the health of people with chronic conditions,” Micha Kirchhoff, president of Bosch Healthcare, said in a press release.
At least one competitor in the field said Bosch was never able to improve its products.
"Bosch failed to meet the needs of providers or payers because their solutions have the same failings that have kept first-generation remote patient monitoring technology in general from being effective," said Dean Sawyer, CEO of Sentrian, which sells a remote patient monitoring analytics platform. "These technologies require enormous investments of time and personnel because 70 percent of their alerts are false alarms. In addition, first-generation remote patient monitoring assumes that a day-to-day change in a single parameter (i.e. weight) is enough to detect health deterioration but in fact misses a high percentage of health deterioration resulting in preventable hospitalizations."