Less than a year ago, I blogged about a potential future state of “sexy” medical devices that could revolutionize the traditional medical device world via a combination of patient preference products and razor/razor blade marketing approaches. Even though it has only been a few months since that discussion, several promising technologies have already rushed in to experiment in that space. They are collectively trying a variety of payment models, all aiming to determine the appropriate business strategy.
It’s worth highlighting a few of the interesting concepts that have recently hit the market in this rapidly evolving field. As a primer for some and a reminder for others, the general idea for most of these businesses is to combine some sensor-based device (sometimes wearable, sometimes stationary and strategically placed in the patient’s home) with a data-collection system and a two-way communication platform for remote monitoring. A variety of proofs of concept have recently been announced.
- Philips has perhaps been the most active and most public about the importance of connected health to its future strategy. It has announced several programs and initiatives such as CareSensus (passive sensors in the patient’s home) and ACT@Scale (collecting and analyzing economic and health outcomes data through its telehealth program across 75,000 patients). This past week, Philips also announced a partnership with Pegasystems to integrate technologies and create a platform for managed care service providers and accountable care organizations to better manage data and connected devices.
- Some are bolting on communications equipment to medical devices to allow for care and monitoring in the comfort of the patient’s home and a rapid response when needed. Baxter's hemodialysis devices are an example of this.
There is considerable innovation in patient/work biosensors in forms such as patches and watches, such as:
- GI Logic devices are used for measuring GI vibrations on a continuous basis. This has a variety of therapeutic guidance applications as well as post-operative optimization of feeding schedules.
- iRhythm Technologies products are used for ECG monitoring. It increases compliance and capture time to 14 days and can even be worn in the shower.
Others are focusing on connections to smartphones:
- Empatica devices are for detecting epileptic seizures. It’s connected to a smartphone app to capture historical data and to detect patterns leading up to epileptic episodes.
- Vital Connect's VitalPatch is a medical-grade wearable biosensor that attaches to a patient similar to a Band-Aid and sends measurements such as heart rate, respiratory rate, skin temperature, posture, step count and fall detection via Bluetooth and the patient’s smartphone.
- Chrono Therapeutics offers a combination of drug delivery, compliance monitoring, behavioral support and data analytics via smartphones. Applications are expected to include everything from smoking cessation to Parkinson’s disease treatments.
- Biogen and Fitbit have partnered to monitor multiple sclerosis patients, vastly improving the quality of data over the previous self-reported patient information. The service can track patients’ progress and their individualized treatment responses.
- A variety of other high-profile companies are getting into the race, too, whether going alone or partnering with others. Recent examples include Google and Novartis collaborating on smart contact lenses to monitor glucose levels, IBM Watson partnering with Johnson & Johnson, Apple and Medtronic to develop a data platform, and more than 100,000 healthcare-related apps being developed and offered online.
Clearly, the space is extremely active and evolving rapidly. From an investment standpoint, Rock Health estimates that $4.5 billion has been invested in connected health in 2015 alone, which, when added to the $6 billion worth of M&A activity and $8 billion worth of market capitalization created via IPOs, gives you a sense of the magnitude of overall interest in this category.
Interestingly, many of the examples cited above include patient satisfaction measurements as one of the key success indicators. Optimizing the patient experience will help to increase compliance to monitoring and treatments, and hopefully will encourage patients to utilize the devices even after the initial “honeymoon period” wears off.
Several business models have emerged, ranging from consumer-pay to diagnosis-related group reimbursement to insurance-pay. As with many elements of healthcare, the payment models will shape the incentives and the willingness by various stakeholders to invest in solutions. Stay tuned for a deeper dive on that topic in a future blog post.
It has been an exciting beginning to the year, and we’re still at the very front edge of this important trend. I suspect that additional important breakthroughs are on their way, particularly related to developing standards for data and information, which will allow for much better sharing across brand platforms and physicians’ information management systems.
What do you think the next few months will bring us?