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7/30/2013
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Remote Patient Monitoring: 9 Promising Technologies

From telemedicine robots to toilet sensors, remote patient monitoring technology continues to win venture capital. These nine startups have landed funding in the past year.
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In 12 remote patient monitoring deals this year, venture capitalists put a total of $102 million into RPM companies, reports Rock Health, a seed fund for digital health. Why the focus on remote monitoring technology? Investors are betting that new federal requirements and changes in how doctors get paid will force hospitals to buy more gadgets to help watch over and care for patients outside the hospital setting.

The Affordable Care Act is expected to push more medical billing from the traditional fee-for-service model to the new fee-for-performance model; in other words, hospitals will get paid to keep people healthy. Keeping people healthy will force healthcare providers to do things such as prevent readmissions back to a hospital for an infection or relapse after a treatment, or keep people from needing a hospital stay at all. And that will happen only if providers have some insight into what patients are doing at home.

"Patient monitoring is becoming a necessary measure for hospitals and doctors to measure their business," said Jack Young, head of Qualcomm Life Fund, a wireless health investment company. "The focus is shifting whether they like it or not."

The theory is that better chronic care management will keep costs down. If patients can manage conditions such as diabetes and heart disease better outside of the hospital, costly major medical episodes are less likely to occur.

Remote patient monitoring companies are popping up left and right in the industry because it's relatively cheap to enter the market. Wireless transmission of data and sensors to collect data aren't new developments -- venture capitalists are getting interested now because new payment models are creating demand from providers.

"The technology has existed for years," said Promod Haque, a senior managing partner at Norwest Venture Partners, which invests in health IT companies. "This isn't new innovation. It's about new applications."

In 2010, the Affordable Care Act required the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a readmission-reduction program. Remote patient monitoring done right could significantly reduce the likelihood of readmission by heading off small problems before they become critical.

"It's in the best interest of hospitals to prevent readmission, so we're seeing a flurry of funding, especially as the ACA is really starting to take hold," said Paul Sonnier, head of digital strategy at Popper and Co., a healthcare consulting firm.

Remote patient monitoring faces some big obstacles. Older patients might be unfamiliar with the technology, and people of all ages still have to be persuaded to use it. There is little standardization among the devices because of the number of companies in the market, so IT faces an integration headache getting them to work with existing electronic records.

Another obstacle is that regulators view some monitoring apps the same as medical devices, and so they need Food and Drug Administration approval for use in clinical settings. Providers also need to figure out how to use all the data collected. For instance, how to automate the analysis to alert a nurse or doctor at the right time to follow up, but not so often that clinicians are overrun with warnings?

But venture investors are used to such risks with emerging tech and are sure there's money to be made as a few remote monitoring companies grow large enough to "emerge as victors and go public," said Hague.

Looking at the types of remote patient monitoring companies that venture capitalists are funding offers a window on where the technology is headed. Here are nine remote patient monitoring startups that have received new venture capital funding within the past year.

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Sam2010
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Sam2010,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/27/2013 | 7:00:09 PM
User compliance is a big issue
Both Independa and Vivify use bluetooth devices talking to tablets/smart phones- just like Intel, Hommed and a host of others similar solutions. Users need to keep the tablets/phones powered, have the app running, keep bluetooth on and THEN take readings. They also need to keep all devices in the SAME room since bluetooth only goes so far! All this complexity significantly drops user compliance. Then there is realted shipping/training/support costs which makes the solutions quite expensive.

Blipcare, Fitbit, Withings offer WiFi scales which can be kept in the bathroom. Blipcare even has the WiFi Blood pressure monitor. All the user has to do is take readings and the user compliance is radically higher. Patient followup can be done via automated phone calls and text messaging e.g. Silverlink, Eliza. Total cost remains low and you get more and better data. Extra bells and whistles don't make better solutions. They only add complexity and cost while reducing overall compliance. 

 

 
mHealthTalk
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mHealthTalk,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/24/2013 | 11:54:08 AM
Toilet Sensors
The use of sensors should ideally be unobtrusive, so I liked the the TLC mattress sensor by BAM Labs, but I saw no example of toilet sensors, even though the author hinted that there were some. Anyone interested in that should check out http://www.mhealthtalk.com/2011/04/smart-toilets-a-royal-flush-for-home-healthcare/. 

One example can measure, record, show and report important health data like blood pressure, sugar levels, body temperature, weight, and body mass index. Another learns who you are by estimating your weight and percent body fat and then chemically analyzes your output and reports it to a health monitoring service.
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
8/14/2013 | 10:16:28 PM
re: Remote Patient Monitoring: 9 Promising Technologies
It'll be interesting to see if providers turn to simpler tools than these to tackle readmission -- like simple self reporting smartphone apps rather than more sophisticated monitoring and reporting tools. One of the big bets by the venture firms is that this requires "FDA grade" gear and apps.
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