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In a year of even more insanity in terms of the number of conferences attempting to show value in digital/connected health, we returned this year to the Digital Health Summer Summit (DHSS13) in San Diego, California. An attendee at the summit joked that the conference producers were the only people making money in this area. That, while not totally the case, shows the pressing desire of vendors and stakeholders to drive forward with more substantial, scalable, and sustainable business models in the space. While last year’s event seemed to have one too many wellness program/portal startups, at least for me, this one had a different mix of sessions. While there were many corporate sponsors of this summer’s event, the leading ones were UnitedHealthGroup, Welldoc, and Life Technologies.
Welldoc, BlueStar, and Ford
One unintentional theme of DHSS13 was centric to Welldoc, starting with the opening keynote by Welldoc President and COO, Dr. Anand Iyer. An important point discussed at the conference was that it happened to coincide with the announcement of BlueStar—a new Welldoc mHealth product which is both prescribed and reimbursable as part of diabetes therapy. BlueStar (http://www.bluestardiabetes.com/) provides support for diabetes patients in terms of motivational and behavioral coaching, as well as aspects including smart glucose blood testing and adherence support. This product was cleared by the FDA, for adults with Type 2 diabetes. It is directly accessible across various form factor platforms, including one that most companies are not able to tout—a Ford car.
This positive step in mHealth is the first of its kind in prescribed, reimbursed mHealth applications and a key highlight in the area in H1, 2013. As we seek to expand reimbursement for mHealth solutions and other offerings centric on remote medical care, these wins can be leveraged by other developers walking the same path. There is still a long road to go in drawing consumers out of the realm of ‘everything related to healthcare is an entitlement’. A push from self-insured employers can help to increase the threshold for this overall in the United States and set a good precedent for national reimbursement for specific applications. We cannot rely on leadership in general from Congress, or the FDA for what is needed to push the digital health space forward. Such leadership and creativity in approach, as shown by WellDoc, is overall a very positive example.
The surprise part of the BlueStar announcement at the conference was a live demo with Ford, in front of the Omni hotel with a new Explorer, against the backdrop of Ford’s marketing of the Explorer as “Digital Health on Wheels”. It was entertaining to see the dash-embedded BlueStar link interacting with a “potential diabetes patient using the system in transit”. As part of this demo, I also got a free wine accessory kit, courtesy of Welldoc. It was a good show overall by them at the Digital Health Summer Summit.
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