Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Irish startup Galvanic has just launched a Kickstarter
to crowdsource funding a wireless stress biosensor
it’s calling PIP. PIP — which stands for ‘personal
input pod’ — is a Bluetooth biosensor that monitors
its user’s stress levels by measuring their galvanic
skin response (GSR) as they hold the PIP pinched between thumb and forefinger. GSR means skin
conductance — so basically how sweaty you’re
getting and therefore how nervous you’re feeling. PIP isn’t just a quantifiable self-tapping biosensor; it’s
been designed to work in conjunction with iOS and
Android phone and tablet apps to provide a
gamification element. The company has created three
games designed to be played using the PIP, which
utilises Bluetooth as its data transport tech. The user’s stress level is then incorporated into each
game as the core gameplay mechanic — with the
ultimate aim being to help the player learn what they
need to do to relax. It sounds a bit counterintuitive, since competitive
gaming can be synonymous with sweaty palms,
which is presumably why Galvanic’s project extends
to designing stress-busting games. It’s created three
games to be used in conjunction with the PIP — a
relaxing racing game, a seasonal mood game where players meditate on a wintery scene to turn it into
spring, and a more playful lie-detector multi-player
game — but it does also plan to launch an SDK in
future to get third party developers expanding the
PIP’s gaming ecosystem. With this initial handful of in-house games the PIP
can only be so interesting, but if Galvanic can
convince enough people to buy in to the gadget and
thus lure enough outside developers to join in, there’s
plenty of potential for other cool biosensing software
ideas. The price per PIP is $79 for a limited number of early bird Kickstarter backers, or $99 thereafter.
Presumably each new PIP-compatible game may
also carry a consumer price-tag. Galvanic is gunning for $100,000 in Kickstarter
funding, with the money to be used for finalising
manufacturing and readying its own apps. Assuming
it hits this rather ambitious funding goal, the company
reckons it can gear up for mass production by the end
of 2013, and expects to be shipping in Q1 2014. In future it said it plans to expand platform support
beyond Android and iOS, to add Windows Phone,
Blackberry, Windows, MacOS and also game
Consoles and set-top boxes.

20130508-205854.jpg HealthTap, the doctor Q&A site and mobile app, has
closed a $24 million series B round of funding —
capital it says it will use to acquire “top talent”,
expand its web and mobile offerings, and accelerate
growth. The new round, which brings the total raised
by the company to $37.9m, was led by Khosla Ventures, while existing investors Mayfield Fund, and
Mohr Davidow Ventures also participated. Meanwhile, Keith Rabois, ex-COO of Square and
Khosla partner, will join HealthTap’s board of
directors, and Vinod Khosla is to act as an advisor to
the startup. HealthTap’s platform provides health information
primarily through its Q&A functionality which
connects users to a network of more than 38,000
registered doctors, via both its website and mobile
apps — thus offering a sometimes more efficient and
cheaper alternative to seeing a doctor face-to-face, and certainly a better alternative than rolling the dice
on Google when searching for medical advice. For the doctors who join HealthTap, the platform
provides tools to build an online and real-world
reputation — the usual draw for those contributing to
a Q&A site — and the potential to attract new
patients while also improving the quality of health
information online, which is noble in itself. HealthTap claims that the new financing represents
“one of the most substantial series B investments to
date in the digital health industry”, and that the
company has grown “rapidly over the past year,
nearly quadrupling the number of doctors in its
network, and serving tens of millions of people worldwide via its web and mobile apps.” Testimony to this, in March we reported that
HealthTap was seeing users ask doctors more than
10 million questions every month and that the site
was serving more than 7.5 million monthly unique
visitors, with its mobile apps having been downloaded
more than 2 million times.

20130508-203630.jpg A new federal database of hospital prices shows a
massive disparity in medical costs. “Average
inpatient charges for services a hospital may provide
in connection with a joint replacement range from a
low of $5,300 at a hospital in Ada, Oklahoma, to a
high of $223,000 at a hospital in Monterey Park, California. Even within the same geographic area,”
said Secretary of Health and Human Services
Kathleen Sebelius, who spearheaded a new
transparency initiative to reveal traditionally secretive
hospital bills. The Center for Medicare and Medicade Services
released a public spreadsheet for the top 100 most
frequently billed procedures in more than 3,000
hospitals around the country. As compiled by the Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff
and Dan Keating: Ventilator: $115,00 George Washington University vs. $53,000 at Providence (5.4 miles distance) Lower limb replacement: $117,000 at Richmond CJW Medical Center vs. 25,600 at Winchester
Medical Center Pneumonia: $124,051 in Philadelphia vs. $5,093 in Water Valley, Mississippi.
(Note: for more data fun, the Washington Post has a
great (non-embeddable) graphic comparing the
average costs from different states) There is some debate about how much patients,
insurance providers and the government actually end
up paying. “It’s true that Medicare and a lot of private
insurers never pay the full charge,” said assistant
professor at the University of California at San
Francisco Medical School, Renee Hsia, “But you have a lot of private insurance companies where the
consumer pays a portion of the charge. For uninsured
patients, they face the full bill. In that sense, the price
matters.” Another possible explanation of price variation is
quality: some patients might be perfectly willing to
shell out an extra $100K for a better hip replacement.
But, it’s not clear whether that’s the case, because
we don’t have data correlating patient outcomes with
price. The technology startup community has attempted to
generate their own national rankings of medical
quality. Healthtap, for instance, allows patients to
anonymously seek free public medical advice, which
is rated up or down by a community of doctors who
are active on its forums. The more likes a doctor gets, the better he is viewed among his peers. Still much more transparency is needed to accurately
assess the cost vs. benefit ratio. This is one small
step in the right direction. Kudos to Secretary