Predictions for 2012 1/3/12

2012 will be another big year for mobile and health, with CES kicking it off next week. Look to CES to be the launching pad for several big new mobile health devices, as it was last year for Withings (blood pressure cuff), AliveCor (EKG iPhone case), and others. I also think we’ll see some big mobile news at HIMSS12 in February from lots of new vendors, but also from some established vendors.

Below are my predictions for 2012. I’ve tried to be specific with some of them, not because I necessarily have any inside information, but because I’ll look good if I’m right and people will likely have forgotten if I’m wrong.

Smart phones everywhere. My mom and dad got iPhones while visiting me over the holidays. My wife’s 84-year-old Greek Yia Yia also got one. Pew numbers show close to 40% of the US population has a smart phone and I’ve seen projections that it will reach 50% in 2012. Despite the iPhone data pricing, I think the dropping iPhone prices, combined with the presence of Apple stores everywhere, will see iPhone numbers increase as a percentage of total smart phones. Despite this, building apps for iPhones or even generally for smart phones in 2012 will not hit the majority of those who need connected health tools. On the clinician side, obviously we’ll see the same trends, but also with increasing tablet adoption, specifically the iPad. If you’re a CIO at a hospital and don’t have a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy, look forward to more pressure to create one.

More evidence. HIT generally — and mobile specifically — will see more research being completed and published. Lots of pilots, both for pre-launch and launched companies, are underway, and 2012 will see the results, I’m betting mostly positive. The question will be around cost savings and decreased health utilization associated with mHealth technology and I think we’ll see several studies this year with positive findings. Having this lead to these services being covered by payers or hospitals is another story, which I don’t see happening on a big scale in 2012.

Biggest mover. My bet is that it will be AirStrip. AirStrip had a great 2011 and I think that will continue on three fronts in 2012: (a) more big enterprise deals like the one last month with CHW; (b) expansion to other acute mobile monitoring areas beyond OB and cardiology; and (c) expansion into home monitoring, where AirStrip will look to become the big player in monitoring lots of different home monitoring devices through its partnership with Qualcomm. I don’t know AirStrip’s cash position, but my bet is it will ra4ise over $10 million in venture funding in 2012.

Price transparency. Several companies that are trying to bring consumer insight into the cost of healthcare made big news in 2011 – Castlight, Brighter, and Cake Health come to mind. I think we’ll see Brighter continue its success in dental, while Castlight continues to succeed as a employer SaaS offering. Cake Health, a Rock Health company that is very new and consumer direct, will see stiff competition from the best-funded startup in HIT, ZocDoc. I think ZocDoc will continue to scale geographically (just look at where it is hiring sales people), but will also look to test the waters with cost and price info on providers and specific services. This makes more sense as the next wave for ZocDoc rather than expanding into PHRs, because people care more about cost than past lab results. Speaking of ZocDoc and scaling, I think we’ll see it partner with Practice Fusion in 2012.

App consolidation. Even in health, there always seems to be an app for that. I think we’ll see attempts made to consolidate health apps for consumers. Leading the charge will be Mayo, using its name to help consumers find the right apps. It will be interesting to see if this can be done through a mobile health platform, sort of like how Facebook integrates apps and services.

Transitions in care. Mobile will see more utilization for transitions in care, starting with discharge and readmission prevention. I think we’ll see several dedicated mobile health devices for these exact purposes in 2012. How usable these are and how they are funded beyond the immediate post-discharge period will be interesting to see.

Acquisitions. I think 2012 will see several mobile health acquisitions by payers to resell to ACOs and hospitals. ZocDoc is too pricey, but I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that WellDoc will be acquired in 2012. It won’t be cheap, as WellDoc has raised ~$20 million and has some revenue (though it is still not profitable.) Lots of smaller acquisitions will happen as well, as iTriage showed us this fall.

Tablets for patient entertainment. Beyond patient registration, I think we’re going to see healthcare organizations start to use tablets as patient entertainment and education devices, like GetWellNetwork, but not on a TV. Discharge instructions and patient education can be tailored and delivered interactively. I think lots of details need to be worked out with infection and access control, but these aren’t insurmountable.

Mobile EMRs gain momentum and adoption. I see this happening at least on the ambulatory side. I think we’ll see some tablet offerings from entrenched enterprise EMR vendors, but the real uptake will be on the outpatient side. In this, I think we’ll see Practice Fusion become a mobile EMR force. drchrono has been getting all the attention, but with Practice Fusion and Epocrates entering the mobile EMR market in earnest in 2012, it will be a lot harder for drchrono to differentiate.

NantWorks emerges. I predict we’ll start to understand how all the pieces of Dr. Soon-Shiong’s HIT conglomerate fit together. I don’t think all of the portfolio companies will necessarily take off, but we’ll begin to see through pilots the NantWorks plan to combine and integrate remote monitoring and home care delivery to reduce the overall cost of care.

Sensors on everything. Look no further than GreenGoose for proof of this. It is building sensors and games for tracking how you care for your pet and if you put the toilet seat down (no joke). On the health side, I think the push will be related to aging at home with Independa and GE/Intel leading the way. On the fitness side, we’ll see more and more people tracking activity and sleep.

mHealth fitness. Though I don’t think everybody will get a Fitbit for activity or a Zeo for sleep or RunKeeper for exercise, I think more and more people will start using services like these, especially as they become gamified and social. Also, new concepts like Health Rally are testing methods to get people back in shape. If I was in the fitness area, I’d want to be selling annual subscriptions for the next two weeks when everybody is still motivated by New Year’s resolutions.

Mobile to extend the patient visit. 2012 will see pilots for apps to link patient to doctor between visits to maximize face-to-face time. I’m not talking about home monitoring or secure messaging, but simply providing mobile access to tailored doctor recommendations from visits as well as pre-visit questionnaires. I’m friends with my pediatrician so it was OK, but I couldn’t help but laugh at him when he handed me a little orange book for each of my kids that I was supposed to hold on to between visits to track growth and age-specific recommendations. I already have an app for this, but I had to find it on my own.

Telehealth growth. For certain issues such as URIs, UTIs, skin issues, and other non-emergent situations, I think more people are going to turn to online tools like Skin Of Mine, DermLink, and Zipnosis. On the enterprise side, I think we’ll see more partnerships between healthcare orgs and employers with vendors like American Well to deliver cheap visits at convenient times.

Carrier offerings. In 2012 we’ll see more carriers offering mobile health apps — not just connected health devices — as part of subscription services. This is what GreatCall is doing, and I think we’ll see AT&T and likely Verizon start offering these services direct to consumers as line items on a monthly bill. I’d pay for several for people on my family plan.

That’s 2012 to me in the area of consumer and mobile health. Look forward to another exciting year and take advantage of opportunities you see around you.

Travis Good is an MD/MBA involved with HIT startups.

  • chris wasden

    I think most of your predictions are correct. I have some insight into several of the companies you mentioned and think these things could very well happen.

    Also, my 75 year old parents now each have an iphone.

    My wife, who would hardly be considered tech savvy has been so interested in my collection of sensors (fitbit, pulse ox, withing scale, sleepcycle, cyclemeter, etc) that she has been asking for her own devices. So I got her a Body Media for Christmas and now we compare our data every day from our multiple measures to see how we are doing. It has become a social event and something for discussion and personal engagement, even without gamification.

    The LinkedIn Wireless group had a polling questions regarding the progress of mhealth and the majority view, which included mine, suggested it was at first base and slowly moving to second. We still have a long way to go, but we are clearly moving faster and farther than at any time in the past.

  • Specifically looking at the tech/aging market, here are my trends and predictions for 2012, which overlap just a bit with the above.


    Laurie Orlov

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