Top 10 Digital Health Stories of 2015

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2015 was another milestone year for digital health. Startups in the sector managed to attract the same level of record-breaking funding seen in 2014. Major technology vendors, including IBM, Google, and Apple, have expanded their own digital health strategies. The FDA has continued to loosen regulations within the industry, and the ONC is beginning its push to open new data sources to third-party developers.

To those working day-in and day-out to bring innovative solutions to healthcare’s problems, thank you. Here is HIStalk Connect’s top digital health stories of 2015.

1. Athenahealth Acquires RazorInsights

Athenahealth formalized its push into the inpatient EHR space with the $40 million acquisition of cloud-based EHR vendor RazorInsights. Athena will work with the five year old startup and its small customer base to develop a cloud-based offering for the community hospital market, making Athena the first EHR vendor to offer a cloud-based EHR solution for both inpatient and ambulatory markets.

2. Under Armour Acquires MyFitnessPal for $475 Million

One of the largest acquisitions of the year in digital health was the $475 million acquisition of MyFitnessPal by Under Armour, an apparel company in search of a digital health presence. The news was combined with Under Armour’s $85 million acquisition of fitness app Endomondo, resulting in a single announcement describing the company’s new $500 million digital health ecosystem and future digital health ambitions.

3. Fitbit Shares Jump 50 Percent On First Day Of Trading

Fitbit completed its IPO in June, culminating with a June 18 launch on the NYSE that sent its stock price up nearly 50 percent to $29.68 by the end of the day. Stock prices continued to climb through the summer, peaking in August at over $50 per share, but closing the year out flat at $30.19.

4. ONC Publishes Interoperability Roadmap, New API Standards

The Office of the National Coordinator publishes its long-awaited interoperability roadmap, which outlines the national strategy for getting health data to flow between disparate clinical systems. The framework relies heavily on standardized API calls, echoing a sentiment that is already playing out in the vendor space as Cerner launches its own open API that will support third-party app development.

5.  Apple Introduces Research Kit, an API For Clinical Trials

In March, Apple introduced ResearchKit, an open source framework designed to help medical researchers collect data from clinical trial subjects. The platform has been a major success, with medical schools, pharmaceutical companies, and foundations all embracing the platform within its first year.

6. Theranos Continues Its Sparring Match With The Wall Street Journal

2015 was not a good year for Theranos, the secretive, billion dollar digital health startup that has been promising to revolutionize the clinical lab market. In October, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist John Carreyrou exposed the company for marketing its innovative new lab testing equipment when it was not actually using the devices to process test results.

7. Google Launches Spin Off Business Focused On Next Generation Surgical Robots

Google continues on its aggressive plunge into digital health. In March, it announced a partnership to co-design surgical robots with Johnson & Johnson, and in December it followed that news by announcing that the team would launch a new stand-alone business called Verb Surgical that will sell the new robots. This year, Google also announced projects focused on deep learning-assisted drug discovery, MS research, deep learning-assisted calorie counting, and a major effort to improve diabetes disease management.

8.   FDA Issues Safety Alert Over Hospira Infusion Pump’s Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities

For the first time, the FDA issued a safety alert over cybersecurity vulnerabilities found within a medical device. The vulnerabilities, found within Hospira infusion pumps, would theoretically allow outsiders to remotely control the pumps and even change the dose rate of a patient’s medication. Cybersecurity vulnerabilities in medical devices are not new to the industry, experts are calling the issue a key threat, and white coat hackers have recently published reports of similar vulnerabilities in surgical robots.

9.  Meaningful Use 3 Rules Introduce Major Patient Engagement Challenges

Meaningful Use Stage 3 rules include significant increases to patient engagement targets, putting the onus on providers to drive 25 percent of their discharged patients to a patient portal, exchanging secure messages with 35 percent of their patients, and soliciting patient-generated health data from 15 percent of their patients. These metrics are far from today’s level of engagement, and will require massive marketing efforts by providers.

10. Digital Health Raises $4.3 Billion In New Investments, Matching 2014 Funding Levels

2015 brought a similar level of VC activity as its record-breaking predecessor. Funding was largely directed toward patient engagement, wearables, personal health tools, telemedicine, and care coordination.


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