tech innovation

IBM Watson Brings Big Brain to DNA-Based Health App for Consumers

Posted by Sheila Shayon on November 13, 2014 01:28 PM

IBM expects the bioinformatics market will grow to $12.86 billion by 2020, and its super-computer Watson is the brand's ambassador-at-large, set to secure its place—and future—in banking, education, insurance, retail and healthcare, the focus of Big Blue's big news today. 

Watson, which is being actively commercialized by IBM as a B2B offering for others' apps and software, is at the heart of a major announcement that could mean the end of the annual doctor's visit.

A joint effort by IBM and Pathway Genomics will combine Pathway's personal DNA sequencing and biometric data with Watson's human language analysis and research capabilities to track and diagnose your health, and deliver it all through an app that should be available to consumers in mid-2015. Continue reading...

health matters

A League of Your Own: Kobo Founder's Health App Syncs Wearable Tech Data

Posted by Mark J. Miller on November 13, 2014 11:23 AM

When U.S.-based Borders Books introduced the Kobo e-reader back in 2010, it was seen as a potential “Kindle Killer.” Borders, alas, folded the following year, but Kobo kept quietly rolling along.

Now the man who created Kobo, Michael Serbinis, is introducing a new product that he hopes will excite consumers and the medical community alike: A healthcare app and personal wellness portal called League. Having raised $4 million Canadian in seed money, League is preparing to launch early next year, according to a press release.

League can be accessed via a website and iOS and Android mobile apps, which will monitor information provided by wearable technology devices, such as FitBit's tracking of steps taken, all controlled by the user and open, if desired, to healthcare providers too. Continue reading...

brand extensions

What's Up, Doc? Google Tests Virtual Medical Consultations

Posted by Mark J. Miller on October 13, 2014 03:03 PM

Google has found a way into nearly every part of consumers' lives. Now another can be added which gives a whole new meaning to Google Docs: medical advice.

The world's second most valuable brand is testing a feature on a limited basis that would allow US consumers to talk to a doctor in a real-time online video chat about a medical issue.

The service was discovered by Massachusetts-based web developer Jason Houle, who was offered the option to “talk with a doctor now” in a video chat after he Googled “knee pain” on his Android device.

Houle posted his exchange on Reddit on Friday, which immediately inspired others to search for “knee pain” on their mobile devices to see if they were offered similar help.

Part of Google's general advice service, Helpouts, it appears to be free to those who are offered it, but it may carry a fee down the road, as other Helpouts affiliates currently charge for their services.

According to The Guardian's report on Houle's experience, residents of Massachusetts and California currently have access to the virtual healthcare consulations, while a Google Helpouts search shows free medical advice also currently available to to clients of One Medical Group in Illinois.Continue reading...

retail

Walmart Pitches Healthcare to Customers While Trimming Benefits for Employees

Posted by Dale Buss on October 7, 2014 05:27 PM

When it comes to healthcare, Walmart giveth to its customers—and taketh away from its employees.

The retailing giant announced Tuesday that it plans to eliminate health insurance coverage for its part-time US employees who work less than 30 hours a week, while raising insurance premiums across the board for all employees.

At the same time, Walmart said that it plans to offer consumers one-stop shopping, in-store and online, for healthcare insurance.

Neither move is particularly surprising for America's largest private employer.Continue reading...

health matters

Walgreens Turns Wellness Coach With Help From WebMD

Posted by Dale Buss on October 2, 2014 04:48 PM

It isn't quite the Apple app with the Mayo Clinic, or even Nike Fit, but the Walgreens pharmacy chain and digital health hub WebMD are partnering in a move aimed at helping each brand compete more effectively in the era of intense digitization of healthcare and medical and fitness advice and monitoring.

The agreement will bring WebMD's virtual wellness-coaching programs to America's largest drugstore chain and help incentivize its Balance Rewards members to practice healthy behaviors using the WebMD platform by giving them rewards points by participating in programs and tracking progress toward goals. This is a first for Walgreens loyalty program, which traditionally rewarded points based on what customers purchase, not do.

The deal also follows the anti-tobacco move by CVS, America's #2 drugstore chain, which went into effect last month and followed a lot of research and soul-searching, at a time when all pharmacies are looking to increase their value to customers.Continue reading...

in the spotlight

Philips Sheds Light on Future Vision by Splitting in Two

Posted by Mark J. Miller on September 23, 2014 11:57 AM

Philips, long known for its lighting—from tradtional bulbs to the innovative app-controlled Hue line—and consumer electronics products ranging from electric shavers to toothbrushes, has been working hard this year to try and get consumers and investors to see it in a new light. As its Instagram bio notes, "Philips is a health and well-being company, focused on improving people’s lives through meaningful innovation."

With innovation often comes disruption, which is why the Dutch company that was founded in 1891 announced Tuesday that it will split into two entities to sharpen its strategic focus: one that will focus on lighting and the other (called HealthTech) centered on healthcare and technology, particularly in fast-growing Asian markets.Continue reading...

health matters

CVS Snuffs Out Tobacco Sales in Bold Step to Solidify its Health Care Brand

Posted by Dale Buss on February 5, 2014 01:51 PM

If the idea of a pharmacy is to help people get better, CVS no longer could go along with the fact that it sold decidedly unhealthy tobacco products. So America's second-largest pharmacy chain by size has announced that it will become the first nationwide drugstore to stop selling cigarettes and tobacco products.

The action of going cold turkey will cost CVS an estimated $2 billion in annual revenue (out of a total of $123 billion) when it goes into effect in October, but it also is a significant move in the direction of authenticity and consistency for a brand that—like most drugstore chains—has been intensely repositioning itself as a broad-based health products and services provider, not just a pill dispensary.

“We have about 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners helping patients manage chronic problems like high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease, all of which are linked to smoking,” said CVS CEO Larry J. Merlo to the New York Times. “We came to the decision that cigarettes and providing health care just don’t go together in the same setting."Continue reading...

brands under fire

Following Exposé, Tylenol Works Quickly to Restore Brand

Posted by Abe Sauer on October 10, 2013 12:55 PM

It's been three weeks since investigative journalists at ProPublica published a long profile of the severe potential danger in overusing the pain reliever acetaminophen. The report's most damaging allegations were not that 150 people a year die from acetaminophen but that safety agencies and manufacturers—especially household acetaminophen brand Tylenol—knew how dangerous the drug was and did little to warm users.

ProPublica's several stories, which make claims like, "[Tylenol maker] McNeil opposed even a modest government campaign to educate the public about acetaminophen’s risks, in part because it would harm Tylenol sales," are pretty damning for the brand, but the government agencies that oversee such operations don't make it out unscathed either. "Over more than 30 years, the FDA has delayed or failed to adopt measures designed to reduce deaths and injuries from acetaminophen. The agency began a comprehensive review to set safety rules for acetaminophen in the 1970s, but still has not finished," another report says.Continue reading...

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