Lebanon — Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s wireless health monitoring service ImagineCare may yet usher in a “new age of proactive personalized healthcare,” as the medical institution has hailed, but it will no longer be D-H leading the charge.
D-H has sold the assets of ImagineCare to LifecareX, a Stockholm, Sweden-based “digital health company” that will now adapt ImagineCare for the Swedish market as a “test bed” before commercializing it in other markets around the globe, said LifecareX Chief Executive and co-founder David Kruse.
ImagineCare is the brand name for a technology that monitors the health status of chronically ill people, measuring such signs as blood pressure, oxygen and glucose levels, through wearable sensors. The information is transmitted via smartphone to nurses and “health navigators,” who analyze it with the help of other data sources, to stay abreast of the individual’s health risks and treatment.
D-H developed ImagineCare two years ago in partnership with Microsoft, which provided cloud-based analytics computing along with its athletic wristband tracking device; and Tribridge, a Tampa, Fla.-based software developer that built the backbone to organize and power the personal medical information.
One of the service’s chief selling points promoted by D-H is that ImagineCare’s real-time monitoring of chronically ill patients leads to greater preventive care, thereby reducing medical costs before problems become acute.
But D-H’s high-flying commercial ambitions for ImagineCare were brought down to earth as its development costs weighed on D-H’s $39 million operating loss in fiscal 2016. Although D-H’s finances have since improved, and it expects a swing to positive results when the fiscal 2017 year ends June 30, the nonprofit health system said it didn’t have the financial resources or expertise to bring the service to market.
D-H shut down ImagineCare in February and laid off about three dozen employees, saying it was forced to do so after efforts to attract outside investors had failed. The project, which D-H said had enrolled 3,000 people — most of whom were D-H employees — was launched in the fall of 2015 in partnership with Microsoft’s Band fitness tracking device and Tribridge.
ImagineCare had been dealt a setback four months earlier when Microsoft announced it would discontinue its Band device, which was used by ImagineCare users to collect their health data.
Word of D-H’s sale of ImagineCare first surfaced in a D-H company Q&A with D-H Chief Executive Jim Weinstein. Addressing initiatives D-H is pursuing to reduce chronic illnesses, Weinstein noted he recently had “signed the papers” to sell ImagineCare to LifecareX in a deal that could “pay D-H royalties for the next 10 years, which could amount to as much as $200 million.”
No further financial details were released, and a D-H representative declined to comment beyond Weinstein’s statement. Payouts structured on future royalty payments are difficult to assess, however, and the money that eventually flows back to D-H could be less than the upper end of the projection.
LifecareX was founded in 2016 by four Swedish entrepreneurs “to help drive the ongoing transformation of the health care system that we see happening right now in Sweden but also happening on a global scale,” said Kruse, who is based in New York. The company is changing its name to ImagineCare AB to reflect the priority of its initial acquisition and planned rollout.
ImagineCare “is the first thing we are focusing on,” Kruse said. “This helps us to hit the ground running.”
Announced in the summer of 2015 and up and running by the fall, ImagineCare’s service was described by Microsoft as a “cloud-based system in which nurses and health coaches track and respond to individual’s health status in real time.” The computer giant credited Weinstein, who is stepping down as CEO in June, as “the driving force” behind the venture.
Kruse said the deal consists of acquiring ImagineCare’s assets, such as intellectual property, software code, trademarks and pending patents, as well as the “clinical content that was digitized and put into the platform.”
He declined to comment on terms, but said “there is a mechanism in the agreement that Dartmouth will be able to receive payment over time once this is commercialized.”
Kruse also discounted the impact on ImagineCare of Microsoft discontinuing its athletic tracker band, which measured sleep and steps, explaining that he expects ImagineCare will be compatible with a variety of athletic bands on the market.
None of ImagineCare’s employees who were based at Dartmouth-Hitchcock will be joining the Swedish company and users were disconnected when the service was terminated in February.
The majority of the 3,000 D-H employees who were enrolled in ImagineCare were being treated for hypertension. D-H had said the engagement rate was nearly four times the national average of those enrolled in an employer wellness program and resulted in a “50 percent reduction in poorly controlled high blood pressure.”
Although the time when chronically ill people will be electronically connected to their health care providers for real-time monitoring and treatment likely is years away, health care industry professionals expect it one day to be the norm and that ImagineCare provides a window into what it will look like.
Damon Auer, vice president of health and life sciences at Tribridge, whose Health360 software powers the cloud-based platforms for several major health care services, called ImagineCare “one of the best examples I’ve seen of a high-impact, closed-loop personalized patient experience that is really changing outcomes. … It’s pretty neat stuff.”
One element that set ImagineCare apart from other patient medical tracking services, the partners said, was its ability to get readings on an individual’s mental and emotional state through monitoring of Twitter and social media feeds in addition to measuring speech and tone analysis during interactions with ImagineCare staff nurses. Such monitoring, and when combined with “artificial intelligence,” could pick up signs of such maladies as depression, according to the partners.
“Someday (ImagineCare) will be recognized for the first successful use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in managing the most difficult and costly population of patients remotely,” Weinstein said in the Q&A. “Despite IBM’s Watson and others, we were the first effective platform to successfully manage our nation’s most costly and difficult problems using machine learning.
“All that said, we’re not a software company and it wasn’t feasible for us to build ImagineCare out and continually upgrade it as we would have needed to,” he said, adding it was now LifecareX and Tribridge that would be carrying ImagineCare’s “torch into the future.”
John Lippman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.