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10 Biggest Mobile Health Investments This Year Appear to Have Business Plans With Profits Contingent on Selling Data for Profit

Posted Sep 22 2013 3:04pm

I looked through this list on this post about the 10 biggest digital health investments for the year 2013,  and there are some companies on here who do sell data and others besides myself have identified many of them.  If you have watched and read the news there have been multiple articles out about their privacy and security.  You do have to wonder what goes through the minds of the VC funders here.  How do they get all this funding as an investor wants to know where the profitimage and revenue is going to come from, common sense tells you that.  Here’s one on United and one of their many data selling entities…they have been selling data for a long time going back to the Ingenix prescription data for a start. 

More Data For Sale Soon With Shared Clarity With United Healthcare Labs and Dignity Health–Crunching Numbers on Medical Devices With Shared Clarity

And another one and even over at Forbes they picked this one off saying “it good profit when you can get the business relative to United selling data..” We Have A Winner”… quote below, nice work if you can get it.  United Labs  has their agreement with Mayo to scrub through their electronic medical records to sell non identified data. 

“Second, Humedica gets to keep the de-identified but extremely valuable,  comprehensive longitudinal patient data, package it, and sell it to interested third parties (e.g. payors and pharmas).  Nice work if you can get it — and now UnitedHealth has.”

United Healthcare Launches UHC Research Institute–More Data, More Analytics to Measure Performance, Improve Performance, Optimize the Supply Chain and Increase Revenue For Academic Medical Centers

Anyway looking through the list here it certainly might lend it self as a partial explanation as to why they roll the big money out.  They know the huge dollars that are made selling data, i.e. Walgreens pulling in a cool billions a year, so again I ask the question when funding some of these start ups is the buzz line “we are going to sell data” part of the funding decision?   Sure looks that way to me but that’s only my opinion.  Why wouldn’t a VC roll out dough if they present a business model and their math or algorithms to get the data? 

Medical Device =  Algorithms  +  Medical Data  =  Data Reports  =  PHR  =  EHR  =  _____.

From the other side you can take a look at the efforts from insurers on their data selling.  Sometimes even before the entire market of who’s buying is determined the data collected is already considered an asset.  Once data is in house and queried then the marketing starts.  Some I have identified a while back, like Proteus in 2010 with having a data selling market.   It’s not too hard to pick them off today, just read the privacy statements that you can half understand and if they are that complicated by design possibly, they are going to sell your data. 

Here’s Glo-Caps ..a post from 2011.  Jawbone and Body Media   from earlier this year.  On EveryMove from WellTok , you can read the review here from another source..the back door monitoring.   On the website for PatientSafe, I couldn’t even find a privacy statement.  Medivo was one I missed but again read the privacy statement and see if you understand it and sure smell like data selling to me.  A lot of these sites do surveys too, yes one more method of collecting and scraping data. I don’t do any of those for sure.   Here’s an article from Mobile Health on Treato, a data miner and if you are going to mine data, what are you going to do with it?

A favorite one of mine here, Vitals which was purchased by HealthTap and here’s y post from November of 2012. 

HealthTap Buys Avvo Doctor Rating and Referral Business and Website

Here’s what I found with a simple search in November of 2010:

Avvo Physician Rating Service Can’t Get Accurate Information Listed on Doctors - One OC Oncologist Sitting in Jail for Fraud

Once in a while I look at the websites of the pages that rank and list doctors and they are error riddled and have not improved much since I had my discussion with the AMA in 2010 and when I found my former doctor who had been dead for 8 years still listed and seeing new patients.  Link below from AMA News…and we miss them by the way.  Doctors and hospitals actually hate these sites especially when they come up and try to give a ranking…when you flawed data, what’s that say for their ranking reports? 

Dead doctors stubbornly alive on physician-finder sites

“Goddard says the database would not be helpful, because it gives only names and addresses. But according to Duck, a simple computer program could be written to cross-reference the names and addresses in the Social Security database with the names and addresses in the physician profile database. When a potential match is found, it could be red-flagged for the sites to check up on it. It would be just one additional tool the sites could use to help improve their accuracy, since this is a difficult problem to fix.”

HealthTap is yet another one I have question about as well.  They probably won’t solicit me anymore:)  When I saw the big announcement on buying Avvo I knew what they purchased and in order to have any value, that sites needs of work.  Remember back a few years ago about the big story about Wellsphere   and the big stink about republishing content from bloggers and not providing links back to the content writers?  Dr. Geoff Rutledge ran that company and now where is he?  At Healthtap as the Chief Medical Information Officer, I just got an email from him a few months ago pushing “TipTaps” and yes you can share all of that on social networks, more data to mine.  Wellsphere was sold to Health Central aka Remedy Health Media, LLC  and I guess that is when the doctor moved on.  There’s a whooper of a privacy policy on that site you can read here.  

HealthTap solicited me from a few other folks in their organization  as well, wanting placement of their widgets on my blog.  Bloggers don’t make a ton of money and what small amounts I make with sponsors and advertising is not a lot and certainly does not pay the rent.

In November of 2012 I received an email from HealthTap telling me that had over 14,000 doctors licensed…hmmm…is what I said and wondered how does that work when you just recently were funded?  I made a blog post asking the question as how did they license so many doctors so fast? 

HealthTap App Offers “Doc in the Box” Service for Patients to Ask Question From Registered Doctors For Opinions And Then the Peer Groups of MDs Rate Each Other’s Answers? Enough Time For This?

In October of 2011 I had an email from Pam Yoder, MD, PhD about the beta again wanting some free advertising telling me it was a great fit for my blog.  In November I received an email wanting from Jeff Pollard MD from HealthTap me to paste messages on Twitter and Facebook.  Talk about cheap when with all these efforts and not being able to fork out $30 to $100 a month to advertise and wanting some free labor and advertising?  What would you think?

“We’re honored and excited to have a positive impact on the health of people everywhere by building the premier social network in Interactive Health. We hope you’ll join us in sharing the future of health with your readers and your community.
To help, we’ve created some easy copy/paste messages for Twitter and Facebook.”

In February of 2012 I had the email from Dana at Healthtap, pushing the “Ask Doctors Widget”.  In August I heard from Jessica about another widget they wanted me to place on my blog..and the link in the email went to this page..pushing bloggers and doctors to use that widget…for free. 

image

In February of this year another email, they have 3 widgets now and still can’t afford $30 to $100 a month…

“The free HealthTap widgets are quick and easy to install into the sidebar of your site and we’re more than happy to have a technical HealthTapper help you out. Preview your widget today and instantly connect your blog to top-quality health content and the largest doctor directory in the world for free!”

But the company doesn’t see the widgets as advertising, well what else is it?  Here’s the answer I received when I nicely again stated that advertisers and sponsors help with the cost of blogger websites..they don’t pay for advertising but are certainly ready to scrape and mine some data to make money:)  Maybe all the money has to be spent on Vitals to give it a fix with all the flawed data.  There’s another “whopper of a privacy statement here with FAQ at HealthTap.  It’s up to you after reading it but it very much like most of the “cookie cutter” privacy statements I see all over the place with the exception of adding the FAQ.  Again with each email I asked for a small contribution and Stephanie in March of this year wrote this?

“Thanks for your response. As a social service startup and valued community resource, we don't maintain advertising on our web or mobile apps or pay for advertising on other services. HealthTap is a free platform on which all of our members are able to ask health questions to top doctors, browse health information, and find doctors at no cost. We certainly don't see the widgets as free advertising but more as value-added resources for your readers.”

Anyway I thought including this was a side of marketing that you may not otherwise see with how the marketing goes with a lot of the start ups.  Again, the question I wonder about is if you sell data is that a “door opener” for VC funding?   The insurance industry has their VC entities as well…and in this example with Blue Cross/Blue Shield VC division  you can see where they physically moved their office to be closer to the action as their operation moved to San Francisco from Chicago.  Sandbox Industries with it’s internally focused start up manages $18.8 millions vintage 2008 seed fund. 

Sandbox VC Firm that Manages Blue Cross/Blue Shield VC Funds Is Moving to San Francisco–An Incubator for Some New Coders To Write Algorithms for Profit?

A lot of this type of activity takes place with the consumer apps, however medical record data is now being mined to sell with de-identification efforts as I referenced above.  I wrote a post too on the re-identifying efforts out there with all that is on the web…depends on the Query Master and the value of the data if and when this is done.  I’m not the first to write about this but when I wrote software I would perform such processes to ensure the queries were working correctly, it is just like the issues HHS is having with their shopping cart and matching data..all queries and you have to make sure it works accurately. 

Re-Identifying Medical Records All Depends on the Query Master and How Much Money Can Be Saved or Made With Adjusting Risk, Up or Down

Here’s an image that shows how this can be done with so much information on the web from the link above which was originally covered on Bloomberg.  Years ago we didn’t have to worry about this with everyone having their data in silos, but not the case today at all.   Even SAP wants to broker the Verizon wireless data and split the profits with them with accelerated queried data that shows up in a form for sale with some new “analytics” for folks to buy. 

Not all companies sell data and what I am finding is that those who do not are not relying on VC funding but instead are turning to Crowd funding to create a business model that does not include selling data as a means of profit and I have found their privacy policies easy to read and understand.  You have probably heard about the Tri-Coder and they explicitly state they do not sell data and I give those folks some good attention for sure. 

Scanadu Tricoder Scout–One mHealth Device Not Selling Data For Profit Goes To Crowdfunding, Will the FDA Consider Privacy in Their Mobile Device Approval System

Heapsylon is another one who also used crowd funding to get started and I love what their CEO says about privacy “we sell socks not your data”.  Their technologies are a sensor that can be placed in fabrics and right now it’s socks and plans are to grow from there.  Neither has bombed me with solicitation to put widgets on my blog either:)

The Computer is in Your Socks–Sensors and Monitoring Discreetly at Your Feet…Beyond the Accelerator With Mobile Health Monitoring

So again what is getting funded and what are these business models out there?  The data selling epidemic with lack of any type of regulation also caught the attention of a bunch of folks that created a game, Data Dealer,  to exploit this which I thought was both entertaining and interesting as they also take punches at the “gamificaiton” of health data which only today stands to confuse people, and consumers are not that gullible and when they want to play a game, something imagelike World of Warcraft would be big choice.  Gamification with health websites in my opinion is like another form of segmentation with insulting your intelligence and wit the complexities we have today,  I really don’t see a place for it.  Healthcare is not a game but the marketers keep pushing it.  I scratch my head when I see funding for types of start ups too. 

Data Selling Game Now Exploits the Non Regulated Billion Dollar Epidemic–”Data Dealer” The Attack of the Killer Algorithms Gamified

In the video you can hear it stated “ buy the profile of a disgruntled nurse wanting to sell medical records, rise from a small info dealer to a mighty data mogul,  start companies with online ventures, expand your data empire and collect even more profiles, your goal millions of valuable profiles, every dirty deal counts, when your data base fills up the buyers come knocking, connect with other data dealers, or break into their data bases,   Here’s the video and I can’t help but think the recent commoditizing of “data scientists” to get enough people out there to create models is one of the driving factors:)  Just follow the money and the data and hope that the code of ethics is followed by data scientists. 

Data Scientist Jobs About To Be Commoditized–Online School Says They Can Crank One Out For Your Company In Just 12 Weeks To Work With Your “Big Illusive Data”…

In the news the other day Google is going to leave my MySQL and migrate to another data base to where they can explore using no cookies so they don’t have to worry about cookie blockers and work around it.  I had my issues with Google when they told me my real name was not compliant and suspended my account as their machine learning confused me for a “real duck” and then they asked me where they could find me on the web to verify. I was more than happy to point them to “Blogger” the Google blog platform I had been using for 6 years to get my account reinstated, connected data, I don’t think so on this one.

Also in the news was the Wellness Program at Penn State to where participants that did not use the WebMD portal where going to get fined.  Ok so let’s dig and and realize that many insurance companies for one, own wellness subsidiaries and we don’t know what goes on behind closed server doors either and what subsidiaries work with other subsidiaries to query and either sell data or use it internally for greater intelligence.  About 4 years ago a VC firm came out and said that was exactly what they were going to do with their portfolio companies..not a new idea but one businesses really may not want you to know about. 

Anyway I took a look at the WebMD demo on the portal and to me anyway it pretty crystal clear on what’s motivating this push as we know WebMD needs more money and this demo repeated over and over about behavior modification being needed.  There’s not a one of us out there that can’t do something better but the tone of this video was basically saying that everyone under the plan was a problem and this portal is going to help you fix all of them, yikes! image So even the healthy people under this plan have already been segmented to be “unhealthy” and the answer is that port to fix them all up. 

The portal is algo gathering data to be sold, duh?  There’s the high powered push as if you put two and two together and see the tone of the WebMD marketing demo to sell this, it’s crystal clear.  No wonder beside the fine that was removed, that people rejected this…it’s telling all participants right off the get go, without any information on file that they are all segmented as “deadbeats” and everyone is not.  Go right here and watch it and see what you think.  Not very patient engaging to me at all with the “powerful behavior platform” as the vide states.  Data gets old, a query gets run and you get further segmented as all your flaws are exposed through data analytics.  Again there are two types of sales going on one that has identifying data as what insurers like to collect and then the “profiles” of you that can be matched up are sold. 

Items as such work better by attraction and less Gestapo styled 

implementations.  I am a big PHR promoter and that has been a struggle to get patients to engage, and you look at how Intuit Health went down the drain too with trying to get consumers to use their connected services to health insurers.   Now United is trying it themselves to get consumers to connect to pay bills, but again without all the details on a bill would you pay it?  Allscripts was a big promoter of Quicken Health so there went a bunch of code and marketing down the drain.  It got so bad over there before they decided to can it that they forced software engineers into a room “until they got it right”..again seeing desperation to sell that code and software.  See any relationship to the Penn State issue?  This time the engineers were at fault at they couldn’t produce software to “grab” the consumer and all the money and 3-4 years promoting, gone down the toilet.  

Intuit Forces Engineers Into A Room Until They “Get It Right”–“The Short Order Code Kitchen Burned Down a Few Years Ago” –Time To “Start Eating Some Of Your Own Dog Food” And Trash the “Expert” Paradigm

If what I have written here in this post has not made you think a little bit, scroll on down to the footer here and watch a few videos that are at the layman’s level to help you understand some of this and you don’t have to be an expert but some really good videos that document pretty much what I have said here in that post.  There’s few more at the Algo Duping page too that worth a look with people smarter than me extending their knowledge to consumers as well.  If nothing else this does take a look at some of the processes that go on behind the scenes here and again the question, do you almost instantly get money from a VC if you have a data selling business model? I probably won’t make friends here with this, but my little human brain can work like algorithm with look at patterns and it certainly looks to me like we have one. 

As consumers we look for some type of government regulation but here’s an image of how many in Congresimages use technology and this of course was fortified by John McCain too as we have “Paper Congressmen” in place at best that can only meager up some low tech band aids for the most part.  The discussions get really good when you have people in Congress discussing the rate of adoption of electronic medical records by doctors and they sit and drown themselves in paper themselves, and thus so by being a “non participant” in consumer technologies they miss the boat over and over.  How would this senator below like to adhere to the Penn State portal?  He wouldn’t like it I bet if he understood it. 

Senator Pushing on Behavioral Health–Sounds Like We Have Another “Algo Duped” “Paper Lawmaker” on the Case…

I have written to the lawyers at the FTC about the epidemic and the lack of ethics that are developing or that are already out there and what we are missing is an index system that allows consumers some transparency to know who sells what kind of data and to who since we either created the data or it comes from banks and big corporations but so far we can’t count on a Paper Congress (and this both partiesimage) to do much about it. 

You can’t regulate any of this until you know who the players are and further more I suggested an excise tax on those making billions selling data as when the errors occur they have an entirely free labor pool to fix it as we are stuck with erroneous data segmentation and denied until the flawed data they sold and made millions on gets corrected by us.  I have already given up on Richard Cordray as he’s busy building a data base to study how consumers interact with financial firms as he could cut to the chase get educated by hiring a few quants to tell him how it’s done as from what I read I assume he’s a Paper Lawyer as well otherwise he would get this and be all over it. 

This is inequality by segmentation and the VCs are right in there funding it.  

I’m guessing we must have a big crew of paper lawyers at the FTC as well as myself and others told them their plan was useless, no index to allow regulation and shoot you need  have  buy a license to get married, drive a car…see what I mean as they don’t get IT infrastructure needed to have any kind of regulation.    As consumers we are regulated but the banks and companies run hog wild on this issue.  I was not alone on this issue as it was all over the web that this was very feeble.

FTC “Reclaim Your Name Campaign” Not Good Enough–No Path for Regulation Identified–All Data Sellers Including Banks, Insurers, Etc. Should Be Required to Buy a License

So the FTC tried a little more publicity on the topic, still a big fail, no indexing, Gov can’t model. 

FTC Tries to Bring Strong Case for Consumer Protections With Use of Data–But Nothing About Creating IT Infrastructure Path to Allow Regulation–Gov Can’t or Won’t Model?

What was funny is on the post below I even had Nielsen give this post a thumbs up.

Big Data, Flawed Data, Business Intelligence, Where’s The Future and What Has Been Our Past…A World With ”Algo Duping” of Society and Consumers

Hey dude let’s crunch some numbers and see if we can come up with some analytics to sell”

You can see where the profits come from and some of the real data roots of inequality today and you have to address it here as otherwise nothing gets done until software parameters running on servers 24/ are adjusted…welcome to the 20th century,  BD

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