Zeo

I wrote about Proactive Sleep a while back and wondered how it would be to combine a sensor to automatically record sleep pattern. Well, Zeo gets one step closer to that.

Zeo system consists of a wearable headband that measure brain’s natural electrical activity. Although their blog has a high-level explanation of how it works, my understanding is that its a single-channel EEG, which seems to be a reasonable way to do sleep analysis in healthy individuals. That data is wirelessly transmitted to a bedside display and stored on an SD card.

Algorithms based on proprietary logic churn out a personal sleep score (called ZQ) to quantify the type of sleep you get. The display unit looks like a bedside alarm clock and shows current and past 2 weeks worth of sleep analysis. Also has some smart alarm clock features like SmartWake alarm that wakes you up at the most suitable time within half-hour of set time. You could upload the data to an online sleep journal through the SD card. The website gives graphs, trends and the ability log other supplementary lifestyle data that can affect your sleep. All that for $249. An additional $100 would get lifetime access to a personal sleep coaching program, which includes regular assessments, goal tracking, email tips etc.

There is no question that Sleep Science is a serious, mature field. Zeo can find its place as a useful adjunct for plenty of sleep-related disorders that affect people who are otherwise healthy. It’s not an FDA approved 11 channel medical grade polysomnogram, and it’d be a mistake to compare it to one. It’s perhaps a closer analog to Actigraphy where a wearable sensor measures overall motor activity during sleep. An actigraph unit is an accelerometer based device like the FitBit, WakeMate, SleepTracker or Axbo.

Accurate or not, Zeo is yet another proof that healthcare is slowly being transformed by sensor-based, portable devices that are capable of analyzing data in a consumer-oriented way to enable individual patient to manage their conditions better.

April ’10 Update: I ordered a Zeo from Amazon in March’10. Been using it for couple of weeks now. The hardware looks and performs well, but I have my complaints. The sensor in headband is bit bulky to sleep with, and I don’t think I’ll get used to the headband anytime soon. The fact that I need to replace the sensor pad every 90 days feels like a hidden cost (they are $24.95  for a pair without S&H) that was not disclosed completely in the marketing.

Software-wise, it’s bit less intuitive than I expected. I’m still wondering what the data tells me. I know Z-score is a overall indicator, but what about the breakdown? Are my 49 minutes of deep sleep enough?  The fact that I woke up 7 times – is that normal? In the end, I’m asking the question- what does this $250 device do for me…  Probably not much because I’m not the target audience for it. People suffering from sleep disorders would perhaps be more receptive.

May’10 Update: Returned it. Sorry Zeo.

June’10 Update: Learned about the Zeo API. Mobile fitness companies RunKeeper and Daily Burn are the first to integrate their services with Zeo. Neat strategy to promote it as a platform.

July’10 Update: Found out about NeuroVigil: another startup in the sleep-monitoring space. Their technology is also based on a single-channel EEG wireless sensor. They claim to be able to send the data (and its analysis) to any mobile device. NeuroVigil’s founder, Philip Low gave an interesting talk at TEDMED in 2009.

Nov’11 Update: Noticed that Zeo now has a cheaper, smartphone-based mobile ($99) solution and original clock has been re-packaged as bedside solution ($149). Smart move, since it makes them more relevant in comparison to other solutions like EASYWAKEme the market.

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Carol

carollogo1Consumer-Driven Healthcare (CDHC) may not have arrived yet, but startups have been sprouting around it for a while. Carol.com is the brainchild of Tony Miller (founder of Definity Health, another CDHC company that he sold to UnitedHealth Group in 2004) and was started in late 2007.

Carol.com’s original intent was to be a ‘marketplace for care’- a place where consumers with fat HSA‘s could comparison shop for their healthcare needs. The site attempted to create “care packages” around specific conditions or medical needs (e.g. years-worth of outpatient asthma care, for example) and let consumers choose which provider to go with. Very neat concept, although in my opinion it’s probably more applicable to commoditized parts of care (like LASIK, botox) rather than a cardiac cath or appendectomy.

Turns out that Carol.com didn’t attract enough buyers and sellers to make this a viable marketplace- blame it on the economic downturn, lack of consumer awareness, or just plain bad timing. The statistics show a steady decline since Feb’08 (probably the peak of media coverage for Carol.com): 15K then to less than 5K in Feb’09.  As this article states, in late 2008 they had to make job cuts and re-think their strategy- which is since then to be a consulting and software services provider for healthcare organizations.

I doubt Carol.com will run out of money anytime soon (the website is still up for Seattle and Twin cities) given it’s founder’s previous success. But its unfortunate that good ideas like it go on life support while CDHC remains in its long gestational period. Someone needs to teach consumers how to drive healthcare… soon.

September 2010 Update: Guess I was wrong. Carol.com now has a new name (Carol Corp.) and the website no longer has the marketplace as before. It has some boilerplate info about healthcare consulting and software development services.

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DoubleCheckMD

Another consumer-oriented concept. This one is specifically for patients on multiple medications who are curious to find out how they interact and what side-effects are related to which.

DoubleCheckMD is an offering by a Cambridge, MA-based company called Enhanced Medical Decisions, founded by a physician from Harvard. It provides information around drug-drug interaction (including OTC, Vitamins and Herbs) and drug-symptom relation with the caveat “Please note that the information DoubleCheckMD.com provides is intended to help individuals to work with their medical professionals and is for educational purposes only. It does not constitute medical or healthcare advice and serves to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of a healthcare professional.” Fair enough. I guess its more of a technology showcase currently, so I wont go into my ‘what is the business model’ rant.

Drug interaction can be an important aspect of care for patients taking multiple drugs, but I’m not convinced it is ready for prime time as an end-user (consumer) tool. Technologies like this are best served as a part of an overall patient portal offering or PHR.

ClearSense

Ever since Google and Microsoft jumped into it, the PHR (Personal Health Record) space has become red hot. So while PHRs try to move from hype phase to reality, startups like ClearSense are positioning themselves to leverage all those rich, complex details about your health.

ClearSense aims to help you make sense of your health information by providing the data analysis technology called REDBOX (developed at Bioinformatics Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin). I couldn’t find any information around what exactly makes REDBOX unique- it seems like it consists of data analysis models and algorithms that are optimized for health related data (although the devil is in the details for a technology like this). The company behind both of them is Point One Systems, which seems to have spun off from the Research Center.

The sample reports look Web 2.0-ish, with simple interface and layout. The actionable items and alerts are clearly outlined along with tips and educational material. I dont have enough health information in my Google Health account (fortunately I’m in the pink of health) so there was not point in taking ClearSense for a spin on my info.

Although there is minimal info about ClearSense’s unique selling point, the overall concept may actually prove to be useful if/when PHRs take off in future. Hopefully, ClearSense will survive to see that day.

August 2010 Update: Clearsense doesnt exist anymore. Neither does Point One Systems. Oh well.

Vimo

Vimologo

Vimo is a consumer portal focused on comparison shopping for healthcare needs. Founded in 2005, Vimo provides a platform for users to research, review, compare and price the following:

  • Hospital Procedures
  • Individual & Group Health Insurance Plans
  • Health Savings Accounts
  • Doctors

Compete.com data shows pretty good visitor count (more than 100Kvisitors/month), so they must be doing something right. Their services are free which makes the surgical procedure pricing tool even more impressive. I tried their doctor search tool too, and it worked pretty well for my location (returned more info than usual). Neat interface, fast results.