Interview With Kent Dicks From Alere Connect – #mHealth13

While I couldn’t make it to DC for the mHealth Summit to take advantage of my press pass.  I did get the chance to set up interviews with some of the presenters. 

This morning, I met with Kent Dicks who’s the CEO of Alere Connect

From the Alere website:

Alere™ Connect develops remote health monitoring devices that deliver streamlined, cost-effective connectivity and automated transmission of secure health information across patient home, care provider, and electronic medical records. Our goal is to drive down healthcare costs by improving workflow efficiencies, patient compliance and care delivery.

Our devices provide a gateway to the Alere CloudCare™ platform, a comprehensive health information platform and suite of cloud-based tools that enables healthcare practitioners to extend their services to a broader patient population, and experience the proactive, cost-avoidance benefits and efficiencies associated with remote health monitoring. 

Kent Dicks’ bio from the Alere website:

Kent Dicks has over 25 years of successful entrepreneurial experience providing dynamic and strategic leadership in the demanding environments of Information Technology, Engineering and Aerospace/Defense. As a results-oriented leader and entrepreneur, with a strong performance record, Mr. Dicks brings his expertise in identifying niches within specific markets and his aptitude for innovation, to the field of Telehealth, specifically remote patient monitoring.

 In 2006, Mr. Dicks formed MedApps, Inc., taking his unique vision and business model for a wireless health monitoring system from concept to market innovator, at the forefront of mHealth (mobile health) today. Under Mr. Dicks’ leadership, Alere™ Connect (formerly MedApps) has developed a comprehensive remote patient monitoring system that incorporates wireless, M2M and cloud computing technologies to bring user-friendly hardware, with robust software and applications, to deliver a pioneering healthcare solution to market.

Mr. Dicks’ innovative work in this field has been acknowledged by industry and government organizations alike. As Founder and CEO of Alere™ Connect (formerly MedApps,) Mr. Dicks actively speaks on industry and government panels, discussing wireless technology’s growing role in healthcare.

As I told his PR people, I was really interesting in learning about how Alere is integrating mobile and remote monitoring into their care solutions. 

Here were my key takeaways:

  • MedApps is one of 90 companies that Alere has acquired over the years.  These include companies for Health Information Exchanges (HIEs), analytics, and informatics on top of the more traditional care management services. 
  • Kent has been working in this area for the past 6 years trying to establish the marketplace.  He pointed out some of the challenges of disparate systems and viewpoints with no common platform.  There is a definite need for some consolidation. 
  • He said that they are focused on building “the Onion” where clients can pick and choose what they want in terms of services and technology.  (i.e., a one-stop shop for customers)
  • We talked a lot about mobile and smartphones.  I’ve talked to a lot of people over the years, but he’s one of the first that wasn’t overly enamored with the promise of the ubiquitous smartphone.  He’s trying to solve the problem of mobile engagement for the 15% of people driving healthcare costs and acknowledges that they may be elderly and indigent.  If they have cell phones, they might be pre-paid ones.  They may not have WiFi at home. 
  • He talked about their efforts to develop an end-to-end solution that integrates with the cloud sending small packets of data.  We also talked a little about how Partners is giving this to people who are less technology savvy based on their initial experiences.
  • He also mentioned CardioCom and Ideal Life as two companies with similar focus on this 15% of patients and using technology to address their needs.
  • He said that Alere is already one of the largest users of remote monitoring and will deploying the solutions to tens of thousands of patients this next year. 
  • We talked about simplicity and having the user do nothing but press a button where updates can be pushed to them and their devices through the hub.  I think this is critical.  We also talked about my experiences with a hypertension remote monitoring program and the challenge of educating the consumer.  It’s one thing to make the device simple to use.  You still have to get the patient to use the device on a regular basis and use it properly.  We both agree that this is still a huge barrier. 
  • Another challenge we talked about is creating too much data.  As we put devices in the home, we have to have ways to assimilate the data in an organized manner and then run algorithms on the data to put it into context based on age, weight, gender, disease, and other factors.  Then, that has to be linked into an automated workflow to trigger a communication, a message on the device, or a call from a nurse. 
  • We talked more about clinicians and devices.  He had a good point about “making clinicians be clinicians not technicians”.  I think that gets lost sometime. 
  • He also pointed out that one of the big value propositions is that a real-time monitoring solution helps the nurses to focus on the right population that’s not being compliant.  That’s a win for both the consumer and the nurse. 
  • He said they have 40,000 people on remote monitoring today and are finding it extremely cost effective.  They’re not using it with every patient, but with the sickest of the sick.  As they’ve dropped cost, this allows them to keep the devices with patients longer as they’ve seen others only use them for 90-120 days. 
  • He talked about using the technology to reduce 30-day re-admission rates. 
  • My last topic of discussion was how to use this to help the provider (think ACO or PCMH).  He talked about the fact that providers want integrated data in one place with key information.  They’ve developed a portal for providers and are working with Virtua to integrate it into their EMR. 

It was a great discussion.  He seems to have some great experience in the space blended with a practical approach to what needs to get done and how to get it done.  There are a lot of shiny objects in this space.  Kent seems to have a good long-term approach as to how to make this into an integrated strategy that could ultimately move the needle for Alere.  

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