Health IT

Apple said to acquire PHR vendor Gliimpse; should anyone care?

Fast Company said that Gliimpse makes “a personal health data platform that enables any American to collect, personalize and share a picture of their health data.” Haven’t we seen this movie before?

Gliimpse screen

Silicon Valley and the general tech press seem to be in a tizzy on Monday with news that Apple has acquired Gliimpse, a Redwood City, California-based maker of personal health records. Fast Company reported the acquisition Monday.

Apple, as is its custom, isn’t saying much about the report, though Fast Company said the tech giant has “confirmed” the purchase. Still, an unnamed spokesperson has given several news outlets the same canned statement: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”

Fast Company said that Gliimpse makes “a personal health data platform that enables any American to collect, personalize and share a picture of their health data.”

Haven’t we seen this movie before?

When the vaporware known as Google Health hit in 2008, some treated Google as healthcare’s savior, as evidenced by the buzz around then-Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s keynote at HIMSS08, not to mention the breathless coverage.

Thanks to the hype, Google Health’s failure was far more spectacular than it should have been. A similar product, Microsoft HealthVault, went away more quietly, as have countless other “untethered” PHRs — those not tied to a specific health system’s electronic health record.

It’s a field that neither Google nor Microsoft invented, despite what you may have read elsewhere. A PHR company called CapMed started in about 1991 and was sold in 2009 for a mere $500,000. (Chilmark Research called it “obviously a firesale [sic].”)

The fatal flaw in all these previous PHR attempts was that they largely relied on patients to enter their own data. Like Quicken in the days before online banking was popular, it just wasn’t worth it for all but the most motivated people.

Though the majority of U.S. healthcare providers have gone electronic, the biggest roadblock to a PHR succeeding today is the lack of interoperability of healthcare data. Gliimpse seeks to address that problem by aggregating information across platforms.

Although the Meaningful Use standards do call on providers to make such data available through patient portals, hospitals and practices just have to have one single patient do so each year.

Gliimpse is more targeted than some previous iterations of PHRs. It’s made for patients with chronic diseases, which seems to be a focus of Apple. As Fast Company noted, Apple did hire pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Rajiv Kumar away from Stanford’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital earlier this year.

Gliimpse the company was founded in 2013, but its app launched at the Health 2.0 conference last year. Health 2.0 co-founder Matthew Holt said that the app was good at taking unstructured data in a variety of formats and presenting it in a readable way, as the above image illustrates.

Come to think of it, that’s not all that different than what an older company, Humetrix, does, though Humetrix concentrates on aggregating via the Blue Button concept developed at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Holt, for one, is somewhat puzzled by the Apple acquisition. “Having seen [Gliimpse], I’m a little bit surprised they bought it,” he said.

Then again, this is Apple we are talking about. “Apple has been very good at selling consumers things they didn’t know they needed,” Holt said.


Image: website