Steve Peabody is at it again, trying to connect doctors and patients via remote technology. This time, he thinks the health care market is ready.
Peabody, an inventor and chief innovation officer of Zionsville-based VoCare Inc., is the first to admit he flopped about a decade ago, when he rolled out a touch-screen tablet that allowed doctors to monitor patients remotely.
Although it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the device, called MyHealth Tablet, never caught on. The world of health care was still driven by face-to-face patient visits in a doctor’s office.
“We failed because the market wasn’t right, wasn’t ready,” Peabody said. “So we had to pivot to a new product.”
Today, in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors and hospitals are embracing telehealth and the numerous devices that make remote visits possible, and helps doctors keep tabs on patients with chronic conditions. And Peabody is counting on that new attitude to make this launch a success.
Peabody’s new device, called Vitals360, was approved last month by the FDA and is now getting ready for launch.
The gadget, about the size of a smart phone, measures a person’s temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, blood glucose levels, blood oxygen saturation and heart rhythms.
A patient can measure those biometrics several times a day, or as often as a doctor recommends. The gadget can store and upload that information to the doctor, who can then tailor a patient’s treatment plan.
“It gives physicians the comfort that we need to adjust medications, prescribe new therapy, all those things that we aim to do,” said Dr. Ben Park, CEO of VoCare and a longtime collaborator with Peabody.
The gadget is intended to give doctors and other caregivers an easy way to keep an eye on patients without the need for an office-visit.
Chronic diseases, from diabetes to heart disease, are difficult to manage without reliable vital signs. In the past, patients have often had to take their own pulse, glucose and other readings, and keep a written log.
The Vitals360 uploads information to a cloud that a doctor can pull down as needed to monitor the patient’s condition. It is designed to capture enough information through the patient’s vital signs to see if certain medications and dosages are working.
The device costs between $599 and $799 range, depending on the specifications and the number of units a doctor or hospital is planning to buy.
It uses a variety of technologies to collect information. A patient can put the Vitals360 gadget up to his forehead for a temperature reading through infrared technology. He can get his blood-oxygen saturation measure by sticking his finger into a tab which can take a reading. He can also use the screen to talk to the doctor during a telehealth visit.
“With this type of device, you could look at respiratory rate, pulse oximetry, and temperature and know whether somebody was heading in the right direction or in the wrong direction and need to go to the emergency room,” Park said.
Peabody said he designed the device with a team of engineers. His company, with about 10 employees and contract workers, has spent about $9 million to get to this point.
Most of the devices will likely be used with older patients with chronic diseases, who are covered by Medicare, Park said. That federal health program offers reimbursement for coverage of many chronic diseases, he said.
Peabody said the company has put in an order for 5,000 devices for the first phase of the launch. Customers will include doctors, hospitals and patient-monitoring companies.
“This device solves a lot of problems for them,” he said.