This has been a big year for Omron Healthcare Inc. In January, the maker of blood pressure monitoring systems launched its HeartGuide smartwatch, which measures blood pressure through the wrist. In May, it started selling the first US Food and Drug Administration-cleared at-home blood pressure monitor with EKG capability, called Complete, on the company website as well as in major online retail stores such Amazon and BestBuy.
Medtech Insight sat down with Omron Healthcare's CEO, Ranndy Kellogg (see photo below, courtesy of Omron), at the recent AdvaMed Medtech Conference in San Francisco, to learn more about the company's partnerships, product developments and business plans.
Innovation ranks high at Omron and the AdvaMed conference offered Kellogg another opportunity to learn about new technologies in the digital health space, privacy issues surrounding data collection and security, and investment in that space. (Also see "Expert Panel Discusses Trends In Digital Health Investment " - Medtech Insight, 3 Jun, 2019.)
"Partnering will be a big part of our future," Kellogg told Medtech Insight, marking a continuation of the company's strategy.
Lake Forest, Ill.-based Omron teamed up with EKG technology developer, Mountain View, CA-based AliveCor, to develop Complete, a device that uses an upper arm cuff to simultaneously measure EKG and blood pressure readings in about 30 seconds, Kellogg said.
Complete received 510(k) clearance from the FDA in April and was launched on 1 May in tandem with the Heart Rhythm Society Meeting in San Francisco. The device costs $199. By year-end, Kellogg expects to sell 1,000 units, which bodes well for the 500 units that had already been sold by June.
Complete can be paired with Omron's mobile app, Omron Connect, which allows users to store and track data and share heart health data with their physician. Kellogg said that Omron works closely with physicians to set parameters for sharing patient information and makes it easy for users to send the EKG from their phone to the doctor's office.
Similarly, with the HeartGuide smartwatch, which debuted at the large consumer technology show, CES 2019, this January, users can measure their blood pressure with an inflatable cuff that's built into the watchband with the touch of a button, and then track their data through Omron's HeartAdvisor app. This app also allows users to track and store data and then share blood pressure data with family or their physician.
Alexa, 'What's My Blood Pressure?'
Omron also claims to be the first blood pressure monitor brand to offer a connection through Amazon's voice-assistant Alexa.
The company first announced its Alexa health-care skill in December 2018 and continues to add new capabilities. Paired with the vendor's Omron Connect app or HeartAdvisor app, users can use simple phrases such as 'Alexa, what was my blood pressure average this month?' and Alexa will voice the answer. It now also can display readings on Alexa-enabled devices.
Kellogg wants to expand Alexa capabilities to include alerts, make it easier to share user information with the physician and offer users more educational content, such as how to take blood pressure correctly, which he said isn't a given.
"Alexa will walk you through what you should be doing," he said. "This will lead to a more realistic blood pressure reading. You won't have an unusually high or low reading."
"Alexa will walk you through what you should be doing. This will lead to a more realistic blood pressure reading. You won't have an unusually high or low reading." – Ranndy Kellogg
The company also has "strong relationships" with other companies, as Kellogg put it. Omron is in discussions with Livongo, a company that developed a digital platform for managing chronic diseases, to explore partnering opportunities for managing hypertension, he said. (Also see "Livongo Buys Behavioral Health Firm In Multimillion Dollar Deal, Plans To Hire 300-500 People " - Medtech Insight, 30 Jan, 2019.)
Omron co-led AliveCor's $30m series D funding in 2017 and plans to work with the company on a next-generation product that may include sleep tracking features, among other data points, he said.
"We are in the process of developing a road map [for the next five years] of which features to add," Kellogg said. "There are lots of different data points we can collect via that device." He said the next-generation product will be available in 2020.
Omron also invested in another Mountain View, CA-based company, Lark Technologies Inc., which uses digital health and artificial intelligence to manage chronic diseases.
Omron and Lark conducted a six-month study to evaluate the effectiveness of a coaching app to help people with hypertension manage their disease better. The results will be published in a peer-reviewed publication in September or October, Kellogg said.
Asked whether Omron plans to get into the coaching business, he replied that "it would certainly be a step forward in developing coaching services that are beneficial to the patient and consumer."
Kellogg said that the goal is to give physicians and users a better picture of heart health. This also means integrating data from other devices such as glucose monitoring or sleep devices into the company’s apps or devices.
Asked whether Omron is eyeing the fitness market, Kellogg said that the current focus is on helping patients that have already been diagnosed with a heart problem manage their disease better rather than venturing into the health-conscious-driven fitness market.
"Our customers are older and less active," he said. The average user is 65 years old and has already been diagnosed with hypertension. "I'm not trying to compete with Garmin and Fitbit – they have great products, but it's probably a different population than we have."