Farewell, Healthrageous

Yesterday, digital health company Healthrageous announced that it was closing its doors and selling off its assets to an unnamed “innovative healthcare company.”

Mary Beth Clark, who was the interim president and CEO of Healthrageous said in a press release yesterday:

Well designed software can engage people in improving their health in ways that reduce overall costs for the healthcare system. Our acquirer shares this vision and we are eager to see the impact that they will have on improving health as they leverage the Healthrageous platform.”

Maybe, but evidence from well-designed and well-controlled studies is pretty darn thin. It’s very likely that the people who visit and use engagement tools are self selecting, and have better outcomes regardless of those tools.

Mobihealthnews reported the sale, noting that Healthrageous isn’t alone in struggling to find success:

Healthrageous had a lot going for it: an experienced team, a deep connection to a provider, a fair amount of financing, and more. And yet it joins the growing list of casualties or lukewarm exits in digital health for 2013 — along with sleep monitoring company Zeo and mobile-enabled healthy behavior change startup Massive Health.

Patient engagement sounds right, but it’s a tall order. That’s because people are wired for inattention and inertia, and that makes patient engagement an unnatural act.

My bet is that all health engagement companies – no matter how cool the technology or slick the platform – are up against millions of years of evolution. We need to work hard to deploy proven principles (including defaults, which work because they assume patients won’t engage) to activate good intentions.

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