We all know the risk, difficulty, and inconvenience of check-ups in the hospital or clinic. It also consumes our time and effort. Listen to Kent Dicks as he shares his software platform called Life365 and what it can contribute to the healthcare system. Kent was used to having his parents beside him, but when he realized his parents were getting old, he focused on health and wellness and eventually developed Life365. With this, patients are being monitored remotely, reducing the hassle of traveling and going to hospitals. It can even detect if you have fallen or collapsed. Listen and find out more!
I have Kent Dicks with me from Life365. He's CEO and Cofounder too. Tell us a little bit about your journey. How did you get into health and wellness? How Life365 is the genesis of all this?
First of all, thank you for having me on. A little bit about me, I'm a Native of Arizona. I graduated from Arizona State University. My background is in technology but more in business systems. When I graduated, I worked for Texas Instruments for a couple of years. I came back and worked in the Valley for ASU for a little bit and then ten years with American Express here in the Valley.
While I was there, I decided to leave after ten years and do something entrepreneurial. I wasn't quite sure what that was going to be. They asked me to come back right away to be a consultant. I said, “It would be great if I could bring a couple of my close friends with me as consultants too.” They gave me a consulting agreement and that's what kicked off my first company.
Since then, I've had three company startups. The first one was a staffing company, which we did about 800 consultants and $70 million in business. We sold that to another staffing company. During that time, we started working with the Department of Defense and with secret and top-secret clearances, especially here in the Valley. I knew that it was important to get information from the field, especially around troops. The monitoring was going to be a big issue around remote monitoring, vital signs and everything else.
That's where my second company came, called Meetups. Meetups was one of the first remote patient monitoring companies that used Siler. What we call IoT, the Internet of Things that we developed from scratch hardware. We ended up selling that to Alere, which was a $5 billion publicly-traded company in a hundred countries, which got bought by Abbott Labs. We left in 2015, filed a massive amount of patents and realized that healthcare was starting to span out and connect to people. That's when we started and created Life365 to take the journey to the next step.
Is there anything in your background that prompted you to want to spend more time in health and wellness?
Very much so. I've got issues about myself. Mainly where I was driving from was from my parents getting older. It was always only my mom and dad. They both passed. We were born and raised here in Arizona but they moved back to Iowa and bought a farm. It was harder when they got older. They had both had a chronic disease.
I was trying to keep them healthy and out of a hospital. I was worried about them being alone, especially as they're approaching 80. They lived in a small town called Ottumwa, Iowa, about 100 miles South of Des Moines. We moved them into independent living and that's when I learned a lot about being at home, in an independent and assisted living.
The place they lived was a small house that was brand new across from independent living, so they got meals but they could still be independent. The whole time we'd realize that there’s a fixed budget and they wanted to live independently. They didn't want to live on the inside under assisted living. It was probably $4,000 a month cheaper to live independently for them but they needed to have tools. The family needed to have tools. Are they okay?
Most of the time, people will reach out when they have elderly parents. They live 1,500 miles away and get them to that button, that purse thing. Like how by falling, we can't get up. It's a great tool to use but it doesn't encompass their health and wellbeing. They're only pushing out if there's an emergency. What about all the other times in between?
That's when we started looking at connected technology to try to realize life and let them live independently but keep the family connected to them. I then started looking at personas of how mom and dad connected. Mom had 2 tablets and 3 laptops. She loved being on the internet all the time. I was able to get ahold of mom but dad was off the grid. He had no smartphone, no email, and no nothing. All the messaging had to come through mom and from that. Using very passive technology with dad to collect his vital signs and send them to the cloud to be able to make sure he's okay was important to us.
We had to deal with how healthcare is structured too. They had a limited income and wanted to live independently. My parents were differently had they connected on the grid from that. My mom knew how to manipulate the system as well as far as getting her on medication from one doctor and another doctor. She's very clever from that standpoint but she also realized that she needed help. She was very chronically ill. Help didn't kick in until she got to a certain level of disability from that. She had to be less mobile and had to be sicker before some of the Medicare kicked in.
She would become sick. She put herself in the hospital. If she knew if she had three stays nights in the hospital, she would go into a sniff or skilled nursing for 100 days to be able to get out. To me, it's an abomination when somebody needs a little bit of help. Why do you have to spend all that other expense expenditure to be able to get them help? They should be able to request it and get it at home. Using connected technology like ours that we've developed, we think that allows people to live more independently longer.
What if someone doesn't have a tablet, a cell phone or something? What technology are you able to use and help? I've got a grandmother, for instance, that refuses to have any technology but she's constantly having challenges.
A lot of the time, it's not just poor people who make poor choices.
I look at developing what I call a stack of services. We're starting to work with a major personal emergency response system, so help by falling and can't get up. Not only is that button you call. I'll say this quickly. Most people get a purse device. A lot of people, unfortunately, die without pushing the button because they're afraid to push the button. I want to change the dynamics of the purse, where it becomes more concierge around your neck where you can push it or mobile purse where it can be out and about, do whatever you want and push it. Also, build a stack of services on top of that.
It can be a simple purse button that's mobile and concierge like, “Can you give me an Uber or Lyft? Can you get me groceries or my meds renewed? Can you call my daughter? I've been locked out of my house.” Remote patient monitor on top of that so we can get vital signs. You don't have to go into the hospital. You could be monitored remotely.
Telehealth so you can see your doctor remotely. Monitoring like we have a relationship with AMR ambulance, which allows us to have their navigators come out to the house and stabilize instead of always transporting to the emergency room or the hospital. On top of that, in-home services. A big in-home service is like non-emergency transportation to inform your doctor but it also could be food, might as well, so foods delivered to you.
We tried to go through and look at who's going to be utilizing our services. In the case of your mom, that might be tech-phobic or not have the technology, we will go through and have developed multiple different ways to connect to that stack. One is a simple download of an app or a paired device as well. That may not be okay for your mom or my dad because my dad didn't even have a smartphone. Trying to get it takes seconds to pair a Bluetooth device to it is confusing a lot of times.
We also have the next layer of connectivity, which is a scale or a blood pressure that I have over here that has Siler built into it. It's all dad had to do. Step on it, automatically connected to the cloud and went into his backend. We have a little tiny hub and wearable devices that not only can go through and detect if you've fallen but have the ability to go through and push a button to get to a call center. You can do two-way conversation but it also communicates with hundreds of medical devices with it as well through the wearable, instead of the data to the cloud.
We have full-blown tablets that are out there. Our tablets systems allow us to be able to go through and connect the devices to telehealth visits, reminders and survey questions. We are working on interfacing with smart TVs so you can see them on the smart TVs and voice assist. I won't say her name. She's in the room here but the thing that sits there and listens to us. We want to do it multiple different ways. If your mom needs a different way to connect, we want to be the platform that does that.
What type of health challenges are you spending most of your focus on? Is it predominantly related to blood sugar or heart? What's the major focus at the moment?
We've been very fortunate. We're announcing a major relationship with Microsoft. We integrated to the Microsoft Cloud for healthcare. On the right-hand side of the equation, Microsoft has gone through an interface to 300 plus health systems providers and others to be able to send data into the electronic health record. In the middle, they're looking for data to be able to analyze the individual that's on the system.
The individual could have hypertension, diabetes, obesity, congestive heart failure, kidney disease or a whole host of things that cause them issues. On the left-hand side is us. We’re taking hundreds of disparate devices and connecting them to the platform so you can do any combination of them to be able to get the data to service the individual.
Although we go and help with the big ones like diabetes, hypertension and congestive heart failure and CLPD, in kidney care, we are open to being able to send data from any combination of devices to help with any combination of disease states from that. That's what starts scaling health care to home to be able to be open. A lot of healthcare tends to go through and look at one disease state because it's tied to a reimbursement code from that. It doesn't give the whole picture of the individual.
In 2022, 2023 and beyond, healthcare is going to be about personalization. It's going to be about understanding and knowing the individual, what their individual needs are so that you can personalize a solution that fits their needs and do personalization. You've got to understand data that's coming from the individual as well, so you can highly personalize it.
In a perfect world, there's a saliva strip out there somewhere that you use and it tells you how you're doing in terms of your vitamins and mineral levels or if you've got the presence of any infection. There's so much that we could and should be doing in that area. For so long, we've been reliant on these blood tests and they're expensive to get. They're painful, hard to schedule the appointment and get out of school, work and everything else. I hope that a lot of this personal initiative comes fast and easy so that there's larger adoption and can get the data into the hands of folks like you that can then do something with it to help people.
I always see from healthcare that we're not quite there yet to do it but we're getting very close. We start with a genomic test to baseline somebody. A lot of times, I will go through and see that one person will react to a certain way do the same regimen but another person won't. I see in our household that my wife got COVID but I didn't get COVID. A lot of it has to do with the genome and blood type. You then have to have the ability to go through. Genome and blood type are very sensitive to what we eat regularly and how we ingest things that irritate our body, how we can go through, determine and remove those irritants from our body.
I'm a big believer in starting with the genomic test and a blood test but also going through and having regular measures regularly, like saliva tests or urine tests. That are all driven by a droplet of blood. Along the way, it gives you the little tiny markers to see how you're doing along with vital sign data, behavioral data and physiological data. That starts getting the full picture through machine learning and AI systems to be able to personalize things better for you.
Be more proactive in working with people, not necessarily just on the wellness side.
I was talking with someone and they were struggling with the fact that they're having a hard time gripping a golf club. Their hands are swollen and I was walking through some of the stuff that he's eating. Maybe some of the things that he should probably try avoiding for a little while, while he's trying to get the inflammation under control. There's so much that goes into all this. Do you have any plans to integrate nutrition? That's a larger question. It goes back to personalization.
We do but probably not at the level where we're thinking about what is the right nutrition for the right diet. That's the other side of the equation. We're looking at more from social determinants of health side of it from nutrition. Make sure that people have the right food accessible to them so they are staying healthier, stay out of the hospital and reduce costs. A lot of time, it's not only poor. People make poor choices and go to the dollar menus and the fast-food menus because they are cheaper and they get more food. It's not the best for them in general. A lot of times, we had to wait until these cycles started to become prominent.
Sorry to shift gears but the interesting thing is the pandemic accelerated everything. Not only telehealth but RPMs is starting to accelerate and change the way that we like to consume things. Doctors before are like, “No, I need to see people in the office.” They're then going, “I can do ten visits per hour of my desk from that standpoint and only do baselines with people?” The answer is yes. The way that we consume food, order food, drive cars, live, exercise, consume our healthcare part of it is all changed. Part of this is our responsibility and goals to be able to take how consumers can and patients want to live and make sure it's built into a common platform that meets their needs.
It sounds like a lot of the tools available focus may be on the aging demographic. Is there any plan to bring that down? I've got one in college and I see all the same struggles he's going through in terms of nutrition and poor choices that I, frankly, tried to help him through but he's still doing it anyway. Kids with the rise in autism and autoimmune illnesses. Anything that you can speak to there a little bit?
The biggest thing you got to follow, unfortunately or fortunately, is the cost and the money from that as well when you're building things that are out there. The biggest impact of health care is already 5% of the population consumes 50% of the healthcare costs. Typically, that 5% is in the last 6 months or 1 year of the individual's life from that. I tend to concentrate more on the Medicaid and Medicare advantage populations where we know that people over 65, 7% or 8% have at least one chronic disease. That's where I tend to gravitate.
I am a big believer in starting to bring the average age when people start consuming these types of products way down, as far as age is concerned. I want to get to be more proactive in working with people. Not necessarily just on the wellness side. Remember, I'm a chronic care management company. I'm going to try to catch them to be proactive instead of reactive. I always show this hump that's in my presentation. There are a lot of remote patient monitoring companies out there in the marketplace. They've built up over the years and are stuck on the right-hand side of the hump where it's complex care and the person's already consuming a lot of resources and healthcare resources.
They have to wait until that time because of the cost of their systems, deployment, shipping equipment and everything else with it as well. We, fortunately, have been starting to work in the middle of the hump, which is more wearable technology. We want to integrate rapid diagnostic technology like we talked about to be able to start looking at spot numbers right on individuals. We want to get to that NOLA hump when people are going to be chronic, moving towards chronic or are newly chronic and start intervening with them.
The problem with it is that if you're going to be proactive in the middle of the hump, you're not spending a lot of healthcare dollars quite yet. Consumers, in general, are not willing to go through and spend a lot of money on their health. I am, but a lot of us still rely on our insurance companies to pay for it. I started seeing that dynamic all change. I had a visit with my physician. He's more in moving into the wellness side of this in Scottsdale. He's not going to take insurance anymore. He's doing concierge business, already signed up 500 people to be able to do that and also has a wellness side as well.
The shift in mindset is like if my wife and I are paying $1,800 a month for health insurance from that because for the company, shifting the cost of his concierge side and wellness side to him, let's say it's $80 a month for each of us to go, we’ve reduced the cost of our premium but taking a little higher deductible. More of us are going to start making those lifestyle choices. There's an emergence of a new company that could come out when I'm going to start but it takes that premium that it normally pays and splits it out between more wellness, concierge, proactive things instead of reactive or catastrophic.
I believe in a lot of these programs. One thing that I wish was easier and out there was finding integrative and functional practitioners and being able to interact with them. That's something that is needed. I hope that companies like you will help prompt things like this to come to fruition faster, so thank you.
The one thing we are finding is there is reimbursement for remote patient monitoring out there. One of the services that he's going to offer to the other concierge side is he has remote patient monitoring. Remembering that he may be offering it to a younger crowd, people that are in their 40s or 50s but he may be offering it because that's a benefit that goes for them to their parents. We always talk about the sandwich generation. You're sitting in the middle. You've got your parents to take care of but you also got your kids to take care of as well. What benefits and tools can be given to you to be able to help manage your day?
We're only fooling ourselves to think, “If I gave remote patient monitoring to you, you use it but for me, I may not use it.” If I give it to you as a benefit and say, “We're going to give it to you to use however you want. You can use it on the East side of the equation if you want to use it with your parents. Go ahead and do that.” That gives you peace of mind while you're at work that they're being monitored, safe and being taken care of. You're going to see a lot more of that coming up.
If people want to learn more about remote patient monitoring and they're concerned about family members, do you have any words of encouragement or suggestions, things that you would suggest?
I can get my website to go, but one of the things that we're at is Life365.health which is our website where you can learn more about this. We typically do sell directly not to consumers but physicians and B2B. We're changing that model. We're starting to partner with major companies that are in the direct-to-consumer space for purse companies and companies like Microsoft as well. In 2022, we are going to take a spin towards direct to consumer, along with them to do that. There'd probably be a different play through retail and other places to be able to get it.
One person will react to the same regimen a certain way, but another person won't.
The one thing I do have to say quickly and I don't know why it's still this way after many years because I've been in this industry for several years is it's not easy for consumers to navigate this space to go through. If they have a parent that all of a sudden, they get a phone call on a Sunday afternoon, a parent's fallen and they're in the hospital and they're living 1,000 miles away, they don't easily know what tools are out there to be able to get them help. They don't even know the laws, Medicare, CMS, reimbursement and stuff.
They don't even know regulatory and reimbursement types or how far their parents' money is going to go to take care of them. They want to respect their parents' wishes, like staying independent as long as possible. My goal is to try to get that clarity, if that's out there, about the first place to make a phone call that is economical and informational. It's almost like an advocate for the family to be able to help take care of their aging parents.
It's incredibly overwhelming and scary. I appreciate that. Life365.Health is where to go. Kent, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it. Anything else you want to add?
That's it. Take care of yourself. The one thing I realized and that's what I'm doing myself, is taking care of yourself. When you’re old, these are the times that we need to make sure that you're well, building muscle, exercising your brain and everything like that because it's harder to get as you age. My wellness doctor said that's your reserve and bank. Bank as much as you can now and you'll be better off in your 80s and 90s.
That's super good advice for sure. Anything that you particularly think or like in terms of food or supplements, as long as we're on that?
I'm not the best one on food, but I've tried Hello Health from that. I thought it was great. It gave me some good clarity of mind.
We all need more clarity and energy. Thank you very much, Kent.
Kent E. Dicks is a successful serial entrepreneur with 35+ years of experience providing dynamic and strategic leadership in new and emerging markets with 15+ years in Digital Health.
Mr. Dicks has a broad range of experience across several business sectors and considered a thought leader in the Mobile and Digital Health space. As CEO & Founder of Life365, Mr. Dicks leads a new team in developing an exciting tech-enabled healthcare services platform for ease of alignment, integration and distribution to the home.
Although Telehealth demonstrated success in improving patient outcomes, widespread adoption was elusive. The existing technology was expensive and complex – especially for the patient population that typically consumes the most healthcare dollars. Ubiquity of cellular technology with increasingly lower costs inspired Dicks to attack the problem head-on by developing more automated and cost-effective remote patient monitoring solutions that could benefit the Medicare and Medicaid populations who need the most help – a notable 20% of the US population that consumes 80% of all healthcare dollars spent.
Dicks was a leading pioneer in the evolving mHealth field, using dedicated M2M cellular “hubs” to connect patient, providers and electronic health records. His lower cost mHealth solutions provided the industry with a much-needed alternative to enable a proactive healthcare model. The consistent flow of accurate, real-time data provided with the MedApps solution gave healthcare professionals the ability to better track the conditions of individuals with chronic disease in order to keep them out of the hospital, intervene when necessary, and avoid expensive admissions and readmissions. Dicks implemented a strategy centered around ease of use, allowing healthcare providers to be “clinicians instead of technicians”, focusing on the care of the patient, rather than the care of the equipment – a strategy that maximized professional resources while keeping costs low and increasing patient compliance. Dicks’ philosophy was disruptive to the large established players in the remote monitoring space – and it was also at odds with the growing number of tech companies eager to enter the emerging field.
While steadily building sales, Dicks, the MedApps team and shareholders were given a opportunity to expand their vision of a truly cloud-based healthcare platform in July 2012 through an acquisition by Alere, Inc., a global rapid diagnostics company with $3B in sales in over 100 countries worldwide, 17,000 employees and listed on the New York Stock Exchange. MedApps became an Alere R&D division called Alere Connect, which was a key driver in the Company’s growing Connected Health Global Business Unit, which then was designated as a Corporate Strategic Imperative for growth. Alere was subsequently acquired by Abbott Labs.
Mr. Dicks now leads Life365. Life365 is a highly scalable, hardware agnostic Tech-Enabled Healthcare Platform – connected by a variety of Digital Health applications to create a “Whole Person Solution” and not just a disparate offering. Life365 integrates devices, systems, solutions, applications, education and incentives to align with specific user needs to enable maximum engagement. This alignment promotes greater adoption and adherence, which results in lower healthcare costs and increased return on investment (ROI) for enterprise clients.