UK’s DeepMind loses Streams, health projects to Google Health

DeepMind loses its Health to Google. DeepMind, the London-based AI developer acquired by Alphabet (Google) in 2014, no longer has a Health division. This group will be absorbed by Google Health, now headed by ex-Geisinger CEO David Feinberg. The former DeepMind health team will continue to be headed by former NHS surgeon Dr Dominic King, who will remain in London along with about 100 reported staffers, at least for now.

DeepMind’s major health initiative is Streams, an AI-powered mobile app that analyzes potential deterioration in patients and alerts nurses and doctors, saving time. It also monitors vital signs and integrates different types of data and test results from existing hospital IT systems. Streams is currently deployed at Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust Hospital in north London for acute kidney injury. The rollout is expected to be made at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust and Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. It is expected that test partners will be found outside of the UK.

DeepMind’s other health initatives and research include fast eye disease detection, planning cancer radiotherapy treatment in seconds rather than hours; and detecting patient deterioration from electronic records.

Google Health is now expanding into products and research into digital technologies which was to be expected with Dr Feinberg on board. Currently, its revenue stream consists of advertising and search.

The remainder of DeepMind not engaged with health will remain independent. CNBC, DeepMind blog

The wind may finally be at the back of telehealth distribution and payment (US)

Medicare Advantage may lead, but Medicaid and regular Medicare are not far behind. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced in two proposed rules changes expansion of telehealth access for both privately issued Medicare Advantage (MA) plans (26 Oct) and state-run Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Plan) (14 Nov) plan members. This may mean greater acceptance by providers because they will be paid for these services.

For MA, the proposal would, starting in 2020 as part of government funded basic benefits, eliminate geographic restrictions (rural telehealth) and allow members in urban areas to access telehealth services. It would also broaden present location restrictions, allowing MA members to receive telehealth from home versus traveling to a health care facility. The most intriguing wording is here: “Plans would also have greater flexibility to offer clinically-appropriate telehealth benefits that are not otherwise available to Medicare beneficiaries.” which very well could mean remote patient monitoring in conjunction with visits. MA plans have always had more latitude to offer telehealth benefits to members, which are about 1/3 of Medicare-eligibles (over 65). Over 11 percent growth is forecast and it is highly competitive though dominated by United Healthcare and Aetna–over 600 new plans are entering the market next year. Enrollments close on 7 Dec for 2019. CMS.gov release, mHealth Intelligence, Healthcare Finance News.

For Medicaid and CHIP, which states use to extend insurance to low-income individuals and families via private plans, states would be able to, under an approved rule, to more flexibly determine what criteria determine telehealth access. Currently, states use proximity factors–distance from provider and time. The proposed criteria under 10. Network Adequacy (pages 15-16) recommends that time and distance be deleted and instead “adding a more flexible requirement that states set a quantitative minimum access standard (later listed) for specified health care providers and LTSS (long term services and supports) providers”. The reasons why are the limited supply of providers and the functional limitations of the LTSS population. Also notable was language in section 8 discussing access to provider directories via smartphone, as 64 percent of the population with incomes less than $30,000 own a smartphone and use it to access health information.  CMS proposed rule, POLITICO Morning eHealth

This adds to the momentum of the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule published on 1 Nov that added even more:

  • Virtual brief patient checkins and evaluation of patient-recorded photos and video to payments
  • CMS is also finalizing separate payments for three new codes covering chronic care remote physiologic monitoring that unbundle 99091 (CPT codes 99453, 99454, and 99457) and interprofessional internet consultation (CPT codes 99451, 99452, 99446, 99447, 99448, and 99449).
  • Two new codes covering telehealth for prolonged preventive services
  • Finalizing the addition of renal dialysis facilities and the homes of ESRD beneficiaries receiving home dialysis as originating sites
  • After 1 July, the home will be permitted as a permissible originating site for telehealth services furnished for purposes of treatment of a substance use disorder or a co-occurring mental health disorder. CMS.gov fact sheet 

The importance of this is that more digital health covered by Medicare and government payments in public/private programs such as Medicaid and MA lead private insurers to pay doctors for these services, who will then be willing to pay vendors for providing them. For the telehealth and telemedicine companies that have weathered the storms and lean times of the past decade, there may be light at the end of the tunnel that is not an oncoming train.

Is Babylon Health’s AI on par with a human diagnostician? Claim questioned in ‘The Lancet’.

In July, Babylon Health released the results of their testing against the MRCGP (Member of the Royal College of General Practitioners) exam based on publicly available questions. As we reported at the time, its AI system passed the exam with a score of 81 percent. A separate test where Babylon worked with the Royal College of Physicians, Stanford University and Yale New Haven Health subjected Babylon and seven primary care physicians to 100 independently-devised symptom sets. Babylon passed with an 80 score.

Now these results are being questioned in a letter to The Lancet. The authors–a medical doctor and two medical informatics academics–argue that the methodology used was questionable. ‘Safety of patient-facing digital symptom checkers’  shows there ‘is a possibility that it [Babylon’s service] might perform significantly worse’. The symptom checking methodology was questioned for not being real world–that the data in the latter test was entered by doctors only, not by patients or other clinicians. While the authors commended Babylon for being open about their research, they felt there was an “urgent need” for improvements in evaluation methods. “Such guidelines should form the basis of a regulatory framework, as there is currently minimal regulatory oversight of these technologies.” Babylon promises a response and additional improvements, presumably from its $100 million investment in AI announced in SeptemberDigitalHealth (UK), Mobihealthnews

Comings and goings: CVS-Aetna finalizing, Anthem sued over merger, top changes at IBM Watson Health

imageWhat better way to introduce this new feature than with a picture of a Raymond Loewy-designed 1947 Studebaker Starlight Coupe, where wags of the time joked that you couldn’t tell whether it was coming or going?

Is it the turkey or the stuffing? In any case, it will be the place you’ll be going for the Pepto. The CVS-Aetna merger, CVS says, will close by Thanksgiving. This is despite various objections floated by California’s insurance commissioner, New York’s financial services superintendent, and the advocacy group Consumers Union. CEO Larry Merlo is confident that all three can be dealt with rapidly, with thumbs up from 23 of the 28 states needed and is close to getting the remaining five including resolving California and NY. The Q3 earnings call was buoyant, with CVS exceeding their projected overall revenue with $47.3 billion. up 2.4% or $1.1 billion from the same quarter in 2017. The divestiture of Aetna’s Medicare Part D prescription drug plans to WellCare, helpful in speeding the approvals, will not take effect until 2020. Healthcare Dive speculates, as we did, that a merged CVS-Aetna will be expanding MinuteClinics to create urgent care facilities where it makes sense–it is not a big lift. And they will get into this far sooner than Amazon. which will split its ‘second headquarters’ among the warehouses and apartment buildings of Long Island City and the office towers of Crystal City VA.

Whatever happened to the Delaware Chancery Court battle between Anthem and Cigna? Surprisingly, no news from Wilmington, but that didn’t stop Anthem shareholder Henry Bittmann from suing both companies this week in Marion (Indiana) Superior Court. The basis of the suit is Anthem’s willfully going ahead with the attempted merger despite having member plans under the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association meant the merger was doomed to fail, and they intended all along for “Anthem to swallow, and then sideline, Cigna to eliminate a competitor, in violation of the antitrust laws.” On top of this, both companies hated each other. A match made in hell. Cigna has moved on with its money and bought Express Scripts.

IBM Watson Health division head Deborah DiSanzo departs, to no one’s surprise. Healthcare IT News received a confirmation from IBM that Ms. DiSanzo will be joining IBM Cognitive Solutions’ strategy team, though no capacity or title was stated. She was hired from Philips to lead the division through some high profile years, starting her tenure along with the splashy new Cambridge HQ in 2015, but setbacks mounted later as their massive data crunching and compilation was outflanked by machine learning, other AI methodologies, and blockchain. According to an article in STAT+ (subscription needed), they didn’t get the glitches in their patient record language processing software fixed in ‘Project Josephine’, and that was it for her. High profile partner departures in the past year such as MD Anderson Cancer Centers, troubles and lack of growth at acquired companies, topped by the damning IEEE Spectrum and Der Spiegel articles, made it not if, but when. No announcement yet of a successor.

Canary Care re-emerges as Canary Care Global Ltd, confirms continued operations

imageCanary Care, which entered administration in late August, has been reorganized and continues as Canary Care Global Ltd, remaining in Abingdon. The purchaser in the pre-packaged sale, as Readers learned here, is Lifecycle Software Ltd. Their marketing office sent a release last week confirming their operations. Stuart Butterfield, who answered our inquiries in September, is now managing and technical director. He is quoted in the release: “This is a really positive development for our company. We will continue to provide the Canary Care product and service that our existing customers know and love. Our new owner provides us with the stability and resources to further enhance the Canary Care offering and we’re very excited and optimistic about the future and the opportunity to bring Canary Care to a wider audience.”

The administrator’s latest filing with Companies House is clearly a wrapup of the sale as the best possible outcome for the company. Shareholders included major investor Mercia Fund Management. A quick read of the administrator’s proposal is an object lesson how quickly an insolvency can happen. In section 2, the company went from seeking fresh funding to expand markets in May, having been turned down by Mercia due to their funding criteria, to having an interested buyer who ultimately was not approved by the shareholders by a hairsbreadth, to insolvency by August.

We do wish Canary Care luck with their new ownership and success in this very difficult time for acceptance of –and payment for–telecare and TECS services. Release (PDF) Hat tip to Nicola Hughes of Lifecycle Software

Upcoming UK telecare and telehealth events; SEHTA calls for Healthcare Business Awards nominees.

Winding up the year….

Managing digital change in health and care/The King’s Fund/Thursday 22 November/8.30am-4.30pm/The Met Hotel, King Street, Leeds, LS1 2HQ

This conference aims to support health and social care organisations that are looking to undertake large-scale digital change, no matter what their current level of technological advancement. Understand the factors that contribute to successful change by showcasing the experiences of different case study sites and Global Digital Exemplars that have already made significant progress. More information and registration here

UK Telehealthcare has several events coming up all over the country. For more information and registration, click here or the advert in the right sidebar and scroll down to ‘Members Events Coming Up’.

8th November 2018 – Suppliers’ Forum, Hammersmith Town Hall, King St. London W6 9JU
9th November 2018 – Providers’ Forum, Hammersmith Town Hall, King St. London W6 9JU
14th November 2018 – CECOPs Digital Health Masterclass, Carisbrooke Hall, Victory Services Club, 63-79 Seymour Street, London, W2 2HF
5th December 2018 – CECOPs Digital Health Masterclass, 2 Brewery Wharf, Kendell Street, Leeds, LS10 1JR.

UK HealthTech/4 December/Cardiff Park Plaza

At the UKHT conference, over 300 delegates will hear speakers discuss the major strategic issues and policy developments facing the life science and healthcare sectors. Showcases include the latest advances in R&D technologies and up and coming spinout companies. It closes with the 13th annual MediWales Innovation Awards, celebrating the achievements of the NHS, life science and health technology communities in Wales. More information and registration here.

SEHTA is calling for nominees for its 2018 Healthcare Business Awards through Friday 14 December. They are looking for the best achieving companies of 2018 in the following five categories: Export Achievement, Start-up, Innovation, Partnership with the NHS
MedTech, and the new category of Healthcare Investment of the Year (most significant/transformational public and/or private sector funding received in 2018). To download application forms, click here. Completed forms should be returned to Clare Ansett – clare.ansett@sehta.co.uk 

A critical take on Pepper’s Parliament Question Time (UK)

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/103886629_mediaitem103886628.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Perhaps this Editor should have been less credulous. Somewhere, this Editor failed to notice a mention in the press she picked up that Pepper’s Question Time before the Commons select committee on education had been fully prearranged and scripted. (Thank you and a Big Tip of The Hat to reader Alistair Appleby for pointing that out.) It made Pepper’s appearance a little less than All That Sensational–more like a pre-recording delivered by an automaton prompted through a Middlesex University student’s smartphone.

Mr. Appleby provided a link to a Wired UK article that bears close reading. It sharply critiques not only the presentation, but also the trivialization of what the select committee was really examining, which was the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” of large-scale automation and its disruptive effects on the work of the all-too-near future.

Wired‘s reporter Gian Volpicelli sat in the front row and acidulously observed that Pepper’s appearance was a PR stunt that detracted from the substantive (I think) conversation that preceded it.

“For one hour before Pepper’s triumphal entrance, three experts from UCL, Nesta and Siemens engaged just in that kind of nuanced, data-based, academic conversation with the Committee’s MPs. They studiously tackled issue after unresolved issue, from AI bias, to education reform, to pure epistemology. “What is knowledge? Why should we believe something?,” asked UCL professor Rose Luckin at one point. “What a wonderful philosophical discourse,” committee member William Wragg MP would remark – under the austere blue gaze of Maggie Thatcher’s portrait. “

It does sound like the usual academic drift-off into La La Land, making it a discussion on Big Issues That Make Your Head Hurt because they have a thousand possible outcomes out of H.G. Wells and Aldous Huxley, but what is remarkable is that neither BBC News nor the Guardian saw fit to mention the experts’ testimony.

Mr. Volpicelli rightly labels Pepper’s appearance a media stunt that gained all the attention versus a real discussion about the societal effect of future robots. Will it be the Pepper-future of cute machines that can perform few tasks and are non-threatening? Will it be the Atlas-future, the one projected by Boston Dynamics’ humanoid athlete-robot that does parkour and skillfully leaps large boxes, funded by DARPA to be a search and rescue robot? Will the future belong to the weirdly humanoid Frubber-skinned Sophia, who fell into the ‘uncanny valley’ at CES last January [TTA 23 Jan] — the same CES where Pepper ‘fainted’ to a non-working slump (schlump?) More than likely, it will be the robotic arm that flips and bags the fast-food burger that is more of the immediate future–and displacing low-wage workers–than any of the above. We need to have a very serious chat about Pepper’s pointless parliamentary pantomime