News roundup: Current Health’s Class II, Healthware Italy’s €10 million boost, the low state of Latin America telemedicine, weekend reading on digital health in health systems

Scottish startup gains FDA Class II clearance, pilots with Mount Sinai Brooklyn. Edinburgh’s Current Health has received FDA Class II clearance for its AI-enabled remote patient monitoring wearable monitors. The single arm-worn wearable sends data every two seconds on oxygen saturation, respiration rate, pulse rate, temperature, activity, and posture. Algorithms analyze the data and alert clinicians to patient status and deterioration. The Mount Sinai pilot follows on Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust for a post-discharge monitoring program, with a 22 percent reduction in home visits plus fewer hospital readmissions and emergency department visits. Current Health is the renamed snap40. Mobihealthnews, BusinessWire release

Healthware, a Salerno, Italy-based consultancy group primarily concentrated in marketing and sales, has received a €10 million investment from Fondo Italiano d’Investimento SGR (FII Tech Growth). The investment will be used over the next two years has received to expand Healthware’s business transformation for life sciences companies and product development and services for digital health start-ups which improve health outcomes through new technologies. Release.  Hat tip to Healthware’s Antonietta Pannella

Telemedicine adoption in hospitals ranges from 65 to below 30 percent in Latin America. A study published this week in Health Affairs Global Health Policy (paywalled) looks at the different rates of hospital-based telemedicine adoption in nine Latin America countries. Leading is Chile with the aforementioned 65 percent; Argentina, Costa Rica, Mexico and Peru with less than a 30 percent. In the middle: Panama (35 percent), Uruguay and Guatemala in the 40 percent range. Despite supportive official policies in many of these countries, “Efforts to implement telemedicine are isolated and scattered, often left to the public sector or taking the form of insulated projects that are not sustained” or scaled up nationally and regionally. Mobihealthnews

For weekend reading. Intersecting with the Latin America story above is this. This Editor missed the October issue of Global Health: Science and Practice published out of Johns Hopkins, but here it is. The focus of the six articles is digital health integration into health systems in the US and internationally. Hat tip to Alain B. Labrique via Twitter

Digital health versus eHealth: ‘here we go again’ with the confusion and the differences. Plus Women in eHealth (JISfTeH)

Editor Donna (and Editor Steve before her) always likes a good dust-up about terminology. One of the former’s pet peeves is the imprecise usage of telemedicine (virtual visits) versus telehealth (remote patient monitoring of vital signs); she will concede that the differences have been so trampled on that telemedicine has nearly faded from use.

The Journal of the International Society for Telemedicine and eHealth (JISfTeH) makes a grand attempt to parse the differing definitions of digital health and eHealth in their opening editorial of this month’s (24 Jan) issueeHealth has fallen so far from use that the few times one does see it is in associations such as ISfTeH and the New York eHealth Collaborative. Even the World Health Organization, which has always been a fair arbiter for the industry, defined eHealth back in the salad days of 2005 as “the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for health”–broad, but workable. After a witty aside in defining digital health as “an area of healthcare focused entirely on fingers and toes” (plus), and examining the overly broad definitions of Eric Topol and Paul Sonnier, the authors Richard E. Scott and Maurice Mars seem to settle on this: that while digital health is given a  much broader but nebulous definition (to the point of linguistic absurdity cited in Mesko et al.), and may incorporate related technologies like genomics (another poorly defined term) and ‘big data’, it would not work without that ICT. And that at least there’s a settled definition for eHealth, as stated above, for which this Editor assumes we should be happy. In the author’s closing, “Will we be sufficiently motivated to rise to such a challenge-globally agreed universal definitions? If not ……here we go again …..”

This month’s journal theme is also Women in eHealth, with articles on Brazilian eHealth distance education, digital technology in midwifery practice, and how online social networks can work for drug abuse treatment referral. There’s also a change in format, with article links opening to full PDFs of each article.

The telehealth ‘entrepreneur’ whose $5 million funding bought stays at the Ritz and portfolios at Bottega Veneta

This curious and cautionary tale should be better known. A young entrepreneur named Keisha L. Williams from Ashburn, Virginia had an attractive proposition. She needed immediate funding to bring to the US an Austrian telehealth system described as “software that would allow doctors to remotely examine and talk with patients.” Ms. Williams had degrees in both law and electrical engineering, so credibility. She also had a story. The software was in ‘escrow’ in Austria. There were taxes and fees that had to be paid immediately. And she had family situations, financial and medical emergencies. In other words, she had a ‘great line of ‘stuff’ on the technology, urgency, and personally, a few tugs on the heartstrings.

Ms. Williams told this story enough times over four years, and to enough people who believed her–more than 50, who invested over $5.4 million.

What happened? 95% of the money was spent on over the top vacations to Bora Bora, Italy, the Bahamas, and Jamaica, plus the occasional yacht with ‘hand and foot services’ and shopping at top-end retail such as Bottega Veneta and Vuitton. $500,000 alone was spent on her girlfriend. About $300,000 was spent on the software.

The rest of the story involves 14 Federal fraud charges, four accomplices, and unwitting, likely vulnerable people who were talked into giving over their savings. Late in January, she was sentenced to 15.5 years in Federal prison.

Many of our Readers have started companies or worked with entrepreneurs who have a great story and need money. The stories touch our hearts–and sometimes our checkbooks. Apparently, Ms. Williams raised the money without exposing herself to anyone in the industry or private investors who would ask remotely leading questions. To us, this technology sounds hardly sexy–it’s telemedicine virtual visit software with maybe some remote patient monitoring thrown in. Yet to 50 people, who are now poorer or who were involved with the fraudulent scheme — it sounded really special. (The name is also common–there are quite a few people on LinkedIn with the same name, which may make life difficult for them.)

With the rising tide of telehealth, if your cousin or uncle has heard of a great way to visit your doctor over the phone and asks you if you’ve heard about it, you might want to ask Uncle to pass the pie as you switch the conversation to being on guard for fraudulent schemes. Washington Post (read the comments), Daily Mail, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, press releases 17 Oct and 18 Jan from the US Attorney’s office, Eastern District of Virginia