HealthSpot closes the doors, shuts kiosks in Rite Aid, Cleveland Clinic (updated)

As we reported last July, HealthSpot, the Dublin, Ohio, based telemedicine health kiosk business which was click to enlargecarrying out a retail trial with Rite Aid since November 2014, started commercial operations in 25 locations in three Ohio areas.

In October reports emerged of a patent infringement claim that has been ongoing since April 2014 against HealthSpot by Nevada-based Computerized Screening. (More on this ongoing series of lawsuits in Ohio and Nevada is here.)

According to reports in Columbus Business First, HealthSpot has now informed Rite Aid that it would cease operations as of 31 December last year and its telemedicine kiosks are reported to have shut down in Rite Aid pharmacies. HealthSpot has also notified Cleveland Clinic that it has discontinued operations, which shuts its pilot with Cleveland Clinic in northeast Ohio.

HealthSpot’s website remains live but the last entry in the press releases section is from September 2015 and is on events at which HealthSpot was to participate in September and November. The blog page on its website is well out of date with the last update dated as far back as March 2015. (Links for locations and patient log in were inoperable–Ed. Donna)

One recent news report stated that attempts to contact CEO Steve Cashman went unanswered.

In November 2014, HealthSpot received a major investment from Xerox on top of a $18.3 million springtime round [TTA 13 Nov 14].

Updated 13 Jan (Editor Donna)

The Columbus Business First articles that Editor Chrys has linked to, as of this point, are the most informative. Neil Versel and Stephanie Baum also have related articles in MedCityNews. They also chewed it over with HealthcareScene network’s John Lynn last Friday on video (starts at 26:30) with a surprising revelation that Mr Cashman had been in touch with Mr Lynn, to be published in one of their blogs (but not yet as of this update.) Thus the mystery remains.

Xerox has issued a statement of their continued interest and support of the healthcare sector which is covered in MedCityNews above. We also noted their diverse interests in healthcare quality management, data and analytics through through their Midas+ division here last year.

According to CrunchBase, HealthSpot received $43.81 million in financing since 2011, not including the undisclosed support from Xerox, with the most recent raise debt financing of $11.56 million in January 2015. One year ago, HealthSpot looked so promising. (more…)

Cornwall Council to terminate BT outsourcing deal

The High Court has ruled that Cornwall Council is within its rights to terminate the multi-million pound click to enlargeservices outsourcing contract with BT because BT “did not provide … the service it had promised to the standard it had promised”.

Cornwall Council welcomed the High Court decision yesterday saying “The judge’s decision confirms the Council’s argument that BT Cornwall had been in material breach of the contract due to their failure to carry out services to the required contractual standards and, therefore, that we were justified in reaching the decision that we were entitled to terminate the contract.

“As a result of this decision, the Council intends to give notice of the contract before Christmas but there will be no immediate change in the arrangements as notice will not take effect until January.”

BT was awarded the 10-year contract in 2013 amid much controversy as was widely reported including here on TTA. (more…)

Federal Court denies TMB application to dismiss Teladoc case

Readers may have read our article in April this year “Can State medical boards legally prevent telehealth activity?”. click to enlargeIn that article we examined the potential impact of a case brought by the Federal Trade Commission against the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court which determined that the State Board of Dental Examiners was not protected by immunity from anti-trust law.

Teladoc is now locked in a case with the Texas Medical Board (TMB) that is very similar to the North Carolina case and it too has gone along a similar path so far. In the latest development of this case, last week a Federal Court, the US District Court in Texas, denied the application by the TMB to dismiss a case brought by Teladoc that claims that the TMB broke anti-trust law.

What has brought Teladoc and the TMB to court in this way? (more…)

White paper identifies potential and challenges of telehealth

Telehealth is a rapidly growing field that has the potential to help states leverage a shrinking and maldistributed provider workforce, increase access to services, improve population health and lower costs says a report published a few days ago. Called “Telehealth Policy Trends and Considerations”, the white paper from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) focuses on three areas: reimbursement of telehealth encounters, licensure for telehealth providers and patient privacy, safety and security.

This white paper is the result of a year’s work by a group brought together by the NCSL consisting of state legislators, legislative staff and private industry. The white paper provides options for state policymakers in these areas.

The paper also covers recent research into cost-effectiveness of telehealth, the impact of telecommunications connectivity and some specific examples of telehealth/telemedicine usage. Examples of effective use of telehealth includes the use of telehealth/telemedicine by the Veterans Health Administration. Another example cited is the telemedicine usage by the Unversity of Mississippi Center for Telehealth about which we have reported previously

The full 28-page report, is available to download here.

Report analyses published reporting of telehealth

An agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services, the Agency for Health Research and Quality (AHRQ), has published, for peer review, a draft of a new report (a “technology assessment”) entitled “Telehealth: an Evidence Map for Decision making”. AHRQ, the report explains, “through its Evidence-based Practice Centers (EPCs), sponsors the development of evidence reports and technology assessments to assist public and private sector organizations in their efforts to improve the quality of health care in the United States.”

The purpose of this new technology assessment is given as creating a review of the evidence available (essentially a literature review) so as to inform decision makers. The authors had identified 1,305 citations about telehealth of which 44 had been selected for this review. Unsurprisingly, the report says ” comparatively large volume of research reported that telehealth interventions produce positive results when used for communication/counseling and monitoring and management for several chronic conditions and for psychotherapy as part of behavioral health.”

It recommends additional primary research be carried out on topics such as telehealth for triage in urgent/primary care, management of serious paediatric conditions and the integration of behavioral and physical health. Finally, it recommends that telehealth research should be integrated into evaluation of new models of care and payment so that the potential of telehealth can be assessed in organizations that are implementing these reforms. (more…)

Telecare: the cost of a failure (updated)

The value of a telecare service, typified by the familiar red-button alarms worn round the neck or click to enlargewrist and providing the less able to confidently live an independent life is, of course, well known. Telecare also provides a range of unobtrusive wireless sensors that detects possible problems around the home such as a gas hob or tap left on,  smoke from a smouldering sofa where a cigarette may have fallen and so on.

There are many companies around the world providing telecare services. But what if the service suffers an interruption? What needs to be done and what is the cost?

The UK’s NHS in Scotland had to face these questions recently when the telecare service it provides in the Highland Council area suffered a total failure last week. The system had failed for about four hours last Saturday and, although a  backup system existed, that failed to deploy. (more…)

Senate Veterans Affairs Committee takes evidence on VETS Act (US)

Further to our report in October on the introduction of the Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine click to enlargeSupport Act (“Veterans eHealth & Telemedicine”, 10 October 2015), Sen. Joni Ernst’s website reports that Sen. Ernst was the first witness to testify in front of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday (19 November 2015) about the proposed legislation.

“The VA has been practicing telemedicine since 2001, and they are largely cited as leaders and innovators in the field. Their efforts in telemedicine have saved money and veterans’ time by eliminating often an hour or more long drives to the VA, and reducing bed days at the VA” Ernst is reported to have said.

“For example: According to the VA, in Fiscal Year 2014, telehealth reduced bed days of care by 54%, reduced hospital admissions by 32%, and saved $34 in travel savings per  consultation. (more…)

Successful large-scale deployment of Telehealth: a “cookbook”

Following a two and a half year evaluation of data from different connected health programmes in five European regions, a report click to enlargewas released this week described as a “cookbook” for large-scale deployment of coordinated care and telehealth. The work was carried out by a consortium led by Philips Healthcare and included participants from The Netherlands, Greece, the UK, Spain, Italy and Germany.

After monitoring coordinated care and telehealth initiatives in five EU healthcare regions – Lombardy (IT), Basque Country (ES), Catalonia (ES), Northern Netherlands (NL), and Scotland (UK) – the EU-funded Advancing Care Coordination & Telehealth Deployment (ACT) Programme has produced this ‘cookbook’ of good practice to facilitate their deployment across Europe. (more…)

Smartphone measures heart and breathing rates without wearables

Researchers at MIT are working on a project to measure the heart rate and breathing using a smartphone’s accelerometer in the user’s pocket or bag without the need for wearable sensors. When the user is at rest the slight movements due to breathing and heart beat are measured using the smartphone and used to derive the heart and breathing rates.

According to a paper published recently, in a test with a dozen participants (a very small sample for this type of test) the heart rates measured using the new method were within one beat when compared to FDA approved sensors they were using simultaneously. The measurements of breathing rate were about a quarter of a breath of the approved sensors.

The aim is to sense when someone is stressed by using the heart rate and breathing and then help cope with the situtation by suggesting, say, breathing exercises or calling for help.

A brief article on the work is published on the MIT technology Review and the full paper is available here.

Scientific survey of telehealth/telemedicine in the US

The Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care sent click to enlargesurveys to more than 5,000 randomly selected phyicians, intentionally oversampling rural ones, and received a high 31% response (1,557 respondents). Fifteen percent of the respondents indicated that they used telehealth  according to the report  on the analysis the data (the terms telehealth and telemedicine are used interchangeably in this report), “Family Physicians and Telehealth: Findings from a National Survey”, co-written by six authors, which is available now.

Compared with non-users, family physicians who use telehealth  are more likely to practice in a rural location, be younger, have practiced for 10 or fewer years, and employ an electronic health record (EHR), says the report. Almost half (49 percent) of telehealth users practice as part of an organization that is not physician owned (e.g., an integrated health or hospital system). More than half of telehealth users reported using telehealth one to five times in the past year, while more than 23 percent reported using telehealth on more than 20 occasions during the same period. Almost half of telehealth users stated they had used real-time video consultations in the past 12 months. In addition, 55 percent of surveyed telehealth users had used telehealth services for diagnosis or treatment in the past 12 months, and one-fourth of surveyed telehealth users reported using telehealth services for chronic disease management. (more…)

GE Healthcare acquires health consultancy

GE Healthcare announced on Monday that it has acquired a US healthcare consultancy firm, The Camden Group. click to enlargeFounded in 1970, The Camden Group advices US healthcare organisations such hospitals, health plan providers, medical groups and ACOs and will become the US business unit of GE Healthcare’s international consultancy GE Healthcare Partners.

The Camden Group has been expanding for some time and acquired Health Directions LLC in January of this year for an undisclosed price. By acquiring The Camden Group GE Healthcare will get access to a range of ongoing customers. The $18bn GE Healthcare business announced a $300M commitment two months ago to create a Sustainable Healthcare Solutions unit covering emerging health markets in Asia and Africa.

The price paid for the acquisition of The Camden Group has not been disclosed.

New telehealth investment in Wales

The Welsh Government is to invest £250,000 in expanding telehealth services in rural parts of the country, it has been announced click to enlargetoday. This is part of a £10 million investment that was announced in January to improve efficiency in the Welsh NHS.

Information available indicates that this telehealth investment is primarily in imaging technology enabling specialists in distant centres to access X-ray and other images taken at rural health facilities closer to the patients.

The press release from the Welsh Government quotes the Health Minister Professor Mark Drakeford as saying “Telehealth already means orthopaedic specialists in Abergavenny can look at X-rays from Brecon to avoid unnecessary travel for patients. This investment will take stock of all practices which use telehealth across NHS Wales (more…)

Dartmouth-Hitchcock withdraws from Pioneer ACO

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center has announced it will withdraw click to enlargefrom the Pioneer ACO program after losing more that $3M over the past two years.

The Pioneer Accountable Care Organization (ACO) Model was designed by the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) Innovation Center to encourage the development of ACOs which are groups of healthcare organizations and providers (e.g. doctors) that work together to provide care for their patients at a lower cost to Medicare while maintaining (more…)

3 companies through to next stage in SBRI Telehealth/Telecare

Three of the eleven companies through to the next stage of the NHS Small click to enlargeBusiness Research Initiative (SBRI) are in the “Telehealth/Telecare for people with Learning Disabilities” category,  according to the latest news release on the SBRI website. Each will receive a further £1 million to continue with prototype development and product testing.

The three companies are Red Embedded, Maldaba and Cupris Health. The other companies going through to the next stage are BioSensors, Digital Creativity in Disability, Bering, Docobo, ADI, Folium Optics, Armourgel and MIRA Rehab.

SBRI Healthcare is an initiative from NHS England supporting a programme of competitions inviting companies to come forward with their ideas and new technologies for known NHS challenges.  In the last year, SBRI Healthcare has launched 10 new clinically-led competitions and awarded £22.4 million to 60 companies to develop products focused on specific NHS unmet need.

Read the full news release at SBRI Healthcare Funds Companies to Develop Game Changing Technologies.

Telehealth in the ME – report from The Economist

It is rare to hear about telehealth from the Middle East, so it is refreshing to see a report dedicated to this subject. click to enlargeEnabling Telehealth: Lessons for the Gulf” is a new report from the Intelligence Unit of The Economist which identifies principles and practices relevant to the Gulf Cooperation
Council (GCC) region. GCC is a regional intergovernmental political and economic union consisting of all Arab states in the Persian Gulf except for Iraq – i.e. Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE.

The report has been commissioned by Philips and studies the environment in which telehealth operates – the policies, infrastructure, associated skills and institutional users. The Economist interviewed several experts for this report: the director of the Center for Connected Health Policy, associate Dean of the Mayo Clinic’s Center  for Connected Care, chief medical officer of the European Health Telematics Association, a senior lecturer in professional healthcare education at the Open University and CEO of the International Alliance of Patients’ Organisations.

As the report points out in its summary, “… access to telehealth depends not only on telehealth technology. Policy frameworks must be modernised, communications infrastructures such as broadband and mobile network coverage must be improved, and skillsets – both of clinicians and patients – need to be strengthened.

Five key findings in the report are

  • Ensuring access to telehealth depends not just on the technologies, but on the broader enabling environment, especially policy harmonisation, communications infrastructure, and skills.
  • Governments should consider more efficient licensing if telehealth is to enable patients to access medical expertise outside of their state, province or country. Here it cites the examples of USA and Europe. The state by state licensing in the US is a barrier to telehealth and the cross-state harmonisation in the EU helps telehealth.
  • Telehealth provision must go hand-in-hand with Internet infrastructure rollout, since vulnerable populations are the lowest users of the Internet.
  • Focus on systems integration: “… build usable systems with the requisite security and privacy” which “work seamlessly with those already in place”.
  • Health providers may need support in working with new technologiesThe full report is available to download here.

Veterans eHealth & Telemedicine

Currently in the US, the Department of Veteran Affairs may waive click to enlargethe state license requirements for telemedicine services if both the healthcare professional and the patient are located at facilities owned by the Federal Government, according to Sen Joni Ernst from Iowa (see Ernst pushes for expansion of telehealth care for veterans). She is introducing the Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support Act in the Senate which, if enacted, would permit VA to allow the use of any location, such as a patient’s home. This, it is argued, will give better access to elderly, disabled and rural veterans. Ernst says that with 21 million veterans nationwide and 12% of veterans receiving some form of telehealth care in 2014 this could reduce costs for the VA. It is. however, not clear how many of the veterans receiving telemedicine care necessarily need out-of-state healthcare professionals to provide that care.

A similar Act is being introduced (or rather, re-introduced) in the House of Representatives by Rep Charles Rangel, a Democrat from New York with 18 co-sponsors (see E-Health Legislative Summary: The Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support Act of 2015). That act has previously been introduced in the House in 2012 and 2013 according Govtrack and its chances of being enacted this time round are considered very low (1%).