News roundup: Teladoc closes InTouch, Samsung bets on tele-genomics, SURE Recovery app, Optimize.health’s seed round, Walgreens’ Microsoft boost

Teladoc completed the acquisition of InTouch Health on 1 July. The purchase, announced at the JP Morgan soireé in January (and an eternity ago) took place just before the ’10 years in 2 months’ leap forward in telehealth services. InTouch’s telehealth offerings are primarily for hospitals and health systems, heavily based on multi-feature carts and camera setups. The purchase price of $150 million in cash and 4.6 million shares of Teladoc Health common stock, valued then at $600 million, may be a great bargain for Teladoc considering the rich prices that other telehealth-related companies commanded during the peak of the pandemic, and that Teladoc’s revenue boosted to almost $181 million in revenue in Q1 2020, up 41 percent versus Q1 2019. Release

Samsung makes a telemedicine bet with Genome Medical. Through its Catalyst Fund, Samsung is the lead among 15 investors in a $14 million Series B extension financing that includes LRVHealth, Revelation Partners, and Kaiser Permanente Fund. Genome Medical’s connection to telemedicine is on-demand, standard-of-care genetics and genomics through virtual health services, including counseling, patient drug response, and provider-to-provider consults through its platform. Release. CNet. Crunchbase.

Mindwave Ventures, which this Editor noted last December was opening up an office in the Leeds health tech hub, has continued its development and research with multiple platforms and apps in partnership with NHS and academic/research clients. One that came on our ever-whirling radar screen is the release of the SURE Recovery app, for those in recovery from alcohol and drug problems. It enables users to work with the SURE (Substance Use Recovery Evaluator) and SUSS (Substance Use Sleep Scale) measures, plus a personal diary, to track their recovery over time. Mindwave developed the app in conjunction with The King’s College London and theInstitute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London. The app is now available to download; search ‘SURE Recovery’ on the App Store or Google Play. The page on the Mindwave site is on their Clinical Research page–click the tab for SURE. Hat tip to Ellis Noble of KC Communications.

Connected to telehealth and RPM is provider reimbursement. Optimize.health is an early-stage company which provides a turnkey setup for practices for its remote patient monitoring platform, with the usual features such as patient engagement, integrated devices with the platform, and call center support. The apparent difference is the emphasis on sharing data and simplifying reimbursement, the hard part of any RPM or telehealth platform. Announced this week: a $3.5 million seed round led by Bonfire Ventures. A small boost to this part of the telehealth field which has not had the great success of virtual consults. Release.

Back in January 2019, Walgreens Boots announced a partnership with Microsoft to migrate their IT over to the Azure platform. It took a while for results to manifest to the public. When COVID happened, they rolled out a COVID-19 risk assessment tool on its website and mobile app based on Azure. Their Find Care platform doubled the number of virtual care providers and services available. Walgreens also provided a link to COVID-19 clinical trials through the Find My Clinical Trial program on its mobile app. This article in FierceHealthcare touts how they are maneuvering to stay even with CVS Aetna and Amazon, which is hardly waiting for its partners in the gone-pearshaped Haven.

Hackermania runs wild, Required Reading Department: The Anatomy of a Ransomware Attack

Cue the Duke Ellington score and Jimmy Stewart for the defense, we now have a moment-by-moment look at how a ransomware attack on an organization unfolds. The example is from a Ryuk ransomware attack last October on an unnamed organization.

      • The first step was a probe of the network via the Trickbot malware
      • Hackers then explored the network to determine a valuation–to monetize data
      • They then unleashed other tools in the Pivot and Profile phase–PowerTrick and Cobalt Strike–to search for open ports and other devices
      • The hackers, finding what they want, deploy their Anchor backdoor and Ryuk ransomware to secure their hold on the network
      • Total time from initial malware to Ryuk ransomware encryption: about two weeks

Ryuk has been a highly successful ransomware, netting its extortioners $61m in ransom between February 2018 and October 2019 according to the FBI. UK’s National Cyber Security Centre advisory indicates global attacks starting in later 2018.

The value in this study is substantial–the SentinelOne article is chock full of terminology and screenshots a programmer or white hat would love. It also reveals a multi-step process that if stopped at step 1 (the Trickbot malware) means a tougher nut to crack for the hackers, and a nearly two-week window for a response. ZDNet’s article is written for us ‘civilians’. The sidebar has links to several articles, including this horror compendium from UK victims, ‘The most stressful four hours of my career‘.  Earlier: Hackermania runs wild…all the way to the bank!

Do Huawei and ZTE present security threats to the US and global communications networks? The FCC says yes.

In two little-noted decisions formally announced yesterday (30 June), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) banned the funding by the FCC Universal Service Fund (USF) of the purchase or use of equipment or services provided by China’s Huawei and ZTE. The USF funds rural internet, Lifeline for low-income consumers, Indian Tribal initiatives, schools and libraries, and the Rural Health Care program–a substantial part of the national network which will also discourage private companies from use of their equipment as Verizon, Sprint, et al participate in these programs.

Both Huawei and ZTE have been found by the US government–and many others–to be extensively tied to the Chinese government and military, obligating these two companies to permit their systems to be used for espionage, plus numerous known cybersecurity risks and vulnerabilities in their equipment. Other national governments have felt likewise including the UK, which is reevaluating its former permission for their participation in the 5G rollout. FCC release, Huawei order, ZTE order, ZDNet (UK)

FCC approves 70 more COVID-19 telehealth funding applications for an additional $32 million

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today (1 July) approved 70 additional applications for funding telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding covers both urban and rural providers, from large health systems to local community health centers. The funds for this thirteenth group totals $31.63 million of the $189.27 million in total funds awarded. To date, the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program, authorized by the CARES Act, has approved 514 funding applications in 46 states plus Washington, D.C. Equipment covered includes telehealth, computers, smartphones, tablets, remote patient monitoring equipment, and software.

A small sample of this group of healthcare organizations:

  •  Avera Health, South Dakota
  • Barnabas Health in NJ for remote patient monitoring equipment
  • Boston Children’s Hospital
  • Greater Philadelphia Health Action
  • Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown PA
  • Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, NY
  • Ryan Health in Manhattan
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital
  • UPMC in Harrisburg PA

FCC release. Full list of Telehealth Program recipients here.

Hackermania runs wild…all the way to the bank! Ransomware strikes Crozer-Keystone, UCSF med school, others

News to make you livid. After surviving (to date) the COVID pandemic, health systems and medical schools are being attacked by ransomware criminals. Both the small Crozer-Keystone Health System and the globally known University of California San Francisco School of Medicine have been attacked by the ever-so cutely named Netwalker (a/k/a MailTo). Yes, this criminal hacker gang isn’t outside banging pots for first responders or donating money, or even sticking to a brief truce (Emsisoft), but figuring ways to spread malware into healthcare organizations for fun and profit. 

And profitable it’s been. UCSF paid Netwalker the princely sum of $1.14 million (£910,000) in 116.4 bitcoins after an attack starting 1 June that was also (to add insult to injury) published on Netwalker’s public blog. In the timeline presented by BBC News, it was negotiated down (professionally) from $3 million; BBC also obtained some key parts of the negotiation via an anonymous tipoff, and it’s fascinating reading. Netwalker leads the victim to a dark web ‘customer service’ site where there’s a countdown to double payment or deletion of your now-encrypted data. They are also able to live chat with the victim.

UCSF was able to limit the malware encryption damage to servers within the School of Medicine (according to the BBC, literally unplugging computers; according to UCSF, isolating servers) but decided to pay the ransom to unlock the encrypted data and return data they obtained, stating in its public release “The data that was encrypted is important to some of the academic work we pursue as a university serving the public good”. They will work with the FBI on the incident and have brought on board outside expert help.

According to FierceHealthcare, Netwalker was also behind the attack on the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District (Illinois) website in March and Michigan State University’s network in May.

Paying ransom is contrary to the advice of the major world security services such as the FBI, Europol, and the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, on the simple basis that it encourages them. It’s a true damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation, as Brett Callow, a threat analyst at cyber-security company Emsisoft, said to the BBC: “But why would a ruthless criminal enterprise delete data that it may be able to further monetise at a later date?” 

Crozer-Keystone to date has refused to pay ransom. On 19 June, bitcoin publication Cointelegraph published a screenshot of Netwalker’s dark web auction page of the data. Apparently it is all financial and not medical records or PHI. Crozer also isolated the intrusion and took systems offline. Crozer is a small system of four hospitals in suburban Philadelphia (Delaware County) and serves parts of the state of Delaware and western New Jersey.

Neither Crozer nor UCSF have gone public with the source of the breach, but it is known that the main lure during the pandemic has been phishing emails with COVID-19 results or news, loaded with malware downloads.

As this Editor wrote back in May 2018 on the anniversary of WannaCry, it’s not a matter of if, but when, at highly vulnerable organizations like healthcare and academia with high-value information records. Right now, the Hakbit spear-phishing ransomware connected to an Excel spreadsheet macro is targeting mid-level individuals at pharma, healthcare, and other sectors in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, according to tech research firm Proofpoint. TechGenix

More: Becker’s 22 June on Crozer-Keystone, 29 June on UCSF, 12 largest healthcare breaches to date, 10 healthcare system incidents for June, Kroger hacking incident exposing 11,000 health records. DataBreaches.net news page.

COVID effect on US practices: in-person visits down 37%, telehealth peaks at 14%; ATA asks Congress to make expansion permanent

A Commonwealth Fund/Harvard University/Phreesia tracking study of outpatient visits in 50,000 US healthcare practices, specialty as well as primary care, has tracked the effect of the COVID pandemic on practice visits during the period 8 March through 20 June. Using as their baseline the week of 1-7 March, which was the last ‘normal’ week in line with February, the results are not unexpected:

  • From 15 March to 20 June (three months), practice visits, including telehealth, plummeted 37 percent
  • Disproportionately affected were pediatricians, pulmonologists, and surgical specialties such as orthopedics
  • Against the baseline, week of 14 June visits are still down 11 percent
  • The nadir was 29 March, off 59 percent
  • The rebound tracks the same by US region, with the least dip in South Central and Mountain regions. (The most affected, of course, are New England-Mid-Atlantic and Pacific, with the highest COVID rates and the least rebound.)
  • Looking at the ‘rebound week’ of 14 June, the effects linger on in pediatrics, pulmonology, and (interestingly) behavioral health. (Anecdotally, behavioral health patients are continuing with telehealth for convenience versus the physical visit.)
  • Telehealth visits took off starting 8 March and at their peak were 13.9 percent of visits (19 April)
  • Since 26 April, telehealth visits have declined as in-person visits resume, and are at 7.4 percent as of 14 June (46.7 percent less). However, compared to the baseline of nearly zero (0.1 percent), it’s nearly a 140 percent increase.

Phreesia is a scheduling and patient check-in platform. The practices surveyed are Phreesia clients, covering 1,600 provider organizations, with 50,000 providers in 50 states.

Physicians were also interviewed as part of the study. The office operation has had to change, and the patient experience in returning to practices is very different. Making up deferred care is complicated, and precautions to mitigate risk of viral transmission inevitably slow care down. 

Much of the press around this study is that telehealth is receding quickly. As a trend in an extraordinary time when there was no alternative, as practices reopen a shift back to the office is to be expected, and often there is no substitute for in-person exams and procedures. Still, there are elements of long-term uncertainty on the future of practice telehealth. Both CMS and payers announced that payments for telehealth (audio/visual and telephone only) would remain in place only for the duration of the pandemic. What are their long term plans? Providers are having difficulty getting paid or paid enough even in parity states. State Medicaid presents even more of an unwanted ‘discount’.  Telehealth also demands a commitment to (ultimately) a HIPAA-compliant platform, workflow/staff support, and input in the practice’s EMR/population health platform. STAT, HealthcareITNews

The American Telehealth Association (ATA), coming off their virtual annual meeting last week, sent a letter to Congress with 340 signatories supporting a permanent expansion of telehealth after the public health emergency (PHE) ends in four priority areas:

  • Remove location restrictions 
  • Maintain HHS authority to determine eligible practitioners who may furnish clinically appropriate telehealth services
  • Authorize Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) and Rural Health Clinics (RHC) to furnish telehealth services 
  • Make permanent the HHS Temporary Waiver Authority to respond to emergencies

Release and letter

The TeleDentists now in 14 states with Anthem

Updating our May article about The TeleDentists expanding their coverage via Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS), our initial information was that Anthem was offering teledentistry in only nine states. The current total since May is actually 14 states and covers by state and plan:

  • CA – Anthem Blue Cross
  • CO, CT, GA, IN, KY, ME, MO, NH, NV, OH, VA, WI – Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield
  • NY – Empire BlueCross BlueShield

Part of this Editor’s puzzlement is that each health plan issues releases for its plan by state, and when our original article was written, only nine states had issued releases. This is in addition to their agreement with Cigna in employer-sponsored plans announced in April [TTA 15 April]. Hat tip to FischTank PR’s Kate Caruso-Sharpe for the update on behalf of Anthem.

TTA’s First Day of Summer: the NHS COVID app exits with Gapple to replace, Proteus’ unicorn loses its horn, VA’s EHR delay again, Fitbit’s Ready to Work, telehealth’s permanent rise (?), more!

 

With today being the First Day of Summer, there’s hot news with NHS finally giving up on its NHSX COVID tracing app and a few changes over at NHSX. Otherwise, we observe some semblance of a return to Business As Usual. A former unicorn goes bankrupt, a telecare company brings out a new product, the VA has more drama around its EHR. But still plenty of COVID related news, including its hopefully permanent telehealth stimulus, without any drugs!

Breaking: NHSX COVID contact tracing app exits stage left. Enter the Apple and Google dance team. (Not a surprise to anyone, and some changes made)

News Roundup (updated): Proteus files Ch. 11, VA’s EHR tests now fall–maybe, making US telehealth expansion permanent, Rennova’s rural telehealth bet, Oysta’s Lite, Fitbit’s Ready to Work jumps on the screening bandwagon
Where in the world is the NHS COVID contact tracing app? Apps rolling out globally, but will they roll out before it’s treatable?
(Apps have problems, but the protocols are getting better every day)

Despite other events, COVID still makes the news. Malcolm Fisk and his team studied how telehealth responded at the start of the pandemic in three countries. The ‘Thank And Praise’ virtual wall continues to accept thanks for healthcare workers. ATA’s now virtual conference may have been boosted by other cancellations. And finally, COVID struck the courts and held up the Cigna-Anthem breakup settlement–only three years in the making!

Another COVID casualty: a final decision on the Cigna-Anthem damages settlement (It’s only 3 years and billions at stake!)
ATA’s annual conference now 22-26 June–and fully virtual; announces three awards and Fellows (Plenty of names from US, UK, EU)
Thank and Praise’ to healthcare workers continues (UK) (A service that deserves notice for its graciousness)
Telehealth and the response to COVID-19 in Australia, UK, and US: the paper (Malcolm Fisk and team’s comparative study)

Gasping under our fabric masks, we are wheezing the Almost Summertime Blues. Is NHS a little blue with its unready contact tracing app and having to do things the Old Fashioned Way? Higi is not at all blue with a $30 million Series B infusion led by–Babylon Health–nor Propeller Health, 34 EU health tech startups, and Amazon. Google’s attorneys will roast in an Arizona summer. And finally, BMJ discovers that masks might make your breathing a lot more difficult–and concentrate whatever virus you’re exhaling.

Babylon Health leads a $30 million Series B for Higi health kiosks (An interesting series–of mutual interests in the US of A)
News roundup: LabCorp CRO boosts Medable, Propeller Health gains 510(k), EU’s 34 medtech startups, Amazon’s healthcare moves, Google’s Arizona privacy lawsuit
NHS’ COVID contact tracing service started today–but where’s the app? Australia?
(Looks like the old fashioned un-digital way)
Why ‘masking up’ isn’t such a great idea–more than a false sense of security (And 6 other reasons why)

Sloooowly emerging from our homes into the sunshine, and maybe back into our offices soon, we have a first-person participant view of TechForce19. Back in the office, there will be a whole lot of app tracking and separation going on, if we return. In other news, Optum continues its buying spree, Amwell raises a few dollars, and DHACA has a #WebinarWednesday coming up in June. 

Reflections of a TechForce19 Participant (What it’s like to be in the center of a tornado!)
Optum buys naviHealth for reported $1 billion; Amwell raises $194 million in Series C (More $ in analytics, telehealth)
DHACA home testing webinar 20th May 10am–next one 3 June (DHACA’s #WebinarWednesday)
Post-COVID back to work: for workplace screening, testing, contact tracing, there’s an app for that (You’ll be in a very different looking office with plenty of new rules–if you return there)

Even in Lockdown Lands, it is still Spring. Springing back is Curve Health, repurposing Call9’s telehealth and system. Theranos’ prosecutors had a spring in their step with 12 new charges. And maybe springing the UK free to recover is on the government’s mind with reopening guidance on the post-pandemic workplace.

Founder of Call9 springing back with Curve Health for nursing home telemedicine (Timely with corona’s unfortunate spotlight on SNFs)
The Theranos Story, ch. 63: 12 new wire fraud, conspiracy, forfeiture charges for Holmes, Balwani (The Feds Strike Back)
Important UK government guidance on safer workplaces during and after the COVID-19 pandemic (Kudos to the government–it’s time to revive the economy)

Babylon Health debuts in the US, contact tracing nears rollout in the UK, as an ‘immunity passport’ is contemplated, COVID and telehealth in three countries compared, and a lighter look at technology’s generation gap ‘all in the family’. And..this weekend, we commemorated V-E Day at 75!

Mount Sinai Health Partners (NY) launches Babylon Health telehealth app (Babylon’s app debut to millions competes against established virtual visits)
Is a COVID-19 ‘immunity passport’ next for the UK to get back to work? (Needs reliable antibody testing, as well as a much flatter curve)
Contact tracing in the UK: the biggest digital health test yet? (It’s not the insecurity of data that may hold it back)
Telehealth and the response to COVID-19 in Australia, UK, and US: video (The Malcolm Fisk interview on another view of the ‘genie out of the bottle’)
Has the ‘river of knowledge’ reversed its natural course? A lighter look at technology’s other effects. (Falling into the generation gap)
Contact tracing app ready for Isle of Wight trial this week: Hancock. But is it ready for rollout? (updated) (Needs 80% uptake to work)

Now that the COVID-19 threat may be receding, what’s the future? The view from our telescope or our genie bottle, both good and not so good. We have good news from The TeleDentists, AliveCor, and AbleTo that are upvotes for pioneers. And clinical trials are a fresh pivot for digital health.

10 years in 2 months: prognosticating the longer-term effect of COVID-19 on telehealth, practices, and hospitals (Is the genie out of the bottle? What do you see?)
Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield adds virtual dental care with The TeleDentists in 9 states (Another vote for remote dentistry)
AliveCor, OMRON announce cardiac monitoring strategic alliance, equity investment (Good news for a pioneer in cardiac monitoring)
The Future of Clinical Trials in the Post-Pandemic Era: HITLAB Seminar Series 6 May (Ongoing series, how CROs may be part of the future for digital health)
Optum rumored on the digital health acquisition hunt again with AbleTo virtual behavioral health (AbleTo a pioneer with traction; a trend further discussed in the lead article)

Have a job to fill? Seeking a position? Free listings available to match our Readers with the right opportunities. Email Editor Donna.


Read Telehealth and Telecare Aware: http://telecareaware.com/  @telecareaware

Follow our pages on LinkedIn and on Facebook

We thank our present and past advertisers and supporters: Legrand/Tynetec, Eldercare, UK Telehealthcare, NYeC, PCHAlliance, ATA, The King’s Fund, DHACA, HIMSS, Health 2.0 NYC, MedStartr, Parks Associates, and HealthIMPACT.

Reach international leaders in health tech by advertising your company or event/conference in TTA–contact Donna for more information on how we help and who we reach. See our advert information here. 


Telehealth & Telecare Aware: covering the news on latest developments in telecare, telehealth, telemedicine and health tech, worldwide–thoughtfully and from the view of fellow professionals

Thanks for asking for update emails. Please tell your colleagues about this news service and, if you have relevant information to share with the rest of the world, please let me know.

Donna Cusano, Editor In Chief
donna.cusano@telecareaware.com

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Breaking: NHSX COVID contact tracing app exits stage left. Enter the Apple and Google dance team.

Breaking News: The NHS finally abandoned the NHSX-designed COVID contact tracing app in favor of the app based on the Apple and Google API.

The NHSX version had issues, seemingly intractable, on the BTE features on distancing and contact duration between devices, as well as the app being inaccurate on the iPhone.

The “Gapple” app is already in use in Italy, Switzerland, Denmark, Latvia, and Poland. As this Editor noted on Tuesday, Austria is in test, Germany just launched their ‘Corona Warning App’ and reported 6.5 million downloads in the first 24 hours. 

The BBC reported that the lead on the NHSX app, Matthew Gould and Geraint Lewis, are “stepping back” and former Apple executive Simon Thompson is joining NHSX to manage it

Depending on reports, the NHS either rejected the Gapple app in April or were working on it in tandem from May. More likely, they revived the latter with the NHSX problems. The Gapple version is decentralized in storing information about user contacts on individual phone handsets because of issues over user privacy, versus the NHSX centralized app.

According to the FT and TechCrunch, the government is de-emphasizing the utility of the app, and relying on its small army of contact tracers. 

But what about all those folks on the Isle of Wight?

More on this: Digitalhealth.net, TechCrunch, Financial Times     Hat tip to Steve Hards for alerting this Editor at the end of a busy day!

News Roundup (updated): Proteus files Ch. 11, VA’s EHR tests now fall–maybe, making US telehealth expansion permanent, Rennova’s rural telehealth bet, Oysta’s Lite, Fitbit’s Ready to Work jumps on the screening bandwagon

Proteus Health, the company which pioneered what was initially derided as a ‘tattletale pill’, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy today (16 June). As early as December, their layoffs of nearly 300 and closure of several sites was a strong clue that, as we put it, Proteus would be no-teous without a big win. Exactly the opposite happened with the unexpected early end of their Otsuka partnership with Abilify [TTA 17 Jan]. Proteus had raised about $500 million in venture capital from Novartis plus technology investors and family offices. Their combination of a pill with an ingestible sensor, a patch that detects ingestion and that sends information to a smartphone app was ingenious, but in a business model was meant for high-cost medications. Proteus’ current partnerships include TennCare (TN Medicaid), plus Xealth and Froedtert to integrate medication information into electronic health records. At one point, Proteus was valued at $1.5 bn by Forbes, making it one of the early healthcare unicorns.  CNBC, FierceHealthcare

VA further delayed in implementing Cerner-Leidos EHR. POLITICO’s Morning eHealth earlier this month reported from congressional sources that further testing would be delayed to the fall at the earliest and possibly 2021. The project to replace VistA stands at $16 bn. Contributing to delay was an April COVID outbreak in Spokane at a veterans’ home, which pushed patients into the VA medical center. 

In further DC news, several senators are advocating that the relaxing of restrictions on telehealth during COVID should largely be made permanent. According to the lead senator, Brian Schatz (D-HI), Medicare beneficiaries using telehealth services increased 11,718% in 45 days. Many telehealth requirements were waived, including geographic, coding of audio-video and telephonic telehealth billing, and HIPAA platform requirements. Other senators are introducing bills to support remote patient monitoring programs in community health centers’ rural health clinics. FierceHealthcare

The climate for telehealth has improved to the point where smaller players with side bets are now betting with bigger chips. Rennova Health, a mid-South healthcare provider with a side in software, is merging its software and genetic testing interpretation divisions, Health Technology Solutions, Inc. (HTS) and Advanced Molecular Services Group, Inc., (AMSG) with TPT Global Tech. The combined company will be called InnovaQor after an existing subsidiary of TPT and plans to create a next-generation telehealth platform targeted to rural health systems. Release, Becker’s Hospital Review

Oysta Technology has launched the Oysta Lite with an SOS button, GPS, safety zone mapping for travel, and two-way voice. The SOS connects to their IntelliCare platform which provides status monitoring, reporting, and device management plus connecting to the telecare service provider. They are specifically targeting post-lockdown monitoring of frail elderly.  Press flyer/release.

Fitbit jumps on the crowded COVID workplace screening bandwagon with Ready to Work, a employer-sponsored program that uses individual data collected via the Fitbit device such as resting heart rate, heart rate variability and breathing rate. Combined with self-reported symptoms, temperature, and potential exposure, the Daily Check-In app then provides guidance on whether the employee should go to work or remain at home. According to the Fitbit release, a higher heart rate–as little as two beats a minute–can be indicative of an immune system response before the onset of symptoms. TTA has earlier reported [19 May] on other COVID workplace screeners such as UHC/Microsoft’s ProtectWell app, Appian, and (in-house) PWC. FierceHealthcare also lists several others on the cart: Castlight Health, Collective Health, Carbon Health, VitalTech, and Zebra Technologies. However, at this stage, few employees are leaving remote work for in office, and fewer still may even return to the office.

Where in the world is the NHS COVID contact tracing app? Apps rolling out globally, but will they roll out before it’s treatable ?

It does seem that the NHS contact tracing app, debuted after various tests on 5 May in the Isle of Wight, has vanished from the radar screen. A scan of recent news indicates that the app is further delayed in favor of a manual track and trace system with 25,000 contact tracers, starting 28-29 May A Telegraph article indicates that the app had the Bluetooth blues, with further detail from Wired UK around emerging worries within NHSX about BTE’s ability to accurately calculate the distance between two users.

Folks in the Isle of Wight, who enthusiastically adopted the app (Week 1’s 52,000 downloads), would like to know how they’re doin’, in the immortal words of a real NYC Mayor, Edward Koch. That data about contacts and alarms seems to not be forthcoming from the NHS–as well as an updated app with more questions about symptoms and test requests and results integrated into the process, according to BBC News today 16 June. Yes, it was an odd choice, but often beta tests take place in relatively small and isolated places, not big cities where factors can’t be controlled. But the app appears not to be moving forward in favor of the manual system. Nevertheless, the sound of crickets is deafening.

Some articles like Wired’s blame the NHS’ centralized approach, where a report of COVID goes straight to the NHS server, with outbound messages going to those with whom the person was in contact, defined by BTE tracing within 6 feet for 15 minutes +. Observers like our own Editor Emeritus Steve Hards noted in comments on the 29 May article that “It will only take a few well-publicised malware or phishing incidents to make the job of the genuine trackers unworkable and for any trust in the app to evaporate.”

A great deal of fuss has been made of other countries adopting contact tracing apps that actually work. Most of these are built on a platform developed by Apple and Google. These have been used in Italy, Switzerland, Latvia, and Poland. Austria is in test, Germany just launched. Japan’s is on a Microsoft platform. Countries that launched earlier have had their wrinkles. Italy is feuding over issues of data privacy. Norway’s Smittestopp app, which used both GPS and BTE to advise those contacted to self-isolate, was stopped by the Norwegian Data Protection Authority on disproportionate intrusion into users’ privacy. A bug in the programming affects Australia’s CovidSafe iPhone users in logging matches when the other iPhone is locked. Singapore, after seeing only one-quarter of the population adopting the app,  is going the wearable dongle route that you hand over if you test positive. BBC News

By the time the apps are developed, debugged, and rolled out, the lockdowns will have ended, and the virus will have abated or mutated for next season. Meanwhile, progress has been made on treatment protocols. HCQ, zinc, azithromycin, vitamins C and A in early-stage treatment are already well known, like Tamiflu for the first few days of the flu. In later treatment, nasal oxygen (not ventilators), high dose vitamin C, heparin (a common blood thinner to prevent lung clotting), methylprednisolone (a steroid) and also HCQ were published by the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Consortium as early as 6 April. Now another BBC News report reveals that the University of Oxford’s RECOVERY Trial is mass-testing several approaches, including an inexpensive steroid, dexamethasone ($1 a dose). Sadly, they estimate that 5,000 lives in the UK could have been saved. Between cheap and common HCQ, heparin, steroids like dexamethasone and methylprednisolone, and high dose vitamins like A, C, and zinc, let’s hope that the spread in Africa and Latin America, especially Brazil, can be quelled.

TTA’s Last Week of Spring: Telehealth’s response to early COVID in three countries, Cigna-Anthem’s billions in breakup settlement delayed, thanks continue on TAP’s virtual wall, and a virtual ATA is bigger than ever

Despite other events, COVID still makes the news. Malcolm Fisk and his team studied how telehealth responded at the start of the pandemic in three countries. The ‘Thank And Praise’ virtual wall continues to accept thanks for healthcare workers. ATA’s now virtual conference may have been boosted by other cancellations. And finally, COVID struck the courts and held up the Cigna-Anthem breakup settlement–only three years in the making!

Another COVID casualty: a final decision on the Cigna-Anthem damages settlement (It’s only 3 years and billions at stake!)
ATA’s annual conference now 22-26 June–and fully virtual; announces three awards and Fellows (Plenty of names from US, UK, EU)
Thank and Praise’ to healthcare workers continues (UK) (A service that deserves notice for its graciousness)
Telehealth and the response to COVID-19 in Australia, UK, and US: the paper (Malcolm Fisk and team’s comparative study)

Gasping under our fabric masks, we are wheezing the Almost Summertime Blues. Is NHS a little blue with its unready contact tracing app and having to do things the Old Fashioned Way? Higi is not at all blue with a $30 million Series B infusion led by–Babylon Health–nor Propeller Health, 34 EU health tech startups, and Amazon. Google’s attorneys will roast in an Arizona summer. And finally, BMJ discovers that masks might make your breathing a lot more difficult–and concentrate whatever virus you’re exhaling.

Babylon Health leads a $30 million Series B for Higi health kiosks (An interesting series–of mutual interests in the US of A)
News roundup: LabCorp CRO boosts Medable, Propeller Health gains 510(k), EU’s 34 medtech startups, Amazon’s healthcare moves, Google’s Arizona privacy lawsuit
NHS’ COVID contact tracing service started today–but where’s the app? Australia?
(Looks like the old fashioned un-digital way)
Why ‘masking up’ isn’t such a great idea–more than a false sense of security (And 6 other reasons why)

Sloooowly emerging from our homes into the sunshine, and maybe back into our offices soon, we have a first-person participant view of TechForce19. Back in the office, there will be a whole lot of app tracking and separation going on, if we return. In other news, Optum continues its buying spree, Amwell raises a few dollars, and DHACA has a #WebinarWednesday coming up in June. 

Reflections of a TechForce19 Participant (What it’s like to be in the center of a tornado!)
Optum buys naviHealth for reported $1 billion; Amwell raises $194 million in Series C (More $ in analytics, telehealth)
DHACA home testing webinar 20th May 10am–next one 3 June (DHACA’s #WebinarWednesday)
Post-COVID back to work: for workplace screening, testing, contact tracing, there’s an app for that (You’ll be in a very different looking office with plenty of new rules–if you return there)

Even in Lockdown Lands, it is still Spring. Springing back is Curve Health, repurposing Call9’s telehealth and system. Theranos’ prosecutors had a spring in their step with 12 new charges. And maybe springing the UK free to recover is on the government’s mind with reopening guidance on the post-pandemic workplace.

Founder of Call9 springing back with Curve Health for nursing home telemedicine (Timely with corona’s unfortunate spotlight on SNFs)
The Theranos Story, ch. 63: 12 new wire fraud, conspiracy, forfeiture charges for Holmes, Balwani (The Feds Strike Back)
Important UK government guidance on safer workplaces during and after the COVID-19 pandemic (Kudos to the government–it’s time to revive the economy)

Babylon Health debuts in the US, contact tracing nears rollout in the UK, as an ‘immunity passport’ is contemplated, COVID and telehealth in three countries compared, and a lighter look at technology’s generation gap ‘all in the family’. And..this weekend, we commemorated V-E Day at 75!

Mount Sinai Health Partners (NY) launches Babylon Health telehealth app (Babylon’s app debut to millions competes against established virtual visits)
Is a COVID-19 ‘immunity passport’ next for the UK to get back to work? (Needs reliable antibody testing, as well as a much flatter curve)
Contact tracing in the UK: the biggest digital health test yet? (It’s not the insecurity of data that may hold it back)
Telehealth and the response to COVID-19 in Australia, UK, and US: video (The Malcolm Fisk interview on another view of the ‘genie out of the bottle’)
Has the ‘river of knowledge’ reversed its natural course? A lighter look at technology’s other effects. (Falling into the generation gap)
Contact tracing app ready for Isle of Wight trial this week: Hancock. But is it ready for rollout? (updated) (Needs 80% uptake to work)

Now that the COVID-19 threat may be receding, what’s the future? The view from our telescope or our genie bottle, both good and not so good. We have good news from The TeleDentists, AliveCor, and AbleTo that are upvotes for pioneers. And clinical trials are a fresh pivot for digital health.

10 years in 2 months: prognosticating the longer-term effect of COVID-19 on telehealth, practices, and hospitals (Is the genie out of the bottle? What do you see?)
Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield adds virtual dental care with The TeleDentists in 9 states (Another vote for remote dentistry)
AliveCor, OMRON announce cardiac monitoring strategic alliance, equity investment (Good news for a pioneer in cardiac monitoring)
The Future of Clinical Trials in the Post-Pandemic Era: HITLAB Seminar Series 6 May (Ongoing series, how CROs may be part of the future for digital health)
Optum rumored on the digital health acquisition hunt again with AbleTo virtual behavioral health (AbleTo a pioneer with traction; a trend further discussed in the lead article)

Alerts on Saturday? Thanks for the feedback–and we’ll try these for awhile.

A full spectrum of news this week. NHSX has made 18 companies very happy in the TechForce19 challenge. We find out more about Tunstall’s ownership change/refinancing. DHACA’s second webinar is coming up on Wednesday 29 April. In the middle, NHSX’s COVID-19 contact tracing app raises privacy questions. And sad news for the industry in the loss of Doug Miles of UKTelehealthcare.

NHSX announces TechForce19 challenge awards, COVID-19 contact tracing app in test for mid-May launch (UK) (Good and not so good news, if you care about privacy)
CEO to CEO: TSA’s Alyson Scurfield interview with Tunstall CEO Gordon Sutherland (updated) (More hot gen on Tunstall’s ownership and financing)
RIP Doug Miles, founder of UKTelehealthcare (A sad loss of a telecare influencer)
Doing more for less in primary care – DHACA’s Wednesday webinars on 22 and 29 April (2nd one coming up on Wed!)

Have a job to fill? Seeking a position? Free listings available to match our Readers with the right opportunities. Email Editor Donna.


Read Telehealth and Telecare Aware: http://telecareaware.com/  @telecareaware

Follow our pages on LinkedIn and on Facebook

We thank our present and past advertisers and supporters: Legrand/Tynetec, Eldercare, UK Telehealthcare, NYeC, PCHAlliance, ATA, The King’s Fund, DHACA, HIMSS, Health 2.0 NYC, MedStartr, Parks Associates, and HealthIMPACT.

Reach international leaders in health tech by advertising your company or event/conference in TTA–contact Donna for more information on how we help and who we reach. See our advert information here. 


Telehealth & Telecare Aware: covering the news on latest developments in telecare, telehealth, telemedicine and health tech, worldwide–thoughtfully and from the view of fellow professionals

Thanks for asking for update emails. Please tell your colleagues about this news service and, if you have relevant information to share with the rest of the world, please let me know.

Donna Cusano, Editor In Chief
donna.cusano@telecareaware.com

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Another COVID casualty: a final decision on the Cigna-Anthem damages settlement

Remember Cigna and Anthem, a Merger Made In Hell? This Editor loves to follow up a good public slugfest which has been going on in Delaware Chancery Court since May of 2017. As our Readers may recall, the Doomed To Fail merger, finally pounded into the ground by the Federal courts, soon degenerated into what a former VP of your Editor’s would call a ‘Who Shot John’ scenario. Anthem would not pay Cigna the breakup fee of $1.85 bn. Cigna then demanded an additional $13 bn in a ‘Funny Valentine’ of damages, accusing Anthem of harming Cigna’s business. Anthem then in turn claimed $20 bn in damages. Three years later, other than a blip of news in March 2019, the imminent decision was to be at the end of February or even March this year (Axios, Reuters). We all know what happened in March–a pandemic that shut the courts. The timing could not be worse, as COVID has bitten hard into payer profits, and a settlement could bite even harder, putting either company into the red–going back years.

Whatever company wins may, after legal fees, may have enough money to buy one of these–before the concours restoration.

 

ATA’s annual conference now 22-26 June–and fully virtual; announces three awards and Fellows

The American Telemedicine Association has reimagined their annual conference and gone fully virtual–including an exhibit hall and poster displays. This year’s theme is “Moving at the Speed of Innovation…. Accelerating Telehealth Adoption”–if it hasn’t accelerated enough during the COVID pandemic, there’s always consolidating the gains.

Perhaps due to the complete cancellation of HIMSS and the addition of Joe Kvedar, MD, incoming ATA President, this year’s ATA has a five-day menu of healthcare leaders and over 300 speakers in 100+ sessions. Here’s a sample from the keynotes:

  • Ken Abrams, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Deloitte Consulting
  • Rachel Dunscombe, CEO, NHS Digital Academy; Tektology
  • Jesse Ehrenfeld, MD, Chair, AMA Board of Trustees
  • Thomas Goetz, Chief of Research, GoodRx
  • Jennifer Goldsack, Executive Director, Digital Medicine Society
  • Victoria Guyatt, Head of Ethnography, IPSOS
  • Joe Kvedar, MD, Professor, Harvard Medical School; Senior Advisor, Mass General Brigham (Partners HealthCare); Incoming President, the ATA
  • Ali Parsa, Founder and CEO, Babylon Health
  • Suchi Saria, Assoc. Professor, Machine Learning & Data Intensive Computing Group, Johns Hopkins University and Bayesian Health
  • Jennifer Schneider, MD, President, Livongo
  • Michelle Segar, Director, Univ. of Michigan Sport, Health and Activity Research & Policy Center
  • Jeroen Tas, Chief Innovation & Strategy Officer, Philips Healthcare

Registration is priced gently at $450. Full information, schedule, and registration here.

ATA 2020 Awards

The ATA Champion award this year is to the Veterans Health Administration, US Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA has been a leader in telehealth and store-forward technologies since, well, 2002 or so. VA Video Connect last year had 1.3 million appointments. (Sadly, your Editor’s former company, Viterion, which pioneered with VA in a RPM platform, is not currently a telehealth/RPM vendor–VA’s sole vendor is Medtronic.)

The President’s Award for the Transformation of Healthcare Delivery went to The Children’s Health Virtual Care Program at Children’s Health in Dallas. They have pioneered telemedicine programs for children.

The ATA’s Woman of the Year is  Tania S. Malik, J.D., an entrepreneur and a lawyer focused on healthcare, and specifically, telehealth solutions that facilitate online patient-provider interactions for primary care, mental health treatment, and naturopathic and integrated medicine.

Six Fellows were also named to ATA’s College of Fellows. Release.

 

‘Thank and Praise’ to healthcare workers continues (UK)

One of the few bright spots in the low spot of early April was learning of Thank and Praise [TTA 10 Apr]. James McLoughlin of the organization reached this Editor with an update on their social thanking of the ‘unsung heroes’ in healthcare in the continuance of the COVID-19 pandemic. They have a new television commercial out (viewable on YouTube) that highlights the ability of anyone to use their platform to thank a healthcare worker. According to Mr. McLoughlin, “So far we have received 1,000 inspiring messages of thanks which have been viewed over 500,000 on our website and social media channels.” Another feature is that those who leave messages on the Thanking Wall for healthcare workers are also invited to donate to NHS Charities Together. TAP is now also inviting companies to adopt their platform or to participate as sponsors. Find out more here. Also catch them on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn

Telehealth and the response to COVID-19 in Australia, UK, and US: the paper

Published last week in the Journal of Internet Research (JMIR) is the study by Malcolm Fisk, PhD which TTA previewed last month on telehealth’s part in the two-week response, starting 12 March, in response to COVID-19 in Australia, UK, and the US. Malcolm Fisk, PhD, who our readers know as Senior Researcher at the De Montfort University in Leicester, led a group from Australia in comparing these three countries in including telehealth in their responses to the pandemic. It looks at how telehealth models were used, awareness of the role of telehealth in response, and how restrictions previously in place were dealt with. 

The study’s conclusions, briefly summarized:

  • Australia: immediately funded on 11 March with AUS $100 million (US $68 million) a “new Medicare service,” at no cost for patients, for telehealth consultations. Telehealth in Australia is well developed, particularly in rural areas, for health and social care needs. The added funding will aid in the rollout.
  • UK: at the same time, the UK was in a ‘containment’ phase with the PM’s admission that “many more families will lose loved ones before their time”. At that point, telehealth was not in the plans, but the Imperial College projections and recommendations on home quarantining and ‘social distancing’ severely affected the most vulnerable, older people. COVID wound up being quite a jolt to the NHS since telehealth is underdeveloped in most of the UK with the exception being Scotland. Clinicians to this point did not see a need, and many older people do not have access to smartphones, tablets, or the internet. Intents are good–NHSX and the Topol Report setting a framework for telehealth–but to this point telehealth rollout is limited.
  • US: 17 March could be called ‘Telehealth on Steroids’ Day, as CMS announced the ‘dramatic’ expansion of telehealth services via non HIPAA compliant platforms such as Skype and Facetime for Medicare, retroactive to 6 March. Telehealth mushroomed starting 11 March in hospitals first, reporting 15 and 20-fold increases in telehealth consults. Then CDC and the AARP got on board. The US has an uneven system, between differences in state parity reimbursement, Medicare concentrating on rural health, state Medicaid, private pay, and integrated hospital systems’ approaches. What holds telehealth back are providers and areas in the US that simply do not have the internet connectivity that telehealth consults demand.

Good reading. Telehealth in the Context of COVID-19: Changing Perspectives in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States Hat tip to Dr. Fisk for sending it our way!