CTE found in 99% of former, deceased NFL players’ brains: JAMA study (updated)

click to enlargeUpdated for additional information and analysis at conclusion. In the largest-ever case study published of CTE–chronic traumatic encephalopathyVA Boston Healthcare System (VABHS) and the Boston University School of Medicine’s CTE Center found mild to severe CTE pathology in nearly all of the brains of former football players studied. Jesse Mez, MD, BU Medical assistant professor of neurology and lead author on the JAMA study, said that “The data suggest that there is very likely a relationship between exposure to football and risk of developing [CTE].” The CTE is marked by defective tau (stained red in the brain sample pictures, click to expand), which is also evident in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Of the 202 brains donated to the VA-BU-CLF (Concussion Legacy Foundation) Brain Bank:

  • The most dramatic finding is the detection of CTE in 110 of 111 donated former NFL players’ brains (defined as having played one play in a regular NFL season game).
  • In addition, the brains of other football players were studied. CTE was detected in seven of eight Canadian Football League former players (88 percent), nine of 14 semi-professional players (64 percent), 48 of 53 college players (91 percent), and three of 14 high school players (21 percent).
  • The severity increased with length of play, with the majority of former college, semi-professional and professional players having severe pathology. The deceased high school players diagnosed with CTE had mild pathology findings. Age at death ranged from 23 to 89.
  • Player position mattered. Linemen, running backs, defensive backs, and linebackers, who take most of the punishment in football, were the bulk of the donated brains with CTE.

Separately, and with no knowledge of the pathology, backgrounds on each donor were compiled to gather medical history and symptoms. What was striking were the personality changes evident with even mild CTE. Dr. Mez: “We found cognitive, mood and behavioral symptoms were very common, even among players with mild CTE tau pathology. This suggests that tau pathology is only the tip of the iceberg and that other pathologies, such as neuroinflammation and axonal damage, contribute to the clinical symptoms.” 

Preliminary to the current study was UNITE (more…)

Shouldn’t we be concentrating on digital therapeutics rather than ‘health apps’?

Where the money and attention are going. The first generation of Quantified Self apps was all about viewing your data and storing it online in a vault or graphs…somewhere, usually proprietary. Your Pebble, Fitbit, or Jawbone tracked, you crunched the numbers and found the meaning. At the same time, there are wellness companies like Welltok, ShapeUp, Keas, Virgin HealthMiles, and RedBrick Health, usually working with companies or insurers, that use various methods (money, gamification, other rewards) to influence lifestyle and improve a person’s health in a quantified, verifiable, but general way. What’s happened? There are now apps that combine both data and behavior change, focusing on a specific but important (again) condition, coach to change behavior and verify results rigorously through clinical trials. Some, like Omada Health, prove through those clinical trials that their program successfully changes pre-diabetic indicators, such as weight loss, decrease cholesterol and improved glucose control–without medication. This results in big savings for insurance companies, one reason why a $50 million Series C was led by Cigna. Another model is to work with pharmaceutical companies to better guide treatment. Propeller Health with its asthma/COPD inhaler tracker is partnering with pharma GlaxoSmithKline on a digital platform to better manage lung patient usage, and surely this will go through a clinical trial. We will be seeing more of this type of convergence in medical apps. (The rebooted Jawbone Health Hub is moving in this exact direction.) The Forbes article, while short, is written by someone who knows the business of apps– the co-founder of the AppNext distribution/monetization platform. He does achieve his aim in making us think differently about the potential of ‘health apps’. 

The King’s Fund 2017 Digital Health Congress: videos, presentations now posted

click to enlargeThe King’s Fund’s annual two-day Digital Health and Care Congress now has videos and presentation decks posted on the event page.  If you missed it, or want to see the sessions you could not attend, here’s your opportunity to review and share with staff. All the plenaries and keynotes have both video and presentations. Selected workshops/breakouts have video along with PowerPoints on nearly all, including posters. Attendance this year was between 400 and 500. On Twitter: #kfdigital17, @TheKingsFund TTA was pleased to be a marketing supporter of the 2017 conference as we have for several years. Many thanks to events coordinator Claire Taylor.

For planning ahead, The King’s Fund Annual Conference will be two days this year, 29-30 November. Early bird registration is available until 1 September and sponsorships/exhibit opportunities are open.

Fitbit’s smartwatch on track; Intel exits the game

click to enlargeFitbit’s ‘Project Higgs’ in-house designed smartwatch is, by all reports, on schedule to hit the market later this year in time for the holidays, at least in Wall Street’s expectations. To the FT (may be paywalled) CEO James Park reassured, “The product is on track to meet our expectations and the expectations that we’ve set for investors. It’s going to be, in my opinion, our best product yet.” It will be waterproof, a battery that lasts several days, have mobile payment capability (from the Coin acquisition), simple health tracking,  heart rate monitor, sleep tracking, stream music (Spotify and Pandora are rumored), and its own app store. It will be either Wi-Fi or smartphone connected. TechRadar’s agglomeration of rumors include pricing ($199 to $299 –about £231), swappable bands, a full-color screen with 1,000 nits of brightness, an aluminum body and built-in GPS. The most interesting part is the proprietary operating system which uses Javascript. Also Pocket-Lint articles 18 July and 19 July

Intel, however, is giving up the smartwatch and fitness tracking chase. In 2014 they acquired Basis in a well-publicized move and enlisted hip celebrities like 50 Cent to endorse their products versus the likes of Apple and Fitbit. In November about 80 percent of the group was let go, according to CNBC, and entirely eliminated this month. The New Technologies Group is now focusing on augmented reality. CNBC

Can Google Glass’ enterprise iteration solve the patient documentation crisis?

click to enlarge“Glass is a hands-free device, for hands-on workers.” What a marketing position! Google Glass finally arrives at where it should have started–not a techie toy or a social snooper banned from bars, but a tool for specific work needs that solve specific but important problems. This is not only ‘on trend’, but also the ‘professional case’ is steak on the grill as a powerful way to lend legitimacy to a new product (the classic is Tang ‘orange drink’ going into space in the early ’60s). The recent announcement of Glass Enterprise Edition (EE) marking its emergence from stealth mode was a refreshingly low-key (for Google and parent Alphabet) surprise. Even the revamped look is sturdy and utilitarian in full glass mode (left) or in clip-on (and also serves as eye protection). 

Their on-trend position for healthcare is to reduce the amount of time that doctors spend charting and documenting patients. Augmedix, a Glass partner, built the documentation automation platform for Sutter Health and for Dignity Health that captures the information from the interaction between patient and doctor via a ‘remote scribe’. Jay Kothari, the Glass project lead, quotes data from Dignity that it reduces clinician daily documentation time from 33 percent to less than 10 percent,  The Sutter Health estimate is two hours per day. Out of the gate this is extremely valuable because it improves the clinician-patient face-to-face (and presumably virtual) visit in eye contact, reduces the break in taking notes, and reduces time pressure generated by post-visit review. Netherlands-based swyMed concentrates on facilitating virtual visits, and is testing a home visit pilot with Loyola University Health System practitioners in Maywood, Illinois. Others, like John Nosta, have been continuing to use Glass in business. Our Readers may want to check out these partners as that is how Google is making the Glass available, not directly. SF/Boston-based partner Brain Power wasn’t mentioned in Mr. Kothari’s blog, but their AI/VR applications for brain conditions such as autism and TBI, as well as other uses such as clinical trials and care for older adults. mHealthIntelligence interviewed Augmedix’s CEO Ian Shakil, who notes that Glass still needs improvements in battery life for the hard work of documenting patient visits.

Update: An interesting comment on this via Twitter. The paper is from 2015 but the regulatory and privacy questions around recording patients and information remain. Augmedix does state on its website that it is HIPAA compliant.

 
click to enlarge

Toyota’s $14 million bet on Intuition Robotics’ social companion robot (JP/IL/US)

Social companion robots for older adults and the disabled are hot again. Tel Aviv and now San Francisco-based Intuition Robotics is enjoying a $14 million second Series A investment from Toyota Research Institute (TRI) for the ElliQ ‘active aging companion’. The ElliQ desktop robot is tethered to a proprietary tablet to connect an older adult with the outside world via video chat, using machine learning about the person to recommend activities, and assist with appointments, medication reminders, music, wellness, and environmental monitoring. ElliQ is still in pre-release. The $14 million is being put to immediate use in initial testing with users in the Bay Area, and Intuition is ramping up with a team there. 

TRI is based in Los Altos CA and is wholly owned by Toyota North America. Earlier seed and Series A investments totaling $8 million were made by iRobot, Terra Venture Partners, Bloomberg Beta and ManivMobility. This is the second older adult-targeted robotics news in as many weeks, with the more fully-featured and ‘humanoid’ KOMPAÏ in France going the crowdfunding route (as Intuition did early on) for €250,000 to fund the next generation [TTA 5 July]. After viewing the video below, it seems to this Editor that a lot of the interactive voice command technology has been overtaken by assistants already in market like Siri, Amazon Alexa, and Google Home. TechCrunch, Home Health Care News

 

TSA appoints new chair

Paul Shead has succeeded Andrew Gardner as Chair of TSA. He has worked closely with the TSA and its membership since the organisation’s inception, and has been on the TSA’s board of directors since May 2012. He will chair the board for the next 12 months, working to develop strategy, monitor performance and extend the organisation’s sphere of influence. Paul’s experience of the telecare industry spans more than 20 yearsCurrently he is Managing Director of Verklizan, supplier of the UMO telecare and telehealth monitoring platform to housing associations, local authorities and private companies in the UK.

Commenting on his appointment, Paul said: ‘Social care and health are facing unprecedented pressures. The need effectively to commission, procure and quality-assure technology enabled care (“TEC”) has never been greater. The shift of analogue to digital also presents huge opportunities and risks. The fast-changing pace of TEC means that a new audience of digital health companies is springing up alongside more traditional telecare organisations. I’m keen to ensure that TSA can support and inspire every part of the UK’s diverse technology enabled care sector. I look forward to working alongside the TSA Board, Chief Executive, President and staff to ensure that we respond effectively to challenges, make the case for TEC and work to shape future policy. We must provide our growing and diverse membership with the knowledge, intelligence and ideas to sell their products and take the sector forward.’ (more…)

Tender Alerts: Warwickshire, Thurrock, and Hertfordshire

Susanne Woodman of BRE, our Eye on Tenders, alerts our Readers to two open and one probable new tenders:

  • Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council (NBBC) in Warwickshire is seeking a 24/7 ‘reactive repair service’ for Tunstall telecare equipment presently in 35 independent living accommodations. The contract is for an initial period of two years, with two optional one-year extensions. Closing is 4 August. Details here.
  • Thurrock Council in Essex is seeking “to appoint a Consultant who will work as Project Manager with Adult Social Care and Health staff to develop an Assistive Technology Strategy and support implementation of the strategy.” The contract is valued at £25-50,000. Interest must be registered by 28 July at the Council’s Delta eSourcing page. On the Council page there is additional information in a summary of the Council’s of the Careline service and a resolution to expand/upgrade assistive technology for local users. 

Not registered as a tender yet is a plan by Hertfordshire County Council to bring wearables such as activity trackers and software-enabled clothing into the homes of at-risk local adults, plus online systems for video-link calls, scheduling messages and reminders for people to take their medication and connect with families. This article in the Watford Observer tells some of the story but the page on the Hertfordshire blog is oddly missing–however, captured by the sharp-eyed Ms. Woodman here. They advise monitoring the Herts County Council on social media–right now they are burning up Twitter @hertscc on the alphabet countdown to potholes and fire safety tips from Reqs the Fire Dog!

Creepy data mining on medical conditions runs wild: where’s the privacy?

Ever heard of AcurianHealth? If you are in the US, you may get a letter for one of their research studies or drug trials based upon your prescriptions, your shopping habits, or your internet browsing. Where do they get that data? Quite legitimately, based on consent, Walgreens Boots will mail invitations for studies organized by Acurian to their pharmacy customers, where the user identification is withheld from Acurian. The privacy policy by which Walgreens does business with you permits this type of contact with you. These letters direct users to a generic sounding website for the study–and then life gets interesting. A visit to the site, whether from a letter, a search, or an online ad, may capture your information. There’s a bit of code from a company they work with, NaviStone, that captures information from partial or unsent information requests or signups. NaviStone then matches it up with what you think is anonymous behavior with other databases, and voilá, mail is sent to you via their ‘proprietary technology.’ Acurian uses databases from large data broker/aggregators like Epsilon and cranks away. It’s creepy behavior that stretches the definition of privacy and consent. Not reassuring is that Acurian has a database of over 100 million people who are supposedly opt-ins. How a Company You’ve Never Heard of Sends You Letters about Your Medical Condition (Gizmodo) Hat tip to Toni Bunting

UDG Healthcare buys American, adds Vynamic, Cambridge BioMarketing for up to $67 million

Consultancy acquisitions the latest trend–who’s next? Dublin’s UDG Healthcare acquired Philadelphia-based healthcare consultancy Vynamic last week, then topped it on Monday with marketing/communications company Cambridge BioMarketing. Cambridge has an unusual specialty–campaigns for orphan and specialty drugs and treatments with clients from small to large pharma and biotech. Vynamic, an industry management consultancy, provides services from strategic planning to process design and systems implementation.

This follows on the reveal earlier this month in Bloomberg of the potential sale of The Advisory Board’s healthcare practice to UnitedHealthcare. Last week, this Editor mentioned Evolent Health in Rock Health’s record-breaking review of first half 2017 funding. It turns out that publicly traded Evolent is partly owned by The Advisory Board, with a share valued at $170 million, and reportedly had been seeking funding to itself purchase The Advisory Board, now considered unlikely (BizJournals). What will happen to this share isn’t known.

The Vynamic acquisition is structured as an initial purchase price of $22 million with an additional consideration of up to $10 million payable over the next three years, based on the usual achievement of agreed profit targets, for a total of $32 million (€27.8 million). Irish Times Vynamic will join UDG’s Ashfield Division. Release For Cambridge, it’s a similar arrangement of $30 million (€26m) paid up front, with the potential for an additional $5 million (€4.3m) paid over the next 12 months, again dependent on achieving financial targets. RTE.ieRelease

PharmaTech Innovations/Health 2.0 NYC Wed 19 July –speakers confirmed, reserve now!

Wednesday, 19 July, 6-8:30 pm at Cohn Resnick LLP, 1301 6th Avenue, NYC

Health 2.0 NYC‘s July event examines innovation in the pharmaceutical business. It’s changing radically, from companies like PillPack which disrupt traditional pharmacies to apps that monitor clinical trials or prescribed as adjuvant therapies. Presenters on Wednesday night include:

  • Dan Conely – Managing Director, NJ Angels, active investor in drug discovery automation
  • Grace Cordovano, PhD – Enlightening Results – CEO and private cancer patient advocate. She founded Enlightening Results, LLC in 2010 to foster private, personalized patient advocacy services.
  • Jodie Gillon – Achillion Pharmaceuticals, Senior Director, Patient Advocacy and Professional Affairs

Early stage companies presenting: ClearRx. Other speakers/presenters to come. 

For $25, you get engaging speakers, beverages, food, and plenty of networking time amongst the like-minded and leaders in health tech! More information and registration on the Health 2.0 NYC Meetup page. (Disclaimer: Editor Donna is an event host and TTA is a long-time sponsor and supporter of Health 2.0 NYC) 

“Crazy”: StartUp Health’s 2nd Q digital health funding breaks record

As predicted, a torrid start to the year. StartUp Health‘s 2nd quarter and first half funding estimate shattered records–$6.5 billion first half, $3.8 billion 2nd quarter compared to $8 bn and 500+ deals in full year 2016. StartUp Health takes a wider sample than Rock Health, tracking over 300 international company deals, including those below $2 million, in service and biotech/diagnostic companies. A change from last year is that there are more Series A than seed deals, concentrating on workflow, big data/analytics, wellness, medical device, and personalized health-Quantified Self companies. Series B deals are well-populated, but there is still a long bridge to C and above. San Francisco and the Bay Area continue to substantially lead in deals made, with Chicago at 39 percent and New York at 25 percent of deal value. They also trumpet the success of their funding family. Watch the video below or download the free report here.

‘Record-shattering’ Q2 for digital health deals: Rock Health’s volte-face

In a pirouette worthy of Nureyev in his prime, Rock Health’s latest Digital Health Funding review for Q2 and the first half of 2017 bangs the drum loudly. With $3.5 bn invested in 188 digital health companies, it’s a record in their tracking. (∗See below for their parameters, which focus on larger fundings and omit others by type.) Q2 reversed the muddling results of Q1 [TTA 11 April] and then some. If the torrid pace is maintained and the market doesn’t take a pratfall, this year will easily surpass 2016’s full year venture funding at $4.3 bn and 304 investments.

Looking at trends, the average deal size has ballooned to $18.7 million from the 2015-16 range of $14 million. Seven $100 million+ deals led the way: Outcome Health, Peloton, Modernizing Medicine, PatientPoint, Alignment Healthcare, PatientsLikeMe, and ShareCare. Of these, three are consumer health information (Outcome, PatientPoint, ShareCare), with PatientsLikeMe closely related with a patient community focus; as the lead category of investment overall, there’s now gold in consumer health. All seven businesses are located outside of Silicon Valley, a refreshing change. A surprise is Modernizing Medicine in the settled (we thought) EHR-clinical workflow category. There’s also an interesting analysis of the shift in top categories from last year to this, which takes out the $100 million+ deals (click to enlarge): click to enlarge

Other changes from the usual: no IPOs and a slowing pace of M&A: 58 this year versus first half 2016’s 87 and full year 146. Their public company index is brighter, with positive gains in first half led by Teladoc (up 110 percent YTD), Care.com (up 80 percent), and consulting favorite Evolent Health (up 70 percent–with United Healthcare’s acquisition of The Advisory Board’s healthcare practice, can an acquisition be far away?). Remaining in the doldrums are NantHealth, Fitbit, and Castlight Health. Rock Health Digital Funding Review First Half 2017

Soon up will be StartUp Health’s first half analysis, which takes a different cut at the companies and looks at the balance of deals by funding series.

∗ Rock Health tracks deals over $2 million in value from venture capital, excluding government and grant funding. They omit non-US deals, even if heavily US funded; healthcare services companies (Oscar), biotech/diagnostic companies (GRAIL), and software companies not solely focused on healthcare (Zenefits), but include fitness companies like Peloton. 

Jawbone finally T-bones, founder starts Jawbone Health Hub (updated)

click to enlargeConfirming the decline of the fitness tracker/wearables business, Jawbone is finally over and done. Their liquidation this week was initially reported by The Information (subscription only) and that co-founder/CEO Hosain Rahman has started a new company, Jawbone Health Hub. JHH will work on medical software and hardware, as well as eventually servicing the buggy existing Jawbone products† which were sold off to a third party last September. JHH is also reportedly hiring many former Jawbone staff and on job boards such as Glassdoor. 

Jawbone’s demise comes after a troubled 18 months, starting with a $165 million private equity raise in January 2016 led by the Kuwait Investment Authority, rumors of financial problems, repositioning into clinical medical monitoring, and abandoning what was left of consumer market support. There is also the continuing saga of court actions with Fitbit over trade secrets, employee poachings, and IP–all additional reasons for the founder to walk away. The only value left in Jawbone is that IP which includes BodyMedia patents and anything left that wasn’t voided by a court. Fitbit shares are also sinking, currently trading at a near 52-week low of just above $5.

‘Death by overfunding’? Updated During its lifetime from wireless audio speaker innovator Aliphcom to wearables leader with the Jawbone UP, Jawbone raised $938 million (Crunchbase), and at one point was valued at $3 billion. An interesting take from a Reuters article was that one consensus among Silicon Valley tech funders was that the company would have been far easier to acquire had it raised less money. Jawbone ranks only behind solar tech Solyndra among largest failures among venture-backed companies. (The difference, of course, was that Jawbone didn’t take $500 million of public stimulus money, as Solyndra did before it failed.)

The words ‘Chapter 7’ have not been included in reports but Sherwood Partners, a busy Mountain View CA financial restructuring company that has wound down plenty of startups through unicorns, was reported to be in charge of the liquidation process plus any remaining legal actions with Fitbit. None of the usual sources have been able to obtain statements from Mr. Rahman and ‘the information’ remains limited. The Verge, TechCrunch, Business Insider 

†Editor Charles’ struggles with seven personal Jawbone UPs were often typical of the user experience.

Connected Health Summit 2017 — Engaging Consumers (San Diego)

29-31 August, The Omni Hotel, San Diego

click to enlargeTake a trip to Southern California for the end of the traditional summer season (sob!). This year’s Connected Health Summit, organized by research organization Parks Associates, spotlights health technologies as part of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the transformational impact of these connected solutions on the US healthcare system. Presentations are organized around:

  • Remote health monitoring for accountable care
  • Consumer-centric wellness and fitness solutions
  • Independent living technologies and services
  • Innovative virtual/convenience care models

Keynoters include 

  • Saquib Rahim MD, MBA, Chief Medical Officer, Aetna
  • Vidya Raman-Tangella, Senior Vice President, and Head, UHC Innovation Center of Excellence, UnitedHealth Group
  • Dale Rayman, Senior Vice President, Actuarial Consulting & Business Development, Sharecare
  • Chanin Wendling, AVP, Informatics, Geisinger Health System

For more information and to save 20 percent, click on the Connected Health Summit’s advert at the top of this page. Telehealth & Telecare Aware is pleased once again to be a media supporter of CHS 2017. Twitter at #CONNHealth17