TytoCare remote diagnostics comparable to in-person exam results: study

click to enlargeA study of the Tyto Care remote diagnostic device, conducted by Schneider Children’s Medical Center and the Sackler School of Medicine, found that the quality of readings by Tyto Care was ‘on par’ with in-person medical exams using conventional otoscopes and stethoscopes. Ears, heart, lungs and throats of 137 children aged 2-18 seeking care from the emergency department of a tertiary care facility were examined first conventionally and then again by a second remote physician using exam data captured by the TytoCare all-in-one device and attachments. Using standard statistical methods, the results were compared and the study reported “good to excellent agreement for all exams conducted using TytoCare and conventional exam tools, with a p-value <.001.” The study also recorded a separate five-point measure of patient experience and results averaged 4.4 and 4.5 out of 5 (excellent). No adverse events were recorded.

What is lacking in the release are the diagnoses of the young patients, but presumably those results will be presented with the final study. Formal presentations will be at the Israel Society for Clinical Pediatrics (HIPAK) meeting on 8 February in Tel Aviv and at the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) conference 23-25 April in Orlando, Florida. This positive report on efficacy will also aid their rollout with American Well, announced at the end of 2016 [TTA 2 Dec]. Harry Wang at Parks Associates in their blog also named TytoCare one of the two standouts of CES 2017–and the other, Partron (Croise) is not yet on the market.

The growth of telehealth, and the confusion of terminology (US)

Becker’s Health IT and CIO Review has written up a US-centric review of recent advances in telehealth and telemedicine but kicks it off with the confusion level between the two terms. Internationally, and in these pages, they are separate terms; telehealth referring primarily to vital signs remote monitoring, and telemedicine the ‘virtual visit’ between doctor and patient, between two clinical sites, or ‘store and forward’ asynchronous exchange (e.g. teleradiology). Somehow, in US usage, they have been conflated or made interchangeable, with the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) admitting to same, and American Well simply ‘just doing it’ in relabeling what they provide. On top of it, the two are incorporating elements of each into the other. Examples: TytoCare vital signs measurement/recording into American Well’s video visit; Care Innovations Health Harmony also providing video capability.

Of particular interest to our international readers would be the high rate of US growth in telemedicine utilization from 7 to 22 percent (Rock Health survey). Teladoc, the largest and publicly traded provider, passed the milestone of 100,000 monthly visits in November and the ATA estimates 1.25 million from all providers for 2016 (Teladoc release). Other US competitors include the aforementioned American Well, MDLive, and Doctor on Demand, the latter two also selling direct to consumer. They also compete against doctor-on-house call services like Pager and Heal. Reimbursement remains an issue both privately and publicly (Medicare and Medicaid) on a state-by-state level, with telehealth experiencing significant difficulties, as well as internet access, speed, and usage by older adults.

The difficulty in differentiating telemedicine and telehealth

Our Editors have always tried to cleanly define the differences between telemedicine, telehealth and telecare, even as they blur in industry use. (See our Definitions sidebar for the latter two.) But telemedicine, at least on this side of the Atlantic, has lost linguistic ground to telehealth, which has become the umbrella term that eHealth wanted to be only two or three years ago. Similarly, digital health, connected health and mHealth have lost ground to health tech, since most devices now connect and incorporate mobility. And there are sub-genres, such as wearables, fitness trackers and aging tech.

Poor telehealth grows ever fuzzier emanations and penumbra! Now bearing the burden of virtual visits between doctor and patient, doctor-to-doctor professional consults, video conferencing (synchronous and asynchronous), remote patient monitoring of vital signs and qualitative information (ditto), and distance health monitoring to treat patients, it also begins to embrace its data: outcome-based analytics, population health and care modeling. Eric Wicklund accumulates a pile of studies from initial-heavy organizations: WHO, HIMSS, HHS, Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP), ATA, TRC Network. All of which shows, perhaps contrary to Mr Wicklund’s intentions, how confusing simple concepts have become. mHealth Intelligence

Payer reimbursement for telehealth, telemedicine gains in Delaware, Connecticut (US)

Two states–Connecticut and Delaware–are now requiring private commercial insurers to cover telemedicine and telehealth services at parity with in-person visits. Connecticut was first, signed into law on 22 June but not starting till 1 January 2016. It covers not only video consults but distance care delivered both synchronously and asynchronously, such as store and forward transfers, and covers remote patient monitoring. It specifically omits audio-only consults, email, texting and fax (!). The Connecticut law also requires parity of payment with in-person visits to prevent lower reimbursements. Delaware’s law was signed 7 July to take effect immediately, and based on the summary is similar in breadth to Connecticut’s. Delaware is now the 29th state to enact telehealth/telemedicine reimbursement legislation. Articles written by members of the Foley & Lardner law firm. JD Supra, Lexology

On the Federal front, Representative Mike Thompson (D-CA) and three other members of the House of Representatives introduced H.R. 2948, the Medicare Telehealth Parity Act of 2015. It would remove the current geographic restrictions for telehealth (in the Federal definition including telemedicine), expand services, expand telehealth/RPM for additional chronic conditions and expand home care service into hospice and dialysis. It is a rework of last session’s H.R. 5380 and is at very early days having gone to a Congressional committee. Unfortunately its passage has a snowball-in-July chance with Govtrack.us giving it zero chance of enactment. Rep. Thompson’s website, FierceHealthIT, ATA-Jonathan Linkous support statement.

Previously in TTA: Telehealth reimbursement makes legislative progress in Texas, US House

Home telehealth now focused on the ‘superusers’ of healthcare

A noticeable trend in telehealth has to do with focusing less on the generic virtues of at-home vital signs monitoring for routine patient care and more on managing specific high-cost populations to avoid or reduce costs. Some of the impetus in the US has come from new regulations by CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) intended to move Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) patients into a reimbursed chronic care management (CCM) model. Banner Health is Arizona’s largest private employer (which does say something about Arizona as a retirement haven) and since 2006 has been experimenting with remote monitoring since 2006. Starting in 2013 Banner piloted Philips‘ post-discharge program now called ‘Hospital to Home’ as Banner iCare, combined with Philips Lifeline PERS, but made it available to those only with a stunning five+ chronic conditions–the top 5 percent that is reputed to account for 50 percent of healthcare spend. Banner combined the tech with intense support by a multi-layered care team. At ATA they announced the following results with the initial cohort of 135 patients, now up to 500:

  • 27% reduction in cost of care
  • 32% reduction in acute and long term care costs
  • 45% reduction in hospitalizations

The article in Forbes is a bit breathless in profiling the program and the ‘superusers’ of healthcare (with a windy but false analogy from John Sculley) but provides a level of detail in the program that most articles do not. One wonders how Philips makes money on supplying what is at least $2,500 worth of kit, with peripherals that must all be Bluetooth LE. It’s also not stated, but the TeleICU and TeleAcute programs also appear to be Philips’. Video

ATA trend #1: Is a sustainable RPM infrastructure fact or fiction?

Guest columnist Dr Vikrum (Sunny) Malhotra attended ATA 2015 last week. This is the first of three articles on his observations on trends and companies to watch.

The advancement of remote patient monitoring is a visible trend from the American Telemedicine Association’s 2015 meeting, with care moving from the doctor’s office and being shifted to the patient’s home. A more diverse range of data is being collected for patients to facilitate more informed decision making at the patient visit and after the patient is away from the practice. As information is being collected and monitored on a more comprehensive basis, we have seen creative modalities to view a broad array of data points that would typically have been collected in a doctor’s office with the hopes of early diagnosis and preventive care, versus reactive care.

Patient autonomy has now come to the forefront and network infrastructure is being built to support that shift. Wearables, implantables and home based lab/ urine diagnostic kits are becoming smaller, cheaper, less invasive, wireless and cloud-based so that patients can be monitored without interfering in day to day living. (more…)

ATA announces award winners, Strategic Summit companies

ATA announced the six winners of their Annual Awards recognizing innovators in telemedicine and telehealth for significant contributions, along with six new members of the ATA College of Fellows. One of the more intriguing winners (Innovation in Remote Care) is the US/UK company Sentrian which has built intelligent predictive data models (‘Remote Patient Intelligence’) that can monitor disease and co-morbidity in thousands of patients with the goal of preventing hospitalization and readmissions. Release. ATA has also selected 30 emerging companies to participate in the Telemedicine Investor and Strategic Summit  (more…)

A mélange of short subjects for Tuesday

ATA accredits American Well, Apple ResearchKit, diabetic contact lenses, Hackermania Falls on Indiana, patent trolls get a haircut, and more

The ATA (American Telemedicine Association) has gained more than 200 applications for their US-only Accreditation Program for Online Patient Consultations [TTA 17 Dec 14]. First past the post in accreditation is American Well’s Amwell virtual visit app, which will shortly be listed on the ATA consumer website SafeOnlineHealth.orgRelease, MedCityNews….Stanford University, one of the five academic centers using the Apple ResearchKit, had a mind-boggling 11,000 signups for a heart health study–in 24 hours. The downside is that they may not be representative of the whole population [TTA 10 Mar, see 11 Mar update] including us Android users. 9to5Mac….The Google-Novartis glucose-measuring contact lens [TTA 17 July 14] for diabetes management just gained some Canadian competition–Medella Health in Kitchener, Ontario, founded by a team of (more…)

American Telemedicine Association (ATA) 2015

2-5 May 2015, Los Angeles Convention Center, 1201 S Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, California 

ATA’s annual meeting for 2015 connects like-minded telemedicine, telehealth, mHealth professionals and entrepreneurs from around the globe. With over 6,000 attendees, 13 educational tracks and the largest telemedicine trade show in the world, the ATA meeting is a premier forum to learn and network, featuring:

For more information and to register, see our special link here. Telehealth & Telecare Aware is pleased to be again an official media partner of this year’s ATA. 

Telemedicine’s boffo year? Some confirmation. (US)

Big bets were made on telemedicine (video doctor-patient consults) in 2014. This Editor closed her 18 December article with ‘telemedicine providers received a $200 million+ vote of confidence from tough-minded investors. We’ll see if 2015 results fulfill these whale-at-Monte-Carlo wagers.’ Here may be the start of a tipping point. New York State’s new law requiring insurer reimbursement for telehealth services went into effect 1 January, making NY the 22nd state to require payers to pay up for virtual visits. Permitted providers are physicians, dentists (!), physician assistants, psychologists and social workers. This provider list is considerably broader than Medicare’s new rules applying telehealth for patients with two or more chronic conditions, which is tied to physicians’ offices and contracted third parties. Also cheering the industry are that Indiana, Iowa and Tennessee are holding hearings on potential legislation, with Missouri at the legislative bill stage. (more…)

Looking back over Telehealth & Telecare Aware’s predictions for 2014, part II

click to enlargeEditor Charles has treated you to a look back on his 2014 predictions, daring Editor Donna to look back on hers. Were they ‘Decidedly so’, ‘Yes’, ‘Reply hazy, try again’ or ‘My sources say no’? Read on…

On New Year’s Day 2014, it looked like “the year of reckoning for the ‘better mousetraps’”? But the reckoning wasn’t quite as dramatic as this Editor thought.

We are whipping past the 2012-13 Peak of Inflated Expectations in health tech, diving into the Trough of Disillusionment in 2014.

There surely were companies which turned up ‘Insolvent with a great idea’ in Joe Hage’s (LinkedIn’s huge Medical Devices Group) terms, but it was more a year of Big Ideas Going Sideways than Crash and Burns.

Some formerly Great Ideas may have a future, just not the one originally envisioned. (more…)

2015: a few predictions (UK-biased)

As intimated in our review of last year’s predictions, we feel little need to change course significantly, however some are now done & dusted, whereas others have a way to go. The latter include a concern about doctors, especially those in hospitals, continuing to use high-risk uncertified apps where the chance of injury or death of a patient is high if there is an error in them. Uncertified dosage calculators are considered particularly concerning.

Of necessity this is an area where clinicians are unwilling to be quoted, and meetings impose Chatham House rules. Suffice to say therefore that the point has now been well taken, and the MHRA are well aware of general concerns. Our first prediction therefore is that:

One or more Royal College/College will advise or instruct its members only to use CE-certified or otherwise risk-assessed medical apps.

The challenge here of course is that a restriction to CE-certified apps-only would be a disaster as many, if not most, apps used by clinicians do not meet the definition of a Medical Device and so could not justifiably be CE-certified. And apps are now a major source of efficiencies in hospitals – (more…)

Tunstall’s challenging year: results reported

click to enlargeBreaking News. The topline of Tunstall Healthcare Group’s 2014 results (through 30 Sept 14) is now (partly) public thanks to the Yorkshire Post, Tunstall’s ‘hometown paper’. (We do note that it was published on 23 Dec, in the ‘dead of night’ rolling up to the Christmas holiday.) Notably, there is no report on the Tunstall website and it is too early to show on standard corporate reporting sites such as DueDil and CompanyCheck. The YP article appears to be written partly in press release-speak, which we do not fault them for on limited news available. In summary:

  • In the 2014 FY ended 30 September, revenues were £215 million. FY2013 was £221 million, a decrease of £6 million (2.7 percent).
  • A corresponding but greater EBITDA (earnings before interest taxation depreciation and amortization) drop to £43.0 million. FY 2013 was £52.7 million, a decrease of £9.7 million (18.4 percent).
  • The good news: revenues up 6.8 percent in the Nordics, Southern Europe, Central Europe, and Australasia; Spain’s Televida as a market leader also a bright spot [TTA 19 Dec].
  • No such good news in UK and the US  (more…)

Qualcomm (Second) Life: a conversation with Jim Mault

One of the surprises for this Editor, and for others attending the mHealth Summit, was to see the sizable presence of Qualcomm Life on both the exposition floor and during the sessions. From a near-nil presence at ATA 2014 and gone dark on news, the floodlights snapped on last week with new partners and a new emphasis: coordination of chronic and transitional (hospital to home) care management (CCM/TCM).

On the show floor, the spotlight was on the partner companies which mixed the established with (mostly) the early and mid-stage. Readers will recognize names such as AliveCor, Telcare, OMRON, Nonin and Airstrip; not so well known are Vaica, Orion Health, Monitored Therapeutics, IMPak Health, Vital Connect, Care Connectors, toSense (CoVa), Dexcom, InteliChart, TruClinic, ForaCare, VOXX, vitaphone (outside of Europe), Propeller Health and Noom Health (a NYeC Digital Health Accelerator 2014 graduate). The partners occupy different parts of the management continuum, integrating communications, record sharing, population health management, sensor-based monitoring, traditional and non-traditional vital signs monitoring, medication management, behavioral change methodologies and PHRs. The 2net Hub is still present for data transmission, sharing and storage, but more prominent is Qualcomm Life’s HealthyCircles platform which provides the clinical management ‘glue’: secure communications, record sharing and care team coordination. HealthyCircles was purchased in mid-2013. Founder James Mault, MD, FACS joined Qualcomm Life as VP/Chief Medical Officer.

We had some post-mHealth Summit reflection time by telephone this Wednesday while Dr Mault was in Boston. (more…)

Telehealth kiosk HealthSpot gains trials with Rite Aid, Mayo Clinic

click to enlarge HealthSpot Station, which was one of the higher points of this past May’s ATA, in the past month has announced two significant pilots. The retail pilot is with Rite Aid, the US’ third largest drug store chain (4,600 stores), with telehealth/telemedicine kiosks located in select Rite Aid locations in Ohio–Akron/Canton, Cleveland and Dayton/Springfield areas. The usage of the kiosks will be limited to common health conditions, such as cold, earaches, sore throat, sinus infections, upper respiratory infections, rashes, skin and eye conditions. HealthSpot Station kiosks are enclosed, free-standing units which use both video consults and real-time interaction with telehealth devices for remote diagnosis. They connect to a network of board-certified medical professionals at Cleveland Clinic and other major health systems across Ohio. Start date and duration were not disclosed.

This follows the October announcement with Mayo Clinic of an in-house pilot in Austin and Albert Lea, Minnesota with approximately 2,000 Mayo Clinic Health System employees (more…)

Wearables and mHealth: a few observations

The Telegraph reports on the creation of Amazon UK’s wearables store, following on from their US launch that we covered on April 30th. Unlike in the original US launch, locating the store is not that challenging, however it is very much a jumble of products: if you know what you want then you probably don’t need a store to find it; if you don’t, there’s precious little to guide you to find the right product.

One of the wearables they’ll doubtless think carefully before stocking is (more…)