TTA’s Almost Summertime Blues: $30M to Higi from Babylon, NHS contact traces old school, Propeller’s 510(k) OK, and 7 reasons why to spare that mask most of the time

 

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!)

We’ve either flattened or flattered the curve with this week’s news. Flattening the curve is Vayyar’s sensor biomonitoring in Israel, Legrand’s care home support, the FCC, and dental telehealth including The TeleDentists. But flattering that curve is Medopad’s pivoting to Huma and more.

Medopad rebrands, pivots as Huma, acquires BioBeats and TLT, names Alan Milburn as chairman (UK) (Moving from diseases to wellbeing with a splash)
Beyond telehealth: sensor-based vital signs monitoring for early coronavirus symptoms being tested in Israel (Advanced sensor tech)
Legrand launches care home support fund, adds to hospital staff and caregiver support initiatives (Wide-ranging support for multiple worthy efforts at this viral time)
FCC opens application window for $200 million telehealth cost reimbursement program (Financial help for providers, but a lot of hoops to jump)
Cigna launches dental telehealth with Dental Virtual Care–including The TeleDentists (Payer support for dental telehealth, finally)

It was easy to forget that it was Easter and Passover Week as the days blur when you’re sheltering and working at home. But some reasons for cheer are present. There’s an injection of telehealth optimism from Dr. Topol, money for Tunstall and Tyto Care, and Care Innovations’ going to CRO Land. Even Ms. Holmes enjoyed good news, with the Theranos trial charges shrinking like the Wicked Witch of the West. And giving thanks to our healthcare workers–better than banging pots as in the US–is Thank And Praise’s Healthcare Thanking Wall.

A ‘digital wall’ gives thanks and praise to UK healthcare workers (An appropriate message for this week)
After the COVID Deluge: a Topol-esque view of what (tele)medicine will look like (The good doctor administers a dose of future cheer during these Bad News Weeks)
Tunstall Healthcare secures funding from Barings, M&G (A lifeline?)
Care Innovations sold to PRA Health Sciences; launches COVID-19 patient monitoring program (News we missed)
Tyto Care telehealth diagnostics raises $50 million in venture round (Big vote for remote monitoring)
The Theranos Story, ch. 62: Holmes’ attorneys request breaking ‘shelter in place’ orders for trial prep–and a coronavirus testing patent twist (Prosecution charges also deteriorating bit by bit?)

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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

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Donna Cusano, Editor In Chief
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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

It does seem ages since our last one! One major winning category for digital health is clinical trials. LabCorp has one of the largest CROs (contract research organization), Covance. LabCorp has partnered with startup Medable, a Palo Alto-based company that decentralizes the gathering and analysis of clinical trial data from recruited participants through apps and telemedicine. Mobihealthnews  Confirming this trend: earlier this month, Medable cleared a $25 million venture round from GSR Ventures. Crunchbase  This does make rival CRO PRA Health Science’s pickup of Care Innovations from Intel late last year, for an undisclosed amount, look like a prescient (and likely a bargain) purchase.

Propeller Health, which specializes in digital respiratory health with sensors connected to inhalers and apps, gained 510(k) FDA clearance for a sensor/app for use with AstraZeneca’s Symbicort inhaler. This medication is used for asthma and COPD. It does not seem that long ago (2014) that the startup was at trade shows like NYeC and mHealth Summit with an exceedingly modest display of popups and brochures. Their 2019 acquisition by ResMed for the stunningly premium price of $225 million made news in late 2018. Mobihealthnews

In Europe, COVID-19 has boosted at least 34 medtech startups, including 11 in UK alone, followed by Switzerland and Sweden. This is based on a study by Oxford University data visualization spin-out Zegami. One of them happens to be Zegami on a project in using a limited dataset to distinguish between x-rays of COVID-19 infections and infections caused by viral or bacterial pneumonia, as well as images of healthy lungs. On the list are (naturally) Babylon Health and the slightly mysterious Medopad. Sweden’s Kry (LIVI in the UK) is also on the list. Kry/LIVI last made some news when Juliet Bauer of NHS Digital ankled to Kry in early 2019, Med-techInnovationNews, Mobihealthnews

Amazon’s latest stretches into healthcare are noted in a brief Becker’s Health IT article which notes AWS’ deals with Cerner and addition of healthcare-specific features with hospitals using AWS. Mayo Clinic has partnered with Alexa for voice responsive ‘Mayo Answers’. Some Amazon employees now have access to telehealth benefits (this Editor wonders why not all, beyond those Seattle warehouse workers). Industry research company CB Insights is projecting that Amazon’s next move will be a benefits marketplace for employers and payers. Meanwhile, their partnership with JP Morgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway, Haven, has stumbled with its CEO Atul Gawande, MD, leaving the post to return to practice after less than two years. Executive turnover has been high, and the company has yet to announce a major initiative. FierceHealthcare 

Meanwhile, Arizona’s attorney general has sued Google for violating state privacy laws. Seems like Android users are trackable, even if they turn off location on their phones, through Google apps like Maps and Weather. The lawsuit also charges that Google changed its default tracking settings without informing users, using data for targeted ads. Becker’s Health IT 

Some more views on (and by) Atul Gawande on the JP Morgan-Berkshire-Amazon health combine

Often the best indicator of the success of a person in a new venture is to examine their own words. An interview with Dr. Gawande in STAT a few days after the Big Reveal of his new position as CEO of the JPM-BH-Amazon healthcare nonprofit indicates that he has an excellent grasp of the task before him. His main points:

  • Before accepting the position, he established that the healthcare company would be an independent entity and not part of the three companies
  • It is also non-profit and not expected to return money to those companies
  • He will be devoting 100 percent to the new job and have it be the number one priority, but he will be with patients and his surgery through at least the summer
  • “My job for them is to figure out ways that we’re going to drive better outcomes, better satisfaction with care, and better cost efficiency with new models that can be incubated for all. That is a tall fricking order. But what they’re saying to me is that resources won’t be the problem. Human behavior will be. And achieving scale will be.”

His speech at AHIP (America’s Health Insurance Plans) annual meeting a day after the announcement pointed out that unnecessary tests and treatments account for about 30 percent of healthcare spending, that our system fails the chronically ill in their needs to be asked about what they want to achieve through treatment, and for doctors to deliver the right and considerate treatment especially in end-of-life care. “Precision medicine has to be matched by precision delivery.”  Healthcare Finance

For the 1 million employees of the three companies, there may not be a lot of chronic illness or end-of-life consideration (people tend to fall out of the workforce under those circumstances). What kind of model will apply to them and save on the 25 percent of estimated healthcare spending which is wasted? The article in Forbes by another ‘big thinker’, Robert Pearl MD, sees a 5-10 year time frame for Dr. Gawande’s task: “…to fundamentally change how healthcare is structured, paid for and provided. He was hired to disrupt the industry, to make traditional health plans obsolete, and to create a bold new future for American healthcare.”

But in the meantime, how will those bank tellers, packers, IT workers, ice cream slingers, and railway workers fare with their health? What will they benefit from in two to three years time? And will the long-term backing and the promises to Dr. Gawande remain after Mr. Dimon, Mr. Buffett, and Mr. Munger (of BH, and possibly why Dr. Gawande is on board) are gone?