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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Babylon Health leads a $30 million Series B for Higi health kiosks, continuing US push

Here’s an interesting investment by Babylon Health. Earlier this week, diagnostic/symptom checking app Babylon Health was reported to lead a $30 million Series B investment in Higi. Higi has about 10,000 health monitoring kiosks (Smart Health Stations) placed in various US retail locations like supermarkets (Stop & Shop, Shop Rite), pharmacies (Walgreens), workplace and community locations. A user can check their blood pressure, pulse, weight, and BMI for free, along with uploading data from one of 80 connected devices and apps. What then happens is that Higi stores that data on their platform for the user, who can log in and access it from the Higi app on their computer or smartphone.

Higi claims 62 million people have used a Higi device for a total of 372 million tests. This Editor has seen them in some local stores, usually in a corner, sitting forlornly or with an out-of-service sign. (Sanitization, of course, is a real concern.) 

So what is Babylon’s interest in Higi? The US health data, of course, which Babylon can put into their database and improve their modeling. Babylon also is gaining a foothold in the US with high-profile partners such as Mount Sinai in NYC and with health plans in Missouri, New York, and California. For Higi, the tie with Babylon increases their clinical data information base and adds access to a symptom checking app. 

In the Series B, Babylon Health was joined by Higi’s Series A investors, 7Wire Ventures, Flare Capital Partners, Jumpstart Capital, Rush University System for Health, and William Wrigley Jr. Confusingly, on Crunchbase, these investors are listed as a Series C,  not a Series A. They list a B funding round with lead partner Blue Cross Blue Shield Venture Partners, without a funding amount, with the previous round as venture, so possibly the Series B failed. Higi’s funding to date is over $61 million not including the new round. TechCrunch, Higi blog

The ‘health kiosk’ idea is alive and kicking from New York to France

[grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”200″ /][Photo: NYP] The $40 million+ failure of HealthSpot Station last year [TTA 14 June 16] might have signaled the demise of the health kiosk (telemedicine + multiple vital measurement devices) concept. Basic stations with consumer engagement/mobile tie-ins such as Higi have been gaining traction at retail locations [TTA 30 Mar] such as RiteAid (which bought the assets and IP of HealthSpot) and Publix supermarkets. CVS MinuteClinics in northeast Ohio and Florida have allied over the past two years with Cleveland Clinic and American Well to integrate records and telemedicine. But the kiosk model is gaining a second life with these recent iterations.

  • NewYork-Presbyterian, Walgreens (Duane Reade) and American Well: Kiosks located in private rooms at select Duane Reade drugstores (left above) connect to NYP OnDemand using American Well telemedicine and Weill Cornell Medicine emergency medicine physicians. In addition to the live consult, the patient can send select vital signs information to the doctor using a forehead thermometer, a blood pressure cuff, a pulse oximeter, and a dermascope for a high-resolution view of skin conditions. Pediatric emergency physicians are available through NYP OnDemand weekdays between 6 – 9pm. Prescriptions are e-prescribed to the patient’s preferred pharmacy. The first kiosk opened this week at 40 Wall Street with additional locations to open in 2018. NYP OnDemand telemedicine consults are also available to NY area residents through the Walgreens website. American Well release, Healthcare IT News, MedCityNews
  • H4D (Health for Development): French doctor Franck Baudino wanted to reach those who live in what the French term ‘health deserts’ in their rural areas. Over the past nine years, he developed a booth-type kiosk connecting to a live doctor and with vitals instrumentation. The Consult Station is fully equipped with a wide range of vitals instrumentation, including vision, audio, eye, and blood glucose, functioning almost as a remote doctor’s office. In France, to gain access, all users need do is pop in their carte vitale. Reportedly the kiosks can treat 90 percent of common illnesses. Prescriptions are printed out in the booth. Consult Stations are now in France, Italy, Portugal, Philippines, Canada, Belgium, UAE and were recently cleared by FDA as a Class II device. ZDNet