News roundup: CES’ early beat, CVS-Aetna pauses, digital health fizzes, Yorkshire & Humber Propels

The start of January can be a slow–or busy–time. There are, of course, the avalanche of announcements made at JPM and just starting CES, which has become a part-healthcare show with hundreds of health-related exhibitors. At this point, this Editor confesses that there is not much that has caught her attention or that she–and Readers–haven’t heard about before, but the bulk of the coverage will come out next week. A lot of what is on the floor are still gadgets–and they come and mostly go. In better news, there was a Hospital at Home panel kicking off the 10th year of the Digital Health Summit on till Friday which illustrates their maturing into issues such as AI, workplace wellness, and aging. All this may be moving forward and coming a lot closer to reality than say, in 2017. But Jake, it’s CES–this year, if it folds, rolls, is retro, has a healthcare spin, and 5G, it’s on trend at CES.

CVS-Aetna grinds to halt. The partial government shutdown has affected the DOJ’s filings with DC Federal Court Judge Richard Leon on the consent decree from October. Judge Leon is reviewing the decree under the Tunney Act requirement that the merger meet the public interest. It turns out that the DOJ cannot supply documents as the Antitrust Division was furloughed–non-essential . This means little for the actual merger as it has already happened, but it slows down a fair amount of functional integration. Prediction: DOJ will not move forward with this until at least one month after the shutdown ends–our bet is April, with the cherry blossoms. Seeking Alpha

Fizzy, not bubbly. That’s Rock Health’s verdict on This Year In Digital Health Funding. No Bubble Here! While Rock only takes a piece of the picture (US only deals, over $2 million), it came in at $8.1 billion–a full $2.3 bn or 42 percent–over 2017, as projected in Q3 [TTA 11 Oct]. The deals continue to be bigger and fewer–368 versus 359 for 2017, which is barely a rounding error. More on this next week.

Propel@YH debuts. Returning to the UK, Yorkshire and Humber’s Academic Health Science Network’s (AHSN) first digital health accelerator program will be providing guidance and support services for pioneering developers with innovative digital and patient solutions. Eligible organizations will have either an existing presence in the region or are willing to establish one. Six organizations will be chosen to take part in a six-month program focused on human-related design, clinical safety by design and understanding NHS procurement. Announcement and AHSN website.

A basket of reflections, considerations on CVS-Aetna: Epic, Cerner, the model, and hospitals’ role

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/canary-in-the-coal-mine.jpgw595.jpeg” thumb_width=”150″ /]With the holidays and the end of the year coming in a little over two short weeks, there’s plenty of room for thoughts, reasoned speculation, and some unusual takes on the CVS-Aetna merger. This Editor remains in her belief that among us, there’s a bit of exhaustion and an attitude of ‘wait and see’ around the topic among us. The canaries have a case of the vapors….

Let’s sort through some of the more interesting POVs expressed of late by our fellow pressies, which Readers can consider in between cups of good cheer and bites of All That Food. Bear in mind that this merger has a long road to go on a hard road, with potholes marked DOJ and (in this Editor’s opinion) HHS, before it’s a done deal in 2018.

  • A big win for Epic. Currently the EHR for CVS’ MinuteClinics and most recently the care management programs of CVS Specialty, Epic is bullish on the opportunities in what their VP of population health termed the ‘gray space’ in the patient experience outside of the traditional sites of care. In October, CVS added Epic’s Healthy Planet population health analytics platform to learn more about drug dispensing patterns and medication adherence–this Editor believes in preparation for merger talks. The open question this Editor has after all the glow in this article is how Aetna’s varied systems (e.g. ActiveHealth, Medicity, and others) would integrate into Epic, and the price of poker, because with Epic it’s never free. Ask any hospital. Healthcare IT News.
    • Certainly, their main competitor Cerner is feeling the heat after a slowdown in its VA plans, the single largest EHR implementation ever. Congress has held up initial funding making the contract effective (Washington Technology). It is geometrically more complicated than their simultaneous DoD implementation, with $10 billion estimated over 10 years (FCW). Other wrenches in the works: a fresh CliniComp lawsuit against Cerner based on infringement against their 2003 patent on remote hosting, and their appeal of the no-bid award to Cerner [TTA 23 Aug] against VA. Kansas City Business Journal, Healthcare IT News
  • Is it going to increase cost? It might. And what about info sharing with providers? A Harvard Medical School professor opined to Marketplace that instead of self-treatment at home for a cold, the patient might actually traipse to a MinuteClinic for care, thus driving up healthcare costs. This resembles the RAND logic around telemedicine consult expense we deflated in a series of articles back in the spring. Information sharing with regular providers is a bigger issue which urgent cares, telemedicine, and clinics already are dealing with. The paradox is that integration with a payer, with a retailer’s ability to track ancillary purchases such as OTC meds and DME purchases, might actually help that issue. But will it? Will a combined CVS-Aetna share information or hoard it, further disempowering patients? This Stat article calls on Mark Bertolini to promote shared information, engagement, and accountability to balance the scales.
  • Do we really need hospitals? If they don’t change, we might need a lot less of them except for highly specialized treatment. And this is likely a good thing. The HBR points out that CVS-Aetna is hardly the only threat to the traditional hospital–there’s Johns Hopkins’ Hospital at Home program for older adults, UnitedHealthcare’s growing network of providers under OptumCare, including the recent deal for DaVita dialysis centers, and free-standing, low-cost “neighborhood” hospitals, almost like pop-up stores. The article doesn’t mention ‘consult stations’ like Europe’s H4D, which is proving that the kiosk idea isn’t dead. 

The reality is that we won’t know what this merger entails until it actually happens, if it happens–and its final shape will take years to mold. Related: CVS-Aetna: the canary says that DOJ likely to review mergerAnalysis of the CVS-Aetna merger: a new era, a canary in a mine–or both?CVS’ bid for Aetna–will it happen, and kick off a trend? (what will Amazon and other retailers, including supermarkets, do?)