A weekend potpourri of health tech news: mergers, cyber-ransom, Obama as VC?

As we approach what we in these less-than-United States think of as the quarter-mile of the summer (our Independence Day holiday), and while vacations and picnics are top of mind, there’s a lot of news from all over which this Editor will touch on, gently (well, maybe not so gently). Grab that hot dog and soda, and read on….

Split decision probable for US insurer mergers. The Aetna-Humana and Anthem-Cigna mergers will reduce the Big 5 to the Big 3, leading to much controversy on both the Federal and state levels. While state department of insurance opposition cannot scupper the deals, smaller states such as Missouri and the recent split decision from California on Aetna-Humana (the insurance commissioner said no, the managed care department said OK) plus the no on the smaller Anthem-Cigna merger are influential. There’s an already reluctant Department of Justice anti-trust division and a US Senate antitrust subcommittee heavily influenced by a liberal think tank’s (Center for American Progress) report back in March. Divestment may not solve all their problems. Doctors don’t like it. Anthem-Cigna have also had public disagreements concerning their merged future management and governance, but the betting line indicates they will be the sacrificial lamb anyway. Healthcare Dive today,  Healthcare Dive, CT Mirror, WSJ (may be paywalled) Editor’s prediction: an even tougher reimbursement road for most of RPM and other health tech as four companies will be in Musical Chairs-ville for years.

‘thedarkoverlord’ allegedly holding 9.3 million insurance records for cyber-ransom. 750 bitcoins, or about $485,000 is the reputed price in the DeepDotWeb report. Allegedly the names, DOBs and SSNs were lifted from a major insurance company in plain text. This appears to be in addition to 655,000 patient records from healthcare organizations in Georgia and the Midwest for sale for 151 – 607 bitcoins or $100,000 – $395,000. The hacker promises ‘we’re just getting started’ and recommends that these organizations ‘take the offer’. Leave the gun, take the cannoli.  HealthcareITNews  It makes the 4,300 record breach at Massachusetts General via the typical unauthorized access at a third party, once something noteworthy, look like small potatoes in comparison. HealthcareITNews  Further reading on hardening systems by focusing on removing admin rights, whitelisting and endpoint security. HealthcareDataManagement

Should VistA stay or go? It looks like this granddaddy of all EHRs used by the US Veterans Health Administration will be sunsetted around 2018, but even their undersecretary for health and their CIO seem to be ambivalent in last week’s Congressional hearings. According to POLITICO’s Morning eHealth newsletter, “The agency will be sticking with its homegrown software through 2018, at which point the VA will start creating a cloud-based platform that may include VistA elements at its core, an agency spokesman explained.” Supposedly even VA insiders are puzzled as to what that means, and some key Senators are losing patience. VistA covers 365 data centers, 130 separate VistA systems, and 834 custom installations, and is also the core of many foreign government systems and the private Medsphere OpenVista. 6/23 and 6/24

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Overrun-by-Robots1-183×108.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Dr Eric Topol grooves on ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’ of robotics and AI. (more…)

VerbalCare debuts a new symbol-driven app for patient health communication

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/verbalcare.png” thumb_width=”200″ /]Many patients in both home and hospital/post-acute settings have difficulty communicating their needs for a variety of reasons: post-stroke, cognitive impairment, facial surgery, aphasia, age (very young, very old) and of course there are language and cultural obstacles. VerbalCare‘s relaunched patient and caregiver apps may find a way around it. The patient clicks on icons in the VerbalCare Patient tablet app, which if touched in succession can form a sentence, then sends the message either to family members or the care team via the paired Messenger app for smartphone or tablet. The app can also send custom texts, phrases, or reuse a favorite selection; it will record patient appointments with patient consent. It has been tested over the past four years at Massachusetts General and Franciscan Hospital for Children. The Boston-based early stage company was acquired in August 2015 by an area durable medical equipment company company, Medical Specialties Distributors (MSD) and operates as a subsidiary (Mobihealthnews). The current pricing is for the VerbalCare Patient app $9.99 per patient per month, BYOD, but founder/CEO Nick Dougherty expects that healthcare organizations will pick this up. MedCityNews  What would be interesting is if a telehealth company licenses this for integration, in part or wholly, with its remote patient monitoring–Ed. Donna