The bubble bath got soapier with more IPOs and big raises on tap.
GoodRx, the relentlessly advertised prescription discount scheme with spokespeople Martin Sheen and son Charlie, has filed initial paperwork with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for a potential initial public offering (IPO). This has been in the rumor mill for a while. Timing would be about 4th Quarter or early in 2021, according to Reuters.
It may at least a partial exit for Sand Road PE giant Silver Lake Partners, which took a one-third interest in GoodRx in August 2018, creating an estimated value at $2.8bn. CNBC Both their growth since then and key hires have indicated preparation for going public. According to MedCityNews, their revenue is up by 55 percent since 2018 and they now employ 350 people. As mentioned above, they advertise heavily on TV with celebrity endorsers. In June, two IPO-experienced executives joined the company (release): new president Bansi Nagji, McKesson’s former chief strategy officer who was on Change Healthcare’s board during its IPO; and CFO Karsten Voermann from acquisition company Mercer Advisors and who led Mercury Payment Systems through its 2014 IPO.
Ginger, formally known as Ginger.io, raised $50 million in Series D funding. Lead investors are Advance Venture Partners and Bessemer Venture Partners, with participation from Cigna Ventures, Kaiser Permanente Ventures, and LinkedIn Executive Chairman Jeff Weiner. Ginger provides on-demand mental health coaching as part of employee benefits within the US. Their release claims 200 companies, health plans Optum Behavioral Health, Anthem California, and Aetna Resources for Living, and tripled revenue in the past year. According to Crunchbase, this is their ninth funding round with a raise total of $120 million. Mobihealthnews
The next event run by the Royal Society of Medicine’s Digital Health Council, on 23rd September, focuses on digital mental health for people over 18. There are two main sides in the high level discussion around this topic. There is an increasingly active (and commercially burgeoning) group of companies and individuals who believe that there are a digital tools that can help to screen, manage and in some cases treat people with mental health issues (or who suspect they may have one). Some of these are simply ways of digitally enabling remote conversations between mental health care providers and those that require advice or care. Some are AI driven tools that to some degree replace the human element of care and support. The event will discuss whether this not only addresses workforce issues but also delivers clinical efficacy.
On the other hand, many believe that the use of digital technologies can adversely affect the mental health of people who use them, often to excess. Do the potential benefits outweigh these negative factors, or is a digital detox something that your GP may soon be prescribing?
Come along and get involved! Booking is here – tickets start at £20 (RSM student rate) for the day including a delightful lunch.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been using artificial intelligence and patient data as part of a suicide prevention program for veterans–a top clinical priority for VA. The REACH Vet program, started in 2017, uses predictive algorithms to identify risk factors for suicide in millions of veteran patient records for medications, treatment, traumatic events, overall health, and other information. It then uses the information to determine the top 0.1 percent of veterans at any facility at the highest risk for suicide in the next year. Clinicians then call these veterans for about an hour’s conversation, offering to help them create a mental health care plan.
In its first year (2007-8), the program reached more than 30,000 veterans and identified about 6,700 active VA users a month. According to the short article on findings published by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center in 2018, “veterans who engaged with REACH Vet were less likely to be admitted to an inpatient mental health unit, and more likely to attend mental health and primary care appointments compared to those not in the program. REACH Vet infrastructure includes a coordinator at every VA facility and a national team of clinicians who provide overall program support.”
There are pros and cons to this proactive approach–the pros being a reduction in veteran suicides and evidence of higher suicide risk in the three-to-six months of starting–and ending–an opioid prescription; and the cons being that some of the algorithms may be inaccurate–a veteran could be inaccurately ‘dinged’ for risk or a traumatic involuntary hospitalization. VA is still refining its algorithms in areas such as changes in medication dosage (including opioids) and clinical notes for mention of negative personal issues. POLITICO Health Care
The Department of Veterans Affairs ‘Anywhere to Anywhere’ program, which would enable VA doctors to treat VA patients across state lines via telehealth and telemedicine, yesterday (2 October) published in the Federal Register the required Federal proposed rule. There is a mandated 30-day comment period (to 1 Nov). In the Federal government, these rules move faster than any legislation. From the rule: “VA has developed a telehealth program as a modern, beneficiary- and family-centered health care delivery model that leverages information and telecommunication technologies to connect beneficiaries with health care providers, irrespective of the State or location within a State where the health care provider or the beneficiary is physically located at the time the health care is provided.” PDF of rule.
VA Home Telehealth has both doctor-to-patient telemedicine and vital signs remote monitoring components. While VA is fully able to waive state licensing requirements if both the physician and the patient are in a VA clinic, because of state telemedicine laws they have not been able to provide the same care for veterans at home. VA also has a care distribution problem, with many veterans living in rural areas, at great distances from VA facilities, or with limited mobility. What this will enable is VA hiring in metro areas primary care and specialist doctors to cover veterans in rural or underserved areas and the expansion of mental health care. It also will facilitate the rollout of the VA Video Connect app for smartphones and video-equipped computers now in use by over 300 VA providers [TTA 9 Aug].
The VETS Act (Veterans E-Health and Telemedicine Support Act of 2017, S. 925) would permanently legislate this, but in the US system this type of Federal rule, in this circumstance, moves faster. Fierce Healthcare, Healthcare Finance, mHealth Intelligence
If you are located in the NYC metro area, two Health 2.0 NYC/MedStartr meetings are coming up very soon!
Endless Summer Social–Friday 22 September, 6 pm, Spark Labs, 25 W. 39th Street, 14th Floor
Grab your surfboard and celebrate the end of summer next week at the MedStartr Labs Beta site embedded within Spark Labs’ new Bryant Park co-working space in midtown. Organizer Alex Fair promises good food, a great selection of beer and wine (courtesy of MedAux), a few presentations and awards, plenty of participation from members of the NYC health tech community, and tours of the new MedStartr beta site. Register at the Meetup site here.
Mental Health Innovations Summit–Thursday 28 September, 6-9pm, CohnReznick LLP, 1301 6th Avenue
One in every five adults in America experiences some form of a mental illness. Nearly one in 20, or 13.6 million, adults in America live with a serious mental illness. We aren’t replacing retiring psychiatrists. Mental health resources are maldistributed across the country. These problems call for new approaches. Panelists and presenters include leaders in the field and six early-stage companies presenting. Register at the Meetup site here.
TTA has been a MedStartr and Health 2.0 NYC supporter/media sponsor since 2010; Editor Donna is active as co-organizer/host and a MedStartr Mentor.
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), which is part of the Federal Health and Human Services (HHS) department, is making four grant programs available to support rural telehealth and quality improvement in 60 rural communities within 32 states, including a joint program with the Veterans Affairs Office of Rural Health. The four programs administered by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) within HRSA are primarily three-year programs and include:
- The largest amount, $6.3 million, will go to the Telehealth Network Grant Program: $300,000 each annually in a three-year program to 21 community health organizations for telehealth programs and networks in medically underserved areas, with a concentration on child health
- The Flex Rural Veterans Health Access Program: $300,000 each annually in a three-year program to three organizations providing veteran mental health and other health services. This is a joint program with the VA totalling $900,000.
- Small Health Care Provider Quality Improvement: $21 million will support 21 organizations over three years in improving care quality for populations with high rates of chronic conditions, and to support rural primary care.
- Seven Rural Health Research Centers: $700,000 per year for four years, totalling $4.9 million, to support policy research on improving access to healthcare and population health in rural communities. (Funds that more usefully would have gone to veterans health?–Ed. Donna)
HHS release, Mobihealthnews, Healthcare IT News
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA) may be one swallow and not the spring, but points to something doctors have been reporting anecdotally for years. Researchers examined initial progress notes of patients admitted to Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan both before and after the Epic Systems EHR implementation (POLITICO Morning eHealth) in 2012. Their sample of 500 notes examined five specific diagnoses with invariable physical findings: permanent atrial fibrillation, aortic stenosis, intubation, lower limb amputation and cerebrovascular accident with hemiparesis. The error rate of EHRs compared to the paper charts was 24.4 percent versus 4.4 percent. Residents were better at EHR-ing than the more experienced attending physicians for inaccuracies (5.3 percent v. 17.3 percent) and omissions (16.8 percent v. 33.9 percent). As this is an older snapshot, it may have narrowed with familiarity and training, but this is in line with prior reporting in multiple countries (here) that customization by real clinicians needs to be part of the implementation (designed by IT people without clinical background), often design doesn’t meet clinical needs, many have glitches and that they take entirely too long to fill out, notoriously in mental health (see JAMIA study from April). And let’s not get into the plagues of hacking, ransomware and health data exchange. HealthcareITNews, JAMIA (abstract only)
Back in 2013, we profiled Max Little of the UK-based Parkinson’s Voice Initiative, who was in the fairly early stages of voice testing and analysis to aid early diagnosis of this disease. By 2015, he had over 17,000 voice samples, was partnering with the Michael J Fox Foundation, and was seeking to develop a non-invasive, quick, accurate test based on acoustic markers. Dr Little is an Oxford University PhD, currently a Wellcome Trust/MIT fellow at the MIT Media Lab. The Voice Initiative has additional support from PatientsLikeMe, Twilio and Aculabcloud. But also developed at MIT, by Thomas Quatieri’s team at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, is a broader platform for voice diagnosis. This has been applied to mental health conditions such as depression, respiratory and cardiovascular conditions, and in pilots for TBI, cognitive impairment and…Parkinson’s. This has been licensed to Sonde Health, which hasn’t much on their website but is out of the Boston-based PureTech R&D/venture firm. The acoustic markers they cite are ‘dynamic changes in pitch and harmonics, articulation timing and hoarseness or breathiness that indicate and requires no analysis of words’. MedCityNews, MedTechBoston
Prof Mike Short has drawn my attention to two events taking place in October:
‘The cupboard is bare: how technology can address key unmet needs in mental health’ – Cambridge Wireless Healthcare SIG event – this half day Cambridge event om 13th October, hosted by Philips Research Laboratories and jointly sponsored by TTP and Plextek, will explore the needs from the perspective of the healthcare professional and patient. More details here; book here.
6th Discovering Start-Ups Competition – a brilliant opportunity to win some really valuable prizes to get your start-up really started up, pitching to an elite panel of business leaders from Deloitte, Google, BT, IBM, Cambridge Angels, London Business Angels, Qualcomm Ventures, Samsung and more. Finals will be held at Deloittes in London on 21st October. Note entries have to be submitted by 14th September at the latest.
Thanks to Mike Clark for pointing this editor to the breaking news that the NHS Mental Health Apps Library has now gone live. It features online tools, resources and apps that they claim have a proven track record of effectiveness in improving mental health outcomes.
It is accessible through the NHS Choices platform, a website that gathers over 40 million visits per month, 9.7 million of which are to pages on depression; 6 million per month to stress and 9.4 million to anxiety.
This is likely to be a major benefit to those who have difficulty obtaining access to face:face mental health services, especially as a number of presentations in the Royal Society of Medicine have suggested that online mental health services can often be more effective (more…)
The Future of Medicine Is in Your Smartphone sounds like a preface to his latest book, ‘The Patient Will See You Now’, but it is quite consistent with Dr Topol’s talks of late [TTA 5 Dec]. The article is at once optimistic–yes, we love the picture–yet somewhat unreal. When we walk around and kick the tires…
First, it flies in the face of the increasing control of healthcare providers by government as to outcomes and the shift for good or ill to ‘outcomes-based medicine’. Second, ‘doctorless patients’ may need fewer services, not more, and why should these individuals, who represent the high-info elite at least initially, be penalized by having to pay the extremely high premiums dictated by government-approved health insurance (in the US, ACA-compliant insurance a/k/a Obamacare)–or face the US tax penalties for not enrolling in same? Third, those liberating mass market smartwatches and fitness trackers aren’t clinical quality yet–fine directionally, but real clinical diagnosis (more…)
A recent randomised control trial gives support to the use of computer-based therapy for treatment of addictions. The results were reported this week at the annual convention of the Association for Psychological Science in San Francisco, following publication in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Although the trial focused specifically on cocaine-dependent individuals, it replicates findings of a RCT carried out in 2008, in which participants had a wider range of substance addictions.
Results of this latest study show that those who received computer-assisted therapy were significantly more likely to attain three or more consecutive weeks of abstinence from cocaine as compared to those not receiving any form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – 36% compared with 17%. And the effects appear to last; the control group also had better outcomes six months after treatment had ended.
Individuals who receive CBT learn to identify and correct problematic behaviours by applying a range of techniques. Central elements of the therapy include anticipating likely problems, correcting harmful thought patterns, and developing effective coping strategies. The techniques enable people to counteract addiction’s powerful effects on the brain, so they can regain control of their behaviour and lives. (more…)
Wednesday, 23 October, 11 The Strand, London, WC2N 5HR
The Workplace Health & Wellbeing Movement, in conjunction with Mind and Punter Southall, will be addressing the current and future landscape of mental health at work.
1730 – Welcome & networking
1800 – Introductions (John Dean, Managing Direct Punter Southall Health & Protection)
1830 – Paul Farmer (Chief Executive of Mind) on Taking Care of Business Campaign
1900 – Q&A / Networking
More information on this Meetup here. Thanks to reader Stephen Haynes of Navigator Health.
“Ellie” the Virtual Analyst has it right down to the ‘uh-huhs’ in responding to her patients, but she really excels at taking the measure of body language. According to the NPR interview with University of Southern California’s (USC) Institute for Creative Technologies’ lead developers, psychologist Albert “Skip” Rizzo and computer scientist Louis-Philippe Morency, “Ellie tracks and analyzes around 60 different features — various body and facial movements, and different aspects of the voice. The theory of all this is that a detailed analysis of those movements and vocal features can give us new insights into people who are struggling with emotional issues. The body, face and voice express things that words sometimes obscure.” Movement is tracked by Microsoft Kinect, voice by a microphone. This is the flip side of their original telementalhealth research from last year with simulations of virtual patients for training psychiatric residents [TTA 14 Aug] and PTSD assessment [TTA 28 Oct 11]. Like both of these, this was originally commissioned by the US Department of Defense for PTSD diagnosis, so Ellie provides a report at the end of each session. Your Editor also thinks there’s commercialization potential in the growing category of ‘couch apps’. [TTA 11 May] If Your Shrink Is A Bot, How Do You Respond?