TTA’s Summer Unlockdown, Week 3: is the Big Tech healthcare miracle a fraud, The Year of the Sensor, vote in Aging 2.0’s Innovation Search, telehealth’s still up, contact tracing, and is that COVID in the office A/C?

 

Unlockdown is proceeding and despite breathless media hype, we are learning valuable lessons and creating new models using sensor-based monitoring, contact tracing, even about the air we breathe in the office. Innovation competition continues virtually with Aging 2.0. Telehealth remains heading up. And our weekend’s provocative Must Read is an impassioned warning on our headlong rush to turn healthcare over to Big Tech and Pharma.

Weekend ‘Must Read’: Are Big Tech/Big Pharma’s health tech promises nothing but a dangerous fraud? (Urgent Snake Oil Warning)
The Year of the Sensor, round 2: COVID contact tracing + sensor wearables in LTC facilities; Ireland’s long and pivoting road to a contact tracing app (Contact tracing that actually works)
Nanowear’s ‘smart clothing’ in NY/NJ hospital trials to monitor patients for early-stage COVID. Is it the Year of the Sensor? (Intriguing clinical trial)
Vote now for finalists in the Aging 2.0 Global Innovation Search (to 31 July) (We have the list and links)
Can technology speed the return to office post-COVID? Is contaminated office air conditioning a COVID culprit? (All the apps, testing, and monitoring in the world doesn’t fix the air you breathe)
While telehealth virtual office visits flatten, overall up 300-fold; FCC finalizes COVID-19 telehealth funding program (US) (Still on the rise)

Is it the July doldrums, or COVID pandemic rerun fatigue? CVS Health’s study points at progress for telehealth, but a multiplicity of issues. Philips hits a home run with VA with remote ICU tech, and enters sensor-based RPM with BioIntelliSense.

Telehealth, virtual, and ‘omnichannel’ health winners in CVS’ ‘Path To Better Health’ study (Telehealth gains, but reflects the fractionalization of US healthcare)
Philips awarded by VA 10-year, $100 million remote ICU, telehealth contract; partners with BioIntelliSense for RPM (A major win and a win for BioIntelliSense)

Not many stories this week, but they were all eventful. US digital health funding broke last year’s record after a shaky start, not including Doctor on Demand’s Series D. It took a while, but Walgreens’ struck hard with VillageMD primary care deal. Google may be stumbling with little Fitbit. And KCC innovates with video’phone’ tablets. 

News Roundup: Doctor on Demand’s $75M Series D, Google’s Fitbit buy scrutinized, $5.4 bn digital health funding breaks record (Three big stories)
Kent County Council announces videophones for vulnerable residents in £1.5 million COVID response initiative (UK) (2,000 of them)
Walgreens Boots goes big with billion-dollar medical office deal with VillageMD (See the competition move–and raise ’em)

No fireworks near your Editor except illegal ones, but we have a few legal ones on hand. Ransomware is sending up mortars. COVID’s effect on telehealth is a flitter-glitter comet, but patient counts to date misfire. Samsung starbursts tele-genomics. We’re waving sparklers for the SURE Recovery app from King’s College London. And telehealth celebrated with some nifty Roman candles from the FCC, but Huawei and ZTE were sent the smoke bombs. Happy US Independence Day (a/k/a The Colonial Rebellion)–a day early!

News roundup: Teladoc closes InTouch, Samsung bets on tele-genomics, SURE Recovery app, Optimize.health’s seed round, Walgreens’ Microsoft boost
Hackermania runs wild, Required Reading Department: The Anatomy of a Ransomware Attack (Weekend reading for you and your IT department)
Do Huawei and ZTE present security threats to the US and global communications networks? The FCC says yes. (Recognizing geopolitical reality)
FCC approves 70 more COVID-19 telehealth funding applications for an additional $32 million (A major support for growth for small to large organizations)
Hackermania runs wild…all the way to the bank! Ransomware strikes Crozer-Keystone, UCSF med school, others (Hackers in their basements didn’t break for COVID)
COVID effect on US practices: in-person visits down 37%, telehealth peaks at 14%; ATA asks Congress to make expansion permanent (Patients still not visiting their doctors, virtual or not)
The TeleDentists now in 14 states with Anthem (Recognition of an oft-forgotten but key part of medicine)

And a bit more….

Breaking: NHSX COVID contact tracing app exits stage left. Enter the Apple and Google dance team. (Not a surprise to anyone, and some changes made)

Another COVID casualty: a final decision on the Cigna-Anthem damages settlement (It’s only 3 years and billions at stake!)
Telehealth and the response to COVID-19 in Australia, UK, and US: the paper (Malcolm Fisk and team’s comparative study)

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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

Thanks for asking for update emails. Please tell your colleagues about this news service and, if you have relevant information to share with the rest of the world, please let me know.

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donna.cusano@telecareaware.com

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The Year of the Sensor, round 2: COVID contact tracing + sensor wearables in LTC facilities; Ireland’s long and pivoting road to a contact tracing app

Wearables + sensors being used in long-term/post-acute care facilities for COVID contact tracing, decontamination. Historically ‘unsexy’ to digital health techies, long-term and post-acute care (LTPAC) came into sharp focus as the epicenter of COVID-19 deaths in the past four months. 45 percent of US COVID-19 deaths (over 54,000) occurred in nursing homes and assisted living residences, with the percentages being far higher in states like New Hampshire and Rhode Island (80%), Massachusetts and Connecticut (63%), Pennsylvania (68%), and New Jersey (48%). Freopp.org has a wealth of state-level information.

This created opportunities for companies that already had relationships with LTPAC to create systems to 1) contact trace individuals and residents, 2) trace locations not only of residents and staff but also contaminated areas, and 3) help focus ongoing decontamination and sanitization efforts. Featured in this surprising TechRepublic article is CarePredict, which back in March started to develop a response to COVID spread including what they dubbed the PinPoint Toolset. CarePredict already had in place a sensor-based system for residents that consolidated sensors into a wrist-worn resident ADL tracker with location and machine learning creating predictive health analytics that appear in a dashboard form. They expanded their analytics to staff and visitor contact plus locating frequently visited area by residents and staff so that decontamination efforts can be focused there. Also featured in the article are VIRI (website) and Quuppa, a real-time locating system (RTLS) repurposed from manufacturing and security. (Disclosure: Editor Donna consulted for CarePredict in 2017-18)

Ireland’s long and winding road to a national contact tracing app is the subject of an article in ZDNet. Waterford-based NearForm was called in by Ireland’s Health Services Executive (HSE) on week 1 of the lockdown and started work immediately. They had a prototype oapp running on a mobile phone by the end of the week, nonfunctioning but giving the HSE a look at the user interface. NearForm worked on a centralized model first, which was basically terminated by Apple’s insistence on blocking BTE, then in April pivoted to the decentralized Apple-Google (Gapple? AppGoo?) Exposure Notification system, once the HSE secured beta access to the new technology. By 7 July, Ireland launched and had over a million downloads in 48 hours. Germany had a similar saga and timing. Both Ireland, Germany, and other countries moved quickly to adopt Apple and Google’s APIs, when Apple blocked their original centralized app methodology. UK and NHSX did not pivot and are In The Lurch with Test and Trace [TTA 18 June, more deconstruction in VentureBeat]. Editor’s Note to Matt: go to your neighbor island, don’t be shy, and make a deal deal’ for the app. Solves that problem. 

Breaking: NHSX COVID contact tracing app exits stage left. Enter the Apple and Google dance team.

Breaking News: The NHS finally abandoned the NHSX-designed COVID contact tracing app in favor of the app based on the Apple and Google API.

The NHSX version had issues, seemingly intractable, on the BTE features on distancing and contact duration between devices, as well as the app being inaccurate on the iPhone.

The “Gapple” app is already in use in Italy, Switzerland, Denmark, Latvia, and Poland. As this Editor noted on Tuesday, Austria is in test, Germany just launched their ‘Corona Warning App’ and reported 6.5 million downloads in the first 24 hours. 

The BBC reported that the lead on the NHSX app, Matthew Gould and Geraint Lewis, are “stepping back” and former Apple executive Simon Thompson is joining NHSX to manage it

Depending on reports, the NHS either rejected the Gapple app in April or were working on it in tandem from May. More likely, they revived the latter with the NHSX problems. The Gapple version is decentralized in storing information about user contacts on individual phone handsets because of issues over user privacy, versus the NHSX centralized app.

According to the FT and TechCrunch, the government is de-emphasizing the utility of the app, and relying on its small army of contact tracers. 

But what about all those folks on the Isle of Wight?

More on this: Digitalhealth.net, TechCrunch, Financial Times     Hat tip to Steve Hards for alerting this Editor at the end of a busy day!

Where in the world is the NHS COVID contact tracing app? Apps rolling out globally, but will they roll out before it’s treatable ?

It does seem that the NHS contact tracing app, debuted after various tests on 5 May in the Isle of Wight, has vanished from the radar screen. A scan of recent news indicates that the app is further delayed in favor of a manual track and trace system with 25,000 contact tracers, starting 28-29 May A Telegraph article indicates that the app had the Bluetooth blues, with further detail from Wired UK around emerging worries within NHSX about BTE’s ability to accurately calculate the distance between two users.

Folks in the Isle of Wight, who enthusiastically adopted the app (Week 1’s 52,000 downloads), would like to know how they’re doin’, in the immortal words of a real NYC Mayor, Edward Koch. That data about contacts and alarms seems to not be forthcoming from the NHS–as well as an updated app with more questions about symptoms and test requests and results integrated into the process, according to BBC News today 16 June. Yes, it was an odd choice, but often beta tests take place in relatively small and isolated places, not big cities where factors can’t be controlled. But the app appears not to be moving forward in favor of the manual system. Nevertheless, the sound of crickets is deafening.

Some articles like Wired’s blame the NHS’ centralized approach, where a report of COVID goes straight to the NHS server, with outbound messages going to those with whom the person was in contact, defined by BTE tracing within 6 feet for 15 minutes +. Observers like our own Editor Emeritus Steve Hards noted in comments on the 29 May article that “It will only take a few well-publicised malware or phishing incidents to make the job of the genuine trackers unworkable and for any trust in the app to evaporate.”

A great deal of fuss has been made of other countries adopting contact tracing apps that actually work. Most of these are built on a platform developed by Apple and Google. These have been used in Italy, Switzerland, Latvia, and Poland. Austria is in test, Germany just launched. Japan’s is on a Microsoft platform. Countries that launched earlier have had their wrinkles. Italy is feuding over issues of data privacy. Norway’s Smittestopp app, which used both GPS and BTE to advise those contacted to self-isolate, was stopped by the Norwegian Data Protection Authority on disproportionate intrusion into users’ privacy. A bug in the programming affects Australia’s CovidSafe iPhone users in logging matches when the other iPhone is locked. Singapore, after seeing only one-quarter of the population adopting the app,  is going the wearable dongle route that you hand over if you test positive. BBC News

By the time the apps are developed, debugged, and rolled out, the lockdowns will have ended, and the virus will have abated or mutated for next season. Meanwhile, progress has been made on treatment protocols. HCQ, zinc, azithromycin, vitamins C and A in early-stage treatment are already well known, like Tamiflu for the first few days of the flu. In later treatment, nasal oxygen (not ventilators), high dose vitamin C, heparin (a common blood thinner to prevent lung clotting), methylprednisolone (a steroid) and also HCQ were published by the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Consortium as early as 6 April. Now another BBC News report reveals that the University of Oxford’s RECOVERY Trial is mass-testing several approaches, including an inexpensive steroid, dexamethasone ($1 a dose). Sadly, they estimate that 5,000 lives in the UK could have been saved. Between cheap and common HCQ, heparin, steroids like dexamethasone and methylprednisolone, and high dose vitamins like A, C, and zinc, let’s hope that the spread in Africa and Latin America, especially Brazil, can be quelled.

NHS’ COVID contact tracing service started today–but where’s the app? Australia? (with comments)

To paraphrase the burger chain Wendy’s long-past spokeswoman, Clara Peller, ‘Where’s The App?’. The NHS debuted a contact tracing scheme for COVID, but it is a manual system dependent upon–people. If you test positive for the virus, you will receive a call from the NHS’ test and trace system. The person will ask for information about your recent contacts with others, and then asked to self-isolate for 14 days. Those names you provide will be contacted as well.

The NHSX-developed Bluetooth LE app remains in beta test on the Isle of Wight, which started on 5 May [TTA 5 May]. Reportedly there were 52,000 downloads in week one, which for an island with only 80,000 households is pretty impressive. 

The original rollout date set by Health Secretary Matt Hancock and NHSX chief Matthew Gould to the House of Commons’ science committee was mid-May, which has come and gone. The new date is now sometime in June. However, Baroness Dido Harding, the new director of NHS’s Test and Trace program, would not confirm that date–as we’d say, tap dancing quite hard. Digitalhealth.net, Telegraph

The US has been hiring contact tracers by state from Alaska to New York. A recent study in preprint in MedRxiv (PDF) by Farzid Mostashari of ACO management company Aledade and others found that in order to reduce the transmission rate by 10 percent, a contact tracing team would have to detect at least half of new symptomatic cases, and reach at least half the people with whom they were in close contact. MIT Technology Review 

Apps have been deployed in Australia (COVIDSafe) and Singapore (TraceTogether) and are in development in Switzerland and Germany. Most use BTE, but South Korea, India, Iceland, and some US states including North Dakota and Utah are using GPS phone location. China has been the most ruthless in using GPS data to monitor citizen locations and activity, to restrict their movements. Previously mentioned here [TTA 19 May] are UnitedHealth Group and Microsoft’s ProtectWell, PWC’s homegrown app–and Google and Apple announced in April a BTE app which hasn’t debuted yet. The Verge

NHSX announces TechForce19 challenge awards (updated), COVID-19 contact tracing app in test for mid-May launch (UK)

NHSX, the group within the NHS responsible for digital technology and data/data sharing, made two significant announcements yesterday.

TechForce19 Challenge Awarded

NHSX, with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), yesterday announced the 18 finalists in the TechForce19 challenge. This challenge was set up quickly to support the problem of vulnerable, elderly, and self-isolating people during this COVID-19 quarantine to reduce actual and feelings of loneliness and lack of safety.

Like most everything around coronavirus, this was fast tracked: the challenge announcement in late March, submissions closing on 1 April, and the selection announced on 24 April. Each finalist is being awarded up to £25,000 for further development of their technology systems.

The 18 finalists include a number of familiar names to our Readers (who also may be part of these organizations): Feebris, Neurolove, Peppy, Vinehealth, Beam, TeamKinetic, Alcuris MemoHub, Ampersand Health, Aparido, Birdie, Buddi Connect, Just Checking, Peopletoo/Novoville, RIX Research & Media (University of East London), SimplyDo, SureCert, VideoVisit, and Virti. Their systems include checking for the most vulnerable, volunteering apps, mental health support, remote monitoring, home care management, and in-home sensor-based behavioral tracking. Details on each are in the NHSX release on their website. NHSX partners with PUBLIC and the AHSN Network (15 academic health science networks). Hat tip to reader Adrian Scaife

Updated 29 April. Adrian was also kind enough to forward additional information to Readers on Alcuris MemoHub (left) as a finalist in the remote care category. Partners in the test are Clackmannanshire and Stirling Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP), East Lothian HSCP, South Tyneside Council, and Stockton on Tees Borough Council and last for about two to three weeks. Release

COVID-19 contact tracing

NHSX announced the release, in coming weeks, of a contact tracing app to track your movements around people and if you become positive for coronavirus, “you can choose to allow the app to inform the NHS which, subject to sophisticated risk analysis, will trigger an anonymous alert to those other app users with whom you came into significant contact over the previous few days.” The app is being tested in ‘early alpha’ at RAF Leeming (Computer Weekly). The app will tell users that they are OK or if they need to self-isolate. Far more controversial, if one cares about privacy, despite all the caveats. Based on the articles, NHSX is targeting a release of the app by mid-May according to the BBC, which also broke the RAF test. It will presumably acquire a snappy name before then. ComputerWeekly 24 April (may require free business registration), Matt Hancock Commons statement 22 April

Calling all digital health entrepreneurs: DHACA Day on 18th March is for you!

If you’re struggling with the many challenges of how to grow your digital health business fast, DHACA, sponsored by the AHSN Network, is at hand to help. Specifically on 18th March we have assembled an outstanding group of speakers to help you get to know NHSX and its priorities, to build AI into your product or service, to position yourself to benefit most from the current emphasis on longevity, to understand how the cabinet office can help, how data privacy legislation may change post Brexit, what Babylon is doing, how the AHSNs can help and much, much more. You only have to pay for lunch! You will also get to hear how you can access a wide range of in depth business services free, due to the generosity of our sponsors.

The event is being held courtesy of Baker Botts in their offices very close to Bank Tube station in London. 

Please click here to see more detail and to book.

(Disclosure: this Editor is also CEO of DHACA)

A change of vetting for the NHS Apps Library by spring 2020

NHSX, the multi-department team from NHS England, the Department of Health and Social Care, and NHS Improvement established earlier this year [TTA 18 Apr], announced last week a new approach to the accreditation of digital health apps for the NHS Apps Library. The plan is to transition from the present direct assessment into accrediting independent assessors using an open standard. NHSX announced that they will undertake this change in a two-step process:

  • Create a digital health technology standard based on those existing for industry and health, combining present questions with other data and interoperability standards
  • Develop a clearer review, assessment and evaluation approach for digital health tools, including a list of external assessors who will be in turn accredited to apply the new standard

This approach to the perennial problem of app vetting is scheduled to be completed by spring of 2020, not too far away.

In related developments:

  • NHSX will also work with the Accelerated Access Collaborative on a pipeline to deliver digital products through to priority areas
  • NHSX’s departing (as of October end) director of digital development Dr. Sam Shah has been ranked fourth in the #IB100, a list of the top 100 most influential black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) leaders in the tech sector. HealthcareITNews Europe/UK

UKAuthority.com  Hat tip to Alistair Appleby of Wokingham Borough Council 

Next DHACA Day 9th July, London – seeking new members (psst–it’s free)

DHACA, the Digital Health and Care Alliance, with some 850 members currently, is having a new membership drive among SMEs working in the UK’s digital health & care space, following the kind offering of new sponsorship by Kent Surrey and Sussex AHSN and UCL Partners. 

The organisation’s objective is to help members develop their innovative products and services commercially, to achieve successful sales to the NHS. DHACA works right across the UK.

If you aren’t a member, you can sign up here to ensure you are kept aware of important news and of DHACA events. Membership is entirely free and members’ details will of course never be passed on to any other organisation.

Whether or not you are currently a member, booking is now open for the next DHACA Day. This event is primarily aimed at informing members working in the digital health & care sector of the major recent changes they need to be aware of, and how best to navigate them to make greater sales to the NHS and other health & care organisations. There is a small charge of £30+VAT to provide lunch, otherwise all other costs will kindly be covered by the event Sponsors, Baker Botts, in whose premises at 41 Lothbury (the opposite side of the Bank of England to the Bank Tube) it will be held.

The draft agenda includes talks by Luke Pratsides, Clinical Lead, Digital Development, NHS England about NHSX, Sam Shah, Director of Digital Development at NHS England and James Maguire, Clinical Advisor in Digital Innovation & AI at NHSX on NHS England’s digital development strategy, Mark Salmon, Programme Director, NICE on their HealthTech Connect and Evidence Standards, Neil Foster, Partner, Baker Botts on Finance for digital health start-ups, Neil Coulson, Partner, Baker Botts, on IP protection and the GDPR, Rob Berry, Commercial Director, UCL Partners on how the AHSNs can help SMEs and much more. Neil McGuire, Clinical Director of Devices, MHRA, has also been invited to update attendees on MDR implementation – a most important topic.

DHACA is keen to get members’ views on how they’d like it to be organised and governed in order to deliver what members want, so there will be time in the middle of the day for this too.

Should be a great day!

(Disclosure: this Editor is also DHACA CEO) 

 

Babylon Health’s expansion plans in Asia-Pacific, Africa spotlighted

Mobihealthnews’ interview with Ali Parsa of Babylon Health illuminates what hasn’t been obvious about the company’s global plans, in our recent focus on their dealings with the NHS. For its basic smartphone app (video consults, appointments, medical records), Babylon last year announced a partnership with one of Asia’s largest health insurers, Prudential [TTA 18 Sept 18], licensing Babylon’s software for its own health apps across 12 countries in Asia for an estimated $100 million over several years. Babylon has also been active in Rwanda and now reaches, according to their information, nearly 30 percent of the population. There’s also a nod to developments with the NHS.

Parsing the highlights in Dr. Parsa’s rather wordy quest towards less ‘sick care’, more ‘prevention over cure’, and making healthcare affordable and accessible to everyone ’round the clock:

  • Asia-Pacific: Working with Tencent, Samsung and Prudential Asia through licensing software is a key component of their business. By adding more users, they refine and add more quality to their services. (Presumably they have more restrictions on the data they send to Tencent than what they obtain in China.)
  • Africa: How do you offer health apps in an economically poor country where only 5 percent of the population has a smartphone? Have an app that works for the 75 percent who have a feature phone. Babyl Rwanda has 2 million users–30 percent of Rwanda’s population–and completes 2,000 consultations a day. Babyl also works with over 450 health clinics and pharmacies. The service may also be expanded across East Africa, and may serve as a model for similar countries in other regions.
  • UK and NHSX: About the new NHS-formed joint organization for digital services, tech, and clinical care, Dr. Parsa believes it is ‘fantastic’ and that “it is trying to bring the benefits of modern technology to every patient and clinician, and aims to combine the best talent from government, the NHS and industry. Its aim, just like ours, is to create the most advanced health and care service in the world, to free up staff time and empower patients.” (Editor’s note:  NHSX will bring together the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and NHS Improvement, overseeing NHS Digital. More in Digital Health, Computer Weekly.)