A mHealth refutation of ‘Why Telemedicine is a Bust’

Worth your time over a long coffee is David Doherty’s lengthy analysis of a recent article published on the CNBC website on the ‘failure’ to date of what was supposed to revolutionize healthcare, the telemedicine ‘video visit’. Mr. Doherty counters point-by-point that the concept of telemedicine is already out of date–that the future of healthcare is with mobile devices, such as the EKG-taking KardiaMobile. He points to the distrust of large telemedicine companies such as Doctor on Demand and American Well as being heavily wedded to health insurers (the prevalent business model), selling/trading patient information, and breaking the individual doctor-patient relationship.

Mr. Doherty sees the future of telemedicine enabling individual doctors to better serve their patients on several levels–video consults, monitoring, and via high-quality apps–seamlessly.  But the insurer-employer-practice model is hard to break indeed, as American Well, Teladoc, and Doctor on Demand–all of which started with a DTC model–found out. And reimbursement is improved, but discouraging. mHealth Insight

International acquisition roundup: Doro and Welbeing; Teladoc and Advance Medical

Two international telecare/telehealth/telemedicine M&A deals made the news this last week.

Sweden’s Doro AB acquired Welbeing, headquartered in Eastbourne UK. Welbeing (formally Wealden and Eastbourne Lifeline) is a telecare provider of home-based personal alarms which supports about 75,000 residents in local systems. Their revenue in last fiscal year (ending 9/17) was £7.6 million (SEK 90m). Doro operates in the UK and about 40 countries, with a core business in mobile phones specially designed for older adults. Their Doro Care solutions provide digital telecare and social services for older adults and the disabled in the home. Doro is paying SEK 130 million (£11.1 million) for the acquisition of Welbeing, equal to eight times estimated EBITDA for the financial year 2017/2018, with 85 percent cash and 15 percent in Doro shares with a bonus based on financial performance. Release 

Making a few headlines in the US is telemedicine leader Teladoc’s purchase of Barcelona’s Advance Medical for a hefty $352 million, giving Teladoc a major international footprint especially valuable for its corporate clients and major payers. Advance Medical provides complete telemedicine services in 125 countries in over 20 languages. Even more valuable is their knowledge of local healthcare delivery systems, global expert medical opinion, and chronic care. The acquisition also gives Teladoc an international network of offices and a significant entreé with international health insurance companies. Mobihealthnews, Seeking Alpha (Teladoc investor slideshow)

CVS-Aetna: It’s not integrated healthcare, it’s experiential retail!

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/canary-in-the-coal-mine.jpgw595.jpeg” thumb_width=”150″ /]This very interesting take on financial analysis site Seeking Alpha draws another insight from the CVS-Aetna merger–it’s actually part of the rising commercial real estate trend of experiential retail. Here’s the logic. CVS MinuteClinics increase traffic to CVS stores. If they are part of a shopping center, that means those patients might grab a meal, coffee, or shop. Reportedly CVS and Aetna will add nurses and nutritionists, which will further increase attraction, stickiness, and traffic. 

CVS and Walgreens‘ clinics have started, in the new model, to become significant, even anchor, tenants of shopping centers, filling up the empty storefronts left by traditional retail. Doctors’ offices, urgent cares like CityMD, and hospital-run outpatient clinics are filling retail spaces and anchoring new developments. Another part of the experience–fitness clubs, which are also converting vacant office spaces–a line extension increasingly popular with health systems. CVS also bought out department store Target’s drugstores and in-store clinics, which is another model (fill a prescription, buy socks or a TV). Another line extension is partnerships with urgent cares or outpatient clinics, not much of a stretch since CVS already has affiliations with health systems in many areas.

Add telemedicine (Aetna’s partnership with Teladoc) to the above: both MinuteClinics and in-home become 24/7 operations. Not mentioned here is that Aetna can add in-person or kiosk services in CVS stores to file claims, answer questions, or sell coverage.

As this model becomes clearer, big supermarket operators like Ahold (Stop & Shop, Giant), Wegmans, Publix, Shop Rite and others, which have pharmacies in most locations, may ally with or merge with insurers or health systems–or partner with CVS-Aetna. There is also the 9,000 lb. elephant called Walmart, which is 2/3 of the way to an experiential model including nutrition, diet, and fitness (ask any WalMartian). Further insights on how this merger is forcing retailers to adapt are in Drug Store News.

CVS-Aetna could very well be a major mover in experiential retail, which may save all those strip malls. But this article points out, as this Editor has already, that the full shape of what could be experiential healthcare will take years to work and shake out, assuming the merger is approved. Our prior coverage is here.

January’s Crazy Week: JP Morgan, StartUp Health, Health 2.0 WinterTech…and CES takes the cake!

This week is Crazy Week for healthcare and technology folk, with multiple major events centered in San Francisco and Las Vegas.

JP Morgan’s 36th annual healthcare conference started today 8 Jan through Thursday 11 Jan in San Francisco. It annually hosts 450 companies presenting to 9,000 attendees. It attracts hundreds of investors and is A Very Big Deal for both investors and companies angling for same. It kicked off with Medtronic‘s Omar Ishrak touting their success with Tyrx, an anti-microbial resorbable envelope for their cardiac devices to prevent post-surgical infection. In value-based care, it may not be in itself reimbursable, but improves outcomes (MedCityNews). The official hashtag for the conference is #JPMHC18 but there’s also #JPM18.

Of interest to Readers will be Teladoc’s presentation at JPM, provided by Seeking Alpha

CNBC’s tip sheet on the action. Genalyte‘s lab-on-a-chip demos their blood sampling in 15 minutes technique to MedCityNews writer. And Vive La Biotech–why American investors should be looking at French companies.

Within the event is the invite-only StartUp Health Festival Monday and Tuesday which hashtags at #startuphealth. Separately, but with many of the usual suspects, is Health 2.0’s one-day WinterTech conference in San Francisco the following day on Wednesday 10 Jan, also with an investment focus. (You can imagine the investor and company hopping between conference locations!) Alex Fair is also leading a Meetup tweetup for the week–more information here. You may also want to check out #pinksockspinksocks is an ad hoc group dedicated to health and wellness innovation and doctor-patient connectedness.

Further south, the sprawl of Las Vegas has been taken over by the sprawl of CES (aptly dubbed ‘Whoa!’) starting Tuesday 9 Jan through Friday 12 Jan. The substantial health tech focus (more…)

Rounding up the roundups in health tech and digital health for 2017; looking forward to 2018’s Nitty-Gritty

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Lasso.jpg” thumb_width=”100″ /]Our Editors will be lassoing our thoughts for what happened in 2017 and looking forward to 2018 in several articles. So let’s get started! Happy Trails!

2017’s digital health M&A is well-covered by Jonah Comstock’s Mobihealthnews overview. In this aggregation, the M&A trends to be seen are 1) merging of services that are rather alike (e.g. two diabetes app/education or telehealth/telemedicine providers) to buy market share, 2) services that complement each other by being similar but with strengths in different markets or broaden capabilities (Teladoc and Best Doctors, GlobalMed and TreatMD), 3) fill a gap in a portfolio (Philips‘ various acquisitions), or 4) payers trying yet again to cement themselves into digital health, which has had a checkered record indeed. This consolidation is to be expected in a fluid and relatively early stage environment.

In this roundup, we miss the telecom moves of prior years, most of which have misfired. WebMD, once an acquirer, once on the ropes, is being acquired into a fully corporate info provider structure with its pending acquisition by KKR’s Internet Brands, an information SaaS/web hoster in multiple verticals. This points to the commodification of healthcare information. 

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/canary-in-the-coal-mine.jpgw595.jpeg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Love that canary! We have a paradigm breaker in the pending CVS-Aetna merger into the very structure of how healthcare can be made more convenient, delivered, billed, and paid for–if it is approved and not challenged, which is a very real possibility. Over the next two years, if this works, look for supermarkets to get into the healthcare business. Payers, drug stores, and retailers have few places to go. The worldwide wild card: Walgreens Boots. Start with our article here and move to our previous articles linked at the end.

US telehealth and telemedicine’s march towards reimbursement and parity payment continues. See our article on the CCHP roundup and policy paper (for the most stalwart of wonks only). Another major change in the US is payment for more services under Medicare, issued in early November by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in its Final Rule for the 2018 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule. This also increases payment to nearly $60 per month for remote patient monitoring, which will help struggling RPM providers. Not quite a stride, but less of a stumble for the Grizzled Survivors. MedCityNews

In the UK, our friends at The King’s Fund have rounded up their most popular content of 2017 here. Newer models of telehealth and telemedicine such as Babylon Health and PushDoctor continue to struggle to find a place in the national structure. (Babylon’s challenge to the CQC was dropped before Christmas at their cost of £11,000 in High Court costs.) Judging from our Tender Alerts, compared to the US, telecare integration into housing is far ahead for those most in need especially in support at home. Yet there are glaring disparities due to funding–witness the national scandal of NHS Kernow withdrawing telehealth from local residents earlier this year [TTA coverage here]. This Editor is pleased to report that as of 5 December, NHS Kernow’s Governing Body has approved plans to retain and reconfigure Telehealth services, working in partnership with the provider Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CFT). Their notice is here.

More UK roundups are available on Digital Health News: 2017 review, most read stories, and cybersecurity predictions for 2018. David Doherty’s compiled a group of the major international health tech events for 2018 over at 3G Doctor. Which reminds this Editor to tell him to list #MedMo18 November 29-30 in NYC and that he might want to consider updating the name to 5G Doctor to mark the transition over to 5G wireless service advancing in 2018.

Data breaches continue to be a worry. The Protenus/DataBreaches.net roundup for November continues the breach a day trend. The largest breach they detected was of over 16,000 patient records at the Hackensack Sleep and Pulmonary Center in New Jersey. The monthly total was almost 84,000 records, a low compared to the prior few months, but there may be some reporting shifting into December. Protenus blog, MedCityNews

And perhaps there’s a future for wearables, in the watch form. The Apple Watch’s disconnecting from the phone (and the slowness of older models) has led to companies like AliveCor’s KardiaBand EKG (ECG) providing add-ons to the watch. Apple is trying to develop its own non-invasive blood glucose monitor, with Alphabet’s (Google) Verily Study Watch in test having sensors that can collect data on heart rate, gait and skin temperature. More here from CNBC on Big Tech and healthcare, Apple’s wearables.

Telehealth saves lives, as an Australian nurse at an isolated Coral Bay clinic found out. He hooked himself up to the ECG machine and dialed into the Emergency Telehealth Service (ETS). With assistance from volunteers, he was able to medicate himself with clotbusters until the Royal Flying Doctor Service transferred him to a Perth hospital. Now if he had a KardiaBand….WAToday.com.au  Hat tip to Mike Clark

This Editor’s parting words for 2017 will be right down to the Real Nitty-Gritty, so read on!: (more…)

Telehealth roundups: Cuyahoga County (OH), BMJ systematic review, AAFP Forum

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/stick_figure_push_up_arrow_400_clr.png” thumb_width=”100″ /]Telehealth/telemedicine case studies are many, but those of us in the field are always on the hunt for fresh results. And the results seem to be fairly successful.

Cuyahoga County in Ohio instituted a telehealth program for its 569-person Educational Service Center this past July. In the first 90 days, 45 telemedicine consultations were completed with an average savings of $342 for each visit. Median wait time to the doctor consult was 2 minutes, 23 seconds. This amounted to a 130 percent return on investment, or $48,000. This is over the summer, when many employees were on leave, and does not calculate productivity gains, e.g. less sick time. The ESC goal is 80 percent utilization. This last would boggle the Big Minds over at the RAND Corporation which criticized the 88 percent rise in utilization when CalPERS members used Teladoc. TTA 8 Mar, 25 Mar  The provider of telehealth services is First Stop Health. Healthcare IT News.

BMJ reviewed 44 studies (of over 2,100 studies surveyed in the last five years) to identify factors around telehealth effectiveness and efficiency. “The factors listed most often were improved outcomes (20%), preferred modality (10%), ease of use (9%), low cost 8%), improved communication (8%) and decreased travel time (7%), which in total accounted for 61% of occurrences.” Patient satisfaction was achieved when providers delivered healthcare via videoconference or any other telehealth method. Telehealth and patient satisfaction: a systematic review and narrative analysis (PDF)

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care hosted a Capitol Hill meeting on telehealth in primary care 9 November. The conundrum that PCPs face: telehealth is well-suited to primary care, the CPT codes are there, physician time can be easily recorded, and patients now are comfortable with it–but connectivity, health plans, and expansion of the referral network beyond the local are still not there. Regina Holliday, a well-known patient advocate who will be speaking at MedMo17, spoke about telehealth’s great advantages in mental health, especially to younger patients who want anonymous counseling and those in rural areas where it’s hundreds of miles to a mental health clinic or a psychiatrist. AAFP Forum Report

Medtronic, American Well mega-partner for telehealth + telemedicine for chronic care

Boston-based American Well and Dublin-based Medtronic announced this week a partnership to integrate telemedicine and telehealth for chronic care management, targeting complex, chronic and co-morbid patients. Under the agreement, American Well’s telemedicine services will integrate into Medtronic Care Management Services (MCMS) video-enabled telehealth platforms for remote patient monitoring and video consults. The goal is to provide more information so that clinicians gain a more complete view of a patient’s health status when making care decisions, thus reducing the cost of care and improving patient outcomes. Care for patients with multiple chronic conditions accounts for over 70 percent of healthcare spending, according to an AHRQ study.

American Well is currently partnered with 250 healthcare partners in the US and more than 750 health systems and 975 hospitals, along with most major health plans. MCMS has two video telehealth platforms including the mobile NetResponse and the LinkView Wi-Fi tabletop. Their most recent activity is with the Midwest’s Mercy healthcare system for data sharing and analysis to gather clinical evidence for medical device innovation and patient access. MCMS platforms are also being integrated into the VA’s Home Telehealth program [TTA 6 Feb and 15 Feb]. It indicates that Medtronic is seeking to grow its telehealth device business, which has largely (except for VA) been a backwater in the immense Medtronic empire.

This is a very logical and in this Editor’s estimation, overdue type of partnership between a telehealth provider to enhance telehealth and RPM. (An easy bet: expect Teladoc to follow with another telehealth provider)

American Well/Medtronic release, Healthcare Informatics, MassDevice

Rock Health’s Q3 report: funding and mega-deals cool down

Too hot not to cool down? This year’s digital health funding, as reported by Rock Health, may be ‘just one of those things’ depending on what happens next quarter. After a torrid Q2 which brought first half 2017 to an explosive $3.5 bn [TTA 11 July], Q3 added only $1.2 bn for a total $4.7 bn. Bear in mind that this is larger than the full years of 2014-2016, and that Rock Health tracks only US deals over $2 million in value from venture capital, excluding government and grant funding. Rock Health’s report concentrates on deal sizes, trends, and types of companies. Here’s what this Editor found to be interesting:

Here’s what this Editor found to be interesting:

  • Number of deals is at a record: 268 digital health funding deals across 261 companies. In 2016, 240 digital health venture deals had closed by the end of Q3 in 2016.
  • Few mega-deals this quarter: The only ones are 23andMe with a $250 million round in September followed by cancer data company Tempus’ $70M Series C round. Average deal size dropped to $14.6 million. The cooling is great enough for Rock Health to predict that there may not be any IPOs this year–23andMe was considered the leading candidate but instead went for another round.
  • 16 percent of companies funded in Q3 are led by women CEOs, up from 11 percent. Of course, this is influenced by 23andMe’s founder/CEO Anne Wojcicki. But almost more importantly, there’s been a breakthrough in that women’s and reproductive health companies continue to gain funding traction, and most are led by women.
  • The two top categories for funding through Q3 are consumer: health information and personal health and tracking tools.
  • Yet companies are shifting to a B2B business model from B2C, with 23andMe in the lead targeting drug discovery via the Genentech deal they have had for a long time. 61 percent of digital health startups that Rock Health tracks converted from B2C to B2B. No surprise to this Editor as consumer adoption is a slow and costly road.
  • Exits are also cooling down as long-cycle reality hits. The ‘nine-inning ball game’ stated by an investor is, given healthcare’s long cycles, regulation, and slow adoption, is more like 15. 
  • Some recovery in public companies making money in earnings per share (EPS). Teladoc‘s recovered, while NantHealth continues in the doldrums. (Perhaps it’s Cher suing Patrick Soon-Shiong?)

Awaiting StartUp Health‘s always numerically bigger report, but this Editor’s bet is that it won’t be ‘crazy’ like Q2 [TTA 15 July]. Rock Health Q3 report.

The REAL acute care: hurricanes, health tech, and what happens when electricity goes out

This afternoon, as this New York-based Editor is observing the light touch of the far bands of Hurricane José’s pass through the area (wind, spotty rain, some coastal flooding and erosion), yet another Category 5 hurricane (Maria) is on track to attack the already-wrecked-from-Irma Puerto Rico and northern Caribbean, thoughts turn to where healthcare technology can help those who need it most–and where the response could be a lot better. (Add one more–the 7.1 magnitude earthquake south of Mexico City)

Laurie Orlov, a Florida resident, has a typically acerbic take on Florida’s evacuation for Irma and those left behind to deal with no electricity, no assistance. Florida has the highest percentage of over-65 residents. Those who could relocated, but this Editor from a poll of her friends there found that they didn’t quite know where to go safely if not out of state, for this storm was predicted first to devastate the east coast, then it changed course late and barreled up the west (Gulf) coast. Its storm surges unexpected produced record flooding in northeastern Florida, well outside the main track. Older people who stayed in shelters or stayed put in homes, senior apartments, 55+ communities, or long-term care were blacked out for days, in sweltering heat. If their facilities didn’t have backup generators and electrical systems that worked, they were unable to charge their phones, use the elevator, recharge electric wheelchairs, or power up oxygen units. Families couldn’t reach them either. Solutions: restore inexpensive phone landlines (which hardwired, mostly work), backup phone batteries, external power sources like old laptops, and backup generators in senior communities (which would not have prevented prevent bad fuses/wiring from frying the AC, as in the nursing home in Hollywood where eight died).  Aging In Place Tech 

It’s another reason why senior communities and housing are supposed to have disaster preparedness/evacuation plans in place. (If you are a family member, it should be included in your community selection checklist and local records should be checked. This Editor recently wrote an article on this subject (PDF) that mentions disaster and incident planning twice. (Disclaimer: the sponsoring company is a marketing client of this Editor.) In nursing homes, they are mandatory–and often not executable or enforced, as this article from Kaiser Health News points out. 

Another solution good for all: purchase 200-400 watt battery packs that recharge with solar panels, AC, and car batteries (AARP anyone?). Campers and tailgaters use these and they range below $500 with the panels. Concerned with high-power lithium-ion batteries and their tendency to go boom? You’ll have to wait, but the US Army Research Laboratory and University of Maryland have developed a flexible, aqueous lithium-ion battery that reaches the 4.0 volt mark desired for household electronics without the explosive risks associated with standard lithium-ion power–a future and safer alternative. Armed With Science

Telemedicine and telehealth are not being fully utilized to their potential in disaster response and recovery, but the efforts are starting. Medical teams are starting to use telehealth and telemedicine as adjunct care. It has already been deployed successfully in Texas during Harvey. Many evacuees were sent to drier Dallas and the Hutchinson arena, where Dallas-based Children’s Health used telemedicine for emergency off-hour coverage. Doctor on Demand and MDLive gave free direct support to those affected in Texas and Louisiana through 8 September, as well as Teladoc, American Well, and HealthTap for a longer period to members and non-members. Where there are large numbers of evacuees concentrated in an area, telemedicine is now deployed on a limited basis. Doctor on Demand releaseSTAT News, MedCityNews 

But what about using affordable mobile health for the thousands who long term will be in rented homes, far away from their local practitioners–and the doctors themselves who’ve been displaced? What will Doctor on Demand and their sister telemedicine companies have available for these displaced people? What about Puerto Rico, USVI, and the Caribbean islands, where first you have to rebuild the cellular network so medical units can be more effective, then for the longer term? (Can Microsoft’s ‘white space’ be part of the solution?)  

One telehealth company, DictumHealth, has a special interest and track record in both pediatric telehealth and global remote deployments where the weather is hot, the situation is acute, and medical help is limited. Dictum sent their ruggedized IDM100 tablet units and peripherals to Aster Volunteers who aid the permanently displaced in three Jordanian refugee camps in collaboration with the UNHCR and also for pediatric care at the San Josecito School in Costa Rica. In speaking with both Amber Bogard and Elizabeth Keate of Dictum, they are actively engaging with medical relief agencies in both the US and the Caribbean. More to come on this.

‘Record-shattering’ Q2 for digital health deals: Rock Health’s volte-face

In a pirouette worthy of Nureyev in his prime, Rock Health’s latest Digital Health Funding review for Q2 and the first half of 2017 bangs the drum loudly. With $3.5 bn invested in 188 digital health companies, it’s a record in their tracking. (∗See below for their parameters, which focus on larger fundings and omit others by type.) Q2 reversed the muddling results of Q1 [TTA 11 April] and then some. If the torrid pace is maintained and the market doesn’t take a pratfall, this year will easily surpass 2016’s full year venture funding at $4.3 bn and 304 investments.

Looking at trends, the average deal size has ballooned to $18.7 million from the 2015-16 range of $14 million. Seven $100 million+ deals led the way: Outcome Health, Peloton, Modernizing Medicine, PatientPoint, Alignment Healthcare, PatientsLikeMe, and ShareCare. Of these, three are consumer health information (Outcome, PatientPoint, ShareCare), with PatientsLikeMe closely related with a patient community focus; as the lead category of investment overall, there’s now gold in consumer health. All seven businesses are located outside of Silicon Valley, a refreshing change. A surprise is Modernizing Medicine in the settled (we thought) EHR-clinical workflow category. There’s also an interesting analysis of the shift in top categories from last year to this, which takes out the $100 million+ deals (click to enlarge): [grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Top-Funded-Categories-Midyear-Funding-Report-2017-1200×744.png” thumb_width=”200″ /]

Other changes from the usual: no IPOs and a slowing pace of M&A: 58 this year versus first half 2016’s 87 and full year 146. Their public company index is brighter, with positive gains in first half led by Teladoc (up 110 percent YTD), Care.com (up 80 percent), and consulting favorite Evolent Health (up 70 percent–with United Healthcare’s acquisition of The Advisory Board’s healthcare practice, can an acquisition be far away?). Remaining in the doldrums are NantHealth, Fitbit, and Castlight Health. Rock Health Digital Funding Review First Half 2017

Soon up will be StartUp Health’s first half analysis, which takes a different cut at the companies and looks at the balance of deals by funding series.

∗ Rock Health tracks deals over $2 million in value from venture capital, excluding government and grant funding. They omit non-US deals, even if heavily US funded; healthcare services companies (Oscar), biotech/diagnostic companies (GRAIL), and software companies not solely focused on healthcare (Zenefits), but include fitness companies like Peloton. 

Health tech arrivals (Philips, Roche, VRI, PushDoctor)…and departures (Pact, Jawbone)

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Looney-Tunes-Were-in-the-Money.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]This popular vacation week has been filled with ‘money under the wire’ news of acquisitions, investments…and one high-profile owner shuttering a pioneering activity app.

Acquisitions:

Philips Healthcare added London-based pregnancy app developer Health & Parenting for an undisclosed sum. Its most popular app is Pregnancy + (and ++), with 12 million downloads via the Apple Store and Google Play, but others are Baby + for all things baby-rearing, and Baby Name Genius to Find That Ideal Name. It will fold into and diversify Philips’ existing uGrow digital parenting platform which includes the Avent smart baby monitor and smart ear thermometer and leverages the open infrastructure of Philips’ Health Suite Digital Platform. One wonders at the flood of data flowing from these apps to these devices and what Philips will do with all these points. Release, MedCityNews

Roche acquired Austrian partner mySugr, a management tool that promises to ‘make diabetes suck less’. Last year they added Roche’s Accu-Chek Connect blood glucose monitor to its chosen device connect and sync list. mySugr features an app for users to log their meals, exercise, glucose levels, and mood. It also captures pictures of user snacks and unleashes “a diabetes monster” avatar when the food choices are poor based on their glucose levels. Terms were not disclosed. MedCityNews

Telecare/monitoring company VRI quietly acquired Healthcom from Woodbridge International. Healthcom’s primary area is care transition management using medical alerts, telehealth, and medication management for payers, government agencies and care partners. Originally positioned as a partnership June 30 on VRI’s website, Globe Newswire confirmed the sale a week later. Terms (again) were not disclosed.

Mobihealthnews rounded up 24 major acquisitions, including GreatCall (by GTCR) and Best Doctors (Teladoc)–all by June 30!

Investments:

Manchester’s PushDoctor telemedicine app raised $26.1 million in Series B financing from Accelerated Digital Ventures and Draper Esprit plus Oxford Capital Partners, Partech Ventures, and Seventure Partners. This added to their $10.1 million Series A raise in January 2016. PushDoctor connects UK patients with NHS-registered GPs for virtual visits costing only £20. Unlike US-based tele-docs, Push Doctor issues prescriptions, makes doctor-led referrals to other health providers and specialists, and helps manage repeat prescriptions. Their founder also has an eye on managing long-term conditions, short-term illnesses, fitness, and nutrition. Their major UK competitors are Babylon Health (which recently raised £50 million for its triage app), Ada Health, and Your.MD. Crunchbase, TechCrunch, Mobihealthnews

And shutterings:

Pioneering fitness incentive app Pact (founded 2011) announced its closing by end of August. Originally a ‘get thee to the gym’ app, it branched out into healthy food (eat more vegetables!) and tracking meals with MyFitnessPal. Pact never truly emerged from seed funding. A rare stumble by Khosla Ventures, which led a 2014 bag-of-skittles round of $1.5 million. Mobihealthnews, Crunchbase

Jawbone closed out the week by liquidating and transubstantiating into Jawbone Health Hub. More on this here

76% of health systems to adopt consumer telemedicine by 2018: Teladoc survey

We normally don’t feature corporate or sponsored surveys, but are making an exception here as it demonstrates two trends: that hospital systems can’t fight consumer telehealth** anymore, and that the future mix of usage is starting to change. Teladoc’s/Becker’s Healthcare Hospital & Health Systems 2016 Consumer Telehealth Benchmark Survey projects that by 2018, 76 percent of health systems will adopt consumer telehealth (vs. site-to-site), double from 2016, and that most who have it will be expanding offerings. As a benchmark survey, it tracks services offered or plan to offer, organizational priorities, and goals.

An interesting part is how the mix of services under telehealth is evolving. Presently, the top three among current users are urgent care, primary care, and psychiatry/mental health. For new users, their priorities are ED/urgent care (45 percent), readmission prevention (42 percent), primary care, including internal medicine and pediatrics (42 percent), chronic condition management (41 percent). Nearly one in five (18 percent) plan to include cardiology services.

As implemented by health systems, telehealth has run into problems that were totally predictable and will provoke the ‘Duh?’ response from our Readers. From the report:

  1. They didn’t measure patient or physician satisfaction with their telehealth programs, even though improving patient satisfaction is a leading motivator for offering telehealth services.
  2. Gaining physician buy-in was cited by 78 percent of respondents, and rated as the #1 lesson learned
  3. The second most important? The importance of aligning telehealth initiatives with organizational goals (75 percent). (more…)

Texas gets its telemedicine on: governor signs off on full direct-to-consumer access

The telemedicine stars at night–and day–are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas. Over the weekend, Governor Greg Abbott signed into law Senate Bill 1107 which ended the requirement that a physician-patient relationship had to be established offline before a telemedicine visit could take place. MedCityNews  The Texas House earlier this month passed House Bill 2697 permitting direct-to-consumer virtual doctor visits, followed by the concurrent bill SB 1107 in the Senate. JD Supra (Jones Day), Modern Healthcare

The new legislation allows for previously prohibited initial care via telemedicine (versus in person), asynchronous “store-and-forward” typically used for data and images or other such audiovisual technology so long as it complies with rules that ensure safety and quality. The bill’s terms were negotiated between the Texas Medical Association, the Texas eHealth Alliance, and Teladoc. It also effectively ends the long-running, six-year standoff between Teladoc and the Texas State Medical Board, and the shutout of other providers such as American Well.

Both rivals cheered the good news on, which was timed beautifully for Teladoc’s 1st Quarter earnings call on May 9, adding to record-high visits, plus healthy revenue and membership increases. While it has many internationally known medical centers, Texas is a huge state and is notoriously short of primary care physicians, with 71.4 primary care physicians per 100,000 people and 46th among all the states for primary care physicians per capita.

There is one aspect of the bill that ensures further legal challenge, which is the language prohibiting the use of telemedicine to prescribe abortion-inducing medication as it does in 20 other states. Mobihealthnews. Further background in March article

Q1 digital health investment: two perspectives from StartUp Health and Rock Health

StartUp Health’s and Rock Health’s investment/M&A roundups from Q1 2017 have just hit the deck. Before we dig into them, let’s start with the differences in methodology:

  • Rock Health tracks deals only over $2 million in value; StartUp Health seems to have no minimum or maximum; the latter includes early stage deals at a lower value.
  • StartUp Health gathers in international deals at all levels, whereas Rock Health includes only US-funded ventures.
  • Rock Health omits healthcare services companies (citing Forward, Oscar), biotech/diagnostic companies (GRAIL, Theranos), and software companies not solely focused on healthcare (Zenefits)
  • StartUp Health defines ‘digital health’ differently than Rock Health, with categories of ‘patient/consumer experience’, ‘wellness’, ‘personalized health/quantified self’, and ‘research’

StartUp Health is ‘over the moon’, breathlessly (appropriately as the home of the 25-year Health Moonshot) with Q1 trending, seeing the biggest investment quarter since 2010 at $2.5 bn. Topping up this number was GRAIL, which is developing a blood test for early cancer detection, with a massive Series B at $914 million. Far behind it in the $85-110 million range were (in descending order) Alignment Healthcare (population health), PatientsLikeMe (patient/consumer experience), Nuna (big data/analytics), and PointClickCare (EHR). Population health, patient/consumer experience, and research top their investment activity. Most deals are still seed and Series A (59 percent), but that is down five points from full year 2016; Series B’s share is up three points to 25 percent. But it remains a difficult bridge to cross to C+ rounds.

Rock Health splits the difference and calls it ‘business as usual’, surprised that there hasn’t been a tailspin. Its Q1 sandwiches between 2016 and 2015, well above 2015 but trending 23 percent below Q1 2016. Their biggest deals include the aforementioned Alignment, PatientsLikeMe and Nuna, omitting GRAIL and PointClickCare. Their top three investment categories are analytics/big data, care coordination, and telemedicine (over $50 million). Rock Health tracked almost 20 M&A, noting that many transactions are now ex-California. They also uniquely track public company performance. Here in 2016 is where Readers first noted weakness in NantHealth, but Fitbit and Castlight Health also had miserable quarters. Teladoc, Evolent Health (consulting), and Care.com had a good winter as well. Let’s see what Q2 brings.

A analysis–and challenging takedown–of the RAND telehealth cost study (updated)

A must read on telemedicine and telehealth cost. One of our Readers, Bruce Judson, commented on our earlier coverage of RAND Health’s new study published in Health Affairs [TTA 8 Mar] finding that telemedicine virtual visits (here called telehealth) drove up utilization of care by 88 percent and cost by $45 per year for respiratory illnesses that typically resolved on their own.

He has written his own analysis based on the full study. Telehealth Costs: RAND’s Questionable Rant (Huffington Post), considers the full study and compares it to a 2014 RAND study by the same authors. Mr Judson notes inconsistencies in sampling and definitions; the illogical attachment of a waiting period cost (77 minutes=$30) to a telehealth visit (perhaps to level it with an office visit?); the misinterpretation of results; small sample size; and the fact that the CalPERS sample is ancient (2011-13), representative of a time when telemedicine (here provided by Teladoc) was a new notion. There are inconsistencies with an earlier RAND study based on the same data! (He does not count in costs outside the study such as lost time at work or the cost of spreading infection to co-workers.)

Mr Judson, after many years in publishing, digital marketing and strategy (from when it was called ‘new media’), and currently an advisor to a UK firm investing in IoT, has cast his lot with us in health tech, heading a firm in the Hudson Valley of NY, Telehealthworks, which markets an employer telemedicine and wellness program called freshbenies. While he discloses that he’s not a disinterested observer or researcher, he has that in common with most of our Readers, who are very interested in determining the truth about costs and savings. He gives many reasons to be skeptical of the RAND findings.

Telemedicine may drive up medical utilization, increase cost for respiratory illness: RAND Health

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/business-163464_960_720.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Is convenience the culprit? Researchers from RAND Corporation’s Health program conducted a three-year study of telemedicine (here called telehealth) usage by employees of CalPERS for respiratory illness and came to a surprising conclusion. From the study abstract: “12 percent of direct-to-consumer telehealth visits replaced visits to other providers, and 88 percent represented new utilization. Net annual spending on acute respiratory illness increased $45 per telehealth user.”

The study examined 2011-2013 claims information for over 300,000 people insured through the California California Public Employees’ Retirement System, which despite the name provides health benefits to active state employees as well as retirees. It targeted common acute respiratory infections (sinus infections, bronchitis and related) to determine patterns of provider utilization and the change after the introduction of telehealth. Of that group, 981 used the Teladoc system for video consults, adopted by CalPERS in 2012.

The objective of the study was to determine whether the telehealth visits were new care or substituted for other types of care such as doctor, clinic, or ED visits. Even though the telehealth services were far cheaper–about 50 percent lower than a physician office visit and less than 5 percent the cost of a visit to the ED–they did not make up for the calculated 88 percent rise in utilization.

Similar results were reported by RAND in last year’s research on retail clinics, which estimated that 58 percent of visits for low-severity illnesses were new and not shifted from EDs or doctor’s offices. What is in common? Convenience. Convenience opens up greater use. If you have a store down the street, you may pop in daily versus once-weekly.

Updated: Some further insights from Mobihealthnews were that the study stated that telehealth visits may be more likely to result in additional costs, such as follow-up appointments, testing or prescriptions. In other words, the telehealth visit starts off less expensive, but the standard of care in follow-up adds to that initial cost.

The RAND recommendation is thus not a surprise: make more telemedicine visits a shift from office or ED to restrict telemedicine growth. Raise the cost of co-pays for the service to reduce demand. On the ‘high side’, encourage ED ‘frequent flyers’ to use telehealth services instead. Pass the painkillers. Health Affairs (abstract only; paid access required for full study), RAND Health press release.

Analysis: instead of self-doctoring, and suffering at home and in the workplace, the small group of CalPERS policyholders in the study actually used their new benefit to check their health–as intended! The additional cost is not staggering; (more…)