TTA’s New Year’s Too: Teladoc’s move to enterprise, ‘flyover country’ startups, femtech’s soft numbers, Proteus’ hard times, funding and events from Dallas to Dubrovnik

 

Acquisitions and funding raises lead off with Teladoc and InTouch Health, DrChrono, and CareBridge. Where are the hottest startups?–not on either coast. But Proteus continues on the Road to No-teous. Femtech’s hot but unvalidated. And events from Dallas to Dubrovnik!

News roundup: Proteus dissolves with Otsuka, EHRs add 16 min. per patient, DrChrono mobile EHR raises $20M, CareBridge LTSS launches, ‘flyover healthtech’ soars
Femtech’s huge potential global healthcare market–but needs to connect with payers and employers (That Old Validation Again)
Consolidation crunch time in telehealth: Teladoc acquires InTouch Health for $600 million (Enterprise telehealth is the charm)
European Patient Experience and Innovation Congress (EPIC 2020) invites world health tech to Croatia (And beautiful Dubrovnik)
Texas Healthcare Challenge WISH-es on women in February hackathon (Dallas TX) (Health Wildcatters’ latest)

To kick off the New Year, we take a Gimlety view of CES and the state of health tech innovation, Babylon Health’s diagnostics, Germany’s health ID system, and the cratering value of many HIT companies.

News roundup for the New Year: NHS £40m diet on login times, Germany’s ‘cheesy’ health ID security, Livongo and Higi partner, MTBC picks up CareCloud (For a knockdown price)
CES roundup: what happened to the excitement around ‘innovation’, robots, VR, and voice assistants? (A Gimlet Eye view of CES)
Babylon Health criticized by Manchester CCG, cardiac activists in UK, Canada (Scaling and AI problems lead to more)
The CES circus opens its largest tent yet in health tech, AI, 5G, and more (Step right up…)

Our windup for 2019: the ACA mandate was found to be unconstitutional, Babylon Health’s entering the US market in January, Appello acquires Medvivo Careline. Will Outcome Health’s execs dodge Club Fed? And calendar DHACA/HTF’s pitch event on 5 February.

The last news roundup for 2019: ACA mandate unconstitutional, more $ for health research, PartnersHealthcare rebrands, Hackensack Meridian pays ransom, breaches>heart attack deaths, telepsychiatry merger, more (Bidding farewell to ’19, and a happy, healthy New Year to our Readers)
Babylon Health to enter US market with two large strategic partners: report (What $550 million will do)
Calling all pitchers! Join us at Baker Botts on 5th February for a great evening (DHACA/HTF London pitch event)
Appello acquires Medvivo Careline telecare in second major move this year (UK)
Outcome Health founders Shah, Agarwal plead not guilty in Federal court
(Dodging the Club Fed Outcome will take years)

Barely two weeks to Christmas, but a blue one for Proteus Digital Health employees and six former Outcome Health execs. HHS leadership mixes it up in public, malware bites Hackensack, but it’s lovely in Leeds–and if you have a new job.

News roundup: Proteus may be no-teous, DOJ leads on Google-Fitbit, HHS’ mud fight, Leeds leading in health tech, malware miseries, comings and goings (Proteus runs out of road for 300, DOJ looking at Fitbit acquisition, HHS execs no lika each other, malware 2020, and it’s Leeds leading)
“There were practices going on there that were wrong”: Outcome Health’s Desai pleads guilty, cooperates with DOJ. (One pleads guilty, three not guilty, with the major players pleading on Monday)

Snow falls, what’s left of freeze-dried leaves clog the gutters, and we’re revving up the charge cards in our run up to the Christmas holidays. Dr. Halamka follows the AI Star to Mayo. But already there’s coal in the stocking for six former Outcome Health-ers.

News roundup: Philips allies with Humana for pop health, Dexcom’s outage outrage, Halamka ankles Lahey for Mayo, Google and NHS Wales changes, Agfa’s health sale, Victrix/WhatsApp, more

SEC, DOJ charges Outcome Health founders Shah and Agarwal, others, with $487 million fraud, 26 counts of indictment (Club Fed looms for decades)


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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.

Donna Cusano, Editor In Chief
donna.cusano@telecareaware.com

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Consolidation crunch time in telehealth: Teladoc acquires InTouch Health for $600 million

Announced on Sunday just in time for Monday’s start of the annual, breathlessly awaited JP Morgan healthcare conference where ‘middle America’ ‘flyover’ companies are now the hot thing, was the acquisition by decidedly not-flyover Teladoc (Purchase, NY) of InTouch Health (Santa Barbara CA). InTouch is a mid-sized company for primarily hospital and health system-based telehealth. The purchase price was $150 million in cash and the remainder in Teladoc common stock, scheduled to close next quarter.

InTouch had made acquisitions of its own in 2018: REACH Health (enterprise telehealth) and TruClinic (DTC telehealth). Unusually, it also came fairly unencumbered by outside funding–only $49 million to date.

Telehealth and telemedicine are both rapidly consolidating and growing horizontally into payers (Teladoc and Aetna), corporate, and health systems.

An analysis over at Seeking Alpha emphasizes InTouch’s enterprise business as the charm for Teladoc, leading to a purchase price 7.5x revenue based on InTouch Health’s 2019 revenue of $80mm. InTouch had, with TruClinic, built itself up into a comprehensive system for over 450 hospitals reaching to the patient, but also developed specialty telehealth areas in stroke, behavioral health, critical care, neonatology, and cardiology. In their view for investors, the news is quite positive for Teladoc as–returning to JP Morgan–40 percent of hospitals expect to increase their telemedicine budgets. Release, MedCityNews

Babylon Health to enter US market with two large strategic partners: report

An apparently exclusive report in Mobihealthnews confirms the recent speculation that Babylon Health is entering the US market starting next month with its smartphone-based chat and triage service. Kurt Blasena, Babylon’s senior managing director of commercial strategy and revenue growth, said at the October Digital Health Innovation Summit in Boston that there are two current partners and a projected additional one to three more in 2020. The hints were that they were two “very large” strategic partners and one implementation will be for the state Medicaid market. The partners were not named, which leads this Editor to guess that the Medicaid implementation hasn’t been cleared with its state yet.

Babylon is experienced at international rollouts but not the US market. According to Mr. Blasena, they been busy localizing the service for the US by adapting the chatbot’s natural language processing system and hiring US-based staff. Part of the US difference is negotiating through how local healthcare is delivered, plus the thicket (this Editor is being kind) of Federal, state, and local regulations.

Right now their US operations are in a Prospect Heights, Brooklyn NYC apartment and in a WeWork in Austin, Texas. Mr. Blasena, according to his LinkedIn profile, is resident in San Diego.

Babylon Health has abundant cash on hand from a $550 million August Series C led by the Saudi Arabia Investment fund along with previous investors Kinnevik AB and Vostok plus new investor Munich Re. The stated intent was to expand into the US and other international markets in addition to presently being in Rwanda and Canada. Release  Stay tuned….

Cleveland Clinic, American Well extend partnership to high-acuity telehealth services with ‘The Clinic’

Proof that the realm of virtual consults is growing more competitive and specialized than ever is the announcement of a joint venture between the Cleveland Clinic and American Well. Dubbed The Clinic, the partnership will give patients access to comprehensive and high-acuity care services by integrating Cleveland Clinic’s specialists with American Well’s platform. 

While Cleveland Clinic and American Well have worked together in telehealth for non-emergency and specialty care since 2014, this new partnership takes it a giant step further to the care and management of complex conditions. Cleveland Clinic has also stated that telehealth is a key part of their growth strategy to double the number of patients served in the next five years. The Clinic will provide both national and international reach beyond their physical locations that include Abu Dhabi and London, according to a quote in the press release from Tom Mihaljevic, MD, their CEO and president. 

Cleveland Clinic reported that in 2018, the number of annual virtual visits grew 68 percent, anticipating that in five years, 50 percent of their outpatient visits will be virtual.

No timing for a go-live of The Clinic has been announced. Release, Mobihealthnews

Tyto Care partners with Avera eCARE for telehealth delivered to medically underserved populations

Following on last week’s announcement of Tyto Care‘s partnership with Novant Health, Sioux Falls SD-based telemedicine provider Avera eCARE will be introducing Tyto Care’s professional version, TytoPro, into its telemedicine service using high-definition video for virtual consults. What TytoPro will add is remote diagnostic capability and collection via the TytoVisit platform, using the TytoApp and Clinician dashboard. Avera will use TytoPro’s hand-held device with exam camera, thermometer, otoscope, stethoscope (with volume, bell, and diaphragm filters), and tongue depressor adaptors.

In a test of Avera eCARE plus Tyto Care in an assisted living community, the pairing of the two systems reduced emergency department transfers by 20 percent, with 93% of residents treated in place.

Avera eCARE, a part of Avera Health, provides telemedicine services to medically underserved populations via local healthcare systems, rural hospitals, outpatient clinics, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living communities, schools, and correctional facilities. It has over 400 providers in its comprehensive virtual health network across the US. A ‘white paper’ on the Avera/Tyto Care partnership is here. Release 

News, moves and M&A roundup: Appello acquires RedAssure, Shaw departs NHS Digital, NHS App goes biometric, GP at Hand in Manchester, Verita Singapore’s three startup buys, Novant Health and Tyto Care partner

Appello telecare acquires RedAssure Independent Living from Worthing Homes. A 20-year provider of telecare services to about 700 homes in the Worthing area in West Sussex, the acquisition by Appello closed on 1 October. Previously, Appello provided monitoring services for RedAssure since 2010. Terms were not disclosed. Release.

Another NHS Digital departure is Rob Shaw, deputy CEO. He will be leaving to pursue a consulting career advising foreign governments on national health and care infrastructure. He is credited with moving the NHS Spine in-house and establishing NHS Digital’s cybersecurity function. The Digital Health article times it for around Christmas. Mr. Shaw’s departure follows other high-profile executives this year such as former chief digital officer Juliet Bauer who controversially moved to Kry/LIVI after penning a glowing article about them [TTA 24 Jan], Will Smart, Matthew Swindells, and Richard Corbridge.

One initiative that NHS Digital has lately implemented is passwordless, biometric facial or fingerprint-based log in for the NHS App, based on the FIDO (Fast-Identity Online) UAF (Universal Authentication Framework) protocol (whew!). NHS Digital’s most recent related announcement is the release of two pieces of code under open-source that will allow developers to include biometric verification for log in into their products.

Babylon Health’s GP at Hand plans Manchester expansion. The formal notification will likely be this month to commissioners of plans to open a Manchester clinic as a center for GP at Hand’s primarily virtual consults. This follows on their recent expansion into Birmingham via Hammersmith and Fulham CCG which will be notified. How it will work is that patients registering in Manchester would be added initially to a single patient list for GP at Hand located at Hammersmith and Fulham CCG. Babylon is now totalling 60,000 patients through GP at Hand.  GP Online

Singapore’s Verita Healthcare Group has acquired three digital health startups. The two from Singapore are nBuddy and CelliHealth, in addition to Germany’s Hanako. Verita has operations in Singapore, the US, Asia-Pacific and Europe, with 35 alliance partnerships with medical clinics and hospitals across Australia, Southeast Asia and Europe. Mobihealthnews APAC

Novant Health, a 640-location health system in North Carolina, is introducing Tyto Care’s TytoHome integrated telehealth diagnostic and consult device as part of its network service. Webpage, release

Can a smartphone camera, app, and device detect viruses at low cost?

A team of researchers led by the University of Tokyo’s Yoshihiro Minagawa has developed a mobile-based portable viewing and diagnostic platform for viruses, which may be a breakthrough in diagnostics for rural and underserved global areas. The viewer is about the size of a standard brick and performs the digital enzyme assay using cavities lit with an LED to create light spots detectable by the camera.  The smartphone camera fits on top of a lens on the top of the box. Right now it detects only about 60 percent of what can be detected by a fluoroscopic microscope, but its speed and portability are major assets in these early tests, as well as versatility in possibly detecting other biomarkers. Mobile imaging platform for digital influenza virus counting (Lab On A Chip–Royal Society of Chemistry) Supported by the ImPACT Program of Council for Science, Technology, and Innovation (Cabinet Office, Government of Japan) Also Mobihealthnews APAC.

Oral health: more than a public health challenge, an opportunity for telehealth?

Untreated caries in permanent teeth was the most prevalent health condition in 2010, affecting 35% of the global population, or 2·4 billion people worldwide. In 2010, severe periodontitis was the sixth-most prevalent health condition, affecting 10·8% of people, or 743 million, worldwide.

Worldwide in 2015, dental diseases accounted for US$356·80 billion in direct costs and US$187·61 billion in indirect costs.

Is oral health the next big SDH (Social Determinant of Health)? A focus in this month’s Lancet is the neglect of global oral health. Most of our Readers know that oral self-care can be a challenge with older adults due to physical limitations, finances, and access, but oral  and periodontal disease affects nutrition, is a source of pain, tooth loss, consequent low self-regard, low quality of life, and can lead to other diseases such as sepsis and undiagnosed cancers.

The Lancet’s two articles, Oral diseases: a global public health challenge and Ending the neglect of global oral health: time for radical action (open access, registration required on these links) point out the current allopathic model does not fit the wider societal need,  and come down hard on the social and economic origins (very hard on Western dental practice, the sugar industry, and food providers). However, the articles are light on solutions other than universal health care and community based dental practice. Even in less-developed countries like India and Brazil, practitioners don’t migrate to poor, rural areas. It is true, however, that much of dentistry, at least in the US, has an increasing focus on cosmetic restoration.

Here is a wide-open area for telehealth development. Some areas to explore:

  • Creating wider access to dentistry that treats immediate problems
  • Greater access to proactive dental care, whether dental checkups and to encourage better self-care
  • Connecting rural fixed or mobile clinics staffed by technicians or locally trained staff with dentists for remote screening and scheduling care. 

Hat tip to Leah at The TeleDentists for these articles. The articles are also attached as PDFs here and here.

FCC’s $100M Connected Care Pilot Program for rural areas up for July vote

Finally, a big boost for rural telehealth comes to the ‘yea or nay’ stage. The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Connected Care Pilot Program, which was approved to proceed last August [TTA 9 Aug 18] with comments on the creation of the program, now moves to the next stage with a formal FCC vote on 10 July on the program itself. The FCC vote was announced by FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, the co-proposer of the program with Mississippi’s Senator Roger Wicker, during a visit on Tuesday to a rural health clinic in Laurel Fork, Virginia.

The three-year program increases support for telehealth efforts aimed at low-income Americans in underserved regions and who are veterans, to increase their access to health technologies. Providers would be assisted in securing both technology and broadband resources needed to launch remote patient monitoring and telehealth programs. 

Commissioner Carr quoted, in his rural health clinic visit, stats from multiple studies including the VA‘s long experience (since the early 2000s) with remote patient monitoring:

  • A study of 20 remote patient monitoring trials found reductions of 20 percent in all-cause mortality and 15 percent in heart failure-related hospitalizations.
  • A remote patient monitoring initiative (not attributed) reduced ER visits by 46 percent, hospital admissions by 53 percent, and in-patient stay length by 25 percent.
  • The Veterans Health Administration’s remote patient monitoring program had reductions of 25 percent in days of inpatient care and a 19 percent in hospital admissions.
  • In savings, a diabetes trial run by the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) saved nearly $700,000 annually in hospital readmissions. This extrapolated, based on 20 percent of Mississippi’s diabetic population, that Medicaid would save $189 million per year.

HealthLeaders Media also noted that at the July meeting, the FCC will vote on a notice of proposed rulemaking to seek comment on funding to defray the cost of healthcare providers joining the telehealth initiative and innovative pilot programs aimed at responding to critical health crises including diabetes management and opioids. Also mHealth Intelligence

Tyto Care telehealth integrates with Epic EHR MyChart patient app

Tyto Care announced today the addition of their remote diagnostic device and app to Epic’s app marketplace, AppOrchard. The addition enables health organizations to adopt the Tyto Care app and offer TytoHome service to their care providers and patients. The data is integrated into Epic’s MyChart patient portal, delivering patient exam data to Epic EHRs used by providers.

The remote visit can work two ways.

  • Launched from within MyChart, the patient can initiate a live or scheduled telehealth visit
  • From Epic’s HyperSpace desktop app, a care provider can remotely join a telehealth visit with the patient.

During the visit, the provider can control the TytoCare device to capture temperature readings, skin images, heart and lung auscultations, and recordings of the throat and ears for a remote diagnosis.

Sanford Health, a health system in the Midwest and West, is one current Tyto Care user which also uses Epic as their EHR. Meghan Goldammer, a senior vice president and chief clinical officer at Sanford Health, commented that “Epic has been our electronic patient record standard of care for years and now we have adopted Tyto Care. The integration will allow for a coordinated patient experience and give our providers the information they need to deliver great care.”

Based in Netanya, Israel and New York City, Tyto Care’s ‘all-in-one’ device incorporates a camera, stethoscope, otoscope, tongue depressor, basal thermometer, and smartphone app for an extensive video exam which can be integrated with an EHR or other telehealth systems. It includes visit scheduling capability, a cloud-based data repository with analytics, and built-in user guidance with machine learning algorithms for accurate use. Tyto Care is now retailed at Best Buy in select markets [TTA 17 April]. Tyto Care release

Breaking News–Teladoc: while accredited by NCQA, placed on ‘under corrective action’ status (updated)

Breaking News. Teladoc–one of the two giants in telemedicine–has been placed on ‘under corrective action’ status in its latest (15 May) two-year accreditation with the National Committee for Quality Assurance, better known by its initials, NCQA. Their next review is slated for six months (18 Nov).

According to the earliest breaking report on Seeking Alpha, a business and stock market website, the move to ‘corrective action’ status has been brewing for some time. Teladoc was the first telemedicine company to win this coveted status in 2013. Now, of course, all major telemedicine players have this accreditation.

This is the latest mark against the company, which has gone through some recent ‘interesting times’ financially with accounting problems based on booking stock awards (2018), the CFO’s resignation, and lack of replacement. The report by a ‘bear’ on the stock indicates that its large contract with Aetna, among others, is up for renewal.

Exactly what this ‘corrective action’ is related to has not been made public by either NCQA or Teladoc. Comments under the article sourced from a Wells Fargo analyst that the action is arising from a workflow that Teladoc uses for credentialing providers.

A good portion of this article discusses revisions on the Teladoc website and marketing materials which ensues when something like this happens and it is the basis for a superiority or credentialing claim.

NCQA is a non-profit that advocates quality standards and measures for healthcare organizations, health plans, and organizations that provide services to the former. Their standards are widespread in the industry as a means of review and accreditation for providers and hospitals, as well as incorporated into quality metrics used by HHS and CMS. For those who may not be able to access the full article–requires free membership (but you’ll get emails) registration with the Seeking Alpha site–attached is a PDF of the article.

Update: While to the ‘bear’ Teladoc is a glass half empty and cracked, to another Seeking Alpha writer, the glass is more than half full even though the company continues to run substantial losses. Here’s an analysis that is mostly positive, though acknowledging the issues above.

International news roundup: ATA dispatches, compete for funding in Helsinki, Spry FDA-cleared for COPD, Merck acquires ConnectMed Kenya

There’s not much news so far from the just-wrapped ATA 2019 conference in New Orleans, but POLITICO Morning eHealth highlighted a drop-by by Sen. Bill Cassidy from Louisiana, urging attendees to demonstrate to their local politicos that telemedicine is safe and effective–and be ready to answer questions about fraud or misuse. Louisiana’s Ochsner Health System is branching into retail with the O Bar, cleverly designed to look like an Apple Store to merchandise wearables and other health tech devices. For Ochsner patients, they can enroll into RPM programs and have their data directly input into their Epic EHR. American Well released a survey of 800 doctors, with the unsurprising finding that 22 percent have used telehealth to treat patients, but this is up 340 percent since 2015; also that the doctors finding telehealth most attractive to practice are also reporting high levels of burnout. Looking for more substantiative news from NOLA.

It’s Helsinki for pitching your digital health idea in June. The 11th edition of the interestingly named EC2VC Investors Forum and Pitch Competition is now part of HIMSS/ Health 2.0 Europe 2019. Healthcare startups and SMEs looking for funding can apply, with 12 companies to be selected to present before a jury panel of digital health investors. The format is a four-minute pitch, followed by six minutes of Q&A. More information and to apply by 6 May, with finalists selected by 13 May. The event is 11 June from 13:00 to 16:00 at Messukeskus Helsinki Expo & Convention Centre. 

Spry Health’s Loop wearable device gained FDA clearance. Spry is a RPM device company with a wrist-wearable device that measures pulse oximetry, respiration, heart rate, and blood pressure (research only) through optical sensors. While users can receive reports on the display and alerts, it is primarily meant for clinical monitoring by physicians in healthcare systems. The RPM is meant to detect signs of patient deterioration and exacerbations early so that actions can be taken. For the present time, the company is focusing on the device’s use in COPD patients. Certainly there is a large market in the US–there are 12 million diagnosed patients, with COPD the third leading cause of death with over 120,000 deaths per year. Mobihealthnews, BusinessWire, MDDIOnline

Merck acquires Kenyan digital health startup ConnectMed. The pharma company is purchasing ConnectMed’s telehealth applications in Kenya serving about 8,000 consumers, as well as related management systems. Merck will use the platform in conjunction with its Curafa point of care clinical and pharmaceutical services. Started in September of last year, these are run by local independent pharmaceutical technologists, clinical officers and nurses for underserved populations in Kenya. ConnectMed will cease operations. During its lifetime, it developed three DTC digital health services in Kenya and South Africa. WT/Startup Africa

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.)

News roundup from all over: prescribing apps is back! Plus telemental health Down Under, GreatCall’s health tech strategy, Wessex’s diabetic sim, telehealth growth outpaces urgent care

Back to the future with prescribing apps! Early stage Xealth just gained a $11 million Series A from heavyweights such as Novartis, McKesson Ventures, UPMC, Philips, and ResMed. Clinicians can prescribe and monitor digital health care content, apps, devices, and services from within their EHR. Yet another thing to add to their 5+ hours a day in the system! Let’s hope that in staying away from certification, they are more successful than predecessors like the long-expired Happtique and the little-noticed but still in business Xcertia [TTA 6 Dec 15Release 

Telemental health startup Lysn working to spread mental health access in Australia. In two years, it has grown to over 265 psychologists and partners with 53 GP clinics, mainly regional and rural. The creator of the service is a Canadian-born surgeon, Dr. Jonathan King, who is 35–and bootstrapped it with his own earnings and house. In The Black

A good coffee break read is an interview with GreatCall’s CEO David Inns outlining their health tech strategy for older adults, including a reboot of Lively Home (without the exclamation point) with Senior Whole Health in Massachusetts for ADL monitoring (set up by Best Buy’s Geek Squad), the predictive analytics part of HealthSense in using connectivity and monitoring to predict falls, depression, and diseases, and back to wearables with smartphones. What is interesting is the stunning claim that they can back up the “soak up 20 percent of the healthcare costs of the population that we’re working with” through these predictive analytics and monitoring by reducing long-term care expenses. (Reminds me of some of the claims we made at Living Independently!) However, if any company has the muscle to make it happen, they do. BTW, not a peep about the retail Assured Living in Best Buy stores we tried to find last year, in vain. Mobihealthnews.

Oxford Medical Simulation is partnering with NHS England to trial its virtual reality training for diabetic emergencies. The pilot is being directed by Health Education England Wessex at the Portsmouth and Southampton Hospitals. Fifty doctors will use Oculus Rift headsets to walk through Oxford’s 100 or so scenarios. Mobihealthnews.

The growth of telehealth is outpacing urgent care and retail clinics, according to FAIR Health. This healthcare nonprofit calculated a 53 percent growth rate for telehealth (defined as virtual visits) between 2016 and 2017. In contrast, urgent care use increased only 15 percent in urban areas but went flat in rural areas. Retail clinic use fell 28 percent in urban areas and with a small 3 percent increase in rural areas. The advantages of telehealth in rural areas (up 29 percent), of course, is not having to drive when you’re sick. For urban residents, the advantage is not having to leave the house. According to their analysis, the top three reasons for telehealth visits were acute respiratory infections, digestive issues and injuries, each representing 13 percent of telehealth diagnoses. Mental health, which led in 2016, dropped to fifth. Healthcare Dive

Suddenly hot: chronic condition management in telehealth initiatives at University of Virginia and Doctor on Demand

Chronic condition monitoring is suddenly hot. UVA has been a telehealth pioneer going back to the early oughts, with smart homes, sensor based monitoring, and remote patient monitoring. Their latest initiatives through the UVA Health System focus on preventing or managing chronic conditions. It will include remote monitoring for patients with diabetes, screenings for patients with diabetic retinopathy, home-based cardiac rehabilitation programs for heart failure patients and streamlined access by primary care physicians to specialists through electronic based consults. The program will also include specialized trainings for health care providers.

The programs are being funded by a $750,000 grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Virginia Department of Health. UVA press release, Mobihealthnews

Mobihealthnews earlier noted that Doctor on Demand, a smaller commercial telehealth company, is also expanding in the management of chronic conditions through a new service, Synapse, that creates a digital medical home for personal data. This data can include everything from what is generated by fitness trackers to blood pressure monitors. The data can be directly shared with a provider or across health information exchanges and EMRs. Doctor on Demand plans to use this longitudinal data to identify gaps in care and increase access to healthcare services–and also integrate it into existing payer and employer networks.

This Editor recalls that this was a starting point for telehealth and remote patient monitoring as far back as 2003, but somehow got lost in the whiz-bang gadget, Quantified Self, and tablets for everything fog. Back to where we started, but with many more tools and a larger framework.

The wind may be even stronger at the back of telehealth this year–but not without a bit of chill

Late last year, this Editor noted that ‘the wind may finally be at the back of telehealth distribution and payment’. The expansion of telehealth access for privately issued Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, state-run Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Plan) plan members, and this year’s Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, along with a limited expansion of telemedicine in the Value-Based Insurance Design (VBID) model for MA announced earlier this year by CMS, is a leading indicator that government is encouraging private insurers to pay doctors for these services, who in term will pay vendors for providing them.

The Veterans Health Administration (VA) has historically been the largest user in the US of telehealth services (home telehealth, clinical video telehealth, store-and-forward). They are also a closed and relatively inflexible system (disclosure–this Editor worked for Viterion, a former RPM supplier to the VA). In 2017, under then Secretary David Shulkin (who left under a cloud, and not an IT one), there were hopes raised through the Anywhere to Anywhere VA Health Care Initiative. So the news released at the start of HIMSS’ annual meeting that veterans will be able to access their health data through Apple’s Health Records app on the iPhone, perhaps as early as this summer, was certainly an encouraging development. According to mHealth Intelligence, the key in enabling this integration and with other apps in the future is the Veterans Health Application Programming Interface (API), unveiled last year.

Anywhere to Anywhere is also making headway in veteran telemedicine usage. Of their 2.3 million telehealth episodes in their FY 2018, over 1 million were video telehealth visits with veterans, up 19 percent from 2017. 105,000 of those video visits were through VA Video Connect to veterans’ personal devices. The remainder were real-time interactive video conferences at a VA clinic. The other half were assessment of data between VA facilities or data sent from home (the underused Home Telehealth).  Health Data Management

Virginia also moved to make remote patient monitoring part of covered telehealth services for commercial health plans and the state Medicaid program. The combined bills HB 1970 and SB 1221 will be sent for signature to Governor Ralph Northam, to whom the adjective ‘beleaguered’ certainly applies. National Law Review

But service providers face compliance hurdles when dealing with governmental entities, and they’re complex. There are Federal fraud, waste, and abuse statutes such as on referrals (Anti-Kickback, Stark Law on self-referral), state Corporate Practice of Medicine Doctrine statutes, and medical licensure requirements for telehealth practices. Telehealth: The Beginner’s Guide to Legal Pitfalls is a short essay on what can face a medical practice in telehealth.