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

TTA’s Week: NHS loses the pagers, digital health ethical talk-talk, back to chronic condition monitoring, consumers driving health design–whatta notion!

 

 

Chronic condition telehealth monitoring is suddenly hot–again. When will digital health ethics be more than talk-talk? No more faxes, no more pagers in the NHS. Surprise! Consumer behavior should drive health tech. Plus late spring events + Connected Health Summit speaking opportunities.

And scroll below for news of The King’s Fund’s Digital Health and Care Congress, including Matt Hancock as keynote speaker on day 2. Plus 10% off registration for our Readers!

Suddenly hot: chronic condition management in telehealth initiatives at University of Virginia and Doctor on Demand (We’ve been here before)
Events, dear friends: MedTech London, Aging 2.0 Philadelphia, speakers wanted for Connected Health Summit (More for your calendar from late winter into late summer)
First they came for the fax machines….now NHS is coming for the pagers (Pretty soon it will be the stethoscopes, the furniture…)
The King’s Fund Digital Health and Care Conference announces Matt Hancock as Day 2 keynoter (He’s everywhere!)
About time: digital health grows a set of ethical guidelines (But how to put it into action beyond the nice meetings and draft principles?)
A short but canny look at consumer behavior as a driver of health technology (Design that fits into life–what a notion!)

Rounding up HIMSS and the millennial/Gen Z healthcare mindset. It’s wall-to-wall Theranos for the next few weeks. And we bid farewell to a fine (if over-parodied) actor with our video advert.

News roundup: of logos and HIMSS roundups, Rock Health’s Digital Health Consumer Adoption survey, and the millennial/Gen Z walkaway from primary care (Increasingly not trad, dad)
The Theranos Story, ch. 58: with HBO and ABC, let the mythmaking and psychiatric profiling begin! (updated) (A deluge of Theranos Analysis)
From our archives: a long buried advert (RIP Bruno Ganz) (Editors Steve and Donna salute a fine actor and fine movie–remembered, humorously)

The Topol Review’s relationship to reality explored by Roy Lilley. Robotics effects in therapy for children with autism and CP. The wind’s even more at the back of telehealth–but there are caveats. Plus Editor Charles is back with a UK digital health roundup.

Roy Lilley’s tart-to-the-max view of The Topol Review on the digital future of the NHS (This week’s Must Read)
Robots’ largely positive, somewhat equivocal role in therapy for children with autism and cerebral palsy (HIMSS)
The wind may be even stronger at the back of telehealth this year–but not without a bit of chill (VA, Virginia as indicators–and the hurdles when you get there )
A selection of short digital health items of potential interest (Editor Charles is back with views on AI and events)

The telehealth entrepreneur and the $5 million fraud = 15 years in prison. Scotland’s Current Health wins FDA clearance, Latin America telemedicine’s uncertain state, women in eHealth, and studies on digital health in health systems.

News roundup: Current Health’s Class II, Healthware Italy’s €10 million boost, the low state of Latin America telemedicine, weekend reading on digital health in health systems
Digital health versus eHealth: ‘here we go again’ with the confusion and the differences. Plus Women in eHealth (JISfTeH) (Reviving the terminology discussion)
The telehealth ‘entrepreneur’ whose $5 million funding bought stays at the Ritz and portfolios at Bottega Veneta (And 15 years in the Federal pen. Tell your mum or uncle to be wary of good stories)

Our lead this week is the sale of Tunstall’s US operation. Unicorns need to hype less and publish studies more. The King’s Fund’s two events in March and May, Bayer’s accelerator winners, and news from Apple to teledermatology for São’s spotted!

Short takes: Livongo buys myStrength, Apple Watch cozies with insurers, Lively hears telehealth and $16 million
Tunstall Americas sold to Connect America
(Tunstall conceding their business is outside the US)
Where’s the evidence? Healthcare unicorns lack the proof and credibility of peer-reviewed studies. (Unicorns need to add substance to the sparkle)
News roundup: Virginia includes RPM in telehealth, Chichester Careline changes, Sensyne AI allies with Oxford, Tunstall partners in Scotland, teledermatology in São Paolo
The King’s Fund ‘Digital Health and Care Explained’ 27 March
(Readers also get a 10% discount at the 22-23 May Congress)
Bayer’s G4A accelerator awards agreements with KinAptic, Agamon, Cyclica (DE) (A truly international accelerator program)

Latest through the revolving door is NHS’ chief digital officer, digital health may be more ‘bubbly’ than you would like, telemedicine and telehealth gain important consumer and Medicare facing ground, and fill your calendar some more!

NHS England digital head Bauer exits for Swedish medical app Kry, but not without controversy (The revolving door reveals a self-made cloud over her head)
Events, Dear Friends, Events: UK Telehealthcare, Mad*Pow HXD, dHealth Summit (Get out the calendars–and the checkbooks/app)
Telemedicine virtual visits preferred by majority in Massachusetts General Hospital survey (Over 94% loved the convenience alone)
Medicare Advantage model covering telehealth for certain in-person visits starting in 2020 (The needle moves–slowly)
It’s not a bubble, really! Or developing? Analysis of Rock Health’s verdict on 2018’s digital health funding. (‘Bubbly’ factors that may influence this year–not for the better)

We round up the Official Healthcare Circus of CES, Verily rolls along with $1 bn in investment, and Walgreens Boots finally makes an alliance splash with Microsoft

It’s Official: CES is now a health tech event (updated) (And still a circus! We round up the top coverage so you don’t have to)
News roundup: Walgreens Boots-Microsoft, TytoCare, CVS-Aetna moves along, Care Innovations exits Louisville
Verily, Google’s life sciences arm, gathers in another billion to go…where? (Updated for Study Watch clearance) (Still a mystery)


The King’s Fund’s annual Digital Health and Care Congress is back on 22-23 May. Just announced–Secretary Matt Hancock keynoting Day 2. Meet leading NHS and social care professionals and learn how data and technology can improve the health and well-being of patients plus the quality and effectiveness of the services that they use. Our Readers are eligible for a 10% discount using the link in the advert or here, plus the code Telehealth_10.


Have a job to fill? Seeking a position? Free listings available to match our Readers with the right opportunities. Email Editor Donna.


Read Telehealth and Telecare Aware: http://telecareaware.com/  @telecareaware

Follow our pages on LinkedIn and on Facebook

We thank our present and past advertisers and supporters: Tynetec, Eldercare, UK Telehealthcare, NYeC, PCHAlliance, ATA, The King’s Fund, HIMSS, Health 2.0 NYC, MedStartr, Parks Associates, and HealthIMPACT.

Reach international leaders in health tech by advertising your company or event/conference in TTA–contact Donna for more information on how we help and who we reach. See our advert information here. 


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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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.

TTA’s Week: Eric Topol does the NHS’ future, robotic therapy for autistic children, telehealth’s wind at back, and Editor Charles’ roundup

 

The Topol Review’s relationship to reality explored by Roy Lilley. Robotics effects in therapy for children with autism and CP. The wind’s even more at the back of telehealth–but there are caveats. Plus Editor Charles is back with a UK digital health roundup.

And scroll below for news of The King’s Fund’s Digital Health and Care Congress–plus 10% off registration for our Readers!

Roy Lilley’s tart-to-the-max view of The Topol Review on the digital future of the NHS (This week’s Must Read)
Robots’ largely positive, somewhat equivocal role in therapy for children with autism and cerebral palsy (HIMSS)
The wind may be even stronger at the back of telehealth this year–but not without a bit of chill (VA, Virginia as indicators–and the hurdles when you get there )
A selection of short digital health items of potential interest (Editor Charles is back with views on AI and events)

The telehealth entrepreneur and the $5 million fraud = 15 years in prison. Scotland’s Current Health wins FDA clearance, Latin America telemedicine’s uncertain state, women in eHealth, and studies on digital health in health systems.

News roundup: Current Health’s Class II, Healthware Italy’s €10 million boost, the low state of Latin America telemedicine, weekend reading on digital health in health systems
Digital health versus eHealth: ‘here we go again’ with the confusion and the differences. Plus Women in eHealth (JISfTeH) (Reviving the terminology discussion)
The telehealth ‘entrepreneur’ whose $5 million funding bought stays at the Ritz and portfolios at Bottega Veneta (And 15 years in the Federal pen. Tell your mum or uncle to be wary of good stories)

Our lead this week is the sale of Tunstall’s US operation. Unicorns need to hype less and publish studies more. The King’s Fund’s two events in March and May, Bayer’s accelerator winners, and news from Apple to teledermatology for São’s spotted!

Short takes: Livongo buys myStrength, Apple Watch cozies with insurers, Lively hears telehealth and $16 million
Tunstall Americas sold to Connect America
(Tunstall conceding their business is outside the US)
Where’s the evidence? Healthcare unicorns lack the proof and credibility of peer-reviewed studies. (Unicorns need to add substance to the sparkle)
News roundup: Virginia includes RPM in telehealth, Chichester Careline changes, Sensyne AI allies with Oxford, Tunstall partners in Scotland, teledermatology in São Paolo
The King’s Fund ‘Digital Health and Care Explained’ 27 March
(Readers also get a 10% discount at the 22-23 May Congress)
Bayer’s G4A accelerator awards agreements with KinAptic, Agamon, Cyclica (DE) (A truly international accelerator program)

Latest through the revolving door is NHS’ chief digital officer, digital health may be more ‘bubbly’ than you would like, telemedicine and telehealth gain important consumer and Medicare facing ground, and fill your calendar some more!

NHS England digital head Bauer exits for Swedish medical app Kry, but not without controversy (The revolving door reveals a self-made cloud over her head)
Events, Dear Friends, Events: UK Telehealthcare, Mad*Pow HXD, dHealth Summit (Get out the calendars–and the checkbooks/app)
Telemedicine virtual visits preferred by majority in Massachusetts General Hospital survey (Over 94% loved the convenience alone)
Medicare Advantage model covering telehealth for certain in-person visits starting in 2020 (The needle moves–slowly)
It’s not a bubble, really! Or developing? Analysis of Rock Health’s verdict on 2018’s digital health funding. (‘Bubbly’ factors that may influence this year–not for the better)

We round up the Official Healthcare Circus of CES, Verily rolls along with $1 bn in investment, and Walgreens Boots finally makes an alliance splash with Microsoft

It’s Official: CES is now a health tech event (updated) (And still a circus! We round up the top coverage so you don’t have to)
News roundup: Walgreens Boots-Microsoft, TytoCare, CVS-Aetna moves along, Care Innovations exits Louisville
Verily, Google’s life sciences arm, gathers in another billion to go…where? (Updated for Study Watch clearance) (Still a mystery)

Our first full week in January is full of news and events, from CES to RSM, plus lots of healthcare acceleration!

News roundup: CES’ early beat, CVS-Aetna pauses, digital health fizzes, Yorkshire & Humber Propels
Events, Dear Friends, Events part 2: Newcastle and Texas accelerate, Aging2.0 NYC gets happy, AutoBlock’s Meetup, Wearable Tech, HealthImpact East
Events, Dear Friends, Events: Hancock at the RSM, MedStartr NOLA Challenge, RSM and The King’s Fund

We start our 2019 first in West Africa with a health facility mapping initiative addressing epidemics and service distribution. On to the UK with Babylon Health’s chatbot problems revealing an increasingly fractious relationship with the business press–one of our most read articles ever. And 3rings may be exiting, but doing so with grace and consideration–another Top Read.

Healthsites, eHealth Africa mapping health facility locations in West Africa to improve emergency care (Fighting epidemics and improving disaster response using health tech)
Is Babylon Health the next Theranos? Or just being made out to be by the press? (Soapbox) (A few best practices might stop a growing pile-on–or a Big Problem)
3rings’ well-handled transition to their March shutdown (updated) (Referring their clients to other UK companies based on the customer’s needs) 


The King’s Fund’s annual Digital Health and Care Congress is back on 22-23 May. Meet leading NHS and social care professionals and learn how data and technology can improve the health and well-being of patients plus the quality and effectiveness of the services that they use. Our Readers are eligible for a 10% discount using the link in the advert or here, plus the code Telehealth_10.


Have a job to fill? Seeking a position? Free listings available to match our Readers with the right opportunities. Email Editor Donna.


Read Telehealth and Telecare Aware: http://telecareaware.com/  @telecareaware

Follow our pages on LinkedIn and on Facebook

We thank our present and past advertisers and supporters: Tynetec, Eldercare, UK Telehealthcare, NYeC, PCHAlliance, ATA, The King’s Fund, HIMSS, Health 2.0 NYC, MedStartr, Parks Associates, and HealthIMPACT.

Reach international leaders in health tech by advertising your company or event/conference in TTA–contact Donna for more information on how we help and who we reach. See our advert information here. 


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

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

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.

The telehealth ‘entrepreneur’ whose $5 million funding bought stays at the Ritz and portfolios at Bottega Veneta

This curious and cautionary tale should be better known. A young entrepreneur named Keisha L. Williams from Ashburn, Virginia had an attractive proposition. She needed immediate funding to bring to the US an Austrian telehealth system described as “software that would allow doctors to remotely examine and talk with patients.” Ms. Williams had degrees in both law and electrical engineering, so credibility. She also had a story. The software was in ‘escrow’ in Austria. There were taxes and fees that had to be paid immediately. And she had family situations, financial and medical emergencies. In other words, she had a ‘great line of ‘stuff’ on the technology, urgency, and personally, a few tugs on the heartstrings.

Ms. Williams told this story enough times over four years, and to enough people who believed her–more than 50, who invested over $5.4 million.

What happened? 95% of the money was spent on over the top vacations to Bora Bora, Italy, the Bahamas, and Jamaica, plus the occasional yacht with ‘hand and foot services’ and shopping at top-end retail such as Bottega Veneta and Vuitton. $500,000 alone was spent on her girlfriend. About $300,000 was spent on the software.

The rest of the story involves 14 Federal fraud charges, four accomplices, and unwitting, likely vulnerable people who were talked into giving over their savings. Late in January, she was sentenced to 15.5 years in Federal prison.

Many of our Readers have started companies or worked with entrepreneurs who have a great story and need money. The stories touch our hearts–and sometimes our checkbooks. Apparently, Ms. Williams raised the money without exposing herself to anyone in the industry or private investors who would ask remotely leading questions. To us, this technology sounds hardly sexy–it’s telemedicine virtual visit software with maybe some remote patient monitoring thrown in. Yet to 50 people, who are now poorer or who were involved with the fraudulent scheme — it sounded really special. (The name is also common–there are quite a few people on LinkedIn with the same name, which may make life difficult for them.)

With the rising tide of telehealth, if your cousin or uncle has heard of a great way to visit your doctor over the phone and asks you if you’ve heard about it, you might want to ask Uncle to pass the pie as you switch the conversation to being on guard for fraudulent schemes. Washington Post (read the comments), Daily Mail, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, press releases 17 Oct and 18 Jan from the US Attorney’s office, Eastern District of Virginia

Telemedicine virtual visits preferred by majority in Massachusetts General Hospital survey

The results are far better than parity with in-person visits for follow up. A group of 254 patients and 61 health care providers were the subject of a survey conducted by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, part of Partners HealthCare, and Johns Hopkins. It found that virtual video visits (VVVs) are perceived by the majority of patients as the same as or better than office visits in convenience and cost, at the same level of quality and personal connection. It measured responses from both patients and providers in the MGH TeleHealth (sic) program, in place since 2012, in follow up care from providers in psychiatry, neurology, cardiology, oncology and primary care (the last two added late in the survey).

The results were: 

  • The vast majority (94.5%) of patients preferred the travel time (minimal) and time convenience (79.5%) of the VVV
  • Most patients (62.6%) and clinicians (59.0%) reported “no difference” between VVV and office visits on “the overall quality of the visit.”
  • When rating “the personal connection felt during the visit”, over half–but more patients than clinicians–said that there was “no difference” with the VVV (patients, 59.1%; clinicians, 50.8%), although 32.7% of patients and 45.9% of clinicians reported that the “office visit is better”.
  • They were also willing to pay for it–and that increased with distance from the doctor. Among those who traveled more than 90 minutes to an office visit, 51.5% indicated they would pay a co-payment of more than $50 for a VVV compared with 30.4% of those who traveled less than 30 minutes.
  • Results graphs are here

The survey results were published in the American Journal of Managed Care. This month’s issue also examines gamification in healthcare, asynchronous communication between primary and specialty care practitioners at Geisinger, EHRs–and the relationship between data breaches and not surprisingly increased advertising expenditures after the fact to rebuild lost trust. According to this last article, breached hospitals were more likely to be large, teaching, and urban hospitals relative to the control group.

Also UPI and HealthDay.

Medicare Advantage model covering telehealth for certain in-person visits starting in 2020

Another small step for remote monitoring and visits. Late last week, the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a limited expansion of telehealth (remote patient visits) coverage as part of the Value-Based Insurance Design (VBID) model. In 2020, plans can apply to use telehealth as part of their coverage. According to the CMS release, Medicare Advantage (MA) is testing a new series of service delivery approaches, including “increasing access to telehealth services by allowing plans to use access to telehealth services instead of in-person visits, as long as an in-person option remains, to meet a range of network requirements, including certain requirements that could not previously be fulfilled through telehealth.” Other MA additions under the VBID mode include expanded rewards and incentives for beneficiaries for health improvement, and reduced cost sharing and additional benefits to enrollees, including those around chronic conditions or socio-economic status, such as aid around social determinants of health. 

The VBID model is administered under CMS’ Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (Innovation Center, also CMMI), which tests innovative payment and service delivery models to lower costs and improve the quality of care. It began in 2017. The CMS VBID page lists 14 participating plans concentrated in a few states; however, it was open to 25 states this year. The 2020 model expands to 50 states under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 plus will accept other MA plan types such as Special Needs Plans and Regional PPOs. Applications will start later this year. CMS press releasemHealth Intelligence 

It’s not a bubble, really! Or developing? Analysis of Rock Health’s verdict on 2018’s digital health funding.

The doors were blown off funding last quarter, so whither the year? Our first take 10 January on Rock Health’s 2018 report was that digital health was a cheery, seltzery fizzy, not bubbly as in economic bubbles.  Total funding came in at $8.1 billion–a full $2.3 bn or 42 percent–over 2017’s $5.7 bn, as projected in Q3 [TTA 11 Oct]–which indicates confidence and movement in the right direction.

What’s of concern? A continued concentration in funding–and lack of exiting.

  • From Q3, the full year total added $1.3 bn ($6.8 bn YTD Q3, full year $8.1 bn) 
  • The deals continue to be bigger and fewer–368 versus 359 for 2017, barely a rounding error
  • Seed funding declined; A, B, C rounds grew healthily–and D+ ballooned to $59M from $28M in 2017, nearly twice as much as C rounds
  • Length of time between funding rounds is declining at all levels

Exits continue to be anemic, with no IPOs (none since 2016!) and only 110 acquisitions by Rock Health’s count. (Rock only counts US only deals over $2 million, so this does not reflect a global picture.)

It’s not a bubble. Really! Or is it a developing one? Most of the article delivers on conclusions why Rock Health and its advisors do not believe there is a bubble in funding by examining six key attributes of bubbles. Yet even on their Bubble Meter, three out of the six are rated ‘Moderately Bubbly’–#2, #3, and #5–my brief comments follow. 

  1. Hype supersedes business fundamentals (well, we passed this fun cocktail party chatter point about 2013)
  2. High cash burn rates (not out of line for early stage companies)
  3. Unclear exit pathways (no IPOs since ’16 which bring market scrutiny into play. Oddly, Best Buy‘s August acquisition of GreatCall, and the latter’s earlier acquisitions of Lively and Healthsense didn’t rate a mention)
  4. Surge of cash from new investors (rising valuations per #5–and a more prosperous environment for investments of all types)
  5. High valuations decoupled from fundamentals (Rock Health didn’t consider Verily’s billion, which was after all in January)
  6. Fraud or misuse of funds (Theranos, Outcome dismissed by Rock as ‘outliers’, but no mention of Zenefits or HealthTap)

Having observed bubbles since 1980 in three industries– post-deregulation airlines in the 1980s, internet (dot.com) in the 1990s, and healthcare today (Theranos/Outcome), ‘moderately’ doesn’t diminish–it builds to a peak, then bursts. Dot.com’s bursting bubble led to a recession, hand in hand with an event called 9/11.

This Editor is most concerned with the #5 rating as it represents the largest divergence from reality and is the least fixable. While Verily has basically functioned as a ‘skunk works’ (or shell game–see here) for other areas of Google like Google Health, it hardly justifies a billion-dollar investment on that basis alone. $2 bn unicorn Zocdoc reportedly lives on boiler-room style sales to doctors with high churn, still has not fulfilled its long-promised international expansion, and has ceased its endless promises of transforming healthcare. Peleton is a health tech company that plumps out Rock Health’s expansive view of Health Tech Reality–it’s a tricked out internet connected fitness device. (One may as well include every fitness watch made.)

What is the largest divergence from reality? The longer term faltering of health tech/telecare/telehealth companies with real books of business. Two failures readily come to mind: Viterion (founded in 2003–disclosure, a former employer of this Editor) and 3rings (2015). Healthsense (2001) and Lively were bought by GreatCall for their IP, though Healthsense had a LTC business. Withings was bought back by the founder after Nokia failed to make a go of it. Canary Care was sold out of administration and reorganized. Even with larger companies, the well-publicized financial and management problems of publicly traded, highly valued, and dominant US telemed company Teladoc (since 2015 losing $239 million) and worldwide, Tunstall Healthcare’s doldrums (and lack of sale by Charterhouse) feed into this. 

All too many companies apparently cannot get funding or the fresh business guidance to develop. It is rare to see an RPM survivor of the early ’00s like GrandCare (2005). There are other long-term companies reportedly on the verge–names which this Editor cannot mention.

The reasons why are many. Some have lurched back and forth from the abyss or have made strategic errors a/k/a bad bets. Others like 3rings fall into the ‘running out of road and time’ category in a constrained NHS healthcare system. Beyond the Rock Health list and the eternal optimism of new companies, business duration correlates negatively with success. Perhaps it is that healthcare technology acceptance and profitability largely rests on stony, arid ground, no matter what side of the Atlantic. All that money moves on to the next shiny object.(Babylon Health?) There are of course some exceptions like Legrand which has bought several strong UK companies such as Tynetec (a long-time TTA supporter) and Jontek.

Debate welcomed in Comments.

Related: Becker’s Hospital Review has a list of seven highly valued early stage companies that failed in 2018–including the Theranos fraud. Bubble photo by Marc Sendra martorell on Unsplash

VA expands telehealth services again with T-Mobile’s 70,000 lines

The US Department of Veterans Affairs and T-Mobile announced on Monday that T-Mobile would be adding 70,000 lines of wireless service to increase telehealth services in the VA network and expand services to veterans, especially those in rural areas. The expanding network will connect veterans at home and at VA facilities, such as community-based outpatient clinics (CBOCs), with VA clinicians within the VA network.

This adds to VA’s push this year to extend telehealth to distant veterans in rural areas through initiatives such as with T-Mobile and the Spok Health – Standard Communications partnership to expand the Spok Care Connect messaging service to more VA healthcare systems. The VHA (Veterans Health Administration) has long been the largest user of telehealth services in the US. Until recently, their emphasis has been on store-and-forward and clinic-based patient consults, but finally Home Telehealth (HT) is being supported. Reportedly, only 1 percent veterans used Home Telehealth, while 12 percent used other forms of telehealth [TTA 24 May]. Yet the VA was among the earliest users of remote patient monitoring/home telehealth, dating back to 2003 and even earlier, with companies such as Viterion and Cardiocom.

While most of the news about VA has been about their leadership changes and their difficulties around EHRs, their ‘Anywhere to Anywhere’ program was finalized in May. This allows VA practitioners to provide virtual care across state lines to veterans, regardless of local telehealth regulations.

T-Mobile is already the lead wireless provider to the VA. The 70K line addition is part of the carrier’s $993.5 million five year contract with the US Navy.  Business Wire, Mobihealthnews

The wind may finally be at the back of telehealth distribution and payment (US)

Medicare Advantage may lead, but Medicaid and regular Medicare are not far behind. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced in two proposed rules changes expansion of telehealth access for both privately issued Medicare Advantage (MA) plans (26 Oct) and state-run Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Plan) (14 Nov) plan members. This may mean greater acceptance by providers because they will be paid for these services.

For MA, the proposal would, starting in 2020 as part of government funded basic benefits, eliminate geographic restrictions (rural telehealth) and allow members in urban areas to access telehealth services. It would also broaden present location restrictions, allowing MA members to receive telehealth from home versus traveling to a health care facility. The most intriguing wording is here: “Plans would also have greater flexibility to offer clinically-appropriate telehealth benefits that are not otherwise available to Medicare beneficiaries.” which very well could mean remote patient monitoring in conjunction with visits. MA plans have always had more latitude to offer telehealth benefits to members, which are about 1/3 of Medicare-eligibles (over 65). Over 11 percent growth is forecast and it is highly competitive though dominated by United Healthcare and Aetna–over 600 new plans are entering the market next year. Enrollments close on 7 Dec for 2019. CMS.gov release, mHealth Intelligence, Healthcare Finance News.

For Medicaid and CHIP, which states use to extend insurance to low-income individuals and families via private plans, states would be able to, under an approved rule, to more flexibly determine what criteria determine telehealth access. Currently, states use proximity factors–distance from provider and time. The proposed criteria under 10. Network Adequacy (pages 15-16) recommends that time and distance be deleted and instead “adding a more flexible requirement that states set a quantitative minimum access standard (later listed) for specified health care providers and LTSS (long term services and supports) providers”. The reasons why are the limited supply of providers and the functional limitations of the LTSS population. Also notable was language in section 8 discussing access to provider directories via smartphone, as 64 percent of the population with incomes less than $30,000 own a smartphone and use it to access health information.  CMS proposed rule, POLITICO Morning eHealth

This adds to the momentum of the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule published on 1 Nov that added even more:

  • Virtual brief patient checkins and evaluation of patient-recorded photos and video to payments
  • CMS is also finalizing separate payments for three new codes covering chronic care remote physiologic monitoring that unbundle 99091 (CPT codes 99453, 99454, and 99457) and interprofessional internet consultation (CPT codes 99451, 99452, 99446, 99447, 99448, and 99449).
  • Two new codes covering telehealth for prolonged preventive services
  • Finalizing the addition of renal dialysis facilities and the homes of ESRD beneficiaries receiving home dialysis as originating sites
  • After 1 July, the home will be permitted as a permissible originating site for telehealth services furnished for purposes of treatment of a substance use disorder or a co-occurring mental health disorder. CMS.gov fact sheet 

The importance of this is that more digital health covered by Medicare and government payments in public/private programs such as Medicaid and MA lead private insurers to pay doctors for these services, who will then be willing to pay vendors for providing them. For the telehealth and telemedicine companies that have weathered the storms and lean times of the past decade, there may be light at the end of the tunnel that is not an oncoming train.