News roundup: Walgreens Boots-Microsoft, TytoCare, CVS-Aetna moves along, Care Innovations exits Louisville

Walgreens Boots finally does something. Their teaming with Microsoft to migrate their IT infrastructure to the Azure platform will eventually lead to “more personalized care experiences from preventative self-care to chronic disease management. WBA will leverage the cloud for wellness and lifestyle management programs.” It was important enough to both companies to have a photo op with twin CEOs: Walgreens Boots’ Stefano Pessina and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella. The ‘consumerization of healthcare’ and ‘transforming healthcare delivery’ phrases liberally sprinkled throughout the article and the press release are today’s prevalent clichés, as ‘synergy’ was the buzzword of say, 1999. Healthcare IT News, CNBC  In the long run, this IT overhaul may actually mean more to their customers than, say, the Amazon-JP Morgan-Berkshire Hathaway hydra.

A vote of confidence in diagnostic telehealth pioneered by young Israeli company TytoCare. They added $9 million to their Series C from investors including Sanford Health, Itochu and Shenzhen Capital Group (and its affiliates). This adds to last year’s round led by Ping An Global Voyager Fund for a total Series C of $33.5 million. TechCrunch. TytoCare also was named one of Wired’s Best of CES (CBS TV video, at 1:35) and earlier this month announced the integration of Health Navigator’s symptom checker into their system.

The judge says ‘No Delay For You’! In the CVS-Aetna hearing, Federal Judge Richard Leon refused to give the Department of Justice any more time to submit comments in the CVS Health and Aetna merger case. The deadline remains 15 February despite the government shutdown furloughing much of the antitrust division. Judge Leon is reviewing the decree under the Tunney Act requirement that the merger meet the public interest. Healthcare Finance

Care Innovations ankles Louisville. A modest and mainly paywalled item in Louisville Business First may point to something larger at Care Innovations. After two years of operation and a much-touted expansion to one of Louisville’s better addresses, the telehealth/RPM company has quietly vacated its 7,200 square foot space at Brown & Williamson Tower and pulled its operations from the city. Reporters from the publication were unable to obtain a statement from Care Innovations, which is now in Folsom, California, closer to majority owner Intel. At the time of their Louisville expansion in April 2017 (still on their website), Care Innovations received a $500,000 KBI tax incentive to create 24 high-paying jobs, which now are departed. It is ironic as Louisville is a health hub dominated by insurer Humana but has successfully campaigned for health tech. Last July [TTA 17 July], CI sold its Validation Institute and their VA win disappeared from their website. Of late, there has been no news from the one-time Intel-GE partnership.

News roundup: Partners HealthCare Pivot Labs, TytoCare’s CE Mark, ISfTeH’s 2019 conference calls for presentations, three Smart Ageing Prizes awarded

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Lasso.jpg” thumb_width=”120″ /]Partners HealthCare Pivot Labs announced before the Connected Health Conference. The 20-year-old Partners Connected Health Innovation is partnering (sic) with Pune, India-based Persistent Systems. Their joint project will create a center of excellence to develop patient-centered care delivery using digital tools. Release.

TytoCare gains CE Mark. TytoCare, a remote monitoring telehealth/video consult platform which integrates peripherals for a virtual physical exam, announced it received CE Mark approval and will be rolling out in the EU. In August, they gained Health Canada approval. For our European readers heading to MEDICA 12-15 November, they will be exhibiting and speaking (link here). This Editor also noted that Jeff Cutler, their US chief revenue officer for the past three years, has moved on to be chief commercial officer for Ada Health, an AI-powered health navigation platform and symptom checker.

The 24th ISfTeH International Conference will be 19-20 March 2019 in Lisbon, Portugal in conjunction with and hosted by the Portugal eHealth Summit. The International Society for Telemedicine & eHealth has extended its call for presentation proposals to 31 October–apply here. Multiple proposals are permitted. Submitters will be notified of acceptance 5-16 November.

Also in Portugal, €50,000 in Smart Ageing Prizes awarded at AAL Forum in Bilbao. This award recognizes companies that develop solutions that address social isolation and loneliness among older adults and facilitate real world interactions to improve quality of life. The lead winner was KOMP, a one-button computer for family communication. Other winners were PlaceCal, a partnership of community organizations, charities, social housing providers, government services, health providers, and citizens, plus Refresh by How Do I? to aid those with memory loss. The annual award is a collaboration between the Active and Assistive Living (AAL) Programme based in Belgium and Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre. Nesta website, Release (PDF). Hat tip to Dimitra Gkivalou of OPUS for the notification.

Rounding up what’s news: LindaCare, TytoCare funding; Medicare telehealth parity, Norway’s big cyberhack, Virta reversing diabetes, DARPA’s 60th birthday

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Lasso.jpg” thumb_width=”100″ /]Your Editor’s been away and then largely out of pocket over the past two weeks. Here’s our roundup/catchup beyond the bombshells:

In remote patient monitoring for chronic disease, Philips, PMV, and other investors invested €7 million ($8.6 million) in Belgium’s/Hartford CT’s LindaCare. The Series B funding will accelerate its US expansion of OnePulse for remote monitoring of chronic heart failure and cardiac arrhythmia patients with Cardiac Implanted Electronic Devices (CIED). It is in use in major European hospitals and in US trials, though there is no mention in the release or on their website on CE Marking or FDA clearance/clinical trials. Previously from its 2013 founding, it had €1.6 million in funding. Also Mobihealthnews.

TytoCare, a remote monitoring telehealth/video consult platform which integrates peripherals for a virtual physical exam, raised $25 million in a Series C round led by large Chinese insurer Ping An via their Global Voyager Fund plus Walgreens, Fosun Group, OrbiMed, LionBird, and Cambia Health Solutions. Release. Their total raise is $45.6 million since 2012 (Crunchbase). Their most current partnership is with Long Island-based Allied Physicians Group which is featuring at-home telehealth visits at its pediatric practice in Plainview.

More favorable Medicare reimbursement for telehealth is the subject of four US Congressional bills. The one furthest along is the ‘Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic Care Act of 2017’ (S.870), which aims to improve at-home care, increases Medicare Advantage flexibility, gives ACOs more options and expands telehealth capabilities for stroke and dialysis patients. It passed the Senate in September and now goes to the House Subcommittee on Health of the Committee on Energy and Commerce. The effect of all four is on Medicare payment parity with in-office visits, which does not currently exist and is not affected by the various state parity bills on insurance for those below 65. American Well touts a 10-fold growth in revenue, but the likelihood of any of these four bills being signed into law is small, particularly with a pending report from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission. Becker’s Hospital Review

Norway released at end of January news on an “advanced and persistent” 8 January cyberattack on Health South East RHF. This has both a health breach and military twist.

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CES Unveiled’s preview of health tech at CES 2018

CES Unveiled, Metropolitan Pavilion, NYC, Thursday 9 November

The Consumer Technology Association’s (CTA) press preview of the gargantuan CES 9-12 January 2018 Las Vegas event was the first of several international preview ‘road shows’. It’s a benchmark of the ebb and flow of health tech and related trends on the grand scale. Gone are the flashy wearables which would change colors based on our sweat patterns and heart rate, or track the health and movement of pets. Now it’s the Big Issues of 5G, AI, machine learning, AR/VR, and smart cities. Entertainment, especially sports, are now being reinvented by all of these.

The developments this Editor gleaned from the mountain of information CEA plies us keyboard tappers that are most relevant to healthcare are:

  • Wireless 5G. As this Editor has written previously from Ericsson and Qualcomm, 5G and 5G New Radio will enable amazingly fast mobile speeds and hard-to-believe fast connectivity by 2019. It will enable IoT, self-driving cars, cars that communicate with each other, reconstruction of industrial plants, electric distribution, multimodal transport, and perhaps the largest of all, smart cities. The automation of everything is the new mantra. Accenture estimates the impact will be 3 million new jobs (nothing about loss), annual GDP increased by $500bn, and drive a $275bn investment from telecom operators.
  • AI.  Society will be impacted by machine learning, neural networks and narrow (e.g. calorie counting, diagnostics) versus general AI (simulation of human intelligence). This affects voice-activated assistants like Echo, Alexa, and Google Home (now owned by 12 percent of the population, CES survey) as well as robotics to ‘read’ us better. These conversations with context may move to relationships with not only these assistants but home robots such as from Mayfield Robotics’ Kuri (which this Editor attempted to interact with on the show floor, to little effect and disappointment). Oddly not mentioned were uses of AI in ADL and vital signs tracking interpreted for predictive health.
  • Biometrics. This will affect security first in items like padlocks (the new Bio-Key Touchlock) using fingerprint recognition and smart wallets, then facial recognition usable in a wide variety of situations such as workplaces, buildings, and smartphones. Imagine their use in items like key safes, phones, home locks, and waypoints inside the home for activity monitoring.
  • AR and VR. Power presence now puts viewers in the middle of a story that is hard to distinguish from reality. The pricing for viewers is dropping to the $200-400 range with Oculus Go and Rift. At the Connected Health Conference, this Editor saw how VR experiences could ease anxiety and disconnectedness in older people with mobility difficulties or dementia (OneCaringTeam‘s Aloha VR) or pain reduction (Cedars-Sinai tests). The other is Glass for those hands-on workers [TTA 24 July] and heads-up displays in retail.

CES is also hosting the fourth Extreme Tech Challenge. Of the ten semi-finalists showing down on 11 January, three are in healthcare: Neurotrack to assess and improve memory; Tissue Analytics that uses smartphone cameras to assess wounds and healing; and (drum roll) the winner of TTA’s Insanely Cute Factor competition, the Owlet smart sock for baby monitoring [TTA’s backfile here]. One of the judges is Sir Richard Branson, who will host the finalists on 28 February on Necker Island (which hopefully will be rebuilt by that time).

After the nearly two-hour briefing, CEA hosted a mini-show on the ground floor of the Metropolitan. (more…)

The growth of telehealth, and the confusion of terminology (US)

Becker’s Health IT and CIO Review has written up a US-centric review of recent advances in telehealth and telemedicine but kicks it off with the confusion level between the two terms. Internationally, and in these pages, they are separate terms; telehealth referring primarily to vital signs remote monitoring, and telemedicine the ‘virtual visit’ between doctor and patient, between two clinical sites, or ‘store and forward’ asynchronous exchange (e.g. teleradiology). Somehow, in US usage, they have been conflated or made interchangeable, with the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) admitting to same, and American Well simply ‘just doing it’ in relabeling what they provide. On top of it, the two are incorporating elements of each into the other. Examples: TytoCare vital signs measurement/recording into American Well’s video visit; Care Innovations Health Harmony also providing video capability.

Of particular interest to our international readers would be the high rate of US growth in telemedicine utilization from 7 to 22 percent (Rock Health survey). Teladoc, the largest and publicly traded provider, passed the milestone of 100,000 monthly visits in November and the ATA estimates 1.25 million from all providers for 2016 (Teladoc release). Other US competitors include the aforementioned American Well, MDLive, and Doctor on Demand, the latter two also selling direct to consumer. They also compete against doctor-on-house call services like Pager and Heal. Reimbursement remains an issue both privately and publicly (Medicare and Medicaid) on a state-by-state level, with telehealth experiencing significant difficulties, as well as internet access, speed, and usage by older adults.

The Theranos Story, vol. 23: Walgreens drops the $140 million contract breach hammer

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/upside-down-duck.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Walgreens Boots Alliance has finally sued Theranos in Delaware Federal Court in for breach of contract.  Walgreens is seeking $140 million, supposedly equivalent to their amount invested, according to sources cited in the Wall Street Journal article. Not many details are available, since Walgreens moved to seal the civil suit under their mutual non-disclosure agreement.

Allegations are flying, of course. Walgreens is officially mum, but according to the WSJ‘s ‘close to the matter’ sources, Walgreens claims that Theranos misled them about the state of their technology during their three-year partnership and even after the blood-draw centers were closed in June, which put their customers at risk. This sounds like the fraud and misrepresentation cited by Partner Fund Management, which moved in October to get its $96 million back like Lee Marvin as Walker in Point Blank. Earlier reports confirmed that patients did not learn for weeks or months, often not until forced to, that their Theranos test results were unreliable. There are reports that at least 10 patient lawsuits have been filed in Arizona and California.

(This Editor notes that their Theranos agita hasn’t soured Walgreens on funding health tech. They are a substantial investor in TytoCare, an all-in-one vital signs device with retail potential, and MedAvail, a kiosk dispenser for prescription and OTC medications)

Theranos has, no surprise, said a great deal, aggressively–the trademark of their legal supremo David Boies. They claim to be the aggrieved party: “Over the years, Walgreens consistently failed to meet its commitments to Theranos. Through its mishandling of our partnership and now this lawsuit, Walgreens has caused Theranos and its investors significant harm.” Theranos has exited the blood-testing business and is supposedly refocusing on developing technology to sell to outside labs. Also MedCityNews ‘coughs’, The Verge.  See here for the 22 previous TTA chapters.