Perspectives: How AI and ML can accelerate the growth of telemedicine across the globe

TTA has an open invitation to industry leaders to contribute to our Perspectives non-promotional opinion area. Today’s Perspectives is from Deepak Singh, a thought leader in AI and telehealth. In his work, he builds AI-powered healthtech and telehealth solutions that can reach from big cities to remote areas of the world. With double master’s degrees in business and information systems, he has 10 years of experience in product development, management, and design ranging from telecom to multimedia and from IT solutions to enterprise healthcare platforms. This article discusses how artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can accelerate the global growth of telemedicine, including a consideration of risks and possible solutions.


The ongoing technological advancements have led the way towards greater opportunities for the growth of the global health business, particularly telemedicine through increased connections via the internet, robotics, data analytics, and cloud technology that will further drive innovation over the next ten years. It is obvious that artificial intelligence (AI) usage plays a noteworthy part in the maneuvering and execution of medical technologies when considering the bulky amount of data handling needed by healthcare, the requirement for consistent accuracy in complex procedures, and the rising demand for healthcare services.

Telemedicine is the practice of performing consultations, medical tests and procedures, and remote medical professional collaborations through interactive digital communication. Telemedicine is an open science that is constantly growing as it embraces new technological developments and reacts to and adapts to the shifting social circumstances and health demands. The primary goals of telemedicine are to close the accessibility and communication gaps in four fields: teleconsultation, which is having all kinds of physical and mental health consultations without an in-person visit to a medical facility; teleradiology, which uses information and communication technologies (ICT) to transmit digital radiological images (such as X-ray images) from one place to another; telepathology, which uses ICT to transmit digitized pathological results; and teledermatology, which uses ICT to transmit medical information about skin conditions.

AI has been progressively implied in the field of telemedicine. AI deals with machine learning (ML) that discloses complex connections that are hard to figure out in an equation. In a way that is similar to the human brain and neural networks that encrypt data using an enormous number of interconnected neurons, ML systems can approach difficult problem-solving in the same way that a doctor might do by carefully analyzing the available data and drawing valid judgments.

A growing understanding of artificial intelligence and data analytics can help to broaden its reach and capabilities. Telemedicine’s goal is to boost productivity and organize experience, information, and manpower based on need and urgency and it can be augmented by the use of AI and ML.

Evolving application of AI and ML in Telemedicine

In order to enable clinicians to make more data-driven, immediate decisions that could enhance the patient experience and health outcomes, AI is being employed in telemedicine more and more. The use of AI in healthcare is a potential approach for telemedicine applications in the future.

Al and ML were able to bring about the necessary revolution in so many sectors due to their competence, increased productivity, and flawless execution of tasks. AI is now surpassing the boundaries of being a mere theory and stepping into a practical domain where the need for human supervision for the execution of jobs by machines will be minimized all due to the presence of enormous datasets along with an increment in the processing power of that data. A computer-based algorithm that uses AI has the ability to analyze any form of input data such as ‘training sets’ using pattern recognition which eventually predicts as well as categorize the output, all of that is beyond the scope of human processing or analytical powers that uses traditional statistical approaches. In the field of telemedicine, the adoption of AI and ML still has to go a long way till its vital concepts are understood and applied likewise, nevertheless, the current scenario gives a promising picture where many research projects have applied AI to predict the risk of future disease incidence, decrypting cutting-edge imaging, evaluating patient-reported results, recording value-based metrics, and improving telehealth. The perspective to mechanize tasks and improve data-driven discernments may be comprehended by profoundly improving patient care with obligation, attentiveness, and proficiency in prompting AI.

Drawbacks of artificial intelligence in telemedicine (more…)

Mid-week roundup: Holmes turns herself in, ChatGPT as good ER explainer, VA Spokane to cut staff to pay for Oracle Cerner EHR problems?, former Cerner campus conversion

Holmes’ time at Bryan begins. Today (30 May) in a Texas morning, Elizabeth Holmes self-surrendered to the Federal Prison Camp (FPC) at Bryan to begin her 135-month sentence (11 years+). With good behavior and enrollment in certain programs, she may serve about 85% or about 9.5 years as No. 24965-111. The ‘shakycam’ video link here from Sky News (scroll to 3:18) initially from across the street then at the fence shows her delivery in a NY state-plated Ford Expedition to the facility parking lot. Her parents give her paperwork to the officers, then she with the officers walk into the camp facility, with a goodbye wave by partner Billy Evans (ballcap by the car). After all the drama, the denouement is bog-standard save for the paparazzi. She is wearing glasses, a tan sweater and blue jeans, the latter two which will be exchanged for a uniform. Many might be surprised that the prison camp has green grass lawns and trees, without towers or impenetrable fences. This is a low security facility for 650 women on 37 acres, but it remains a prison with all the schedules and restrictions that entails.

Her appeals to the Ninth Circuit Court on her conviction and sentencing, with now the restitution, continue as does the puzzle of how to compensate the victims identified by the US District Court as being owed $452 million payable jointly by her and Sunny Balwani. The order of restitution is here (PDF) There are a dozen identified financial victims from the relatively small (the Eisenmans’ $150,000) to the $125 million of Keith Rupert Murdoch. Both Safeway ($14.5 million) and Walgreens ($40 million) are identified separately. At this point at Bryan, she will be earning between $0.12 and $1.15, earning perhaps $25 every four months based on older data. According to the BBC article today, half of that will go to her victims, said Randy Zelin, a professor at Cornell Law School. The Feds will continue to scrutinize for hidden assets. Mercury News

Our Theranos Saga that started in October 2015 now endeth here, except for news on appeals or changes in circumstances.

On a somewhat lighter note, this non-paywalled Insider article charts the up and downsides of using ChatGPT as an explainer to patients in the ER/ED.  Joshua Tamayo-Sarver, MD, has been an ER doctor for almost 14 years as well as a VP of innovation for two healthcare tech companies, Vituity and Inflect Health. He recently started using ChatGPT4 as an adjunct to treatment, to explain difficult emergency situations to patients and family in simple non-medical language. Dr. Tamayo-Sarver’s article in Fast Company provides a solid narrative of how the simplicity and empathy of ChatGPT’s explaining treatment (in this case of a 96 year old woman with lung edema and dementia) works and helps the staff de-escalate the situation developing with her children and give them a chance to start her correct treatment determined by the doctor, not ChatGPT. (What was her outcome?) As the doctor explains, working with ChatGPT is inadequate for diagnostics, but adequate for ‘hungover intern’ level actions: taking patient history, creating long-form communication for patients and staff, and explaining highly technical information with empathy and compassion.

Will the Spokane VA location which proved to be The Last Straw for the VA with Oracle Cerner from October 2022 pay for it with cuts in staff? This year, Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center is projected to run a budget deficit of about $35 million. In a March email, the Mann-Grandstaff director Robert Fischer stated that the Northwest VA VISN (regional) director said this will require Mann-Grandstaff to cut about 15% of staff. Yet the VA chief of VA health care, Shereef Elnahal, has denied this. The controversy around this has prompted VA’s secretary, Denis McDonough, to issue a statement that he will look into these reports but stopped short of confirming that no staff would be cut. Spokesman-Review (Spokane)  Hat tip to HISTalk 31 May

Cerner’s Continuous Campus in Kansas City, Kansas, apparently will be redeveloped. Two local developers are in contract with Oracle to buy the empty 63.5 acre property with twin nine-story office towers. Last week, local authorities approved rezoning with an amended master plan. Developer plans are to convert the north tower to 224 to 232 market-rate apartments above ground-floor commercial space. While the plan for the south tower is to stay as 660,000 square feet of office space plus parking, no interest has come from lessees. According to reports, Oracle’s purchase of Cerner and shutdown of many operations in the area dumped 4.1 million square feet of real estate in the area.  Fox4KC

Flat is Good: CB Insights’ Q1 global digital funding, deal numbers finally steady

CB Insights’ quarterly global digital funding roundup had some good news for a change–the bleeding may be stopping, despite the failures of funding havens Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank, and First Republic Bank.

  • Funding was flat in Q1 2023 from Q4 2022 at $3.4B. Flat was positive, as every quarter in 2022 fell between 25%-35% versus the previous quarter.
  • Yet this was contrary to the decline seen in the total venture capital area, where funding fell 13% from Q4 2022 to Q1 2023
  • Deal numbers went up by 1% from Q4 2022’s 383 to 387–essentially flat, while venture deals fell again for four quarters
  • Leading in deals and funding was care delivery and navigation tech–44% of total funding and 37% of deals. It also had the largest deal size–$12.6 million–and five of the top 10 deals. Trailing a distant second was monitoring, imaging, and diagnostic tech, with 20% of total funding and 23% of deals.
  • In the back of the pack, early-stage companies made up a minimum of three-fourths of their deals: drug R&D tech (75% early-stage deal share), digital therapeutics & wellness tech (76%), and health insurance & RCM tech (81%)
  • In Q1, Europe’s digital health funding at 18% of total was $612 million. EU deals are picking up and are now at a record-high deal share (26%) in Q1 2023. US funding continued to lead, with $2.3 billion in digital health funding, equivalent to 68% of the global total. 
  • Mega-rounds remain anemic: 17% of digital health funding which is the lowest since Q2 2019. They were three: kidney care company Monogram Health’s $375 million raise, primary care provider Carbon Health’s $100 million, and fertility startup Kindbody’s $100 million. Comparing year prior for Q1, mega-rounds declined 85% between 2023 and 2022.
  • M&A exits finally increased in Q1–to 39 from 15 in Q4 2022

CB Insights summary points. The full report is available to their customers. Also Healthcare Dive.

Another Bright Health selloff: Zipnosis sold to Florence Labs

Bright’s money-raising continues. Bright Health’s Zipnosis was sold to Florence Labs for an undisclosed amount. Zipnosis, acquired stealthily by their Minneapolis neighbor Bright in the latter’s Happy Time of April 2021, is a telemedicine/telehealth company that provides white-labeled ‘digital front door’ asynchronous telehealth and diagnosis triage for large health systems fully integrated into hospital EHRs. Today’s release does not mention acquisition cost or management/employee transitioning, though Zipnosis is confirmed in their boilerplate to have about 60 employees. One suspects the sale amount was not large.

Notably, the Zipnosis website has been cleansed of any Bright Health identification or releases. A quick look at Zipnosis staff on LinkedIn indicates the cutover (and presumably the sale) took place in March but for various reasons such as financial closings was not announced until today.

Zipnosis is one of telehealth’s Ur-companies, founded in 2009 and gaining 50-60 health systems before their sale. Zipnosis was a good buy, lightly funded, and with a unique technology that fit well and conveniently into EHRs. It was a smart addition for Bright’s practices under NeueHealth along with entree to health systems. Their later and larger competition at least in synchronous telehealth for health systems was Bluestream Health, bought last month by eVisit as more evidence of healthcare consolidation. 

Florence Labs is a just-out-of-stealth startup based in NYC that automates clinical workflows and patient-facing access to address the problem of acute care clinical capacity. It was founded in 2021 by Aniq Rahman (president of Moat, acquired by Oracle in 2017 for $850 million). It was recently and modestly funded (March release) with $20 million in seed capital from Thrive Capital, GV (Google Ventures), and Salesforce Ventures with participation from Vast Ventures, BoxGroup, and Atento Capital. It’s currently working with about 40 healthcare systems, the most recently announced Luminis Health in Maryland.  It’s not to be confused with the significantly larger Florence Healthcare (clinical trial site enablement).  FierceHealthcare

Mid-week roundup: Pear assets fetch paltry $6M *updated*, Bright Health’s reverse stock split, Oracle Cerner loses hospital EHR share, Lifeforce health optimization scores $12M Series A

From a $1.6 billion valuation to $6 million in a bankruptcy court is sad. Pear Therapeutics‘ assets were sold at a bankruptcy court auction for $6 million. Even that took four bidders slicing themselves individual pieces.

  1. Nox Health Group of Atlanta ponied up the major bid of $3.9 million for Pear’s Somryst, their FDA-cleared insomnia treatment. Nox Health offers sleep-related treatments to employers and payers.
  2. Harvest Bio anted up $2.03 million for the ISF licenses and patents, plus Pear assets related to schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, depression, and the remaining pipeline projects. They also bought the corporate trademarks, the PearConnect commercial platform, and the rights to the FDA-cleared reSET and opioid-specific reSET-O programs. Editor’s view: with no discernable website or Crunchbase listing, Harvest’s purpose could be to buy themselves the core of a business. (See below for more)
  3. Click Therapeutics paid $70,000 for the patents that powered Pear’s platform, except Invention Science Fund (ISF) licenses and patents. Click is an NYC-based developer of digital therapeutics to treat migraine, smoking cessation, schizophrenia, depression, and more.
  4. WELT Corp. of Seoul, South Korea, put down $50,000 for Pear’s migraine-focused program. Samsung-backed WELT develops digital biomarkers tracked by smartphones and sensors to track, monitor, and predict health outcomes.

The court filing (PDF) is here. The hearing to finalize the approved bids took place yesterday (22 May) in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. The $6 million is nowhere near the $32 million in debt that Pear had on the books at the time of their Chapter 11 filing [TTA 13 Apr]. The $1.6 billion was the valuation of Pear at the time of its SPAC in December 2021 and Pear had raised over $400 million previously. Mobihealthnews, STAT

Update 30 May: The mysterious Harvest Bio LLC is now a little less mysterious with the tracking down by STATNews‘ Mario Aguilar that the signatory for the purchase of over $2 million in assets from Pear is none other than Pear’s former CEO, Corey McCann. @mariojoze. Brian Dolan on LinkedIn adds the tracks of a molto stealthy Boston-based funder, T.Rx, which is using a recently set up fund (1/23) to back up McCann’s bid. Former Pear exec (head of search, evaluations, and in-licensing), independent investor, and Zus Health investor Michael Langer appears to be a co-founder and managing director of T.Rx, according to Mr. Dolan. Zus Health raised $40 million back in March and is headed by former athenahealth head Jonathan Bush.

In other implosion news, Bright Health on Monday executed its reverse stock split buying itself time on the NYSE from delisting. The board and shareholders approved a 1:80 split. It is now trading as BHG1 and closed today (Tuesday 23 May) at $14.38. Bright is in real extremis–selling its California health plans, either fined or under investigation in four states, in a lawsuit over unpaid claims with SSM Health, and needing a quick $500 million to pay off their outstanding JP Morgan credit facility. Ouch.  [TTA 7 Apr, 20 Apr, 4 May, 5 May  Mobihealthnews, Becker’s Payer Issues, Seeking Alpha    See 24 May update on their sale of Zipnosis

Oracle needs to execute a turnaround at Cerner. Stat. And it’s not just at the VA. KLAS Research in a report published today calculated EHR hospital market share by both location and hospital beds. Epic is running away with the core hospital market with a 39.5% market share while Oracle Cerner has 24.9%. The KLAS findings are access-restricted, but the publicly available toplines are that Epic is the only vendor with positive net change in hospital market share and beds, while Oracle Cerner has lost beds and gained share in small hospitals, losing large ones. Third ranked is Meditech with a 16.3% share. It’s not unthinkable to shrink out of this business. Once upon a time, GE Healthcare was a major player in this sector with Centricity–and exited back in 2015, retreating to specialty physician practices. Becker’s

In contrast, if it has some celebrity shine, money gets raised. Lifeforce closed a Series A round at what is now a strong amount–$12 million. It promises a clinically integrated approach to health optimization for longevity based on physical and psychological biomarker data, clinical expertise from doctors and health coaches, and validated interventions on a telehealth-based platform. Blood draws every three months are done by registered phlebotomists. It also markets nutriceuticals, peptides, and hormones as part of treatments to members. Co-founded by Dugal Bain-Kim, Peter Diamandis, and Tony Robbins, Lifeforce is endorsed by Serena Williams. The $12 million raise was co-led by M13 and Peterson Ventures with participation by Ridgeline Ventures, Rosecliff Ventures, and Seaside Ventures. The maintenance program starts at $349 for an initial baseline assessment and $129 per month for membership thereafter. However, when this Editor as a marketer sees claims in the release headline such as “World’s Most Effective Health Optimization Platform”, yellow flags start flying. Mobihealthnews, Lifeforce release

Thursday roundup: Kaiser-Geisinger won’t close till ’24, Validic buys Trapollo, Veradigm’s ’22 financials delayed again, ORA telehealth’s $10M Series A, ATA adds 3 to board

Some more reveals on the Kaiser Permanente/Risant Health/Geisinger Health deal. Perhaps the most significant one in Kaiser’s quarterly financial statements was that the closing with Geisinger is projected to be sometime in 2024, subject to the usual regulatory approvals. As announced in April, Geisinger will be the founding system of a new non-profit group, Risant Health, that will bring together a targeted five to six non-profit community health systems. Financial disclosures were also made that were centered on the timing of substantial investments and commitments:

  • Kaiser’s financial commitments to Risant will be made in the five years following closing. The $5 billion previously announced is the upper end of the support. Confusingly, Kaiser is also committing to a minimum investment of $400 million over five years inclusive of funds generated by Risant Health. 
  • Risant’s support and investment into Geisinger will end earlier, in 2028, but in that time will make an investment of a minimum of $2 billion to support Geisinger’s hospital, technology, and strategic development. It will be inclusive of funds generated by both Risant and Geisinger.
  • Risant will also make available to Geisinger no less than $100 million” through 2028 to support expansions of Geisinger’s health plan and care delivery services into bordering Pennsylvania communities.
  • Risant will also make available to Geisinger funds for research and education for 10 years after the 2024 closing

Kaiser’s Q1 was far better than its money-losing ($4.5 billion) 2022, with $1.2 billion in net income. Geisinger has not yet reported Q1, but it had a $842 million net loss in 2022.  FierceHealthcare

Digital health/personalized care company Validic is buying Trapollo, a similar connected care company. Both have platforms facilitating chronic care patient management via remote care and EHR integration. The acquisition price and workforce transitions were not disclosed. Trapollo’s former owner, Cox Communications, will become a shareholder in Validic. Trapollo senior VP/general manager Steve Nester will have the same title at Validic. It will remain at the Validic HQ in Durham, NC, with Trapollo’s former distribution center remaining in Sterling, VA. This continues the trend of consolidation of businesses in similar or complementary services. Release

Veradigm, the former Allscripts, 2022 financials continue to be in a tangle. As previously reported [TTA 3 Mar], Veradigm delayed its Q4 and FY 2022 reporting due to a software flaw that affected its revenue reporting going back to 2021. On 22 March, this expanded to their extending their year-end audit and 10-K filing because of “internal control deficiencies related to revenue recognition.” In a recent SEC filing, they stated that they may be able to file their 10-K by 14 June, but cannot guarantee it. The revenue impact may be as high as $40 million and affect their 2021 closing. HIStalk 5/17/23

Singapore’s ORA Telehealth just scored the region’s largest Series A raise–US$10 million. It was co-led by TNB Aura and Antler with participation from Gobi Partners, Kairous Capital, and GMA Ventures for a total funding to date above US$17 million. ORA is unique in that it’s a vertically integrated platform that markets to a young customer base (average age: 38) on three platforms: Modules (676 different formulations of prescription skincare), OVA (women’s health), and andSons (men’s health).

The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) welcomed three additions to its board this week:

  • Marc Adelson, JD, Teladoc Health’s deputy chief legal and global chief compliance officer. Prior to joining Teladoc in 2011, he was  co-founder and executive legal director of the Institute for Patient Safety & Quality in Virtual Care, the first federally qualified patient safety organization (PSO) focused on virtual care.
  • Kavita Patel, MD, MS, a practicing primary care physician at Mary’s Center, a Federally Qualified Health Center in Washington DC and Maryland. She is also a venture partner at New Enterprise Associates, an NBC/CNBC/MSNBC contributor, and was formerly director of policy for the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement in the Obama administration
  • Sarah Pletcher, MD, MHCDS, system vice president and executive medical director for strategic innovation at Houston Methodist, and responsible for advancing a wide range of virtual and other innovative care models and solutions.

VA renews Oracle Cerner EHR contract, but with multiple caveats, metrics, and annual renegotiations

VA finally gets tough with Oracle Cerner–when things are not peachy at the latter. The Oracle Cerner EHR contract with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was renewed with 28 key performance metrics attached to monetary credits. Instead of another five-year term, there are five one-year terms that allow VA to revisit the contract annually. It was not a ringing vote of confidence in the relationship, with good reason, as the EHR implementation has ground embarrassingly to a halt over five years with only five deployments in VA medical centers, of 166 centers plus their medical clinics [TTA 26 Apr, 18 Mar].

The renegotiated contract holds Oracle accountable in four key areas, according to a VA update document obtained by Bloomberg Government:

  1. Reliability: Minimizing outages (time when the system crashes completely), incidents (time when one component of the system isn’t working), and interruptions (time when the system is operating slowly) of the system.
  2. Responsiveness: Quickly and reliably resolving help tickets and clinician requests.
  3. Interoperability with other health care systems: Ensuring that VA can quickly and reliably access patient health records from private sector hospitals when necessary, so we can provide informed, world-class care to those we serve.
  4. Interoperability with other applications: Ensuring that the EHR system interfaces with VA’s website, mobile app, and other critical applications, so Veterans have a seamless and integrated health care experience.

With 28 performance metrics that if not met will result in Oracle paying a monetary credit to the VA, there’s a big monetary incentive for Oracle. For instance, in the VA update document, they claim that Oracle would have paid approximately a 30-fold increase in credits for the system outages, which is only one of the metrics. “The amended contract lays the groundwork for VA and Oracle Cerner to resolve the EHR issues identified by the “assess and address period” and optimize EHR configuration for future sites.” Becker’s, Healthcare IT News

The contract negotiations were a hot button in recent weeks for both the House and Senate veterans’ committees, with multiple bills proposed and hearings. The 9 May hearing by the House Subcommittee on Technology Modernization Oversight (Committee on Veterans’ Affairs) was no love-fest, with chair Matt Rosendale (R-MT) once again concluding that the best thing for the VA would be, as he proposed in his bill H.R. 608, to cut Oracle loose and start over. VA obviously did not agree, being between a rock and a hard place, but this hearing put Oracle’s Mike Sicilia on the hot seat about the EHR’s pharmacy software to support the VA’s role as both prescriber and prescription filler–which he previously committed to having fixed by this past April. Carol Harris, Director, Information Technology and Cybersecurity, Government Accountability Office (GAO), responding to Rep. Rosendale’s questions, described a system that is not fully functioning and puts veterans at risk with failings by both Oracle and VA. In the current state, VA users are extremely dissatisfied. The present workarounds and ad hoc processes outside of the system are not sustainable and are set to fail. She also pointed out that VA needs to set goals for what constitutes user satisfaction with clear and objective measures before future deployments. VA must take a leadership role in change management beyond what Oracle does in the deployment. Hearing on YouTube (2.01:50) Witnesses and support documents

The added scrutiny comes at a bad time for Oracle Health with turmoil reportedly festering within the Cerner acquisition. Oracle has laid off 3,000 workers, pausing raises and promotions. Don Johnson, who once was a successor to CEO Larry Ellison, departed from leading Oracle Health and AI. Reportedly, Dr. David Feinberg who briefly headed Cerner prior to the sale, is now a ‘ceremonial’ chairman of Oracle Health. Cerner’s signature buildings in Kansas City are being sold and emptied. If Mr. Ellison wants to transform healthcare, he needs to start at home, rebuilding Cerner-Oracle Health rather than decimating it, and fixing VA as Job #1. Business Insider

Additional recent coverage: 28 April, 20 April, 19 April, 31 March

Breaking & updated–Time’s Up! Ninth Circuit Court to Elizabeth Holmes: proceed to Federal prison. District Court: surrender 30 May, pay $452M in restitution with Sunny.

Breaking/Updated. With the bail pending appeal denied, it was back to Judge Davila and the US District Court to determine a new surrender date to a Federal penitentiary. That date is now 30 May. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Elizabeth Holmes’ appeal did not meet the standard for a further delay of her sentence–that it raised a substantial question of law or fact–and that her motion for bail pending appeal was denied. The ruling by the three-judge panel was brief and is here (PDF) with the pertinent text below:

Appellant’s motion for bail pending appeal (Docket Entry Nos. 36-38) is
denied. Appellant has not shown that: (1) the appeal raises a “substantial question”
of law or fact that is “fairly debatable,” and (2) if that question is decided in
appellant’s favor, the likely outcome is reversal, an order for a new trial on all
counts resulting in imprisonment, a sentence that includes no term of
imprisonment, or a sentence with a term of imprisonment less than time served
plus the expected duration of the appeal process. {USC and Hardy references snipped}

The existing briefing schedule remains in effect.

The appeal remains ongoing. The Ninth Circuit could require a new trial or a fresh sentence, but Holmes will be in prison serving time while the appeals court reviews it. Her chances of receiving any changes as a result of this appeal can be characterized as slim to none.

The defense requested self-surrender on 30 May (2 weeks) and Judge Davila granted it two hours later today (Wednesday). That motion is here with Judge Davila’s order is here. The judge had recommended the Federal Prison Camp (FPC) at Bryan, Texas, but a final assignment confirmation is to be confirmed by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP).  Mercury News

Also Tuesday, Judge Davila set the full amount of restitution to those defrauded by Theranos as $452 million. Both she and Sunny Balwani will be jointly liable for the restitution amount. It is higher than the $381 million the judge used for sentencing purposes [TTA 9 March] but this Editor notes that the AP stated that it is joint. There is an additional $25 million in promissory notes signed by Holmes which are part of a civil action [TTA 25 March]. How this restitution breaks out will require an examination of that restitution decision.

One wonders if Liz or Elizabeth (pictured above) will be the woman serving and paying off this amount, if one believes the incredible tale by Holmes in the New York Times two weeks ago. It’s a lot of bag lunches. Mercury News 

Monday roundup: Envision files Ch. 11, who’s to blame for Meta Pixel abuse?, CVS Health to shut clinical trials unit, Amino Health scoops $80M, DocGo flat but optimistic, Owlet way down in revenue

What was envisioned last week came to pass for Envision Healthcare on Sunday. The hospital and physician staffing company filed for Chapter 11 reorganization five years after it was taken private by investment company KKR. At the time of that massive buyout, the value of the company was pegged at $10 billion. Things started to go south for Envision after 2020 with the pandemic drying up patient volumes for two years, with the added factors of regulations kicking in on ‘no surprise’ billing, inflation, staffing shortages, and major fights with health plans around out-of-network inflated charges plus a huge claims dispute with UnitedHealthcare [TTA 12 May]. Ironically, Envision won the main dispute with UHG; that $91 million won in arbitration in an insider’s view would have staved off the bankruptcy this year.

KKR will apparently lose its $3.5 billion equity in the company as $8 billion in debt restructuring takes place. What’s before the court is that the Envision staffing operation will be separated from the AmSurg surgical clinics. Senior lenders will have their debt rearranged into equity into one or the other company. Junior lenders, bondholders, and KKR will receive zero, or as we say locally, bupkis. It’s envisioned (sic) that the restructuring will take about three to four months.  Financial Times, Envision release

The hospitals, that’s who! If you believe Meta, it’s the hospitals that abused those poor Pixels, making them do things against their wishes to tattle all sorts of PHI and PII to Big Bad Meta which sends patients all those Nasty Intrusive Ads. Meta is being sued by parties from the ACLU to patients in class action lawsuits on how the Pixel was used on hospital patient portals and scheduling websites. Meta’s argument is that the health systems’ developers could but did not control how the ad trackers were used and that “Meta did not implement or configure” the Pixels used on the health systems’ websites. In fact, Meta claims that they have filtering tools that screen out sensitive data and that would alert the developer. “It’s ultimately the developer, not Meta, that controls the code on its own website and chooses what information to send,” according to the May 5 filing in that busy US District Court of Northern California.

This could influence outcomes in the multitude of lawsuits being filed against health systems like Kaiser Permanente, UCSF Health, and LCMC Health in New Orleans plus Willis-Knighton Health in northwest Louisiana (Healthcare Dive). If the District Court finds that Meta, and possibly other ad trackers such as those from Google, Twitter, or Bing were not inherently liable for personal health data violations that monetized PHI, then the health systems are 100% on the hook for the data breaches (or ‘wiretapping’ in a creative use of terminology). It also makes the potential paydays possibly less lucrative–in the eyes of this Editor, as Meta and Google have far deeper pockets than any ol’ health system. SC Media, Paubox   The Meta Pixel backstory here

CVS Health to shut its clinical trials unit by December 2024. CVS, like Walgreens and Walmart, jumped into the clinical trials business during the Covid-19 pandemic, seeing a need in the market with pharmaceutical companies and a ready-made, 100 million deep diverse base of patients among their pharmacy users. CVS cited to Healthcare Dive that the shutdown was to better concentrate on core business. Current active trials on the website include narcolepsy, rheumatoid arthritis, and kidney health. No disclosure as to profitability but CVS has a lot to digest with new buys Signify Health and Oak Street Health.

Amino Health’s $80 million funding is a bright spot in this sideways spring. With a digital guidance model that works with employers and health plans to help 1.6 million members navigate their care, their new funding will be used for technology scaling. Equity and debt financing were led by Transformation Capital, which will be joining the Amino board, and Oxford Finance LLC. Amino is being boosted by the Federal Transparency in Coverage (TIC) Rule which makes pricing disclosure a key part of plan navigation. Amino originally started with a direct-to-consumer model but shifted to enterprise, including brokers and third-party administrators. Amino’s total raise is now $125 million (Crunchbase). Mobihealthnews, Amino release

DocGo’s two services, mobile health and medical transport, essentially swapped revenue this quarter in a better-than-average picture. Their mobile health services area in Q1 fell 19% to $72.9 million from $90.1 million in Q1 2022, while transportation services grew 44% to $40.1 million from $27.8 million in Q1 2022. This added to total revenue of $113 million with a net loss of $3.9 million. Their 2023 revenue guidance remains at $500-$510 million with adjusted EBITDA guidance of $45-$50 million. 

What’s promising here is that it’s a SPAC that didn’t crack like practically every other. DocGo pointed out in their release that they have a backlog of $205 million in total contract value over approximately three years and they have doubled their RFPs. Their patient target for 2023 is 50,000. Share price today on Nasdaq ticked up to $8.77. Considering their high last year of $11.08, they are not doing badly in this time at all. Mobihealthnews .We last saw DocGo providing mobile clinics in a Tennessee pilot with Dollar General [TTA 24 Jan] which now is tied in with the state of Tennessee, plus a pilot in NY and NJ with Redirect Health. They provide services in 26 states and the UK.  

This Editor is trying to be as cheerful as the baby at left about baby sock/monitor Owlet, which has had a rough ride in the past two years. Their revenue dropped to $10.7 million in Q1 2023 versus $12 million in Q4 2022 and $21.5 million in Q1 2022. Owlet ended 2021 with a nastygram from the FDA that pulled their original Smart Sock off the market [TTA 4 Dec 2021] but rebounded early in 2022 with the Dream Sock and Dream Duo [TTA 16 Feb 2022] that avoided the claims that sent them into 510(k) Marketing Neverland.  Still, they were delisted by the NYSE in December 2022. On the positive side, Owlet wound up 2022 with $69.2 million in revenue and a good-sized private placement of $30 million in February [TTA 18 Mar]. It has submitted to FDA for two products, including the steep de novo climb on an enhancement to the Dream Sock. Now a much smaller company than it was last year, they have reduced operational expenses to $15.1 million from $24.1 million in Q4 2022 to get to breakeven by end of this year and to be relisted on the NYSE in the future. Having followed them since the early ‘telehealth for the bassinet set’ days of 2012-2013, this Editor wishes them bonne chance. Owlet release, Mobihealthnews

Week-end roundup: Cano Health’s $60M loss and divesting, Oscar Health exits CA, UCSF Meta Pixel lawsuit narrows, Syneos goes private for $7.1B, Envision nears Ch. 11, Australia’s A$429M EHR modernization funded

Cano Health’s Q1 was not a cheerful one, what with a board fight, the Cano 3 resigning and nailing a long list of grievances to the door, and a new chairman of the board, Sol Trujillo, who specializes in turnarounds. The results bore out the Cano 3’s concerns, with a $60.6 million net loss versus 2022’s barely-there $100,000. Revenue increased 23% to $866.9 million but per member per month (PMPM) revenue fell 13%, driven by a higher proportion of non-Medicare members but partially offset by membership growth: 388,667 including 207,420 Medicare capitated members, an increase of 44% and 29% year-over-year. Adjusted EBITDA was only $5 million, compared to $29.2 million in Q1 2022. What’s being divested to improve cash flow are the proverbial ‘non-core assets’ which are outside of Medicare Advantage–a complaint of the Cano 3 who noted things like family self-dealing and a murky relationship with a Miami claims recovery outfit. Cano also raised 2023 forecasts for membership and total revenue, but no mention of growth in medical centers. Cano earnings release, Healthcare Dive, Digital Health Business

In other slimming-down news, Oscar Health will exit its exchange plans within Covered California at the end of the year. While they have 35,000 members, their medical loss ratios (MLR) are over 100% versus the desired 80%. (MLR, a key metric in exchange plans, is defined as the proportion of total paid medical service claims and all quality improvement activities together, then dividing that number by the total premium revenue minus all allowable deductions. New CEO Mark Bertolini says they will return when Oscar reshapes their product offerings and strategy. This Editor hears a heavy boot drop. Healthcare Dive

Lawsuits of health systems on Meta Pixel being used to send private patient information to Facebook and other third-party advertisers are now rolling through the courts. The class action against University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Health just got a little narrower. Judge William Horrick of the US District Court for the Northern District of California granted defendant UCSF Health’s motion to dismiss several plaintiff claims. As a public entity, UCSF argued that the “unjust enrichment” claims were invalid. ‘Jane Doe’s’ lawyers representing the class of patients have a deadline of 30 May to amend the breach-of-contract claim. Health systems caught up in the ad pixel mess should follow this closely, though Becker’s seems to be the only news coverage. Our coverage of Meta Pixel

And in other healthcare news from two ends of the spectrum:

  • Biopharma contract research organization (CRO) Syneos Health will be going private in a $7.1 billion deal.  Elliott Investment Management, Patient Square Capital, and Veritas Capital are leading the cash buyout for $43.00 per share, a tidy 24% premium to the 13 February closing price, which is a somewhat unusual delay but apparently due to heavy media speculation around it. Syneos was formed in the merger of two large CROs, InVentiv Health and INC Research, and as a public company has been on the share price roller coaster, though the category is considered to be highly attractive for investment to improve the odds of biopharma success.  The deal is expected to close in the second half of the year. Syneos release, Healthcare Dive
  • Healthcare staffing company Envision Healthcare envisions filing a Chapter 11 bankruptcy soon, according to a Wall Street Journal report. They are carrying about $7 billion in outstanding debt, ongoing and costly legal spats with UnitedHealthcare, and has had difficulty finding physicians and nurses that are contracted to augment hospital staff. Conflicts with payers center around out-of-network billing charges which are far above the customary and the ‘no surprises’ patient protection billing law that took effect this year. Investor KKR owns the company and reportedly has already written it down. Their EBITDA cracked from $1 billion in 2020 to about $250 million in 2022. FierceHealthcare, Healthcare Dive

And Down Under, the modernization of Australia’s health system EHR, estimated to cost A$429 million over two years, is now funded in the 2023-4 budget. The My Health Record (MHR) modernization will improve data sharing across service settings, sharing of pathology and diagnostic imaging information, and increase usage of MHR by allied health professionals. The budget also includes substantial fresh funding to the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA)–over A$325 million over four years and an ongoing A$80 million–and A$5.7 billion to Australia’s national Medicare program including strengthening primary care and urgent care. IT News (Australia)

Babylon Health ‘Take Private Proposal’ includes London High Court administration request

An added fillip to Babylon Health’s going private under a ‘Take Private Proposal’ is the inclusion of administration in the UK. This was revealed in their 8-K (001-40952) filed on Wednesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). It states that the Framework Implementation Agreement ‘contemplates’ that part of the Take Private Proposal will involve the appointment of administrators, the British form of the US Chapter 11 reorganization procedure. Specifically, the Babylon Holdings Limited board will request that administrators be appointed by the High Court in London. These administrators will then supervise the transfer of assets from Babylon Holdings Limited to Babylon Group Holdings Limited and then their sale to the ‘NewCo’ formed after the reorganization by AlbaCore Capital as the Go-Forward Business. Any assets or subsidiaries not transferred will be dissolved along with Babylon Holdings Limited. 

This was not disclosed in the press release or the earnings announcements. Our article yesterday.

The pertinent paragraphs (the last two above ‘Forward Looking Statements’) also reinforce that ordinary Class A shareholders and holders of other equity instruments receive nothing. With the shares on the NYSE trading at $1.19 (1pm EDT 11 May), they are almost there.

One wonders if the NHS and private users of Babylon Health’s apps are aware of this development buried in an 8-K filed in the US.

Hat tip to Ari Gottlieb of A2 Strategy via LinkedIn, who read the 8-K, noticed this in his posting (recommended reading), and has had watch on Babylon for some time.

Mid-week roundup: DEA extends telehealth prescribing waiver to November; telehealth usage continues to erode; NextGen EHR hacked, 1M records breached

The answer: 11 November. The question: how long was the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) planning to extend their telehealth waiver of in-person prescribing requirements on Schedule II and higher controlled substances?  Both the DEA and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) issued the “Temporary Extension of COVID-19 Telemedicine Flexibilities for Prescription of Controlled Medications”rule on 9 May before the Public Health Emergency (PHE) expired on 11 May. It’s a six-month reprieve for the beleaguered telemental health providers/prescribers and their patients–and sure to be hotly debated over the next few months as a final rule must replace the temporary extension rule and the Ryan-Haight Act isn’t going away. DEA release, TTA 4 May

FAIR Health’s tracking of telehealth medical claims has languished in the Fives–as in 5%–since last year. February is the latest month of tracking and it declined from 5.9% in January to 5.5% in February. Again, the vast majority of claims are for mental health codes (66.7%) far ahead of diagnosis #2, acute respiratory diseases and infections, where Covid-19 once resided. However, the latter accounted for 25.6% of asynchronous (store and forward) telehealth diagnoses. A new metric on the report is audio-only telehealth, which is only slightly more popular in rural versus urban areas. The greatest difference from the national norm is in the West, where February telehealth claims were 7.6%. Monthly national summary, FAIR Health main page for monthly and regional summaries.

NextGen’s EHR/practice management system hacked, 1.05 million patient records breached. Information stolen included patient name, dates of birth, addresses, and Social Security numbers. This was revealed in a filing with the Maine attorney general’s office since it included over 4,000 Maine residents. The hack of the NextGen Office system took place between 29 March and 14 April 2023. It’s been a bad year for NextGen’s IT and security teams, as it also experienced a short-term ransomware attack in January by AlphV/BlackCat. (The two couldn’t be related…could they?) No word yet on class action lawsuits or Federal penalties.  TechCrunch

Babylon Health to go private in June as shares plummet, Q1 loss increases 117%

Babylon Health revealed its long-expected move to go back private, in conjunction with rising revenue, but also losses. Today (10 May) Babylon announced an agreement between it and AlbaCore Capital LLP that provided interim funding of $34.5 million. This buys time to implement a framework agreement between Babylon and AlbaCore to restructure and recapitalize the company to strengthen their balance sheet and provide additional liquidity. The ‘Take Private Proposal’ has the core operating subsidiaries of Babylon returning to private ownership as the ‘Go-Forward Business’ and sold to a newly formed entity capitalized by AlbaCore and other investors. Their additional debt will be amended and/or extended, such as AlbaCore’s $300 million principal amount of AlbaCore notes due 2026.

Timing: interim funding is May-early June and the Take Private Proposal is later in June. Class A and other equity shareholders will be left out in the cold as no payments will be made to them as AlbaCore will be exercising rights under its debt agreements with Babylon. 10 May release

After a cracked SPAC on the NYSE via Alkuri Global Acquisition that Ali Parsa finally admitted was a mistake with a share price that declined from $272 per share to around $11, selling non-core businesses like the Meritage IPA, reorganizing as a foreign private issuer to a domestic one, and the reverse share split on 15 December, a temporary fix that barely boosted the price, the remaining rabbit out of a hat is to go private. Mr. Market did not much care for the move, with the shares taking a further crack from Tuesday’s close of $6.88 to today’s close of $2.05.

Babylon’s Q1 results were further confirmation that all the bad news is being lumped together with some progress. Their total revenue was $311.1 million which was a tidy $44.7 million (16.7%) increase over Q1 2022’s $266.4 million, but missed Street expectations by $25.8 million. Their problem was that the net loss of $63.2 million, a (20.3)% net loss margin, was 117% greater than last year’s loss of $29.1 million or (10.9%) margin. Net income in Q1 2022 included a $78.8 million gain primarily relating to the Company going public, which made it look better than it was. Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) totaled $45.8 million, compared with $82.6 million in Q1 2022. 

Progress was made on their value-based care revenue mix with a brand new digital-first commercial exchange product, Ambetter (Centene), that moved non-Medicaid VBC revenue to 60%. It also exceeded projections with 38% membership growth YTD with encouraging engagement numbers: members are 12+ times faster to register and have demonstrated 8x engagement rates. There was also some impressive growth in their UK Private business, with appointment growth of 83% to 186,000.

With the announcement that they are going private, Babylon withdrew its full-year 2023 revenue (originally targeted to be over $1 billion), adjusted EBITDA guidance, plus its mid-2024 target for adjusted EBITDA profitability that was issued on 9 March–and canceled their earnings call scheduled for today (10 May). Earnings release.  Also Mobihealthnews

Week-end roundup: Is ChatGPT *really* more empathetic than real doctors? Amwell’s $400M loss, Avaya emerges from Ch. 11, Centene sells Apixio, more on Bright Health’s MA sale, layoffs at Brightline, Cue Health,

Gimlet EyeA Gimlety Short Take (not generated by ChatGPT). This Editor has observed developments around AI tool ChatGPT with double vision–one view, as an amazing tool with huge potential for healthcare support, and the other as with huge potential for fakery and fraud. (If “The Woz” Steve Wozniak can say that AI can misuse data and trick humans, Tesla’s AI-powered Autopilot can kill you, plus quit Google over AI, it should give you pause.)

The latest healthcare ‘rave’ about ChatGPT is a study published 28 April in JAMA Network that pulled 195 questions and answers from Reddit’s r/AskDocs, a social media forum where members ask medical questions and real healthcare professionals answer them. The study authors then submitted the same questions to ChatGPT and evaluated the answers on subjective measures such as “better”, “quality”, and “empathy”. Of course, the ChatGPT 3.5 answers were rated more highly–78%–than the answers from human health care professionals who answer these mostly ‘should I see a doctor?’ questions. HIStalk noted that forum volunteers might be a little short in answering the questions. Another point was that “they did not assess ChatGPT’s responses for accuracy. The “which response is better” evaluation is subjective.” The prospective patients on the forum were also not asked how they felt about the AI-generated answers. Their analysis of the study’s shortcomings is short and to the point. Another view on compassion in communication as dependent on context and relationships was debated in Kellogg Insight, the publication of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, in Healthcare IT News.

Amwell posted a disappointing and sizable $398.5 million net loss in Q1. This was over five times larger than the Q1 2022 loss of $70.3 million and Q4 2022’s $61.6 million. The loss was due to a noncash goodwill impairment charge related to a lasting decline in the company’s share price. Current versus prior year Q1 revenue remained flat at $64 million, $15 million lower than Q4 2022 due to a decline in professional services revenue. Visits were 1.7 million visits in Q1, with 36% through the new platform Converge. Guidance for the year remains at $275-$285 million with an adjusted EBITDA loss between $150-$160 million. Mobihealthnews This contrasts with rival Teladoc’s optimistic forecast released last week, though remaining in the loss column [TTA 4 May]. 

Avaya emerged from Chapter 11 on Monday. According to the release, the company has financially restructured and now has $650 million in liquidity and a net leverage ratio of less than 1x. This was a lightning-fast bankruptcy and reorganization, usually referred to as ‘pre-packaged’, as it was announced in February with the company emerging from it in 60 to 90 days. Avaya provides virtual care and collaboration tools (and has contributed to our Perspectives series). 

Another restructuring continues at Centene. Their latest sale is Apixio, a healthcare analytics platform for value-based care. The buyer is private equity investor New Mountain Capital. New Mountain has $37 billion in assets under management. Centene acquired Apixio in December 2020 in the last full year of CEO Michael Neidorff’s leadership. Since 2022, Centene has been selling off many of their more recent acquisitions such as two specialty pharmacy divisions, its Spanish and Central European businesses, and Magellan Specialty Health. Transaction cost and management transitions were not disclosed. Based on the wording of the release, Centene will continue as an Apixio customer as well as other health plans. Given the profile of the 10 largest health plans, which includes Centene, and their diversification, Centene’s divestments coupled with the involvement of activist investor Politan Capital Management have led to speculation.

Another take on Bright Health’s projected divestiture of its California Medicare Advantage health plans is from analyst Ari Gottlieb on LinkedIn. If Bright sells the MA plans for what they paid for them–$500 million–according to Mr. Gottlieb they can pay off their outstanding JP Morgan credit facility as well as negative capital levels in many of the states where they had plans and are now defending lawsuits. It still leaves them $925 million in debt.

Unfortunately, we close with yet another round of layoffs.

  • Covid-19 test kit/home diagnostics Cue Health will be surplusing about 26% of its current workforce, or 325 employees. Most will be in the San Diego manufacturing plants. This is on top of 170 employees released last summer. The current value of the Nasdaq-traded company is estimated at $105 million, down from $3 billion at their 2021 IPO. Current share price is $0.68. HIStalk, San Diego Business Journal.
  • Another telemental health company is shrinking–Brightline–reducing their current workforce by another 20%. This affects corporate staff and is in addition to the 20% let go last November. Brightline’s focus is on mental health for children and teens, and has investment to date of $212 million. Becker’s 
  •, which offers in-home urinalysis and wound care, plus a new app for kidney care, laid off 70 staff while enjoying a fresh Series D raise of $50 million from Schusterman Family Investments.  Becker’s

Mid-week roundup: CVS-Oak Street closes, DEA extends controlled substance telehealth waiver, Bright Health selling CA MA plans, Talkspace, Teladoc turnarounds? (updated)

CVS closed its $10.6 billion deal for Oak Street Health, well before the anticipated end of 2023. It picks up 169 primary care offices in 21 states–and an unprofitable operation that clocked a loss last year of $510 million without much of a change till 2025. The quick closing was likely spurred by both the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) letting their antitrust challenge period expire at the end of March with nary a whimper. DOJ and FTC, the latter which has been remarkably ‘pixelated’ of late on privacy issues with GoodRx and Teladoc’s BetterHelp, evidently passed on ‘egg on the face’ and let the ovoid land squarely on Elizabeth Warren’s Senate desk. She had asked FTC to ‘carefully scrutinize’ the deal. Shareholders received a tidy $39 per share. OSH will remain a multi-payer practice and now-former CEO Mike Pykosz will lead the company under CVS’ new healthcare delivery arm. This follows on CVS’ closing of Signify Health [TTA 30 March].  CVS release, FierceHealthcare Our prior gimlety coverage of CVS/OSH: 16 Feb, 2 March, Unlike OSH, CVS had a strong Q1 with $2.1 billion in profit, slightly down from 2022’s $2.4 billion, and an 11% boost in revenue. FierceHealthcare

DEA in-person prescribing requirements on Schedule II and higher controlled substances postponed indefinitely. The proposed rule would have added back in-person requirements for telehealth prescribing of controlled substances after the official end of the Public Health Emergency and its in-person waivers on 11 May. On 25 April, the DEA filed a draft temporary rule with the Office of Management and Budget for the extension. The Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008 requires that Schedule II medications and narcotics (including Adderall and Ritalin) require an in-person prescription, while Schedule III or higher medications, including buprenorphine, Ambien, Valium, Xanax and ketamine can be prescribed for 30 days via telehealth but would require an in-person visit before a refill. The DEA was deluged with 38,000 comments and advocacy pressure from ATA. The change has also thrown a wrench in the works of online mental health companies which prescribe many of these drugs. FierceHealthcare  Updated–The ATA has weighed in favorably about the DEA postponement. Kyle Zebley, executive director of ATA Action, stated in their release that “Our hope is that the DEA will use the time of an extension to be responsive to the concerns of telehealth advocates, patients, and the American people to create rules that ensure access to clinical care that is not inappropriately restricted.”

Bright Health put its California Medicare Advantage plans up for sale. The company, staring down at bankruptcy [TTA 7 Apr, 20 Apr] does not yet have a buyer for the MA plans. When they are sold, it will be Bright’s exit as a health insurer, as it has exited MA plans in Florida and exchange plans everywhere else–in a flurry of state investigations ranging from Tennessee to Texas. Bright plans to focus on its provider arm, NeueHealth. Healthcare Dive

Talkspace narrowed its loss, increased revenue. The telemental health provider narrowed its Q1 net loss to $8.8 million compared to 2022’s $18.3 million in Q4 2022 and $20.4 million in Q1. Revenue increased to $33.3 million versus last year’s Q1 of $30.2 million. Their source of business has shifted to B2B with a 71% increase, a sharp departure from their formerly dominant consumer segment which has declined 40%.  Their 2023 forecast revenue is $130-135 million. It is still facing a Nasdaq delisting as trading below $1.00 per share and a class action lawsuit on subscription renewals. Mobihealthnews

Teladoc also waxed positive, ‘beating the Street’ with Q1 revenue growth of 11% to $629 million. This was powered as expected by BetterHelp, Teladoc’s direct-to-consumer mental health business. Their revenue grew to $279 million, a 21% increase. Teladoc’s enterprise business also had a 5% boost to almost $350 million. Their weight loss business is expected to be another net positive income generator, but not affecting results until 2024 as it won’t be introduced until Q3 [TTA 21 April]. The road to profitability will be a long one, as losses this quarter were $69.2 million, but compared to last year’s $6.7 billion writedown of Livongo, it’s positively smooth. Healthcare Dive

Perspectives: Implementing technology in rural communities to support access to mental and behavioral healthcare

TTA has an open invitation to industry leaders to contribute to our Perspectives non-promotional opinion area. Today’s Perspectives is from Brian Kenah, Azalea Health’s chief technology officer responsible for engineering, software development initiatives, M&A integrations, and related areas. Azalea Health is a leading US-based provider of cloud-based healthcare solutions and services, including a complete solution of electronic health records (EHR), practice management (PM), revenue cycle management (RCM) billing services, as well as a patient health records portal, and a mobile mHealth application. This article discusses how technology can bridge care gaps that continue to be present in rural areas and enable greater access for individuals.

The COVID-19 pandemic illustrated the health needs facing many communities and nowhere was that more apparent than in rural communities.

Rural areas in the U.S. often have higher rates of mortality and morbidity from the leading causes of death compared to urban areas. A report by the CDC in 2017 found that people living in rural areas had a higher risk of death from heart disease, cancer, stroke, and respiratory disease combined than those living in urban areas. One factor contributing to these disparities is limited access to healthcare services – including behavioral and mental health.

Based on data from the American Psychological Association (APA), there is a shortage of mental health professionals in rural areas of the U.S. According to the APA, about 20% of Americans live in rural areas, but only about 10% of psychologists practice in these areas. Additionally, the APA reports that up to 80% of rural communities do not have a psychologist.

Rural communities may not have the same access to psychologists and other resources such as technology as urban areas, which can limit their ability to support mental and behavioral health. And, while many providers in rural communities cannot hire psychologists and other experts who specialize in mental and behavioral health, residents in these communities still need — and deserve — this type of care. There are efforts underway to address this issue and expand access, specifically with technology tools that can be used in rural communities to support mental and behavioral health issues. Some of these technology tools include the following:

  1. Access to Broadband: One challenge in rural areas is limited broadband internet access, which can make it difficult to access online mental health resources, telemedicine services, and other technology tools. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), nearly one in four rural Americans lack access to broadband internet. Despite these challenges, there are initiatives to expand access to technology tools for mental and behavioral health in rural communities. For example, the FCC has established the Rural Health Care Program, which provides funding to help rural healthcare providers expand their telemedicine services and broadband access.
  2. Telehealth: Telehealth is a service that saw widespread adoption during the pandemic. Telemedicine allows patients in rural areas to access mental health services remotely via videoconferencing. This is especially important where there is a shortage of mental health providers. Investing in telehealth services provides healthcare organizations with an opportunity to revolutionize healthcare delivery. Investing in and expanding the use of telehealth provides an immediate way for providers in smaller communities to tap into larger health systems and their experts. It also strengthens the provider/patient relations by removing proximity as a potential barrier to connecting. Longer term, telehealth allows providers to offer new services and expand existing offerings they wouldn’t otherwise be able to. Telehealth can also help reduce patient wait times and allow providers to serve more patients without necessarily needing to hire additional personnel.
  3. Remote Patient Monitoring/Care: The challenges faced by rural communities in accessing behavioral health services are well documented – long travel times to clinics, limited availability of mental health professionals, and stigma associated with seeking help. Remote patient monitoring (RPM) tools can address many of these barriers and improve the overall quality of care. The use of technology to remotely collect and transmit health data from patients to healthcare providers, such as information on mood, anxiety, sleep patterns, and medication adherence, can help providers identify potential issues before they become acute and intervene accordingly. This can all be done remotely without travel, particularly important in rural communities where access to transportation can be limited. Additionally, remote patient care can increase the frequency of patient-provider interactions, leading to more timely interventions and better outcomes. Remote patient care also has the potential to address the shortage of mental health professionals in rural areas, helping those that are providing services to make better use of their time and resources, ultimately improving access to patient care .
  4. Predictive Analytics: Coupling solutions like telehealth with predictive analytics can enable providers to focus on those with the biggest needs, moving from triage mode to true holistic healthcare management. Rural areas already struggle with a shortage of psychologists, doctors, and nurses, and that shortage won’t stop the flow of patients needing support for mental health issues. Predictive analytics can often help provide support for those individuals with existing and ongoing conditions such as PTSD, phobias, and anxiety disorders.

Overall, technology can help bridge the gap in mental and behavioral health services in rural communities and provide access to virtual care that might not be otherwise available.

Healthcare outcomes shouldn’t be based on a patient’s zip code, but for too long, that’s been the case. Patients in smaller communities deserve the same level of care as their counterparts living in larger communities, and technology enables providers to deliver on that promise.