TTA’s summer #9: Google Health shuts, vital signs photonics to Apple? Homecare hot with Humana and Sharecare. And more deals including Maven and dressed up Carrots!

 

 

Weekly Alert

Our weekend lead news is Google Health’s shutdown, with its head graduating to the Big Job at Cerner. Rockley Photonics may be revolutionizing the smartwatch with its photonic vitals sensors. Sharecare expands health ed and enters the once-sleepy home care biz. Humana also bets big on home care with Kindred, SDOH heats up, Maven’s a unicorn, and Carrots are on the healthcare plate with the trimmings.

Breaking: Google Health shutting down, most employees scattered to other divisions (And its head is now Cerner CEO)
Deal and news roundup: Humana closes $5.7B Kindred at Home buy, Unite Us SDOH buys Carrot Health for data, Carrot Fertility raises $75M, Maven Clinic at $1B value, Privia partners with Babyscripts for moms, Tyto Care and Prisma Health
Sharecare expands health education capabilities, acquires CareLinx home care for $65M (updated) (A healthcare conglomerate in the making?)
Comprehensive “clinic-on-the-wrist” digital health sensor system debuts. Apple Watch of future? (UK/US) (Rockley Photonics’ big leap)

The news isn’t taking a Summer Holiday, neither are deals. Honor just rocked the sleepy home care world with its buy of Home Instead. UnitedHealth will have to wait till end of year for Change. Morgan Health debuts with $50M in Vera Health. The Telehealth Teeter-Totter continues with Amwell’s gloomy forecast, Teladoc’s Aetna deal. And Voices Carry with stress testing and a neuroprothesis that may give communication back to those who cannot speak. 

Home care rocked: Honor Technology acquires home care provider Home Instead (It’s all about the caregivers and hospital-at-home)
News roundup: update on UnitedHealth/Change Healthcare DOJ check, Tunstall adds new CTO, Amwell’s gloomy second half, Teladoc’s Aetna deal, Fitbit and LifeScan diabetes
Hearing voices: Cigna-Ellipsis AI-powered voice stress test; UCSF/Weill neuroprosthesis decodes attempted speech (Giving speech to the speechless in the future)
News and funding roundup: patient outreachers Relatient, Radix merge; health apps top 350,000; Morgan’s $50M in Vera Health; Communicare247, Doro, TeleAlarm join Scottish Digital Telecare’s list

A short one this week in the rollup to HIMSS. Funding and deals aren’t taking the summer off despite it being August, and this year’s first half just beat full year 2020.

News and funding roundup: BioIntelliSense ‘stickers’ $45M, Exo ultrasound scans $220M, Enovation gets Scotland OK, WellSky snaps up Healthify, Cerner’s good quarter despite VA (And summer is supposed to be quiet?)
2021’s bubbly $14.7 billion in digital health funding–six months that beat all of 2020 (Rock Health’s rock’n’rolling 1st half)

Telehealth Wars teeter-totter with now Amwell and national expansion on the upside. NHS England’s changing of the guard–Roy Lilley’s insightful interview with Sir Simon. Telemental health prospers. Alcuris gets the cyber-OK from Scotland. And Cerner needs to get it right with the VA, right quick.

The Roy Lilley-Sir Simon Stevens ‘Health Chat’ interview (As the order changes at NHS England)
News and deal roundup: another big mental health app funding, Happify Health’s prescription therapy app debuts, Alcuris approved by Scottish Digital Telecare for cybersecurity (Mental health continues to be the It of Digital Health)
Telehealth Wars: Amwell’s raises game with buys of SilverCloud and Conversa Health; Teladoc’s slow member, hospital growth lead to $133M Q2 loss (The seesaw goes up for one, down for the other)
Cerner execs to VA Congressional committee: “We are committed to getting this right” (After $16 billion, One. Would. Hope. So.)
Over 400 telehealth groups urge Congress to retain CARES Acts gains on remote care (Obsolete law change long overdue)

The big news for UK GPs this week was that the GPDPR’s extraction scheduled for 1 Sept is stopped for a Big Rework. Big Blue’s Watson Health dying in pieces, reportedly up for sale. But SPACs and investments have slowed only a bit for the summer with Owlet’s $1bn SPAC and digital health’s torrid $15bn first half. In-person meetings are starting to come back as well (apparently HIMSS21 is still on too).

Softly, softly: GPDPR comes to screeching halt, indefinitely, to be reworked (Don’t hold yer breath!)
News and deals roundup: Owlet’s $1B SPAC, Carbon Health’s $350M Series D, Series Bs by Woebot Health and b.Well, digital health rakes in $15bn (Owlet ‘socks it’ to the market, behavioral health and digital health match the hot weather)
Oh, MAMA! The Medical Alert Monitoring Association meeting, 28-29 September, Chicago (They’ll need the alerts in Chi-Town)
Three healthcare startup events: MedStartr NYC Thursday 21 July, Dallas Startup Week starts 1 August–and apply now for UCSF Health Awards (Look to Texas and California)
IBM Watson Health’s stumble and possible fall (The World Was Not Theirs, leading to Death By A Million Cuts)

Teladoc’s new alliance with Microsoft Teams stakes out real estate with health systems–and more. There’s life in VistA yet as VA throws hands up, puts Cerner EHR on hold. UnitedHealthcare beefs up predictive analytics for SDOH as the Feds make moves, while the parent looks to transform. The King’s Fund’s annual conference is back in November. And just for fun–get your Dead Startup Toys!

Saturday summer morning fun: treat yourself (or your boss) to a Dead Startup Toy (Playtime! If not now, when?)
Volte-face: VA now puts their Cerner EHR implementation on hold (Is this a job for Samson or Superman?)
The King’s Fund annual conference returns in November, virtually (Given all, a good call)
The implications of Teladoc’s integration into Microsoft Teams (Now we know why InTouch Health in health systems was worth the mega-money)
UnitedHealthcare pilots predictive analytics model for SDOH, sets out plan to transform into ‘high-performing health plan’ (Plenty of room for tech in this vision)

PERS makes news with an insider view of what happened at Philips Lifeline as Connect America finalizes its buy, and VRI’s up for a new owner. AliveCor continues to play David to Apple’s Goliath, hospital-at-home gets a $250M boost, UK’s Physitrack IPO raises $20M. 

News roundup: AliveCor’s latest FDA clearance plus antitrust vs. Apple, VRI on the market, Walgreens’ ‘tech-enabled future’ indefinite plus VillageMD status, monthly telehealth usage drops 12.5%
An ‘insider’ point of view on the Connect America acquisition of Philips Lifeline (Good background from industry sources)
News/deals roundup: Connect America finalizes Philips aging/caregiving buy; Amedisys-Contessa $250M hospital-at-home; UK’s Physitrack $20M IPO, Dutch motion tracker Xsens

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Telehealth & Telecare Aware: covering the news on latest developments in telecare, telehealth, telemedicine, and health tech, worldwide–thoughtfully and from the view of fellow professionals

Thanks for asking for update emails. Please tell your colleagues about this news service and, if you have relevant information to share with the rest of the world, please let me know.

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

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Breaking: Google Health shutting down, most employees scattered to other divisions (updated)

Breaking  Google Health is disbanding, according to an ‘insider’ report in the (paywalled) Business Insider, reported secondarily in Becker’s Health IT and in specialized websites such as Apple Insider. This comes on the heels of the departure of Google Health head and Google VP David Feinberg MD after two years on 1 Sept. He will become CEO and president of Cerner starting 1 October. Healthcare IT News, Healthcare Dive

Reports about the internal memo sent to Google employees from what Apple Insider calls “Google research whiff” (?) Jeff Dean indicates that the teams working on various health projects will be split up to other areas. For instance, Google Health’s clinical group including the EHR tool team will now report to Dean. Based on 2020 numbers, 500 employees will be affected. 

Google Health’s track record since its founding in 2018 hasn’t been superlative, despite the prestigious name and bankroll. They bought a failing Fitbit for $2.1 billion closing only in January, after a bouncy romance starting in 2019  with more than the usual share of controversy, with scrutiny from DOJ to EU regulators. Becker’s reports that Google’s CMO, Karen DeSalvo, MD, leader of clinical initiatives, will now report to the chief legal officer. The AI team on medical imaging will report to Google’s search and AI team. The memo also noted relocation of staff to Search, Maps, and YouTube. 

(updated) In June, Google Health reorganized to shed its consumer focus and focus more on clinical applications such as its controversial Care Studio and health AI, including projects moved from sister company Verily. Even losing 130 or so employees to other areas of the company from a unit high of 700, this apparently was not enough to justify its separate existence. TTA 18 June, FierceHealthcare 

Healthcare ain’t beanbag, as they say in New York, and even Apple with its Watch and innumerable apps has found it rough going. Reports this week stated that Apple is scaling back a specific health team that was focused on an internal health app.

For Dr. Feinberg, former CEO of integrated health regional Geisinger and CEO at UCLA Health, the Cerner position is ‘top of the world’. He is being hired as Cerner’s third CEO in 42 years and will be combining both the CEO and president positions which previously were separately held. He reportedly has been hired to be a strategic CEO, which is a change for the company reflecting its directional change to be a software-as-a-service (SaaS) business rivaling Amazon Web Services, marking a transition away from legacy EHRs. Cerner has had some significant challenges, with the VA implementation sidelined until sometime in 2022, and quite a few executive changes, with the current CEO and chairman departing immediately after three years without an expected transitional period, and a new chairman coming from the board of directors.

As for Google, Dr. Feinberg might agree with “amar99”, one of the commenters on Apple Insider, who said in part: “Great, now can Google please leave Google?”

News and funding roundup: BioIntelliSense ‘stickers’ $45M, Exo ultrasound scans $220M, Enovation gets Scotland OK, WellSky snaps up Healthify, Cerner’s good quarter despite VA

Sticker shock? BioIntelliSense, which has been flying under the radar for over a year [TTA 17 July 2020] since inking a deal with Philips to integrate their BioSticker sensors into their post-acute remote patient monitoring (RPM) systems, scored a $45 million Series B funding for a total of $82 million since 2018. Lead investor is Chimera (UAE) with participation from 7wire Technology Partners, Mary Tolan of Chicago Pacific Founders, James Murren, formerly of MGM Resorts International, as well as Pendrell Corporation, Royal Philips, and Fresenius Medical Care North America.

BioIntelliSense has two wearables: the BioSense on-body sensor for 30 days of continuous vital sign monitoring, and the new BioButton for up to 60 days of RPM. The BioButton is touted for Covid-19 monitoring. “Temperature checks have proven to be unreliable and even amplified testing (PCR) has proven to be ineffective in identifying the virus in the early days of infection.” The button will be connected to the BioMobile screening survey app which will feed the user the latest CDC health screener and then scan for ‘subtle physiological changes’ in temperature, respiratory rate and heart rate at rest. The app generates a non-PHI report indicating ‘cleared’ or ‘not-cleared’. The BioSticker is 510(k) FDA-cleared; the BioButton is not, but is being marketed as an enterprise solution for employee health clearance. Mobihealthnews

Hand-held ultrasound gets ultra-funding. The Exo hand-held ultrasound snagged a hefty $220 million in Series C funding for a total of over $320 million since last year. Their point-of-care tool includes nano-materials, sensor technology, and advanced signal processing and computation in a platform called Exo Works. Exo is in a crowded field pioneered by GE Healthcare’s Vscan [TTA 27 March] back in 2010, but including Butterfly IQ, Mobisante, and Philips LumifyMobihealthnews

Enovation also approved by Scotland. With our news from Alcuris last week that they were selected by Scottish Digital Telecare as a security-assessed supplier, Enovation (formerly Verklizan), notified your Editors that they also were selected. Our quote from their management is from Andy Grayland, Chief Information Security Officer, Digital Office for Scottish Local Authorities. “The Scottish digital telecare security-assessed suppliers scheme reviewed a submission from Enovation for an Alarm Receiving Centre application. The assessment panel was very impressed with pre-existing security security culture and standards within Enovation. Both this assessment scheme, and Enovation’s positive response to it, will help ensure that vulnerable telecare users across Scotland are protected against the threat posed by cyber criminals when using these services.” 

WellSky to acquire SDOH provider Healthify. WellSky is a provider of software, analytics, and services for community care. Healthify builds and manages accountable networks for SDOH services, working with health plans, providers, and community partners in all fifty states. Previously, Healthify had raised $25.5 million in five rounds from 2013 (Crunchbase). Healthify is the fifth company WellSky has acquired since 2018, the last CarePort Health for $1.4 billion in 2020 (Crunchbase). Terms were not disclosed. Closing anticipated in Q3. The release does not indicate management transitions or HQ location.  

Despite their VA troubles and layoffs, Cerner had a very good quarter indeed: revenue up 10%, adjusted EPS $0.80 versus $0.63, exceeding analyst expectations for both. They laid off 500 employees in the quarter and eliminated 300 open positions, which will deliver $70 million in annualized savings. plus half their owned space is now unneeded so up for sale. Their Department of Defense EHR rollout is going well with 42 commands and 663 locations with 41,000 activated users. The Coast Guard’s deployment will be completed this year. As to VA, “results of the VA’s strategic review focused on governance, training, and readiness rather than Cerner-caused problems.” More in the lead article in HISTalk 8/2/21. Cerner’s announcement, transcript of earnings call on Seeking Alpha

Cerner execs to VA Congressional committee: “We are committed to getting this right”

Two Cerner executives had their say in testimony to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee last week, and they hung on by, presumably, their fingernails in their commitment to having working tests and a workable rollout of the Cerner Millenium system. This will replace the warhorse VistA system in use for decades in the VA, but incompatible with the Department of Defense’s Cerner MHS Genesis and earlier EHRs in use in military care facilities.

The EHR implementation, which is at last report costing $16 billion, failed miserably at Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, Washington in late 2020 into this year. The three-month review of the program “raises more questions than it answers,” said Committee Chair Frank Mrvan, D-Indiana. Other members concurred in being less than impressed by Cerner. Ranking Member Matt Rosendale, R-Montana, wasn’t interested in “shoveling more money into a flawed program just to keep the paychecks flowing.”

However, Brian Sandager, senior vice president and general manager of Cerner government services, pointed out that wait times at Mann-Grandstaff, with nearly 70% of veterans seen within 15 minutes of their scheduled appointment time, with urgent care patients seen within 13 minutes of arrival. Opioid treatments were flagged for alternative treatments. HealthcareITNews   Our earlier coverage here.

Cerner Government Services has a great deal riding on the successful implementation of the VA contract, including their extensive government work with DOD on MHS Genesis and other healthcare organizations within the US Government, including those listed on their website: the US Coast Guard, CDC, HHS, and CMS. 

Lightning news roundup: AI for health systems Olive scores $400M, VA’s sticking with Cerner EHR, Black+Decker gets into the PERS game

As here in the US we are winding up for our Independence Day holiday (apologies to King George III)….

Olive, a healthcare automation company for healthcare organizations, scored a venture round of $400 million from Vista Equity Partners. To date, it’s raised $856 million through a Series G plus this round and is now valued at $4 billion according to the company release. Olive’s value proposition is automating via AI routine processes and workflows, such as benefit verification discovery, prior authorizations, and billing/payments for health systems. About 900 US hospitals have adopted Olive’s systems. Mobihealthnews.

Breaking: The US Department of Veterans Affairs will be staying with Cerner Millenium for their EHR modernization from VistA. This follows a 12-week review of the implementation following failures within the $16 billion program itemized by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in February [TTA 19 Feb]. Secretary Denis McDonough is scheduling two further review weeks to determine additional changes to the program. The intent is to build a cloud-based system fully interoperable with the Department of Defense’s Military Health System (MHS) also built with Cerner. FedScoop, Healthcare IT News

And in the What Are They Drinking in Marketing? I want some of that, stat! department…

Black + Decker is now becoming a PERS provider with the introduction of Black+Decker Health and the goVia line of mobile and home-based PERS with optional fall extension and call center monitoring through Medical Guardian . The devices are a fairly predictable line of cellular-connected (Verizon, AT+T) with a ‘classic’ home landline unit. The units are being sold through Amazon. B+D release

From a marketing perspective, the Black+Decker name, identified for decades with home and power tools, on a PERS line is also a classic–a classic mistaken line extension like Cadbury mashed potatoes or Colgate frozen entrees. Buy a PERS, get a drill? Relevance and fit to a older, female-skewing group?  It surely looks like their parent Stanley, which is a leading company in institutional alarm and location services. offloaded this legacy business to them. (Judging from the website, someone’s in a rush as some pages still have ‘greek’ copy under headings.) Hat tip to a Reader who wishes to remain anonymous.

Deals and news roundup: Ginger’s $100M, myNEXUS to Anthem, Everlywell snaps up PWN, Amwell’s banner year for revenue–and loss, VA reviews Cerner rollout, voice visits for MA, GE’s vScan goes wireless, uBiome founders indicted

Deals–and news–are piling up like Easter eggs before the hunt. Mental health and cognitive digital therapy scored another raise with Ginger‘s $100 million Series E to fund expansion into health plan and government partnerships. Blackstone Growth led the round. Total funding to date is $220 million. It’s entered unicorn status with a valuation just north of $1 bn. Ginger to date has concentrated on corporate mental healthcare. From being an ugly duckling only a few years ago, digital mental therapies are this year’s ‘it’. But competition is fierce: the traditional telehealth companies such as Teladoc, Doctor on Demand, and Amwell are closing in on the early entrants such as AbleTo. Direct-to-consumer models like Talkspace; UK/Ireland’s SilverCloud Health; and Lyra, Spring Health, and Happify, which just closed a $73 million Series D, all step out with slightly different ‘differentiators’ but target the same companies, health plans, and health systems. FierceHealthcare, Ginger release

Home health is also another former ugly duckling transformed into a swan. Anthem is acquiring home health/nursing management company myNEXUS, which manages home-based nursing services for 1.7 million Medicare Advantage members across 20 states. Their digital authorization and visit management couples with a nationwide network of providers and nursing agencies for local care. Exiting myNEXUS are private equity investors led by New York’s WindRose Health Investors, after four rounds and a conservative $31 million in funding (Crunchbase). Neither terms nor management transitions were disclosed. myNEXUS will join Anthem’s Diversified Business Group. FierceHealthcare, release.

Home testing+telehealth company Everlywell (not connected with the Everly Brothers) has a different take on home health. They are now integrating their self-test kits with fully owned lab testing. New acquisitions PWNHealth and its subsidiary Home Access Health Corporation will join Everlywell in Everly Group. PWN was Everlywell’s main telehealth partner and diagnostic testing partner since 2016. It will become Everly Health Solutions with their testing data kept separate from Everlywell’s. Home Access was PWN’s self-collected lab test company. Everly Health now will support more than 20 million people annually in all 50 U.S. states, Canada, and Puerto Rico. Acquisition terms were not disclosed. PWN’s CEO will take a seat on the Everly Group board to assist integration. Valuation is now estimated at $2.9 bn.  Mobihealthnews, Everly release, Bloomberg News

And in other news…

Amwell reported a Very Good Year in their telehealth services, with visits growing to 5.9 million from 2019’s 1.1 million. Total revenue was up over 65 percent to $245.3 million. However, profitability continues to be elusive, with net loss almost equaling revenue. Release

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) finally announced a review of the Cerner-Leidos EHR integration. Back in February, VA was hanging tough on the rollout after the GAO report questioning its wisdom and recommending postponement until high severity issues were corrected. Secretary Denis McDonough, new VA head, has directed the undertaking of a 12 week strategic review without pausing the project. Taking bets on that 12 weeks! Healthcare Dive

Payers and their lobbyists are supporting a newly reintroduced House bill that would permit telephonic-only telehealth visits to be reimbursed for their Medicare Advantage plans after HHS closes the pandemic period. There is considerable information that video/audio virtual visits still have limitations with the 65+ group, clustered around high-speed internet or good data connections, smartphones, and computers with cameras, making video visits difficult or impossible. Which begs the question about continuing coverage for those on Original Medicare. Healthcare Dive

Those readers with long memories will recall GE Healthcare’s heralded introduction of the VScan handheld clinical-grade ultrasound device–back in 2010, complete with Eric Topol rave and demo. Not much has been heard from GEHC since till this month, and other competitors, such as the Butterfly IQ from 4Catalyzer, have made handheld ultrasound common and affordable. GEHC announced Vscan Air, a fully wireless version that connects to iOS or Android. It was FDA cleared in November 2020 and will be shipping its dual-headed probe and accessories starting 1 April for a US-listed target price of $4,495. GEHC page (with the cute domain vscan.rocks), Mobihealthnews

And in our Scandal Sheet section, a Federal grand jury in the Northern District of California has indicted the founders of now-bankrupt uBiome on 40-odd counts encompassing conspiracy to commit securities fraud, conspiracy to commit health care fraud, money laundering, and identity theft. Separately, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also filed charges. Between 2016 and 2018, uBiome had raised $100 million through a Series C, and was likened to Theranos, after its fall, in the Big Claim (‘inventing the microbiome industry’). Its business was analyzing the DNA of fecal and other biological matter to sequence the bacteria of the body’s microbiome. Starting with low-cost, limited data comparison for at-home tests, the founders progressed to claiming to doctors that their diagnostic tests were clinical-quality and would be reimbursed by payers. Payers did–for awhile–and the investors piled in. By 2019, the wheels fell off their scheme and the FBI came knocking at their Silicon Valley offices after the founders cashed in. Chapter 7 followed in late 2019. The Register reports that the two married founders are on the run, whereabouts unknown. US Attorney’s Office release, SEC filing (PDF)

 

GAO tells VA to postpone Cerner EHR implementation–but VA will be continuing

The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is still in the long rollout of the Cerner/Leidos EHR system to replace their home-grown, once groundbreaking VistA and to be interoperable with the Department of Defense’s Cerner Millenium system. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report (PDF link) that concludes that “VA should postpone deployment of its new EHR system at planned locations until any resulting critical and high severity test findings are appropriately addressed.” These potential system failure points were brought up by GAO to Congress last October at the time of the first implementation in Spokane, Washington. The sidebar on GAO’s report states that VA agreed with the postponement, but a news report in FedScoop indicates that VA believes, per their comments in the report, that:

  • VA and Cerner have resolved the major issues (down to 55 from close to 400)
  • They will resolve the rest by January 2022
  • They will proceed with the scheduled rollout to the VA’s Puget Sound Health Care System in Q4 2021.

Hat tip to HISTalk, which managed to summarize this in seven short sentences (!).

News roundup: CVS cashing out notes, catching up with ISfTeH, India’s Stasis Labs RPM enters US, Propeller inhaler with Novartis Japan, Cerner gets going with VA

CVS Health is pricing out a tender offer for some notes. If you are holding one of a potpourri of notes with due dates of 2023 and 2025 from CVS, the company is making a cash tender offer, meaning they are cashing these notes out. This is usually done as part of rearranging financing, especially appropriate in the wake of the Aetna acquisition. The details are here in their release of 12 August. The collective value for both note years is approximately $3 bn each. An update is here on Seeking Alpha.

We have been remiss in not maintaining our following the Swiss-based International Society for Telemedicine and eHealth (ISfTeH) so we will direct your attention to their August update which features the effect of COVID on teledermatology, women’s health, teleurology, and news on members and developers. Their Journal, still edited by Professor Maurice Mars of South Africa, has published once this year in January.

India’s Stasis Labs, developer of a remote patient monitoring (RPM) platform utilizing a smartphone, vital signs devices, a bedside monitor connected into a platform, is entering the US market. It monitors six vital signs in a single monitor: heart rate, blood oxygen, electrocardiogram, respiratory rate, blood pressure, and temperature. Awarded a 510(k) clearance in April, Stasis, out of the Cedars-Sinai Accelerator program, has had a limited deployment at Texas-based emergency-care provider Hospitality Health ER and California-based Glendale Surgical Center and Orthopedic Surgery Specialists. It has also deployed to 50 cities in India. Mobihealthnews

Smartphone-connected inhaler sensor company Propeller Health has inked a deal with Novartis in Japan. Patients prescribed Novartis’ drugs for uncontrolled asthma, the Enerzair or Atectura Breezhaler, can now enroll in Propeller’s digital-management program. Data about their inhaler use will be transmitted from the sensor on the inhaler to Propeller’s smartphone app. The app also pings users with reminders and usage data. Propeller was acquired last year for a stunning $225 million by ResMed. Propeller this past May gained 510(k) FDA clearance for a sensor/app for use with AstraZeneca’s Symbicort inhaler.

Cerner’s EHR implementation with the US Department of Veterans Affairs finally took a step forward after many delays with the launch last Friday of a new scheduling system at the VA Central Ohio Healthcare System in Columbus, Ohio. Cerner migrated the information of some 60,000 veterans in preparation. The full EHR at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, Washington, originally scheduled for March, will go live this fall. Healthcare Dive

News Roundup (updated): Proteus files Ch. 11, VA’s EHR tests now fall–maybe, making US telehealth expansion permanent, Rennova’s rural telehealth bet, Oysta’s Lite, Fitbit’s Ready to Work jumps on the screening bandwagon

Proteus Health, the company which pioneered what was initially derided as a ‘tattletale pill’, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy today (16 June). As early as December, their layoffs of nearly 300 and closure of several sites was a strong clue that, as we put it, Proteus would be no-teous without a big win. Exactly the opposite happened with the unexpected early end of their Otsuka partnership with Abilify [TTA 17 Jan]. Proteus had raised about $500 million in venture capital from Novartis plus technology investors and family offices. Their combination of a pill with an ingestible sensor, a patch that detects ingestion and that sends information to a smartphone app was ingenious, but in a business model was meant for high-cost medications. Proteus’ current partnerships include TennCare (TN Medicaid), plus Xealth and Froedtert to integrate medication information into electronic health records. At one point, Proteus was valued at $1.5 bn by Forbes, making it one of the early healthcare unicorns.  CNBC, FierceHealthcare

VA further delayed in implementing Cerner-Leidos EHR. POLITICO’s Morning eHealth earlier this month reported from congressional sources that further testing would be delayed to the fall at the earliest and possibly 2021. The project to replace VistA stands at $16 bn. Contributing to delay was an April COVID outbreak in Spokane at a veterans’ home, which pushed patients into the VA medical center. 

In further DC news, several senators are advocating that the relaxing of restrictions on telehealth during COVID should largely be made permanent. According to the lead senator, Brian Schatz (D-HI), Medicare beneficiaries using telehealth services increased 11,718% in 45 days. Many telehealth requirements were waived, including geographic, coding of audio-video and telephonic telehealth billing, and HIPAA platform requirements. Other senators are introducing bills to support remote patient monitoring programs in community health centers’ rural health clinics. FierceHealthcare

The climate for telehealth has improved to the point where smaller players with side bets are now betting with bigger chips. Rennova Health, a mid-South healthcare provider with a side in software, is merging its software and genetic testing interpretation divisions, Health Technology Solutions, Inc. (HTS) and Advanced Molecular Services Group, Inc., (AMSG) with TPT Global Tech. The combined company will be called InnovaQor after an existing subsidiary of TPT and plans to create a next-generation telehealth platform targeted to rural health systems. Release, Becker’s Hospital Review

Oysta Technology has launched the Oysta Lite with an SOS button, GPS, safety zone mapping for travel, and two-way voice. The SOS connects to their IntelliCare platform which provides status monitoring, reporting, and device management plus connecting to the telecare service provider. They are specifically targeting post-lockdown monitoring of frail elderly.  Press flyer/release.

Fitbit jumps on the crowded COVID workplace screening bandwagon with Ready to Work, a employer-sponsored program that uses individual data collected via the Fitbit device such as resting heart rate, heart rate variability and breathing rate. Combined with self-reported symptoms, temperature, and potential exposure, the Daily Check-In app then provides guidance on whether the employee should go to work or remain at home. According to the Fitbit release, a higher heart rate–as little as two beats a minute–can be indicative of an immune system response before the onset of symptoms. TTA has earlier reported [19 May] on other COVID workplace screeners such as UHC/Microsoft’s ProtectWell app, Appian, and (in-house) PWC. FierceHealthcare also lists several others on the cart: Castlight Health, Collective Health, Carbon Health, VitalTech, and Zebra Technologies. However, at this stage, few employees are leaving remote work for in office, and fewer still may even return to the office.

VA running at least one month late on Cerner implementation launch

Only a week after Veterans Affairs secretary Robert Wilkie reassured the press that the rollout of the Cerner EHR to replace VistA was right on time, FCW was advised by a VA spokesperson that the implementation is only 75-80 percent complete, and more time is needed for the system build and staff training. The 28 March rollout at Spokane, Washington’s Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center will have a new ‘go-live’ date according to the spokesperson. Another source said to FCW that the interfaces between Cerner, VA IT, and VistA has been a worse ‘slog’ than anyone imagined, so it made little sense to train anyone on a unfinished system. The date is now estimated to be end of April.

Apparently key Congresscritters on the House Veterans Affairs Committee and IT subcommittees were prepared for the delay by Secretary Wilkie–a wise move–and they applauded the recognition that more preparation and training are required.

VA’s fiscal 2021 budget, revealed on 10 Feb, requested $2.6 billion for the Cerner EHR modernization project, up from $1.5 billion in the prior year. There’s $500 million more for infrastructure readiness and $62 million hike in program management support.

Comings and goings, wins and losses: VA’s revolving door spins again, NHS sleep pods for staff, Aetna’s Bertolini booted, Stanford Med takes over Theranos office

VA’s revolving door spins again with #2 person fired, but VistA replacement implementation moves on. James Byrne, deputy secretary, was fired on 3 Feb “due to loss of confidence in Mr. Byrne’s ability to carry out his duties” according to secretary Robert Wilkie. Mr. Byrne, a Naval Academy graduate and former Marine officer, had been VA general counsel, acting deputy secretary starting August 2018, then confirmed five months ago.

Mr. Byrne’s responsibilities included the Cerner implementation replacing VistA and other IT projects (HISTalk), of which Mr. Wilkie stated in a press conference today (5 Feb) “will not impact it at all” (FedScoop). The termination comes in the wake of a House staff member on the House Veterans Affairs committee, herself a Naval Reserve officer, stating that she was sexually assaulted at the VA Medical Center in Washington (NY Times). Axios claims that the White House was disappointed in the way the VA handled the investigation. At today’s presser, Mr. Wilkie denied any connection but attributed the dismissal to ‘not gelling’ with other team members. The launch of Cerner’s EHR is still on track for late March. The turnover at the VA’s top has been stunning: four different secretaries and four more acting secretaries in the last five years. Also CNBC, Military Times.

NHS’ sleep pods for staff to catch a few ZZZZs. A dozen NHS England hospitals are trialing futuristic-looking ‘sleep pods’ for staff to power nap during their long shifts and reduce the possibility of errors and harm by tired clinicians. Most of the locations are in the A&E unit, doctors’ mess, and maternity department. They are available to doctors, nurses, midwives, radiographers, physiotherapists, and medics in training. The pods are made by an American company, MetroNaps, and consist of a bed with a lid which can be lowered along with soothing light and music to aid relaxation. The pods may cost about £5,500 each but are being well-used. Other hospitals are fitting areas out with camp beds and recliner chairs. The sleep breaks take place both during and end of shifts before returning home and average about 17-24 minutes. Everything old is new again, of course–dorm areas were once part of most hospitals some decades back and doctors’ lounges with sofas were popular snooze-gathering areas. Guardian (photo and article)

Mark Bertolini bumped off CVS-Aetna Board of Directors. The former Aetna CEO, who was the engineer of the sale to CVS Health two years ago, isn’t going quietly out the door with his $500 million either. The high-profile long-time healthcare leader told the Wall Street Journal that he was forced off the BOD. He maintains the integration of the Aetna insurance business is incomplete, contradicting CVS’ statement that it’s done. Mr. Bertolini and two other directors are being invited out as CVS-Aetna reduces its board following, it says, best practices in corporate governance. Looking back at our coverage, Mr. Bertolini had hits, bunts (ActiveHealth Management) and quite a few misses (Healthagen, CarePass, iTriage). According to the WSJ, the contentious nature of the statement plus the departure of the company’s president of pharmacy is raising a few eyebrows. And recently, an activist shareholder, Starboard Value LP, has taken a stake in the company. CVS is demonstrating some innovation with rolling out 1,500 HealthHubs in retail locations as MinuteClinics on steroids, so to speak.  Hartford Courant (Aetna’s hometown news outlet) adds a focus on how many jobs will be remaining in the city with a certain skeptical context on CEO Larry Merlo’s promises. 

Stanford taking over Theranos Palo Alto HQ space. HISTalk’s Weekender had this amusing note (scroll down to ‘Watercooler Talk’) that the 116,000-square-foot office building in Stanford Research Park will now house the Stanford medical school. Theranos had been paying over $1 million per month in rent for the facility. The writer dryly notes that Elizabeth Holmes’ bulletproof glass office remains. This Editor humbly suggests the floor-to-ceiling application of industrial-strength bleach wipes and disinfectant, not only in the lab facility but also in that office where her wolf-dog used to mess.

The LA Times reports that Ms. Holmes is also defending herself without counsel in the Phoenix civil class-action lawsuit against Theranos. On 23 January, she dialed in to the court hearing’s audio feed and spoke for herself during that hour. One has to guess that she doesn’t have much to do other than read legal briefs. (Perhaps she sees herself as a cross between Saint Joan and Perry Mason?) Last fall, Ms. Holmes was dropped by Cooley LLP for non-payment of fees [TTA 9 Oct 19]. Williams & Connolly continues to represent her in the criminal DOJ suit, where prison time looms. 

Short Takes: Amazon buys symptom checker Health Navigator; Ettain Group acquires EHR consultant Leidos Health (updated)

Amazon’s acquisition of startup Health Navigator, a developer of online symptom checking and triage tools sold to other digital companies to integrate into their digital health solutions, is another foray into healthcare. In this case, Health Navigator is a straightforward fit into their Amazon Care unit which provides enterprise virtual care benefits. No transaction amount, leadership, nor timing are mentioned. This is unlike their purchase earlier this year of online pharmacy PillPack for a stunning $700+ million. After roadblocks on getting the patient data they need [TTA 12 Sept], and other stumbles, PillPack has been folded into their consumables group and right now is not challenging CVS or Walgreens in any meaningful way. CNBC

Charlotte NC-based ettain group has purchased EHR consultancy Leidos Health. The divesting parent, Leidos Inc. is best known to our Readers for its contract with the US Department of Defense in the replacement of the ancient AHLTA EHR with a Cerner system. The acquisition will reinforce Ettain’s healthcare IT sector. Leidos Inc. remains in business in the government and private healthcare sectors for consulting and retains the MHS Genesis contract. Unfortunately, the announcement is dimmed by a poorly written and elliptical release.

Update: A spokesperson for ettain group (lower case correction) has clarified via email that they have “acquired Leidos Health LLC which is a commercial EHR staff augmentation services business. This is not to be confused with Leidos Inc, the original parent company that still maintains a health business that manages the DOD MHS Genesis program. Basically, the ettain group transaction doesn’t include MHS Genesis.”

Digital health: why is it a luxury good in a world crying for health as a commodity?

Why digital health still struggles to find its stride. Those of us in the healthcare field, especially Grizzled Pioneers, have been wondering for the past decade why Digital Health’s Year is always Next Year. Or Next Decade. 

Looking back only to 2000, we’ve had 9-11, a dot-com bust, a few years in between when the economy thrived and the seed money started to pollinate young companies, a prolonged recession that killed off many, and now finally a few good economic years where money has flooded into the sector, to good companies and those walking the fine line of mismanagement or fraud. We’ve seen the rise/fall/rise of sensors, wearables, and remote monitoring, giants like Google and Microsoft out and back in, the establishment of EHRs, acceptance by government and private payers, quite a bit of integration, and more. All one has to look is at the investment trends breaking all records, with funding rounds of over $10 million raising barely a notice–enough to raise fears of a bubble. Then there’s another rising tide–that of cyberattack, ransomware, insider and outsider hacking.

Is it this year? It may not be. Despite the sunshine, interoperability holds it all back. Those giant EHRs–Cerner, Epic, Athenahealth, Allscripts–are largely walled gardens and so customized by provider application that they barely are able to talk to their like systems. There are regional health exchanges such as New York’s SHIN-NY, Maryland’s CRISP, and others, but they are limited in scope to their states. The VA’s VistA, the granddaddy of the integrated system, died of old age in its garden. Paul Markovich, CEO of Blue Shield of California cites the lack of interoperability and being able to access their personal health data as a major barrier to both patients and to the large companies who want to advance AI and need the data for modeling. (China and its companies, as we’ve noted, neatly solve this problem by force. [TTA 17 Apr]) Apple is back in with Health Records, but Mr. Markovich estimates it may take 10 years to gather the volume of data it needs to establish AI modeling. Some wags demand that Apple buy Epic, as if Epic was up for sale. BSC, like others, is testing interoperability workarounds like Notable, Ooda Health, and Manifest MedEx. Mr. Markovich cites interoperability and scaling as reasons why healthcare is expensive. CNBC

And what about those thriving startups? Hold on. During the Google Cloud/Rock Health 3 June event, one of the panelists–from Partners HealthCare, which works both side of the street with Pivot Labs–noted that hospitals have figured out their own revenue models, and co-development with hospitals is key. Even if validated, not every tech is commercially ready or lowers cost. And employers are far worse than hospitals at buying in because they ultimately look at financial value, even if initially they adopt for other reasons. In addition, the bar moved higher. The new validation standard is now provider-centric–workload, provider satisfaction, and implementation metrics, because meeting clinical outcomes is a given. Mobihealthnews

And still another barrier–data breaches and cyberattack–is still with us, and growing. Quest Diagnostics’ data breach affects nearly 12 million patients. It was traced to an individual at a vendor, American Medical Collection Agency, and it involved Optum360, a Quest contractor and part of healthcare giant Optum. The unauthorized person had access to the network for eight months – between 1 August 2018, and 30 March 2019–and involved both financial and some health records. Quest now is in the #2 slot behind the massive 79 million person Anthem breach, which, based on a Federal grand jury indictment in Indianapolis in May, was executed by a Chinese group in 2015 using spearfishing and backdoors that gathered data and sent it to China. There were three other US businesses in the indictment which are not identified. Securing health data is expensive — and another limitation on the cost-lowering effects of interoperability. Healthcare IT News

Digital Health’s Year, for now, will remain Next Year–and digital health for now will remain fractional, unable to do much to commoditize healthcare or lower major costs.

News roundup: FCC RPM/telehealth push, NHS EHR coding breach, unstructured data in geriatric diagnosis, Cerner-Lumeris, NHS funds social care, hospital RFID uses

[grow_thumb image=”https://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Lasso.jpg” thumb_width=”125″ /]FCC backs post-discharge RPM plan. The “Connected Care Pilot Program” proposed by FCC commissioner Brendan Carr would provide $100 million for subsidies to hospitals or wireless providers running post-discharge remote monitoring programs for low-income and rural Americans such as those run by the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The goal is to lower readmissions and improve patient outcomes. The proposal still needs to be formalized so it would be 2019 at earliest. POLITICO Morning eHealth, Clarion-Ledger, Mobihealthnews

NHS Digital’s 150,000 patient data breach originated in a coding error in the SystmOne EHR used by GPs. Through the error by TPP, SystmOne did not recognize the “type 2 opt-out” for use of individual data in clinical research and planning purposes. This affected records after 31 March 2015. This breach also affects vendors which received the data, albeit unknowingly, but the duration of the breach makes it hard to put the genie back in the bottle, which NHS Digital would like to do. Inforisktoday, NHS Digital release

Unstructured data in EHRs more valuable than structured data in older adult patient health. A new study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society compared the number of geriatric syndrome cases identified using structured claims and structured and unstructured EHR data, finding that the unstructured data was needed to properly identify geriatric syndrome. Over 18,000 patients’ unstructured EHR notes were analyzed using a natural language processing (NLP) algorithm.

Cerner buying a share in population health/value-based care management company Lumeris through purchasing $266 million in stock in Lumeris parent Essence Group Holdings. The angle is data crunching to improve outcomes for patients in Medicare Advantage and other value-based plans. Lumeris also operates Essence Healthcare, a Medicare Advantage plan with 65,000 beneficiaries in Missouri. Fierce Healthcare

NHS Digital awarding £240,000 for investigating social care transformation through technology. The Social Care Digital Innovation Programme in 12 councils will be managed by both NHS and the Local Government Association (LGA). Projects to be funded span from assistive technologies to predictive analytics. Six winners from the original group of 12 after three months will be awarded up to a further £80,000 each to design and implement their solutions. New Statesman

Curious about RFID in use in healthcare, other than in asset management, access, and log in? Contactless payments is one area. As this is the first of four articles, you’ll have to follow up in Healthcare IT News

VA moves closer to doing Cerner EHR deal, real Choice for veterans (updated)

The Cerner EHR deal with the VA edges closer to closing. Another VA contractor, MITRE, reviewed the agreement and recommended 50 changes that, according to POLITICO Morning eHealth’s source, address many of the interoperability-related usability features “that irritate EHR users” such as reconciling data coming from outside sources (Home Telehealth, perhaps?–Ed.). VA officially updated the status with Congressional Veterans Affairs staff on Tuesday. The deal could be inked as early as next week, but never bet on this when the Secretary seems doubtful of the agreement date. In any case, it will be a decade before VA is fully transitioned from VistA. Speaking of the Secretary, Dr. Shulkin’s crisis of last week seems to have passed with a White House vote of confidence. He can ‘cashier’ his critics and according to him, everyone’s on board with a clear direction. We’ll see. 

Updated. Well, it’s 2 March and still no word on closing the Cerner contract. Meanwhile, the VA ‘revolt’ continues, with either true or false reports of demands for Dr. Shulkin’s resignation. It’s exhausting, and meanwhile who pays? Staff and veterans. See POLITICO from 1 March here.

Modern Healthcare reported that important reforms in the VA Choice legislation are closer to reality with the Senate Veterans Affairs committee. They are proposing changes, supported by the White House, that would open up VA Choice eligibility to nearly all veterans by “making VA facilities responsible for meeting access standards set by the VA secretary. If a facility can’t, the patient can seek out a community provider if both patient and a VA provider or an authorized provider in the community working closely with VA deem that a better option than a VA facility.” This is a step beyond the earlier proposed access standards which would have given the VA Secretary discretion to relax restrictions to community care provision. Currently the VA Choice program is used by only 1 million veterans who have to prove that they are facing wait times of 30 days or more, or 40-mile travel time to a VA clinic. While the tone in the article is slightly disparaging, firm standards and opening the VA to limited market pressures to this Editor is a good thing–and getting effective care faster to veterans, many of whom live in exurban or rural areas, is beyond all considerations, absolutely necessary. How this affects veterans monitored by telehealth programs–and interoperability of their records–are open questions.

EHR action: Allscripts acquires Practice Fusion, expands footprint in small/ambulatory practices

A significant EHR acquisition kicks off an action-packed week. Announced today by leading EHR Allscripts is their acquisition for $100 million of independent practice EHR Practice Fusion. Allscripts, which has been usually in the top five US EHRs (Kalorama April 2017 survey), vastly expanded its hospital market share with August’s acquisition of #2 McKesson‘s health IT business and with this would be ranked just behind EHR leader Cerner. In acute care settings, Epic and Cerner dominate with 25 percent of the market each with Allscripts/McKesson far behind #3 Meditech (KLAS April 2017). 

Practice Fusion, one of the pioneers in the small practice/ambulatory EHR starting with a basic free, ad-paid model in 2005, has 30,000 ambulatory sites serving about 5 million patients each month. In the Allscripts view, they will now be able to offer “last mile” reach to the under-served clinicians in small and individual practices” and close gaps in care. Allscripts President Rick Poulton noted in the statement that “We believe this transaction will directly benefit Practice Fusion clients, who will now have access to Allscripts solutions and services. We look forward to welcoming Practice Fusion team members to our family.” which leads one to believe that the Practice Fusion name will be sunsetted. Allscripts release and Healthcare IT News

From being the leader in small practice EHRs, Practice Fusion found the last few years difficult as competition expanded into their segment, from eClinical Works, drchrono, athenahealth, and NextGen to small practice packages from Epic and Cerner.

It should be noted that Practice Fusion in 12 years went through 13 funding rounds, raising almost $158 million from a long list of VC luminaries such as Kleiner Perkins, Artis Ventures, Founders Fund, and Qualcomm Ventures (Crunchbase). However, it disappointed its investors and Wall Street, which expected two years ago a $1.5 billion IPO. The $100 million from Allscripts is all cash and the price is “subject to adjustment for working capital and net debt”–an exit which was surely not the sugarplum in the eyes of its 2014 and prior  investors. CNBC