Friday roundup: VA Spokane quashes staff cuts; EHR market share ex-US; Epic’s proposed UK HQ expansion; Apple watchOS 10 adds health features; Nox Health on Pear buy; GP2U Telehealth sold

VA assures Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center staff that they won’t face cuts due to their budget deficit of about $35 million. The Northwest regional network director Teresa Boyd said to staff in a 1 June message that  the hospital had “not been asked to cut current staff or reduce services to Veterans to mitigate any effects of the deficit.” Mann-Grandstaff was The Last Straw for the Oracle Cerner implementation, and problems with the EHR and the loss of productivity (estimated at 18%) contributed significantly to the ongoing deficit. This follows on the earlier center director’s statement that Mann-Grandstaff would face at least a 15% cut to make up the shortfall [TTA 31 May]. The Spokesman-Review story goes on to recap the mound of miseries around the Oracle Cerner rollout as well as the local angle with Senator Patty Murray and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Spokane Republican who has called for the VA to scrap the Cerner system, but who also called on VA Secretary Denis McDonough to pledge to use money Congress had already appropriated to prevent cuts to staff or services in Spokane.

Speaking of Oracle Cerner, KLAS’ 8 June report on EHR hospital market share outside of the US has Softway Medical by far the leader. Oracle Cerner has the #3 ranking while Epic, tops in the US, is #10. The top 13 are (by 2022 number of hospital beds):

1. Softway Medical: 17,805
2. Dedalus: 9,436
3. Oracle Cerner: 7,564
4. CompuGroup Medical: 6,039
5. IQVIA: 5,803
6. MV: 4,309
7. Philips: 3,486
8. InterSystems: 2,876
9. System C: 2,706
10. Epic: 2,564
11. ezCaretech: 2,376
12. Maincare Solutions: 2,222
13. Meditech: 2,027

Leading in Europe are Softway Medical, Dedalus, System C, and CGM (not on list), while in Asia/Oceania IQVIA, InterSystems, ezCaretech lead. In Latin America, MV and Philips in Brazil with NTT DATA (not on list) in Argentina. Becker’s

But Epic has plans to expand. One sign: plans to move their UK headquarters staff currently located in several buildings in Bristol to a much larger campus on the outskirts of town in nearby Long Ashton. The campus site is currently pasture fields and the village cricket club. This coincides with plans to develop a ‘garden village’ with 2,500 homes to the south that may include a rail station. The public hearing is 12 June in Long Ashton. Bristol Post

Apple debuted its latest iteration of its Watch, OS10, on Monday at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, with new mental health, vision health, fitness, and medication tools.

  • Mental health: Mindfulness app logs emotions and daily moods, with a Digital Crown that turns to choose a shape to represent their feelings. The Health app adds depression and anxiety assessments which can be turned into a PDF that can be shared with appropriate health resources. 
  • Vision health: this allows users to track time spent outdoors, which can be good for mental and physical health, but supposedly can create nearsightedness through sun exposure (!). This Editor finds this most curious as most of us myopics were ‘that way’ by age 5 or earlier.
  • Fitness tools: a boon for cyclists with workout reminders, fall detection (unless it’s obvious), and an automatic connection to the person’s iPhone to display heart rate, elevation, race route, custom workouts, and cycling speeds. 
  • Medication: follow-up reminders to log medication sent 30 minutes after the scheduled time

Mobihealthnews, CNET video

Nox Health, which bought $3.9 million of Pear Therapeutics assets [TTA 24 May] spilled a bit to Mobihealthnews on their plans for Somryst, the Pear FDA-cleared insomnia treatment. Nox is already in the sleep health business and has several lines of business around benefits for self-insured employers and payers, plus sleep diagnostics and related technologies targeted to hospitals and health systems including the VA. Nox’s origins are in Iceland and while developing sleep diagnostics from hospital to home got to know Pear while they were developing Somryst. Their CEO also has some thoughts on why Pear got sliced up.

Down Under, GP2U Telehealth is being sold, the second change of ownership in just over two years. The seller is UK-based Doctor Care Anywhere (DCA) Group. Australia’s Connected Medical Solutions, operating as My Emergency Doctor (MED), agreed to buy GP2U for A$3 million (US $2 million): A$500,000 in cash and A$2.5 million in Connected Medical Solutions shares. DCA bought it in September 2021 for A$11 million (US$7.4 million), which is quite a haircut in any currency, but announced that the sale is to reinforce its focus on its core UK market. MED partners for telehealth services with over 40 healthcare services, including ambulances, primary health networks, residential aged care facilities, hospitals, urgent care centers, and multi-purpose centers. DCA’s current UK consults in April/May totaled 121,200, up 30%. Mobihealthnews, MarketWatch

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

Mid-week roundup: another hurdle for Oracle Cerner VA delay, Walmart builds out clinic infrastructure, Cerebral round 3 layoff of 15%, Evolent Health’s 9% layoff, Quil Health age-in-place tech shuts

Oracle Cerner EHR rollout faces yet another hurdle. The Department of  Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that the next go-live, Ann Arbor (Michigan) Healthcare System, originally scheduled for completion by July 2023, would be delayed until much later this year or even early 2024.  It turns out that a key reason for the delay is that Ann Arbor is a VA research center, and there are major concerns that the EHR changeover won’t blend well with their medical research. VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Shereef Elnahal told FedScoop during a media roundtable that “…there are many VA medical centers that are heavy with clinical research because of their academic affiliations, and so those centers will need this research functionality. It’s not just an issue with the Ann Arbor Hospital.” In the article, Dr. Elnahal also lamented that the VA health system running on two separate EHRs, VistA and Oracle Cerner, presented additional risks to security. Also FedHealthIT   Hat tip to HISTalk 24 Feb

Walmart’s 32 clinics are building out their infrastructure. Working with their Epic EHR, all the clinics are now operating on the Horizon Cloud on Azure platform paired with VMware cloud infrastructure and digital workspace technology services. A blog published by VMware interviewing BreAnne Buehl, director of life sciences solutions for VMware, and David Rhew, MD, global chief medical officer at Microsoft, details the ambitions of Walmart to move beyond ‘minute clinic’ to broader primary care and chronic disease management, into proactive predictive analytics. Becker’s Hospital Review, VMWare

And on the less cheerful side:

  • Beleaguered telemental health/ADHD provider/prescriber Cerebral announced another 15% layoff, cutting 285 people. It is its third layoff in one year, following a 20% cut last October.  Cerebral is also closing its medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program for opioid use disorder (OUD). A Cerebral spokesperson said the decisions were made to reorganize the company to “refocus on the most important service offerings for our patients.” Another reason for the MAT program closing is the pending renewal of requiring in-person visits for certain mental health medications. For instance, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is proposing that buprenorphine can be prescribed via telehealth for treating OUD for 30 days but then an in-person exam would be required.  Last year, Cerebral faced still-unresolved DOJ and FTC actions on their telehealth prescribing of ADHD and other controlled Schedule 2 medications, from deceptive advertising (FTC) to overprescribing (DOJ) [TTA 18 Nov 22]. Topping this off are dueling lawsuits with former CEO Kyle Robertson [TTA 30 Nov 22]. Cerebral at the end of 2021 was valued at $4.8 billion by Softbank and other investors, but no one wants to talk about its worth today.  Reuters, Layoffs Tracker, Behavioral Health Business
  • Payer/provider management services organization Evolent Health quietly laid off 460 positions in its Chicago operations, about 9% of their 5,100 person staff, starting in December 2022 into last month.  Their Q4 net loss doubled to $11.25 million on $382 million in revenue, doubling 2021’s $5.65 million loss, though full year 2022 closed with a final loss of $19 million, about half of 2021. The company projects Q1 revenue of $420 million to $440 million, with 2023 revenue of $1.92 billion to $1.96 billion with a shift of emphasis to specialty care, bolstered by its closed acquisition in January of Magellan Specialty Health from Centene. Layoffs Tracker, Washington Business Journal
  • Quil Health shut down operations, with employees departing 10 February and executives 24 February. The Philadelphia-based Comcast-Independence Blue Cross joint venture was founded in 2018 to support older adults and caregivers in ‘aging-in-place’ alert and monitoring technology. The sole report in HISTalk states that the website is offline plus their CEO Carina Edwards updated her LinkedIn profile for Quil with a February 2023 end date and changed the company description to past tense, pushing up her board positions. Their Facebook page is still live but no posts after 16 January after announcing their joining the AARP AgeTechCollaborative. In 2019, this Editor wrote that they were developing pre- and post-care support through TV (!) with Comcast working on an ambient sensor-based device to monitor basic vital signs and fall detection, which launched in 2020 as Quil Assure. To this Editor, it sounded like a home version of QuietCare circa 2009 with multiple sensors and diagnostics. 

News roundup: DDoS attacks may be ‘smokescreen’, DEA slams Truepill with ‘show cause’, telehealth claims stabilize at 5.4%, Epic squashes patent troll, Cerner meeting exits KC, MedOrbis, Kahun partner on AI intake

Readers won’t get out of 2022 without one last cybercrime…article. DDoS attacks–distributed denial of service–escalated worldwide with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. (Ukraine and military aid is a hot topic this week with President Zelenskyy’s visit to the US and Congress speech.) Xavier Bellekens, CEO of Lupovis, a cybersecurity company and a cyberpsychologist (!), postulates that DDoS attacks, as nasty as they are, may be a smokescreen for far more nefarious and damaging attacks. While IT goes into crisis mode over the DDoS, other attacks and information gathering on systems preparing for future attacks are taking place. Russian cyber groups focus on large organizations and move down the line into the most vulnerable, using both manual and automated approaches. Worth reading given the vulnerability and IT short staffing in healthcare organizations. Cybernews

The fallout from Cerebral and Schedule 2 telehealth misprescribing expands. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) issued a ‘Show Cause’ to online pharmacy Truepill for inappropriate filling of ADHD Schedule 2 medications, including Adderall. A ‘Show Cause’ order is an administrative action to determine whether a DEA Certificate of Registration should be revoked, which could put Truepill out of business. The red flag for the DEA: 60% of  Truepill’s prescriptions–72,000–filled between September 2020 and September 2022 were for controlled substances, including generic Adderall. Truepill was Cerebral’s primary mail order provider, though they also used CVS and Walmart. The company stopped filling Cerebral’s ADHD prescriptions in May 2022.

In the order, the DEA cites that “Truepill dispensed controlled substances pursuant to prescriptions that were not issued for a legitimate medical purpose in the usual course of professional practice. An investigation into Truepill’s operations revealed that the pharmacy filled prescriptions that were: unlawful by exceeding the 90-day supply limits; and/or written by prescribers who did not possess the proper state licensing.”

The company stated in an emailed statement that they were fully cooperating with the investigation. If it does move to a hearing, Truepill’s chances of a successful defense are statistically low.

Truepill also fills prescriptions for Hims & Hers, GoodRx and Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company. It was valued in its 2021 funding round at $1.6 billion. Companies in telemental health and prescribing of Schedule 2 ADHD medications, such as Cerebral and Done Health, are under enhanced scrutiny over their business practices [TTA 1 June]. Mobihealthnews, DEA press release, HISTalk, Digital Health Business & Technology

Telehealth medical claims stabilize. FAIR Health’s latest reports for August and September report that the percent of medical claims coded as telehealth are back up to 5.4%. June and July dropped slightly to 5.2% and 5.3% respectively. Also steady are that the vast majority of claims are for mental health services. In September, they were 66% of diagnoses far ahead of ‘acute respiratory diseases and infections’ at 3.1%. In procedure codes, psychotherapy accounts for over 43%.

A patent troll Epically bites the dust. Back in the early to mid-2010s [TTA’s index here], patent trolls (technically non-practicing entities which have no active business) presented a significant threat to early and growth-stage health tech companies. One, MMR Global (which apparently no longer exists), was notorious for buying up EHR and PHR-related patents and then filing patent infringement lawsuits against both small and large healthcare organizations with similar patents–and their users–that were generally monetarily settled. But NPEs are still active. One in south Florida, Decapolis Systems, used the same techniques as MMR Global had, suing in this case multiple Epic customers for patent infringement. Epic not only defended its customers but also sued Decapolis in the US District Court, Southern District of Florida. The court found that both Decapolis patents were invalid, ending what Epic termed ‘vexatious patent litigation’. Decapolis had successfully sued 24 other entities, including other EHRs, which settled. Owned by an inventor, this company will have to find another line of honest business. Epic release, Thomson Coburg

Oracle’s message to Kansas City: no more Cerner meetings for you. And maybe more. Cerner’s site for its annual customer/partner conference since 2007 has been in Kansas City, attracting about 14,000 visitors. Not only will it be integrated into Oracle CloudWorld in Las Vegas, 18-21 September, it’s been retitled Oracle Health with no mention of Cerner. The loss to local KC business is substantial–estimated to be in the $18 million range. While it’s logical to integrate it into the massive CloudWorld conference, it’s also another message to KC after Oracle’s sudden real estate downsizing that Cerner’s presence there will shrink…and shrink..as it’s absorbed into Oracle Health, and further confirmation that the Cerner name is gradually being sunsetted. KansasCity.com, HISTalk

A new (to this Editor) specialty care telehealth company, MediOrbis, is partnering with Kahun for an AI-enabled digital intake tool. This is a chatbot capable of conducting an initial medical assessment. Based on the patient’s answers and Kahun’s database of about 30 million evidence-based medical knowledge insights, it provides a summary for the physician before the telehealth visit and highlights areas of concern. Mobihealthnews  MediOrbis also has partnered with remote care/engagement Independa to add its capabilities to Independa’s HealthHub on their LG TVs.

Cerner’s business now consolidated under Oracle Health

The internal memo doesn’t say so but doesn’t really have to. The sunsetting of the Cerner brand (logo left) has begun. HISTalk this evening reported on Friday 15 July’s Cerner internal announcement posted on Reddit, vetted by the Kansas City Business Journal (paywalled), and it’s not all that surprising:

  • The business unit is now called Oracle Health Global Industry Unit (GIU) or Oracle Health
  • The chairman of Oracle Health will be David Feinberg, MD, late CEO of Cerner and previously of UCLA Health, Geisinger Health, and Google’s last effort at Health. 
  • Travis Dalton is being promoted to run the Oracle Health GIU as General Manager from running Cerner Government Services as Client Services Officer
  • Cerner’s engineering and product executives will be reporting to Oracle’s Don Johnson who runs all Oracle engineering for all applications and platform services. This includes former CTO Jerome Labat who received a stay deal along with Dr. Feinberg [TTA 21 Jan, 26 Jan]. Mr. Labat has at least 11 million good reasons (and Dr. Feinberg 22 million) to stay for the next year and a day from the closing on 8 June.
  • Cerner’s corporate functions, such as IT, finance, legal, and HR, will move into Oracle’s centralized, global teams, which typically means that pink slips will be the order of the day if they haven’t already been received
  • More disclosed to employees at a town hall on that Friday 
  • No external announcement has been made as of 1845 19 July (Eastern Time)

Our Readers who have been following the acquisition and personally been through acquisitions know the stage was set by Larry Ellison’s Big Pronouncements on Healthcare Transformation at the closing [TTA 14 June]. It was all about what Oracle would be doing in building a national health record database and more, with nary a mention of Cerner. The eventual elimination of the Cerner name should thus be no surprise to industry observers. Cerner was a pearl bought at a great price ($28 billion) to make Oracle the Visionary Leader In Healthcare and provide Mr. Ellison with a Grand Finale.

How this will be received by health system and provider customers–including DOD and the ever-troublesome VA–is anyone’s guess. This Editor has previously speculated that health systems with Cerner EHRs were not going to be enthusiastic about replacing Cerner’s current third-party vendors with Oracle services and technology, especially if they worked well or if Oracle costs more. If the move to OCI–Oracle Cloud Infrastructure–doesn’t go as smooth as brand new glass, another black mark in the copybook. The other would be resentment of Oracle’s announced and completely expected hard sell on other services to make up the cost of the pearl. [TTA 15 June]

Almost an ideal scenario for Epic to sell against, one would think. As for the VA, Oracle needs to fix the Cerner Millenium rollout now under heavy scrutiny–fast and right.  

Telehealth saves $100+ per visit or lab tests, reduces unnecessary ER/ED + urgent care visits 19%: Cigna/MDLIVE study (updated for RPM offering))

Studies which quantify telehealth cost savings and visit reduction are always welcome. Cigna, through its telehealth company MDLIVE (purchased in April 2021), crunched the numbers and found some quantifiable savings and positive results:

  • Depending on whether the visit is for non-urgent primary care, visiting a specialist, or urgent care, telehealth savings are in the $100 range per visit: $93, $120, and $141 respectively. 
  • For urgent care, reducing unnecessary visits to both urgent care clinics and ER/ED settings is a major cost savings and a key measure of health plan performance. Virtual visits were found to reduce unnecessary emergency room or urgent care visits by 19%.
  • Lab visits were also reduced in cost. Patients who saw MDLIVE providers during urgent care visits were able to avoid unnecessary tests, saving an average of $118 for each episode of care.

Unfortunately, some of the results offered up by Cigna are countered by other sources–and surprisingly they didn’t cross-check:

  • Evernorth, their health services business, estimates that telehealth visits are currently 25% of all visits. That is far above the claims information that FAIR Health tracks, where telehealth is below 4%. Back in April 2020, it was 13%. Even Epic’s tracking indicated that the peak of 69% of visits in April 2020 tailed off one month later to 21% [TTA 8 Jan].
  • Citing 2020 only data around virtual wellness screenings and health conditions as a new normal is problematic. Cigna claims that more than 75% of Cigna customers who had an MDLIVE virtual wellness screening in 2020 not only lacked a primary care physician but also that two-thirds of these PCP-less patients learned they had a health condition via the virtual screening. Practices and people were locked down for most of 2020 and these numbers are likely skewed. 

But as quantifiable directional findings, the top three are welcome news. Cigna/MDLIVE release, Becker’s Payer Issues

Updated  MDLIVE announced today a remote patient monitoring program for members with chronic conditions Members can upload monitoring information such as blood glucose or blood pressure to their patient portal so that their MDLIVE doctor can review during the next telehealth visit. This feature will be available to health plans that utilize MDLIVE primary care services. Later this year, they will offer a device interface to the patient portal so that no manual entry will be needed. Mobihealthnews

(Breaking) Sold! Cerner to Oracle for $28.3 billion. And is Epic next?

That bombshell came in fast! From the rumor mill to reality, from last Thursday to today (Monday), Oracle and Cerner announced their deal today at 9.37am ET. It is a bracing all-cash deal at $95/share plus debt assumption totaling $28.3 billion, expected to be immediately accretive to Oracle’s earnings. Closing is anticipated sometime in 2022. It is subject to considerable regulatory (SEC and likely DOJ) and shareholder approvals. It’s Oracle’s largest deal ever, but so far their share price is not appreciative of the big move.

According to the Oracle release, Cerner and its EHR plus related systems will be organized as a dedicated Industry Business Unit within Oracle. No transition information was included, although towards the end it’s stated that “Oracle intends to maintain and grow Cerner’s community presence, including in the Kansas City area, while utilizing Oracle’s global footprint to reach new geographies faster.”

Both the Oracle and Cerner releases (headlining their home page in gigantic type) are written totally from Oracle’s POV–no shilly-shallying about how Cerner will guide them into the healthcare arena or a meeting of like companies, et al. It’s all about how Oracle will transform healthcare.

Changes will be coming to Cerner. Between the lines, they are not painted in the best light. From the Mike Cecelia (EVP, Vertical Industries) quote, “Oracle’s Autonomous Database, low-code development tools, and Voice Digital Assistant user interface enables us to rapidly modernize Cerner’s systems and move them to our Gen2 Cloud. This can be done very quickly because Cerner’s largest business and most important clinical system already runs on the Oracle Database. No change required there. What will change is the user interface. (Ed. emphasis) We will make Cerner’s systems much easier to learn and use by making Oracle’s hands-free Voice Digital Assistant the primary interface to Cerner’s clinical systems. This will allow medical professionals to spend less time typing on computer keyboards and more time caring for patients.”

There is also no mention of Cerner’s challenges with the VA. What are the implications with the Cerner implementations there and with DOD?

Do anticipate much industry speculation on David Feinberg, MD, who only this fall joined Cerner as CEO, and his role in this. The most logical is that he’ll shepherd the sale till the close and exit stage left, well-rewarded, with his future (only 59) still ahead, unless Oracle sees a role for him. In its way, it broke Cerner out of a corner that they were painted into with EHRs. At the end of the day, will there be a Cerner?

And what about Epic? A more complex picture, as Epic Systems is wholly private, on a roll, and dominated by Judy Feinberg, the founder and CEO. However, she is 78, and both personal and corporate considerations on future planning must loom large. What would Epic be worth to an acquirer? And who would it be? Amazon? IBM? (a terrible fit after the Watson Health debacle), Salesforce? Microsoft? Hmmmmm…. CNBCTechCrunch, HealthcareITNews   Our earlier coverage here.

Telemedicine office visits versus in-person recede to 6%, concentrating in behavioral health. Will the gains hold?

Has the telehealth wave receded to a ‘new normal’ tide? An updated Commonwealth Fund/Phreesia/Harvard University study, including data through 4 October, confirms that we are far past the point of telemedicine dominance of the office visit. Office visits to providers have largely returned to the 1-7 March baseline and even slightly above for ages 6 and above. But telemedicine visits, from their high in this study of 13.9 percent on 18 April during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, have continuously dropped and have leveled off to 6.3 percent. (Telemedicine here includes both video and telephonic visits; the sample is 50,000 providers that are Phreesia clients.)

To put this in proper perspective, the pre-pandemic baseline of telemedicine in practice use was an infinitesimal .1 percent.

Larger organizations use more telemedicine than smaller ones. Primary care practices with 6 or more physicians in the group account for 9.4 percent of telemedicine visits, while practices of 1 to 5 physicians account for 4.3 percent.

Even so, by September, only 9 percent of practices were heavy users (20 percent +) of telehealth, compared to 35 percent in April. Minimal use (5 percent or less) moved up to 39 percent. One-third never used telemedicine at all–did they shut down completely?

For those seeking to segment the overall telehealth market, the chart detailing telemedicine in visits to medical specialists is of interest. It confirms the anecdotal information this Editor has heard that telehealth remains highly popular and used in behavioral health (psychiatry)–41 percent of visits. By comparison, the next most popular are rheumatology and endocrinology at 14 percent of visits. The pandemic apparently has forever changed the mental health visit and acceptance of non-face-to-face delivery, with interesting (isolating?) consequences for both patients and doctors.

crystal-ballCan telehealth hold this gain, and develop from this base? What will it look like for the average practice? Pay the lady with the crystal ball! CMS will eventually roll back the waivers on usage of non-HIPAA platforms such as Facetime (appropriately so for security and privacy reasons). Reimbursement by Medicare and commercial plans will be a major hot button. A recent survey of health system executives presented at the HLTH virtual conference indicated yawning uncertainty at the top level:

  • 30 percent of respondents said they were unsure what their plans are if telehealth reimbursements return to pre-COVID levels
  • 13 percent said they’d return to face-to-face visits
  • 20 percent said they’d continue doing virtual visits regardless
  • 17 percent said they’d analyze the financial viability of continued use

(Nokia-UPMC Center for Connected Medicine and Klas Research, Healthcare Dive)

More on this: The hazy post-pandemic future of telehealth and From back-to-work to telehealth to retail rebranding: HLTH 2020 takeaways   

Previously: As practices reopen, telemedicine visits continue to plunge from 69% to 21%: Epic (September), COVID effect on US practices: in-person visits down 37%, telehealth peaks at 14% (Commonwealth Fund through July)

While telehealth virtual office visits flatten, overall up 300-fold; FCC finalizes COVID-19 telehealth funding program (US)

As expected, the trend of telehealth visits versus in-person is flattening as primary care offices and urgent care clinics reopen. Yet the overall trend is up through May–a dizzying 300-fold, as tracked by the new Epic Health Research Network (EHRN–yes, that Epic). Their analysis compares 15 March-8 May 2020 to the same dates in 2019 using data from 22 health systems in 17 states which cover seven million patients. It also constructs a visit diagnosis profile comparison, which leads with hypertension, hyperlipidemia, pain, and diabetes–with the 2020 addition of — unsurprisingly — anxiety.

POLITICO Future Pulse analyzed EHRN data into July (which was not located in a cross-check by this Editor) and came up with its usual ‘the cup has a hole in it’ observation: “TELEHEALTH BOOM BUST”. But that is absolutely in line with the Commonwealth Fund/Phreesia/Harvard study which as we noted tailed off as a percentage of total visits by 46 percent [TTA 1 July]. But even POLITICO’s gloomy headline can’t conceal that telehealth in the 37 healthcare systems surveyed was a flatline up to March and leveled off to slightly below the 2 million visit peak around 15 April. 

Where POLITICO’s gloom ‘n’ doom is useful is in the caution of why telehealth has fallen off, other than the obvious of offices reopening. There’s the post-mortem experience of smaller practices which paints an unflattering picture of unreadiness, rocky starts, and unaffordability:

  • Skype and FaceTime are not permanent solutions, as not HIPAA-compliant
  • New telehealth software can cost money. However, this Editor also knows from her business experience that population health software often has a HIPAA-compliant telehealth module which is relatively simple to use and is usually free.
  • It’s the training that costs, more in time than money. If the practice is in a value-based care model, that is done by market staff either from the management services organization (MSO) or the software provider.
  • Reimbursement. Even with CMS loosening requirements and coding, it moved so quickly that providers haven’t been reimbursed properly.
  • Equipment and broadband access. Patients, especially older patients, don’t all have smartphones or tablets. Not everyone has Wi-Fi or enough data–or that patient lives in a 2-bar area. Some practices aren’t on EHRs either.
  • Without RPM, accurate device integration, and an integrated tracking platform, F2F telehealth can only be a virtual visit without monitoring data.

Perhaps not wanting to paint a totally doomy picture (advertising sponsorship, perhaps?), the interview with Ed Lee, the head of Kaiser Permanente’s telehealth program, confirmed that the past few months were extraordinary for them, even with a decent telehealth base. “We were seeing somewhere around 18 percent of telehealth [visits] pre-covid. Around the height of it, we’re seeing 80 percent.” They also have pilots in place to put technology in the homes of those who need it, and realize its limitations.

Speaking of limitations, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) COVID-19 Telehealth Program, authorized by the CARES Act, is over and out. The final tranche consisted of 25 applications for the remaining $10.73 million, with a final total of 539 funding applications up to the authorized $200 million. Applicants came from 47 states, Washington, DC, and Guam. FCC release. To no one’s surprise, 40 Congresscritters want to extend it as a ‘bold step’ but are first demanding that Chair Ajit Pai do handsprings and provide all sorts of information on the reimbursement program which does not provide upfront money but reimburses eligible expenditures. That will take a few months. You’d think they’d read a few things on the FCC website first. mHealth Intelligence

European Patient Experience and Innovation Congress (EPIC 2020) invites world health tech to Croatia

European Patient Experience and Innovation Congress (EPIC 2020)
19-21 March
Valamar Lacroma Hotel
Dubrovnik, Croatia

One of our Readers from Croatia is the CEO of the Bagatin Clinic in Zagreb. In cooperation with the Cleveland Clinic, they are organizing this first-ever pan-European conference focusing on health tech and how it will impact the patient experience. This Editor has previously noted the growth of medical and healthcare tech in Central and Eastern Europe in places like Hungary and Estonia–and now, Croatia.

Ognjen Bagatin was kind enough to write me before the holidays and has since filled in some of the highlights.

  • Centered on the patient experience, it will explore the relationships among healthcare delivery, technology, private enterprise and the human beings who need and want these services.
  • Encompassing the scientific, clinical, behavioral and social perspectives, ranging from the futuristic, highly theoretical to current, best-in-class practice.
  • A high-energy, stimulating event for everyone, from c-suite executives, to clinical practitioners, clinic owners, scientists, and investors, EPIC will bring together some of the most influential physicians, med-tech startups and health professionals from Europe and beyond to the table to improve how your patients will experience healthcare in the near future.
  • As technology continues to help us achieve previously unattainable results in healthcare, the conference will bring an insiders’ look at which technologies, ideas, and innovations are improving the patient experience 
  • And, of course, there’s Dubrovnik
  • Speaker list here

Early registration closes on 19 January. More information here.

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.

Tyto Care telehealth integrates with Epic EHR MyChart patient app

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

The remote visit can work two ways.

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

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

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

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

Lyft and Uber’s big tech twists on a Social Determinant of Health–medical-related transportation

Social determinants of health (SDOH), that widely-discussed concept often dismissed as the turf of social workers and small do-good companies such as Healthify, are receiving a substantial boost from two profit-oriented, on-demand transportation companies: Uber and Lyft. Several years ago, smaller companies such as Circulation and Veyo [TTA 21 Feb, 26 Apr 17] entered the non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) field with their on-demand services. These proved to be valuable links in the continuum of care–valuable in helping patients make their appointments, at generally a lower cost than Access-a-Ride or taxis, while collecting a wealth of data on usage.

Uber and Lyft’s recent announcements take the NEMT concept further with integration into discharge planning, chronic care management in practices, and EHRs while keeping it simple for patients and caregivers.

  • The launch of Uber Health, targeted to healthcare organizations (and just in time for HIMSS). The ride booking for both patients and caregivers uses a HIPAA-compliant dashboard for the health manager to book the ride, and text messaging to the patient for confirmations and pickup. Over 100 healthcare organizations are piloting the service. MedCityNews
  • Lyft Business inked a deal with Allscripts to integrate booking transportation into appointment setting. The Allscripts EHR is in 45,000 physician practices and 2,500 hospitals (which doesn’t include newly-acquired Practice Fusion’s 30,000 small ambulatory sites). Besides its own driver base, Lyft also has used its Concierge API to facilitate partnerships with NEMT brokers working with providers such as Circulation, National MedTrans (the NEMT provider for Anthem’s CareMore Health Plan HMO), and American Medical Response for drivers and more specialized vehicles. Hitch Health works with Lyft and independently integrates into Epic and Athenahealth. MedCityNews, POLITICO Morning eHealth (scroll down).

But does providing transport for appointments save money? The logic behind it is that missed appointments can exacerbate existing conditions; a direct example is dialysis, where missing an appointment could result in a hospital admission. Another area is patient avoidance of making appointments. The CareMore Health Plan study reduced waiting times and ride cost, increasing patient satisfaction–great for HEDIS and ACO quality scores, but the longer-term cost saving is still to be determined.

Another attraction for Lyft and Uber: steady revenue. In Medicare Advantage, 70 percent of members are covered and all state Medicaid programs reimburse their members for qualifying transportation.

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

A basket of reflections, considerations on CVS-Aetna: Epic, Cerner, the model, and hospitals’ role

[grow_thumb image=”https://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/canary-in-the-coal-mine.jpgw595.jpeg” thumb_width=”150″ /]With the holidays and the end of the year coming in a little over two short weeks, there’s plenty of room for thoughts, reasoned speculation, and some unusual takes on the CVS-Aetna merger. This Editor remains in her belief that among us, there’s a bit of exhaustion and an attitude of ‘wait and see’ around the topic among us. The canaries have a case of the vapors….

Let’s sort through some of the more interesting POVs expressed of late by our fellow pressies, which Readers can consider in between cups of good cheer and bites of All That Food. Bear in mind that this merger has a long road to go on a hard road, with potholes marked DOJ and (in this Editor’s opinion) HHS, before it’s a done deal in 2018.

  • A big win for Epic. Currently the EHR for CVS’ MinuteClinics and most recently the care management programs of CVS Specialty, Epic is bullish on the opportunities in what their VP of population health termed the ‘gray space’ in the patient experience outside of the traditional sites of care. In October, CVS added Epic’s Healthy Planet population health analytics platform to learn more about drug dispensing patterns and medication adherence–this Editor believes in preparation for merger talks. The open question this Editor has after all the glow in this article is how Aetna’s varied systems (e.g. ActiveHealth, Medicity, and others) would integrate into Epic, and the price of poker, because with Epic it’s never free. Ask any hospital. Healthcare IT News.
    • Certainly, their main competitor Cerner is feeling the heat after a slowdown in its VA plans, the single largest EHR implementation ever. Congress has held up initial funding making the contract effective (Washington Technology). It is geometrically more complicated than their simultaneous DoD implementation, with $10 billion estimated over 10 years (FCW). Other wrenches in the works: a fresh CliniComp lawsuit against Cerner based on infringement against their 2003 patent on remote hosting, and their appeal of the no-bid award to Cerner [TTA 23 Aug] against VA. Kansas City Business Journal, Healthcare IT News
  • Is it going to increase cost? It might. And what about info sharing with providers? A Harvard Medical School professor opined to Marketplace that instead of self-treatment at home for a cold, the patient might actually traipse to a MinuteClinic for care, thus driving up healthcare costs. This resembles the RAND logic around telemedicine consult expense we deflated in a series of articles back in the spring. Information sharing with regular providers is a bigger issue which urgent cares, telemedicine, and clinics already are dealing with. The paradox is that integration with a payer, with a retailer’s ability to track ancillary purchases such as OTC meds and DME purchases, might actually help that issue. But will it? Will a combined CVS-Aetna share information or hoard it, further disempowering patients? This Stat article calls on Mark Bertolini to promote shared information, engagement, and accountability to balance the scales.
  • Do we really need hospitals? If they don’t change, we might need a lot less of them except for highly specialized treatment. And this is likely a good thing. The HBR points out that CVS-Aetna is hardly the only threat to the traditional hospital–there’s Johns Hopkins’ Hospital at Home program for older adults, UnitedHealthcare’s growing network of providers under OptumCare, including the recent deal for DaVita dialysis centers, and free-standing, low-cost “neighborhood” hospitals, almost like pop-up stores. The article doesn’t mention ‘consult stations’ like Europe’s H4D, which is proving that the kiosk idea isn’t dead. 

The reality is that we won’t know what this merger entails until it actually happens, if it happens–and its final shape will take years to mold. Related: CVS-Aetna: the canary says that DOJ likely to review mergerAnalysis of the CVS-Aetna merger: a new era, a canary in a mine–or both?CVS’ bid for Aetna–will it happen, and kick off a trend? (what will Amazon and other retailers, including supermarkets, do?)

Verily’s million points of BYO health data to take to your next doctor visit

Verily‘s visit to last week’s Health 2.0 conference had an odd-but-fun tack, comparing the data received from human bodies to the billions of data points generated by an average late-model automobile in normal operations. We generate a lot less (ten orders of magnitude difference, according to Verily Chief Technology Officer Brian Otis), but Verily wants to maximize the output by wiring us to multiple sensors and to use the data in a predictive health model. Some of the Verily devices this Editor predicts will be non-starters (the sensor contact lens developed with Alcon) but others like the Dexcom partnership to develop a smaller, cheaper continuous blood glucose monitor and Liftware, the tremor-canceling silverware company Google acquired in 2014, appear promising. Key to predictive health is the Study Watch, which is a wearable that collects a lot of data but is easy to wear for a long time. Mobihealthnews

But what to do with this All That Data? Where this differs from a car is that the operational data goes into feedback loops that tune the engine’s performance, perform long-term monitoring, electrical system, braking, and more. (When the sensors go south or the battery’s low, watch out!) It’s not clear from the talk where this overwhelming amount of healthcare data generated goes to and how it becomes useful to a person or a doctor. This has its own feedback loop this Editor dubbed a few years ago as the Five Big Questions (FBQs): who pays, how much, who’s looking at the data, who’s actioning it, how data is integrated into patient records. That’s not answered, but presumably these technologies will incorporate machine learning and AI to Crunch That Data into bite-sized parts.

Which leads us back to Verily’s parent, Alphabet a/k/a Google. All that data into Verily devices could be monitored by Google and fed into other Google programs like their search engines and Adwords. Another privacy problem? 

Perhaps health systems are arriving at the realization that they have to crunch the data, not avoid it. For the first time, this Editor has observed that a CMIO of a small health system in Illinois and Sanford Health‘s executive director of analytics are actually welcoming patient data and research. Startups in this area such as PreventScripts labor on that “last mile” of clinical decision support, preventative medicine. EHRs are also into the act. Epic launched Share Everywhere, where patients can grant access to their data and clinicians can send updates into the patient portal (MyChart). What’s needed, CMIO Goel admits, is software that combines natural language processing and algorithms to track by disease and specialty–once again, machine learning. Healthcare IT News