TTA’s May Flowers 3: Venrock’s health biz predictions; Boots for sale; Oracle Health’s struggles; acquisitions by Samsung, Legrand; TytoCare, Owlet, Humana, more!

 

 

A TON of news this week breaking before the US Memorial Day and UK’s bank holiday. Boots up for sale breaking up Alliance. Oracle Health will be struggling for the next two years. Cue Health sinking. Legrand is acquiring Enovation, Samsung Sonio ultrasound, and LG jumps into home health. And big VC Venrock issues its predictions for the health tech year.

Short takes 2: Humana’s CEO changeover; Owlet Dream Sock CE Mark, UK approval; TytoCare goes to school; LG enters home health with Primefocus; Samsung $92M buys Sonio (FR); raises by Blackwell in health cybersec, Watershed Health
News roundup: GE Healthcare warns on ultrasound vulnerabilities, Geisinger leverages Best Buy/Geek Squad for RPM, telehealth aids NYC shelter homeless, Fay raises $25M, ClearDATA’s AWS distinction, Validic’s MedTech award
A ‘healthcare prognosis’–from an investor POV (Venrock and ‘smart friends’)
Short takes: Legrand acquires Enovation, FDA nixes Cue Health’s Covid tests, Ascension confirms ransomware attack–who did it? (updated), beware of ‘vishing’ courtesy of ChatGPT
Is Oracle Health’s Big Vision smacking into the wall of Healthcare Reality? Their business says so. (Always be wary of Transformation Promises)
Separation or sale? WBA putting Boots out for bids; Walgreens pharmacists end month-long HQ protest. (End of Pessina’s Big Vision?)

Earnings and endings dominated this week, along with Transcarent’s Series D, $2.2 billion valuation, and ‘not for sale’ sign. Even NeueHealth and Oscar had a good Q1, but Amwell and Steward didn’t. Telehealth flexibilities got an important ‘go’ in the House. Cigna + Oscar called it a day as did many at 98point6. And cyberattacks continued, this time at Ascension and DocGo.

Short takes: Medicare telehealth flexibilities may extend; ‘no interest’ in Transcarent sale; NeueHealth ekes out positive net income; Cigna and Oscar break up; DocGo, Ascension cyberattacked
News roundup: Transcarent raises $126M; 98point6 lays off; Oscar notches first profit; Steward Health’s Ch. 11; Amazon Clinic GM leaves; Amwell’s down but hopeful Q1; Hims founder gets political

Surprises and shockers abounded this week. If Walmart can’t make it in providing basic health services, what hope does a retail model really have? Optum and Walmart exit telehealth, while Teladoc grows–firmly in the red. Change Healthcare’s troubles led to UHG’s CEO grilling on both sides of Congress and humiliation on MFA. MobileHelp PERS up for sale, Owlet’s new partner, fundings, partnerships. And a shrinking Oracle goes to Music City!

News roundup: UHG CEO’s Bad Day at Capitol Hill; Kaiser’s 13.4M data breach; Walgreens’ stock beatup; Cigna writes off VillageMD; Oracle Cerner shrinks 50%; Owlet BabySat gets Wheel; fundings for Midi, Trovo, Alaffia, Klineo (A rough week for some)
Teladoc’s Q1: increased revenue, increased net loss, dealing with slowing growth–as is CVS Health (Teladoc in existential crisis?)
Midweek news roundup: Optum exiting telehealth, laying off; Advocate Health selling MobileHelp; VA notifying 15M veterans re Change PHI breach, Oracle moving to Nashville–maybe? (updated) (A lot of jettisoning)
Walmart Health shutters health centers, Walmart Virtual Care, in sudden move (updated–why?) (If Walmart can’t make it…)

Returning to the Cyberattack That Changed Everything, wondering how much and to whom UnitedHealth paid ransom–now that they’ve finally admitted it. Also returning to those Merger Guidelines and how they may change the face of healthcare M&A. VA and DOD hard at work on their EHRs and systems, Lumeris gains a luminous funding, but Optum staff are seeing pink slips.

Two studies: Telehealth underutilized, underbilled, even during pandemic–and accounted for only modest increases in costs, and quality (Perhaps undercaptured?)
Short takes: VA seeks vendor to support EHR testing; Defense Health seeks ‘digital front door’ vendor; GAO recommendations to Oracle; Nonin partners with Finland’s Medixine; Lumeris gains $100M equity funding 
What the DOJ and FTC Merger Guidelines mean for healthcare M&A–a Epstein Becker Green podcast (Legal department torture)
Breaking: UnitedHealth admits to paying ransomwareistes on Change stolen patient data (updated) (For what and how much?)
Who really has the 4TB of Change Healthcare data 4 sale? And in great timing, Optum lays off a rumored 20K–say wot? (UHG has some ‘splainin’)

Another packed week, with a few baffling events. Leading in bafflement is NeueHealth’s additional $30M from NEA, which now owns 60%. UHG battling on multiple fronts between the Change hacking and the House, Walgreens lays off more to cut costs, VillageMD sued on ad trackers, and Cerebral’s comeuppance costs $7.1M. VA may restart Oracle Cerner implementation, Epic and Particle Health feud. But restoring faith in health tech benefiting a neglected group is TandemStride. 

TandemStride launches platform to assist survivors of traumatic injury; a personal look (A real care gap)
News roundup: Congress hammers absent UHG on Change cyberattack–and more; 10% unhinged at Hinge Health; Steward Health nears insolvency; Two Chairs $72M Series C (UHG’s troubles cover the waterfront)
ISfTeH student contest and award 2024–deadline 26 April! (Move fast!)
Mid-week short takes: UnitedHealth’s $1.2B Q1 loss from Change attack, another Walgreens layoff, Dexcom-MD Revolution partner, Kontakt.io $47.5 raise, GeBBS Healthcare may sell for $1B (Walgreens still downsizing–what’s next)
News roundup: VillageMD sued on Meta Pixel trackers; Cerebral pays $7.1M FTC fine on data sharing, cancellation policy; VA may resume Oracle Cerner implementation during FY2025; Epic-Particle Health dispute on PHI sharing (Cerebral still in trouble)
The New Reality, Bizarro World version: NeueHealth gets $30M loan increase from NEA, now majority owner (Baffling)

This packed week was about righting listing ships. Teladoc’s CEO suddenly departs, Amwell at risk of a NYSE delisting–we look at What Happened and what needs to be done. VillageMD gets new COO to manage the shrinkage. And Change Healthcare data on sale from disgruntled ALPHV affiliate. Digital health funding continues to limp along. Clover looks at another delisting, Walmart Health applies the brakes. And we highlight innovations from Novosound, Biolinq, Eko, Universal Brain. 

Digital health’s Q1 according to Rock Health: the New Reality is a flat spin back to 2019 (Limping, but alive)
VillageMD names new president and COO as it shrinks to 620 locations (Ex Centene, Humana exec comes out of short retirement to clean up)
News roundup: Now Clover Health faces delisting; BlackCat/ALPHV affiliate with 4TB of data puts it up for sale; $58M for Biolinq’s ‘smallest blood glucose biosensor’ (Will UHG pay more ransom?)
Opinion: Further thoughts on Teladoc, Amwell, and the future of telehealth–what happens next? (A hard look at the follies, mistakes, and saving ships)
News roundup: Amwell faces NYSE delisting; Walmart Health slows Health Centers, except Texas; Novosound’s ultrasound patent; Eko’s Low EF AI; Universal Brain; Elizabeth Holmes in ‘Dropout’ + update
Teladoc CEO Jason Gorevic steps down immediately in shock announcement (Now what?)


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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.

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Short takes 2: Humana’s CEO changeover; Owlet Dream Sock CE Mark, UK approval; TytoCare goes to school; LG enters home health with Primefocus; Samsung $92M buys Sonio (FR); raises by Blackwell in health cybersec, Watershed Health

Keeping it short and sweet for the end of the week.

Payer Humana changing out CEOs. The wrap for current CEO Bruce Broussard is coming a little earlier than anticipated, with the planned changeover to Jim Rechtin on 1 July. Mr. Broussard will depart the board of directors but stay on as a ‘strategic advisor’ until 2026, which is a typical arrangement for CEOs usually tied to compensation. Mr. Rechtin’s experience prior to joining Humana as president/COO in January was as Envision Healthcare’s CEO and with OptumCare and DaVita. Last year, Humana and Cigna failed to merge after shareholders disapproved and the evident conflict in PBMs [TTA 13 Dec 23]. 2024 earnings were revised downwards in April due to ongoing losses in Medicare Advantage plans. Release, FierceHealthcare

Owlet’s Dream Sock now has EU CE Mark, UK medical device approvals. The European medical device clearance by the EU notified body was announced on 2 May, with the UK certification following on 14 May. As certified for the EU and UK, the Dream Sock is intended for use with healthy infants between 0-18 months and 2.5-13.6 kg. The Dream Sock measures oxygen saturation and pulse rate which are reported on a smartphone app and on a base station to provide baby sleep insights. In the US, it was FDA cleared under de novo last November. It is sold without prescription through retailers and directly through Owlet. Owlet plans to debut it in Germany, France, and the UK later this year. CE Mark, UK releases. Mobihealthnews

TytoCare expands a logical market–school RPM. Their school health initiative that started before the pandemic has added or expanded in five healthcare systems. This brings primary and urgent care services to over 2,500 schools in 31 states. Three of the five systems are Cone Health (North Carolina), Sentara Health (Virginia), and A Plus Family HealthCare (Kentucky). TytoCare works with school nurses and adminstrators for remote diagnostics, not only for children presenting with illness but also for monitoring children with chronic conditions. Blog, Mobihealthnews

LG NOVA launches Primefocus Health in North America. LG, well known for monitors and TVs in healthcare settings, is introducing a “provider-focused, patient-centric healthcare platform” to connect patients in home care with their providers. It will use “innovative non-invasive technology for tracking patient progress for multiple medical conditions, which can be integrated with the provider’s electronic health record system, artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities for ease of use.” No demos or further specifics are provided.  LG NOVA is LG Electronics North America Innovation Center and demonstrates an interest in additional healthcare expansion. Release, Mobihealthnews

LG’s rival Samsung buying France’s Sonio for $92 million. The fetal AI ultrasound company originally partnered with Samsung Healthcare France in 2021 in order to confirm the efficacy of its AI for pregnancy/prenatal monitoring. It raised a $14 million Series A last year for a US commercial launch of their AI FDA 510(k) cleared Sonio Detect, a machine-agnostic AI assistant software for reporting and imaging. Samsung Medison, the ultrasound division of Samsung, must await French regulatory approvals, including the French Ministry of the Economy and Finance. Release, MedTech Dive

And in latest fundings:

Healthcare focused Blackwell Security now has a $13 million Series A, led by co-creators General Catalyst and Rally Ventures. The funding will expand their Managed Healthcare Extended Detection and Response (MHXDR) offering. They are also acquiring their first CEO, Geyer Jones, from cybersecurity/IoT companies Cylera and RSA.  Release, Mobihealthnews

New Orleans-headquartered Watershed Health completed a $13.6 million venture round funding. This was led by First Trust Capital Partners with participation from FCA Venture Partners, Create Health Ventures, Impact Engine, 450 Ventures, LDH Ventures II/Launchpad Digital Health, and others that adds to a 2022 $9.8 million venture round. The new funding will be to expand their SaaS platform plus grow the engineering, development, customer success and sales teams. Watershed is a care coordination platform with a community focus that connects clinical and non-clinical providers such as SDOH resources. Release

Why is the US DOJ filing an antitrust lawsuit against Apple–on monopolizing the smartphone market?

The Department of Justice’s antitrust filing against Apple on the iPhone is a many-splendored thing–and will take many years to work through the courts. It was filed Thursday 21 March in the US District Court for the District of New Jersey, alleging monopolization or attempted monopolization of smartphone markets in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act. New Jersey’s US District Courts are in beautiful Newark, Camden, and Trenton. The DOJ was joined by 16 states in the lawsuit including NJ. Apple has promised to fight it tooth and nail, correctly realizing this goes to the core of its business. “This lawsuit threatens who we are and the principles that set Apple products apart in fiercely competitive markets” and “We believe this lawsuit is wrong on the facts and the law, and we will vigorously defend against it.”

On the face of this, the DOJ antitrust lawsuit seems almost ludicrous. While iPhones have a 60% market share in the US (Backlinko), there’s plenty of Android phones from Samsung and others (sadly, no longer LG) at competitive prices from every carrier. This Editor never looked twice at an iPhone for personal use and wasn’t impressed by a short-lived company phone, a totally locked-down iPhone 6. (On the other hand, my second computer at work where I really self-learned computing was an easy-to-use Mac 2si, a long time ago.) There are about 140 million iPhone owners in the US. Obviously, Apple makes a product and ecosystem, including the Apple Watch, that people, especially US upper-income users, prefer. There are features that Androids have and iPhones have, and sometimes the twains don’t meet, but for most of us it doesn’t matter.

But does Apple act in an anticompetitive, monopolistic way?

The DOJ says yes. The complaint states that Apple uses its control over the iPhone to engage in a broad, sustained, and illegal course of conduct, using its monopoly power to extract as much revenue as possible. The specifics include some centering on the Apple Watch:

  • Apple has exclusive software features–apps–that Android manufacturers don’t have or don’t work as well, for instance Apple Pay, iMessage, Find My Phone, FaceTime, and AirTags.
  • Apple Pay blocks other financial institutions from instituting their own cross-platform payment systems.
  • Apple’s control over app developers in their ‘walled garden’, locking them in especially in the cloud gaming area, but generally imposing contractual restrictions on and withholding critical access from developers in the name of security and privacy. Reportedly there are 30% commissions on app sales. Blocking ‘super apps’ restricts not only developers but also users from switching to Android since they will lose use of the app.
  • Apple’s messaging systems are only partly interoperable with Android and have unique features not available on Android
  • App Store commissions and rules are prohibitive for many developers
  • Locking in consumers with features not available on Android
  • Lack of interoperability of the Apple Watch with Android phones, and other manufacturers’ watches with iPhones 

What is interesting is that in the Apple Watch charges, there’s nothing about how Apple has essentially stolen features from other developers such as AliveCor and Masimo as found in other Federal courts. That IP theft is outside of antitrust and being litigated in other courts.

Much of the heated commentary has to do with the Apple Brand Promise and how they deliver apps. Apple is an integrator and people like the ‘walled garden’. The phone ‘just works’. Quoting Alex Tabarrok in Marginal Revolution, Apple is a gatekeeper that promises its users greater security, privacy, usability, and reliability. Users trade off control for a seamless experience and it delivers. It’s desirable. However, many of us don’t need or want to give over all that much control and desire flexibility in a more open platform. Not all of us need or want ‘seamless’ features like Apple Pay and live very well without that or games. 

What will keep DOJ and Apple entertaining each other in court for the next few years are court decisions over the years that have favored Apple:

  • Monopoly has been defined in repeated decisions as market share in the 70-80% range, not 60%
  • The concept of ‘procompetitive’ means that if you can choose between open access and the Apple ‘walled garden’, Apple has a legitimate competitive feature.
  • Companies don’t have a ‘duty to deal’ with other companies
  • Apple as a monopoly has already been dismissed in other cases

The push towards the DOJ action has apparently been stimulated by the EU Digital Markets Act, which Apple will comply with, as well as Apple competitors in the US who have tried and failed to restrict Apple in integrating its services. Will DOJ succeed in forcing Apple to be more like Android? The debate will rage on. DOJ release, 88 page filing, The Verge, 9to5 Mac, Medium.com, AP, Epoch Times

AI news: GE HealthCare’s 510(k) for Precision DL (+ GE stake sale), Samsung adopts care.ai for in-facility patient monitoring, Mayo Clinic-Google Cloud generative AI, Wolters Kluwer buys Invistics for drug diversion detection

GEHC receives FDA clearance for Precision DL (deep learning) image processing software. It improves image quality on GEHC’s PET/CT, Omni Legend, which enables faster scanning time and improved small lesion detection. Deep learning as part of AI is a subset of machine learning (ML), which uses a neural network with three or more layers that simulates the human brain in processing and ‘learning’ from large amounts of data and drawing judgments from it. (See our recent Perspectives for a more nuanced explanation.)  According to GEHC’s presentation brochure on Precision DL, it is trained with thousands of PET images made using multiple reconstruction methods. Mobihealthnews

GEHC was spun off from parent General Electric (GE) in January. GE retained about 19% of its stock at the time with the remaining being distributed to GE shareholders, but on Monday announced that it would sell 25 million shares, or about $2 billion in value, in a debt-for-equity exchange. The debt is held by affiliates of Morgan Stanley which would then receive the stock, which has done well. This would reduce GE’s stake in the spinoff considerably.  Reuters, Yahoo Finance

Samsung partnering with care.ai for facility ‘smart care’. Orlando-based care.ai’s Smart Care Facility Platform monitors for conditions and learns from patient behaviors. It can be used for infection prevention and control, patient and protocol monitoring, workforce optimization, and virtual care. The AI-powered platform will be integrated into Samsung displays for clinician use, including virtual care. The system will be utilized in hospitals, nursing homes, and care facilities. care.ai release

Mayo Clinic is also jumping on the AI bandwagon with Google Cloud. Google Cloud’s Enterprise Search in Generative AI App Builder (Gen App Builder) will be used to make it easier for clinicians and researchers to find the information they need and improve the efficiency of clinical workflows to ultimately improve patient outcomes. According to the release, Enterprise Search in Gen App Builder unifies data across dispersed documents, databases, and intranets, making it easier to search, analyze, and identify the most relevant results. Mayo is an early adopter of the system. Google Cloud release  

Wolters Kluwer Health has acquired Atlanta-based Invistics. Invistics’ Flowlytics tracks medication in hospitals and other patient care settings through ML-based systems. The most critical ‘hot button’ use is for detecting drug diversion, which is when a healthcare worker illegally obtains or uses prescription drugs intended for a patient. This is done by reconciling drug transactions from purchase to patient, with their system being used to rapidly and accurately identify patterns of behavior consistent with drug diversion. More routine usage is for automating controlled substance compliance. This will fit in with Wolter Kluwer’s existing products Simplifi+ and Sentri7 in their Clinical Surveillance, Compliance & Data Solutions unit. Information on transaction cost and management transitions were not disclosed. Release

Hat tip to HIStalk’s new AI News feature 7 June for both Mayo-Google Cloud and WK-Invistics.

Smartwatches lead wearables, adoption now at 29%: Parks Associates study

Health tracking and users are leading the way into smartwatch adoption and wearables popularity. In just one year, (Q2 2020 to Q2 2021), smartwatch ownership increased 13 points from 16 to 29% of US households. Fitness trackers, which once predominated, increased five points to 23%, while GPS sport watches grew four points to 11% in US households.

Overall:

  • Smartwatches are dominated by the Apple Watch (1st left), with Samsung’s devices a distant second.
  • Smartwatch owners are particularly likely to own and use other connected health products, with these consumers reporting owning an average of 6.8 devices (including their smartwatch)
  • Most people buy their smartwatches through ecommerce channels–42%–but 30% still use traditional retail. (15% are gifts!)
  • Intent to purchase in the next six months has rocketed from 18% to 45%
  • Apple and Samsung lead all wearable brands under consideration. Curiously, pioneers Fitbit and Garmin are ranked below LG and Sony, which no longer offer wearables. (Fitbit–2nd left–and Garmin need to do some marketing)
  • Fitness trackers/bands hold their own, but GPS sport watches are the weakest of the three categories. Current owners are most likely to seek a new model, with 88% of owners reporting intention to purchase.
  • Most of the intenders are “very likely” to purchase add-on subscriptions for their watch, such as cellular plans (69%) and at-home fitness programs (47%), as long as they are at $10/month. This overlaps into cellular phone providers who need to keep these subscriptions inexpensive.

Parks Associates surveys every quarter 10,000 U.S broadband households, with additional surveys throughout the year. The results represent the national demographics for US broadband households, which are 88% of all US households. To read the full survey results, go to Parks Associates’ survey page.

Samsung stretches into electronic skin sensors with OLED display for heart rate

Stretchable skin sensors were the rage a few years ago, yet disappeared off the radar well before the pandemic. A good part of it was that the sensor tech was confined to university labs and small companies attempting to commercialize it into ‘smart clothing’ paired with a smartphone, a form factor that never found a market. Since those early days, what has entered the mainstream are sensors/smartphone combinations for blood glucose reporting. So it’s positive that Samsung, expert at commercialization and the technology around displays, has set its R&D unit, the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT), to developing a prototype stretchy skin patch for vital signs monitoring that combines both a sensor and display.

SAIT developed a sensor (left) that combined a stretchable LED (OLED) display and a photoplethysmography (PPG) sensor. The tests applied it to the inner wrist near the radial artery to measure and display heart rate in real time.

The device uses a combination of elastomer, a polymer compound with excellent elasticity and resilience, with existing semiconductor manufacturing processes to apply it to the substrates of stretchable OLED displays and optical blood flow sensors.

The study found that the sensor achieved:

  • Stable performance in a stretchable device with high elongation. The display can be stretched up to 30 percent.
  • The movement of the arm did not affect the OLED display 
  • The adhesion and location of the display and sensor made, in their findings, continuous heartbeat measurements possible with a high degree of sensitivity compared to existing fixed wearable sensors

The researchers claim this is for the first time in the industry and proves the commercialization potential of stretchable sensors. While the OLED display leaves a lot to be desired in readability and it seems chunky, it’s another step in creating more easily worn ‘all in one’ monitoring devices that stretch to fit, don’t require a wristband, or constant checking on one’s phone. The SAIT research was just published in Science Advances, 4 JuneSamsung release, The Verge, Mobihealthnews

News roundup: Teladoc closes InTouch, Samsung bets on tele-genomics, SURE Recovery app, Optimize.health’s seed round, Walgreens’ Microsoft boost

Teladoc completed the acquisition of InTouch Health on 1 July. The purchase, announced at the JP Morgan soireé in January (and an eternity ago) took place just before the ’10 years in 2 months’ leap forward in telehealth services. InTouch’s telehealth offerings are primarily for hospitals and health systems, heavily based on multi-feature carts and camera setups. The purchase price of $150 million in cash and 4.6 million shares of Teladoc Health common stock, valued then at $600 million, may be a great bargain for Teladoc considering the rich prices that other telehealth-related companies commanded during the peak of the pandemic, and that Teladoc’s revenue boosted to almost $181 million in revenue in Q1 2020, up 41 percent versus Q1 2019. Release

Samsung makes a telemedicine bet with Genome Medical. Through its Catalyst Fund, Samsung is the lead among 15 investors in a $14 million Series B extension financing that includes LRVHealth, Revelation Partners, and Kaiser Permanente Fund. Genome Medical’s connection to telemedicine is on-demand, standard-of-care genetics and genomics through virtual health services, including counseling, patient drug response, and provider-to-provider consults through its platform. Release. CNet. Crunchbase.

Mindwave Ventures, which this Editor noted last December was opening up an office in the Leeds health tech hub, has continued its development and research with multiple platforms and apps in partnership with NHS and academic/research clients. One that came on our ever-whirling radar screen is the release of the SURE Recovery app, for those in recovery from alcohol and drug problems. It enables users to work with the SURE (Substance Use Recovery Evaluator) and SUSS (Substance Use Sleep Scale) measures, plus a personal diary, to track their recovery over time. Mindwave developed the app in conjunction with The King’s College London and theInstitute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London. The app is now available to download; search ‘SURE Recovery’ on the App Store or Google Play. The page on the Mindwave site is on their Clinical Research page–click the tab for SURE. Hat tip to Ellis Noble of KC Communications.

Connected to telehealth and RPM is provider reimbursement. Optimize.health is an early-stage company which provides a turnkey setup for practices for its remote patient monitoring platform, with the usual features such as patient engagement, integrated devices with the platform, and call center support. The apparent difference is the emphasis on sharing data and simplifying reimbursement, the hard part of any RPM or telehealth platform. Announced this week: a $3.5 million seed round led by Bonfire Ventures. A small boost to this part of the telehealth field which has not had the great success of virtual consults. Release.

Back in January 2019, Walgreens Boots announced a partnership with Microsoft to migrate their IT over to the Azure platform. It took a while for results to manifest to the public. When COVID happened, they rolled out a COVID-19 risk assessment tool on its website and mobile app based on Azure. Their Find Care platform doubled the number of virtual care providers and services available. Walgreens also provided a link to COVID-19 clinical trials through the Find My Clinical Trial program on its mobile app. This article in FierceHealthcare touts how they are maneuvering to stay even with CVS Aetna and Amazon, which is hardly waiting for its partners in the gone-pearshaped Haven.

The CES circus opens its largest tent yet in health tech, AI, 5G, and more

CES kicked off today in Las Vegas (7 Jan), taking over the town in multiple locations, and will be making news through Friday 10 January. Like the circus, there are three health tech ‘rings’ at CES this year: Accessibility, Digital Health (Digital Health Summit), and Fitness and Wearables.

  • Digital Health Summit over the two days of its conference has shifted focus from the gadgets and wearables of their past conferences to prevention, health data, voice tech, machine learning, AI, bioelectronics (low current devices for treatment), behavioral health, and passive monitoring. There’s also a soupçon of star power with Katie Couric and Dr. Mehmet Oz, and some Grizzled Pioneer speakers and moderators such as Laurie Orlov, Chris Otto, Sean Slovenski, and Jane Sarasohn-Kahn. The Digital Health Summit is itself a Grizzled Pioneer as it goes back at CES to 2013–and my, how the players have changed. (Whatever happened to Sonny Vu?)
  • The Wearables Tech Summit is about the form and function of wearables, plus VR, AR (augmented reality), and of course Peleton.
  • Accessibility is sadly a mismatch (mish-mash?) of home networks, 5G, IoT, and a pitch competition.

What’s big? 5G, AI anything, and autonomous vehicles. What’s faded in the stretch? Robots.

Back to health tech…here’s some highlights:

  • Philips has several new or tweaked products at CES this year
    • A smart version of the Sonicare toothbrush that collects and shares real-time toothbrushing data. The BrushSmart program works with Delta Dental of California to analyze the data for insights into oral care. Users get benefits such as exclusive dental care offers, the Philips Sonicare ExpertClean toothbrush and free brush heads when they brush regularly.
    • The Avent mother and childcare app adds a new feature called Baby+ to track baby’s growth and receive ongoing advice specific to each stage of their baby’s development.
    • The SmartSleep system adds the SmartSleep Deep Sleep Headband 2 to actively improve deep sleep with features such as Fall Asleep Sounds, SmartAlarm, and the SleepMapper app. Release
  • OMRON is adding to its heart monitoring services with HeartGuide, the first wearable blood pressure monitor, and Complete, the first wearable that combines a blood pressure monitor and EKG. The company is also launching this summer a heart health coaching and incentive app, OMRON Connect 2.0, that states it changes behavior, combining its two existing apps HeartAdvisor and OMRON Connect. Release
  • Withings’ newest is the ScanWatch which will be able to take an ECG and monitor for sleep apnea. The ECG has three leads on the watch on the side of the watch’s bezel and an SpO2 sensor to monitor apneic episodes and oxygen saturation. FDA and CE approval are pending, and when released later this year will cost $249 to $299 depending on size.  ZDNet
  • ZDNet and TechRepublic have a running special feature on CES’ big trends for business. The annoyance factor you’ll have to endure is the running CBS commercials for various programs.
  • Mobihealthnews rounds up interesting devices and software such as the Nanit baby sleeping bag that monitors an infant’s breathing, Reliefband’s low current anti-nausea band, Samsung’s Ballie rolling robot plus collaborations with Kaiser Permanente (cardiac rehab) and IrisVision (low vision/macular degeneration assistance), and more.
  • John Lynn, another Grizzled Pioneer, in Healthcare IT Today typically diverts from the mainstream coverage in spotlighting smaller companies in atypical areas. Examples are France’s Adok smart projector with the potential to be used collaboratively in practice offices, new connected apps for Neofect’s smart gloves for arm/hand rehab, two air filters to monitor both inside and outside air quality (as a social determinant of health!), Xenoma’s wired pajamas for fall detection, the Mateo bath mat which can measure weight and body mass, and a smart diaper from Smardii.

More to come in the next days!

Babylon Health’s expansion plans in Asia-Pacific, Africa spotlighted

Mobihealthnews’ interview with Ali Parsa of Babylon Health illuminates what hasn’t been obvious about the company’s global plans, in our recent focus on their dealings with the NHS. For its basic smartphone app (video consults, appointments, medical records), Babylon last year announced a partnership with one of Asia’s largest health insurers, Prudential [TTA 18 Sept 18], licensing Babylon’s software for its own health apps across 12 countries in Asia for an estimated $100 million over several years. Babylon has also been active in Rwanda and now reaches, according to their information, nearly 30 percent of the population. There’s also a nod to developments with the NHS.

Parsing the highlights in Dr. Parsa’s rather wordy quest towards less ‘sick care’, more ‘prevention over cure’, and making healthcare affordable and accessible to everyone ’round the clock:

  • Asia-Pacific: Working with Tencent, Samsung and Prudential Asia through licensing software is a key component of their business. By adding more users, they refine and add more quality to their services. (Presumably they have more restrictions on the data they send to Tencent than what they obtain in China.)
  • Africa: How do you offer health apps in an economically poor country where only 5 percent of the population has a smartphone? Have an app that works for the 75 percent who have a feature phone. Babyl Rwanda has 2 million users–30 percent of Rwanda’s population–and completes 2,000 consultations a day. Babyl also works with over 450 health clinics and pharmacies. The service may also be expanded across East Africa, and may serve as a model for similar countries in other regions.
  • UK and NHSX: About the new NHS-formed joint organization for digital services, tech, and clinical care, Dr. Parsa believes it is ‘fantastic’ and that “it is trying to bring the benefits of modern technology to every patient and clinician, and aims to combine the best talent from government, the NHS and industry. Its aim, just like ours, is to create the most advanced health and care service in the world, to free up staff time and empower patients.” (Editor’s note:  NHSX will bring together the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and NHS Improvement, overseeing NHS Digital. More in Digital Health, Computer Weekly.)

It’s Official: CES is now a health tech event (updated)

CES is now, officially, a health tech event. It’s not just the timing before CES of the flashy but apparently cratering JP Morgan annual healthcare investment conference in the absurdly pricey venue of San Francisco (FierceBiotech on the #MoveJPM backlash; the general disillusion with it expressed well here). It’s the fact that whatever mainstreaming health tech has actually accomplished, it’s far better represented in Las Vegas. Always a place of beginnings, endings, fun, gambles taken, lack of sleep, and sore feet, health tech fits right in, big or small.

CES reported that 2019 boasted an increase of 25 percent health-related exhibitors and a 15 percent increase in the amount of floor space dedicated to health tech. One winner was a big gamble by a small company–Living in Digital Times, which organizes and stages the Digital Health SummitTen years later, it turned out to be right place, right time for the founders who work hard to keep it on trend. Lifestyle, robotics, self-care, assistive tech (even exoskeletons), wearables, cosmetic “wellness” devices like P&G’s Opté, and Alexa-type home assistants/robots all now fit into the CES purview. Trial balloons by young companies, AI-powered concept devices from big companies, watches (including the Apple-beater Move ECG from the revitalized Withings TTA 10 Oct 18 and Omron’s HeartGuide), and robots all appeared. Samsung again brought out a brace of concept robots. Last year’s Best of CES ElliQ is finally available for pre-order after three years at a measly $1,500. The humanoid Sophia brought a kid sister, the equally creepy Little Sophia, both of whom failed during this CNET video. Yes, Pepper from Softbank made its appearance and apparently didn’t wilt as it did last year.

Sleep tech was another hot item, with a spin on sleep diagnostics or improvement from many products. A brainwave product, Urgonight from France, claims to be able to train your brain to sleep better. (Send one to Rick Astley who was a poster child for not Sleeping.)  Mental health is a natural crossover into sleep tech and robots, with a $5,000 Japanese robot, Lovot, capable of responsive cuddling and comfort.

Best of the coverage:

  • CNET has probably the best coverage and articles on health which stick to the facts (slim in some cases as they are); anyone who wants to catch up with the feel and flavor of this three-ring circus can start and stay there. Their full show coverage is here.
  • Dr. Jayne at HISTalk also did an excellent health-related product roundup in her Curbside Consult column.
  • Mobihealthnews also has a very long running list of health tech pictures and announcements as part of its limited coverage, including the mea culpas and promised transparency of onetime health ed unicorn Outcome Health [TTA 29 Jan 18].

Beyond the plethora of products encouraging ever more to come forward, what ones will even make it to market, far more be winners? Aside from the Samsungs and P&Gs, which of these young companies planting their stake at CES will be there next year?  As in past CES, the wheel goes round and round, and where it stops, nobody knows–not even the JPM investors. 

Instant GP, don’t even add water; Babylon Health taps into the corporate market via insurer Bupa (UK)

[grow_thumb image=”https://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/instant-gp-300×300.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Is digital health gaining some traction in the UK? One insurer is making the bet. Earlier this week, Babylon Health announced a UK partnership with Bupa’s corporate insurance area to open Babylon’s digital health services to corporate employees insured by Bupa.  Bupa’s Instant GP app offers these employees Babylon services, such as the ability to book virtual appointments with GPs, be transferred to specialists, and receive prescriptions. The app is free to download through the Apple App Store or Google Play for Bupa-covered employees.

Bupa and Babylon have been working together in a limited way since 2015–see this Bupa press release.

Some extras for employees in the program: unlimited 24/7 online GP consultations; Babylon’s clinical triage service, and access to the Babylon’s new “digital twin” service. This medical assessment method works with a smartphone tapping key parts of their body. It’s being previewed by Bupa and is scheduled to be released nationwide later this year.

Reportedly Bupa is seeking to provide Babylon services to their UK SME business (micro, small and medium-sized enterprises) later this year. Telegraph (paid access for full article), Digital Health News

For Babylon, it’s been an extraordinarily busy time. They have a new agreement with Samsung to be included in Samsung Health on smartphones [TTA 14 June], and China’s Tencent offering of Babylon through their WeChat platform. Babylon also recently announced passing the 26,500 patient mark with London NHS GP at Hand.

Nokia throws in towel on digital health, negotiates Withings sale to co-founder Eric Carreel

Nokia finally gave up on consumer health tech, confirming February reports that they were reviewing strategic options for its Digital Health business. Digital Health was a tiny part of Nokia Technologies and an even tinier part of overall revenue (under .2 percent at €52 million of revenues). The prospective buyer in the exclusive talks is Withings co-founder and former chairman Éric Carreel. “Nokia and Éric Carreel recognize that as an original Co-Founder of Withings, he is best positioned to carry the company forward into its next phase,” a Nokia spokesperson wrote to Mobihealthnews.

Withings sold itself to diversifying Nokia in 2016 for a hefty €170 million, becoming Nokia Digital Health in February 2017. The Withings purchase was positioned as a reverse takeover, with Withings staff taking over Nokia’s fledgling efforts in digital health. But the promised results and impact never took place and Withings faded from view, at least in the Americas.

According to their statement, “The planned sale is part of Nokia’s honed focus on becoming a business-to-business and licensing company.” Other interested buyers include Google’s Nest division and Samsung. The company may also head back to France.  TechCrunch, Mobihealthnews

Louisville’s Thrive Center showcases senior care technologies (KY)

Louisville, Kentucky is not the place our Readers would put at the top of their minds when thinking about assistive technologies for older adults, but the debut last week of The Thrive Center may change that. It’s a public-private partnership between the Commonwealth of Kentucky and Louisville Metro with private technology and senior living companies. It showcases technologies transforming senior care on a permanent, updating basis and demonstrated in use. 

The Center includes in their 7,500 square foot setting Samsung technologies integrated into a full-size kitchen, bathroom, living room and bedroom; AppliedVR virtual reality headsets; headphones from Eversound; brain fitness software from Posit Science; and music-as-medicine solutions from SingFit and wellness apps from EVŌ. The opening theme is assistance for memory care, which implies that the exhibits will be shifted to different themes in the future.

Companies which helped to establish Thrive include CDW Healthcare (IT), Samsung, Intel, Ergotron, Lenovo, HP/Aruba, Kindred Healthcare (post-acute care) and skilled nursing provider Signature HealthCare. Kindred and Signature are located in Louisville, which is a healthcare hub of the mid-South. It is also the headquarters of Humana and an operations center for Care Innovations–both notably absent from the partner list. CDW releaseSenior Housing News, Thrive Center website, Thrive Center release.

HIMSS17 dispatches: Mayo maps neonate telemedicine, Amwell-Samsung, Samsung-T-Mobile

Mayo maps out an enterprise telehealth (telemedicine) support structure. Here’s how the Mayo Clinic deployed neonatology remote telemedicine to their sites in Minnesota, Arizona, and Florida. There’s plenty of flow charts and summary points in this presentation deck around team building, staffing consistently and reporting that improves processes. Hat tip to our HIMSS correspondent on the scene, Bill Oravecz of Stone Health Innovations. Update: If you are using Chrome, you may have difficulty downloading session handouts from the HIMSS17 website Schedule pages. Try another browser. If you are interested, you may be able to obtain through contacting the two session presenters, Susan Kapraun and Jenna A. Beck, MHA, directly.

American Well and Samsung are partnering on integrating care delivery. Their joint release is low on details, but towards the end there’s an indication that American Well, its partners, and other providers and payers will be able to offer their services to Samsung customers. Other reports (Healthcare Dive) indicate the partnership is destined to enhance Amwell’s Exchange platform between payers and providers. Partners listed are Cleveland Clinic, New York-Presbyterian Medical Center and Anthem (undoubtedly resting after sparring with Cigna). Also Healthcare IT News.

Separately, Samsung also announced a partnership with T-Mobile for developing IoT in the senior care space. This would pair Samsung’s ARTIK Cloud with T-Mobile’s cellular network for Breezie, a social engagement for seniors interface built on a Samsung tablet which has apps and connects to various peripherals for post-acute care and daily living. It sounds interesting, but once again the release hampers the reporter by being as clear as mud in what it’s all about. See if you can decipher this: ARTIK Cloud permits “Amazon Alexa, Samsung SmartThings, iHealth Feel Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor and the Pulse Oximeter – to intelligently communicate with each other.” “Each Breezie interface has more than 40 preconfigured accessibility settings and sensor driven analytics to adjust for different levels of digital literacy, as well as physical and cognitive ability.” The Breezie website is far more revealing. Healthcare Dive also takes a whack at it towards the end of the above article.

South Korea’s ambivalence towards telemedicine

The surprising reasons why. 5.8 million South Koreans aren’t exactly tech-phobic, enjoying a nationally swift internet backbone and high personal smartphone penetration. The home of the two leading smartphone makers is pioneering mobile-first retailing and a national IoT network. South Korea (SK) also has the need–an aging population living in rural areas. Yet South Korea bans doctor-patient virtual visits in their Medical Act, and expects major demonstrations by doctors and activists when it comes up for a vote later this year in their National Assembly. Telemedicine and also telehealth/RPM may happen eventually, backed by powerhouses like SK Telecom, Samsung and LG, but will have to take into consideration some unique circumstances:

  • Cyberattacks from North Korea, which have already hit a Seoul university hospital’s software security contractor and demonstrated their system’s HIT vulnerabilities
  • The government’s glitch-ridden telemedicine pilot program with serious problems in data management, encryption and weak passwords
  • The fear that only the rich will be able to afford it–and in SK’s split system, the fear that funding may be withdrawn from the extensive network of community clinics instead of benefiting them

Medical professionals, including the 100,000 doctors in the KMA who successfully blocked telemedicine in 2014 and haven’t participated in the pilot program, are calling for “a slower, more collaborative plan of attack that establishes safety protocols and smart regulatory oversight.”  Quartz

‘Gear Blink’? Samsung patents an embedded camera in a contact lens (S. Korea)

[grow_thumb image=”https://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/samsung-smart-contact-lens-1.png” thumb_width=”150″ /]A Samsung news tracking website, SamMobile, has tracked down publication of a Samsung patent filing for a smart contact lens. This concept would have a camera with a display that would project directly into the eye, a tiny antenna that transmits images to the smartphone, and motion sensors that trigger by movement and blinking. This is different than the Google/Alcon lens in their new Verily Life Sciences division (TTA 17 July 14 and 1 Sept 15, pictured in the Mashable article) which is for measuring blood glucose. Samsung apparently filed the patent in 2014, and filed the ‘Gear Blink’ name for a trade mark in the US and South Korea. No clue on how comfortable a lens with a camera, antenna and display would be on a normal eye. Hat tip to former TTA Ireland Editor Toni Bunting.