GoodRx Launches Online Health Resource

Digital pharmacy tool GoodRx recently launched an expansive online resource called GoodRx Health to provide research-based answers to popular health questions.

GoodRx Health takes a different approach than other consumer health destinations, offering actionable insights through GoodRx Answers and a Health Wizard for navigating difficult decisions.

  • GoodRx’s current services include app-based prescription tracking and a telehealth platform called GoodRx Care, which provides virtual primary care services.
  • GoodRx Help adds new ways for users to explore the company’s library of Video Explainers and editorial content, a large strategy shift that pushes the company beyond its current role as a comparison tool.
  • GoodRx’s new strategy targets every stage of a consumer’s healthcare journey, uniting the company’s platforms by directing diagnosis-seeking consumers from GoodRx Health to its GoodRx Care telehealth service for treatment.

The Takeaway

GoodRx Health is far from a small content play to drive more traffic to a website. GoodRx is doing everything in its power to leverage the 20m monthly users already visiting its site, from hiring a 50 person editorial team helmed by the former executive editor of WIRED, Thomas Goetz, to acquiring health video company HealthiNation for $75m in April.

WebMD and symplr announced a similar partnership in August, which allows WebMD users to go from a health information search to scheduling a telehealth appointment in three clicks. GoodRx’s vertical integration of these services could position it as a leader among companies operating in the overlap between health information and treatment.

Xealth Makes Digital Health Usable

The booming digital health sector has seen such rapid expansion that it is beginning to enter the next level of its industry life cycle: the stage where solutions have solutions.

Digital health integration platform Xealth recently closed $24m in Series B funding, bringing the Providence St. Joseph Health spinoff’s total funding to $52.6m.

Xealth aggregates and organizes digital health tools within the EHR, enabling not only easier reporting, but also centralized distribution, enrollment, and patient monitoring.

The Xealth platform has three interdependent modules:

  • Xealth Clinical Interface – Solutions are ordered, delivered, and tracked from within the EHR, with clinical decision support matching patients to relevant solutions.
  • Xealth Digital Command Center – Provides customized reporting of patient and provider engagement, which is aggregated to match demographics to solutions.
  • Xealth Integration Layer – Supports deployment of multiple solutions through a single integration with the EHR, allowing health systems to save IT resources by avoiding independent vendor integration.

The Takeaway

As health systems pursue innovation, they’re presented with an abundance of disjointed products with specialized use cases, creating the need for a platform that allows physicians to prescribe and monitor these solutions within a single cohesive workflow.

Xealth’s services are already available to over 100k physicians, and the company states that care teams are seeing improved patient engagement metrics as a result of measuring outcomes across a health system’s entire virtual solution ecosystem.

Aggregators that improve usability of existing solutions have emerged as success stories in other industries such as business collaboration software, and Xealth is looking to replicate this success within the digital health landscape.

Under the Radar Healthcare Disruptors

Digital health venture fund and advisory team Rock Health recently published an excellent blog post outlining what they call healthcare’s “middle children,” defined as large-but-not-huge companies that should be eyeing expansion into healthcare.

The authors argue that these middle children have distinct competitive advantages over the cohort of technology giants that have recently been pursuing the healthcare space, which include the likes of Amazon, Alphabet, and Apple.

  • Middle children with market capitalizations between $10b and $350b are large enough to make an impact in healthcare, but small enough to avoid the scrutiny of massive players. They are often consumer-facing, with business lines that could pivot towards a healthcare use case (picture Lululemon’s acquisition of Mirror).
  • Larger middle children have deep pockets and talents pools (Salesforce, Nike), with the capabilities to pursue large healthcare goals.
  • Smaller middle children have more specialized capabilities (Garmin, Airbnb), that could help with solving more focused problems.

Middle Children Advantages

  • Smaller healthcare goals are big enough for middle children to pursue for growth, whereas much larger companies need loftier projects to warrant market expansion.
  • Loyal customer bases can be activated by middle children to establish initial users while avoiding the regulatory attention quickly drawn by larger competitors.
  • Specialized assets from middle children, such as logistics expertise or data analytics, can provide a competitive edge in healthcare. 

Potential Middle Children Plays

  • Blizzard could passively monitor behavioral health conditions for children playing its games
  • Paypal could integrate Health Savings Accounts to help users manage healthcare spending
  • Hello Fresh could offer health insights and recommend food products for delivery

The Takeaway

Gaining share within the $3.5t US healthcare market is a powerful motivator for any company looking to pursue a strategy shift, but even consumer-favorite brands will need humility to navigate the complex and quickly evolving environment.

Although middle children don’t specialize in the sector, Rock Health makes a solid case that they might be some of the best-positioned companies for healthcare disruption, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re reading about some of the plays listed in this blog post in next year’s business news.

Lyra Expands Into New Mental Health Conditions

Mental health benefits provider Lyra Health recently announced a trio of new solutions designed to address complex conditions such as alcohol use disorder and suicidality.

Lyra is seeking to effectively support the employees often overlooked by traditional health plans, such as those with serious mental illnesses and substance use disorders.

The new offerings will launch in early 2022 and include:

  • Lyra Reset addresses problematic alcohol use through virtual therapy, group sessions, symptom assessments, peer support, and medication. Lyra Reset promotes a durable recovery by providing resources for the entire family.
  • Lyra Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Suicidality combines virtual therapy sessions with therapist-prescribed skill-building lessons to help patients decrease suicidal thoughts.
  • Lyra Concierge provides personalized support for children, adolescents, and adults who need help accessing specialized mental health support or rehabilitation facilities.

The Trend

Many new digital mental health companies are focusing primarily on patients suffering from depression and anxiety, a large market given the pandemic-fueled climb in mental health disorders. 

However, as these companies begin to mature (Lyra has raised $680m and is valued at $4.2b), many will expand into other serious conditions.

This trend has the potential to help patients find specialized care that fits their needs, while also supporting employers looking to maintain a healthy and productive workforce.

Remote Care Investment is Climbing

According to a Current Health survey of 250 health system decision makers, 81% expect their organizations to increase investment in remote care technology over the next year.

While home care was once a nice-to-have option for forward thinking providers, it is now a necessity for those looking to effectively care for high risk patients amid the ongoing pandemic.

Many health systems have already begun to adopt new remote care technologies, with 89% of respondents expanding its use over the past year, but the study suggests that care-at-home programs have more room to grow.

  • Investment Areas: Respondents indicated that they plan to increase investments in three main categories: home-based chronic care (64%), hospital at home (60%), and transitional care (58%). When asked about the key benefits of remote care in these areas, answers included reduced hospital admissions (69%), and improved patient (63%) and provider (62%) satisfaction.
  • Barriers to Success: According to those surveyed, the key barriers to remote care’s success are patient and provider engagement, workflow integrations, and operational concerns. Additionally, over 50% of respondents reported patient adoption and adherence as a challenge they’ve faced with care-at-home.

The Takeaway

As healthcare organizations transition from small remote care pilots to enterprise-wide strategies, new investments are addressing the long-term challenges of scaling to care for more patients with limited clinical staff. The technologies that are likely to find the most success are those that keep sight of patient engagement barriers without adding complicated workflows for providers.

Do Clinicians Have Faith in Health Tech’s Future?

Accenture’s Health Strategy senior manager Dr. Darryl Gibbings-Isaac took to the HIMSS21 stage to discuss clinicians’ trust in the future of healthcare technology. The keynote addressed the findings of a new Accenture survey that asked physicians a series of true or false questions relating to their trust in technology’s growing clinical role.

1. Clinicians’ digital health adoption will not revert to pre-pandemic levels.

  • 71% will continue to use digital tools to the same or greater extent
  • 61% would invest in digital health tools if it improves their bottom line
  • 76% believe that digital investments will increase in the next five years 
  • Verdict – True

2. Clinicians believe AI is a threat to their future prosperity. 

  • 80% are interested in AI for clinical uses
  • 76% believe AI is not a threat to their job security
  • 45% have received training or have upcoming training about AI and digital tools
  • Verdict – False

3. Clinicians see value in investing in AI and digital health.

  • 68% see digital health’s long-term impact as positive
  • 61% believe that the investment required for digital health tools is a barrier
  • 76% believe that digital health spending will increase in the next five years despite barriers
  • Verdict – True

4. Clinicians trust in the security of healthcare technology.

  • 76% are only somewhat confident in measures to protect patient data
  • 41% have security concerns over patient data that hinders adoption
  • 33% of those uninterested in AI-based solutions cite lack of trust
  • Verdict – False

The Takeaway

To answer Accenture’s original question of whether or not clinicians have trust in the future of healthcare technology, the response is a reserved “yes.” While clinicians believe digital health adoption is here to stay, more work is needed to ensure trust in its security – specifically work centered around improving the three T’s: tools, transparency, and training.

Fixing Problems Before They Happen

While the acceleration of digital health adoption has created many positive outcomes, adding “tech support” to the job description of clinicians was probably not one of them.

A Possible Solution: Johns Hopkins Medicine recently unveiled an EHR-embedded calculator that assigns telehealth patients a technical risk score so that IT support teams can proactively address tech challenges prior to an appointment. 

The calculator works by assigning a 0-4 score based on the following factors:

  • Two points for the patient not having an active account in MyChart
  • One point for the patient not having completed the eCheck-in process
  • One point for the patient not attending a telehealth visit in the past three months 

Pilot Program: Johns Hopkins created a two-stage pilot program to test the efficacy of the technical risk score. Phase 1 involved text-only outreach and found that 7 of 384 patients contacted via text proceeded to seek IT support. Phase 2 involved text plus phone outreach and had 44 of 98 patients successfully reached via telephone, but found preemptive IT support difficult to schedule.

The Takeaway

Despite the inconclusive pilot program, Johns Hopkins found that its calculator anecdotally eased the burden on IT support staff while creating more equitable telehealth visits for patients.

Digital Health Wire Q&A: Zoom’s Healthcare Transformation

With Heidi West
Zoom, Head of Healthcare

As the role of digital health continues to grow, new use cases are emerging and enabling communication between patients and physicians. The rapid adoption of telehealth solutions over the past year and a half has led to a boom in innovation that has expanded the scope of the technology well beyond the “virtual visit.”

In this Digital Health Wire Q&A we sat down with Zoom’s Head of Healthcare, Heidi West, to discuss the role of telehealth today and how the technology is evolving to meet the needs of consumers in a post-pandemic world.

Since the start of the pandemic, Zoom has enabled everything from remote schooling to virtual healthcare visits. How has Zoom’s healthcare business changed over the course of the past two years?

When the pandemic happened, there was a very abrupt shift from in-person visits to telehealth. At the beginning of the pandemic, telehealth was all about the virtual visit, and figuring out ways to engage the patient and provider. Throughout the course of the last year and a half, through the creativity and innovation of nurses and doctors and administrators, it started to focus more on all the ways that we can break down the communication barriers throughout healthcare.

It also served as a family connection point in many ways, helping patients that were isolated and vulnerable during the pandemic. As Zoom for Healthcare’s platform continues to evolve, the focus will be on augmenting or enhancing the communication experience along the entire continuum.

What are Zoom for Healthcare’s top priorities in this space?

Our number one goal is to continue to provide a simple and frictionless experience within healthcare communication. Whether it’s virtual visits, telehealth, or even internal communication between the business and the clinical side, we are looking at all of those strategic communication points and finding ways to simplify and tie more of a ubiquitous familiar experience across healthcare.

There’s a lot of passion in what we do, and a tremendous responsibility to clients and patients. A patient’s health and wellness conversations with their doctor are some of their most private communications, and that’s not lost on us.

A recent survey listed Zoom as the the most used telehealth platform, with 34% of physicians using the service. Why are so many physicians already choosing Zoom over other healthcare-focused platforms?

There’s a couple of reasons. It’s the simplicity, quality, and you’re not becoming tech support when you engage in a telehealth visit. There are niche products that are just telehealth, but many miss the business-to-consumer piece of the puzzle. Zoom is really uniquely positioned to bridge that gap.

It’s the same solution that their kids are using in school. It’s the same solution and look and feel as their trivia nights, or parent-teacher conferences. Zoom serves as a familiar connectedness that we’ve all really needed over the past year and a half.

Many telehealth offerings include services such as text and email notification, payments, and file transfers. Is this indicative of the direction that telehealth is heading?

Telehealth is in no way done with just a virtual visit. With Zoom Apps, any number of those needs that you mentioned can now reside within the Zoom meeting and serve different purposes. We’ll also begin to see more functionality leveraging biometrics and enabling live vital sign monitoring during telehealth visits.

Zoom will always remain simple and easy to use, but simple does not mean non-innovative. The mobile web client is a perfect example of that. Our clients asked for it, and within a quarter we’re already in beta. I’m really proud of the fact that we are customer-driven in the way we’re building the platform.

In the same survey, top physician concerns regarding telemedicine were “technology challenges for patients”, “poor integration with other technologies”, and “new telehealth specific workflows.” How can telehealth technology be improved to address these concerns?

This goes back to the reasons why so many physicians are already using Zoom, and that’s that we have an integrated workflow. Our goal is not to create parallel workflows, but to work within the workflows that clinicians are already sitting in today.

The beauty of our open platform is that it allows our clients to build within their own workflows. Providing that level of flexibility in the way people can develop with Zoom sets us apart significantly in solving a lot of these problems. From a patient perspective, I think addressing any friction point should be the goal, which is why we launched the mobile web client to help anyone struggling with the app.

Safety and data privacy concerns are always a priority with sensitive interactions like a telemedicine visit. How does Zoom ensure patient privacy is protected and that sensitive data is never vulnerable?

First and foremost, Zoom holds privacy and security to the highest level of responsibility. We enable HIPAA compliance throughout our entire platform. We have safeguards spanning everything from end-to-end encryption data to data-at-rest, but it’s important to remember that technology only enables HIPAA compliance. It’s the responsibility of everyone involved in the conversation to protect the information.

So it’s safe to say that patients don’t have to worry about someone “zoombombing” their doctor visit?

They don’t have to worry. Protecting user privacy is Zoom’s top responsibility and something we take very seriously.

Outside of doctor/patient visits utilizing telemedicine, where else is there a role for the technology that might not be as obvious?

I look at the entire healthcare continuum, and telemedicine has a role anywhere from a well-visit, to primary care, to an acute care setting, as well as in the home. There are dozens of communication points along this continuum, and our goal is to look at them and ask if there’s a way that Zoom can improve them or remove friction. For each communication component, we ask questions like: Do you augment this with video? Do you leverage Zoom Phone? Can Zoom Rooms tie different pieces together? The entire healthcare journey needs to be the focus, not just the virtual visit.

I would almost flip the question and ask: Where wouldn’t telehealth fit? Even in just the patient’s room, there’s entertainment, education, food services. All of these can be improved through technology, but so can things like care coordination and family engagement. We’re looking at the patient room as a source of digital transformation that revolves around putting the patient at the center of all of the different communication that goes on within the room.

How do you see the telehealth space evolving over the next few years and where does Zoom fit into this picture?

The biggest thing to remember is that the landscape has changed following the pandemic. Patients have choice. Patients have flexibility. There’s a lot of competition in delivering care today. Never underestimate the consumer’s wants and needs from healthcare.

Look at all of the four hour blocks of care and say, how do I augment in-person with virtual? Do I leverage nurse practitioners? Do I leverage medical assistants? Then augment to provide that flexibility and convenience to patients. Healthcare still uses pagers and fax machines, so the chance to upgrade to a more strategic communication strategy will only continue to evolve.

The healthcare industry just saw 10 years of innovation in six months, and I think it’s made people aware that the consumers and the communities they serve will follow the innovation – and I’ll say it again: never underestimate the consumer.

The Wire – Americans Want Data

  • Americans Want Data: A new survey from The Pew Charitable Trusts found that over half of US adults want to use apps on smartphones, tablets, and computers to access their healthcare data. However, when told that federal privacy protections do not cover data stored on apps, respondents expressing serious privacy concerns nearly doubled from 35% to 62%.
  • Zoom Interpreters: Voyce recently announced the launch of its live language interpreter app for Zoom Meetings, enabling an embedded interpretation experience for non-English speaking patients. The app makes professional interpreters accessible within the video platform, helping to ensure that language is not an obstacle for diagnosis and care.
  • A Brutal Commute: The Wall Street Journal recently shared the story of an Ithaca College biology professor living in upstate New York who found herself skipping postoperative oncology appointments due to outdated interstate telehealth coverage policies. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston informed her that recent post-pandemic waivers for out-of-state patients had expired, and that she’d have to drive 3.5 hours and cross the Massachusetts border before she could hold any further video calls with her doctors.
  • Making Telehealth Permanent: In a move that’s sure to please at least one Ithaca College biology professor, a coalition of 430 advocacy groups recently sent a letter to Congress expressing an urgent need to permanently adopt the relaxed telehealth policies that followed the onset of the pandemic. These measures include the lifting of patient/provider geographic barriers and the need for an in-person visit prior to telehealth, both of which could abruptly expire following the public health emergency.
  • Telehealth for Headaches: A survey of American Headache Society clinicians found that nearly all of the 225 respondents were “comfortable/very comfortable” treating via telehealth, citing patient convenience (97%) and reducing patient travel stress (91%) as key benefits. Providers were also “interested/very interested” in adopting new digital health technologies (prescribing headache apps, remote symptom monitors) to address remote care’s shortcomings.
  • Front End Funding: b.well Connected Health secured a $32m Series B round ($58.7m total post-round funding) that it will use to further develop its digital platform that helps organizations manage their population health initiatives. End users of the b.well app can access all of their health data from a single source and receive proactive health guidance, while also taking advantage of provider incentive programs deployed directly through the app.
  • Telemedicine Saves the World: A new 5-year study (2015 – 2020) of Kaiser Permanente’s 600k members found that digital health platforms are healthy for the environment as well as patients, with healthcare visit greenhouse gas emissions falling 46% following the pandemic. The researchers pointed out that the reduction in emissions was not tied to a decline in appointments, but from the shift to telemedicine solutions.
  • Inaccurate Symptom Checkers: A recent PLOS study of 12 online symptom checkers revealed that many aren’t accurate, with the correct diagnosis listed in the top five tools only 51% of the time (Range 22.2% to 84.0%). The online symptom checkers’ wide diagnostic variation and poor overall performance would be unacceptable in most other medical fields, suggesting more validation is required to ensure these public facing tools are safe.
  • Amwell’s Shopping Spree: Amwell recently acquired a duo of digital health startups to expand its longitudinal care offerings and grow in new markets. The telemedicine company acquired SilverCloud (digital mental health platform) and Conversa (automated virtual care) for a combined $320m, which is quite an investment considering that Amwell generated $245m in revenue last year.
  • Satisfaction Survey: A Catholic University of Korea study found that South Korean patients were far more satisfied than clinicians with telephone-based remote care during the COVID shutdown. Although nearly 80% of patients were satisfied with all five of the study’s evaluation criteria, the same share of clinicians expressed worries about their inability to perform complete medical assessments over the phone.
  • Physical Meets Digital: LifeScan (glucose monitoring hardware) and Noom (behavior change platform) recently signed a multi-year partnership that integrates both companies’ diabetes management solutions. Users of LifeScan’s OneTouch monitors will be able to access Noom’s behavior change programs through a new combined platform set to debut in fall 2021.
  • Deep Brain Stimulation: A new Parkinsonism & Related Disorders study found that telemedicine improves patient satisfaction in the management of chronic neurological conditions. Although telemedicine is effective for movement disorders, the study showed that utilization for patients with device-aided therapies like deep brain stimulation is limited due to the challenge of adjusting the devices remotely, highlighting the need for more care guidelines for this patient population.

Virtual Consults

New research out of MGH shows that point-of-care virtual radiology consultations are well received by patients and primary care providers, suggesting that they could “advance radiology’s value in care delivery.”

  • The Study – The researchers performed video-based radiology consultations with 3 primary care providers and 43 patients at a primary care clinic, surveying the patients and the PCPs.
  • The Patient Results – The patient results were positive – 93% were satisfied with the virtual consultations, 88% stated that it improved their understanding of their condition, and 91% were interested in similar consultations in the future. Perhaps most notably, the patients’ interest in receiving their imaging results from radiologists increased from 56% before the virtual consultations to 88% after. 
  • The PCP Results – The PCPs were satisfied with 97% of the virtual consultations and found that 83% of the consultations helped their management decisions.
  • The Takeaway – The 2020-2021 virtual care boom has largely skipped radiology, but it’s becoming clear that all specialties will have to find a way to adapt to this shift. This study reveals a straightforward way for radiology to increase its role in virtual care that seems to work for both patients and referring providers.
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-- The Digital Health Wire team