Digital Health

The Wire – Americans Want Data

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  • 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biology professor living in upstate New York who found herself skipping postoperative oncology appointments due to outdated interstate telehealth coverage policies.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.
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