Wire #17

  • Apple Investigates Mental Health: The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple is working with UCLA and Biogen to determine if passively collected data such as facial expressions or typing metrics could signal mental health concerns. The UCLA “Seabreeze” project studied signs of stress and depression in a 2020 pilot phase using Apple Watch and iPhone data from 150 volunteers and is proceeding to its main phase with 3k people. The Biogen “Pi” project will be a two-year study using similar data to try and detect mild cognitive impairment, which could lead to features in Apple products that help with early detection of disorders.
  • Wearables Study: A new Frontiers in Digital Health study investigated the association between the use of electronic wearable devices (EWDs) and the levels of physical activity among adults with depression in the US (n = 1,139). The study found no association between the use of EWDs and meeting the national weekly recommendation for physical activity, but did find that the technology was associated with higher odds of reporting intention to lose weight (OR 2.12). The findings suggest that EWDs may serve as an opening for clinical interactions around physical health through identifying patients primed for behavior change.
  • NOCD Community Treatment: Obsessive compulsive-disorder telehealth startup NOCD recently raised a $33m Series B round ($50m total funding) that will help it expand its community, reach people earlier in their treatment journey, and offer additional services to assist with long-term health. NOCD treats OCD with a “Community-Driven Therapy” approach that motivates patients to seek treatment by joining peer groups designed to destigmatize behavioral health conditions through the sharing of personal stories and advice.
  • Trilliant Demand Forecast: Trilliant Health launched a predictive analytics tool that enables health systems to forecast demand at a regional level. The Demand Forecast tool provides a 10-year view of regional markets based on a variety of claims and demographic data, giving strategy teams an understanding of the relationship between consumer demand in a local market and the supply of healthcare providers available to serve that demand. The tool allows strategists to research which patient cohorts are driving growth and to quantify the forecasted impact on their system.
  • Patient Portal Access: The ONC recently conducted a survey related to the use of patient portals, finding that 59% of respondents were offered access to their patient portals and 38% accessed their record at least once in 2020. Roughly 40% of patient portal users accessed their portal through a smartphone app last year and apps were the most common access point for users who only logged in 1 to 2 times. The survey also found that one third of patient portal users downloaded their online medical record in 2020, a proportion that has nearly doubled since 2017.
  • Pager Series C: Virtual care navigation platform Pager recently gained $70m in Series C funding ($133m total funding) that will help it scale capacity to meet surging demand. The company offers a turnkey solution called Pager 360 that guides users through their entire healthcare journey, including telehealth, e-prescriptions, and follow-up care. Pager has seen average annual encounter growth of nearly 800% over the past two years and now has more than 15m members under contract.
  • Digital Care Review: A recent JMIR systematic review of 17 studies on oncology digital care solutions found that most barriers to a platform’s implementation were at the professional level (e.g. concern for increased workload), but most facilitators were found at the patient level (e.g. improved patient-doctor communication). The researchers also found that the use of digital care platforms is associated with better quality of care through increased self-efficacy for oncological patients, but that more studies are needed regarding barriers to access.
  • UnitedHealthcare Partnership: Beginning November 1, over 3m UnitedHealthcare members will be able to access Apple Fitness+ as part of their coverage, allowing them to stream workouts from their Apple devices. Those with an Apple Watch will be able to view live biometric data on the same screen as their workouts while receiving personalized insights. UnitedHealthcare makes smartwatches available to all members through its Motion program, which encourages healthy behavior by providing technology to those that meet fitness milestones.
  • Telehealth Research Needs: A recent data brief from the Office of Inspector General found that 23 of 37 included states reported fraud as a major telehealth concern in 2020, yet only 11 states monitored fraudulent telehealth activity. The OIG found that only two states had evaluated telehealth’s effectiveness in improving patient access to behavioral health care. To remedy the general lack of reporting, the OIG recommended that CMS begin encouraging states to share data and best practices.
  • FDA Firsts: The Food and Drug Administration authorized the first AI tool used to flag potentially cancerous prostate biopsy images, developed by Memorial Sloan Kettering offshoot Paige. The clearance was issued through the FDA’s De Novo premarket review, clearing the way for similar AI tools to receive authorization in the future. The FDA did not outline specific criteria, but did say that it is establishing “special controls for devices of this type, including requirements related to labeling and performance testing.”

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-- The Digital Health Wire team