Wire #19

  • Website Traffic Drivers: There’s no such thing as too much good information, at least according to a Boston Digital report of the top 20 US hospitals. The report found that hospital websites with large digital health libraries often see 100x more traffic than those without. The three highest ranked hospitals (Mayo, Hopkins, Cleveland) offer comprehensive and original content that lives on their top-level domains, while lower ranked systems didn’t meet these criteria. Mayo Clinic has 15k pages of health information content and generates the most traffic, while hospitals with fewer than 3k pages earn less than 10% of its total visitors.
  • Early Flu Detection: Duke researchers recently found that wearables might be able to identify the flu and common cold prior to the onset of any symptoms. The study included 31 participants with H1N1 and 18 with rhinovirus (common cold). The researchers were able to distinguish between mild and moderate infection 24 hours prior to symptom onset with 90% accuracy for H1N1 and 89% for rhinovirus. The smartwatches used in the study were from a specialized manufacturer, so it might still be a while before your Apple Watch lets you know when you’re catching a cold.
  • Funding Empathy: End-of-life assistance provider Empathy recently raised a $30m Series A round ($43m total funding) within six months of exiting stealth mode. The company’s platform combines technology and human support to provide a “digital companion” to bereaved families, helping them through end-of-life tasks such as arranging a funeral and canceling accounts. Empathy aims to use technology to empower families handling all the responsibilities and emotions that come with loss.
  • Platform Sprawl: A new hospital survey from Amwell and HIMSS Analytics found that most clinicians are using at least three platforms for virtual care, and that 20% of academic medical centers are using eight or more digital care platforms for telehealth. This “platform sprawl” is creating a disjointed user experience, causing 25% of clinicians to report that their current workflows are not integrated with their organizations’ existing systems. This issue is not lost on health system leaders, with 77% saying that it is important to move to a single integrated virtual care platform.
  • Walmart’s Epic Partnership: Walmart announced a partnership with Epic to integrate its EHR system across all in-person and virtual health services. Epic’s EHR system will be deployed in four Walmart Health centers in Florida early next year before expanding throughout the business. This is the latest in a series of moves to advance Walmart’s healthcare strategy, which have included a deal with value-based primary care startup Oak Street Health to open clinics at Walmart supercenters, as well as the acquisition of specialty telehealth provider MeMD.
  • The Value of an Extra Year: A recent paper published in Nature investigated the monetary implications of curbing aging, finding that the average American would pay $242k for one extra year of good health. Researchers calculated that an intervention that slows biological aging (lowering both mortality and frailty) while increasing life expectancy by one year would create approximately $38t in value (more than 3% of US GDP). The calculations focus on quantity of life as well as quality of life, underscoring the need to shift attention from the pursuit of a longer lifespan (just time) to healthspan (years spent in good health). 
  • Virtual First Care Toolkit: The IMPACT virtual first care (V1C) initiative co-hosted by the Digital Medicine Society and American Telemedicine Association recently launched a Payer-V1C Contracting Toolkit that provides a guide for contracting with V1C solutions. According to IMPACT, existing payer processes have not been keeping pace with V1C innovations, and new solutions do not fit into traditional contracting structures. The Toolkit aims to close this gap in order to expand V1C adoption beyond direct-to-patient models.
  • Telehealth Satisfaction Declines: A new JD Power 2021 US Telehealth Satisfaction Study of 4.7k consumers found that telehealth usage climbed from 9% in 2020 to 26% in July 2021, although overall satisfaction ratings fell 8.5% as a result. Respondents reported telehealth complaints related to limited services (24%), confusing technology (15%), and lack of information about care providers (15%). Many providers began offering telehealth during the pandemic without proper success guidelines, and JD Power recommends focusing on convenience, speed, and safety to drive patient satisfaction.
  • Alphabet Tag Team: Verily’s chronic condition management division Onduo is partnering with Fitbit to provide wearables to users in an effort to promote whole person health and wellness. Both companies are Alphabet-owned subsidiaries, highlighting the benefits achieved by the organization’s scale. Offering Fitbits alongside Onduo’s multi-condition platform (diabetes, hypertension, mental health) gives members a more comprehensive view of how factors like sleep and stress fit together, helping participants better manage their health and build effective routines.
  • Private Coverage Declines: The latest US Census data shows that private health coverage declined 0.8% to 71.8% for adults ages 19 to 64 between early 2019 to early 2021, reflecting lower coverage rates following the beginning of the pandemic. Although employment-based coverage saw a 0.6% drop to 61.6%, this decline was offset by a 0.6% increase in public coverage through programs such as Medicaid. This exchange saw the percentage of working age adults without health coverage remain stable at ~12.5% during the time period.

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-- The Digital Health Wire team