Wire #28

  • CMS Extends Telehealth Coverage: According to the CMS’ recently published final rule for 2022, the agency is extending Medicare coverage of telehealth for behavioral health visits, removing geographic restrictions around virtual appointments for mental health diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment. Medicare would also cover audio-only visits for services such as therapy and substance use treatment, a large victory for the organizations that advocated for expanding coverage of remote healthcare at a time when patients need it most.
  • DTx SPAC: Better Therapeutics recently went public on the Nasdaq (ticker symbol BTTX) after raising approximately $110m through its merger with a SPAC, which it will use to fund the development of CBT-based digital therapeutics for cardiometabolic conditions. The company is creating therapies to address the patient behaviors that cause diseases such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension, with its lead diabetes therapeutic currently entering clinical trials ahead of a projected 2023 launch.
  • Wearables to Detect Depression: A JMIR mHealth and uHealth study had 267 participants wear Fitbits for two weeks before taking a survey to examine the predictive ability of wearables data in detecting risk of depression, finding that depressive symptoms were associated with greater variation of nighttime heart rate and lower regularity of weekday circadian rhythms. The model achieved an accuracy of 80% in detecting a high risk of depression, suggesting that wearables could be used for unobtrusive and scalable behavioral health screening.
  • Upcoding Mothers: KHN recently published a story that humanized the impact of upcoding, which features a $2,755 charge for level 5 ED services (the highest tier) for an expectant mother that entered the hospital through the ED doors because it was the only open entrance. Although she received no ED services outside of using the entrance, she eventually caved to the hospital’s request, which is about as far away from value-based care as you can get.
  • Alzheimer’s Detection: Winterlight Labs published a study investigating whether a digital speech assessment test could detect early signs of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), finding that patients with no previous MCI symptoms had better performance than those with symptoms on tasks for language coherence and syntactic complexity, as well as slower decline in scores at a 6-month follow-up. The results suggest that speech assessments have potential to detect MCI and monitor progression over time.
  • Northwell and Aegis AI: Northwell Health and startup studio Aegis Ventures announced a joint venture that will launch and scale AI-driven companies to address quality and equity problems in healthcare. Aegis plans to invest over $100m through the partnership, using its medical technology and business resources to create a company creation platform that leverages data from Northwell’s diverse patient population to drive innovation.
  • Regional Behavioral Health Demand: The latest research from Trilliant Health forecasts inpatient behavioral health demand to increase nationally at an average annual growth rate of 0.7% through 2029, with regional demand in the Southwest more than 3x higher than the Midwest. Trilliant CRO Dr. Sanjula Jain writes that understanding regional differences in behavioral health demand will help “match” supply over the next decade, given that patient volumes are expected to outpace provider bandwidth even with the growth of virtual care solutions.
  • Blue Shield + Headspace: Blue Shield of California is introducing behavioral health support to its lifestyle medicine Wellvolution program by adding access to Headspace, which offers hundreds of exercises to improve overall wellbeing. Headspace’s guided meditations have been found to reduce stress and anxiety for users, while having the advantage of being scalable solutions in a time when demand for mental healthcare is rising quickly.
  • Vitable Health Funding: Primary care provider Vitable Health recently raised $7.2m ($8.8m total funding) to assist with launching mental health services and hire new physicians as it expands its presence in the Northeast. Vitable specifically caters to hourly employees lacking access to preventative care, with a monthly $50 per employee structure that includes primary, chronic, and sexual health services through either in-person or virtual visits.
  • A Case for Online Scheduling: A study out of Denmark found that the majority of cancer patients and their relatives (n = 555 & 115) want to use online scheduling systems to book their outpatient CT imaging exams (54% & 65%), while fewer were interested in reserving specific radiographers (37% & 56%). This is far from the first study supporting online scheduling, a patient-friendly option that’s already widely adopted in many regions, but not in Danish oncology pathways.

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-- The Digital Health Wire team