Wire #48

  • Telemedicine Follow-Ups: A new study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that Black patients discharged from the University of Pennsylvania Health System saw primary care follow-up completion rates rise from 52% to 70% between January and June 2020 as telehealth adoption climbed. By contrast, white patients’ completion rates remained stable at ~68%, suggesting that telemedicine might be able to address racial health disparities by improving access to care.
  • Wheel Series C: White labeled virtual care platform Wheel closed a $150M Series C round (total funding now $216M) to help more companies introduce virtual care patients without having to build a solution from the ground up. Wheel’s platform and nationwide clinician network allows companies to establish a virtual care service under their own brand, bypassing the “15 months and $15M” that it can take to create a similar service from scratch.
  • Quest Acquires Pack Health: Quest Diagnostics announced the acquisition of patient-engagement company Pack Health to strengthen its ability to support health plans transitioning to value-based care. Pack Health tracks medication adherence, diet/exercise, and other lifestyle factors to improve chronic condition management, services that will help Quest connect diagnostic insights to actions that generate greater value.
  • Health Tech Optimism: A survey of over 9k frontline workers published by Microsoft found that 50% of those in non-management positions do not feel valued as employees, but that 63% are excited about job opportunities that new technology is bringing to healthcare. The findings speak to the heightened levels of burnout faced across the industry, but highlights how new tools related to tasks such as team scheduling and appointment management provide hope for addressing the issue.
  • Big Health Funding: Digital therapeutics company Big Health raised $75M in Series C funding to expedite the launch of six new digital therapeutics by 2024. The upcoming solutions will add to Big Health’s current CBT app portfolio that includes Daylight (anxiety) and Sleepio (insomnia), which are now accessible to all Scottish citizens after Scotland became the first country in the world to make digital therapeutics for anxiety and insomnia available nationally last October.
  • Digital MSK Study: A BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders study investigated the feasibility of a remote digital care program (DCP) for 342 participants with acute musculoskeletal pain. The DCP consisted of 8 to 12 weeks of therapist-guided exercise supported by SWORD Health motion tracking devices, with participants reporting a 64% pain reduction on average (3 points lower than in-person care), as well as improvements in secondary outcomes such as a 63% reduction in surgery intent and 40% less fear-avoidance beliefs.
  • Blue Shield + Ginger: Blue Shield of California recently expanded its Wellvolution benefits program to include text-based behavioral health coaching and teletherapy provided by Ginger, the on-demand mental healthcare arm of Headspace Health. Ginger’s platform is now available to over 26,000 Wellvolution members, building off an earlier Blue Shield partnership that gave members access to Headspace’s meditation app and highlighting the synergies enabled by the Headspace / Ginger merger.
  • Virtual Care Reduces ER Visits: New research from Cigna found that patients who saw virtual providers had 19% fewer visits to the ER, and that virtual visits reduced duplication of care by up to 16%. The study adds to a quickly growing body of research with similar results, and comes at a time when eliminating these types of inefficiencies is crucial for health systems strained by the pandemic.
  • AI3C: A pretty impressive list of US healthcare and life science organizations announced the formation of Artificial Intelligence Industry Innovation Coalition (AI3C), created with the goal of transforming healthcare through responsible AI adoption. The AI3C and its members (including: Microsoft, Cleveland Clinic, Duke Health, Intermountain, Novant, Brookings Institution, and more) will develop tools and programs to drive AI development and adoption.
  • Telerobotic Ultrasound Clinics: A University of Saskatchewan team demonstrated how telerobotic ultrasound might improve access to care in remote regions. The team created telerobotic ultrasound clinics in three indigenous communities using commercially-available technology, and performed 87 exams that were remotely-controlled by sonographers and read by remote radiologists. The radiologists rated 72% of the exams as sufficient for diagnosis, while 95% of the patients were willing to receive future telerobotic ultrasound exams (mainly due to reduced travel).
  • IBM Offloads Watson Health: Private equity firm Francisco Partners is acquiring most of IBM’s Watson Health division in a transaction rumored to be worth around $1B, creating a new standalone healthcare entity and giving both companies (IBM and the former Watson Health) a much-needed fresh start. IBM now has another $1B that it can use towards its prioritized hybrid cloud and AI platform strategy, and the new Watson Health company can return to growth mode after several years of declining corporate support.

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-- The Digital Health Wire team