Wire #55

  • VillageMD Acquires Healthy Interactions: Value-based care provider VillageMD announced plans to acquire Healthy Interactions as it looks to add services such as in-person group sessions and a digital engagement platform for patients managing chronic conditions. The news comes within months of Walgreens increasing its majority stake in VillageMD to 63% through a $5.2B investment that will now see Healthy Interaction’s programs delivered through all co-located Village Medical at Walgreens locations by the end of the year.
  • Telehealth Use Down, But Still Up: A recent Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of data from 41M outpatient visits between March 2019 and August 2021 found that telehealth use has declined from 13% to 8% of all visits since the first 6 months of the pandemic, but remains well-elevated above its 1% pre-pandemic average. The authors stated that it isn’t clear if and where telehealth will continue to be useful in the future, but judging from the number of giant funding rounds we’re covering on a weekly basis it seems like investors don’t think this genie is going back in the bottle.
  • Sweating the Small Stuff: A smartwatch developed at UCLA is able to accurately measure the stress hormone cortisol from the wearer’s sweat, which opens the door to identifying conditions such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder with a wrist-worn device. Cortisol is well-suited for measurement through wearables because its concentration levels in sweat are “similar to its circulating levels,” and a smartwatch that can detect it could have major health benefits for patients if manufacturers can successfully commercialize the product.
  • Timely Care: Telemedicine could increase timely access to primary care according to a new study published in Telemedicine and e-Health. The average number of days between scheduling and appointment for 2.2M primary care visits at an Oakland, CA Kaiser Permanente location was 1.8 for telephone visits, 2.3 for video visits, and 3.5 for in-person visits. The study indicates that audio-only calls offer the quickest route to a primary care visit, or at least that was the case between 2016 and 2018 when the patients in the data set received care.
  • Ro Funding: Direct-to-consumer virtual care company Ro raised $150M in fresh capital from its existing investors, bringing its total funding to an even $1B. Since its last funding round in March 2021, Ro has quickly expanded beyond its roots in male health by launching Ro Mind (digital mental health clinic) and fertility care, services that it is now adding to thanks to the help from its new funding and the debut of Ro Derm (virtual skincare clinic).
  • Longer PTSD Treatments: A new review of 70 studies from the RAND Corporation found that longer PTSD treatment is highly correlated to a beneficial response for veterans, increasing the likelihood that patients experience remission. The evidence suggests that certain patient characteristics such as depression and service-connected disability are associated with worse retention, but the authors are optimistic that identifying such patients at admission and focusing on efforts to retain them will lead to better outcomes.
  • AndHealth Raises $57M: Help could be on the way for migraine-sufferers after AndHealth announced the completion of its $57M funding round, which will be used to launch its Virtual Center of Excellence for the reversal of migraines. AndHealth’s digital therapeutic will provide “root cause medical care” for migraines, a condition that is difficult to treat but is often comorbid, sharing root causes with other chronic conditions including diabetes that often prove to be more addressable.
  • Worsening Cancer Outcomes: The American Association for Cancer Research estimates that 10M cancer screenings were missed during the first year of the pandemic, and their latest report confirmed worsening outcomes. There was an 11% increase in metastatic or inoperable cancer diagnoses between March and December 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. Delays in cancer screening appear to have led to even more late-stage cancer diagnoses than initially predicted, a situation that the AACR urges be carefully monitored as the pandemic draws on.
  • Koneska Series C: Koneksa raised a $45M Series C round (total funding now $65M) to accelerate the expansion of its digital biomarker platform designed to collect patient data remotely and analyze it in real time. The platform uses data from wearables such as vital signs, gait, and sleep to help with clinical trials, delivering nearly instantaneous insights that could help bring therapies to patients faster.
  • Data Accuracy Concerns: Health systems are concerned about patient data inaccuracies that have been negatively impacting care, according to a Sage Growth Partners and Verato survey of 100 health execs. Only 14% of respondents were satisfied with the level of accuracy that could be achieved with patient identity data, while 72% were worried that inaccurate patient data is negatively impacting their bottom line. According to Verato, integrating data from across siloed sources (EHRs, finance systems, workflow software) is the key to enabling greater data accuracy and reducing duplicate records.

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-- The Digital Health Wire team