Wire #56

Geographic Racial Disparity: The rise in telemedicine appointments during the pandemic appears to have eliminated a historical racial health gap in primary care follow-ups for a Philadelphia health system, according to new research from UPenn. Between January and June 2020, post-discharge primary care visit attendance jumped from 52% to 70% among Black patients, compared to a dip from 68% to 67% for white patients, which the authors attribute to telehealth’s ability to address racial disparities in geographic access. This chart summarizes the findings nicely.

FDA Commissioner Califf: The Senate recently confirmed Robert Califf as the next FDA commissioner with a 50-46 vote, the narrowest margin of victory in the agency’s 115 year history. The appointment marks Califf’s second time helming the FDA after a previous tenure under the Obama administration and will have him overseeing the regulation of medical devices, real-world data for clinical trials, and artificial intelligence guidelines.

Telehealth Positivity: Patient attitudes about telehealth care quality jumped 15% over the past year, according to a Doximity survey of 2k US adults. The share of patients who felt that virtual care provides equivalent or superior care compared with in-person visits rose from 40% in 2020 to 55% in 2021, including an increase from 53% to 63% for patients with chronic conditions. The report also found that patients increasingly prefer to communicate with providers in the same way that they communicate with friends and family: 79% would prefer a text letting them know that a doctor is ready to see them instead of waiting in a virtual waiting room.

Equip Funding: Virtual care provider Equip recently raised a $58M Series B round (total funding now $75M) to scale its family-based eating disorder treatments geared toward adolescents. Equip’s care model recognizes eating disorders as brain disorders that require comprehensive support to fully heal, a system that’s seen 71% of patients report a reduction in symptoms after eight weeks of treatment. The investment round included a contribution from Katie Couric, who joined the company as an advisor to help shift the cultural narrative surrounding body image and eating disorders.

SMS Preferences: A new Intrado Healthcare survey of members of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives found that 77% of respondents are investing in patient portals, while only 50% plan to invest in text message systems despite SMS being patients’ preferred communication method. The report stated that an over-reliance on standalone patient portals for engagement is “hindering healthcare efforts to connect with patients,” and that SMS systems could lead to higher engagement and better care plan adherence.

Tennis App: As more telehealth solutions continue to pour into the market, specialized solutions are turning into the go-to way to stand out from competition for savvy entrepreneurs, including tennis champion Rafael Nadal. The 21-time Grand Slam title winner recently unveiled his upcoming app Forma, which claims to be “the world’s first holistic, digital injury prevention program, uniting medicine and performance coaching.” Forma launches early 2023 and has a content library of exercises for physical and mental health, tips for nutrition, and injury-specific programs that support a player on their treatment journey.

Remote Stroke Care: A new study of 50 stroke patients from Columbia University examined the effectiveness of a Telehealth After Stroke Care (TASC) strategy that equipped patients with connected tablets and blood pressure monitors to remotely measure blood pressure. Compared to a treatment-as-usual group with telehealth follow-ups but no connected devices, 91% of the TASC group completed all follow-ups (vs. 75% of TAU) and 76% had blood pressure under control (vs. 25% of TAU). The findings suggest that connected devices lead to significantly better blood pressure control, an especially important metric for stroke patients given that hypertension is the most important modifiable risk factor for recurrent strokes.

Medical Emoji: Healthcare app developer PerfectServe recently analyzed 16k clinician messages from its communication platform to investigate whether it could identify evidence of burnout in emoji use, but instead found that emoji use was overwhelmingly used to convey positive emotions. Among the most commonly used emoji were the thumbs up, smiling face, and smiling face with tears of joy, although one less-than-positive emoji also made it into the top 10: the person face-palming.

Insulin App Clearance: The FDA cleared the first smartphone app for insulin delivery by authorizing Tandem Diabetes Care’s t:connect app to control dosages for the t:slim X2 insulin pump. Until now, insulin delivery had to be handled through the pump itself, but the new clearance gives t:slim X2 users what seems like a significantly more discrete and convenient way to interact with their pump, and it wouldn’t be surprising if other diabetes companies begin to pursue a similar solution.

AI Scheduling: Recent research from the Ochsner Health system in New Orleans found that AI-enabled scheduling can boost engagement while reducing burnout, at least among anesthesiologists. Six months after the Oschsner anesthesiology department replaced its Excel-based scheduling routine with PerfectServe’s Provider Scheduling powered by Lightning Bolt, the average engagement scores of 60 anesthesiologists increased from 3.3 to 4.2 out of 5, while the new schedules took 14 hours to generate (vs 60 hours previously) and provided a wide range of viable options for the staff to choose from.

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-- The Digital Health Wire team