Wire #61

  • Image Viewing and Behavior Change: A new PLOS Medicine study review suggests that showing patients their medical images can drive health and wellness behavior changes. The analysis (n = 21 studies, 9,248 patients) found image-based feedback motivated patients to stop smoking (risk ratio: 1.11), adopt healthier diets (standardized mean difference / SDM: 0.30), and increase physical activity (SDM: 0.11). These outcomes directly resulted in health improvements (e.g. reduced blood pressure, smaller waist circumference), highlighting the importance of feedback in promoting behavior change.
  • CancerIQ Series B: Cancer screening startup CancerIQ recently raised a $14M Series B round (total funding $20M) that it will use to grow its precision health platform that embeds patient information into the EMR (e.g. family history, genetics, behavior) to help providers understand patients’ unique cancer risk profiles and connect them with preventive services. The funding comes one month after the President’s Cancer Moonshot called for “immediate action” to close gaps in screening, and CancerIQ plans to hire 50 new team members to heed the call.
  • LBP Treatment: A hybrid approach to physiotherapy using a smartphone app is similarly effective at treating lower back pain as face-to-face physiotherapy, according to a recent JMIR study. Participants in the stratified blended physiotherapy group (104/208) not only had just as much improved physical functioning as the face-to-face-only group, but also saw improvements in fear-avoidance beliefs and patients’ self-reported adherence to prescribed home exercises.
  • MSFT + Nuance: Microsoft officially completed its $16B acquisition of Nuance, reiterating its strategy to combine Microsoft’s cloud capabilities and global scale with Nuance’s conversational AI and ambient intelligence tech. The announcement once again positioned Nuance at the center of Microsoft’s healthcare ambitions, suggesting that the healthcare push from the combined companies will center around improving the ways that people interact with technology to achieve better outcomes.
  • COVID Brain Changes: Although not a typical digital health study, a UK-based research team revealed that COVID can lead to substantial changes in brain tissues, which could be relevant to companies working on solutions for COVID patients. The researchers examined brain MRIs from 785 individuals who were scanned before and after COVID’s peak (aged 51–81), including 401 people who contracted COVID between their two scans. The COVID group’s MRIs showed longitudinal reductions in gray matter in the orbitofrontal cortex and parahippocampal gyrus, tissue damage in regions associated with the primary olfactory cortex, and reductions in brain size.
  • vitaCare Acquisition: GoodRx acquired pharmacy platform vitaCare Prescription Services from TherapeuticsMD in a $150M transaction expected to close in mid-2022. vitaCare helps patients navigate key barriers for brand medications by assisting them with understanding coverage and facilitating communications between providers and payors, services that will support GoodRx’s mission of helping patients access needed medications as efficiently and transparently as possible.
  • Apple Watches and AFib: A recent JAMA study suggests that the Apple Watch’s passive atrial fibrillation detection feature could only play a limited role in stroke prevention. The study looked at 1,802 Cedars-Sinai Medical Center patients who linked their Apple Watches to the EHR, finding that only 0.25% would be candidates for new anticoagulation based on AFib identified by their watch. After looking at the EHR alone, researchers found that only 36% of the patients would have had anticoagulation recommended even after an AFib diagnosis, suggesting that wearable AFib detection programs would benefit from only targeting patients prequalified for the intended treatment.
  • MDisrupt Funding: MDisrupt raised $6M in seed funding to help pivot its business model and transform into a “digital health intelligence company.” Since 2019, MDisrupt has helped launch 55 digital health companies by connecting them to health industry experts, but it is now looking to develop its platform that enables startups to rapidly generate the real-world performance data needed to successfully commercialize and scale their products.
  • Asynchronous Care: A randomized trial of 188 smokers found that sending participants electronic smoking cessation surveys resulted in more quit attempts. According to results published in JAMA Network Open, those who received a smoking cessation survey in addition to patient portal messaging initiated more quit attempts (9.5%) than those who received portal messaging without the survey (4.3%), while also achieving high engagement scores with patients in difficult-to-reach rural areas.
  • December’s Telehealth Increase: FAIR Health’s Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker shows that telehealth use increased 11% in December, making up 4.9% of all medical claims (vs. 4.4% in November). Since 2020, telehealth use has ebbed and flowed depending on the severity of the pandemic, and this data underlines the impact of the omicron variant. Mental health conditions continue to account for over half of all telehealth diagnoses, but COVID-19 diagnoses saw the largest increase after tripling in December (from 1.4% to 4.8%).

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-- The Digital Health Wire team