Wire #67

  • Brightside Series B: Not to be confused with the Brightline feature story, another digital mental health startup with a bright future, Brightside Health, raised a $50M Series B round to help provide timely virtual appointments for those battling depression and anxiety. After users fill out Brightside Health’s intake assessment, the company leverages a proprietary machine learning algorithm to assist its network of providers with tailoring treatments to individual patients.
  • Poor Diversity Harms Outcomes: Nearly 75% of White patients have access to a doctor of the same race, but only 22% of Black patients can say the same, a trend that the authors of a new study from the Urban Institute said could be harming health equality. The research indicates that perceptions of a shared identity could be one way to improve patient-provider relationships due to improved trust and communication, but significant efforts towards improving medical workforce diversity will be needed to make that a reality for all patients.
  • Guilty Verdict: A jury convicted former Vanderbilt nurse RaDonda Vaught of criminally negligent homicide for a medical error made in December 2017, when she inadvertently injected a patient with a paralyzer instead of a needed sedative. Prosecutors alleged that Vaught consciously ignored warnings when obtaining the wrong medication from an electronic dispensing cabinet, while the defense argued that the error did not warrant criminal charges for a deliberate act of homicide. Either way, the American Nurses Association said the trial could have a “chilling effect” on patient safety reporting and make it more difficult for already understaffed hospitals to recruit nurses.
  • Opioid Recovery: A survey from virtual recovery provider Bicycle Health found that the biggest barriers to joining an opioid recovery program are cost, access, and stigma. Of the 1k respondents with opioid use disorder, close to 40% cited affordability as their primary reason for not joining a recovery program, while 29% said that not finding a nearby program that they trust was standing in their way. Given that telehealth is uniquely positioned to address these issues, and physical examinations are rarely an ongoing component of recovery, it definitely seems like we’ll continue to see more specialized virtual care platforms target this area.
  • Telehealth as a Luxury Good: A recent FastCompany article penned by Trilliant Health CRO Sanjula Jain makes the case that the total addressable market for telehealth could be as low as 10M people out of the nation’s population of 330M, mirroring the reach of luxury goods such as sports cars that only cater to specific consumer segments. Telehealth’s largest user base is reported as women aged 21-40 who live in affluent areas, and to expand into other demographics, solution designers may have to take a page out of Porsche’s playbook by competing through specialized performance and branding.
  • US Health Spending Flattens: Despite increased patient care demand, CMS’ 2021-2030 National Health Expenditure report revealed that national health spending growth slowed to 4.2% in 2021 (vs. 9.7% in 2020) due in part to a drop in COVID-related federal aid. CMS forecasts national health spending to increase by 5.1% annually through 2030 when it will reach nearly $6.8 trillion. Given expected US GDP growth, healthcare’s share of GDP should remain relatively steady (19.7% in 2020 vs. 19.6% in 2030).
  • VivoSense Funding: As biometric data captured from wearables continues to play an increasingly important role in patient studies and regulatory approvals, VivoSense raised $25M in Series A funding to expand its informatics platform that helps clinicians make sense of the data. The VivoSense platform leverages customized wearables to recognize subtle shifts in biological signals such as respiration and cardiac function to enhance precision medicine for patients with cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other rare diseases.
  • Pandemic Stress: Females and millennials were the most likely to have their mental and physical health negatively impacted by the pandemic, according to a recent athenahealth survey of 1k US adults. The research found that 64% of female respondents reported higher stress levels during the pandemic (vs. 69% of millennials), leading to worse diets, less exercise, and skipped medical appointments. As a result, athenahealth suggests targeting these heavily impacted populations with interventions to avoid a wave of costly healthcare outcomes in the future.
  • AmplifyMD Specialty Care: Telehealth startup AmplifyMD recently closed $23M in Series A funding to help its network of specialists connect with more health system partners beyond the small community hospitals it currently serves. AmplifyMD forgos the D2C model of larger competitors to work directly with hospitals in need of additional specialists through inpatient telehealth, which helps reduce combined losses of “$17 billion in revenue each year due to preventable patient transfers.”
  • Addressing Societal Bias: A recent new report from the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) proposed expanding our list of AI bias sources to include broader societal factors that influence how AI tools are developed and used. The NIST encouraged a “socio-technical” approach to combating AI bias that would expand AI stakeholders well beyond the current technology and data-focused groups. The new NIST guidance is intended to address all kinds of AI use cases (e.g. hiring, education, criminal justice), but their recommendation certainly applies to healthcare.

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-- The Digital Health Wire team