Wire #7

  • Rural Disparities: A recent survey of 253 rural Virginia residents found that 78% of telehealth users were comfortable using technology to communicate with clinicians, although telehealth utilization was nearly 3x higher among respondents with a high health literacy. The findings indicate that improving health literacy supersedes commonly cited telehealth barriers such as limited broadband access when attempting to eliminate disparities for rural populations.
  • HHS Funding: Rural telehealth disparities are not going unnoticed by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which recently allotted over $19m to provide improved telehealth services to frontier and underserved communities. The funds will be distributed among 36 awardees, with approximately $4.3m earmarked for Telehealth Technology-Enabled Learning Programs that directly address the need for better health literacy among patients in these communities.
  • A Waiting Room Education: Playing informative videos in radiology waiting rooms helps patients understand imaging team roles and improves their experiences. Surveys of 278 Belgian patients (107 who watched the video) found that the video corrected misconceptions that radiologists perform scans (19% w/ video vs. 50% w/o video) and primary care physicians interpret exams (10% w/ video vs. 36% w/o video). The videos also increased patients’ respect for radiologists’ work (67%), reduced their anxiety (52%), and added value to their visit (65%).
  • Babyscripts + Privia: Obstetrics virtual care company Babyscripts recently partnered with Privia Health to bring more physicians to its platform through Privia’s provider network. Privia is casting a vote of confidence in remote maternity care by expanding the use of Babyscripts’ risk-specific virtual treatments to new markets, addressing the 65% of maternal deaths that the CDC states are preventable.
  • Improving Memory: New research from Florida A&M and the Shanghai Mental Health Center found that mHealth technology can improve cognitive function of those at high risk for psychosis. 80 subjects were randomized into intervention and control groups, with the intervention group training 10 min/day via a Specific Memory Attention Resource and Training (SMART) app. This group showed significantly better “attention/vigilance” scores than the control group at a 3-month follow-up, with the improvement highly correlated to SMART training time.
  • Future of Voice: During a HIMSS21 Voice Technology and Healthcare keynote, UCF Institute’s David Metcalf and University of Columbia professor Teri Fisher discussed voice technology’s ability to improve existing modalities such as chatbots and symptom trackers while laying the foundation for future advances (voice-based diagnoses and treatment). Not only can voice-enabled devices be used as a source of information (asking for first aid advice), but they can also be used to inspire healthy habits with proactive prompts.
  • Carrot Capital: Carrot Fertility recently raised $75m in Series C funding ($114m total funding) to help extend its fertility benefits program to more employers and health plans. During the pandemic, the company launched its Carrot at Home remote care program, which the new funding will help expand into new languages and international markets. Carrot at Home connects members with a network of over 2,000 reproductive endocrinologists and OB-GYNs, as well as mental health clinicians and midwives.
  • Bad Experiences: A recent Accenture Health and Life Sciences Experience Survey of 1,800 US residents found that 67% of patients have had a bad patient experience with a healthcare provider. When asked which factors were most important in creating a positive experience, the most popular responses included a clear explanation of the condition and treatment (55%) and a provider who listens and provides emotional support (52%). The findings indicate the need for a patient-centered approach to digital health technologies, with simple and empathetic user experiences.
  • Virtual Care Certificate: The American Board of Telehealth announced that it is now offering a Teleprimary Care Certificate that covers topics such as workflow management, regulatory considerations, and health equity. The certificate is designed to help PCPs develop future virtual health strategies while standardizing education for physicians who were pressured to start providing telehealth services during the pandemic without appropriate training.
  • COVID Delays Continue: A new Urban Institute study revealed that COVID concerns caused over 10% of US patients to delay or forgo healthcare visits in Spring 2021, continuing a trend that’s often talked about in the past tense (and that was pre-Delta). The study found the highest delay/cancellation rates among Hispanic, Black, and low-income patients, as well as patients with multiple chronic health conditions (16.2%, 13.3%, 14.9%, 16.7%).
  • Google’s Healthcare Disruption: Google is reportedly shutting down Google Health and moving its various healthcare projects into other company divisions, following a series of challenges (unclear strategy, slow progress, privacy pushback, healthcare is complex). Google clarified that this move makes healthcare a “company-wide effort,” which is pretty logical from a tech perspective (e.g. Health-AI moves within AI group), even if that’s not how other conglomerates have typically found healthcare success.
  • Lucid Lane: Digital substance dependency solution provider Lucid Lane recently raised a $16m Series A ($20m total funding), which the company will use to expand its platform to deliver personalized and context-sensitive treatment in real time. Lucid Lane provides patients with medication dependence or substance-use disorder personalized health planning, daily virtual coaching, and on-going access to therapist support.

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-- The Digital Health Wire team