Wire #85

  • Homeward + Rite Aid: Rural health startup Homeward is partnering with Rite Aid to connect underserved seniors to wellness visits and screenings, marking Homeward’s first strategic partnership since launching in March. Starting this summer, Rite Aid pharmacists will be able to direct Medicare-eligible patients to Homeward’s clinical services, and the startup’s mobile clinics will also be at select Rite Aid locations in rural Michigan to allow senior patients to pick up a prescription and meet with a provider in a single visit.
  • VR for Chronic Pain: A JMIR study found that VR therapeutics could improve chronic lower-back pain up to six months after treatment. After 188 participants underwent eight weeks of AppliedVR’s EaseVRx immersive pain relief program incorporating CBT practices in a virtual environment, they reported 31% lower average pain levels at a six month followup. This was significantly better than the 16% average pain reduction from a 2D Sham VR program, which had some pretty entertaining diagrams illustrating its “nonimmersive 2D visual content.”
  • Akili Roblox Partnership: In other digital therapeutics news, Akili Interactive is entering a first-of-its-kind partnership with Roblox to connect patients’ medical treatments to the popular children’s game. Akili’s FDA-approved EndeavorRX video game treatment for children with ADHD will now unlock exclusive Roblox badges and customization options for reaching certain milestones, with Akili hoping to destigmatize seeking care while giving its young patients new ways to showcase their progress.
  • FDA Can’t Regulate AI: A new opinion piece in PLOS Digital Health makes the case that AI’s pace of innovation is simply too quick for the FDA to regulate alone, and that a “distributed approach” is needed for proper regulation. The Harvard researchers argue that health systems should self regulate by developing standards and training protocols that ensure AI tools are safe at the local level, while the FDA should only step in to regulate AI designed to be applied at national scale or with a high potential to negatively impact patient health.
  • Innovaccer Health Cloud: St. Peter’s Health is moving to the Innovaccer Health Cloud’s Data Activation Platform to unify the data from its multiple EHRs into a singular record capable of supporting new workflows and optimizing patient engagement. We’ve covered the disconnect between healthcare’s high aspirations for digital transformation and its lack of data readiness before, and the Innovaccer partnership suggests that St. Peter’s got the memo that siloed EHR data is a weak foundation for sustained innovation over the long haul.
  • Telehealth in the ED: Although telehealth is frequently associated with primary care or specialist visits, the AMA is predicting that its use will only continue to grow in the emergency setting. This blog post outlines three areas where telehealth is poised for growth, including triage (paramedics communicating with the ED on their way to the hospital), direct unscheduled care (transfer stabilization treatment advice), and virtual observation (post-ED follow-up visits).
  • ChristianaCare Welcomes Moxi: Healthcare robots are having a busy week, with Delaware-based ChristianaCare announcing the rollout of five ‘Moxi’ robo-nurses less than a few days after New York gave companion robots to 800 of its isolated seniors. ChristianaCare landed its five heart-eyed “new hires” thanks to a landmark $1.5M grant from the American Nurses Foundation, and the EHR-integrated robots will help off-load simple tasks such as fetching equipment or medicine, which the health system reports can take up to 33% of a nurse’s shift.
  • Depression Disparities: A Blue Cross Blue Shield report found that untreated depression disproportionately impacts Black and Hispanic communities, and that access to care is the primary driver behind the disparity. Based on data from 3.1M BCBS members, Black communities have a 31% lower prevalence of major depression than white communities, while Hispanic communities see a 39% lower prevalence. The report concludes with a call to arms to improve mental healthcare access given that the true rates of depression are likely the same if not greater in these communities.
  • Telehealth ‘Bill of Rights’: Four US Senators released a discussion draft of new telehealth policies designed to address mental healthcare shortfalls after the end of the pandemic. The policies include removing requirements for an initial in-person visit in order to qualify for telehealth reimbursement from Medicare, as well as formally codifying the current policy of reimbursing audio-only mental health services as long as additional safeguards are added to protect care quality.
  • NSA’s Big Impact: The No Surprises Act prevented over 2M surprise medical bills during its first two months and is on track to prevent more than 12M surprise claims in 2022. That’s from an AHIP and Blue Cross Blue Shield survey of 31 private payors (who cover 54% of commercial enrollees), revealing that 0.23% of their claims in January and February were NSA-eligible. Even if the surprise billing fight remains unfinished, this study suggests that the law is already having a major impact.

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-- The Digital Health Wire team