Insights+: Key Deals of JP Morgan Healthcare Conference 2021

  • This year J.P. Morgan 39th Annual Healthcare Conference was conducted virtually and we witnessed multiple announcements from numerous Biopharma companies
  • An analysis of events and catalysts that were announced at the conference during these days are included in the report. Most of the deals occurred in the first two days of the conference
  • Our PharmaShots team summarized the key deals which took place during the conference from Jan 11 to Jan 14, 2020

Day 1

Bluebird bio to Spin-Off its Oncology Business into Independent Company

  • Bluebird bio spun off its genetic disease and oncology business into a new company
  • The company will retain focus on SGD and will launch its oncology business (“Oncology Newco”) as a new entity
  • Current CEO, Nick Leschly will assume as the CEO of the new company and the anticipated completion date is Q4’21

Sanofi to Acquire Kymab for ~$1.45B

  • Sanofi to acquire Kymab for $1.1B up front and ~$350M following the achievement of certain milestones. The transaction is expected to be completed in H1’21
  • The acquisition will add KY1005 to Sanofi’s pipeline and will expedite its presence in the field of immunology
  • Sanofi will receive the global rights of KY1005 which is a mAb targeting OX40-ligand, currently being evaluated in early P-I/II study as monothx. and in combination with an anti-PD-L1 for immune-mediated diseases and inflammatory disorders

BeiGene Signed a Development and Commercialization Agreement with Novartis

  • BeiGene will receive $650M up front and is eligible to receive up to $1.3B in development and regulatory milestones and up to $250M in sales milestones, plus royalties
  • BeiGene granted Novartis exclusive rights to develop and commercialize tislelizumab for the treatment of cancer in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the European Union, United Kingdom, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Russia, and Japan
  • BeiGene will be responsible for ongoing clinical study and Novartis will fund the new clinical studies. The partners will retain the right to commercialize its proprietary products in combination with tislelizumab
  • Tislelizumab is an anti-PD-1 monoclonal antibody specifically designed to minimize binding to FcγR on macrophages

Illumina Signed a Research Pact with Bristol Myers Squibb

  • Illumina signed a research partnership with Bristol Myers Squibb to develop a microsatellite instability CDx and liquid biopsy assay based on Illumina’s TruSight Oncology 500 ctDNA

Illumina Signed a Research Pact with Kura Oncology

  • Illumina signed a research partnership with Kura Oncology to develop CDx for HRAS mutations in Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinomas (HNSCC)

Myriad Genetics Signed a Development and Commercialization Agreement with Illumina

  • Myriad Genetics granted Illumina an exclusive right to develop and commercialize kits for the assessment of HRD by combining TruSight Oncology content and Myriad’s myChoice CDx test

Illumina Signed a Clinical Trial Agreement with Merck

  • Illumina collaborates with Merck to evaluate TruSight Oncology 500 for HRD offering

Boehringer Ingelheim Signed a Research Pact with Google

  • Boehringer Ingelheim signed a research partnership with Google to develop therapies by applying Boehringer’s expertise in computer-aided drug design and in-silico modeling with Google’s quantum computers and algorithms. T
  • The research was conducted in Boehringer’s newly established Quantum Lab and the terms of the research are for three years

Broad Institute of MIT, Harvard, and Verily Signed a Contract Service Deal with Microsoft

  • Broad Institute of MIT, Harvard, and Verily signed a contract service deal with Microsoft to accelerate innovations in biomedicine through the Terra platform

Apple Signed a Research Pact with Biogen

  • Apple signed a research partnership with Biogen to identify digital biomarkers that can serve as early indicators of cognitive illnesses like Alzheimer

Komodo Health to Acquire Mavens

  • The acquisition strengthens Komodo’s Healthcare Map and software suite with the integration of Mavens’ Cloud-based Platform with a Suite of Software

Day 2

Enara Bio Signed a Research Pact with Boehringer Ingelheim

  • Enara Bio collaborates with Boehringer Ingelheim to develop TCR-directed immunotherapies and therapeutic vaccines by combining Enara Bio’s dark antigen platform technology and expertise in cancer antigen identification and Boehringer’s immune-oncology platforms, including oncolytic viruses and cancer vaccines
  • Enara Bio will lead the discovery and validation of dark antigens. Boehringer Ingelheim will get an exclusive option to license 3 dark antigens for lung and gastrointestinal cancers and will be responsible for preclinical, clinical development, and commercialization
  • Enara Bio retain the rights to cell therapy-based products and will receive an up front and option fee and is eligible for research & preclinical milestones per target and up to $1.06B in clinical, regulatory, and sales milestones, plus royalties

Gilead Signed a Clinical Trial Agreement with Vir Biotechnology

  • The companies collaborated to evaluate Gilead’s TLR-8 agonist, selgantolimod in combination with Vir’s siRNA VIR-2218 for the treatment of chronic hepatitis B virus infection
  • The partners planned to conduct P-II multi-arm study
  • The participants in the study will also receive Gilead’s Vemlidy. The partners will own their proprietary drug

Biond Biologics Signed a Development and Commercialization Deal with Sanofi

  • Biond Biologics granted Sanofi exclusive, worldwide rights to develop and commercialize BND-22 for the treatment of solid tumors
  • Biond will lead the P-Ia development of BND-22 as monotherapy and in combination with other agents while Sanofi will be responsible for all further development and commercialization
  • Biond Biologics will receive $125M up front and is eligible to receive ‘more than’ $1B in milestone payments, plus royalties

Steris to Acquire Cantel for $4.6B

  • Cantel to receive $16.93 in cash and 0.33787 shares of Steris, valued at ~$84.66 with an enterprise value of $4.6B including $3.6B in equity and $1B in Cantel’s net debt and convertible notes
  • The acquisition strengthens Steris’ infectious disease business with the addition of endoscopy and dental solution

Related Post: Insights+: Key Deals Updates of JP Morgan Healthcare Conference 2020

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Nearly half of UK young people buy meds after consulting “Dr Google”

It’s evident that relying on Google for a health diagnosis isn’t a good idea, but it seems a majority of UK people still do – and even buy medicines based on what they find.

A new UK survey finds that overall 59% of 1,000 respondents Google their health symptom before consulting a doctor, with 16% reporting that as a consequence a condition has gone undiagnosed by a doctor for some time.

Meanwhile, almost half (45%) of the 16-24 age bracket have bought medicines after a diagnosis from “Dr Google”, along with around a third each of 25-34 and 35-44 year olds, according to the poll by vision care company Lenstore.

That’s quite a worrying finding, particularly in light of research published last year that found the accuracy of online symptom-checking websites and apps varied considerably, and only reached the correct diagnosis 36% of the time.

Sometimes, self-diagnosing on the internet can cause more harm than good, according to Dr Chun Tang, a GP at UK private healthcare company Pall Mall Medical.

Some sites are simply unreliable, providing inaccurate or incomplete information that can lead people to “wrong conclusion and wrong directions,” he says.

Meanwhile, websites serving healthcare professionals use terminology that may “cause…confusion and fear in the non-medically trained,” according to Dr Tang, who recommends people only use recognised and reliable websites such as NHS, Cancer Research UK, NICE and the BNF.

That’s backed up by the survey, which found that around 30% of people admitted that Googling a health symptom actually made them feel more anxious, while almost one in four said it had a negative effect on their mental health.

Londoners were the most likely to self-diagnose using a Google search, with 23% always checking symptoms online, whilst at the other end of the spectrum the same proportion of Liverpudlians said they never Googled symptoms.

The reasons for turning to the internet for self-diagnosis are varied, but the survey finds that the most common reason – cited by 40% of people – was simply to be aware of potential problems before seeing a doctor. Another 30% did so to avoid putting pressure on the NHS.

However, an alarming 37% of Brits use their own online self-diagnosis to determine whether they need to see a medical expert or not, which runs counter to medical advice.

Dr Tang advises people who are worried enough to carry out online research make sure they consult a medical professional as well, “whether a pharmacist for minor symptoms or a nurse or doctor for persisting and serious symptoms.”

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To Beat COVID-19, We Need A Modern Approach to Public Health Data

To Beat COVID-19, We Need A Modern Approach to Public Health Data
Ed Simcox, Chief Strategy Officer at LifeOmic

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken 270,000 American lives to date, has shined a light on another crisis — the U.S. currently has no standardized system for reporting public health data. Health departments all over the country resort to using paper, fax, phone, and email to transmit and receive critical information, and essential healthcare workers are spending precious time retyping data into systems from printed reports and PDFs.

At the heart of this lack of a centralized infrastructure for reporting public health data is the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Because of this amendment, the federal government — including the CDC — is not able to mandate that states, providers, or public health entities use a centralized reporting mechanism for managing all public health data. Further, the 10th Amendment also allows states to set up their own IT systems independently of other states and the federal government. The CDC then has to beg for data that sits in bespoke, disparate information systems in each state and territory.

Congress has tried three times in the last fourteen years to fix the issue. In 2006, it passed the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA), which required the CDC to establish the near-real-time, electronic, nationwide, public health data-sharing capability. Four years later in 2010, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that not even the most basic planning steps were taken to establish the network. 

Then in 2013, Congress passed the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act (PAHPRA), which unsuccessfully called for a near real-time interoperable public health data exchange network. Finally, just months before the current pandemic, Congress passed the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act (PAHPAI), and our need for such a system is now greater than ever.

An Interoperable Public Health Data System

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) needs to lead the creation of a modern public health data approach on behalf of all public health agencies throughout the country, including the CDC. HHS was given $1 Billion for public health data infrastructure modernization in the recently passed CARES Act.

A modern approach to public health data would cost a fraction of that and must consist of three things: the creation of a gateway to link and securely move data between public health entities, the adoption of and adherence to widely accepted health data standards, and the creation of a cloud-based data hub for transparent analysis and reporting of data.

Creation of a Data Gateway

Data must be complete, timely, and accurate. A single federal data gateway would allow for the secure, two-way flow of data between all of the components of the public health ecosystem. The idea is not to create new, custom systems as we have done in the past, but to create a single gateway system at the federal level that stitches all existing data systems together using modern application programming interfaces (APIs). Such a system will allow data to timely flow between jurisdictions and up to the CDC so that we can collectively inform public health decision-making and public policy. 

We should leverage recently adopted interoperability standards to connect data from existing Electronic Health Records (EHR) and insurance claims systems wherever possible to avoid duplicate entry of data by essential workers.

Adoption of a Standardized Data Model

We need to encourage state and local health organizations to use and promote a standardized approach to collecting data at the points of care, testing, and immunization. 

Fortunately, the public health data interoperability challenge can be solved by supporting the private sector’s move to a standardized data model for healthcare data. Congress spent billions of taxpayer dollars over the past several years incentivizing healthcare providers to adopt electronic health record systems and data interoperability standards, most recently as part of the 21st Century Cures Act, which just saw its regulations go into effect this year. Healthcare providers are busy preparing to accommodate the Cures Act’s updated standards and requirements. The federal government should eat its own dog food by adhering to the same standards when creating the new gateway.

The two main standards to pay attention to are Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) and the United States Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI). Major IT and EHR companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Salesforce, and Cerner have pledged to support these standards meaning they can immediately begin supporting a new gateway and helping America’s public health system quickly modernize. 

A Cloud-Based Data Hub

Once the data is available, flowing, and standardized, we need a national, cloud-based data hub to begin gaining insights from COVID infection rates, vaccinations, and many other key indicators important to recovering from the pandemic.

Led by HHS with support from OMB and the White House, this new system could be set up within months. There are well-known tools and virtual computing environments that could be put to use right away. A modern data hub would benefit not only the federal government but also the research community and academia, as these organizations play very important roles in helping us further understand and respond to the pandemic.

Most importantly, such a hub would provide transparency and accountability, giving confidence in the data being reported by providing independent reproducibility of conclusions from data analysis.


About Ed Simcox

Ed Simcox is the chief strategy officer of LifeOmic, the creator of LIFE mobile apps, JupiterOne cloud compliance and security operations software, and the Precision Health Cloud platform in use at major medical and cancer centers. Prior to joining LifeOmic, Ed served as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the largest civilian government agency in the world. He led efforts at HHS to effectively leverage data, technology, and innovation to improve the lives of the American people and the performance of the Department’s 29 agencies and offices. While CTO, he also served as Acting Chief Information Officer at HHS, where he oversaw the Department’s IT modernization efforts, IT operations, and cybersecurity


Traditional RESTful APIs Will Not Solve Healthcare’s Biggest Interoperability Problems

Traditional RESTful APIs Will Not Solve Healthcare's Biggest Interoperability Problems
Brian Platz, Co-CEO and Co-Chairman of Fluree

Interoperability is a big discussion in health care, with
new regulations requiring interoperability for patient data. Most approaches
follow the typical RESTful API approach that has become the standard method for
data exchange. Yet Health Level Seven (HL7), with its new Fast Healthcare Interoperability
Resources (FHIR) standard for the electronic transfer of health data, is
leading to a rash of implementations that, to date, are not solving core interoperability
issues. 

Data is still insecure, users can’t govern their own health
records, and the need for multiple APIs for different participants with
different rights (human and machine) in the network is adding unneeded
expenditures to an already burdened healthcare system. The way out is not to
add more middleware, but to upgrade the basic tools of interoperability in a
way that finally brings healthcare
technology
into the 21st century.  

A Timely Policy 

Doctors, hospitals, pharmacists, insurance providers,
outpatient treatment centers, labs and billing companies are just a few of the
parties that comprise the overcomplicated U.S. healthcare system. 

In digitizing medical files, as required by the 2009 Health
Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, providers
have adopted whatever solution was most convenient. This has led to the mess of
interoperability
issues that HL7 seeks to remedy with FHIR. 

Existing Electronic Medical Records
(EMR)
systems do not easily share data. Best case, patients have to sign
off to share data with two incompatible systems. Worst case, information must
be turned into a physical CD or document to follow the patient between
providers. Data security is also notoriously poor. Hackers prioritized the healthcare sector as their main target in 2019; breach
costs exceeded $17.7 billion.

The New Infrastructure Rush

When common formats, by way of FHIR and HL7, provided
standards and solutions to empower global health data interoperability, the
industry erupted into a flurry of activity. Thousands of healthcare databases
are now being draped in virtual construction tarps and surrounded by digital
scaffolding. 

Building a new, interoperable data ontology for the entire
healthcare system is a massive undertaking. For one, 80% of hospital data is
managed using the cryptic, machine-language HL7 Version 2. Most of the rest
uses the inefficient, dated XML data format. HL7 FHIR promotes the use of more
modern data syntaxes, like JSON and RDF (Turtle). 

Secondly, databases have no notion of the new FHIR schema.
Armies of developers must build frameworks and middleware to facilitate interoperability.
This is why Big Tech incumbents including Google Cloud Healthcare, Amazon AWS
and Microsoft for Healthcare are jumping into the fray with their own
solutions. 

The outcome, once HL7’s 22 resources are fully normative, will
be seamless information sharing, electronic notifications, and collaboration
between every player in the giant web of patients, providers, labs, and
middlemen. But it will come at a steep cost in the current traditionally RESTful
API-based manner that is being broadly pursued. 

The Problem with APIs

The new scaffolding is expensive, takes data control away
from patients, and is not inherently secure. The number of unique APIs required
to support the access, rights and disparate user base in the healthcare network
are the reason. 

Interoperability requires a common syntax and “language” to
enable databases to talk to each other. The average traditional API costs up to
$30,000 to build, plus half that cost to manage annually. That is not to
mention the cost to integrate and secure each API. A small healthcare
organization with only 10 APIs faces costs of $450,000 annually for basic API
services. 

When you consider that most big healthcare organizations will
need to connect thousands of APIs, HL7’s interoperability schema really is the
best way forward. The traditional API tooling to manage the interoperability of
the well-framed data structures, however, is the problem. 

Moreover, the patient, the rightful owner of their own
health record, still doesn’t have the ability to govern their own data. Because
change only happens in the database itself, the manager of the database, not
the patient, controls the data within. 

In the best case, this puts an additional burden on patients
to give explicit permission every time health records move between providers.
In the worst case, a provider sees an entire medical history without a
patient’s consent–your podiatrist seeing your psychiatric records, for
example.

Finally, each API enables one data store to talk to the
next, opening opportunities for bad actors to make changes to databases from
the outside. The firewalls that protect databases and networks are penetrable,
and user profiles are sometimes created outside of the database itself, making
it possible to expose, steal and change data from outside the database. 

In that light, HL7 is paving the wrong road with good
intentions. But there is another way. 

Semantic Standards and Blockchain to the Rescue

If you eliminate data APIs, secure interoperability, with
data governance fully in the hands of the patient, becomes possible. Healthcare
data silos will be replaced with a dynamic, trusted and shared data network
with privacy and security directly baked in. The solution involves adding
semantic standards for full interoperability, blockchain for data governance
and data-centric security. 

Semantic standards, such as RDF formatting and SPARQL
queries, let users quickly and easily gain answers from multiple databases and
other data stores at once. Relational databases, the ones currently in use in healthcare,
are all formatted differently, and need API middleware to talk to one another.
Accurate answers are not guaranteed. Semantic standards, on the other hand,
create a common language between all databases. Instead of untangling the
mismatched definitions and formatting inevitable with relational databases,
doctors’ offices, for example, could easily pull in pertinent patient records,
insurance coverage, and the latest research on diseases.

Patients, for their part, would use blockchain to regain control
of their data. Patients would be able to turn on aspects of their data to
specific caregivers, instead of relinquishing control to database business
managers, as is currently the case. Your podiatrist, in other words, will not
be able to see your psychiatric records unless you choose to share them. 

The data ledger, which lives on the blockchain, will contain
instructions as to who can update (writer new records on) the ledger, who can
read it, and who can make changes. All changes are controlled by private-key
encryption that is in the hands of the patient; only those with authorization
can see select histories of health data (or, as in the case of an ER doctor,
entire histories, with permission). 

Data security is controlled in the data layer itself,
instead of through middleware such as a firewall. Data can be shared without
API, thanks to those semantic standards, and data are natively embedded with
security in the blockchain. Compliance, governance, security and data
management all become easier. Data cannot be stolen or manipulated by an
outside party, the way it commonly is by healthcare hackers today. 

The interoperability conundrum, in other words, is solved.
Fewer APIs means fewer security vulnerabilities; a common, semantic standard
eliminates confusion and minimizes mistakes. Blockchain puts patients in
control of who sees what parts of their health records. Eliminating the need
for API middleware also saves tens of thousands of dollars, at a minimum.


About Brian Platz 

Brian is the Co-CEO and Co-Chairman of Fluree, PBC, a decentralized app platform that aims to remodel how business applications are built. Before establishing Fluree, Brian was the co-founder of SilkRoad technology which expanded to over 2,000 customers and 500 employees in 12 international offices.


Xealth’s CEO Shares Impact of Digital Health in 2020 and What’s Ahead in 2021

Xealth’s CEO Shares Impact of Digital Health in 2020 and What’s Ahead in 2021
Mike McSherry, CEO & Co-founder of Xealth

HIT Consultant sat down with Mike McSherry, CEO, and co-founder of Seattle-based digital prescription platform Xealth to discuss digital health lessons learned in 2020 and what we can expect in 2021. As Xealth’s CEO, Mike also works with Duke Health, UPMC, Atrium Health, and The Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network where he uses his background in digital health to connect patients and care teams outside of traditional care settings. 


HITC: In 2021, How can digital health reduce race and minority disparities in healthcare?

McSherry: The U.S. has struggled with health disparities, which this pandemic has widened. Many of these disparities can be linked to access, which digital health can assist with – telehealth makes care virtual from any location, clinical decision support can reduce human errors, remote patient monitoring helps keep patients home while linked to care. 

Digital health removes hurdles related to transportation, taking time off work, or finding childcare in order to travel in-person for an appointment. It brings care to the patient instead of the other way around, making access simpler. Care through these pathways is also more cost-efficient. 

There are still hurdles to overcome. Broadband is widespread but not everywhere and inclusive design of these tools should be considered. How digital tools, including wearables, are built should address differences in gender and ethnicity, especially as these tools are used more frequently in clinical trials, so as not to inadvertently perpetuate disparities.  

HITC: Why some hospitals are offering digital health tools to staff but not patients?

McSherry: There are a few factors at play when hospitals offer digital health tools to staff but not patients. One, most health systems are not currently deploying system-wide digital health initiatives, leaving the decisions to individual departments or providers. This can lead to inconsistent patient experiences and more data siloes as solutions are brought in as one-offs. 

The second issue is reimbursement. A hospital acting as an employer offering digital health tools as part of its benefits package is different than a patient, who must rely on their health insurance, whether it is a public or private plan. The fact healthcare organizations see digital health tools as a perk shows their value. Now, it is time for CMS and commercial payers to consistently enable their use to help providers care for patients and incorporate digital health as clinicians see fit. 

HITC: How hospitals can remain competitive in 2021, especially after tighter margins from COVID-19?

McSherry: Large tech companies, like Google and Amazon, and huge retailers, including Walmart and Best Buy, are looking to deliver the promise of health care that has so far eluded the industry. Venture capital money has been pouring in for funding innovation, with digital health funding hitting a new high in 2020. 

These initiatives are all racing to control health care’s front door and if hospitals don’t innovate as well, they run a very real risk of having patients turn elsewhere for care. Payers are also building digital front doors and telling members to go there. People have long expressed their desire to have the same consumer experience in health care that they receive in other industries. The technology is there. It needs to be incorporated with the correct care pathways. 

One silver lining during the COVID-19 pandemic is that it showed fast-moving innovation can happen in health care. We worked with hospitals to stand up workflows around telehealth in four days and remote patient monitoring in seven days – an amazing pace. The key is to keep this stride going once we are on the other side of this crisis. 

Providers are becoming more digitally savvy to engage patients and deliver holistic care. Hospitals should support this.  

HITC: What will be Biden’s impact on COVID-19, how hospital leaders should respond, and what it means that we have a divided congress?   

McSherry: Under the current administration, telehealth rules have been relaxed, at least temporarily, along with cross-state licensure so providers are better able to build a front door strategy, helping organizations roll out remote patient monitoring and chronic care management apps. Biden has been a proponent of digitalization in health care and will have a broader engagement. This could lead toward more funding and more covered lives. 

A divided Congress will not make much easy for the Biden administration, however, getting on the other side of this pandemic as quickly and as safely as possible is best for everyone. Biden has shown he will make fighting COVID-19 a top priority.  

HITC: Will remote patient monitoring become financially viable for hospital leaders in 2021?

McSherry: Why does a diabetic patient need to have every check-in be in-person or a healthy, pregnancy met every few weeks with an in-person visit as opposed to remote monitoring for key values and a telehealth check-in in place of a couple of those visits? Moving forward, hospitals will see the benefit of remote monitoring in terms of lower overhead, along with better patient engagement, outcomes and retention. 

To make this work, providers must share risk, and determine digital strategies around attracting patients and then manage them in a capitated way with more digital tools because of the cost efficiencies.   

HITC: How do we foster tighter physician-patient relationships?

McSherry: Patients trust their doctors, period. The struggle is going to be more obvious as more people do not have a PCP and turn to health care with a bandage approach to take care of an immediate concern.  That will lead to entire populations without that trusted bond who are sicker when they finally do seek care, due to the lack of continuity and engagement early on. 

By connecting with people now, where they are comfortable, there is a tighter physician-patient relationship by making it more accessible and reciprocal.  


Google’s Verily eyes 2021 growth after £700m funding round

Verily is planning “significant and focused growth” in 2021 after closing a $700 million funding round from investors including its parent company, and Google holding firm, Alphabet.

The capital injection will support wide-ranging plans for the new year that include several life sciences programmes in surgery, pathology and immunology, which would add to the digital ophthalmology joint venture it signed with Japan’s Santen in February.

Verily is also looking to accelerate a number of its key businesses, with the company calling out clinical research ecosystem Baseline, COVID-19 testing platform Healthy at Work and virtual clinic Onduo.

Another focus for the life sciences and health firm will be Coefficient, the commercial insurance venture it set up with Swiss Re in August to combine health tech with insurance and payment models.

Andrew Conrad, CEO and founder at Verily, said: “We’re humbled and excited about the opportunity to expand the scope and rapidly scale our products and services. With this new round of funding from our largest investors, they are strengthening their commitment to help expedite our original vision.

“2021 will be a year of significant and focused growth for Verily’s operations as we continue to drive innovation in our core programmes.”

It’s been a busy year for many of these programmes. Baseline was involved in screening and testing nearly two million people for COVID-19 across 351 sites and Healthy at Work was launched in June to help businesses and universities to reopen safely.

Meanwhile, the last 12 months have seen a refocusing at Onduo. Initially launched as a diabetes-focused joint venture with Sanofi in 2016, the French pharma company significantly scaled back its involvement in the firm last December, retaining just a small financial stake in it.

Nevertheless, Verily is bullish about the prospects for expanding Onduo’s virtual clinical model into new areas, and this year it added support for hypertension and general wellness.

In addition to Alphabet, supporters of Verily’s latest funding round also included Silver Lake, Temasek, and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.

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For Better Patient Care Coordination, We Need Seamless Digital Communications

A recent Advisory Board briefing examined the annual Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Readmission penalties.  Of the 3,080 hospitals CMS evaluated, 83% received a penalty for payments to be made in 2021, based on expected outcomes for a wide variety of treated conditions. While CMS indicated that some of these penalties might be waived or delayed due to the impacts of the Covid pandemic on hospital procedure volumes and revenue, they are indicative of a much larger issue. 

For too long, patients discharged from the hospital have been handed a stack of papers to fill prescriptions, seek follow-up care, or take other steps in their journey from treatment to recovery. More recently, the patient is given access to an Electronic Health Record (EHR) portal to view their records, and a care coordinator may call in a few days to check-in. These are positive steps, but is it enough? Although some readmissions cannot be avoided due to unforeseen complications, many are due to missed follow-up visits, poor medication adherence, or inadequate post-discharge care. 

Probably because communication with outside providers has never worked reliably, almost all hospitals have interpreted ‘care coordination’ to mean staffing a local team to help patients with a call center-style approach.  Wouldn’t it be much better if the hospital could directly engage and enable the Primary Care Physician (PCP) to know the current issues and follow-up directly with their patient?

We believe there is still a real opportunity to hold the patient’s hand and do far more to guide them through to recovery while reducing the friction for the entire patient care team.  

Strengthening Care Coordination for a Better Tomorrow

Coordinating and collaborating with primary care, outpatient clinics, mental health professionals, public health, or social services plays a crucial role in mitigating readmissions and other bumps along the road to recovery.  Real care coordination requires three related communication capabilities:  

1. Notification of the PCP or other physicians and caregivers when events such as ED visits or Hospitalization occur.

2. Easy, searchable, medical record sharing allows the PCP to learn important issues without wading through hundreds of administrative paperwork.

3. Secure Messaging allows both clinicians and office staff to ask the other providers questions, clarify issues, and simplify working together.  

There are some significant hurdles to improve the flow of patient data, and industry efforts have long been underway to plug the gaps. EHR vendors, Health Information Exchanges (HIEs), and a myriad of vendors and collaboratives have attempted to tackle these issues. In the past few decades, government compliance efforts have helped drive medical record sharing through the Direct Messaging protocol and CCDAs through Meaningful Use/Promoting Interoperability requirements for “electronic referral loops.”  Kudos to the CMS for recognizing that notifications need to improve from hospitals to primary care—this is the key driver behind the latest CMS Final Rule (CMS-9115-F) mandating Admission, Discharge, and Transfer (ADT) Event Notifications. (By March 2021, CMS Conditions of Participation (CoPs) will require most hospitals to make a “reasonable effort” to send electronic event notifications to “all” Primary Care Providers (PCPs) or their practice.) 

However, to date, the real world falls far short of these ideals: for a host of technical and implementation reasons, the majority of PCPs still don’t receive digital medical records sent by hospitals, and the required notifications are either far too simple, provide no context or relevant encounter data, rarely include patient demographic and contact information, and almost never include a method for bi-directional communications or messaging.

Delivering What the Recipient Needs

PCPs want what doctors call the “bullet” about their patient’s recent hospitalization.  They don’t want pages of minutia, much of it repetitively cut and pasted. They don’t want to scan through dozens or hundreds of pages looking for the important things. They don’t want “CYA” legalistic nonsense. Not to mention, they learn very little from information focused on patient education.  

An outside practitioner typically doesn’t have access to the hospital EHR, and when they do, it can be too cumbersome or time-consuming to chase down the important details of a recent visit.  But for many patients—especially those with serious health issues—the doctor needs the bullet: key items such as the current medication list, what changed, and why.

Let’s look at an example of a patient with Congestive Heart Failure (CHF), which is a condition assessed in the above-mentioned CMS Readmission penalties. For CHF, the “bullet” might include timely and relevant details such as:

– What triggered the decompensation?  Was it a simple thing, such as a salty meal? Or missed medication?

– What was the cardiac Ejection Fraction?  

– What were the last few BUN and Creatinine levels and the most recent weight?  

– Was this left- or right-sided heart failure? 

– What medications and doses were prescribed for the patient? 

– Is she tending toward too dry or too wet?

– Has she been postural, dizzy, hypotensive?

Ideally, the PCP would receive a quick, readable page that includes the name of the treating physician at the hospital, as well as 3-4 sentences about key concerns and findings. Having the whole hospital record is not important for 90 percent of patients, but receiving the “bullet” and being able to quickly search or request the records for more details, would be ideal. 

Similar issues hold true for administrative staff and care coordinators.  No one should play “telephone tag” to get chart information, clarify which patients should be seen quickly, or find demographic information about a discharged patient so they can proactively contact them to schedule follow-up. 

Building a Sustainable, Long-Term Solution

Having struggled mightily to build effective communications in the past is no excuse for the often simplistic and manual processes we consider care coordination today.  

Let’s use innovative capabilities to get high-quality notifications and transitions of care to all PCPs, not continue with multi-step processes that yield empty, cryptic data. The clinician needs clinically dense, salient summaries of hospital care, with the ability to quickly get answers—as easy as a Google search—for the two or three most important questions, without waiting for a scheduled phone call with the hospitalist.  X-Rays, Lab results, EKGs, and other tests should also be available for easy review, not just the report.   After all, if the PCP needs to order a new chest x-ray or EKG how can they compare it with the last one if they don’t have access to it?

Clerical staff needs demographic information at their fingertips to “take the baton” and ensure quick and appropriate appointment scheduling. They need to be able to retrieve more information from the sender, ask questions, and never use a telephone.  Additionally, both the doctor and the office staff should be able to fire off a short note and get an answer to anyone in the extended care team. 

That is proper care coordination. And that is where we hope the industry is collectively headed in 2021. 


About Peter Tippett MD, PhD: Founder and CEO, careMESH

Dr. Peter S. Tippett is a physician, scientist, business leader and technology entrepreneur with extensive risk management and health information technology expertise. One of his early startups created the first commercial antivirus product, Certus (which sold to Symantec and became Norton Antivirus).  As a leader in the global information security industry (ICSA Labs, TruSecure, CyberTrust, Information Security Magazine), Tippett developed a range of foundational and widely accepted risk equations and models.

About Catherine Thomas: Co-Founder and VP, Customer Engagement, careMESH

Catherine Thomas is Co-Founder & VP of Customer Engagement for careMESH, and a seasoned marketing executive with extensive experience in healthcare, telecommunications and the Federal Government sectors. As co-founder of careMESH, she brings 20+ years in Strategic Marketing and Planning; Communications & Change Management; Analyst & Media Relations; Channel Strategy & Development; and Staff & Project Leadership.

Highmark Inks 6-Year Partnership with Google Cloud to Power Living Health Model

Highmark Health Inks 6-Year Partnership with Google Cloud to Power Living Health Model

What You Should Know:

– Highmark Health signs six-year strategic partnership agreement
with Google Cloud to transform the health experience for patients and
caregivers through the development of Highmark Health’s new Living Health
Model

– The Living Health model is designed to eliminate
the fragmentation in health care by re-engineering the healthcare delivery
model with a more coordinated, personalized, technology-enabled experience.


Highmark Health and Google Cloud today announced a six-year strategic partnership to build and maintain the innovation engine behind Highmark’s Living Health model. The agreement includes the development of the Living Health Dynamic Platform, which will be designed to help overcome the complexities and fragmentation within the healthcare industry.

Re-engineering The Healthcare Delivery Model

Highmark’s Living Health model is designed to eliminate the fragmentation in health care by re-engineering the healthcare delivery model with a more coordinated, personalized, technology-enabled experience. In addition to offering seamless, simpler, and smarter interactions with patients, the Living Health model is designed to free clinicians from time-consuming administrative tasks while providing them with timely data and actionable information about each patient. Living Health is not just focused on improving the patient-clinician relationship, it is about changing the way health care delivery operates.

“The Living Health model is about improving each person’s health and quality of life, every day,” commented Dr. Tony Farah, executive vice president and chief medical and clinical transformation officer of Highmark Health. “The traditional health care system is too fragmented and for the most part reactive. The Living Health model takes the information and preferences that a person provides us, applies the analytics developed with Google Cloud, and creates a proactive, dynamic, and readily accessible health plan and support team that fits an individual’s unique needs.”

Living Health Model
Powered by Google Cloud

Highmark Health will lead the collaboration to build its
Living Health Dynamic Platform on Google Cloud. Key elements of the agreement
include:

– The construction of a highly secure and scalable platform
built on Google Cloud

– The application of Google Cloud’s advanced analytic and
artificial intelligence capabilities to supercharge Highmark Health’s existing
clinical and technology capabilities

– The engagement of a highly skilled professional services
team that will collaborate to drive rapid innovation

– The use of Google Cloud’s healthcare-specific solutions, including the Google Cloud Healthcare API, to enable rapid innovation, interoperability, and a seamless Living Health experience.

Highmark Health will control access and use of its patient
data using rigorous long-standing organizational privacy controls and
governance, which will be enhanced through the creation of a joint Highmark
Health-Google Cloud Data Ethics and Privacy Review Board to ensure that uses of
data are consistent with prescribed ethical principles, guidance, and customer
expectations of privacy.

Why It Matters

The strategic partnership reflects Highmark Health’s vision for a remarkable health experience by moving care and disease management of clinical conditions beyond traditional care settings through an engaging digital experience. By providing the insights needed to enable timely interventions, people will be empowered to proactively manage their health. For example, specific outcomes could include proactive intervention based on timely and individual patient data; digital disease management; easily accessible, personalized health plans; and centralized scheduling and management of care teams.

Economic Impact of Partnership

Approximately 125 new jobs are being created at Highmark Health to support the development of the Living Health Dynamic Platform, specifically in the areas of application development, cloud-based computing architectures, analytics, and user experience design.  

Medical Device Design: 4 Ways Designers Can Create Medical Devices That Work for Everyone

Karten Design: Design Must Play a Larger Role in Healthcare
Stuart Karten, Founder/President, Karten Design

Medical device design has been going through sweeping
changes over the last decade.  Ten years ago,
medical device companies weren’t concerned with delivering consumer-level
design: Devices that are both attractive and intuitively easy to use by a wide
variety of users.  Then the Affordable Care
Act
was passed, and adherence and healthy behavior change became a
regulatory requirement.  

Our firm, which has been a long-time proponent of the
“consumerization” of medical product design, saw a steady uptick in business
based on our ability to deliver product experiences that a consumer expects
while also meeting regulatory requirements of the FDA.  And yet we still had to do a fair amount of
convincing to engineering teams about the importance of design that not only
works for physicians, but also makes life easier for caregivers and
patients. 

Our goal has always been to make design a priority for and
deliver great experiences to every voice in the ecosystem.  As tragic as COVID-19 has
been for millions of people, it has accelerated the consumerization of medical
device design:  the pandemic has
radically changed medical products for the better, forever. 

In the last six months, we have had many traditional device
companies and startups approach us to design COVID-19 testing products.  They want clinically effective medical
devices that are as easy to use as at-home pregnancy tests.  Companies are also coming to us with
non-COVID medical device ideas, and even the conversations around those
products have changed:  there is a
realization that medical devices must address a multi-layered audience. 

While all medical products must integrate the emotional,
physical and cognitive needs of the health consumer to create a holistic
experience, to really achieve consumer-level design companies need to go well
beyond human factors and useability studies and truly push the design
boundaries.  Medical device companies
that can’t integrate these four elements into their medical products are not
making scalable products, and will underachieve in today’s marketplace:

1. Improve Convenience:  Consumers today are accustomed to
convenience. We expect the world to operate at the speed of a Google search,
with the customizability of meal planning on sites like Plated or Blue Apron,
and the responsiveness of booking a ride on Uber. Healthcare rarely works this
way so a medical device must integrate it into the design.  In the medical world, the laws of consumer
design also apply:  with Axonics
Modulation Technology system, we
transformed
an innovative technology into a complete ecosystem of physical
and digital products that improve the experience and work hard in the background
to return normal daily lives to people suffering from incontinence.

2. Aim to Delight: 
Creating delight can transform an experience and build relationships
that keep customers engaged with your brand. 
Most medical solution providers look at users in terms of physical and
cognitive usability. But this is only the beginning. We believe there are four
additional dimensions that will help companies develop a qualitative
understanding of health consumers and their motivations—emotional, social,
contextual, and developmental. Exploring these dimensions at the front end of
the product development process will reveal what patients need and desire from
a health experience and enable companies to respond with meaningful innovation
that gains adoption and changes health outcomes.  We use these motivations to create delight in
the medical device.

3. Provide Personalized Experiences: Personalization
is a growing trend in the consumer product world, and it needs to become one in
healthcare. Those at the forefront are using data to make predictions that
anticipate customers’ needs and desires. Entertainment platforms, like Netflix,
make recommendations that introduce users to new content based on their
previous consumption. Virgin America’s in-flight screens address their
passengers by name and provide personalized information about their itinerary,
in addition to personalized dining and entertainment recommendations. In
healthcare, targeted, personal experiences can be a tipping point to meaningful
behavior change. Information has the power to engage health consumers in
moments where their decisions have a direct impact on their health and
wellbeing. With a majority of people carrying or wearing smart devices, it’s
possible to have continuous data about their location. This data can be used to
generate relevant, real-time recommendations. 
With COVID-19 or any future pandemic, real-time information can save
countless lives.

4. Be Emotional: 
The goal of consumer-driven product innovation is to create an emotional
connection between users and brands—a delightful experience or perception that
keeps people coming back. This is an important goal in healthcare as well, as
more complex factors start to influence choice, and continued engagement plays
a growing role in health outcomes. Although the medical product development
process is more burdened by engineering, technology, and regulation, medical
solution providers can adopt some best practices from consumer companies to
help their products connect. Consumer giants apply numerous resources toward
developing a deep understanding of their user. To capture health consumers’
interest and loyalty, it’s necessary for medical device makers to develop a
knowledge that goes deeper than a medical record or hospital survey. This
holistic understanding of consumers and their health journeys will breed
empathy—something that only comes from first-hand emotional transactions—and
help companies uncover many opportunities for meaningful innovation and
differentiation.


About Stuart Karten

Stuart Karten is the principal of Karten Design, a
product innovation consultancy creating positive experiences between people and
products specializing in health technology. 


PharmaShots Weekly Snapshots (Dec 7-11, 2020)

Roche Launches Elecsys SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Test to Support High-Volume COVID-19 Testing

Published: Dec 11, 2020 | Tags: Antigen, COVID-19, High, Laboratory, Launch, patients, Roche, SARS-CoV-2, Support, Suspected, Test, Testing, Volume

Chugai In-Licenses Roche’s Antibody Cocktail for COVID-19 in Japan

Published: Dec 10, 2020 | Tags: Casirivimab, Chugai, Commercialization, COVID-19, Development, Imdevimab, In-License Agreement, Japan, Roche, Sign

Roche Presents Results of Tecentriq (atezolizumab) in P-III IMvigor010 Study for MIUC at ESMO 2020

Published: Dec 10, 2020 | Tags: (atezolizumab), ESMO Virtual Congress 2020, IMvigor010 Study, Muscle-Invasive Urothelial Cancer (MIUC), P-III, reports, results, Roche, Tecentriq

Biogen Reports NDA Submission of Aducanumab (BIIB037) to the MHLW for Alzheimer’s Disease

Published: Dec 9, 2020 | Tags: (BIIB037) US FDA, aducanumab, Alzheimer Disease, Biogen, J-NDA Submission, reports

Gilead to Acquire MYR for ~$1.4B

Published: Dec 10, 2020 | Tags: ~$1.4B, Acquire, Gilead Sciences, MYR GmbH

Boehringer Ingelheim to Acquires NBE-Therapeutics ~ $1.5B

Published: Dec 10, 2020 | Tags: Acquires, Boehringer Ingelheim, NBE-Therapeutics

Pfizer and BioNTech ‘s BNT162b2 Receive Health Canada Authorization to Combat COVID-19

Published: Dec 9, 2020 | Tags: (BNT162b2), BioNTech, COVID-19, Health Canada Authorization, Interim Order, patients, Pfizer, receives

Google Launches Health Research App Focusing on Respiratory Illnesses

Published: Dec 9, 2020 | Tags: App, COVID-19, Flu, Google, Launches, Virtual Medical Research

Novartis Reports Results of Kisqali in P-III MONALEESA-7 Trial to Treat HR+/HER2- Metastatic Breast Cancer

Published: Dec 9, 2020 | Tags: HR+/HER2- Metastatic Breast Cancer, Kisqali, MONALEESA-7 Trial, Novartis, P-III, reports, results

Roche Collaborate with Moderna to include SARS-CoV-2 Ab Test in COVID-19 Vaccine Trials

Published: Dec 9, 2020 | Tags: Collaborates, COVID-19, Moderna, Roche, SARS-CoV-2 Ab Test, Vaccine Trials

Lilly Reports Results of Tirzepatide in P-lll SURPASS-1 Monotherapy Trial for Type-2 Diabetes

Published: Dec 9, 2020 | Tags: Lilly, Monotherapy Trial, P-lll, reports, results, SURPASS-1, Tirzepatide, Type-2 diabetes

Boehringer Ingelheim to Acquires Labor Dr. Merk & Kollegen for Boosting its Next Generation Cancer Immunology Program

Published: Dec 9, 2020 | Tags: Acquires, Boehringer, Cancer Immunology Program, Kollegen, Labor Dr. Merk, Next Generation, Strength

Elsevier Acquires Shadow Health

Published: Dec 9, 2020 | Tags: Acquires, Elsevier, Extensive Portfolio, Shadow Health

Roche Highlights its Bispecific Antibody Portfolio Across a Range of Blood Cancers at ASH 2020

Published: Dec 8, 2020 | Tags: 62, Across, ALL, Annual, antibody, ASH, Bispecific, Blood, cancers, Data, From, Meeting, Portfolio, Presents, Range, Roche, Virtual

Amgen’s Sotorasib Receives the US FDA’s Breakthrough Therapy Designation for Advanced or Metastatic NSCLC with KRAS G12C Mutation

Published: Dec 8, 2020 | Tags: Advanced or Metastatic Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer, Amgen, Breakthrough Therapy Designation, KRAS G12C, Mutation, receives, Sotorasib, US FDA’s

Medtronic Launches Carpediem as the First Pediatric and Neonatal Acute Dialysis Machine in the US

Published: Dec 8, 2020 | Tags: Acute, Carpediem, Dialysis, First, Launch, Machine, Medtronic, neonatal, Only, Pediatric, System, US

AstraZeneca Reports Results of AZD1222 in Interim Analysis of P-lll Program for COVID-19

Published: Dec 8, 2020 | Tags: AstraZenca, AZD1222, Clinical Trials, COVID-19, Four, Interim Analysis, P-lll, reports, results

Novartis’ Asciminib (ABL001) Demonstrate Superiority Over Pfizer’s Bosulif in Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Trial

Published: Dec 8, 2020 | Tags: (ABL001), ASCEMBL Study, Asciminib, Chronic, Chronic Myeloid Leukemia, Novartis, P-lll, Philadelphia Chromosome, reports, results

RetinAI Collaborates with Novartis to Provide AI Solutions in Ophthalmology

Published: Dec 8, 2020 | Tags: Artificial Intelligence, Multi-Year Collaboration, Novartis, Ophthalmology, Provide, RetinAI, Signs, Solutions

Astellas Collaborates with KaliVir to Develop and Commercialize VET2-L2

Published: Dec 7, 2020 | Tags: Agreement, Astellas, Commercialization, Development, KaliVir Immunotherapeutics, Novel, Oncolytic, Signs, VET2-L2, Virus

Qiagen Launches QuantiFERON SARS-CoV-2 RUO Solution for COVID-19

Published: Dec 7, 2020 | Tags: COVID-19, Launches, Qiagen, QuantiFERON, SARS-CoV-2 RUO, Solution

Bayer Signs an Exclusive Worldwide License Agreement with Atara for Mesothelin-Targeted CAR T-cell Therapies to Treat Solid Tumors

Published: Dec 6, 2020 | Tags: Agreement, Atara, Bayer, Exclusive, License, Mesothelin-Targeted CAR T-cell Therapies, Signs, Solid Tumors, Worldwide

Nektar Therapeutics Presents Preclinical Data of NKTR-255 in P-Ib/II Study at ASH 2020

Published: Dec 7, 2020 | Tags: 2020, 62nd, Annual, ASH, Meeting, Nektar Therapeutics, NKTR-255, P-Ib/II, preclinical, Presents, results, study

AbbVie Reports Results of Imbruvica (ibrutinib) in Two P-III Studies as 1L Treatment for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

Published: Dec 6, 2020 | Tags: (ibrutinib), 1L treatment, AbbVie, CLL, ILLUMINATE Study, Imbruvica, Integrated Analysis, Long-Term, P-lll, reports, RESONATE-2

Roche Reports of Polivy + Bendamustine and MabThera / Rituxan in P-lb/ll GO29365 Study for R/R Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma

Published: Dec 7, 2020 | Tags: (polatuzumab vedotin), (R/R) Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma, Bendamustine, GO29365 Study, MabThera / Rituxan (rituximab), P-lb/ll, Polivy, reports, Result, Roche

Roche Presents Results of Hemlibra Reinforcing the Long-Term Benefits for Hemophilia A at ASH 2020

Published: Dec 7, 2020 | Tags: 62nd, Annual, ASH, Haemophilia A, HAVEN, Hemlibra, I-IV, Meeting, P-III, People, Presents, results, Roche, Studies, Virtual

AstraZeneca Reports Long-Term Efficacy and Tolerability of Calquence (acalabrutinib) in P-ll ACE-LY-004 Study for MCL

Published: Dec 7, 2020 | Tags: (acalabrutinib) in P-ll ACE-LY-004 Study for Relapsed or Refractory Mantle Cell Lymphoma, AstraZenca, Calquence, Long-Term Efficacy, reports, Tolerability

Roche Reports Long-Term Benefits of Venclexta/Venclyxto Based Combination for R/R Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

Published: Dec 5, 2020 | Tags: Based, CLL14, combination, MURANO, P-III, People, R/R CLL, reports, results, Roche, Studies, Venclexta, Venclyxto

Kite Reports Results of Yescarta in P-II ZUMA-5 Study for Adult Patients with R/R Indolent Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Published: Dec 5, 2020 | Tags: Adult, iNHL, Kite, P-II, patients, Refractory, Relapsed, reports, results, study, Yescarta, ZUMA-5

Janssen Reports Long-Term Benefits of Imbruvica (ibrutinib) as 1L Treatment for High-Risk Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

Published: Dec 6, 2020 | Tags: (ibrutinib), 1L treatment, High-Risk Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia, ILLUMINATE Study, Imbruvica, Janssen, P-lll, reports, RESONATE-2, results

Related Post: PharmaShots Weekly Snapshot (Nov 30 – Dec 04, 2020)

The post PharmaShots Weekly Snapshots (Dec 7-11, 2020) first appeared on PharmaShots.

Google Launches Health Research App Focusing on Respiratory Illnesses

Shots:

  • Google has launched the Google Health Studies app for Android phones with the initial focus on respiratory diseases such as COVID-19. The app is now available in the play store
  • Google allied with researchers from Harvard Medical School and Boston Children Hospital for the first study, which will be open to adults in the US and will focus on identifying how these types of illnesses evolve in communities and differ across risk factors such as age, and activities
  • The app provides a platform for researchers to reach a large & diverse population to better understand human health while providing the public with greater opportunities to contribute to medical research

Click here to­ read the full press release/ article | Ref: Google | Image: Google

The post Google Launches Health Research App Focusing on Respiratory Illnesses first appeared on PharmaShots.

Google Health Studies App Launches in Partnership with Harvard Medical School & Boston Children’s Hospital

Google Health Studies App Launches in Partnership with Harvard Medical School & Boston Children’s Hospital

What You Should Know:

– Google announces the launch of its Google Health
Studies App with the first study focused on respiratory illness in partnership
with Harvard Medical School & Boston Children’s Hospital.

– Google Health Studies aims to create opportunities for
more people to participate in health research. By contributing, you’ll
represent your community and start improving the future of health for everyone.


To make it easier for leading research institutions to
connect with potential study participants, Google has announced the launch of
the Google Health Studies app with the first study focused
on respiratory illness. The app allows anyone with an Android phone to participate
in health studies by answering survey questions and contributing relevant data.
Google Health Studies provides a platform for researchers to reach a large and
diverse population so they can better understand human health, while providing
the public with greater opportunities to contribute to medical research.

Help Scientists Better Understand Respiratory Diseases

For the first study, Google has partnered with researchers
from Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, which will help
scientists and public health communities better understand respiratory
illnesses, including influenza and COVID-19. The study utilizes federated learning and analytics—a privacy technology that
keeps a person’s data stored on the device, while allowing researchers to
discover aggregate insights based on encrypted, combined updates from many
devices. The  technology examine trends
to understand the link between mobility (such as the number of daily trips a
person makes outside the home) and the spread of COVID-19, This same
approach powers typing predictions on Gboard, without Google seeing
what individuals type.

Help Researchers Make Advancements in Medicine and Healthcare

Respiratory Health Study is open to adults in the U.S. and
will focus on identifying how types of respiratory illnesses evolve in
communities and differ across risk factors such as age, and activities such as
travel. Study participants will use the Google Health Studies app to regularly
self-report how they feel, what symptoms they may be experiencing, any
preventative measures they’ve taken, and additional information such as
COVID-19 or influenza test results. By taking part in this study, volunteers
can represent their community in medical research, and contribute to global
efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With COVID-19 emerging alongside seasonal respiratory pathogens, research is now needed more than ever to develop more effective treatments and mitigation strategies,” says Dr. John Brownstein, professor at Harvard Medical School and Chief Innovation Officer of Boston Children’s Hospital. “Google Health Studies provides people with a secure and easy way to take part in medical research, while letting researchers discover novel epidemiological insights into respiratory diseases.”

The Google Health Studies app is now available in the Google Play Store for download.

CommonHealth App Connects to 230 Health Systems to Share Health Data – including COVID Test and Vaccine Status

CommonHealth, a Free Mobile App for Patients to Share Health Data - including COVID Test and Vaccine Status - Connects to 230 US Health Systems

What You Should Know:

– CommonHealth has connected to 230
health systems in the United States, allowing patients to gather, manage and
share their health and test data, including COVID test and vaccination status. By
the end of this month, CommonHealth will connect to more than 340 health
systems

– CommonHealth extends the health data
portability and interoperability model pioneered by Apple Health to the 55
percent of Americans with Android devices (85 percent globally)


The Commons Project, a nonprofit public trust established to build digital platforms and services for the public good, today announced that the CommonHealth app has now connected to 230 health systems in the United States, allowing patients using those health systems to gather, manage and share personal health information – including COVID test and vaccine status – on Android devices for free. CommonHealth enables broader and more equitable participation in remote consultations with doctors, telemedicine, innovative care models, next-generation health services, and research.


CommonHealth App Development Background

Developed in collaboration with UCSF, Cornell Tech, and Sage Bionetworks with a team of clinicians, public health experts, technologists, scientists and privacy advocates, CommonHealth is operated by The Commons Project. CommonHealth was first deployed at UCSF Health and underwent substantial testing and user experience research in multiple diverse populations in San Francisco. CommonHealth is the first and only platform designed to allow users of the Android operating system to collect and manage their health data on their mobile devices in a similar way that Apple Health Record operates on iOS.

Already integrated with LabCorp, which
operates one of the largest clinical laboratory networks in the world,
CommonHealth allows individuals to store their COVID test results and vaccination
status, in addition to any health record. CommonHealth plans to integrate with
an additional 110 health systems in December, connecting to more than 340
health systems before the year ends.

Earlier this year, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) rolled out new patient health record sharing rules that will require hospitals and physician offices to send standardized medical information, such as lab test results, vaccination records, and imaging tests, directly to third-party apps, like CommonHealth, by July 2021.


Why It Matters

“The COVID pandemic has accelerated the need for the safe sharing of health data as medical consultations go online and individuals are required to demonstrate COVID test and vaccination status in order to travel, work, study and undertake other social activities,” said JP Pollak, co-founder and chief architect at The Commons Project. “CommonHealth extends the privacy-centered data portability and interoperability model pioneered by Apple Health to the 55 percent of Americans who have Android devices.”


Availability

CommonHealth is a shared public service that is always free
for users and is available for download on Android devices via Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.thecommonsproject.android.phr

MEDITECH Launches New Subscription-Based Cloud Platform Built on Google Cloud

MEDITECH Launches New Subscription-Based Cloud Platform Built on Google Cloud

What You Should Know:

– Today, MEDITECH announced MEDITECH Cloud Platform—a
suite of solutions available to healthcare organizations of all sizes that
further extend the possibilities of the Expanse EHR.

– This offering includes: Expanse NOW, High Availability
SnapShot, and Virtual Care solutions, all created to work naturally in the
cloud, and available through a subscription model.


Today MEDITECH
introduced MEDITECH Cloud Platform—a suite of solutions available to healthcare
organizations of all sizes that further extend the possibilities of the Expanse
Electronic Health Record
(EHR)
.  Multiple MEDITECH Cloud
Platform solutions are built on Google Cloud, enabling healthcare organizations
to further personalize their EHR in a way that is secure, reliable, and easy to
maintain.

Subscription-Based Cloud Model

Healthcare organizations can select one or a combination of
the solutions from MEDITECH Cloud Platform. The flexibility of the subscription
model enables a quick setup as well as the ability to add solutions as needed.
Additionally, the cloud combined with the subscription model provides
opportunities to add solutions in the future.

MEDITECH Cloud Platform Offerings

The all-new MEDITECH Cloud Platform offering includes: Expanse NOW, High
Availability SnapShot
, and Virtual Care
solutions, all created to work naturally in the cloud, and available through a
subscription model:

Expanse NOW is a mobility app that empowers
physicians to manage everyday tasks and coordinate care on their smartphone
device. Integrated with Expanse, tasks and messages can flow between workload
and the app in real time.

High Availability SnapShot provides healthcare
organizations with immediate access to key patient data in the event of
unexpected or planned downtime. Patient information such as medications,
allergies, orders, and more is backed up securely and accessible via
cellular-connected devices.

Virtual Care gives new and existing patients access
to urgent virtual care on demand through the healthcare organization’s website,
as well as the ability to schedule virtual visit appointments. New patients who
request Virtual Care are automatically enrolled in the Patient Portal,
connecting them to the organization and in turn, enabling organizations to grow
their business.

Leveraging Google Cloud’s Capabilities

The Expanse NOW and High Availability SnapShot solutions
leverage Google Cloud’s core capabilities including compute and storage (as
well as their healthcare-specific data, analytics, security, and identity
management solutions) alongside existing on-prem solutions to provide high
availability and continuity of care in a secure and scalable service. They can
be easily accessible to critical care staff to improve healthcare continuity
across MEDITECH-powered healthcare organizations.

For more information about the MEDITECH Cloud platform,
visit here.

AHRQ and Google Pilot New Tool to Help Patients Plan for Medical Visits

AHRQ and Google Pilot New Tool to Help Patients Plan for Medical Visits

What You Should Know:

– Built-in collaboration with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Google is piloting a new tool to help patients plan for medical visits.

– The new Google visit planning tool makes it easy for
patients and those who care for them to privately list and prioritize their
questions in preparation for a medical visit.

– The suggested questions, developed by AHRQ as part of its “Questions are the Answer” initiative, is designed to get people thinking about their goals and priorities for the visit.


Today, Google announced it is piloting
a new online tool to help patients plan for medical visits as part of an ongoing
collaboration with  Agency
for Healthcare Research and Quality
 (AHRQ), part of the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services.

How It Works

The new Google visit planning tool is built on the same
evidence behind AHRQ’s QuestionBuilder app. The new tool will make it easy for
patients and caretakers to develop a visit plan by selecting from
evidence-based questions like, “What is this test for?” as well as adding their
own questions. When people use Google to search for a healthcare provider, they
will have the option to create their own private visit plan. Once completed,
patients can print or email the visit plan and bring it to the doctor’s office
to help them remember important questions they want to ask. In addition, the
visit plan also includes a reminder of things patients should bring to the
visit, like a list of current medications, recent lab results, and their insurance
card.

Private & Secure

The tool does not gather any personal health information or
store any of the information that is entered into the tool. People have the
option to print or email their visit plan, and people can use this tool without
signing into a Google account.

Why It Matters

“Patients who prepare for medical visits by prioritizing their questions, strengthen their role as members of their own health care team,” said Jeffrey Brady, M.D., M.P.H., a preventive medicine physician and Director of the Center for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety at the AHRQ. Dr. Brady added, “This helps clinicians maximize their time with patients so they can better address their most critical health needs. Clinicians appreciate that healthcare can be more efficient, effective, and higher quality when they work together with patients.”

Availability

This tool is currently in the pilot phase and is only available to a limited number of people in the United States and will expand to more users over time.

Virtual Engagement During COVID Pushes Paradigm Shift for Physician Training and Patient Care

Virtual engagement during COVID pushes paradigm shift for physician training and patient care
Shalini Shah, MD is Vice-Chair and Associate Professor, Department of Anesthesiology & Perioperative Care, and Enterprise Director of Pain Services, UC Irvine Health

The dominant presence of COVID-19 has not meant the absence of cancer, ear infections, heart attacks, chronic pain, or other illnesses that need attention and care. Physicians have continued treatment for all types of maladies, and physician training has continued as well. But this treatment and this training look much different these days. Despite the challenges that came with major COVID shutdowns and changing requirements, the healthcare system and patients have been both creative and resilient in finding robust “temporary” solutions to these challenges. It is now looking like some of these COVID-era transitional steps will be preserved and play a lasting role in the future of medical education and telemedicine. What must be sacrificed to reap the benefits of these new protocols?

The rapid adoption of technology and virtual engagement tools has been both impressive and interesting to watch – Zoom meetings between medical association boards of directors, FaceTime calls between isolated patients and their family members at home, telehealth phone appointments with family practice physicians, or virtual medical conferences through Webex – the increasing reliance on these tools has pushed boundaries and exposed both opportunities and challenges with technology use for the future of healthcare.

As COVID-19 has significantly accelerated the feasibility and acceptance of telehealth care by physicians, patients, and payors, we now see healthcare systems navigating in real-time the complex issues with cybersecurity and patient privacy. Due to waivers, everyday technologies can be utilized right now, including FaceTime, Skype, Facebook Messenger video chat, Google Hangouts, and Zoom, but new regulatory guidance may be needed to develop safe, secure, and patient-friendly telehealth applications for the future. Cyber-security, already an important priority in the healthcare information space, is going to become that much more essential as doctor’s offices and clinics implement even more telehealth protocols faster than they ever would have normally planned or budgeted for.

These changes in practice and patient care have also impacted how controlled substances are prescribed. The Drug Enforcement Agency has modified policies to allow for the remote prescribing of controlled substances during the pandemic. Online counseling, informed consent, and follow-up with patients can be done in a virtual setting. Pill counts can be done in a video call and patients can still have their questions answered regarding their pain therapy, although it is likely that after the crisis, prescribing certain controlled substances may return to in-person visits.   It is important that the regulatory climate continues to evolve at the pace needed to address the changing needs and realities of telehealth in the time of COVID.

While we have all become more comfortable on telehealth platforms, there continues to be an important role for in-person visits. Patients may appreciate the convenience of telemedicine; however, they must understand that it can limit a physician’s ability to perform a thorough examination and possibly reduce the chances of a physician detecting an unexpected complication or condition. 

Moving forward, I expect there will be much greater reliance on telehealth strategies even post-COVID, but it will always have to be balanced with old-fashioned office visits.

Residency training has also experienced a profound shift this year. Conventional teaching approaches have either been cut back or have been canceled due to COVID risks, and reduced access to personal protective equipment (PPE) has limited the amount of time spent with patients being cared for during residency and fellowship programs. But we can’t stop training for the next generation of physicians or providing quality Continuing Medical Education (CME) for practicing physicians. E-learning techniques, such as webinars and online skills training, certainly play a role – and these may offer ways to actually enhance cross-departmental or multidisciplinary collaborative educational sessions. E-learning may be more cost-effective and easier to participate in than traveling to conferences or symposia, but the hands-on learning and deep discussions that can occur in breakout sessions or clinical training modules will need to be replaced somehow. And there must be careful vetting of online content in order to avoid a proliferation of commercially biased information, plagiarized materials, or simply false information. As we all adjust to new settings and styles for learning, there must be purposeful strategies to ensure online lectures are still supported with opportunities for learning from direct patient contact and collegial support.

Despite these concerns and challenges, new models for CME activities actually pose a great opportunity for increased access, cost-effectiveness, and practicality for busy clinicians.

Even before the first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed, technological innovation had already begun to change education, healthcare, and even social relationships. The COVID-19 crisis has simply accelerated the drive and interest in these new tools. But while the technological tools and platforms to a large extent existed years before COVID-19, they have never been used as purposefully, as rapidly, or with such intentionality as they are being used now.

I am sure the shift toward technology and virtual engagement in medicine will not go away when we finally get past the COVID-19 crisis. There will likely be lasting changes with the reliance on distance-medicine techniques for both patient care and physician training. But we must keep a close eye on regulatory frameworks that need to be updated, and make extra efforts to build and maintain patient-physician relationships.


About Shalini Shah, MD

Shalini Shah, MD is Vice-Chair and Associate Professor, Department of Anesthesiology & Perioperative Care, and Enterprise Director of Pain Services, UC Irvine Health.  Dr. Shah completed her residency in Anesthesiology from NYP-Cornell University and a combined fellowship in Adult and Pediatric Chronic Pain at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess and Children’s Hospital of Boston, Harvard Medical School. 

Google Cloud Launches Healthcare Interoperability Readiness Program

Google Cloud Launches Healthcare Interoperability Readiness Program

What You Should Know:

– Google Cloud launches Healthcare Interoperability
Readiness Program to help healthcare organizations achieve healthcare data interoperability.


Today,
Google Cloud launched the Google Cloud Healthcare Interoperability Readiness
Program, helping organizations achieve data interoperability in advance of
upcoming HHS deadlines and to enable future innovation. Alongside partners like Bain, BCG, Deloitte, HCL,
KPMG, SADA, and more, the Healthcare Interoperability
Readiness Program will help healthcare organizations understand the current status
of their data and where it resides, map out a path to standardization and
integration, and make use of data in a secure, reliable, compliant manner.

Google Cloud Interoperability Readiness Program

This program provides a comprehensive set of
services for interoperability, including: 

HealthAPIx Accelerator provides
the jumpstart for the interoperability implementation efforts. With best
practices, pre-built templates and lessons learned from our customer and
partner implementations, it offers a blueprint for healthcare stakeholders and
app developers to build FHIR API-based digital experiences.

Apigee API Management provides the underpinning and enables a security and governance layer to deliver, manage, secure and scale APIs; consume and publish FHIR-ready APIs for partners and developers; build robust API analytics, and accelerate the rollout of digital solutions.

Google Cloud Healthcare API enables
secure methods (including de-identification) for ingesting, transforming,
harmonizing, and storing your data in the latest FHIR formats, as well as HL7v2
and DICOM, and serves as a secondary longitudinal data store to streamline data
sharing, application development, and analytics with BigQuery. 

– Interoperability toolkit that includes solution architectures, implementation guides, sandboxes, and other resources to help accelerate interoperability adoption and streamline compliance with standards such as FHIR R4. 

COVID-19 Pandemic Underscores Drive to Accelerate
Interoperability

“With COVID-19 underscoring the importance of even more data sharing and flexibility, the next few years promise to accelerate data interoperability and the adoption of open standards even further—ideally ushering in new and meaningful partnerships across the care continuum, new avenues for business growth, and new pathways for patient-centered innovation,” stated in the announcement blog post.  

NLP is Raising the Bar on Accurate Detection of Adverse Drug Events

NLP is Raising the Bar on Accurate Detection of Adverse Drug Events
 David Talby, CTO, John Snow Labs

Each year, Adverse Drug Events (ADE) account for nearly 700,000 emergency department visits and 100,000 hospitalizations in the US alone. Nearly 5 percent of hospitalized patients experience an ADE, making them one of the most common types of inpatient errors. What’s more, many of these instances are hard to discover because they are never reported. In fact, the median under-reporting rate in one meta-analysis of 37 studies was 94 percent. This is especially problematic given the negative consequences, which include significant pain, suffering, and premature death.

While healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies conduct clinical trials to discover adverse reactions before selling their products, they are typically limited in numbers. This makes post-market drug safety monitoring essential to help discover ADE after the drugs are in use in medical settings. Fortunately, the advent of electronic health records (EHR) and natural language processing (NLP) solutions have made it possible to more effectively and accurately detect these prevalent adverse events, decreasing their likelihood and reducing their impact. 

Not only is this important for patient safety, but also from a business standpoint. Pharmaceutical companies are legally required to report adverse events – whether they find out about them from patient phone calls, social media, sales conversations with doctors, reports from hospitals, or any other channel. As you can imagine, this would be a very manual and tedious task without the computing power of NLP – and likely an unintentionally inaccurate one, too. 

The numbers reflect the importance of automated NLP technology, too: the global NLP in healthcare and life sciences market size is forecasted to grow from $1.5 billion in 2020 to $3.7 billion by 2025, more than doubling in the next five years. The adoption of prevalent cloud-based NLP solutions is a major growth factor here. In fact, 77 percent of respondents from a recent NLP survey indicated that they use ​at least one​ of the four major NLP cloud providers, Google is the most used. But, despite their popularity, respondents cited cost and accuracy as key challenges faced when using cloud-based solutions for NLP.

It goes without saying that accuracy is vital when it comes to matters as significant as predicting adverse reactions to medications, and data scientists agree. The same survey found that more than 40 percent of all respondents cited accuracy as the most important criteria they use to evaluate NLP solutions, and a quarter of respondents cited accuracy as the main criteria they used when evaluating NLP cloud services. Accuracy for domain-specific NLP problems (like healthcare) is a challenge for cloud providers, who only provide pre-trained models with limited training and tuning capabilities. This presents some big challenges for users for several reasons. 

Human language very contexts- and domain-specific, making it especially painful when a model is trained for general uses of words but does not understand how to recognize or disambiguate terms-of-art for a specific domain. In this case, speech-to-text services for video transcripts from a DevOps conference might identify the word “doctor” for the name “Docker,” which degrades the accuracy of the technology. Such errors may be acceptable when applying AI to marketing or online gaming, but not for detecting ADEs. 

In contrast, models have to be trained on medical terms and understand grammatical concepts, such as negation and conjunction. Take, for example, a patient saying, “I feel a bit drowsy with some blurred vision, but am having no gastric problems.” To be effective, models have to be able to relate the adverse events to the patient and specific medication that caused the aforementioned symptoms. This can be tricky because as the previous example sentence illustrates, the medication is not mentioned, so the model needs to correctly infer it from the paragraphs around it.

This gets even more complex, given the need for collecting ADE-related terms from various resources that are not composed in a structured manner. This could include a tweet, news story, transcripts or CRM notes of calls between a doctor and a pharmaceutical sales representative, or clinical trial reports. Mining large volumes of data from these sources have the power to expose serious or unknown consequences that can help detect these reactions. While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for this, new enhancements in NLP capabilities are helping to improve this significantly. 

Advances in areas such as Named Entity Recognition (NER) and Classification, specifically, are making it easier to achieve more timely and accurate results. ADE NER models enable data scientists to extract ADE and drug entities from a given text, and ADE classifiers are trained to automatically decide if a given sentence is, in fact, a description of an ADE. The combination of NER and classifier and the availability of pre-trained clinical pipeline for ADE tasks in NLP libraries can save users from building such models and pipelines from scratch, and put them into production immediately. 

In some cases, the technology is pre-trained with tuned Clinical BioBERT embeddings, the most effective contextual language model in the clinical domain today. This makes these models more accurate than ever – improving on the latest state-of-the-art research results on standard benchmarks. ADE NER models can be trained on different embeddings, enabling users to customize the system based on the desired tradeoff between available compute power and accuracy. Solutions like this are now available in hundreds of pre-trained pipelines for multiple languages, enabling a global impact.

As we patiently await a vaccine for the deadly Coronavirus, there have been few times in history in which understanding drug reactions are more vital to global health than now. Using NLP to help monitor reactions to drug events is an effective way to identify and act on adverse reactions earlier, save healthcare organizations money, and ultimately make our healthcare system safer for patients and practitioners.


About David Talby

David Talby, Ph.D., MBA, is the CTO of John Snow Labs. He has spent his career making AI, big data, and data science solve real-world problems in healthcare, life science, and related fields. John Snow Labs is an award-winning AI and NLP company, accelerating progress in data science by providing state-of-the-art models, data, and platforms. Founded in 2015, it helps healthcare and life science companies build, deploy, and operate AI products and services.

UCB Taps Medisafe to Develop Branded Digital Drug Companions for Antiepileptic Medications

UCB Taps Medisafe to Develop Branded Digital Drug Companions for Antiepileptic Medications

What You Should Know:

– UCB has selected Medisafe to develop branded digital
drug companions for antiepileptic medications, marking the company’s official
entry into the digital therapeutics space.

– The initial collaboration will primarily be focused on their antiepileptic medications, but they are exploring its use for additional brands. 


Medisafe,
a leading digital
therapeutics
company specializing in digital companions, has been selected
by UCB to develop branded digital drug
companions for its antiepileptic medications, with greater capabilities to
expand across additional brands. The digital companions streamline support for
patients to access financial assistance, patient diaries, and doctor discussion
guides throughout their treatment journey.

UCB is launching both digital companions in November in
support of National Epilepsy Awareness Month and the more than 3.4 million
patients in the US who live with the neurological condition. 1 in 26 people in
the US will develop epilepsy at some point in their lives and UCB wants to make
managing medication therapies easier through new digital companions from Medisafe. UCB
is a leader in antiepileptic medications commonly used to treat epilepsy and
the new digital experience for users will deliver condition-specific
content to help support patients through any medication challenges. To
date, nearly 7MM users rely on Medisafe’s digital therapeutics platform,
which applies real-world evidence to build connected medication management
programs and influence patients’ behavior on therapy. 

The collaboration will raise awareness and drive engagement
with a content-rich digital experience for patients to gain support and
community throughout the course of their treatment. The Medisafe app
is available to Android and iPhone users through both the Google play and Apple
app stores. Patients can experience the antiepileptic medication resource
centers within the Medisafe app, unlocking a world of advanced
patient support and guidance as a result of this collaboration. 

“At UCB, we focus on fostering collaborations that deliver a purposeful impact to people living with epilepsy. As part of our ongoing digitalization efforts, the Medisafe app will allow us to continue supporting patients with new, innovative ways of navigating their health,” said Anita Moser, Head of Assets and Optimization for U.S. Neurology, UCB. “During the COVID crisis, the ability to support patients digitally is more important than ever, and we are pleased to deliver personalized and immediate support directly to epilepsy patients and their caregivers.”

10 Google Search Terms Can Help Experts Predict COVID-19 Hot Spots

10 Google Search Terms Can Help Experts Predict COVID-19 Hot Spots

What You Should Know:

– New Mayo Clinic study reveals strong correlations were found between keyword searches on the internet search engine Google Trends and COVID-19 outbreaks in parts of the U.S.

– The Mayo Clinic study searched for 10 keywords that
were chosen based on how commonly they were used and emerging patterns on the
internet and in Google News at that time.

Strong correlations were found between keyword searches on
the internet search engine Google Trends and COVID-19
outbreaks in parts of the U.S., according to a study published in Mayo Clinic
Proceedings
. These correlations were observed up to 16 days prior to the
first reported cases in some states.

The Mayo Clinic study searched for 10 keywords that were
chosen based on how commonly they were used and emerging patterns on the
internet and in Google News at that time.

The keywords were:

– COVID symptoms

– Coronavirus symptoms

– Sore throat+shortness of breath+fatigue+cough

– Coronavirus testing center

– Loss of smell

– Lysol

– Antibody

– Face mask

– Coronavirus vaccine

– COVID stimulus check

“Our
study demonstrates that there is information present in Google Trends that
precedes outbreaks, and with predictive analysis, this data can be used for
better allocating resources with regards to testing, personal protective
equipment, medications and more,” says Mohamad Bydon, M.D., a
Mayo Clinic neurosurgeon and principal investigator at Mayo’s Neuro-Informatics Laboratory.

“The Neuro-Informatics team is focused on analytics for neural diseases and neuroscience. However, when the novel coronavirus emerged, my team and I directed resources toward better understanding and tracking the spread of the pandemic,” says Dr. Bydon, the study’s senior author. “Looking at Google Trends data, we found that we were able to identify predictors of hot spots, using keywords, that would emerge over a six-week timeline.”

Press Ganey Acquires Doctor.com, Acquires Majority Stake in Binary Fountain

Press Ganey Acquires Doctor.com, Acquires Majority Stake in Binary Fountain

What You Should Know:

– Press Ganey advances the healthcare consumerism movement with acquisitions of Doctor.com and a majority stake in Binary Fountain.

– Expanded technology platform enables industry-leading
management of providers’ online brand and seamless Web-wide patient acquisition
and loyalty strategies.


Press Ganey today
announced the expansion of its market-leading health care consumerism platform
with the acquisitions
of Doctor.com and a majority equity stake
in Binary Fountain. These acquisitions create the largest health care
consumerism platform in the industry that offers an unmatched opportunity for
health systems and providers to drive digital patient acquisition, retention,
and reputation management strategies that will deliver new levels of growth and
loyalty.


Set Up Your Virtual Practice in 5 Minutes or Less with
Doctor.com’s Turnkey Solution

Founded in 2013, Doctor.com provides the critical
infrastructure and integrations necessary to enable modern digital experiences
for patients. Doctor.com clients benefit from best-in-class provider data,
robust physician and patient engagement tools, and seamless integrations with
the most prominent health care directories, search engines, social media
platforms, and EHR/PM systems. As a result, thousands of clients, including
200+ leading hospitals and health systems, 30,000+ private practices, and
leading brands in the life sciences industry, have been empowered by Doctor.com
to enhance their digital presence and credibility, increase patient trust, and
grow their business.


Why It Matters

The COVID-19 crisis radically disrupted the health care
industry and altered consumer behavior. The result was massive growth in
telehealth services, with Press Ganey administering more than 15 million
telemedicine surveys year to date. Coupled with more than 71% of patients
seeking physician reviews online and 70,000 health-related Google searches each
minute, these fundamental shifts have escalated the need for health care
providers to enhance and streamline the online healthcare customer experience.

“This acquisition is game-changing for the industry. By pairing data and insights from Press Ganey’s 472 million consumer surveys a year with next-generation technology, health care organizations can finally unite their patient experience and patient acquisition efforts within one powerful platform. This unified solution drives performance improvement, accelerates transparency initiatives, and improves the patient experience,” said Andrei Zimiles, co-founder and CEO, Doctor.com. “As patients continue to ‘shop’ for care in increasingly competitive digital channels, this groundbreaking new platform from three pioneers in the consumerism space gives health care organizations the edge they’ve been looking for.”

Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed.

3 Telemedicine Security and Compliance Best Practices

3 Telemedicine Security and Compliance Best Practices
Gerry Miller, Founder & CEO at Cloudticity

The coronavirus pandemic accelerated telemedicine exponentially as patients and doctors switched from in-person visits to remote consultations. Health providers rapidly scaled virtual offerings in March and April and traffic volumes soared to unprecedented levels, with practices “seeing 50 to 175 times the number of patients by telehealth than before the outbreak,” according to McKinsey. By early August, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services expanded the list of allowable telehealth services in Medicare and there was an executive order supporting permanent telehealth provisions for rural areas.

But the surge in telemedicine adoption comes with a host of cybersecurity risks and regulatory compliance requirements unique to the healthcare sector.

As telemedicine traffic increases, so does the volume of hacking attempts. Recent cybersecurity news indicates healthcare organizations are top targets for cyberattacks and “providers remain the most compromised segment of the healthcare sector, accounting for nearly 75 percent of reported breaches.” The consequences are chilling: “The average cost of a healthcare data breach is $7.13 million globally and $8.6 million in the United States.

Further, whenever patient information is involved, HIPAA compliance is required. While HHS temporarily suspended pursuing HIPAA penalties on providers for “good faith provision of telehealth during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency,” such permissiveness will not last.

Luckily, most telemedicine providers can utilize managed services and cloud infrastructure to keep pace. Here are some best practices to meet IT compliance and cybersecurity demands for telemedicine.

Telemedicine Compliance Best Practices

Compliance should be viewed as a real-time process that drives security. Telemedicine tools and technology should therefore reflect significant expertise with all healthcare regulations (HIPAA, HITRUST, HITECH), with compliance functions permeating processes. Recommended compliance best practices include:

1. Automate Remediation

Healthcare applications cannot offer high reliability if every potential compliance problem is remediated manually; there’s just too much that can go wrong and never enough staff to address it when needed. The solution is to automate everything that can be automated, and rely on people to handle exceptions or potential violations that don’t impact reliability. Cloud-based services can integrate AI and operational intelligence to automatically remediate anomalies when possible, present recommendations to operations staff for cases that cannot be resolved automatically, and present clear choices such as:

·         Do Nothing: Take no action, delete ticket after [x number of days]

·         Fix Now: Implement the recommended actions immediately

·         Schedule: Perform the recommended actions during the next maintenance window

This approach speeds resolution and decreases service disruptions, and improves the reliability of telemedicine delivery. The automated response also plays a critical role in security (which will be discussed shortly).

2. Perform Formal Risk Assessments

Understanding the risk level and specific risk issues are critical components for an effective compliance plan. Many providers of healthcare services underestimate their level of risk, in part because it is difficult to quantify. The HHS has published guidance in its Quantitative Risk Management for Healthcare Cybersecurity, which offers insight. There are also cloud solutions that can aid the process. Cloud services providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud offer automated security assessment services that help improve the security and compliance of applications deployed on their cloud hosting platforms. They can generally assess applications for exposure, vulnerabilities, and deviations from best practices. A good inspection service should highlight network configurations that allow for potentially malicious access, and produces a detailed list of findings prioritized by level of severity.

3. Reduce Attack Surface

To provide secure access to sensitive information, hybrid architectures supporting telemedicine applications need a virtual private network (VPN) gateway between on-premises and cloud resources. However, developers, test engineers, remote employees, and others who need access to cloud-based protected health information (PHI) may bypass a VPN gateway by either cracking open the cloud firewall to allow direct unencrypted internet traffic or using peering connections. To prevent such potential exposures, secure desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) solutions provide an elegant way to allow cloud-based access to PHI without exposing connections or records. A DaaS is generally deployed within a VPC providing each user with access to persistent, encrypted cloud storage volumes using an encryption key management service. No user data is stored on the local device, which reduces overall risk surface area without impeding development capability.

Telemedicine Security Best Practices

While the full scope of cybersecurity strategies is beyond the scope of this article, here are three best practices that telemedicine providers can use bolster their security profile:

1. Deploy Proactive Network Security

Modern cyber threats have become steadily more sophisticated in evading traditional security measures and more devastating once they penetrate network perimeters. For that reason, telemedicine providers need a highly proactive, multilayered approach to prevent malware-based outages, theft of intellectual property, and exfiltration of protected health information (PHI).

A combination of network anti-malware, application control, and intrusion prevention systems (IPS) is recommended. Such proactive solutions are generally bundled in managed cloud services that should automatically detect suspicious system changes in real-time, isolate and quarantine affected resources, and prevent the spread of exploits by locking down any server whose configuration differs from the installed settings.

2. Encrypt Data Storage

Data encryption is the last line of cyber-defense for PHI and other critical information. Even if an attacker can penetrate the perimeter and proactive network security and exfiltrate data from the provider, those data are useless to the hacker if encrypted. It’s good practice to encrypt all web and application servers running on cloud instances using a unique master key from a key management service when creating volumes.

Encryption operations generally occur on the servers that host cloud database (DB) instances, ensuring the security of both data-at-rest and data-in-transit between an instance and its block storage. For additional protection, you can also opt to encrypt DB instances at rest, underlying storage for DB instances, its automated backups, and read replicas.

3. Harden Operating Systems

Both Microsoft Windows Server and Linux are ubiquitous operating systems in telemedicine. They are also both attractive targets for cybercriminals because they provide complex capabilities, frequently remediate vulnerabilities, and are so common (increasing attackers’ chances of finding an unpatched system). Hackers use OS-based techniques such as remote code execution and elevation of privilege to take advantage of unpatched operating system vulnerabilities. Hardened images of Windows Server and Linux virtual machines (VMs) should be used, employing default configurations recommended by the Center for Internet Security (CIS). Such hardened images make gaining OS administrative extremely difficult, and coordinate well with proactive security bundles described earlier.

Additional resources for telemedicine compliance and security are available from the American Medical Association (AMA), the US Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and HITRUST.

 While these best practices are targeted primarily at telemedicine companies, they can also be applied to a wide range of healthcare providers and organizations delivering vital services in the face of 2020’s dramatic swings in demand.


About Gerry Miller

Gerry Miller is the founder and chief executive officer at Cloudticity. He is a successful serial entrepreneur and healthcare fanatic. From starting his first company in elementary school to selling his successful technology consulting firm in 1998, Gerry has always marched to his own drummer, producing a series of successes. Gerry’s first major company was The Clarity Group, a Boston-based Internet technology firm he founded in 1992. Gerry presided over seven years of 100% aggregate annual growth and sold the company in 1998 when it had reached $10MM in revenue.

He was recruited by Microsoft to become their Central US Chief Technology Officer, eventually taking over a global business unit and growing its revenue from $20MM to over $100MM in less than three years. Gerry then joined ePrize as Chief Operating Officer, where he grew sales 38% to nearly $70MM while improving operating efficiency, quality, and both client and employee satisfaction. Gerry founded Cloudticity in 2011 with a passion for helping healthcare organizations radically reshape the industry by unlocking the full potential of the cloud.

Google pumps $100m into Amwell as telehealth firm eyes IPO

It’s all go in the US telehealth sector, with Alphabet’s Google investing $100 million in Amwell on the same day the Boston-based firm unveiled plans for an initial public offering (IPO).

Google has also agreed a partnership with Amwell that makes the telehealth company its preferred partner, while Amwell in turn has agreed to switch some of its online service to Google Cloud from current provider Amazon Web Services.

The IPO aims to raise around $100 million, according to Renaissance Capital, but no pricing has been publicly disclosed yet.

Amwell is one of the larger players in the US market, providing telemedicine to more than 2,000 hospitals and 55 health plan partners with more than 36,000 employers, and recording $202 million in revenue in the 12 months ended June 30.

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a dramatic increase in the use of telehealth in the US and elsewhere, and in turn seems to have prompted companies to look at strategic deals to enhance their presence, and avoid falling behind the competition.

Earlier this month, Teladoc and Livongo announced an $18.5 billion merger that will create a digital health giant with pro forma sales of $1.3 billion from telehealth systems and health monitoring tools if it gets regulatory approval.

That is the largest deal ever signed in the telehealth sector, and according to analysts signals growing confidence in the continued growth of the market once the pandemic subsides. Frost & Sullivan has predicted sevenfold growth in telehealth by 2025, an annual growth rate of more than 38%.

According to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services, Medicare primary care visits delivered remotely grew from less than 1% in February of 2020 to more than 40% in April when the pandemic was starting to peak.

“The pandemic has resulted in historic telehealth utilisation, making it a priority and, in many cases, a preference for patients, providers, and health plans,” said Amwell in a statement.

“The partnership aims to make the healthcare experience much simpler and more continuously accessible to underserved populations” like seniors and patients with chronic illnesses, it added.

The partners say they plan to work together in areas such as automated waiting rooms and checkout, language translation services, and digital triage to reduce the burden on clinicians and streamline the reimbursement process.

Google Cloud’s global director of health care strategy Aashima Gupta said in a blog post that the aim is to create a future “in which your visit begins with a customised greeting and relevant information in a digital waiting room.”

A conversational chatbot would ask about symptoms and the reason for the consultation, sharing this information with a physician prior to a remote consultation. All the interactions would take place in the patient’s preferred setting with artificial intelligence (AI) providing live, translated captioning of the conversation.

Routine tasks such as filling out reimbursement forms would be automated during the visit, freeing up more time for the consultation, and the same technology could also be applied to ongoing monitoring of patients at home.

“We’ll work together to bring these solutions to market, helping expand access to virtual care among our mutual customers and the global healthcare industry,” said Gupta.

The post Google pumps $100m into Amwell as telehealth firm eyes IPO appeared first on .

Analysis: July Health IT M&A Activity; Public Company Performance

– Healthcare Growth Partners’ (HGP) summary of Health IT/digital health mergers & acquisition (M&A) activity, and public company performance during the month of July 2020.


While a pandemic ravages the country, technology valuations are soaring.  The Nasdaq hit an all-time high during the month of July, sailing through the 10,000 mark to post YTD gains of nearly 20%, representing a 56% increase off the low water mark on March 23.  More notably, the Nasdaq has outperformed the S&P 500 (including the lift the S&P has received from FANMAG stocks – Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Microsoft, Apple, Google) by nearly 20% YTD. 

At HGP, we focus on private company transactions, but there is a close connection between public company and private company valuations.  While the intuitive reaction is to feel that companies should be discounted due to COVID’s business disruption and associated economic hardships facing the country, the data and the markets tell a different story.

While technology is undoubtedly hot right now given the thesis that adoption and value will increase during these virtual times, the other more important factor lifting public markets is interest rates.  According to July 19 research from Goldman Sachs,

“Importantly, it is the very low level of interest rates that justifies current valuations. The S&P 500 is within 4% of the all-time high it reached on February 19th, yet since that time the level of S&P 500 earnings expected in 2021 has been pushed forward to 2022. The decline in interest rates bridges that gap.”

Additionally, Goldman Sachs analysts also estimate that equities will deliver an annual return of 6% over the next 10-years, lower than the long-term return of 8%.  Future value has been priced into present value, and returns are diminished because the relative return over interest rates is what ultimately matters, not the absolute return.  In short, equity valuations are high because interest rates are low. 

What happens in public equities usually finds its way into private equity.  To note, multiple large private health IT companies including WellSkyQGenda, and Edifecs, have achieved 20x+ EBITDA transactions based on this same phenomenon.  From the perspective of HGP, this should also translate to higher valuations for private companies at the lower end of the market.  As investors across all asset classes experience reduced returns requirements due to low interest rates, present values increase across both investment and M&A transactions. 

As with everything in the COVID environment, it is difficult to make predictions with certainty.  Because the stimulus has caused US debt as a percentage of GDP to explode, there is an extremely strong motivation to keep long-term interest rates low.  For this reason, we believe interest rates will remain low for the foreseeable future.  Time will tell whether this is sustainable, but early indications are positive.

Noteworthy News Headlines

Noteworthy Transactions

Noteworthy M&A transactions during the month include:

  • Workflow optimization software vendor HealthFinch was acquired by Health Catalyst for $40mm.
  • Sarnova completed simultaneous acquisition and merger of R1 EMS and Digitech.
  • Payment integrity vendor The Burgess Group acquired by HealthEdge Software.
  • Ciox acquired biomedical NLP vendor, Medal, to support its clinical data research initiatives.
  • Allscripts divests EPSi to Roper for $365mm, equaling 7.5x and 18.5x TTM revenue and EBITDA, respectively.

Noteworthy Buyout transactions during the month include:

  • HealthEZ, a vendor of TPA plans, was acquired by Abry Partners.
  • As part of a broader wave of blank check go-public transactions, MultiPlan will join the public markets as part of Churchill Capital Corp III.
  • Also as part of a wave of private equity club deals, WellSky partially recapped with TPG and Leonard Greenin a rumored $3B transaction valuing the company at 20x EBITDA.
  • Edifecs partnered with TA Associates and Francisco Partners in another club deal valuing the company at a rumored $1.4B (excluding $400mm earnout) at over 8x revenue and 18x EBITDA.
  • Madison Dearborn announced a $410mm take private of insurance technology vendor Benefytt.
  • Nuvem Health, a provider of pharmacy claims software, was acquired by Parthenon Capital.

Noteworthy Investments during the month include:

Public Company Performance

HGP tracks stock indices for publicly traded health IT companies within four different sectors – Health IT, Payers, Healthcare Services, and Health IT & Payer Services. Notably, primary care provider Oak Street Health filed for an IPO, offering 15.6 million shares at a target price of $21/ share. The chart below summarizes the performance of these sectors compared to the S&P 500 for the month of July:

The following table includes summary statistics on the four sectors tracked by HGP for July 2020:


About Healthcare Growth Partners (HGP)

Healthcare Growth Partners (HGP) is a Houston, TX-based Investment Banking & Strategic Advisory firm exclusively focused on the transformational Health IT market. The firm provides  Sell-Side AdvisoryBuy-Side AdvisoryCapital Advisory, and Pre-Transaction Growth Strategy services, functioning as the exclusive investment banking advisor to over 100 health IT transactions representing over $2 billion in value since 2007.

52% of Households Willing to Share Smartphone Data to aid in COVID-19 Contact Tracing

52% of Households Willing to Share Smartphone Data to aid in COVID-19 Contact Tracing

Over 50% of US broadband households are willing to share smartphone data to aid in COVID-19 contact tracing, while another 20% could be convinced provided privacy protections are in place, according to Parks Associates’ new research, COVID-19: Impact on Telehealth Use and Perspectives. The research tracks changes in consumer attitudes and adoption of telehealth services as a result of COVID-19 and measure future interest in telehealth services beyond the pandemic.

Parks Associates’ COVID-19: Impact on Telehealth Use and
Perspectives also notes that those who experienced COVID-19 symptoms are more
willing to share smartphone data to aid in contact tracing than those who have
not experienced symptoms. Still, nearly half of those who have not experienced
symptoms are willing to share their smartphone data.

“Apple and Google have together developed an API and framework that developers, in partnership with public health officials and other stakeholders, can use to build contact-tracing apps,” Hanich said. “The industry can drive widespread uptake of these solutions by emphasizing the public benefits of this data sharing while also stressing the privacy protections in place for anyone who participates.”

Same-Day Pharmacy Delivery NowRx Raises $20M to Expand into Additional Territories

Same-Day Pharmacy Delivery NowRx Raises $20M to Expand into Additional Territories

What You Should Know:

– Same day
pharmacy delivery startup NowRx raises $20 Million in Series B funding to expand
into new U.S. territories and accelerate its technology roadmap, transforming
the way consumers get their prescriptions. 


NowRx
’s competitive
advantage is its proprietary pharmacy management system, which leverages AI and
robotics to fill and deliver prescriptions in record time, including
interfacing with insurance, checking for drug interactions, bottling/labeling
in 30 seconds, offering video chats & text with pharmacists, as
well as safe, reliable and convenient home delivery from NowRx’s HIPAA-trained drivers.

– In the
last year, NowRx has grown its new customer base by 84% and increased
revenues by 78%. Since its first delivery in 2016, it has delivered over
200,000 prescriptions to more than 28,000 customers.


NowRx, a Mountain View,
CA-based same-day pharmacy delivery company experiencing rapid growth during
the coronavirus pandemic, has raised $20 million
in Series B funding round through SeedInvest.com, a leading Regulation A+ crowdfunding platform. This round is the largest
in SeedInvest history and brings the company’s total funding to $30 million.

Retail pharmacy is a $400 billion industry that relies on expensive real estate to drive foot traffic and depends on outdated, legacy software systems to manage prescriptions. Founded in 2015, NowRx exists to provide the most convenient pharmacy experience available, with free, same-day delivery of prescription medications. Expedited one-hour delivery is also offered for a $5.00 charge. All pharmacy services are provided from a low cost, highly automated “virtual pharmacy” location, utilizing end-to-end robotic dispensing (“One-Click Fill”) and artificially intelligent chatbots, coupled with NowRx drivers and plug-in electric vehicles, to provide a more efficient and effective pharmacy experience for busy customers.

“The real reason you are stuck waiting in line for your prescription is that the large chain pharmacies actually want you in their stores so you’ll make other purchases while you’re there,” said NowRx CEO and co-founder Cary Breese. “This flawed strategy ignores the fact that consumers are eager to avoid the hassle and risk of in-store shopping, especially during a pandemic.” According to Breese, these retailers are unable to offer a good customer experience with prescriptions because their legacy software systems and manual processes create bottlenecks and inefficiencies. “By re-engineering pharmacy management software and deploying modern automation technology in our low-overhead, high-tech micro-fulfillment centers, NowRx provides a far better customer experience at the same or better margins than the largest players in the industry,” he added.

How It Works

Customers and physicians are able to use the services through the NowRx app, by text, by telephone, and through virtual assistants such as Google Home. Physicians are able to send prescriptions to NowRx through electronic prescribing, fax, the NowRx app, or telephone. Current services provided include fulfilling new prescriptions or refills, transferring prescriptions from other pharmacies, consulting pharmacists via phone, and applying of drug manufacturer coupons.

NowRx Pharmacy is easy to use and works in 3 simple steps.

1. You or your doctor sends a prescription to NowRx Pharmacy

2. Once NowRx has received your prescription, they will
reach out to you in order to get some basic information (insurance, payment
method, preferred delivery time, etc.).

3. Once everything has been confirmed NowRx will deliver
your medication in under 5 hours for your regular copay.

Quickfill Pharmacy Automation

NowRx’s competitive advantage comes from its proprietary pharmacy management software technology, QuickFill (v3.5), which was built from the ground up to streamline and simplify prescription fulfillment and delivery while reducing costs and improving customer service. QuickFill was recently certified by the nation’s leading health information network, Surescripts Health Alliance Network, which unifies electronic health records (EHR) vendors, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), pharmacies, clinicians, and health plans and connects QuickFill to more than 1.5 million physicians across the U.S.

The Quickfill technology suite includes both a consumer app that provides customers with transparency and control over their prescriptions as they are being processed, as well as Wheelz, the driver app that coordinates delivery by NowRx’s HIPAA-trained drivers, enables delivery signatures and transactions, and tracks deliveries in real-time through GPS.

QuickFill technology also incorporates end-to-end robotic dispensing. When a customer clicks on the button to order a refill, that order is automatically routed to the nearest NowRx micro-fulfillment center, where the robots sort, count, bottle and label each medication in less than 30 seconds. The Quickfill software also streamlines the insurance approval process and even has an automated coupon feature that has saved customers millions of dollars by automatically searching for and applying drug manufacturer coupons. Since deploying its fully automated, end-to-end robotic dispensing technology, NowRx has filled more than 15,000 prescriptions (each in less than 30 seconds)

Traction/Milestones

NowRx recently opened one of its high-tech micro-fulfillment facilities in Burlingame, its fourth in California, and has recently received its pharmacy permit to operate another facility in Arizona. In the last year, NowRx has grown its new customer base by 84% and increased revenues by 78%. Since its first delivery in 2016, NowRx has delivered over 200,000 prescriptions to more than 28,000 customers.

NowRx is on track to achieve profitability even as it
exceeds customer expectations by providing free, same-day delivery. According
to SeedInvest CEO and Co-Founder Ryan Feit, investors on the popular Regulation
A+ crowdfunding platform were quick to grasp the advantages of NowRx even
before the COVID-19 pandemic because so many have first-hand experience with
the hassle of getting prescriptions filled. “Investors understand the
problem NowRx is solving,” he said.  

Fueling Expansion into Additional Territories

The funds will be used to launch more of NowRx’s high-tech micro-fulfillment centers to bring free same-day prescription medication delivery to customers in additional territories. NowRx will also use the funds to accelerate the technology roadmap for its proprietary pharmacy management software and logistics technology to increase efficiencies and improve profitability.

NowRx pharmacy currently has multiple locations throughout the Silicon Valley and Orange County California areas.

New CVS Pharmacy App Feature Can Read Prescription Labels Out Loud for Visually Impaired

New CVS Pharmacy App Feature Can Read Prescription Labels Out Loud for Visually Impaired

What You Should Know:

– CVS introduced Spoken Rx™, a new feature of the
CVS Pharmacy app that can read important prescription information out loud. It
is vitally important for patient safety and adherence that prescription labels
are clear and visible, but for patients with visual impairments or those who
can’t read standard print labels, that’s not always the case.

– Spoken Rx provides an audible label option that reads
important info such as patient name, medication name, dosage and directions, in
either English or Spanish to ensure patients are taking the correct
prescriptions, as prescribed.

– More than 7 million U.S. adults suffer from a visual
disability, though that number is expected to increase exponentially in the
coming years due to the increasing prevalence of diabetes and other chronic
conditions.


CVS Pharmacy announced that it has developed Spoken Rx™, a new feature of the CVS Pharmacy app that can read a specific type of label for patients with visual impairments and those who cannot read standard print labels. Spoken Rx is the first in-app prescription reader application to be developed by a national retail pharmacy. The announcement is the result of the collaboration between CVS Pharmacy and the American Council of the Blind, which worked with CVS and tested the technology throughout its development. 

RFID‐Tagged Prescription Label

Today, more than
7 million U.S. adults suffer from a visual disability, though that number is
expected to increase exponentially in the coming years due to the increasing
prevalence of diabetes and other chronic conditions. By the end of 2020, 1,500
CVS Pharmacy locations will be equipped to affix special RFID labels to
prescription vials.  When the RFID labels are scanned by Spoken Rx in the
CVS Pharmacy app, which can be accessed by users using Siri or Google Assistant
on their phones, prescription label information will be spoken out loud.

Enrollment in the program is seamless and can be done either over the phone or in-store where a pharmacist can ensure the patient’s app is appropriately set up for the service. Spoken Rx is free to CVS Pharmacy patients and the app will read prescription label information aloud in either English or Spanish.

This information, which is important for patient safety and adherence, currently includes patient name, medication name, dosage, and directions and will be enhanced to include additional information over the months to come. Spoken Rx will be available in all CVS Pharmacy locations by the end of 2021.

“The in-app feature gives patients more flexibility, providing the pertinent prescription information out loud wherever and whenever they need it,” said Ryan Rumbarger, Senior Vice President, Store Operations at CVS Health. “Spoken Rx provides a more seamless experience to our patients who are visually impaired.”

Post COVID-19: 3 Things I Hope Healthcare Won’t Recover From

Post COVID-19: 3 Things I Hope Healthcare Won’t Recover From
Randy Carpenter, SVP of the Executive Advisory Board at HCTec

The loss of lives and livelihoods from COVID-19 is almost too much to comprehend. And yet, slowly, conversations are emerging about the positives percolating from the pandemic. 

It’s human nature to want to look for the positives in even the worst of situations, and I’ve noticed that in both my personal and my professional circles of late, people are talking about the things they hope we don’t lose when things go back to “normal.”  

Chief among them, especially in my healthcare technology circles, is a level of humanity that our previously faster-paced lives, ways, and organizations had perhaps too often and too easily dismissed. Humans on the frontline of care delivery, for example. The effects of social isolation on healthy people, much less those who are sick. The struggle and juggle of modern work-life balance. Inequalities in healthcare access and delivery. 

We’ve long talked about technology’s ability to make some of these things easier, to close some of these gaps, but now we know just how possible they are when people, politics, and policy unite in the face of a pandemic. We now know just how quickly even the largest and slowest-moving of health systems can change course and even course-correct. 

Until now, it’s been far easier to talk about the promise of technology, telemedicine, and remote workforce scenarios than it was to actually deploy them. Because before, to deploy such solutions also meant loss; loss of control, loss of normalcy, loss of humanity. Until now.

Now, the very things that once seemed to threaten us are bringing us and our organizations closer together. They’re also shining a light on the hard facts about the real value (indeed, the necessity) of such soft skills as empathy, communication, and human insight; skills that have never been more important nor more obvious in the deployment of technology, applications, and people to deliver care. 

Amid the COVID-19 recovery that we all hope is near, here are three things from which I hope we never recover: 

 1. Virtual Care Support and Delivery 

Whether telemedicine, telehealth, or the remote workforce, we’ve not merely crossed the chasm but bridged it, and I predict we’re here to stay.

Prior to COVID-19, less than 10% of healthcare visits were conducted with telehealth and/or telemedicine. That number is now estimated at 40% to 50%, and it’s unlikely that the cat gets put back in the bag, nor should it. 

Key enablers of this long-overdue trend have been changing reimbursement policies, the relaxing of regulations governing patient data, and the ability of doctors to treat patients across state lines and platforms thanks to various state and federal licensure waivers

Necessity, too, has relaxed the barriers to working remotely, which until now was relatively unheard of for large health systems with equally large corporate and back-office staff and campuses. 

Back in my CIO days, I too was a believer in the importance of physical office presence. I wanted to see the 50-plus people on my service desk. It provided a comfort level that people were doing their jobs and doing them at the levels that I and our patients expected. 

Being on the consulting side, though, I’ve completely changed my mind. The flexibility of being able to work remotely is a phenomenal perk, and I dare say that the thousands now working from home would agree with me that you actually find yourself working more hours, not fewer, than in an office environment. 

Countless IT Service and Support Desks, one of which I serve on the advisory board, has been working remotely throughout the pandemic, and they’re doing yeoman’s work in the face of huge increases in IT support for health systems across the country deploying more and new solutions for patients, physicians and staff alike. 

For context, telehealth-related calls for one organization at which I serve on the advisory board have jumped 29% during COVID, accounting for more than 30% of calls compared to just 1% pre-COVID. EMR-related calls jumped 54% for one health system client, mostly due to telehealth appointments being conducted through patient portals such as MyChart. We also saw monthly call volume for that same client nearly triple during COVID, with more than 11,500 calls in April alone. 

Overall, we saw a jump in average call duration of more than 60% for telehealth-related calls.

This is likely another trend that continues along with more and more teams working remotely, especially with tech giants like Facebook and Google once again setting precedent. Both recently announced they would let employees continue to work from home for the rest of the year. If that kind of flexibility holds, we’ll likely see unprecedented movement among the tech workforce who may now be freer to pick their employer without the prospect of having to pick up their lives and move. 

This means pay, flexibility, and, yes, communication, become increasingly important in recruiting and retaining the best tech development and support teams. 

2. Communication with Feeling and Facts

To be fair, communications were probably pretty good in most health systems prior to COVID-19, but it was likely more periodic and in the form of an email from HR rather than the constant communications with teams like we’re seeing now.

Every employer in the healthcare arena should continue to focus on employee and stakeholder communication as we see this pandemic through, and indeed well beyond it. According to research from McKinsey & Company, “The overwhelming effects of a crisis strip leadership back to its most fundamental element: making a positive difference in people’s lives. By turning inward to cultivate awareness, vulnerability, empathy, and compassion, and then turning outward to comfort and address the concerns of stakeholders, leaders can exhibit individual care, build resilience, and position their organizations to positively reimagine a postcrisis future.”

Most people are hungry for solid, factual information, and the more that can be disseminated to the organization the better. In fact, the latest Edelman Trust Barometer found that people have increasingly lost faith in traditional authority figures and institutions and have shifted their trust to the relationships within their control, most notably their employers. 

The more we can learn from some of the best practices coming from these times of crisis and upheaval and continue to keep connected with our teams, the better. 

When we demonstrate to our people and our patients that we understand their struggles and needs and that we trust them enough to share real, factual, meaningful information… as well as to work remotely and get the job done and done well… that’s when everyone wins. 

3. Empathic HIT

There has been a dramatic shift in mentality about how and where people do their jobs as well as how and where they receive care. I’ve been heartened by the increased show of heart as we all navigate these uncharted waters. 

I believe this uptick in empathy may, in fact, be COVID-19’s most meaningful consequence, and I believe empathic HIT has newfound intrinsic value. Here’s why. 

Remember that dramatic increase in call volume and call duration that I mentioned earlier? Yeah, well guess why these calls are lasting longer. The Continuous Improvement Manager who supervises IT Support Desk teams at one organization I’m involved with tells me it’s because their people are focusing as much on the humans on the other end of the line and their holistic needs as they are on the reason they called in the first place. 

Recently, one of the supervisor’s agents received a call from an elderly patient in her 80s whose husband had just passed away. To access his life insurance policy and cover funeral expenses, she needed to gather all sorts of health information, but she couldn’t access his medical records. Adding to her stress, she wasn’t particularly tech-savvy. The agent helping her knew the patient was already traumatized to have lost her husband, and she knew it had to be heightened by the pandemic, so she was determined to help ease some of her stress. Instead of transferring her to another department – billing, medical records, insurance – the Support Desk agent stayed on the line with her for two and a half hours, helping her through every phone conversation with all of the right people to ensure she received everything she needed.

While a lengthy phone call may sound like a relatively simple task for some, it meant the world to the human on the other end. These are the kinds of soft skills that make technology work for us. Empathic HIT Support understands that it’s not just a numbers game or getting to the next call. Rather, it’s about being a voice of comfort and reason and being curious enough to ask the questions that lead to the right answers, connecting people with technology in ways that lead to access to care and healing. 

I’ve been both proud and impressed with how our healthcare providers have responded to the challenges we’ve been presented these past few weeks and months. We’ve probably grossly over-engineered as many solutions as we’ve simplified, but that’s ok. Healthcare people, in general, don’t wait for solutions, they usually create them. They’re creative people who want to do good for their patients and their people.

About Randy Carpenter

Randy Carpenter is currently the Senior Vice President of the Executive Advisory Board at HCTec. He has over 30 years of experience in all aspects of Healthcare Information Technology (HIT) and has held various leadership roles for healthcare and pharmaceutical services organizations throughout his career.