Fortnightly Healthtech Update #7

Current Health (formerly Snap40) partners to add axillary temp and spirometry to the parameters it measures.

Detecting antibiotic levels in real-time.

Bioformis ups its game with FDA clearance for BioVitals to help manage chronic conditions.

MC10 partners with University of Rochester to collect real-world evidence for how people live with Parkinson’s. Reminds me a bit of this collaboration between IBM and Pfizer.

Interesting perspective that I hadn’t considered before: Dated US regulatory policies are endangering the US lead in healthcare technology.

Direct primary care (DPC) might help achieve half of the quadruple aim, clinician satisfaction and patient satisfaction. But lower healthcare costs overall, and higher quality overall, I’m not so sure. It’s also typically positioned as an up-sell to people who already have health insurance. But just thinking out loud, maybe there’s another angle. If you can’t afford a traditional insurance plan, would a low cost primary-care-only option with a strong focus on preventative care be better than nothing…?

Sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen, Rensselaer County launches online emergency room for Medicaid patients. I’m sure the intent is good, to prevent unnecessary ER visits. But, pitching an app called “ER Anywhere” to a patient population might just be asking for trouble.

I expect to see more of this from large employers tired of rising healthcare premiums: Walmart to use Embold Health’s analytics to herd it’s employees to high quality providers.

Can a simplified cardiac risk score also predict strokes?

In case anyone was still in doubt, new research published in JAMA suggests 25% of al, healthcare spending could be waste (free registration required). And that doesn’t include administration. Candidly, a primary care doc once told me the rule of thumb in primary care is 3 admins for every medical practitioner. Their practice at the time had a 5 to 1 ratio! I’m inclined to think that admin overhead is a direct result of the complexity of the payer/reimbursement model. And they say that government managed healthcare would be inefficient…

Best practice for in-hospital rapid response teams (RRT) include having a dedicated RRT, and the ability for anyone to trigger the RRT without fear of reprisal.

The only thing that surprises me about this is that patients still have to pay some of the cost: Devoted health to use Apple Watch with Medicare Advantage patients. I would be shocked if most payers/providers aren’t paying for wearables like this in a few years – and financially encouraging patients to use them. If they’re not, it probably means the push for value-based care has failed.

The ECRI Institute releases its top 10 technology hazards for 2020. Not for the first time, the problem of over-alarming makes the list.

In Pennsylvania a patient tragically expired in the ER after being left unattended. A potential market opportunity for wearables perhaps. But unfortunately, hard to make a business case for it that is going to make a hospital CFO jump for joy.

Funding for digital health startups has cooled a tad, but still an estimated $1.3bn in Q3 according to Rock Health.

Fortnightly healthtech update #6

Firefly raises an additional $10m for concierge primary care, bags new CEO.

An incredibly low-tech way to spot patient deterioration early – listen to their loved ones.

A vision for the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) in the UK

Apple announces three new health studies – but Jessica Baron at Forbes adds a big dollop of caution.

Corvia Medical and PhysIQ team up for a study in heart failure management.

Henry Ford in Detroit has some success cutting re-admissions with remote patient monitoring. Now it’s looking for partners to help it expand and grow.

Picking up on the thread from last time that value-based care might not be just around the corner: Stakeholders push back on bundled payments for oncology. Also, current value-based care models need greater emphasis on specialty care. Hard to argue with that. It’s true, patents with chronic conditions account for the majority of US healthcare spending. But, if we focused on preventative medicine instead of treating sickness – through a single payer system for example – arguably we wouldn’t need so much specialty care now would we.

Rapid advance in medical wearables runs headfirst into reality: Docs call for standards for blood pressure measurement.

Using a ballistocardiogram to monitor heart failure patients at home. It’s OK, I didn’t know what it was either…

Hospital execs in New Hampshire fret that high deductible health plans might be a barrier to care. Which is really hospital CEO code for “high deductible plans hurt our revenue”. And they’re right – but that’s part of the point. I can tell you from personal experience, a high deductible changes your thinking. If you’re personally paying 100% of the bill for everything It makes you spend only on the “must haves” in healthcare. And that’s OK. If we’re going to rein in healthcare spending – which we must, because it’s not sustainable – we need to give up the “nice to haves”. And providers will feel some of that pain, short term. But there is a perverse incentive with high deductible plans. What happens when you hit the deductible limit? Well, you just pile in and take care of all those “nice to haves” while the insurer is paying for them…

That said, high deductible insurance plans would be more effective if consumers had tools to compare both price and quality when shopping for healthcare. Often, they don’t. But, here’s a study showing that price transparency tools seem to work. Which is interesting, because Walmart just opened it’s first physician-staffed clinic with transparent pricing upfront.

One more reason for healthcare execs to fret: Amazon launches Amazon Careas a pilot for its’ employees. Coming soon to….probably pretty much everyone once they’ve worked out the wrinkles I imagine. It looks like a nice example of focusing on the customer need. Not the more traditional healthcare approach of “What can we do that we’ll get reimbursed for…?”.

And just to pile on the pressure, Sam’s Club (owned by Walmart) is introducing $1 telehealth visits with a subscription. This is interesting too. Telehealth options are usually offered by an employer. This is the first I’m aware of that is D2C. So what’s the target market…? Is it people without health insurance? Or, is it people who have insurance, but want a more cost effective/convenient way to access primary care?

An interesting history lesson: Americans already paid for universal health care. Just not for fellow Americans.

A good summary of how far Medicare has got down the road with value-based care. Not very. Just to reinforce that, although physicians participate in value-based care, most of their revenue come from good ol’ fashioned fee-for-service.

Eko raises $20m for it’s machine learning driven cardiac monitoring.

Also in funding news, InsightRX raises $10m for precision dosing – using data to optimize the therapeutic dose and minimize side effects.

Sad but true: Slowing the growth of healthcare costs – not actually cutting costs – is seen as  a triumph. But at least BCBSMA has achieved that with an 8 year value based program.

A long, but worthy read: How to avoid getting fleeced in the emergency room.