Fortnightly Healthtech Update #19

One small step on the road to reasonable med prices, Illinois caps the price of insulin.

There’s a lot of ongoing speculation that the Coronavirus pandemic might finally bring us into the telemedicine era. The FDA has lifted some restrictions on remote monitoring. It’s also temporarily blessed non-HIPAA compliant audio and video. And practicing across state borders. But it’s going to take more than that to make the change stick. It’s going to take alignment of reimbursement rates, as this tweet shows. Certainly as the stock market craters, investors are excited about companies like Teledoc. A bigger opinion piece by Forbes here.

Some wearables are certainly getting a kick in adoption, with the Oura Ring being used to monitor the health of caregivers in a couple of San Francisco hospitals.As far as I can tell, this is a wellness device, not a medical device (ie. not FDA approved). Which probably explains why it’s on caregivers, not patients. That said, the FDA has also relaxed the regs on ventilators manufacturing. Which is fine. If the only choice you have is a possibly iffy vent, or no vent at all, which would you pick? Expect the FDA to relax plenty more rules over the next 12 months. The more interesting thing is how many those changes will stick when we make it through to the other side.

While many industries are looking for the federal government to bail them out as their revenue plummets, ACO’s are looking for help as their costs threaten to explode. Personally, I’m just as interested in seeing what help there will be for families who face bankruptcy because their healthcare insurance cover is so meager.

In news that is probably not COVID-19 related, patient monitoring company Masimo is set to acquire a ventilator company, TNI Medical. As the press release states there is no material impact for 2020, it looks like a longer term play. Masimo’s core business is measuring and monitoring patient oxygenation. Acquiring a product for ventilation is perhaps a move to close the loop between monitoring and therapeutic delivery and deliver a more complete solution.

On that note, I’ve highlighted a lack of continuous patient monitoring as an issue in Cleveland before. Therefore good to see further studies and adoption of solutions to address this need. First, Masimo reports zero deaths or injuries from opioid induced respiratory depression from a 10 year study. In the much smaller control group, sadly 3 deaths occurred. Second, Children’s Hospital of Georgia signs up for Philips’ IntelliVue Guardian to measure early warning scores more reliably, and so improve intervention when needed.

Alphabet’s DeepMind throws its weight behind COVID-19 protein structure folding. Protein folding using spare cycles from home computers has been a thing for over 10 years. That means you can do your bit to tackle COVID-19 and other diseases, sign up here.

Population health is an under-rated discipline – especially in the US where the payer/provider landscape is so fragmented. That may change with the current pandemic, aided by the increased use of consumer wearables. Researchers at Scripps have kicked off a project to do just that