Catalyst Newsletters

Mastercard, Apple Target Health Care Product Offerings & More News

Mastercard Announces Health Cybersecurity Venture

Mastercard is the latest services giant to dive into the health care industry. At the 2019 HLTH Conference in Las Vegas, NV, the firm announced that it will be launching Mastercard Healthcare Solutions, a product suite of data security offerings aimed at payers and providers. In an effort to protect valuable health and financial information from data breaches, an issue that has severely crippled health systems in recent years, this collection of software products aims to integrate AI, machine learning, and predictive analytics to help payers curb fraud and enable providers to use more effective billing strategies to improve revenue cycle management.

Baby Boomers Targeted by Big Tech and Startups

In anticipation of the silver tsunami, Silicon Valley’s key players are offering products and services that fit the needs of the largest consumers of health services: baby boomers. Companies like Apple and Eargo are tackling hearing loss, a condition that research has shown to be a major barrier to the adoption of tech in older populations. This past June, Apple announced a feature that would alert Apple Watch users if environmental noise or smart technology audio is too loud, and Eargo now integrates their hearing aids with a companion app to provide a comprehensive auditory and social network. Efforts such as these are aiming to close the digital divide between generations as well as targeting a sector that is in need of innovation.

Applications for GuideWell’s Caring for Caregivers Challenge Close Nov. 15 - Act Fast!

There is only one month left to apply to GuideWell’s Caring for Caregivers Challenge, a competition that seeks team-based approaches that have the potential to improve the quality of life for both caregivers and care recipients. GuideWell believes it “takes a village” to sustainably support family caregivers and that single point solutions are typically not broad enough to provide necessary relief. The challenge seeks comprehensive approaches that connect caregivers to resources, technologies, corporate benefits, and community networks to help them with their unique health/wellness needs. 

If you are an organization or non-profit with a novel approach that promotes healthy and happy lifestyles for caregivers and their families, apply today for the chance to win up to $100,000! https://guidewellinnovation.com/health-innovation-challenge/

Medication Adherence Facilitated by Smartphones & More News

Study Shows Wireless Tech Effective for Medication Adherence

A recent study explored the effects of wirelessly observed therapy (WOT) on medication adherence in tuberculosis (TB) patients. WOT includes an ingestible sensor and external wearable patch paired with a mobile device that detects and records the ingestion of medication. Researchers found WOT was as accurate as in-person observations and better at supporting confirmed daily adherence. In addition, patients preferred WOT over in-person observation. Medication adherence is crucial to treat TB and prevent its spread; thus, WOT may be an impactful method to facilitate patients’ self-management of their medications and ensure they complete their treatment.

Amazon's Textract Innovates Simple Optical Character Recognition

Amazon has made its next leap into the digital health market. Textract is the latest of Amazon’s AI and Cloud tools to become HIPAA eligible. The technology reduces labour intensive work like manual data entry by accurately and effectively analyzing documents using machine learning-- bypassing the need for human intervention or customization. Textract is already being explored by companies such as Cambia Health Solutions and Change Healthcare to optimize care coordination and streamline administrative processes. The ability to customize Textract and utilize it in HIPAA compliant ways, will expand how health care providers can use the tool.

Smartphone-based Interventions Can Positively Impact Behavior

A study conducted by researchers at Stanford University found that behavioral interventions, delivered through a smartphone, significantly increased daily short-term physical activity. The trial was run through the MyHeart Counts App. Following a baseline period, participants were assigned one of four different smartphone-based interventions such as hourly prompts and personalized coaching messages. Results indicated that all four interventions significantly increased mean step count when compared to baseline, suggesting that digital interventions delivered via mobile apps can impact behavior. In addition, the medium through which the study itself was conducted, an iPhone, illustrates how technology can reduce barriers to entry for individuals to participate in research. This study is the latest to examine the intersection between research and health tech, highlighting the interest in digital behavioral tracking and optimization.

Amazon Looks to Disrupt the Health Care Market & More News

Amazon Looks to Disrupt the Health Care Market with Launch of AmazonCare

Amazon is continuing to deepen its reach into the health care market. This September, Amazon announced the launch of the pilot program AmazonCare, a service for their Seattle-based employees to have virtual doctor appointments, schedule house calls, and refill prescriptions. The program is made possible by a collaboration with Oasis Medical Group, who is providing the physicians for the program (distancing Amazon from access to its employees’ medical information). AmazonCare hopes to cut costs and streamline access to care. It follows on the heels of a partnership with JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway, which created Haven Healthcare, a medical insurance for employees. In addition, Amazon recently acquired Pillpack, an online pharmacy that directly competes with giants like CVS and Walgreens. If AmazonCare proves to be successful, Amazon may choose to expand the program to help improve patient care for their employees across the country.

Deadline for Pilot Opportunity is October 7th!

CalMHSA is seeking technological solutions that address a county-shared need of increasing access to mental health services to a variety of target populations. Apply now to be part of a multi-year innovation project that will assess and pilot virtual mental health care solutions. A RFSQ (Request for Statement of Qualifications) will need to be completed by interested companies that have the capacity to meet one of more of the following criteria:

  • Implement technology-based mental health solutions accessed through multiple platforms (for example, computer, smartphone, etc.) to identify and engage individuals

  • Provide automated screening and assessments

  • Improve access to mental health and supportive services focused on prevention, early intervention, family support, social connectedness peer support

  • Decreased use of psychiatric hospitals and emergency services

The multi-year innovation project will consist of an open application period (September 12th – October 7th, 2019) and a subsequent pilot period that allows the opportunity for vendors to be added to the Help@Hand Product Portfolio. If you have a digital technology that has the potential to save lives and serve the mental health needs of Californians, you have less than 5 days to apply!

Showcase Your Health Approach and Apply to GuideWell's Caring for Caregivers Challenge

According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, there were more than 43 million adults in the United States who provided unpaid care to a family member in 2015. People or families who actively provide long-term care for aging, chronically ill or disabled adult family members face a broad array of challenges within their daily lives. These challenges include stress, burnout, financial burdens, career sacrifices, sleep deprivation, depression, isolation and lack of privacy.

GuideWell is diligently tackling these issues with help from health innovators through the new Caring for Caregivers Challenge. The challenge is open to for-profit and non-profit organizations that demonstrate the ability to develop and sustainably deploy innovative, scalable approaches that support family caregivers and improve their ability to care for loved ones. Applications close on Nov. 15, 2019.

For more details, see: https://guidewellinnovation.com/health-innovation-challenge

Calling All Superheroes: Apply to the Life Summit 2019

The AI LA Community (AI LA), a California non-profit comprised of 5,000+ cross-disciplinary stakeholders is hosting their inaugural invite-only Life Summit on October 17th with Innovate Pasadena (IP) at Caltech during Connect Week. This invitation-only Summit at Caltech has been designed for health system leaders—including health care experts, data scientists, med-tech startups, civic service providers and researchers—to work together with successful, passionate professionals from a variety of industries.

The Summit will include facilitated breakout sessions, during which Pasadena ArtCenter students will help visualize and align insights, questions and conversations using design-methodologies.The goal is to develop actionable recommendations in a short period of time while also developing a plethora of new ideas and insights individuals can bring back to their own organization.

This is an opportunity for you to learn how health care systems are thinking about their problems, add value with your expertise while participating in a working group, and meet other like-minded professionals.

Apply here by October 10th!

Pinterest Launches Emotional Wellness Activities & More News...

Pinterest Launches Emotional Wellness Activities

Social media is a part of everyday life and many platforms hope to provide tools for their users health and wellbeing. For example, Facebook created a feature to encourage blood drive donations and incorporated AI for suicide prevention. Now, Pinterest is partnering with Brainstorm, the Stanford Lab for Mental Health Innovation, Vibrant Emotional Health and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, to introduce wellness activities for users searching for emotional health and related topics. Users can complete activities such as deep-breathing and self compassion exercises when they feel anxious, sad or stressed.

However, the new feature has prompted concern around user privacy. Pinterest has stated the usage of wellness activities is stored anonymously with an undisclosed third-party service. They have also assured that recommendations and ads will not be based on their use. Pinterest's new feature adoption is indicative of social medias' ability to create unique partnerships with healthcare organizations and health tech companies to reach millions of users, especially those who need it most. 

Philips Acquires Medumo

Successful digital health companies are the blueprint for newly-founded startups and particular attention is given to effective exit strategies that they utilize. There has recently been a spur in IPOs but mergers and acquisitions continue to be the most popular exit avenue. Following this trend, Philips acquired Medumo, a small Boston-based startup enhancing tracking and triaging of patients. Medumo helps patients prepare for appointments through texts, emails, phone calls and paper mailings.

Phillips is committed to global health. In June, it led a funding round for Babyscripts and announced plans to package Babyscripts’ platforms alongside its other obstetrics-focused products. In March, Phillips acquired health information system Carestream Health and it acquired VitalHealth for its cloud-based population health management technology in 2017. Non-healthcare stakeholders entering the digital health sector to buy innovations is commonplace. This has been a successful exit strategy for many companies and a trend that continues to bolster the health tech ecosystem.

Apple Health Records Now Available to All US Providers & More News...

Apple Health Records now available to all US providers with compatible EHRs

Apple is championing consumer empowerment by providing convenient access to health information and products. The company has recently begun carrying One Drop’s glucose monitoring system in stores. It also announced period tracking, activity trends, and hearing protection as core features of its upcoming WatchOS 6. Now, Apple is broadening access to its Health Records feature by allowing health care organizations with compatible electronic health records (EHRs) to self-register. Patients at registered systems or clinics can download their health records to their phone after providing credentials on their existing patient portals. 

Apple Health Records was previously only available to partner providers and organizations, by allowing provider self-registry, millions more will be able to enjoy the feature. Ease in availability of health information doesn’t just empower patients, but also doctors. When a doctor sees patients for whom they are not the primary care provider, Apple Health Records allows them to view their current medications and other information. Remarkably, Apple is not only empowering patients but also bridging siloed health information systems. 

New York City-based Phreesia is the latest digital health startup set to go public

New York City-based healthcare software company, Phreesia, has joined the growing list of digital health firms planning to go public by filing for a $125M IPO. Phreesia developed a patient intake management platform that provider organizations can use to improve care-tasks like patient check-ins. With 15 years of success, a broad client base of 1,600 health firms, and a currently growing revenue, Phreesia could be poised for a successful IPO. The company has several compatriots gearing up to go public in 2019: Change Healthcare, Ancestry.com, Health Catalyst, and Livongo. This could be signaling a maturing digital health market after a three-year lull in IPO activity. 

Aside from Livongo, which was founded in 2014, all the health tech companies currently going public have been around for over a decade. The average age of tech companies that went public was 12 years old in 2018. Many companies are hindered from going public due to an early stage market and a lack of evidence-based outcomes that prove they are worth an investment. This current cohort of IPOs will indicate the level of investor interest in the digital health space and shape future IPOs. 

Cisco, American Well Developing Telehealth For Seniors & More News…

Cisco, American Well Developing Telehealth-Enabled TV for Seniors

The future of telehealth could be through your TV. American Well is partnering with Cisco Systems to deliver care through home television sets, enabling them to reach patients who may not be comfortable using tablets or other devices. The companies hope the technology can shift part of aging patients’ care from doctor offices and hospitals to their homes.

With the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services expanding reimbursement for telehealth services and 52% of older adults being open to receiving care through telehealth, the launch of a new senior-focused virtual care platform is timely. American Well and Cisco are not the only ones developing digital home-health solutions targeting seniors. Best Buy has acquired GreatCall, a provider of connected health and personal emergency response services for older adults. Comcast is also developing an in-home remote monitoring device for seniors and people with disabilities.

Pfizer working with Finnish tech startup to improve patient adherence

There is a dire need for an effective digital health solution since only about 50% of patients who have long-term illnesses adhere to their treatment. Pfizer has begun collaborating with a Finnish digital health startup, Popit, to improve medication adherence and treatment outcomes for rheumatoid arthritis patients. Popit’s solution will monitor select patients' pill-taking with a smart device and alerts users via an app if they forget to take their medication. Initially, it will be implemented among 1,000 patients in Finland, Sweden and Norway, with possible expansion to other Central European countries afterward. 

With expansion on the horizon, companies like Pilloxa, a Swedish digital health startup that utilizes a smart pillbox and app to improve adherence, can expect strong competition. Popit launched in 2017 with $1.4M seed financing and began by performing studies with patients using birth control. They are also running a pilot for type-2 diabetes patients. Popit’s CEO, Teemu Piirainen, hopes to tap into the global market and posits their current arrangement with Pfizer will be a catalyst to helping a large number of patients worldwide.

SAP.iO is seeking seed to Series A innovators for business development

SAP.IO is the early stage venture arm of SAP, the market leader in enterprise application software. The SAP.iO Foundries offer founder-friendly,no-equity-asked programs providing access to SAP APIs, SAP technologies, and exposure to SAP customers. SAP.iO is seeking a diverse group of exceptional seed to Series A founders driving innovation in health for their NY Fall Cohort. Selected teams will be immersed in a 3-month highly curated, in-residence program working along-side world-class executives and mentors with a focus on the unique challenges of B2B companies: Go-to-Market, Enterprise Sales, Growth Marketing, Funding, Pricing, Product Management. Apply here.

Health 2.0 VentureConnect Announces Grand Prize Package Valued at $12k

Applications are open for the VentureConnect Pitch Competition at the 2019 Health 2.0 Annual Conference on September 16-18, 2019 in Santa Clara, CA. The Health 2.0 VentureConnect Pitch competition brings together vetted seed through raising Series A-ready companies to compete for the title of Most Fundable Startup. Two winners will be crowned Startup Champion and awarded a monetary prize package valued at $12,000. This is an opportunity for startups and entrepreneurs to get valuable exposure and make connections with health tech’s biggest and most active investors. 

Learn more about Health 2.0 VentureConnect Startup Pitch Competition here, applications close July 8, 2019. 

Attending the Health 2.0 Annual Conference? Save $200 when you register with discount code: Catalyst200

Same-day Medication Delivery Platform Medly Closes Series A Round

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Healthcare consumerism is on the rise and individuals now expect convenience in each step of their care experience. Digital pharmacies like Medly are taking advantage of this shift. The New York City-based startup provides same-day delivery of prescription medications. Providers can send prescriptions to the Medly platform then patients book a time for home-delivery. Founded in 2017, the company is headquartered in Brooklyn and serves customers in the greater New York and New Jersey area. Medly recently announced a new Series A funding round led by Greycroft for an undisclosed amount. Following the footsteps of their competitor, Capsule, the startup plans to use the infusion of funds to expand its services throughout the US. Medly believes that through humanizing their service and free same-day delivery, they will be differentiated from their competitors.

FDA Clears Single-use Nerve Stimulation Pain Relief for Adolescents with IBS

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With the US in the midst of the opioid epidemic, healthcare stakeholders are leveraging technology to create alternative sources of pain relief. Recently, the FDA granted De Novo clearance for a prescription nerve stimulation device called IB-Stim. Developed by Innovative Health Solutions, the device is a single-use electrical nerve stimulator that reduces functional abdominal pain for adolescents and teens with irritable bowel syndrome. It is placed behind the patient’s ear and emits a low-frequency pulse that stimulates cranial nerves to provide pain relief. This isn’t the first time the FDA has provided marketing authorization for a digital health tool to target the opioid crisis and pain management. In recent years, the FDA cleared the NSS-2 BRIDGE, a device used to reduce symptoms of opioid withdrawal and the Electro Auricular Device for use in acupuncture. Neurological medical devices offer the possibility of safer alternatives to pain management. 

House Calls are Making a Comeback

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Although house calls evoke flashbacks to the 1900s, startups like DispatchHealth and Heal are making a case for them in this tech-enabled world. Both startups reimagine traditional house calls with mobile technology that allow patients to request on-demand care. In this care delivery model, the clinician arrives at the patient’s home within two hours and focuses on common health concerns like the flu, UTIs, stomach viruses, respiratory conditions, etc. The dispatched clinician then shares detailed notes to the patient’s primary care provider to ensure care is coordinated and no information is lost. 

In 2018, Heal raised $27M in Series A funding and has steadily expanded its service area and partnerships. While Heal continues to build on their company, DispatchHealth announced this month they have gained $33M in growth capital financing. DispatchHealth also added Kaiser Permanente (Colorado) to their list of health insurers, which includes Medicaid, Medicare, Cigna, Aetna, and more. The new investment will allow DispatchHealth to extend its service area coverage and develop new partnerships. With the ever growing consumer demand for healthcare at home, we can expect startups like Heal and DispatchHealth and house calls to become more prominent.

Empowering People with Impaired Speech through AI

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The ability to communicate and be understood is a privilege that is often taken for granted. For those who suffer from neurological conditions such as ALS, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, and Parkinson’s disease, impaired speech limits how they can express needs and engage with those around them. However, with the advancement of voice-enabled tech and artificial intelligence, Google AI seeks to empower those with speech impairments by improving a computer’s ability to understand diverse speech patterns.

Project Euphonia, part of the AI for Social Good program, uses specialized software to turn recorded voice samples into a spectrogram, or a visual representation of the sound. Common transcribed spectrograms are used to "train" the system to better recognize less common types of speech patterns. Those with severe disability or nonverbal individuals also benefit from this project given that Google’s personalized AI algorithms are simultaneously working to detect facial movements and gestures. Euphonia can then take actions such as generating spoken commands to Google Home or sending text messages. The ultimate goal of this initiative is to support people with impaired speech and empower them to communicate freely and effectively. 

Oscar Health Partners with Cardiogram to Bring Health Detection Technology to Members

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Health care insurers are increasingly using wearables to engage and monitor the health and wellness of their members. For example, Aetna’s Attain and UnitedHealthcare’s Motion programs incentivizes beneficiaries to perform tasks designed to improve their health. Oscar Health’s new partnership with smartwatch app maker Cardiogram takes a different approach by improving access to care for those at risk of developing chronic conditions. Oscar Health is able to more effectively manage the health of its members through early disease detection by leveraging Cardiogram’s clinically proven artificial intelligence technology.  

Oscar beneficiaires will be able to download and use Cardiogram Care on their smartwatch for free. After uploading the necessary insurance information, each user will be monitored for signs of diabetes and atrial fibrillation. If symptoms are detected, users will need to take further tests to confirm the diagnosis. If a previously undiagnosed condition is confirmed, the app will be able to refer the user to in-network physicians. As wearables slowly become more prevalent, having a clinical workflow leveraging smart devices can have dramatic implications on how we access care in the future.

Lyft Expanding Discount Grocery Rides to Multiple Cities Across US and Canada

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Millions of Americans across the country do not have adequate access to healthy foods. For example, those living in low income neighbourhoods, communities of color, and rural areas often do not have a nearby supermarket stocked with nutritious, affordable, and high quality foods. In an effort to remove such transportation barriers, Lyft will be expanding its Grocery Access Program to more than a dozen cities in the US and Canada over the next year. The ride-share platform will be partnering with local organizations and nonprofits to provide low-income families in food deserts with discounted rides to the grocery store.

The expansion of the program helps Lyft maintain a competitive edge over its rival Uber in healthcare. Lyft’s Concierge service, which gives hospital administrators the ability to book NEMT for patients, came out two years ahead of Uber’s similar service, UberHealth. Now Lyft has once again gained a first mover advantage by being the first to roll out a grocery service. With payers seeking to mitigate costs associated with poor nutrition, we can see Lyft forging crucial partnerships and leveraging its platform to treat the growing health inequity in the US.

Digital Physical Therapy Startup SWORD Health at the Forefront of Home-Based Care

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The rapid digitization of healthcare is enabling the advancement of technology solutions aimed at providing quality home-based care for patients. One notable example is the Portuguese startup SWORD Health. The company provides patients suffering from musculoskeletal disorders with a digital physical therapy solution. Each patient is given a wearable motion tracking device, an AI-powered digital therapist, and a clinical portal where caregivers can track their progress. The company published two studies in the Journal of Medical Internet Research and Nature Scientific Reports last month, showing its digital therapy platform is more effective than standard rehabilitation at helping patients recover from total knee arthroplasty. 

SWORD Health recently announced it successfully raised $8M in Series A funding, indicating continued investor interest in their AI-powered platform. The funding round was led by Khosla Ventures with additional participation from several unnamed angel investors. It plans to use the investment for further clinical validation, improving product engineering, and expanding its footprint in North America. Khosla Ventures founder Vinod Khosla states SWORD Health’s “end-to-end technical approach enables exponentially more efficient delivery of care to patients and payers.” By providing accessible and effective care to patients at home, SWORD Health’s digital platform may be a huge disruptor of the physical therapy landscape.

Israel’s $276M Investment in Preventive and Personalized Medicine

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Israel is a center for healthcare innovation, with 500 digital health startups and a world-class healthcare system. Researchers are leveraging the country’s interoperable EHRs for analysis. They can easily obtain data since EHR systems at different hospitals throughout the country are able to talk to one another.

According to Siman-Tov, director general of Israel’s Ministry of Health, de-identified patient data is enabling researchers to “generate insights and identify patterns that can later be implemented in decision support systems.” For example researchers from Clalit, the largest healthcare system in the country, have used medical records to identify patient populations with adrenal failure at risk of further degradation. In addition to furthering preventative medicine at a population-level, researchers plan to leverage the data in support of advancements in personalized medicine. Last year, Israel’s government approved a $276M investment in digital health in hopes of commercializing their medical databanks. Having already attracted the interest of many stakeholders, Israel continues to solidify its position as a leader in digital health innovation.

Digital Health Company Livongo Set to IPO

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Digital health startups raised $8.1B from investors in 2018. However, with the exception of Roche’s $2B purchase of Flatiron Health and Amazon’s $1B acquisition of PillPack, there has been a lack of significant exits within the digital health landscape. In the past, many IPOs came from companies with business models familiar to Wall Street. For example, Veeva Health and AthenaHealth have a business model focused on selling cloud-based software while Fitbit focuses on selling devices. 

Unlike in previous years, digital health companies planning to IPO have business models that emphasize combining technology and services. Livongo is a provider of chronic disease management services bundled with a blood glucose meter. It has hired Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and J.P. Morgan Chase to manage their IPO. According to Marc Albanese, senior director of research at CB Insights, “there hasn’t been a true digital health IPO,” putting a bit of pressure on Livongo. Undoubtedly, Livongo’s IPO performance will set the tone for how similar companies are received by Wall Street.

Femtech Startups Gaining Traction Among Investors

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The increasing popularity of fertility trackers and other women-focused tech has spurred the growth of reproductive health companies with a digital focus. For example, Natural Cycles, the first birth control app to be CE-certified as a contraceptive in Europe, raised $30M in Series B funding back in 2017. Ava, maker of an ovulation tracking bracelet, also raised $30M in Series B funding early last year. NextGen Jane, a startup seeking to make it within the increasingly competitive reproductive health space, closed a $9M Series A funding round earlier this week. Leading the round was Material Impact. Additional investors include Access Industries, Viking Global Investors, and Liminal Ventures. NextGen Jane is planning to mail kits to women with a tampon they can send back and have analyzed. The Oakland, California-based startup will use the influx of cash to further its scientific dataset and prepare for a 2020 product launch. By providing women with accessible methods to understanding their reproductive health, NextGen Jane and other femtech startups will only continue to grow in the coming years.

Healthcare Executives Under Threat of Business Model Disruption

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Healthcare executives are increasingly worried about business model disruption due to the influx of new entrants, processes, and technologies into the healthcare industry. According to Change Healthcare’s 9th Annual Industry Pulse Survey, 13.3% of 185 healthcare leaders believe that innovations in care delivery will lead to potential advancement within the industry and 11.1% believe that refinement of customer experience will create disruptive change. Other potential disruptors include supply chain innovations (9%), launch of vertical one-stop healthcare companies (8%), and advances in artificial capabilities (7%). However, the survey findings also suggest that healthcare leaders are increasingly embracing healthcare technologies. Thirty percent of leaders indicate that EHRs are their leading source of clinical data and another 30% of respondents say that analytics are “extremely effective” or “very effective” at increasing workflow productivity.

Health systems are also jumping into the digital age, with patients portals employed by 73% and telehealth solutions employed by 54% of all surveyed respondents. Twenty percent of respondents indicate they currently use machine learning and 51% plan to employ the technology in the future. Interestingly, the survey reveals a marked lack of attention toward cybersecurity. Even while 40% of healthcare leaders see cybercrime as a potential risk, 38% answered that there are “too many competing priorities” to warrant the level of attention that cybersecurity needs. Nevertheless, the threat of disruption has charged healthcare leaders to intensify its commitment to combating new market entrants.

New Studies Seek to Define Clinical Efficacy of Apple Watch

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Preliminary results from the Apple Heart Study show the potential health benefits of wearables. Researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine partnered with Apple to conduct a virtual observational study with more than 400,000 participants. The study used the Apple Watch’s irregular rhythm notification (IRN) system to detect atrial fibrillation (AFib). The results showed 0.5% of participants received irregular rhythm notifications. For those who were notified, 21% received and wore an ECG patch. Of those, Afib was confirmed 34% of the time. The positive predictive value of the overall study was 71%, however, this increased to 84% for the subgroup who also used an ECG patch. It should be noted that the study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. 

Johnson & Johnson’s HEARTLINE Study aims to build on the Apple Heart Study. Announced back in January, the virtual clinical trial will enroll 150,000 Americans 65 years and older to detect AFib and collect outcomes data. Participants will be randomized to either receive the Apple Watch 4 or no watch at all. Compared to the Apple Heart Study, one key technical design difference allows the HEARTLINE Study to draw a clearer connection between AFib observance and confirmation. Instead of waiting for an ECG patch to be mailed to the participant, the ECG app on the user’s Apple Watch 4 will be engaged once the “IRN software detects five out of six consecutive irregular rhythms each lasting one minute.” Both the IRN software and the ECG app are FDA cleared for AFib detection. Although the clinical efficacy of wearables is far from conclusive, the innovative use of virtual clinical trials will likely be commonplace in the future with the continued proliferation of consumer-driven health technologies. 

Voice Technology Helping Patients In and Out of Hospitals

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With the proliferation of devices such as the Google Home and Amazon Alexa, consumers have increasingly become accustomed to using voice technologies to send and receive information. Livongo, a chronic conditions management platform, has recently announced the launch of a new voice tool feature for its users. It is called "Cuff to Cloud" and is powered by Amazon Lex and Polly. It allows Livongo users to upload their blood pressure readings through a voice-enabled cellular blood pressure monitoring system. By running the data through the company’s AI+AI engine, users will receive personalized “health nudges” such as suggestions to reduce their sodium intake.

Hospitals are also evaluating the use of voice technologies to decrease inefficiencies and improving patient satisfaction. Cedars-Sinai is currently running a 100-hospital room pilot to assess the capabilities of a patient-centered voice assistant platform. Each room is equipped with an Amazon Echo run by Avia (an Alexa-powered platform). In addition to the standard Amazon Alexa features, patients can request help through the device. If the request is not answered in a timely manner, Aiva automatically sends it up the chain of command to notify the relevant personnel. By moving patient interaction into the 21st century, Cedars-Sinai hopes that a smart room will have a positive impact on patient satisfaction for both patients and nurses. Adrienne Edwards, an early user of the platform, praised the smart addition to her room. Feeling lonely, she asked the smart device, “Alexa, will you be my friend?” The device responded, “Of course we could be friends. You seem very nice.”

From personalized health recommendations to expediting patient-provider communication flow, voice technology is rapidly gaining traction among the patient population. What’s left to see is how fast can the technology be adapted to healthcare-specific settings with an inherent focus on patient privacy.

Revolutionizing Healthcare Analytics with Data Lakes

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The use of artificial intelligence, voice recognition, and other modern solutions in healthcare organizations is fast becoming a reality. Hospital systems such as Thomas Jefferson University Hospital are quickly embracing these new technologies to increase patient satisfaction and experience. However, impressive patient-centered innovations require a solid technical infrastructure on the back-end to sustain long-term growth and stability. One type of data architecture, commonly known as data lakes, is a clear solution to this problem.

Modern healthcare organizations are able to pull data from Internet of Things sensors, social media feeds, website activity, in addition to electronic health records and other patient data. While data warehouses have traditionally been used to store current and historical data in an organized manner, they are unable to capture the vast amounts of raw data generated by modern technologies. This is where data lakes step in. Unlike the structured manner of a data warehouse, data lakes act as a central repository of unstructured, semistructured, and structured data to pull in vast amounts of information in real time. Everything from surgical systems to general ledgers and payroll can be pulled into a data lake, making them prime for experimentation. Organizations can load a variety of data types from multiple sources and quickly engage in ad hoc analysis, according to Kelle O'Neal, founder and CEO of management consulting firm First San Francisco Partners.

As more and more healthcare organizations look to data lakes as a viable solution for their data storage needs, it is important to understand the benefits of the architecture. Arizona’s Phoenix Children’s Hospital has pulled a variety of data from 40 healthcare systems into its data lake. Not only has this created a culture shift towards a data-driven approach to problem-solving, but it has also generated a number of practical solutions, such as algorithms for more accurate dosing. New York’s Montefiore Health System uses its “multi-sourced, tagged data to support artificial intelligence and deep learning.” As the transition towards value-based care continues, it can be incredibly beneficial for healthcare organizations to understand and implement data lakes in order to leverage data in support of clinical and operational decisions.