Study of medication adherence with AI-supported selfies highlights potential for clinical trials

AiCure’s tool uses a form of artificial intelligence for facial recognition to confirm that patients have taken the correct medication.

A look at the evolution of the user interface in healthcare

What are the advantages of a conversational user interface over the interfaces we’ve used for decades?

74 percent of physicians believe communication improves when patients set the agenda

What happens when patients set the agenda for their appointments by entering information in the EHR? Pretty much everybody’s happier.

VA uses predictive analytics to prevent suicides, contemplates scrapping VistA EHR

While striving to decrease veteran suicide rates, the Department of Veterans Affairs is considering getting rid of its VistA EHR system.

Intermountain Healthcare Innovation Fund gives some more love to Redox

Redox Engine, the Madison, Wisconsin health IT startup that’s helping healthcare facilities overcome interoperability challenges has received $1 million in follow-on investment from Intermountain Healthcare Innovation Fund, according to a company release. The funding is part of Redox’s Series B round.

Redox will work with Intermountain in the Salt Lake City-based health system’s push to adopt digital health solutions that fit into their electronic health record. The company will also support applications Intermountain has developed, such as the Rehab Outcomes Management System, as part of Redox’s API platform.

Healthbox has previously run an accelerator for healthcare startups called Healthbox Studio but with the management change last year, Healthbox repositioned itself as a venture capital investment manager with an innovation platform that functions as a consultant to and collaborator with healthcare partners.

Healthbox has managed Intermountain Healthcare’s Innovation Fund since the fund’s launch in 2015. The fund is intended to source, evaluate, and invest in companies that align with Intermountain’s mission. So far the fund has made a handful of investments in healthcare startups, in addition to Redox:

Zebra Medical Vision, an Israel-based health IT business, developed a clinical decision support teaching computers to read and diagnose medical images through machine learning. Last year, Zebra closed a Series B round as it launched a consumer-facing product called Profound. The service allows individuals to upload their medical imaging scans such as computerized tomography scans and mammograms to Zebra Medical Vision’s online service, and receive an automated analysis of key clinical conditions.

Syapse is a precision medicine software meets clinical decision support startup. It seeks to improve care coordination for hospitals by extracting clinical, genomic and other molecular data from medical records, labs and pharmacies and integrating that data to offer more detailed patient profiles. By doing this, the company wants to guide doctors to find the right diagnostic test and therapeutic approach. The Intermountain fund took part in its Series C round.

The fund also invested in Utah-based genomics software developer Tute Genomics, which was later acquired by PierianDx. PierianDx seeks to enable personalized medicine for clinical labs.

Photo: jpa1999, Getty Images

Women’s leadership roles increasing in Telehealth & Health Care, but the journey toward equity is far from over

Charlotte Yeh

When Charlotte Yeh entered medical school decades ago, it was the first year more than 10 percent of the slots were available to women. Fast forward to today, and women make up almost half of medical school classes. Women also hold prominent roles throughout health care, including in management. But getting a coveted spot in the C-suite has been tougher, says Yeh, now the chief medical officer for AARP Services.

“Women are not very well represented in the highest levels of leadership,” she says. “The current generation may feel kind of complacent… but they haven’t realized there’s still the hurdle of getting into the top management.”

That broader picture is similar in the field of telehealth, where women leaders say they’re still underrepresented. So how can women strengthen their roles in telehealth as the industry continues its explosive growth? In a first-ever event, the American Telemedicine Association conference in Orlando this month will feature the panel, “Women Executives in Telehealth: Positioning for the Future.”

“I’m very impressed with the ATA,” says Yeh, who will moderate the panel. “It’s remarkable and a positive sign of the times that they’re already talking about leadership.”

In the best, most high-performing organizations in any field, Yeh says, it’s common to see more women included among the board and management. “Let’s face it, men and women are different,” she says. “Women may lend a very different lens or perspective versus if everyone at the table looks the same.”

Mon PM, Kristi Henderson

Kristi Henderson

That’s especially true in health care, as women often make decisions related to their family’s health, says panelist Kristi Henderson, vice president for virtual care and innovation at Seton Healthcare Family. “Without their voice,” she says, “solutions will not appreciate the perspective of women who are the users or facilitators of these services the majority of the time.”

Mon PM, Julie Hall-Barrow

Julie Hall-Barrow

In telehealth specifically, it’s imperative for women to play a role in the direction and innovation of new technologies and how organizations and companies are structuring their strategy, says panelist Julie Hall-Barrow, vice president for virtual health and innovation at Children’s Health, Dallas. “Without the perspective and tenacity of women in key leadership roles,” she says, “the industry as a whole will lack vision.”

Progress made, but more needed

The enormous growth of the health care industry in the last two decades has included increased options for women, says Henderson, who began exploring telehealth 18 years ago and went live with her first telehealth program in 2003. “The number and variety of jobs in telehealth have created new opportunities for women across business, clinical and technology sectors,” she says. “The value of women in health IT leadership roles is evident, resulting in increased numbers of women holding senior leadership roles in telehealth, health systems and health IT in general.”

Hall-Barrow, whose work in telehealth was spurred in the early 1990s, says she’s witnessed a growth of women leaders in the market. “My career has followed this trend,” she says, “and has led to incredible opportunities to lead efforts in one of the largest states in the nation and in one of the leading pediatric health care systems in North Texas.”

Mon PM, Paula Guy

Paula Guy

But while companies are putting policies in place to achieve equality for women in the workplace, more work is needed to create neutral gender environments, says panelist Paula Guy, president and chief executive of Salus Health.

There remains an underrepresentation of women at the board table, Henderson says. “There has been a slow increase of these women moving into more senior positions and being invited to the table for decisions,” she says. “Now that there is more of a conscious attention to diversity and inclusivity, this underrepresentation is changing.”

There’s still room for women leaders in telehealth, particularly in the C-suite and boardroom, says Hall-Barrow, and current leaders should encourage this by mentoring other women.

Advice from top women in telehealth

Honing an expertise to differentiate yourself from the pack is one way to achieve success in telehealth, Henderson says. “Find your skill and passion, then refine and perfect that skill,” she says. “Determination, integrity and tenacity are critical factors for career advancement.”

Start with a win, Hall-Barrow says. “When putting a program together, creating a technology, or implementing a system, do so with a guaranteed success,” she says. “This success will drive leaders to pay attention to your work and seek your advice for the next opportunity.”

Find a mentor, especially one in the field, Hall-Barrow says. “The more you can learn about the industry,” she says, “the faster you will make an impact in areas that you aren’t expected to make.”

And keep up with the rapidly changing health care market. “The more you know, the more key you will be in your industry,” she says.

Women have a long way to go to be close to where men are in leadership positions in health care, including telemedicine, Guy says. “The women I know in telemedicine are smart, strong, passionate, caring, and they work hard to get the job done,” she says. “If given the opportunity for leadership positions, we would see telemedicine grow like never before.”

Oncora Medical and MD Anderson embark on personalized radiation oncology study

 

Philadelphia-based clinical decision support startup Oncora Medical is collaborating with University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston in a study to help radiation oncologists develop personalized treatment plans with the goal of improving outcomes, according to a news release. The Phase 1 study will focus on data from 2,000 breast cancer patients and last three to nine months.

Oncora’s Precision Radiation Oncology Platform will analyze data from MD Anderson’s electronic medical record system, tumor registry, radiation therapy planning system, and Brocade — a Web-based clinical documentation tool for medical records developed by MD Anderson Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology, Dr. Benjamin Smith.

Oncora will be tasked with creating interoperability between its Precision Radiation Oncology Platform and Brocade to explore the potential value of a combined product, the release said.

“Through this alliance, we hope to improve workflows and processes for radiation oncologists and simultaneously give radiation oncologists access to better information to support real-time, precision medical decision making,” Smith said in the release.

Although most people think of precision medicine as targeted therapy, Lindsay noted that the company defines precision medicine as the “right treatment for the right patient at the right time” and wants to expand the conventionally accepted definition beyond drugs and diagnostics.

The study was a year in the making and will be Oncora’s biggest endeavor to date, Lindsay said.

“Our software needs to access data across multiple software systems at a center that treats nearly 10,000 patients per year. That is part of the reason why we spent so long planning for the partnership. We want everything to go smoothly and we want to deliver MD Anderson a seamlessly integrated product.”

The study will also assess physician utilization and quality of the company’s predictive modeling efforts. But the ultimate criteria for success will be the deployment of a “functioning product” at MD Anderson, noted Lindsay.

The second phase of the of the collaboration with MD Anderson will expand the study to all cancer types treated with radiation.

One of the challenges in healthcare is de-siloing data, particularly for clinical decision support. When it comes to cancer treatment, radiation oncology data risks being siloed in different hospital software systems, which makes it tough to collect and analyze. Oncora Medical views its approach as a way to make predictive analytics and precision radiation oncology succeed.

Photo: Jirsak, Getty Images

How are hospitals using mobile devices for care?

Smartphones and tablets are commonplace in society today. But how common are they in healthcare settings?

A new survey from HIMSS Analytics, called the “2017 Essentials Brief: Mobile Study,” highlights the use of mobile technology in hospitals across the United States.

Respondents participated in the online survey from February 9 to February 15, 2017. Approximately 129 C-suite leaders, clinicians, department heads and IT professionals participated. Forty-four percent of respondents came from standalone hospitals. Another 29 percent came from multi-hospital health systems and 25 percent were from integrated delivery networks.

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As far as organization size, 33 percent of respondents were from organizations that have less than 50 beds. Twenty percent were from organizations with between 101 and 250 beds. Only 17 percent were from organizations with 501 or more beds.

The results of the survey show 79.8 percent of respondents said they use tablets to coordinate and provide patient care, and 42.6 percent said they use smartphones to do so. Despite these findings, desktop computers still take the lead for the most commonly used devices. Approximately 94.6 percent of respondents said they use desktops, and 37.2 percent said they use laptops to support care.

HIMSS Analytics Director of Research Brendan FitzGerald said he wasn’t shocked by the survey results. “I wasn’t necessarily surprised, primarily because when you look at mobile technology, it’s not widely used in the hospital setting,” he told MedCity via phone.

Among respondents who use smartphones and tablets, 76.5 percent indicated they use them to access clinical information. Approximately 70.6 percent said mobile devices are used to access EHRs and 66.2 percent said they’re used to access nonclinical information such as educational resources. Nearly half — 48.5 percent — said they use mobile devices for systemwide communication.

While healthcare organizations appear to be putting mobile devices to use in a variety of ways, there are still a number of hurdles to widespread adoption. One such barrier is security.

“There’s been such a runup of adoption that advanced security was kind of an afterthought,” FitzGerald said. “People had the normal safeguards in place, but hacking has become more sophisticated, and healthcare hasn’t kept up as much as other industries.” And mobile devices are that much harder to oversee. It’s much easier for providers lose mobile devices, thereby more easily giving unauthorized access to someone.

Looking ahead, FitzGerald noted that many people are worried that technology adoption in the healthcare world may slow down. But in his opinion, that’s not the case. “The horse is out of the barn,” he said. “Organizations aren’t going to go back and say they were better with a paper-based system. It’s here to stay.”

Photo: RoBeDeRo, Getty Images

Rock Health highlights geographic diversity of digital health M&A deals

By Rock Health’s count, there were 20 digital health mergers and acquisitions in the first quarter of 2017. Although Castlight Health’s acquisition of Jiff was interesting, it’s not the size of the deals that’s a head turner so much as the fact that many took place beyond the usual locales of Silicon Valley, Boston, and New York.

It’s also worth noting that Rock Health generally takes a more conservative approach to assessing deal flow on a quarterly basis than, say, StartUp Health. Rock Health counted 71 digital health deals totaling more than $1 billion (but a lot less than the $2.5 billion StartUp Health counted).

The biggest deal for the quarter was unquestionably McKesson’s $1.1 billion acquisition of CoverMyMeds, a Columbus, Ohio-based technology developer to automate medication prior authorizations for pharmacies, prescribers, payers and pharmacy benefits managers.

Who were the investors? JumpStart and Charles Hallberg were among the first investors in CoverMyMeds. Francisco Partners, Medical Growth Fund, and SaaS Capital also backed the business.

Retail health kiosk businesses higi, based in Chicago raised $40 million in 2016 for the development of retail partner support tools. Last month, it acquired a Seattle, Washington-based company that developed a rewards system to encourage healthy behavior — EveryMove.

Who were the investors? EveryMove investors included Premera Blue Cross in Washington state, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, BlueCross BlueShield Venture Partners and Seattle angel investors.

RxWiki and TeleManager’s merger gave birth to Digital Pharmacist, an Austin, Texas-based company that developed a marketing platform to support community pharmacists to give them the kind of engaging digital resources that big box drugstores have at their disposal. Digital Pharmacist acquired PocketRx, a mobile app for prescription refills based in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Telemedicine technology group GlobalMed in Scottsdale, Arizona acquired TreatMD, a Miami, Florida-based, bootstrapped telemedicine company.

Birmingham, Alabama based DAXKO acquired Denver-based Zen Planner, a member management software company for gyms and sports clubs in Colorado, Mainsail Partners is a Zen Planner investor.

Rock Health’s report notes that with 20 digital health companies that have raised more than $100 million since 2011, there are more M&A deals to come this year.

The report also spotlights new funds targeting digital health. Veteran digital health investors Oak HC/FT are raising a $500 million fund. Venrock, which is a major digital health investor, closed a $450 million fund — its eighth. The fund invested in both Castlight Health and Jiff.  New York-based Lux Capital raised a $400 million fund.

Among the brand-spanking new funds in the first quarter include Biomatics Capital’s $150 million fund launched by two Gates Foundation executives that will target genomics and data-driven healthcare.

The $100 million Section 32 fund in San Diego is being launched by Bill Maris, former CEO of Google Ventures.

Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan is launching a corporate venture capital arm to invest in health technologies that lower the cost of healthcare and improve the patient experience. Spectrum Health is a not-for-profit, integrated, managed care health care organization.

Photo: Nicols Meroo, Getty Images

Insurance navigator Wellthie looks beyond healthcare with $5M Series A round

Wellthie, a health insurance navigation startup launched by a former Anthem Blue Cross Bue Shield product development executive, has raised $5 million in a Series A round, according to a company blog post. The new funding will be used to bolster the New York-based company’s sales and marketing muscle as it prepares to expand into vision, dental and life insurance in the second quarter, Sally Poblete, Wellthie Founder and CEO, told MedCity News in a phone interview.

IA Capital Group led the investment round with participation from Aflac Corporate Ventures. Last month, Aflac announced plans to set up a $100 million fund to invest in early stage companies relevant to Aflac’s core business. Some of the angel investors from the insurance industry that have backed Wellthie include Mike Battaglia, former chief consumer officer at Humana, Dr. Bill Winkenwerder, a former co-CEO of Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Sam Havens, a former CEO of Prudential Healthcare.

“What’s unique and exciting about this round is insurance industry luminaries are putting in their own money,” Poblete said. “It shows that the support we’re getting is from people deep within the industry.”

Poblete said she sees the business as a way to support insurance brokers that work with small businesses and carriers with technology by improving decision support and providing other robust features.  For brokers, Wellthie can do scenario planning, provide a virtual storefront and give medical and ancillary quotes through a shopping and enrollment platform. For insurers, it can help them manage small group and individual members and drive growth. Wellthie’s platform also helps payers do market analysis based on members’ purchasing behavior. 

Wellthie and other technology companies have developed customer relationship management products to help insurance companies become more consumer-focused and their plans easier to understand.  As the insurance industry waits for the GOP to put their own legislative stamp on insurance reform, it will be interesting to see whether insurance companies will rely more on health tech companies like Wellthie.

Photo: Sean Lau / EyeEm, Getty Images