MINNETONKA, Minn. – UnitedHealthcare has introduced new digital health resources for people enrolled in their employer-sponsored health plans to help make it easier for people to navigate the healthcare system and more convenient for them to use their benefits. The offerings include digital onboarding, Apple Pay and video explanations of benefits. “Consumers are asking for and expecting customized, connected digital health resources that help make access to care easier and more convenient,” said Dr. Richard Migliori, chief medical officer of UnitedHealth Group, in a statement. “UnitedHealthcare invests more than $3 billion annually in data, technology and innovation to help design a health system that is more personalized, intuitive and efficient.”
VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Reliq Health Technologies has reached more than 6,000 paid subscribers using its iUGO Care chronic care management, remote patient monitoring and telemedicine platform, making December 2017 the company’s first month of profitability. “The onboarding of patients is starting to accelerate as we move forward with our roll-out to more than 40,000 patients with three current contracts in Texas,” said Dr. Lisa Crossley, CEO of Reliq Health, in a statement. “We continue to focus our efforts on the front-line care providers in the U.S.; this market will continue to grow as the population ages and expands, and as pressure from lawmakers and insurers to reduce health care spending increases. Reliq’s iUGO Care digital health solution provides virtual care in the community by creating a “virtual hospital ward” at home for Medicare and Medicaid patients with two or more chronic diseases. The platform automatically collects vital signs and tracks medication adherence through voice technology.
WHIPPANY, N.J. – Bayer launched the G4A Generator program this week with a call for applications from startups in the digital health self-care space.
“The startup entrepreneurial DNA is really driving the momentum of this program,” said Eugene Borukhovich, global head of digital health innovation at Bayer, during a recent edition of the Digital Health Today podcast. “It follows with the ‘beyond the pill’ approach that pharma has been taking.”
The G4A Generator succeeds Bayer’s successful Grants4Apps Accelerator and Grants4Apps Dealmaker programs in Europe last year, which sought software, hardware or technologies to improve health outcomes or pharmaceutical processes.
Borukhovich said the recently launched generator program will focus on four key areas of home health: self-care, nutrition, sun care and pain management.
In the self-care category, the company will be looking for a mobile app to help people manage care for themselves and their family.
In the pain management category, the company will be looking to help people manage pain without pills.
“That’s likely to be in the digital space, as well, either with or without a medical device,” Borukhovich said.
With the application window open until March 23, Bayer hopes to get at least 10 startups into the final round and go to market with some of the ideas within two years, said Barton Warner, vice president of strategy and portfolio management at Bayer. Ideally, Bayer is looking for products that already have a proof of concept or have been approved for use. The winners will be announced in New York this spring.
Warner said the G4A Generator is a way to move the company forward by leveraging the trust it has built with consumers over the last century to give them new options in home health care.
“Between the startup community bringing new innovation and Bayer’s skill set around mass markets reaching millions, that’s a sweet spot where we can really find a good partnership,” he said.
WASHINGTON – Health experts are optimistic about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s guidance documents on digital health oversight released in December.
“These guidance documents take us one step closer to seeing a full integration of digital health into our lives,” said Kevin Madagan, a partner in Reed Smith LLP’s Life Sciences Health Industry Group.
The three guidance documents—two draft and one final—cover clinical decision support, changes to medical software policy based on congressional mandates in the 21st Century Cures Act, and Software as a Medical Device.
The draft guidance on clinical decision support, which has been six years in the making, clarifies which types of clinical decision support and patient decision support software the FDA defines as a medical device in need of agency oversight.
In a nutshell: Analytics technology intended to support clinical diagnoses that provides room for a physician to independently review the basis of the software’s recommendations would not be regulated by the FDA; however, software that analyzes medical images or laboratory or medical tests would remain regulated.
“This guidance, even in draft form, removes significant ambiguity,” said Madagan. “Until now, we didn’t know where the FDA would draw the line on CDS functions it would regulate, or whether they would ever agree to enforcement discretion for PDS.”
The other draft guidance outlines the FDA’s interpretation of the types of software that are no longer considered medical devices. Among them: certain mobile apps.
“We’re making clear that certain digital health technologies—such as mobile apps that are intended only for maintaining or encouraging a healthy lifestyle—generally fall outside the scope of the FDA’s guidance,” said Scott Gottlieb, FDA Commissioner, in a statement.
The final guidance provides globally recognized principles for analyzing and assessing SaMD, based on the overall risk of the product.
Though the FDA guidance documents provide more clarity on digital health, Madagan said there is much work left to do.
“With advancements in digital applications being integrated into medical devices, and now even drugs, the digital oversight and real-time tracking of our health is just beginning,” he said. “And this doesn’t even account for the potential of artificial intelligence.”
BOSTON – MassChallenge has chosen 32 digital health startups to participate in the startup accelerator’s digital health program, PULSE@MassChallenge for 2018. The new cohort will pair two champions from the areas of health care institutions, systems and payers with each startup to help them achieve funding rounds, pilot studies or other milestones. Participants receive free co-working space and an opportunity to apply for $50,000 in need-based startups, as well as the chance to compete for a share of $200,000 in no-equity cash. The PULSE program is geared to later stage companies that are ready to scale, have raised no more than $5 million and generate under $5 million in revenue. The goal of the program is to connect selected startups with strategic relationships, resources, mentoring, and community access needed to create an impact in digital health. “What you get is a clinically valuable technology that is also highly implementable,” said Nick Dougherty, program director for PULSE@MassChallenge, in a statement.
BOSTON – Optum, the health services business of UnitedHealth Group, has created a $250 million venture fund focused on investing in startup and early-stage companies whose innovations will help advance the health care system.
Optum Ventures invests in digital health companies that use data and insights to help improve consumers’ access to health care services and how care is delivered and paid for, and that make the health care system more reliable and easier to navigate.
“Optum Ventures is uniquely positioned to help develop and grow startups and early-stage companies through capital investment, Optum’s decades of experience in health care and our access to the health care marketplace,” said Larry Renfro, CEO of Optum and managing partner of Optum Ventures, in a statement.
Entrepreneurs working with Optum Ventures will get strategic guidance to support development and growth from a network of experts and relationships, as well as access to the company’s health care assets and analytics capabilities to research, test and innovate new solutions.
The initial investments of Optum Ventures include: Apervita, which provides a cloud-based analytics platform; Buoy Health, which has developed an artificial intelligence-powered digital health assistant; Mindstrong Health, which has developed a technology that uses machine learning and AI to assess a patient’s smartphone interactions to help diagnose and treat neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders; and SHYFT Analytics, which provides a cloud-based data and analytics platform for life sciences companies.
“Optum Ventures will be the partner of choice for companies developing innovations that help make health care work better for everyone,” said Renfro.
LONDON – RYSE Asset Management has partnered with DigitalHealth.London in a new venture that aims to support early stage digital health businesses within the UK’s National Health Service or other health care delivery systems that are focused on telehealth, mHealth and wearables, health analytics and electronic health records. The collaboration provides an opportunity for digital health innovations looking for funding to support large scale adoption across the NHS, but also for the creation of digital tools and applications that improve patient experiences, drive operational efficiency in the NHS and build long-term value for investors. “The offering aims to address an investment or funding gap in the market largely overlooked by institutional and professional investors due to the time involved in undertaking due diligence on a number of early stage companies and their principals or founders,” said Claudio D’Angelo, managing partner of RYSE, in a statement. DigitalHealth.London is focused on helping to build the capability of innovators, as well as supporting the NHS to find digital solutions that solve problems relating to the delivery of care. “DigitalHealth.London’s extensive networks and intimate market knowledge of the health and care sector, particularly around digital solutions, mean we are able to signpost RYSE toward innovations that we believe meet a need and offer real potential in providing positive and lasting impacts on the health outcomes for patients,” said Yinka Makinde, program director at DigitalHealth.London, in a statement.
SAN FRANCISCO – Matthew Holt believes the digital health care industry needs rebranding.
“The term ‘digital’ just means it’s on a computer,” he said on a recent digital health podcast. “It’s just too vague.”
Instead, Holt, co-founder of Health 2.0, which presents health technology innovation conferences around the world each year, suggested “SMACK Health,” a term that incorporates the social, mobile, analytic and cloud aspects of digital health care. He added the “K” for kindness.
“These technologies are distinct from the technologies we’ve had for so many years,” Holt said. “It’s going to be a messy world in health care while these two worlds of technologies co-exist for a while.”
Holt said the language around the digital health industry also has to consider new diagnostic technologies like artificial intelligence, virtual reality, 3D, smartphone compatibility and sensors.
“The term ‘SMAC’ has been used predominantly outside the U.S., but it’s a way to distinguish these now mature ‘new’ information technologies from the enterprise-based client-server technologies that preceded them and are still prevalent especially in health care enterprises,” he said.
Experts agree the term ‘SMAC’ is more comprehensive of what’s needed to help health care organizations reduce costs and improve quality.
“Experience with SMAC in industries such as entertainment, consumer goods, and banking shows that while each of these technologies can generate benefits independently, they are even better together—joint application can improve business processes dramatically,” a report by the Deloitte consulting firm found.
In health care, this may translate to increased efficiency and lower costs, said the report’s authors.
While Holt recognizes the term digital health might be around for a while, he knows the most important thing is that people are having conversations about how to move health care forward.
“The status quo is not serving anyone as well as it could,” he said. “Our role is to improve it, and I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
SAN DIEGO – The biggest barrier to the adoption of digital health solutions is legacy—legacy technology, legislation and design—according to Scott Plewes, vice president of user experience at software and design firm Macadamian.
“The challenge is that all of these barriers are so interconnected,” he said about his upcoming panel discussion at Parks Associates’ Connected Health Summit Aug. 29-31 in San Diego. “The problem is that, by their very nature, they are connected, but not in terms of the architecture of the procedures and the technologies that should connect them.”
The “Healthcare UX: Designing the Best Customer Experience” panel discussion will feature: Plewes; Stuart Slutzky, chief of product innovation at Humana Wellness Solutions; Kevin Yamazaki, CEO of Sidebench; and moderator Brad Russell, a senior analyst at Parks Associates. The group will discuss how engagement starts with human-centric user interface designs and personalized service experiences, and will invite leading health care organizations at the conference to discuss their own digital service platform innovations and their impact on the customer experience, patient engagement and care outcomes.
Plewes expects the health care industry will continue to face legacy problems for years to come, but that’s where digital health experts come in.
“It may sound like an insurmountable challenge to face, but as digital experience designers, it’s an exciting time for us to be innovative,” he said.
Parks Associates, an expert in researching the digital health sector since 2006, has designed the “Connected Health Summit” to spotlight health technologies as part of the Internet of Things and the transformational impact of connected solutions on the U.S. health care system. Speakers at the Summit will include: John Cosgriff, chief strategy officer at UnitedHealthcare; Dr. Saquib Rahim, chief medical officer for Aetna Digital; Dale Rayman, senior vice president, actuarial consulting & business development for Sharecare Inc.; and Chanin Wendling, assistant vice president for informatics at Geisinger Health System.
SALFORD QUAYS, U.K. ‑ Now Healthcare Group has been declared safe by the Care Quality Commission and has met all regulations set by the Commission’s new digital health reporting guidelines.
“This makes NHG the first telehealth provider in its field to achieve a ‘five out of five’ score under the CQC’s new digital methodology and guidelines for digital health providers,” said Lee Dentith, CEO and founder of Now Healthcare Group, in a statement.
Following a recent inspection, NNG was found to be meeting all necessary criteria across five categories, and was deemed to be providing services that are well-led, safe, effective, caring, responsive to people’s needs.
The company developed the Dr Now and Now GP international mobile apps, which connect users to qualified National Health Service doctors remotely via video call and deliver medicines directly to the patient’s door. The services currently have two million users.
The company has been working with the NHS for the past two years, servicing more than 100,000 repeat prescriptions nationwide and is soon to release its new ground-breaking NHS-supplied services platform, which can be accessed by over 15 million people in the UK.
Now Healthcare Group is part of the DigitalHealth.London Accelerator program, aimed at using technology to drive innovation in the NHS.