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Health Tech

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City expanded its partnership with HealthMine, a technology company providing member engagement solutions, to build a rewards program for the payer’s individual and family Affordable Care Act members.

The Missouri-based payer, also known as Blue KC, has an existing partnership with HealthMine to offer a rewards program for its Medicare Advantage plan members. The program focuses on encouraging preventive health actions, such as annual wellness visits, flu shots and breast cancer screenings, by offering the ability to earn rewards in the form of gift cards to national and local retailers, Jenn Ader, senior director of client services at HealthMine said in an email.

“The program has also continued to evolve to provide additional features, including a digital health risk assessment delivered through the program application to help Blue KC better understand their members’ health status and risks,” she said.

Members interact with the program through a mobile app, web portal and live customer service support, she added.

Through the expanded partnership, HealthMine will build an incentive and rewards program for the insurer’s ACA members similar to the one for its Medicare Advantage members, giving the ACA members incentives to complete health actions and digital health risk assessments.

“The rewards program helps our MA members engage with their healthcare decisions and develop an ongoing relationship with their primary care providers,” said Lori Rund, vice president of government programs at Blue KC, via email. “We expect it will do the same for our ACA members, ultimately giving them the tools they need to successfully navigate the healthcare system and reach their long-term health goals.”

Creating incentive programs for ACA plan members is especially important, because these members tend not to seek routine medical care as they previously may not have had health insurance coverage, James Haskins, HealthMine’s director of government programs, said in an email.

These programs, “by rewarding preventive visits, encourage members to establish a relationship with a provider — this relationship is a launching point for the member on a journey of engagement in managing their health,” he said.

Engaging plan members in preventive healthcare has become even more challenging amid the Covid-19 pandemic, as the fear of contracting the deadly new coronavirus has kept people from routine care visits. By June 30, an estimated 41% of U.S. adults had delayed or avoided medical care due to concerns about Covid-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control.

“There are ways to minimize the effects of Covid-19 on preventive care by providing a solution that seamlessly connects members to the care they need and incentivizes them to get needed care — that’s where rewards programs can come in,” Haskins said.

In addition, as the Covid-19 vaccine becomes more widely available, health plans need to be able to communicate with its members, especially the younger and healthier members that tend to have ACA plans, to give them information about vaccine availability and safety, he said.

“Offering an associated reward helps increase member interest and move those who may not have sought this vaccine otherwise,” he added.

Photo credit: ljubaphoto, Getty Images

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Money currency vector illustration. Various money bills dollar cash paper bank notes and gold coins. Collection of cash heap pile and currency stack vector set.

DXY, an online community for clinicians in China, raised $500 million in funding. Private equity firm Trustbridge Partners led the funding round, along with Tencent and GL Ventures.

The Hangzhou-based company was founded 20 years ago by Li Tiantian, DXY’s current chairman. It started as an online platform for the medical community, where they could discuss best practices and new findings. Since then, it has built out a series of in-person clinics, as well as several consumer-facing resources, such as wellness advice or medical consultation services.

Chinese technology conglomerate Tencent has been a backer of DXY since 2014, according to data from Crunchbase.

Early in 2020, the company launched a visual dashboard of Covid-19 cases, which used media and government reports to update case totals in near real-time. Johns Hopkins ended up using that as the primary data source for data in mainland China when it launched its dashboard in March.

DXY plans to use the funds to build out both its physician-facing and consumer-facing efforts. Its competitors include SoftBank-backed PingAn Good Doctor and WeDoctor, which is reportedly planning an IPO.

Photo credit: aurielaki, Getty Images

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EverCommerce, which provides marketing, business management and customer retention solutions to businesses in the service sector, has purchased Updox, a healthcare communication platform for both in-person and virtual care.

Updox will join EverCommerce’s portfolio of health services companies and solutions, which includes cloud-based medical billing, specialty EHR, practice management and revenue cycle management software for healthcare practices. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Updox provides virtual care, patient engagement and office productivity solutions for an array of healthcare providers, including physician practices, health systems and post-acute care facilities.

“Updox offers a single, consolidated inbox for providers to manage the entire patient journey and office workflow through solutions like video chat, secure text, and electronic fax and forms that work together to reduce costs and drive revenue,” Mike Morgan, president of Updox, said in an email interview.

The company plans to add new solutions next year.

“In an environment of unprecedented healthcare challenges, we are excited for our two organizations to join forces,” said Matt Feierstein, president and COO of EverCommerce, in a press release. “As a market leader, Updox provides a full suite of differentiated office productivity and virtual care solutions that a practice needs to thrive in today’s healthcare landscape.”

Updox serves more than 560,000 users. It has facilitated over 3.5 million telehealth visits since March and supports more than 15,000 visits per day, according to the press release. The company also recently released a Covid-19 Vaccine Communications Package, which includes secure text, broadcast messaging and electronic forms solutions for providers to help them communicate updates on vaccine availability, appointment details as well as answer patient questions.

Healthcare consumerism has been on the rise for many years. But it gained a significant push forward in 2020, when amid the Covid-19 pandemic, demand for virtual visits and contactless access to providers soared. A recent report, from patient access solutions provider Kyruus, found that 43% of healthcare consumers ranked online scheduling as very or extremely important, and another 42% ranked virtual visits the same. In addition, 49% of millennials and 53% of individuals from Generation X reported they would switch providers to be able to access virtual care.

Further, 58% of healthcare consumers are likely to use telehealth or virtual visits for future healthcare needs, and 74% are now likely to use online chat or texting to provide check-in information before their appointment, according to an Accenture report published last month.

“The market was already moving towards consumerism and value-based care, but Covid-19 accelerated the need for virtual care,” Morgan said. “Now, it’s no longer a novelty — it is a requirement to stay in business.”

“Looking ahead, providers must expand their offerings to include a mix of in-person and virtual visits and engage patients effectively both in and outside the office,” he added. “In doing so, physicians can ultimately be more productive, engage with a larger number of patients and run a highly profitable practice. Updox’s focus on virtual health, patient engagement and paperless office efficiency supports this need.”

Photo credit: LDProd, Getty Images

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BioIntelliSense makes small, adhesive sensors that can monitor a patient’s vital signs. Photo credit: BioIntelliSense

Remote-monitoring startup BioIntelliSense received funding from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command (USAMRDC) to see if its wearable sensor “sticker” could be used to detect Covid-19 symptoms early. The Golden, Colo.-based startup, and Royal Philips (NYSE: PHG), received a $2.8 million award to use wearable to identify Covid-19 cases before symptoms appear.

BioIntelliSense received FDA clearance a year ago for a small, adhesive sensor it developed that can monitor a patient’s heart rate, respiratory rate and skin temperature, as well as their gait, body position or coughing. At the beginning of 2020, it struck a partnership with Colorado-based health system UCHealth to use its device leading up to a surgery or for postoperative care.

Now, the companies plan to enroll 2,500 patients into a study, working with the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, to validate the startup’s BioSticker device for early symptom detection. People who are experiencing Covid-19 symptoms or who had a recent exposure to the disease are eligible to participate.

If successful, the technology could be used to maximize military preparedness and have a benefit for the general population, Commander Christopher Steele, Director of the USAMRDC’s Military Operational Medicine Research Program, said in a news release.

Philips, which has a minority stake in BioIntelliSense, had been working with the Department of Defense on remote monitoring technologies long before the pandemic. It had specifically been working on a project to use wearables to catch early signs of a bacterial or viral infection before symptoms appear, with the idea of detecting an unknown agent.

Over the summer, Philips rolled out a version of the system that was specifically designed for Covid-19.

“No one organization will be able to combat Covid-19 alone, but working together, we hope to develop a solution that will allow people to understand if they are in the early stages of illness, and take the appropriate actions to help limit spread and get the treatment they need,” Vitor Rocha, Chief Market Leader of Philips North America, said in a news release. “This could help give people confidence in getting back to school, work, travel, or just coming together as a family.”

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Over the past two years, managed care organization Kaiser Permanente has been testing how to give its members access to digital health tools. The company picked six apps that it would cover for its members, and trained clinicians on how to include the use of digital health apps in their workflow.

One of the challenges is making these tools easy to find, and getting patients to use them. In a recently published paper in NEJM Catalyst, Kaiser found that patients were more likely to use health apps after being referred. So far, its clinicians have made 115,000 referrals.

“We think we’ve cracked the code and figured out how to get people to use these, in the context of treatment so that they might have their biggest effect,” Dr. Don Mordecai, national leader for mental health and wellness at Kaiser Permanente, said in a phone interview.

In early testing, a group of 562 clinicians in Kaiser’s mental heath and depression care programs referred 16,438 patients to mental health apps. Of that group, 58% downloaded an app, 40% used it at least once and 27% used an app more than three times.

Mordecai said digital health tools could serve as an adjunct to treatment, such as in between therapy sessions. Or, people could choose to access them on their own time.

Kaiser Permanente selected six apps for this program:

  • Headspace, a popular meditation app that has raised more than $200 million to date
  • Calm, another well-known sleep and meditation app that recently raised $75 million
  • Whil, an app that offers courses on stress resilience and mindfulness for businesses
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy app myStrength, which was acquired by Livongo last year
  • SilverCloud, a startup that offers mental health programs paired with coaching. It has raised more than $26 million to date.
  • Thrive, an app with cognitive behavioral therapy tools and mood tracking.

To narrow down the list of possibilities, Kaiser Permanente brought in hundreds of patients and clinicians to help assess and test these apps. It also considered whether they were based on clinical evidence and were HIPAA-compliant.

“Absolutely, issues like privacy came into the question,” Mordecai said. “There are apps out there where their business model is to gather and sell your data. That was of zero interest to us.”

There was also an emphasis on user experience — whether the apps were actually enjoyable and easy to use.

“We’ve been having conversations with digital companies for years, but I think it needed to reach a certain level of maturity,” Mordecai said.  “The first round of these kinds of things, like computerized CBT, one of the reasons that people didn’t use them that much was that they were kind of clunky. … What we’ve seen over the past five years or so is a real evolution of these apps in terms of a compelling user experience and in terms of people’s willingness to engage with them.”

Building an ecosystem

Kaiser Permanente set out to begin building this digital health “ecosystem” in 2018.  The idea was to build a platform where clinicians could refer patients to a curated portfolio of apps and document it in a patient’s health record. It began more broadly rolling this out to its members in 2020.

In recent years, the managed care organization has faced its own challenges with mental health treatment. Three year ago, Kaiser Permanente faced state sanctions after patients reported long wait times for mental health treatment. Last year, the company touted hiring more than 1,000 therapists, but mental health workers and patients said they still struggled with timely access to care.

The Covid-19 pandemic was expected to exacerbate existing problems with accessing mental healthcare across the U.S. Telehealth visits have helped bridge what would otherwise be drop-off in care, but still haven’t solved some of the root issues.

Initially, like other healthcare providers, Kaiser saw demand for visits drop as people sheltered in place, but it quickly recovered as more people turned to telehealth appointments.

“I think, in some sense, the wave is still coming,” Mordecai said. “I think we’re going to be grappling with the impact of this for a while after the virus threat is diminished.”

Photo Credit: Saimon Sailent, Getty Images

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New Technology Add-On Payments (NTAP) are a class of reimbursement that are meant to help pay for new technology that is not included in the diagnosis-related group (DRG) bundled payment.

Specifically, NTAP recognizes that current DRG payment rates can be a barrier to adopting new technology and represents an additional payment for hospital stays that use new technology determined by CMS to provide substantial clinical improvement and where the current DRG payment would be inadequate. NTAP applications are evaluated as part of the annual Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) rulemaking process. If an NTAP is approved, it remains in effect for three years following approval, at the end of which it is assumed that the costs of the new technology have been absorbed into the core DRG through the yearly DRG update and calibration process.

CMS’s decision to grant the first NTAP for AI-enabled stroke intervention and care was a critical regulatory milestone in the development and adoption of AI-enabled health care. As part of the application, Viz.ai had to demonstrate that it met the newness, cost and clinical improvement criteria. In the final rule, CMS determined that Viz.ai had demonstrated that its product, ContaCT, reduced time to treatment, has high specialist engagement and improved patient outcomes.

Since the NTAP approval, other startups have claimed the new reimbursement applies to their software solution. To date, more than five companies have claimed the rights to the code, such as stroke triage, radiology prioritization, and even CAD. The question is, does this code apply to everyone who wants it? I did some deeper digging to clarify.

The role of substantial similarity

To date, no other AI technologies have been approved by CMS. However, CMS has stated that the intent of NTAP is not to provide an advantage or reward to a single vendor. Therefore, if other vendors provide evidence of substantial similarity, their technology should also be able to achieve NTAP.

In order to demonstrate substantial similarity, a company must demonstrate that its technology meets all relevant criteria, which in this case includes substantial clinical improvement, time to treatment, specialist engagement, patient outcomes, newness and cost, outlined in the table below. Traditionally, a substantial similarity determination has been applied via new NTAP applications, and CMS has determined whether products are substantially similar and have told applicants whether they are eligible for coverage under the initial NTAP. Where things start to get problematic is if, instead of CMS determining substantial similarity, other vendors unilaterally assert substantial similarity in order to “piggyback” on an existing NTAP.

Without official word from CMS, hospitals have to choose whether to take the risk — as  the decision lies with individual hospitals’ risk tolerance as to the technology they want to use and submit for NTAP payments. CMS requires all hospitals to adhere to “coding hygiene” standards in order to ensure that the correct codes are being submitted for the correct services. It’s also possible that the American Hospital Association may provide some coding clarity regarding what specific technologies qualify for NTAP payments. Hospitals considering which technology to use should consider asking the following questions:

__________________________________________________

Niall Brennan, MPP is the President & CEO of the Healthcare Cost Institute and is the Former Chief Data Officer of CMS

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In medicine, we’re getting real-time experience with what many believed was an inevitable but potentially distant future – fully digital treatments.

In what may have sounded like a futuristic scenario mere months ago, doctors today can prescribe a video game treatment for their patients. Children with ADHD are now “playing” their medicine thanks to an emerging category of medicine – digital therapeutics (DTx). In June 2020, the industry experienced a watershed moment when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared the first-ever prescription video game. At the end of 2020, a mobile sleep app received FDA clearance to treat nightmares caused by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). These and other recent milestones in creative and innovative products are paving the way for a new pillar of medicine. Patients and doctors are already recognizing the value of DTx on the market. And with increased awareness of and experience with these unique treatments, we can expect a massive increase in demand.

This burgeoning industry has been propelled to the forefront of medicine with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, which shined a light on the need for innovative treatment options that can be used at home from your phone or tablet. DTx not only meet that need, but importantly they meet the new expectations of patients: control, flexibility, and seamless integration.

Why did Covid-19 alter the path for DTx acceptance and adoption, and how will it position the industry to grow in 2021?

Acceleration driven by Covid-19
Consumer expectations of always-on access and tech-savvy solutions have transformed the leisure, retail, and finance industries among others – but medicine is one area people begrudgingly accept as “the way it has to be.” However, the pandemic massively accelerated expectations around the most critical aspects of people’s lives, inciting a more tech-forward approach to medicine. The broad and lasting shift in patient expectations can be attributed to two specific drivers:

  1. Covid-19 demanded convenience and accessibility of digital health; DTx perfectly fit: When the pandemic hit, digital healthcare went from novel to necessary. Covid-19 moved healthcare from the doctor’s office to the living room with many patients opting into digital healthcare solutions, such as telemedicine or ordering prescription refills online. This inherently increased acceptance of digital health and introduced people to a simplified experience that demonstrated healthcare efficiency is possible.

This demand for quicker and easier approaches to healthcare isn’t going away. Once consumers get a taste of efficiency, they’ll continue to demand it. Just look to Amazon’s decision to integrate pharmaceutical delivery into its rapid home delivery revolution. Patients are asking how to most efficiently access their medicine.

But DTx offer more than just rapid access; they meet patients on their own terms and engage them in their care.  DTx are accessed from anywhere, personalized and automatically adaptable, and rich with data to foster meaningful conversations with the patient, caregiver, and providers. In that way, DTx are a key new therapeutic pillar answering an important and futuristic question in medicine: How is my treatment tailored for me and my life?

  1. Long overdue attention on mental health: Not only has the pandemic increased mental health challenges across the population, it uncovered an enormous need for new treatment options. One representative example in ADHD: 90% of pediatric patients are on medication and 45% are receiving behavioral therapy; and yet, 80% are unsatisfied with their treatment or want more options. And that was before families were faced with remote schooling, limited in-person behavioral services, and the general added stress of a national pandemic and alteration of daily life. [This is based on a 2017 Akili market research.]

These data tell an important story. Drugs and therapy, while critical to the treatment of symptoms of many diseases and disorders, are often not the complete answer. DTx can be a missing piece of the puzzle, providing a new effective tool that can work in tandem with other treatment options. And importantly, DTx can deliver technologies designed to impact brain and mental processes in entirely new ways through new physiological mechanisms.

Advancement will still require clearing hurdles
Despite the proven success of some DTx solutions in clinical trials and growing awareness among consumers, the industry still needs to stretch the minds of many, including physicians and insurance providers. Realizing the full potential of DTx to transform the patient experience requires imagination and creativity, areas in which traditional medicine has been, rightfully, more conservative. The establishment of clinical trial data and regulatory successes for prescription products remain key for credibility, and now the products themselves must inspire confidence.

Early pioneering DTx represented innovative expansions of traditional medicine approaches, supporting existing treatments and digitizing medical processes and behavioral therapy. As the industry evolves, we’re seeing a second generation of products driven by new mechanisms that only technology can deploy. This gradual evolution is well-designed to shift traditional mindsets and pave the way for other DTx companies to follow, using technology to do what traditional medicine cannot.

The next frontier for DTx companies will be securing buy-in from insurance providers. We’ve already seen innovative leaders dip their toes in the water of offering DTx to members – in July 2020, UnitedHealth Group piloted a digital therapeutic designed to improve the health of patients with type 2 diabetes, and some of the earliest prescription digital therapeutics are gaining important early coverage decisions. As more providers engage broadly in digital health offerings, expect a boom of more insurance companies looking to validate digital therapeutics to support their members’ health, especially in mental and cognitive health. It’s just a matter of time before their members demand it, and providers slow to adopt will be left behind.

DTx in 2021 and beyond
In the wake of COVID-19, people are not only showing a willingness to accept DTx as valuable treatments for various conditions but beginning to demand it. Much like their favorite consumer app or game, digital medicine is becoming a source of comfort and relief, putting people in control of their treatment in a time when there are so many unknowns surrounding their health.

Computer scientist Roy Amara once observed, “we tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.” As is often the case with products positioned for exponential growth, initial adoption of DTx has taken time. While development has been well underway for the last decade, the payoff is just now being seen and ubiquity will happen rapidly.

It took the urgency and sense of purpose associated with Covid-19 to mobilize digital transformation within health care. Will people again accept driving to a doctor’s office and sitting in a waiting room when they’ve experienced the efficiency and comfort of an appointment via video call from their home? Will they continue to visit the pharmacy, when they can have medications proactively shipped to them at the right time?

Technology is disrupting healthcare to bring a better experience to patients, and there will be lasting changes. In the next year, doctors will more regularly turn to DTx treatments alongside traditional medication for conditions like substance abuse, ADHD and sleeplessness. How long will it be before physicians and their patients start routinely asking for and expecting digital treatment options for other mental, physical and cognitive conditions?

The beauty of DTx products is that, at their core, they give people control of their care, adapt to them, and integrate into their lives. As consumer mindsets continue to shift in 2021, so will their demand for easily accessible, personalized and enjoyable medicine. As inefficiency in medicine becomes a thing of the past, let’s embrace the future that has arrived. The experience of medicine can, in fact, be wonderful.

Photo: metamorworks, Getty Images

 

 

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Pear Therapeutics raised $80 million in funding, which it plans to use as part of a push for coverage of its digital therapeutics. The Boston-based company has three FDA-cleared products, including digital therapeutics for substance use disorder, opioid use disorder, and most recently, insomnia.

SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2 led the series D funding round. Several of Pear’s existing investors, including Novartis, also participated.

“We’re really using this funding to build commercial momentum for our three approved products,” Pear Therapeutics CEO Corey McCann said in a phone interview.

The startup develops software tools to be used either in tandem with or instead of medication. For example, its digital therapeutic for opioid use disorder is used in conjunction with medication-assisted therapy. Patients would spend time in the app every week, with modules to help them understand their motivations for sobriety, skills for managing triggers and harm reduction. But like any other treatment, it’s only available to patients who have a prescription, which can be sent as a code to “unlock” the app.

Pear has drummed up some interest from insurers and PBMs, including Hartford Financial Services Group, Fairview Health Services and RemedyOne, which cover its therapeutic for substance use disorder.

McCann also hinted at future work with insurers that manage state Medicaid plans. The company recently published real-world data on the efficacy of its therapeutic for opioid use disorder, in a 351-person study where most of the participants were covered through Medicaid. It also published data showing a reduction in spending of $2,150 per patient.

“In many cases, payers right now are concerned with being able to provide access at all for these patient populations,” McCann said. “This is a new space, but our approach has been one of rigor… Payers are very used to looking at clinical trial and real-world data. In that way, I think they see us as quite different from an unclear digital therapeutic or an unclear health and wellness app.”

Pear has also made its newer digital therapeutic for insomnia available for cash-pay patients, though at $899, the price is steep.

It’s currently working on a pipeline of 15 different candidates, including a digital therapeutic for schizophrenia. Though the latter has not yet received market authorization from the FDA, Pear was still able to make it available to patients after the agency issued an emergency guidance to expand access to digital health devices during the pandemic.

Photo credit: Getty Images, photo_chaz

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interoperability, rope, braid

If anything, the pandemic has emphasized the need for the seamless exchange of health records.  Earlier this year, the Department of Health and Human Services passed sweeping rules to improve interoperability and give patients better access to their records. But what is the current state of interoperability in the U.S.?

Three experts will address this in a panel discussion at MedCity’s INVEST Precision Medicine conference, which is open to the public.

There’s plenty of progress to be made. As of 2018, only half of hospitals were considered “interoperable,” meaning they could send, receive, find and integrate information outside of their health system.

The new regulations, whose compliance dates have been pushed back due to the pandemic, are expected to help with this effort. They’re not only designed to improve the flow of information, but also make it easier for patients to access their health data.

“Covid and the shift to telehealth has reinforced the need for interoperability over all providers and sites of service,” Kevin Chaney, senior program manager for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, wrote in an email.

For example, both patients and clinicians providing telehealth services should have access to information on pre-existing medications, allergies and problem lists. But that’s not always the case.

The pandemic has also highlighted holes in public health data, and challenges to sharing records in a swift and consistent manner. One potential remedy is the use of health information exchanges, which are designed to share near-real time information between clinicians and EHRs.

“Most parts of the country are served by state or regional HIEs and these HIEs have built out impressive well-connected networks,” Chaney wrote. “ONC is currently working on ways to get HIEs more involved with the national Covid response.”

Emphasis on applications

Another important component of the incoming rules is the emphasis on APIs, which would make it easier to exchange information with third-party apps. The idea is to foster the development of tools people can use to manage their health data, similar to tax preparation and finance apps that have cropped up in the last decade.

This idea has captured the attention of a multitude of stakeholders in healthcare, both with excitement for the possibility of patients being able to carry their health record, and privacy concerns that come with sharing it.

Redox Co-Founder and President Niko Skievaski, whose company maintains more than 1,000 integrations between software vendors and health systems, said his company had seen increased interest from EHR vendors and payers, now that they are required to supply APIs for the digital health community.

“I’m bullish on enabling patients to be the brokers of their own data,” he wrote in an email. “The newly mandated patient-authorized APIs have the potential to create a landscape of B2C healthcare applications that allow patients to draw down on and engage with their health data like never before. Some of these apps, inevitably, will enable patients to organize their health data and share it with their care teams and other applicable stakeholders as they wish.”

Before, it had been difficult and costly for third-party applications to access EHR data, making them less useful and separate from the health system, wrote Dr. Ida Sim, a professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco. Now, she sees a huge opportunity for that to change. But for patients to adopt these applications, they will need to trust that their data will be shared appropriately, with transparency around how it is used.

She also cautioned against focusing exclusively on EHR data when there are other important sources, such as wearables, home monitors and patient-reported outcomes.

In UCSF’s work with the Commons Project, a nonprofit that is developing an Android equivalent to Apple Health, they partnered with local organizations to get feedback from patients of all demographics, including a safety net population at Zuckerberg General Hospital.

“An important innovation that hasn’t been sufficiently focused on yet is to increase digital literacy and accessibility for all populations — addressing language, numeracy, technological literacy, etc.,” she wrote. “We need a combination of training, education, support and technical innovations to make using tech and health records turnkey. We are very, very far from that.”

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Digital health funding and deals are expected to dip after reaching record heights last quarter. CBInsights shared its projections for the end of 2020, showing a slight decline in healthcare investing overall.

For the third quarter of 2020 healthcare investing passed record levels of $21.8 billion. The end of the year is expected to return to normal levels, with a projected $19.49 billion in funding. CBInsights also forecasted fewer early-stage deals and more late-stage deals.

The pandemic also shifted the spotlight on digital health companies, which raised a record of $8.4 billion last quarter, up more than 73% from the prior quarter. Going into the fourth quarter, digital health deals are expected to return to normal levels, with $5.54 billion in funding expected across 372 deals. As of Nov. 17, digital health companies had raised $2.89 billion across 194 deals.

CBInsights forecasts a slight decline in digital health funding for Q4. Photo credit: CBInsights

So far, there have been 30 reported healthcare “megadeals,” or rounds where companies raised more than $100 million. Most of them were for companies headquartered in the U.S. and China, with the U.S. seeing 16 megadeals and China seeing 11.

Here are some highlights:

  • LianBio, a Chinese biotech firm, raised $310 million in private equity funding.
  • PharmaPacks, a U.S.-based health and beauty online marketplace, raised $250 million in private equity funding.
  • Caris Life Sciences, a Dallas-based molecular science company, raised $235 million in private equity funding.
  • Minneapolis-based insurance startup Bind Benefits raised $105 million in a series B round.
  • Carbon Health, which manages a network of primary care and urgent care clinics, raised $100 million in series C funding.
  • Text-based primary care company 98point6 raised $118 million in a series E round.

Photo credit: TAW4, Getty Images

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