A ‘frothy’ digital health market, Verily partners with Colgate, & a HIMSS dispatch

Healthcare Tech

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A masked-up HIMSS gets underway

The audiences are smaller and the exhibit hall far less crowded, but HIMSS, one of health tech’s biggest conferences, is underway. Here are the highlights so far from Casey and Katie, who are covering the gathering all week:

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  • Pandemic precautions: The ripple effects of Covid-19 are apparent all around the conference, which saw a wave of cancellations and changed plans in the lead-up to this week. Several sessions Monday didn’t happen as planned, due to a smattering of speakers having to drop out. Those at the conference are required to wear masks, and the hallways are dotted with stations for “vaccine registration.”
  • An Amazon warning: Aaron Martin, a former Amazon exec who now works for the Providence health system, warned a crowd of health IT leaders that the race between hospitals and Amazon Care is on. “You won’t know it until you feel it, and when you feel it, it will be too late,” he said. Martin stressed hospitals will need to adopt Amazon’s approach by using tech to personalize patient services.
  • The future of telehealth: “By and large we’ve won the permissibility battle,” Peter Antall, CMO of Amwell, said in a panel on what it’ll take to make virtual care successful in the long run. “Where we’ve been stuck for a number of years is on the reimbursement.”

For more, sign up for Casey and Katie’s pop-up HIMSS in 30 Seconds newsletter.

Forget bubbles. This health tech market is ‘frothy’ 

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We don’t need to tell you: The current economic landscape for digital health startups is unprecedented. That’s putting new pressure on investors and helping smaller companies stand out, Mario writes in a new story. Health tech startups that just a few years ago would’ve struggled to find early investment — or simply wouldn’t have dared try their luck on the public markets — are seeing dollar signs. There are more companies than ever, and those companies have more options as cash floods in from nontraditional health care investors, driving up valuations. “The market is a little frothy right now, and that’s challenging,” said Glen Tullman, managing partner at VC firm 7wireVentures and founder of Livongo, which sold to Teladoc for $18.5 billion last year.

A Ver(il)y healthy smile

Verily teamed up with Colgate to add oral health to the list of conditions its tracking with the Baseline research program. The companies will collaborate on a study to identify whether home oral hygiene practices, such as using a vibrating toothbrush — like those Colgate conveniently makes — and receiving non-surgical gum treatment can affect overall health.

Meanwhile, Verily got the go-ahead for a Parkinson’s study in the Netherlands after earlier being rejected by the FDA on a proposal to use its Study Watch for a virtual motor exam for the condition, Brian Dolan noted in Exits & Outcomes. The approved study is geared at helping Verily develop “algorithms to track progression of bradykinesia, gait impairment, postural sway, tremor, physical activity, sleep quality, and autonomic dysfunction.”

Could an algorithm catch pharmacy errors? 

Medication dispensing errors can cost lives. In a new study, researchers at the University of Michigan tested whether deep learning could add an additional backstop for human pharmacists to prevent mistakes. They gathered more than 65,000 images of 345 different medications in bottles from an unnamed mail-order pharmacy and designed a model to identify the unique 10-digit code assigned to each. According to their paper, published recently in npj Digital Medicine, their model accurately predicted which drug it was “looking” at about 99% of the time.

Personnel file

  • MedArrive hired Joy Malbrough to serve as program manager, Medicaid partnerships
  • Mental health nonprofit Project Healthy Minds named Barry Herman, the chief medical officer of Atentiv Health, to its board of directors.

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