Telehealth News Recap - May 2023
It can be tough to keep up with the latest news in the virtual care space. Wheel's Virtual Care News is a monthly newsletter for stakeholders in the digital health industry. As a subscriber, you'll receive timely information on trending news, regulatory updates, engaging conversations, and key innovations emerging in the space.
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This month’s Virtual Care News includes a number of articles focused on AI innovation and its potential, fresh industry trends from HIMSS including virtual-first care initiatives for the military, policy updates regarding controlled substances and mifepristone, a roundup of notable industry growth and funding, and a plug for the Virtual First Care West Summit.
Hope you have a great May! 💐 Cheers to all the moms and graduates out there.
Trends & Insights
DHA is developing a virtual-first health ecosystem
The Defense Health Agency, which manages an $11 billion medical supply chain annually and provides civilian health benefits to 9.6 million beneficiaries, has adopted a virtual-first, data-driven focus for the next three years. Army Lieutenant General Dr. Telita Crosland was appointed as the new director and spoke at the HIMSS conference about this fundamental shift.
"Bedrooms will become hospital rooms when they are needed. In this virtual-first, high-tech and high-touch ecosystem, healthcare becomes more efficient, accessible and equitable,” Crossland said. She also noted that in the future the medical community will “reflect back and wonder, maybe with a little uncomfortableness, about the fact that we expected patients to travel to us in their most fragile and vulnerable states.”
The fast-growing need for AI oversight in healthcare
Thanks to recent developments like ChatGPT, artificial intelligence is starting to proliferate in healthcare. Thomas F. O'Neil III, an expert in compliance and AI issues, says it’s critical that healthcare provider organizations understand the risks that come with AI and the subsequent need for oversight.
For example, CMS could switch Medicare’s fee-for-service methodology to use an algorithm and automate its rate-setting based on historical claims data or by region, city, or local socioeconomic differences. O’Neil says the ethical considerations include informed consent to use data, safety and transparency, algorithmic fairness and biases, and data privacy. O’Neil also cites Harvard Business Review for best practice, “Fill at least one board seat with a person experienced in overseeing AI consumer products, whether in the healthcare sector or others.”
Epic, Microsoft bring GPT-4 to EHRs
Just how much has AI taken center stage? Chat GPT has amassed more than 100 million users and now Microsoft is working with Epic to integrate generative AI technology into its EHR software for the first time. Health systems using Epic's EHR system will be able to run generative AI solutions (read: async responses with patients, scheduler workflows, and physician efficiency) using Microsoft’s Open AI language model, GPT-4 in it’s Azure cloud solution.
As we’ve seen, experts are debating about how AI will influence clinical diagnoses and decision making. Epic’s SVP of R&D, Seth Hain, says, “It's key that [generative AI] is done in a responsible way, with humans in the loop. I think that is a generally true statement, but it is critical in the context of healthcare. We're making sure that's the approach in these contexts.”
Salesforce rolls out new healthcare software tools with a focus on home health, AI, and automation
Salesforce is adding a new home health component to automate the intake and scheduling process for patients with in-home treatments. Salesforce says they are doing this to “deliver seamless personalized patient experiences that combat consumer-driven shifts in healthcare.”
In a recent survey of healthcare consumers, nearly 80% cited difficulty navigating the care journey—both online and with customer support—as the top reason for leaving their provider. Healthcare organizations are aware of these issues and cite driving efficiencies and reducing operational costs (79%) as top priorities over the next two years. The new feature gives clinical and nonclinical teams efficient tools to automate intake workflows, optimize scheduling and routing, and seamlessly conduct home visits while improving collaboration
Policy & Regulatory Updates
Supreme Court maintains FDA approval of abortion pill, preserving access for now
The Supreme Court granted a request from the Justice Department to leave in place the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, preserving access while proceedings continue. 5 million women have ended their pregnancies using mifepristone, and the drug accounted for more than half of the abortions in the U.S. in 2020. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar told the court, “If allowed to take effect, the lower courts' orders would upend the regulatory regime for mifepristone, with sweeping consequences for the pharmaceutical industry, women who need access to the drug, and FDA's ability to implement its statutory authority.”
DEA will delay telemedicine restrictions for controlled substances
The DEA announced in a statement that it was temporarily extending its PHE telehealth policies, allowing clinicians more leniency for how they prescribe some controlled substances like buprenorphine used to treat opioid addiction, stimulants like Adderall for ADHD, and hormone replacement for trans patients. The agency released their proposed changes in March and received a record 38,000 comments.
“We recognize the importance of telemedicine in providing Americans with access to needed medications, and we have decided to extend the current flexibilities while we work to find a way forward to give Americans that access with appropriate safeguards,” said Anne Milgram, the DEA administrator.
First Opinions & Engaging Conversations
4 reasons hospitals’ tech investments can go awry
Health systems across the country are looking for ways to reduce costs leading them to prioritizing digital transformation and adopting new technology. However, Avia CEO, Linda Finkel has talked with health systems executives about why their technology initiatives haven’t produced the results they were hoping for. Finkel says it comes down to four things:
1. Not enough scrutiny in the vendor selection process
2. Failure to accurately assess the health system’s prerequisites for success
3. Not thinking about capability at scale
4. Not aligning stakeholders before and through implementation.
AI has entered the chat
Health-tech is buzzing with conversations about AI applications. This one is a hefty post, but we appreciated the deep dive into opportunity for AI applications in clinical workflows and context and about what’s led to the current AI “zeitgeist.” This article shares a clinician’s perspective and a look at the recent commercial activity in the space. It also shares insight on segmenting the current space and how new players can make space for themselves.
Growth & Innovation
First quarter digital health funding closed with $3.4 billion across 132 deals
January and February funding numbers suggested sector investment was inching back upwards. Inflation was easing ever so slightly. Investors were rediscovering their confidence. However, the March news of Silicon Valley Bank collapsing along with another interest rate hike, brought a stark reminder that the turbulence of 2022 isn’t over. Rock Health gives a full report on venture, banking, and policy waves breaking within digital health.
Rock Health >
Define Ventures raises $460 million to invest in health startups
Healthcare “remains a $4 trillion market opportunity that desperately needs greater digital transformation,” according to Lynne Chou O’Keefe, founder and managing partner at Define Ventures. Define Ventures has raised $460 million across two funds to fuel early-stage digital health investments. The venture capital firm invests in incubation, seed, series A and series B stage startups, and, with roughly $800 million under management, it's one of the few Silicon Valley firms focused solely on early-stage digital health startups.
Fierce Health >
Here's a roundup of innovative collaborations and expansions signalling growth and longevity for virtual healthcare.
- Kaiser Permanente to acquire Geisinger Health in bid to launch multisystem VBC platform.
- Instacart CEO launched AI-enabled medical and research center.
- eVisit acquired Bluestream Health.
- Spring Health, a digital mental health company raised $71M, hitting $2.5B valuation.
- Oshi Health raised a $30M Series B for digestive health.
- Memora Health nabbed $30M to scale up complex care management solutions.
- Amazon partnered with 3M to advance conversational AI in medicine.
- MedShift completed a $108 million capital investment.
Join Wheel at Virtual First Care West
Join Wheel's Chief Revenue Officer, Vince Balsamo, at the Virtual First Care West Summit, June 28-29 in San Diego. The summit theme is Defining the Virtual Evolution of Healthcare and will focus on how to build sustainability in virtual-first care (V1C) by "ensuring all patient perspectives are built into the conversation."
With over 25 years of experience in tech and healthcare, Vince has built high-performing commercial and revenue teams at both global Fortune 100 companies and early stage start-ups. At Wheel, Vince is responsible for identifying new income opportunities, growing current revenue, and creating a sustainable strategy for future growth. He also lives in San Diego.