Provider, payer and pharma news from Q3 2016

By MobiHealthNews

We've come to the end of the third quarter, so we at MobiHealthNews have looked into our archives and rounded up the major stories of the quarter for the hospital, pharma, and insurance sectors. Read on for provider, pharma, and payer news.


The third quarter of 2016 has provided a steady stream of provider news. From partnerships that blend traditional healthcare systems with digital health startups and government agencies, to telemedicine advancements, studies to improve both patient engagement and health outcomes, and a new kind of healthcare company altogether, we’ve assembled a list of some of the biggest news of Q3 2016 here.

San Francisco-based Omada Health, an online and mobile behavioral medicine company, formed a partnership with American Medical Association and a new customer, Utah-based Intermountain Healthcare system, which will offer Omada’s flagship diabetes prevention program (DPP), Prevent, to its patients. The Prevent program aims to reduce the number of adults who develop type 2 diabetes. All three organizations will collaborate to integrate Omada’s diabetes prevention program into Intermountain’s system, with the AMA acting as an advisor to Omada to help it better understand how to make Prevent better integrate into providers' workflows. The initiative will combine the AMA’s efforts to raise pre-diabetes awareness nationally and Intermountain’s population health strategies by using Omada’s Prevent program. Doctors and care teams will be able to refer patients to, and monitor their progress through the online and app-based program. More

Apple, getting deeper and deeper into health, is starting to act more as a regulator. Developers of health and medical apps will now have strict rules to abide by with Apple's new App Store Guidelines that establish a high bar for any app aimed at health and wellness. Previous iterations of the guidelines already laid out the proper protocol for human research subjects and avoiding physical harm, but the new rules carry much more detailed and specific language, ranging from privacy protection to warnings about inaccurate data that could potentially cause physical harm. With a whole section on physical harm (previously a short line in the rules) Apple’s new guidelines aren’t letting anything slide.“If your app behaves in a way that risks physical harm, we may reject it,” the guidelines state, and go on to describe in detail possible pitfalls. Apple is also snuffing out any marijuana related apps and those that encourage people to place their iPhones under a mattress or pillow while charging, such as sleep-tracking apps. More.

Ochsner Health System in New Orleans has catapulted itself into the front lines of hospital innovation in the last few years as an early Apple HealthKit adopter, with its in-house "O Bar" app store, and with an initially successful blood pressure monitoring trial. Chief Clinical Transformation Officer Richard Milani said this quarter that the trial went well enough that Ochsner is starting to design interventions for two more chronic conditions: COPD and diabetes. More

While we’ve seen growing adoption of telemedicine across the country, it’s been a tough few months for Arkansas and Texas, which both still lag behind the national curve in telehealth services.
Earlier this summer, pro-telemedicine policies were stalled in Arkansas, and groups in Texas also tried to get the needle moving in their state legislature on allowing telemedicine to operate the same way it does in every other state. At the center of both states’ delays were the companies trying to set up shop, such as Teladoc which filed a lawsuit against the Texas Board of Medicine in 2015.
In September, the Arkansas’s State Board of Medicine finally approved regulations that allow a doctor and patient to establish a relationship via telemedicine. The medical board’s approved regulations outline a “proper physician-patient relationship” to include “a face-to-face examination using real time audio and visual telemedicine technology that provides information at least equal to such information as would have been obtained by an in-person examination. More

On the subject of telemedicine, companies offering the service are expanding their repertoire. American Well added psychiatry services to a subset of its behavioral health offering, with a larger rollout planned for the rest of the year. American Well has offered a behavioral health module to some of its customers since 2004, but is debuting some new features as well as the addition of psychiatrists, meaning many patients will be able to have mental health drugs prescribed over the platform. At first, not all medications will be prescribable over the platform because of laws that govern the prescription of controlled substances, like certain stimulants and antidepressants, via telemedicine. But the company has plans to work with community sites like urgent care or pharmacy clinics to provide those prescriptions when needed. That will be up and running by the end of the year. More

NYC-based asynchronous telemedicine service Sherpaa quietly opened its doors this week to direct-to-consumer business. Previously, text message and app access to Sherpaa doctors was available only via an employer. The service, which is free to use for employees, will cost $40 per month for individual customers. Customers can use Sherpaa’s app, the web, or a phone to communicate with doctors that work exclusively for Sherpaa 24-7. Using any of these platforms, users can get in touch with the doctors who can answer questions about a medical issue and send a prescription to a local pharmacy when appropriate. More

In a blend of telehealth and private practice, a new healthcare startup is taking two approaches to improving the patient experience – by launching a web platform and app that provides telemedicine, appointment scheduling, prescription refills and more, and also opening an actual brick and mortar private primary care practice. Carbon Health announced the launch of their app and opening of their clinic in San Francisco. The goal is to have a comprehensive platform for electronic health records and billing for small, independent practices that will ultimately create a giant network, all accessible via the app. “As crazy as it may sound, we are building a healthcare system from scratch,” said Eren Bali, cofounder of Carbon Health. “The important thing is, since you control your experience all the way from physician application to patient application to the integration with third parties, we are able to design an experience that would be impossible for the traditional health care providers." More

We  also saw providers to vulnerable populations get an infusion of digital health technologies the pairing of a Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid) community health network and a communication platform company. The product of an  initiative from Health 2.0’s Technology for Healthy Communities, San Leandro-based Community Health Center Networkis partnering with San Francisco-based Welkin Health, which specializes in patient relationship management through messaging services and workflow organization. The partnership will work to develop a case management platform to leverage the success of CHCN’s Care Neighborhood Program, a comprehensive outreach program supporting the at-risk populations in the East Bay Area. More

Hospital systems are catching up to needs of their patients and equipping with digital tools, not just for management of their health but also using the system on a physical and administrative level, too. New York-Presbyterian health system announced the rollout of NYP OnDemand, a new set of digital health tools including telehealth services for both patients and providers available on the NYP website and via its mobile app. The offerings will rollout gradually over the next few months, and will include offerings for emergency services, digital follow-ups, second opinions and acute stroke care.The new set of tools builds on the health system’s app launch from the beginning of the year, at which time NYP told MobiHealthNews it would add video visits features soon. The new group of offerings, NYP OnDemand uses a mix of telemedicine and physician networks to deliver a variety of services. More

New York-based indoor mapping and navigation company Connexient announced the launch of its app with the National Institute of Health Clinical Center (NIHCC) in Bethesda, Maryland. The app, called Take Me There, uses Connexient’s existing MediNav digital wayfinder, providing indoor GPS to, through and around the facilities, and links up to existing apps to provide information about nearby locations. All of the NIHCC departments, clinics and 40,000 staff members are searchable in the app. Users are guided with a blue dot through the system, and can also plan out visits and meetings ahead of time with the website.More

St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa, Florida has a new tool for their young patients to deal with the stress and scariness of being in a hospital – UnMonsters, an app game released just for the hospital's pediatric patients. UnMonsters, developed in part by the hospital and interactive design firm Haneke Design, features four different types of monsters that patients must find and capture. Made specifically for St. Joseph’s, UnMonsters is a combination of distraction and exposure – the game is set in the hospital, with animated versions of places like the x-ray room, lab and waiting room. More

Kognito, the New York City-based patient engagement company that provides simulations with virtual humans, has partnered with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to launch a new series of conversation simulations aimed at getting people better at being, well, people, when it comes to talking about health. “We’re growing up in a world where we see technology really solving a lot of problems, but the benchmark of healthcare is the human touch,” Lois Drapin, senior vice president of Kognito’s New Health Markets told MobiHealthNews. “So we have this human intervention with an enabling technology that scales.” More

Providers are increasingly looking into ways to better engage their patients with their health. Cincinnati-based MedaCheckwhich makes a medication reminder platform that can be used on a smartphone or tablet, recently finished a medication adherence study with the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, finding that the digital tool significantly improved medication use among adolescents. More

DeepMind, a UK-based subsidiary of Google, began a new research project with National Health Service specialist Moorfields Hospital to use artificial intelligence to detect and treat blindness-causing eye diseases. The project is DeepMind’s second collaboration with NHS, although earlier projects did not use AI. Using a million anonymous eye scans, the research partnership will investigate how machine learning could help analyze eye scans known as Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) images, creating algorithms that can detect early warning signs of two particular eye diseases: wet age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. The goal of the project is that eventually the AI will be able to recognize such conditions with just a digital scan. More

Proteus Digital Health is working with Children's Health in Dallas, Texas in one of the first trials of its ingestible sensor technology in pediatric patients. The trial involves patients recovering from an organ transplant, a group that typically needs to take a lot of medications on a fairly strict schedule. Fifteen patients are using the Proteus platform now and Children's Dallas ultimately intends to enroll 75. The Proteus digital medicine platform, called Proteus Discover, is a medication management and adherence system that includes measurement tools like sensor-enabled pills, a peel-and-stick biometric sensor patch worn on the body, and a companion tablet app. More