Ro tackles menopause, Peloton hit with $150M lawsuit, and more digital health news briefs

Also: Family support coaching app raises $27.5 million; Key components of a dementia care robot.
By Dave Muoio
01:55 pm

Mail-order menopause treatment. Online men’s and women’s health platform Ro is expanding its services with the launch of a new platform for women experiencing menopause.

Called Rory, the platform treats for hot flashes, vaginal dryness, sleep deprivation and other symptoms of menopause, while also seeking to educate users on their personal health. Much like Ro’s other offerings, the service kicks off with a remote consultation and delivers supplements and other medications discreetly through the mail.

Games for health and social skills. Researchers from Vanderbilt University have built an experimental video game designed to engage seniors with dementia, as well as encourage them to continue socializing with others. Tested among 15 adults in two nursing homes, and among seniors with and without the condition, the game instructs players to sort virtual books into their correct bins, and then help their partner do the same. The motion game is controlled using sensors attached to the players' arms, encouraging physical activity as well.

"As we get older, we can become more isolated, and learning new skills and keeping moving is very important," Linda Beuscher, an assistant professor in Vanderbilt’s School of Nursing who worked on the project, said in the statement. "If you don't use it, you lose it. We know that. Moving the books on the screen requires moving their shoulders, arms and wrists. And then we're keeping their brains active as they play the game. Most importantly, they're engaging with one another.”

You wouldn’t download an exercise bike. Connected home exercise equipment maker Peloton has been hit with a $150 million lawsuit from the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), which claims that Peloton was illegally featuring music from Rihanna, Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga and others. The suit was filed yesterday in the US District Court of the Southern District of New York.

“Music is a core part of the Peloton business model and is responsible for much of the brand’s swift success. Thousands of exclusive videos and playlists are a major reason hundreds of thousands of people have purchased Peloton products,” NMPA President and CEO David Israelite said in a statement. “Unfortunately, instead of recognizing the integral role of songwriters to its company, Peloton has built its business by using their work without their permission or fair compensation for years. … It is frankly unimaginable that a company of this size and sophistication would think it could exploit music in this way without the proper licenses for this long, and we look forward to getting music creators what they deserve.”

"We just received the complaint this morning, and we are evaluating it,” Peloton wrote in a statement to Engadget. “Peloton has great respect for songwriters and artists. In fact, we have partnered with each of the major music publishers, record labels and performing rights organizations, and many leading independents. We have also invested heavily to build a best-in-breed reporting and licensing system to support our partners and provide our members with a world-class fitness experience."

Telehealth legislation. The National Law Review reports on a handful of new telehealth bills that were recently filed by Massachusetts legislators. Broadly, the bills would require certain payers to offer coverage for telehealth services, although there is some contrast between the bills in whether Medicaid with be required, or simply permitted, to cover certain areas.

In other telehealth legislation news, a bill looking to expand the definition of a “professional relationship” with Arkansas’ existing telemedicine laws failed by a single vote. Of note, the bill was not supported by any Arkansas House member with a medical degree, each of whom said that video calls fall short in comparison to physical examinations.

Birth control app earns high marks. A recent study gauging the efficacy of the Dot birth control app found it to be 99 percent effective when used perfectly and 95 percent effective with typical use. Published in The European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care, the investigation examined data from 13 menstrual cycles contributed by 718 women (6,616 cycles total) between February 2017 and October 2018. All of the participants were within the age range of 18 to 39 years, although no significant differences in the app’s failure rate were observed among different age, racial or socioeconomic groups.

“This is the first time that researchers have used the established contraceptive-efficacy protocol to study women in real-time while they used a fertility app to prevent pregnancy,” Dr. Victoria Jennings, director and principal Investigator at Georgetown University Medical Center’s Institute for Reproductive Health, said in a stateement. “Our rigorous study design also allowed us to understand how women use the app and how they can be encouraged to use it correctly."

Funding for parenthood-support app. Cleo, a app-based family support coaching platform, has raised $27.5 million in a Series B funding round led by NEA. The service, targeted at employer customers, aims to help parents manage their responsibilities, plan and prepare for a new child, avoid preventable healthcare issues and eventually return to the workforce.

“It’s easy to see why families would need extra support during this monumental time in their life, but why should businesses care?” the company wrote in a Medium post announcing the investment. “Employers want new ways to attract and retain the best talent, foster more inclusive, diverse workplaces, and they want to save money on costly employer-sponsored healthcare plans by improving outcomes. More and more, employers are recognizing when an employee starts a family, it doesn’t need to be the end of their career."

Building a better bot. Family caregivers of dementia patients are looking for helper robots that can answer patients’ repeated questions, provide regular task reminders, include voice operation and generally offer other means of support for the day-to-day tasks that stress caretakers, according to a recent codesign project headed by the University of California, San Diego. The six-month effort tapped the carretakers to describe desired features through direct interviews and hands-on design workshops.

"Caregivers conceived of robots not only managing difficult aspects of caregiving — but also for supporting joyful and fun activities," Laurel Riek, a professor of computer science at UC San Diego, said in a statement. ”It is imperative researchers take a community-health focused approach to understanding stakeholders' perspectives prior to building the technology … especially in healthcare robotics — one should not walk in with a technology hammer.”

Fertility tracker facelift. Valley Electronics’ Daysy fertility tracker has received a tech-heavy upgrade. The basal temperature device’s new version is now Bluetooth compatible, comes with a rechargeable battery and connects to a companion app for data logging and sharing.

“Our mission is to provide women with the knowledge and the tools that they need to learn more about their menstrual cycle, their fertility and their bodies. This helps them make what are perhaps the most important decisions of their lives in an independent, self-determined way,” Natalie Rechberg-Egly, managing director of Valley Electronics and the device’s inventor, said in a statement. “We are happy that 98 percent of users would recommend Daysy to their friends.”

Remote consent. Clinical trial technology company CRF Bracket has released a new version of its virtual clinical trial software that allows patients to consent remotely. The TrialConsent product designs, collects and manages informed consent, while allowing patients secure logins and the ability to save their progress regardless of location.

“The continually increasing demand for solutions like TrialConsent underscores the accelerating demand across the life science industry for more integration of capable, reliable electronic processes for a more patient-centered approach,” Jeff Lee, product lead of patient engagement and eConsent at CRF Bracket, said in a statement. “In addition to uniquely supporting remote consent in virtual trials, TrialConsent seamlessly complements CRF Bracket’s suite of patient-centric eClinical solutions, where eConsent, eCOA, patient engagement and ePRO combine to provide a total patient centric experience.”


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