Also: Propeller Health CCO warns against unchecked disruption; Grant brings smartphone diabetic retinopathy screening to India.

Charges made in telemedicine fraud case, data analytics startup raises $26M and more digital health news briefs

By Dave Muoio
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Virtual until proven fraudulent. A New York anesthesiologist has been indicted for her role in a scheme to submit fraudulent telemedicine claims to Medicare, Medicare Part D plans as we. According to the indictment, Dr. Anna Steiner and other providers purported to practice telemedicine in exchange for kickbacks starting in 2015. This resulted in more than $7 million in Medicare claims on behalf of more than 3,000 beneficiaries, more than $3 million of which was paid out.

“As alleged, Steiner claimed to provide telemedicine services to patients, but in reality, her telecare was a fiction and the claims submitted to Medicare unnecessary and fraudulent,” Richard P. Donoghue, US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement announcing the indictment. “This Office and our law enforcement partners will continue vigorously investigating and prosecuting health care professionals who seek personal enrichment by stealing from a taxpayer-funded program.”

Analytics software maker closes $26M. Nashville-based healthcare data analytics startup Stratasan has raised a $26 million funding round led by Fulcrum Equity Partners, with participation from Frist Cressey Ventures, Blue Heron Capital, Bridge Bank and Company management. According to the announcement, the software maker will use the new money to grow its sales, marketing and customer success teams, as well as expand upon its product offerings.

"We are profoundly grateful for the opportunity to partner with three operationally focused growth equity firms to begin the next chapter in our journey,” Jason Moore, cofounder and CEO of Stratasan, said in a statement. "We’ve built a customer-first culture, and our entire team is looking forward to providing increased value to our current and future customers through this new investment. As we look to the future, I want to be sure to also thank our current investors and the TNInvestCo program, as they were pivotal in helping us get to where we are today.”

Pump the brakes on wanton disruption. In a contributed article for TechCrunch, Propeller Health CCO Chris Hogg warned digital health startups against pursuing disruption rapid growth at the expense of the patient. Citing startups like Theranos, uBiome and Nurx, he stressed the need for exhaustive research and responsible practices that, in his opinion, have generally diminished since the early days of digital health startups.

“I’ve been in the trenches of digital health; I know how hard it can be,” he wrote. “But when things are tough and it’s easy to lose focus, you have to think to yourself, ‘Do I want to be in the headlines for astonishing growth now, and accusations of cutting corners in two years? Or am I okay with sacrificing temporary stardom for a product that actually helps people?’

“This is not an easy choice to make. But if digital health is going to survive and scale, it’s one we have to make on a daily basis. Move slowly, and prove things: It’s the only way to create the kind of long-term change we’re seeking.”

Grant brings smartphone screening to India. A new Bonn University Hospital and Sankara Eye Foundation - India project is looking to establish smartphone-based screening for diabetic retinopathy among Bangalore’s poor and rural districts. Born of a pilot that examined 200 Bangalorian residents with diabetes using a smartphone retrofitted with a specialized adaptor, the two-year project seeks to identify early cases and more quickly connect them to appropriate treatment.

"An affordable and easy-to-use screening procedure for early detection would be very helpful in improving ophthalmic care," Dr. Robert Finger, a professor at Bonn and co-director of the project, said in the statement.