Facebook will send warnings to users who encounter COVID-19 misinformation, Apple Maps to surface testing centers and more digital health news briefs

Also: Mercom's Q1 2020 digital health funding report; Fitbit, Scripps, Stanford collaborate on COVID-19 detection research.
By Dave Muoio
04:10 pm

Attacking misinformation head on. Big tech's war against online misinformation is raging hotter than ever with COVID-19. The latest update: Facebook will begin directly contacting users who liked, reacted or commented on "harmful misinformation" about the virus that was later removed by the social network. Facebook wrote this morning that the messages are set to deploy within the coming weeks, and will connect these users to educational resources from WHO.

"We want to connect people who may have interacted with harmful misinformation about the virus with the truth from authoritative sources in case they see or hear these claims again off of Facebook," Guy Rosen, Facebook's VP of integrity, wrote in a post.

Tracking down testing. Apple has launched a web portal for healthcare providers, labs or other business to apply as a verified COVID-19 testing location. Once validated by the tech company, these businesses will be surfaced to users on the Apple Maps app as a local testing site.

The portal's FAQ warns applying businesses that they may not be notified upon having their locations added to the service, and that the tech company can't provide any estimates as to when an applicant's locations will begin to appear.

Will the funding last? Mercom has rolled out its quarterly digital health VC-funding report and, much like MobiHealthNews and Rock Health, declared the first quarter of 2020 to be a record breaker.

The report tallied 142 deals from 433 investors that comprised $3.6 billion in investments, a 79% increase compared to Q1 2019. Ten deals among these represented roughly 42% of the quarter's total funding.

“There was no evidence of coronavirus affecting digital health funding in Q1. Going forward, we anticipate investors to become more selective in this environment," Raj Prabhu, CEO of Mercom Capital Group, said in a statement. "The era of 'I don’t want to miss out' investments may be over. That may not be a bad thing."

Mercom also reported 41 digital health M&A transactions during the quarter, which roughly stayed on pace with both Q1 and Q4 of 2019.

Research consortium tackles COVID-19 with wearables. The Scripps Research Institute, Stanford Medicine and Fitbit have decided to pool the data being generated by the institutions' in-progress COVID-19 wearables studies – the DETECT Study and the COVID-19 wearables study – to better determine the role these devices could play in predicting the onset of infectious diseases prior to symptoms. The new joint project is inviting other institutions to contribute their work as well.

All participating research projects will still be run independently, according to a release, but the organizations will aggregate and increase access to their collective data. Fitbit, for its part, is donating devices to the cause and looks to direct its consumer customers toward enrollment in the projects.

“From our previously published work, we know that data collected from consumer wearables can significantly improve the prediction of influenza-like illness,” Dr. Eric Topol, director and founder of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, said in a statement. “We see an enormous opportunity to enhance disease tracking for improved population health during the COVID-19 pandemic, and are pleased to join this new consortium to bring value to the research community.”


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