Mayo Clinic links COVID-19 outbreaks to search terms, Augmedix's reverse merger and more digital health news briefs

Also: Google reportedly coming to terms with European Commission on Fitbit deal; Eko and 3M's digital stethoscope.
By Dave Muoio
02:29 pm
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Searching for outbreaks. The long and sometimes muddled tradition of predicting outbreak hot spots by analyzing search engine activity has continued into the COVID-19 era, with Mayo Clinic researchers publishing new findings that suggest strong correlations between certain keywords and case reports. In reviewing data from Jan. 22 to April 6, "face mask," "Lysol" and "COVID stimulus check" had the strongest correlations across the U.S., with the researchers also noting strong correlations as many as 16 days before the first COVID-19 cases were reported in certain states.

"This study documents that there is information present in Google Trends that precedes outbreaks, and these data should be utilized to allow for better resource allocation in regard to tests, personal protective equipment, medication, and more," the researchers wrote.


Another SPAC deal. Earlier this month Augmedix, a company providing remote scribe services, said that it had closed a $25 million private placement that would see the company merge with Malo Holdings Corp., a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC).

The blank check deal will see the combined company's common stock listed on the OTC Markets QB tier. Prior funders Redmile Group, DCM and McKesson Ventures took part in the new investment alongside first-time backers.

"We're thrilled to complete this financing, which we believe puts Augmedix on the path of accelerated expansion, and will enable us to broaden our operational capabilities, accelerate our technology research and product development, and strengthen our marketing and sales," Augmedix CEO Manny Krakaris said in a statement.


For a few weeks more. The timeline of the European Commission's final decision on Google's Fitbit acquisition has again been extended, from the previously announced Dec. 23 cutoff to Jan. 8 of next year. What's more, Reuters reports that the tech company has agreed to more concessions and is now on track to receive the regulator's blessing. An earlier promise from Google to silo wearable-collected data and restrict its use in advertising was not enough to stave off the investigation.

This update on Google's business comes the same week it was hit with antitrust charges courtesy of the U.S. Justice Department, although that case is narrowly focused on Google's search engine business and presumably wouldn't cross into the realm of its Fitbit acquisition or other health efforts.


Eko powers a digital stethoscope. 3M Littmann Stethoscopes announced this week a collaboration with cardiac health analysis startup Eko that's produced the stethoscope brand's first digital offering. The CORE Digital Stethoscope provides clinicians with analog and digital auscultation, and connects to Eko's software platform to enable a range of features such as artificial intelligence clinical decision support and remote care.

“Partnering with 3M Littmann Stethoscopes allows us to incorporate the power of our digital and machine learning technology alongside the stethoscope trusted by millions of clinicians worldwide, which can help impact patient outcomes and quality of care," Connor Landgraf, CEO and cofounder of Eko, said in a statement. "Combining the 3M Littmann CORE Digital Stethoscope with the Eko platform of software and AI helps clinicians elevate cardiopulmonary care to a whole new level.”


Wearable could answer an unmet Parkinson's need. Cala Health, a wearable neuromodulation therapy startup focused on chronic diseases, announced that an in-development wearable for the treatment of action tremors in the hands of adults with Parkinson's disease has been granted Breakthrough Device Designation by the FDA. The Cala Trio device is already cleared for relief of essential tremor (tremors occurring when the hand is at rest) and is available in the U.S. by prescription.

Moving forward, the startup said that it's aiming to kick off a study investigating the wearable therapy's role in action hand tremors before the end of the year.

"Cala Health is committed to pursuing rigorous scientific and clinical research to demonstrate the mechanism, benefits, useability, and safety of our technologies," Kate Rosenbluth, founder and CSO of Cala Health, said in a statement. "We are pleased to have the FDA recognize the novelty and potential for our wrist-worn neuromodulation therapy."

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