Roche & aMoon kick off digital diagnostic investment program; former Talkspace employees share confidentiality concerns; and more digital health news briefs

Also: Another smart-mirror workout joins the fray, and Kroger Health launches a back-to-work COVID-19 testing program with telehealth support.
By Dave Muoio
02:58 pm

Driving digital diagnosis. Roche and Israeli life sciences investment firm aMoon announced plans this week to launch an early-stage investment program called StarFinder Lab. Focused on novel diagnostic technologies, in particular, with the help of AI data analysis and digital health tools, the program will provide funding, mentoring and other strategic support such as a physical office space within aMoon's headquarters to those chosen to participate. The collaboration will begin accepting applications in October.

“This program will allow us to build exceptional relationships with Israel’s brightest entrepreneurs, as well as take an active and strategic role in building disruptive start-ups together with Israel’s leading life sciences and health tech fund," Michele Pedrocchi, head of global strategy and business development at Roche Diagnostics, said in a statement. "aMoon’s experience and know-how in health tech investment complements our ability to provide unique market access and expertise to design solutions that are tailored to real market needs in collaboration with our customers globally. This program is a valuable aspect of our digital healthcare footprint and we are excited about the potential of this initiative.”

Confidentiality in question. Former employees of text-based behavioral therapy company Talkspace recently spoke to The New York Times about session-transcript data mining practices, as well as App Store and Google Play review inflation.

The former included an anecdote about company representatives reaching out to a practitioner about resource recommendations based on confidential session transcripts, and highlighted conflicting claims regarding whether or not the company used transcripts to support marketing (not the first time it's been accused of such behavior). The latter involved Talkspace providing employees with burner phones and instructions to post fake reviews for the app on their home networks, which the company also denies.

Another highlight of the story was the internal use of a former employee's own sessions, which he said was not handled with the anonymity he was promised.

Within a few days of the story's publication, Talkspace released a press release highlighting a new milestone: more than 40 million insured Americans with access to the service.

Mirror, mirror. Another smart mirror has entered the buzzing home-workout marketplace. Called the Carbon Trainer, the strength-training-focused device uses AI and 3D motion to track the user's movements, while providing workout routines, personalized guidance and social features. It features a 43-inch 4K LCD touch screen, and can also connect wirelessly to dumbbells, kettlebells and plates for more accurate tracking.

Early buyers will be able to purchase the system and a one-year subscription for $1,750, although these will increase to $2,295 with a $39 per month subscription in the future, the company said. It will ship in December.

Back to work. Kroger Health is the latest to launch a COVID-19 testing program for companies hoping to bring employers back to the worksite. This implementation relies on the company's FDA-authorized home-collection testing kit, and includes virtual consultations, both at the time of collection and afterward, in the form of telehealth and remote nutrition visits

"We are solving for the pandemic while building for the epidemic," Kroger Health president Colleen Lindholz said in a statement. "COVID-19 is our clear focus in the short term, and we have a strong plan in place to help drive our country's recovery efforts. However, we know that – now more than ever – a focus on health and wellness needs to become an ongoing way of life for all of us. That's why we are committed to providing organizations with the services we know their employees and stakeholders need to stay healthy."

Verily ramps up testing. And on the subject of back-to-work COVID-19 initiatives, Verily took time this week to highlight a newly established lab devoted to supporting the capacity of its Healthy at Work program and other testing efforts. The lab is CLIA certified, and located at the Alphabet company's South San Francisco headquarters.


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