Amazon’s health cloud, Pichai on AI, and digital Alzheimer’s screens

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Biden goes after medical misinfo 

YouTube rolled out new features Monday to prevent the spread of medical misinformation, including “health information panels” to identify the sources of videos and other context. It also rolled out a new filter to highlight videos from authoritative sources in health care. The moves follow a series of efforts by the Biden administration to highlight the scourge of health misinformation, including last week’s advisory from U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and a more blunt pronouncement by President Biden, who accused Facebook of failing to police conspiracy theories.


YouTube said it built its tools using principles developed by an expert panel convened by the National Academy of Medicine. So far, only accredited organizations and government agencies are included in the health context features, but the company said it wants to broaden eligibility to other sources.

Curation is the name of the game 


Amazon’s cloud division has launched a curated set of health care services to help clients with a slew of solutions, such as analyzing genomic data and building data tools within electronic health records. The new product, dubbed AWS for Health, is largely a repackaging of services Amazon already offers. But it is yet another data point that speaks to the company’s all-out push to reinvent just about every aspect of health care, from how patients get primary care to how large hospitals diagnose and treat diseases.

Collective Health, a company that knits together health benefits for employers, is launching a new program to help clients wade through the flood of digital health services. Starting with nine partners — LyraGingerModern HealthCarrot FertilityProgynyHinge HealthTeladoc/Livongo98point6, and AccessHope — the Premier Partner Program aims to help employers make more informed decisions about digital solutions. “A major pillar of Premier is that these are partners that we’ve found that are willing and able to share data back with Collective,” said head of digital health partnership Lance Larsen. That could help employers understand which services are engaging users, improving outcomes, and creating value.

In search of verbal biomarkers for Alzheimer’s

As Alzheimer’s patients and advocates debate over the approval and cost of the disease’s first new drug in decades, patients at risk still don’t have a good way to catch AD in its earliest stages, when drugs could help the most. Researchers at Tokyo-based McCann Health Worldwide Japan developed a predictive model for disease risk based on normal phone conversations, hoping to pick up on slight vocal cues — based on phrasing and tone, not verbal content — that could indicate cognitive slowing. While the model only distinguishes between those with and without Alzheimer’s, more nuanced models could play a role in low-risk, low-cost disease screening.

Quote of the week

I view it (artificial intelligence) as a very profound enabling technology. You know, if you think about fire or electricity or the internet, it’s like that, but I think even more profound.” — Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google

Pichai’s comments in a podcast interview with the BBC underscore the company’s wide-ranging efforts to apply AI to health care services, where it is developing products for the earlier detection of cancers and many other serious health conditions. Pichai also emphasized the need to “harness (AI) to society’s benefit,” although it isn’t yet clear in health care whether it is doing more help or harm.

A better review system for digital health apps 

NPJ Digital Medicine

Digital health app quality is all over the place. To deal with the mess, researchers at Johns Hopkins have previously proposed a scorecard to help users — and providers looking for between-visit support — pick the best ones. But a review system can only help so much when the offerings are this dismal. Applying the scorecard to 22 popular oncology apps, the same researchers found scores averaging just 50% across five important areas: cost, technical specs, usability, clinical utility, and end user requirements.


  • Quit Genius, a digital clinic for treating addictions to nicotine, alcohol, and opioids, raised $64 millionin a Series B round led by Kinnevikand Atomico. The company partners with 55 employers and health plans and intends to use the money to expand its services across the U.S.
  • OM1, a startup building a real-world data and AI platform to target chronic illnesses,raised $85 millionin a funding round led by D1 Capital PartnersKaiser Permanente and Breyer Capital. The Boston-based company is working with hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and others to gain regulatory approvals and evaluate the safety and effectiveness of treatments.
  • The health data analytics company Sema4is expected to make its debut on the Nasdaqlater this week or early next. The Mt. Sinai spinoff is the latest digital health company to jump to the public markets by merging with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC.
  • HeartFlow, a company building cardiac diagnostics and tools by modeling coronary arteries, announced its own planned SPAC deal that values the startup at $2.4 billion. Once completed, it will be Longview Acquisition Corp.’s second reverse merger of the year.

Personnel file

  • Coming from a five-year stint as the American College of Cardiology’s chief innovation officer, John Rumsfeld started this month at Facebook. He’ll direct health technology research within the company’s lab devoted to virtual and augmented reality.
  • Virtual therapy startup Talkspace has a new chief financial officer:  Jennifer Fulk joins the company from Eli Lilly, where she was CFO for U.S. biomedicines.
  • Ada, maker of a symptom-checker app and other health products, is adding to its leadership team times three: Gülsah Wilke will come in as chief operating officer, Torsten Scheroas chief financial officer, and Vanessa Lemarié as chief client officer.
  • President Biden last week nominated former Haven CEO Atul Gawande to head up USAID, and STAT’s Helen Branswell outlines the challenges facing Gawande on confirmation.
  • After its IPO in February, Signify Health has appointed two new execs to guide its growing in-home care business: Sam Pettijohn, who comes from Cerner to act as chief growth officer; and Erin Kappler Kelly, chief compliance officer, who comes from CVS Health.

What we’re reading

Source: STAT