A Theranos redux & and vaccine outreach via EHRs

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‘Move fast and break things’ meets medicine

When the trial of Elizabeth Holmes finally begins next week, it will once again put the Theranos saga in the spotlight. No matter its outcome, Casey reports, there may be fallout for the biotech and digital health sectors, which have raised significant sums in the past year — in some cases, without as much evidence in hand as one might expect. Holmes “was allegedly able to exploit some of the exuberance of the Silicon Valley types for a health care product,” said Harvard’s Glenn Cohen. If she’s acquitted, he added, it could bolster the case for more aggressive marketing and disrupt-speak that outpaces the evidence. Read more in the story.

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Big tech learns health is hard

Soon after news broke that Google Health leader David Feinberg was leaving to become Cerner’s CEO, the plot thickened: For the second time in its history, Google Health is being dismantled, according to Insider, which also reported that Apple is scaling back work on HealthHabit. The internal app, which lets employees manage personal health goals and chat with clinicians and coaches, is part of Apple’s larger effort to integrate data from its wearables into health care, including piloted coaching programs for hypertension.

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But neither shift suggests digital behemoths are throwing in the towel on their plans to disrupt the medical firmament, Erin writes in a new story. In fact, Google’s reorganization — which has been ongoing for the past several years — could actually strengthen its health bets. “Sometimes progress is taking a few steps back,” UCSF medicine chair Bob Wachter told Erin. “I’ll be darned if they leave health care.”

Changing the EHR’s role in vaccine outreach

Online infrastructure has been a major barrier to equitably distributing Covid-19 vaccines. But at a cancer center in North Carolina, one group tried using technology to bridge that divide. They identified patients without email addresses or patient portal accounts who were likely to have missed digital notices about vaccines, and called all 500 of them up individually — leading to 100 vaccinations that might not have been given otherwise. It’s a strategy that could be used more often as practices start regularly collecting data on social determinants of health, Katie reports.

Facebook goes on the defensive

Over the weekend, the New York Times reported that Facebook had held back a study of the most popular posts on its platform — including its most-viewed link in the first three months of the year, which suggested a connection between Covid-19 vaccination and a physician’s death. Facebook released the report soon after that story published.

In appearances following the report, U.S. surgeon general Vivek Murthy reiterated that misinformation about Covid-19 is directly harming the public’s health, a message that comes as the White House continues to push for Facebook to share data about the spread of falsehoods on the platform. Earlier last week, the social media giant published a blog explaining how it had removed pages, groups, and accounts linked to the “disinformation dozen,” leading promoters of Covid-19 misinformation identified in a Center for Countering Digital Hate report.

New rounds and fresh cuts

  • This morning, SCAN Group— which runs a major Medicare Advantage plan — announced it is investing an undisclosed amount in MedArrive, a startup led by former Uber Health exec Dan Trigub that aims to bridge the gap between telemedicine and in-home care. “MedArrive’s technology allows healthcare providers to better meet the needs of older adults by providing them with care in the safest, most convenient location for them—their homes,” SCAN Group CEO Sachin Jain said in a statement.
  • AllStripes announced today it has raised a $50 million Series B round as it looks to expand the use of its tech platform to support rare disease research and drug development. The round was led by existing investor Lux Capital, joined by Jazz Venture PartnersSpark Capital, and others. Angel investors included Arif Nathoo, the CEO of Komodo Health.
  • Utah-based Techcyte raised $21 million to speed up the commercialization of its digital pathology platform. Investors in the round included Zoetis and ARUP Laboratories.
  • After seeing a drop in demand for Covid-19 tests, diagnostics company LumiraDx has cut $2 billion off the value of its planned SPAC merger, which it had initially valued at $5 billion. The deal is expected to close this fall.
  • Cardiomatics, a Poland-based company that develops cloud-based AI tools to analyze ECGs, raised $3.2 million in a seed round led by KAYA VC.

Private contact tracing records exposed publicly

Millions of records storing data from vaccination signups, Covid-19 contact tracing platforms, and hundreds of other web apps were exposed online, Wired reports. The data, from 38 million records, included sensitive personal information including vaccination status, addresses and phone numbers, and social security numbers. All of the information was housed in Microsoft’s Power Apps, a portal service used to build public-facing websites and the backend to support them. None of the records are known to have been compromised, according to Wired.

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Source: STAT