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A huge success for rural telehealth
An innovative effort to pipe big-city mental health providers to primary care clinics in rural communities to treat PTSD and bipolar disorder showed overwhelmingly positive results, underscoring the potential of technology to address gaps in care. “It goes to show that if you provide evidence-based treatment to patients in underserved settings that haven’t had access to it before, that you can just make huge gains,” John Fortney, the lead researcher and a University of Washington professor, told Mario. But the project is also a clear example of the huge financial and logistical barriers involved in novel telehealth arrangements with faraway psychologists and psychiatrists. Read Mario’s story here.
The AI frontier needs a new sheriff
With algorithms in health care growing more common and more complex, standards for evaluation and monitoring are becoming especially important. That message came across loud and clear yesterday during Casey’s discussion with AI experts during STAT Summit. Mayo Clinic’s John Halamka said developers of algorithms should be required to disclose the gender and racial diversity in their datasets, as well as details about their performance and suitability for different types of patients. Maia Hightower, chief medical information officer at the University of Utah, said health systems must also carefully monitor algorithms after they’re implemented, a step that isn’t happening yet in a formal or consistent way.
“Most health systems don’t have an AI governance structure,” she said. “We have a long way to go to develop the tools and infrastructure needed to do that.”
Prescription VR bounds forward
The Food and Drug Administration has authorized marketing of EaseVRx, a prescription virtual reality treatment that uses cognitive behavioral therapy and other methods to treat people with lower back pain. The De Novo clearance was based on a 179 person randomized control trial that showed the treatment reduced pain better than control both immediately after treatment and at a one-month followup. The developer, AppliedVR, last week announced it had raised a $36 million Series B round.
The FDA has been moving on many digital therapeutics recently. Last month, it cleared Luminopia’s VR headset-based treatment for childhood Amblyopia, a disorder that leads to weaker vision in one eye.
Apps to improve surgical outcomes
The potential for using apps and wearable devices to improve patient outcomes after surgery hasn’t been lost on researchers, according to a new review of 44 articles describing digital interventions given to patients after a range of procedures. The existing evidence suggests regularly collecting patient-reported measures and activity data can give better insight into recovery, and that prompts from digital health tools could help reduce complications. For all the opportunities, however, the review revealed a number of issues, including inconsistent and insufficient reporting and a lack of transparency around AI. They also found most tools were developed without patient input, and people without certain mobile devices were frequently excluded from studies.
Trouble in SPACland?
Valo, the upstart drug discovery company, and Khosla Ventures Acquisition Co. have spiked their announced plans to merge into a $2.8 billion public company. Valo had raised $450 million since being founded in 2019. The deal was terminated owing to “current market conditions, particularly in the biotechnology area.”
Meanwhile, Talkspace, the teletherapy app whose $1.4 billion SPAC merger announcement kicked off a stratospheric year of investment in January, revealed that its founders Oren and Roni Frank are already departing the company, supposedly to pursue their next entrepreneurial effort.
Also: We’re hearing Pear Therapeutics’ $1.6 billion SPAC deal is on the verge of closing. The company announced this week it had raised an additional $50 million investment as part of the deal.
Rounds and rounds
- Owkin, an AI medical research company, received a $180 million investment from pharma giant Sanofi.
- Home healthcare startup MedArrive, launched last year by former Uber Healthexec Dan Trigub, raised a $25 million Series A round led by Section 32.
- H1, a LinkedIn-like platform with profiles of physicians, raised a $100 million Series C led by Altimeter Capital.
- Ribbon Health, an API data platform, raiseda $43 million Series B led by General Catalyst. Andreessen Horowitz and others participated.
- Cala Health, which makes a wearable device that treats essential tremor, raised$77 million in new financing led by Ascension Ventures.
- Charco Neurotech, which is working on a wearable device to treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, raised a $10 million seed round led by Amadeus Capital Partners and Parkwalk Advisor.
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