Digital health’s friend zone and detecting pneumonia in the emergency room

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Google inks deal with major EHR vendor

Google has signed a deal to embed its technology into patient record-keeping software owned by Meditech, the nation’s third largest vendor of electronic health records. The deal, announced at HIMSS this morning, dramatically expands the distribution of Google’s Care Studio tools, which are designed to make it easier to search and summarize patient data kept in different formats and information silos. Those tools will now be embedded in Meditech’s Expanse health record software, which is used by dozens of health systems across the U.S. Google executives told Casey that the work is in its early stages, but that the end goal is a more intuitive health record that allows for seamless and timely sharing of patient information. Read the full story here.

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Pneumonia decision support drives outcomes

For more than a decade, Intermountain Healthcare has been testing a clinical decision support tool called ePNA to help emergency physicians identify and treat pneumonia patients. Their latest investigation, studying the system in use at 16 hospitals that treated nearly 7,000 pneumonia patients, showed the tool reduced severity-adjusted mortality by 38% — helping to validate the longstanding treatment guidelines its logic is based on. It also suggests the tool can be useful in smaller community hospitals as well as the larger urban centers that see more severe pneumonia cases. But that doesn’t mean that ePNA will work the same way outside Intermountain’s Utah-based facilities; next up, the researchers will develop a SMART on FHIR version of the tool to work across EHRs and drive broader validation studies.

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Borders shift in regulation and reimbursement

A new report on medical technology regulation — conducted by UCLA Biodesign and Boston Consulting Group  — contends that the FDA’s regulatory approach to digital health and other innovative medical technology in the last decade has made the U.S. far friendlier to developers. “One of the key findings from the companies that were interviewed, many say they are now looking at the US as their first launch country versus Europe,” said Gunnar Trommer, who leads BCG Digital Ventures’ healthcare vertical. “I’ve been in medtech and healthcare longer than I care to admit, but when I started it was always the opposite.”

A chart showing the predictability of global reimbursement for digital health technologies
But that doesn’t mean it’s always a smooth road. Among the 104 leaders surveyed for the project, those from small companies still complained of unpredictable regulatory approaches. And a lack of reimbursement after approval still stymies many developers, especially those focusing on digital technology — a consistent trend on either side of the pond. And even in Germany, which passed its Digital Health Care Act in 2019 to support deployment of digital health apps, a streamlined pathway to reimbursement still isn’t leading to significant prescriptions.

Dollars & deals

  • BetterUp is teaming up with Walmart to offer subscription-based resilience training and social support for people caring for loved ones with significant health needs. The service provides online group programming, workshops, and self assessments for a monthly fee on its online Wellness Hub.
  • Dascena, a developer of machine learning algorithms to enable early disease detection, won a grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities to develop an unbiased model to predict acute coronary syndrome, which afflicts more than 800,000 Americans a year. The plan is to analyze EHR data for potential sources of bias and build the model using the most relevant and objective pieces of data.
  • Creyon Bio, a company using AI to engineer RNA-based medicines, launched with a $40 million financing round led by DCVC Bio and Lux Capital. The company creates purpose-built datasets that train machine learning models to help engineer oligonucleotide-based medicines designed to treat everything from cancer to respiratory diseases.

New hires

  • Amazon has tapped Aaron Martin to be a vice president of health. Martin previously served as chief digital officer at Providence Health and is returning to Amazon after a prior stint developing the company’s Kindle e-reader.
  • Clarius Mobile Health has hired Ohad Arazi to be its next CEO. Arazi previously served as CEO of Zebra Medical Vision, a maker of AI imaging products.

What we’re reading

Source: STAT