Apple unveils a medication-tracking app and new heart health features for smartwatches

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Apple unveils app to track medication use

Apple introduced a new app to help people to track the medications they take — a new area of focus for the company— during its pre-taped Worldwide Developers Conference yesterday. Users can scan a pill bottle to search for a medication and easily schedule reminders to take it. The software will alert users to potentially dangerous interactions between drugs in their medicine cabinet.


Building on its long-evolving features around heart health, Apple is also adding a new smartwatch feature, called AFib History, to allow people diagnosed with the condition to pinpoint episodes and track how much time they’ve spent in atrial fibrillation. The feature also allows users to see how other health and lifestyle data, like sleep, weight, and exercise might be impacting their A-fib. The product received FDA clearance on Friday.

Apple’s commitment to health remains centered around giving users more information, but questions remain on how the health care system will adapt to data collected on consumer devices. The Afib History feature, for example, is based on remarkable technology developed by one of the world’s most advanced companies. How is a doctor supposed to look at this potentially very useful data?  From a PDF generated by the Health app, of course.


Playing the funeral march 

The graveyard of tech pilots is filled with some of health care’s most appealing ideas: making it possible for patients to schedule their own appointments online, automating hospital hygiene monitoring, and more. Health system leaders are often loathe to call attention on big plans that never move out of pilot mode, but those failures are the key to making sure the same costly mistakes aren’t repeated.

“People who work in the digital health tech side know that you iterate, you launch something, then you take the design and you launch the next release,” Jen Magaziner, vice president of digital health at Boston Children’s Hospital, told Mohana. In health systems, though, “people get worried that iteration just means wasting people’s time.” Mohana asked Magaziner and other leaders about their pilots. Read more to learn what drove their downfalls.

Minimal out-of-state telehealth use within Medicare


As Covid-19 spread across the U.S., we heard a lot about the importance of regulatory flexibility allowing patients to get telehealth services with out-of-state providers. But a new study in Health Affairs shows that such visits accounted for a small proportion of care delivered to Medicare beneficiaries in 2020, and that increases were strongly correlated with the amount of in-person care being sought across state lines. However, the study did find that out-of-state telehealth use varied widely across the U.S., suggesting that decisions about future policies are best left up to state officials.

Vapor ware or virtual breakthrough in diabetes care

Virtual diabetes care companies are pushing to fill a yawning gap between their promises and evidence of real benefits for patients. Virta Health just released outcomes from a five-year study that showed people who stuck with a nutrition program backed by online coaching achieved meaningful weight loss and reductions in blood sugar and medication use. However, the study was not randomized or controlled, a common shortcoming of studies designed to examine digitally-delivered treatments for type 2 diabetes. For many companies, the cost of running rigorous studies doesn’t pencil out in an increasingly competitive market. Katie has the full story.

California bill penalizes Covid misinfomation

California lawmakers have approved a bill that would allow disciplinary action to be taken against physicians and surgeons who spread Covid-19 misinformation. Members of the state’s medical board found to have promoted or disseminated misinformation — defined as false information contradicted by “contemporary scientific consensus” —  would face an investigation examining whether their actions resulted in patient harm. The bill still needs approval from the state’s senate and governor — and its enforceability remains a big question mark. But it represents a first, tentative step toward holding clinicians accountable for spreading misinformation in the face of a pandemic.

Dollars & deals

  • The tech-driven primary care company Aledade raked in a $123 million Series E round on the promise of expanding its efforts to support care for seniors covered by Medicare Advantage plans. The round was led by OMERS Growth Equity.
  • The private equity firm Bain Capital has acquired a majority stake in LeanTaaS Holdings, a cloud software provider to hospitals. Earlier this year, Bain joined Hellman & Friedman in acquiring Athenahealth for $17 billion.
  • The AI drug discovery company Insilico Medicine raised a $60 million Series D round from a consortium of investors that included BHR Partners and Warburg Pincus. The company will use the money to support its development pipeline and a planned “AI-driven robotic drug discovery lab.”
  • Geisinger will use biometric facial recognition technology to check in patients throughout the Pennsylvania-based hospital system. Patients’ face scans are stored in the electronic health record and used to verify their identity when they receive care.

Tapping new talent

The video-game therapy company Akili has tapped Matt Franklin to fill the newly-created role of president and chief operating officer. Franklin previously led a precision oncology business for Exact Sciences.

What we’re reading

  • Toward a realistic model of speech processing in the brain with self-supervised learning, arXiv
  • My Health Record: after 12 years and more than $2bn, hardly anyone is using digital service, The Guardian
  • Why Best Buy is betting big on healthcare as the retail giant’s sales plummet, Business Insider
Source: STAT