You’re reading the web edition of STAT Health Tech, our guide to how tech is transforming the life sciences. Sign up to get this newsletter delivered in your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday.
A new name for Watson Health
IBM’s Watson Health earned a poor reputation for promising a futuristic vision of health care it couldn’t deliver. So it’s probably to the benefit of Francisco Partners, which announced it would purchase the division’s core assets in January, to distance itself from the baggage with a name change. Meet Merative, which plans to “sell products for clinical decision support, clinical development, enterprise imaging, healthcare analytics, social program management, and real-world evidence,” Katie reports. It’s a business built on some of the most comprehensive and long-running datasets in the health care industry. Read more here.
Survey: Remote tech could get patients to join trials
A survey of more than 1100 patients found that most — between 60 and 85% — would be more likely to enroll in clinical trials if the burdens on their time and travel were reduced, including through remote technology and other tools to decentralize data gathering. Researchers polled patients who had been diagnosed or treated for cancer in the past 7 years. Their willingness varied depending on the type of decentralization: 60% said they’d be more likely to enroll if offered IV trial medications administered by trial staff, while 82% said they’d be more likely to sign up if offered wearables to gather trial data. Adopting more remote technology could increase enrollment rates, researchers wrote in JAMA Network Open.
Respondents were also asked about their willingness to use remote care outside clinical trials. Their comfort varied depending on the modality, researchers found.
Health tech apps scramble on privacy
Health tech companies are grappling with what to do with sensitive health data — including about menstrual cycles, fertility and abortion — in the wake of the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Casey and Katie report. They’re rushing to build out legal teams, designing entirely new products to protect user privacy, and changing their communication strategies in the face of mounting distrust. Period tracking app Natural Cycles is building an anonymous version, and says it has called competitor Flo — which is also building an anonymous tool — for advice.
“We’re going to put our heads together just to double-check our anonymization practices,” Natural Cycles CEO and co-founder Raoul Scherwitzl told STAT. “Competitors can be quite good at finding each others’ faults.” Read the full story.
An app to analyze stool samples
Irritable bowel syndrome can be a tricky condition to manage because much of the assessment of a patient’s condition is based on self-reported abdominal pain, bloating, and stool form and frequency. In a new study in The American Journal of Gastroenterology, researchers from Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles showed that a smartphone app can accurately characterize images of stool samples in a toilet according to the common Bristol Stool Scale as well as four other characteristics: consistency, fragmentation, edge fuzziness, and volume.
Importantly, the AI outperformed self reports of BSS scores, hinting that such a tool could provide a useful objective measure of how treatments are working. Study subjects found the app easy to use, but limitations include that toilet colors other than white may impact the ability of the app (and experts) to assess the samples.
After chronic care stumble, Teladoc boosts primary care
Despite a lackluster few quarters and a $6.6 billion impairment charge related to its acquisition of chronic care company Livongo, telehealth company Teladoc is refocusing on its primary care and urgent care businesses with a couple of new partnerships aimed at making at-home virtual care even more convenient. Through deals with digital pharmacy site Capsule and bio specimen collection company Scarlet Health, Teladoc is now offering its Primary360 members same-day medication delivery and at-home phlebotomy services. These on-demand services could nudge more patients to take their medication and submit lab tests, the companies said.
- Amazon’s chief medical officer for new products Vin Gupta is in the lead to be FDA’s principal medical advisor, Politico reports. Gupta, a pulmonologist and cable news commentator, found himself leading Amazon’s Covid-19 response when the pandemic hit. “I think they’ve recognized that it’s an asset to have me out there helping to lead on our workplace health and safety measures and to be helping to guide our strategy,” he told STAT last year.
- Virtual care staffing and technology provider Wheel appointed Shoshana Deutschkron as chief marketing officer. Most recently, she served as CMO of Olive. Other new hires include Brandon Castel as vice president of sales, Daniel DeSantis as vice president of partnerships, and Brendon Kelly, as business lead, behavioral health.
- Well Health, which offers patient communications software, added JP Knapp as vice president of sales and Justin Widlund as general counsel. Knapp joins from Vocera Communications. Widlund has advised a number of companies including Freshworks and Microsoft.
What we’re reading
- Telehealth lobbyists are avoiding abortion discussions because they don’t want to jeopardize the fate of pandemic-era reimbursement extensions, Politico
- Pulse oximeter accuracy shouldn’t depend on skin color, STAT
- The case for going public too early, Crunchbase News