Google’s hospital play, Optum’s data shakeup, & the call for more telehealth oversight

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.

Google’s wearables plan takes shape

If you’ve been wondering how the tech titan planned to blend Fitbit with its analytics business, Mario’s got you coveredGoogle Cloud and Fitbit are unrolling a new service they think could help hospitals gather and crunch data from wearables and fitness trackers, potentially laying the groundwork for remote patient monitoring, research, and other health programs. “Device Connect for Fitbit” is one of the first public initiatives to emerge since Google acquired Fitbit for $2.1 billion in 2021, and includes tools to help health systems and researchers manage enrollment and consent and quickly add their data to the cloud to more easily access analytics and visualization tools. Fitbit Health Solutions General Manager Amy McDonough said the service aims to meet demand from existing health care customers. Read the full story. 

FDA’s precert pilot is officially over


The federal agency’s software precertification pilot exploring new approaches for regulating the burgeoning market for medical device-related software has concluded, and FDA is now calling for a new system that could require legislative changes. In a new report outlining its findings, FDA said the working model it explored during the pilot — which involved evaluating a product’s safety at multiple points throughout its life cycle —  didn’t turn out to be practical nor scalable.

Also in Washington, yet another federal watchdog has joined the chorus calling for more data on telehealth safety and quality. While HHS’ inspector general’s office’s recent inquiry into telehealth fraud found that the violations constituted only a small fraction of visits — a victory for telehealth champions who feel that concerns about fraud are overblown — the Government Accountability Office is urging CMS to gather more data on the quality of care and the types of services patients receive. Among their recommendations to CMS and HHS: the Office of Civil Rights should educate patients about privacy and security risks, and the CMS administrator should “comprehensively assess the quality of Medicare services” delivered using telehealth during the pandemic.


Optum’s data shakeup

UnitedHealth Group’s data and pharmacy benefits property caused a stir among academic researchers with a recent change to longstanding practices for licensing data, Casey reported exclusively last week. Optum told users that any future projects can only access insurance claims through an enclave hosted by another part of the company, a new system researchers say could be prohibitively costly. It’s already impacting research plans: The University of Michigan is already telling faculty to limit their use of Optum data.

Data points on digital mental health care 

A couple intriguing studies this week. One literature review finds a similar effectiveness between face-to-face and digital cognitive behavioral therapy services. The findings support a personalized approach to CBT treatment for depression, authors wrote.

Another in Psychiatry Research Communications  finds that about half of people with depression and anxiety accessed online patient portals in 2020, up from 36.3 percent in 2017. Among the ones who did use patient portals, about 86 % used them to view health results, 60% messaged clinicians, and 47% were filling medications.

The latest deals and hires

  • Neurology analytics company Rune Labs has named Swati Reichmuth its chief operating officer. Reichmuth previously led  corporate strategy, operations and finance at pharmaceutical and medical device-focused digital health software company BrightInsight.
  • And a slate of hires and new roles for health tracking platform EvidationMeghann Dryer, formerly of Nike, will be chief marketing and design officer Matt Bedrossian has been promoted to General Counsel; Melanie Ball is now the senior vice president of research; and Matt Butner is now senior vice president for its consumer market.
  • U.K. startup Optellum, which sells medical imaging software, has raised its first $14 million with participation by U.S. venture firms Intuitive Ventures and Black Opal.

What we’re reading

Source: STAT