GoodRx hires former tech exec as CEO, Amazon shutters Halo, and Teladoc beats expectations

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An unvarnished look at health care’s AI reality

Artificial intelligence, you’ve surely heard, is going to make health care better. Hospitals love to tout the potential for shiny new technologies to improve patient care and reduce the burden on clinicians.


But the reality on the ground can be much different, which is a story you hear less often, because staff tend to hold back the truth in public. A new report from researchers at Duke aims to change that by collecting anonymous interviews with physicians and data scientists struggling to implement AI in the clinic. The responses are compiled into an online guide to help health systems overcome hurdles.

“We need a safe space where people can come and discuss these problems openly,” Duke’s Suresh Balu told my colleague Casey Ross. “We wanted to create something that was simple and effective to help put AI into practice.” Read more here.


Teladoc beats but still faces challenges

Teladoc beat analyst expectations as first quarter revenue grew 11% year over year. BetterHelp, Teladoc’s online therapy company, showed revenue up 21% compared to last year.

The revenue numbers are a positive sign as Teladoc faces steep competition for employer contracts and general economic headwinds. As Mohana notes, Teladoc continues to tout its ability to deliver “whole-person care” as an advantage over the glut of virtual solutions addressing narrower needs.

“Providing access to medication alone is not enough when it comes to patient outcomes and safety,” Teladoc CEO Jason Gorevic said during Wednesday’s earnings call. “We’re now offering integrated virtual and digital programs across all our key chronic condition programs.” Read more here.

GoodRx hires former tech exec as CEO

GoodRx hired former GoDaddy chief Scott Wagner as its new CEO. After long tenures, co-CEOs Trevor Bezdek and Doug Hirsch will step aside into new roles as chairman and chief mission officer. The announcement, which was made a few weeks ahead of the company’s quarterly earnings report, was viewed with immediate optimism by analysts at SVB Securities, who wrote, “we believe Mr. Wagner brings the necessary operational experience to help scale GDRX.” The possible downsides, they note, include that an external CEO could create “internal friction,” and that Wagner lacks health care experience or connections. The company’s stock was down 13% at the close yesterday.

Rumor: Apple developing coaching service 

Apple is rumored to be developing a health coaching service its products “designed to keep users motivated to exercise, improve eating habits, and sleep better,” Bloomberg reports, citing people with knowledge of the initiative.

The service, which would not be launched for some time, would compete with a slew of other standalone and wearable-linked products already on the market. As always, Apple’s advantage would come from the expansive reach of products like the iPhone and Apple Watch as well as their superior user experience and design.

In the near term, Bloomberg reports that Apple will launch a feature that allows you to track your emotions at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in June. In the future, Apple might expand this feature to something more ambitious, like using speech to detect mood, for example.

Amazon shutters Halo

As Apple is reportedly considering whether to add features that could use voice to deduce emotion, Amazon is scrapping its wearable device that did just that. Amid its waves of layoffs and cutbacks, Amazon announced it would shutter its Halo division.

Launched in 2020, Halo was Amazon’s take on a health-oriented wearable. Though it never got visible traction with consumers, the wristbands had features that differentiated them from competitors, such as the ability to analyze voice tone or work with a smartphone camera to assess mobility.

With consumers, being first isn’t always enough. The company said it will refund Halo purchases made over the last twelve months.

Apple study reveals how noisy your state is

In other Apple news, its collaborators at the University of Michigan released new data from the Apple Hearing Study which estimates that 1 in 3 American adults are exposed to excessive noise levels. That’s based on data from roughly 130,000 volunteers who contributed noise data from their Apple Watches between November 2019 and December 2022. Check out the publication page for interactive maps of the data, including which states are the noisiest.

IBS hypnotherapy app shows weak adherence

Sold by a company called Mindset HealthNerva is a direct-to-consumer app that delivers a 6-week course of gut-directed hypnotherapy to help improve people’s symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Simone Peters, the app’s co-creator and a researcher at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, led a retrospective analysis of IBS patients who downloaded the app between June 2019 and April 2020.  (Peters earns royalties on Nerva sales and owns shares in Mindset Health.)

In total, 2,843 people started the app’s free sessions, 1,428 paid for the app after the trial, and 253 completed treatment. Of the 190 who both completed all 42 sessions and reported outcomes, 122 — or 64% — were considered responders, meaning they had a greater than 30% reduction in abdominal pain. The results were published in Neurogastroenterology & Motility.

It’s a positive sign that an app can help improve people’s symptoms, especially the face of a stubborn and widespread issue like IBS. But as the study authors note, the adherence numbers are very low. That 64% number sounds more impressive than it is when you consider only 9% of participants finished treatment and 6% reported outcomes. The authors note that the study is merely a proof of concept and that “further evaluation of the efficacy of the app via a randomized controlled study with extended follow-up is warranted.”

The low adherence underscores one of the big issues with first generation digital treatments: While they might be good at getting people in the door, they struggle to get them to stay. Without fine-tuning these apps for better adherence, they risk of falling short of digital’s promise to reach people at scale.

What we’re reading

    • Should we trust Apple with mental health data?, The Verge 
    • US senator urges AI company CEOs to take steps to address risks, Reuters
    • Early findings in gene therapy death suggest CRISPR was not the cause, STAT
    • Overdose Detection Technologies—A New Frontier in Preventing Solitary Drug Overdose Deaths. JAMA Psychiatry
Source: STAT