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Telehealth for some

For all of telehealth’s pandemic-era progress, there is still a broad swath of the U.S. population it has largely failed to reach: the 57 million residents in rural areas. “For anyone concerned with ensuring health care for all, it’s areas with significant rural populations that absolutely have to figure this out,” InOn Health’s Kaakpema Yelpaala told Erin. In a new story, Erin reports on the litany of obstacles they face, from a lack of broadband to confusing reimbursement rules. Still, some companies including Teladoc and Eko are making inroads with creative solutions, like turning school nurses’ offices into telehealth hubs. Read the piece.

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Apple Heart Study looks past A-fib

Researchers continue to sift through data from the Apple Heart Study for signs that the Apple Watch’s sensors can be used to reliably detect heart problems. A new study sponsored by the Cupertino company details how the Watch’s irregular pulse notification may indicate some form of cardiac arrhythmia, even if it’s not atrial fibrillation. In the original study, researchers collected ECG patch data from 450 people who were notified, 34% of whom were found to have A-fib. The fresh analysis of the remaining 297 people found 40%, had some other form of arrhythmia. Marco Perez, a study co-author from the Stanford Center for Clinical Research, told STAT “if you get one of these notifications, then I think you kind of have to take it seriously, because many times, yes, you won’t find A-fib, but even when you don’t find A-fib, you’re going to find something that may have a clinical consequence.”

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Smartwatches to predict cold vs. flu

A new study from researchers at Duke suggests that wearables  could help us detect the flu and the common cold in people before they start to feel symptoms. In the small study, 31 participants were inoculated with H1N1 flu and 18 with rhinovirus, or the common cold. Prediction models trained on data from wearables were able to detect exposure 24 hours before symptom onset with 92% accuracy for flu and 78% for rhinovirus. The research was conducted using a smartwatch from specialized manufacturer Empatica, so don’t expect your Fitbit to catch your flu symptoms anytime soon. Read the whole story from STAT’s Maddie Bender here.

Follow the money

  • VC firm AlleyCorp launched a new $100 million healthcare fund for early stage investments.
  • Electronic medical records mining company Elligo HealthResearch raised $135 million in a Series E funding round led by Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital and Ally Bridge with participation from Cerner and others. Some of the funds were used to acquire clinical trials platform
  • Stellar Health, maker of a healthcare workflow tool for providers, raised $60 million in Series B funding led by General AtlanticPoint72 Ventures and Primary Venture Partners also participated.
  • Virtual primary care startup Alpha Medical raised $24 million in Series B financing powered by SpringRock Ventures, former Ancestry CEO Margo Georgiadis, Samsung Next, and others.
  • Digital surgery startup Activ Surgical raised a $45 million Series B round led by Cota Capital.

AI training, beautifully explained

(Hyacinth Empinado)

Much of the most exciting — and controversial — health care research is powered by AI, a catch-all term that describes techniques for getting computers to “think.” As Emory University professor Hari Trivedi explains in a new video by STAT’s Hyacinth Empinado, training an algorithm to reliably do anything requires an ocean of properly categorized data, which can create tedious work for researchers. Trivedi and team are working on a breast cancer detection system by building a dataset composed of mammograms, demographics, social history, and more.

If a wearable falls in the Amazon…

Amazon’s Halo team released a new version of its wrist-worn wearable that looks a lot like a Fitbit. It’s called the Halo View and, unlike the previous band without a screen, the new device has a brightly-colored display, no microphone, and a blood oxygen sensor, catching the company up with rivals Apple and Google in wellness.

Meanwhile, Amazon Web Services launched the Amazon Genomics CLI, an open-source tool that lets users process genomics data at the petabyte scale. And digital pharmacy Nurx launched a skill set for Amazon’s Alexa that lets users set medication reminders and ask reproductive health-related questions.

We’re on each others team

  • Truveta, a health data platform owned by 17 U.S. health providers including Providence and Trinity Health, announced it would use Microsoft Azure as its exclusive cloud platform. The dataset will initially represent more than 15% of all clinical care in the U.S.
  • Verily chronic care startup Onduo is giving eligible members enrolled through their employer Fitbit devices and access to Fitbit’s premium membership in an effort to help them more proactively manage their health.
  • Walmart announced plans to use electronic medical record giant Epic’s platform for its health centers, starting with four Florida locations slated to open in 2022.
  • Ultromics, which builds AI diagnostic tools for cardiologists, has a new partnership with Janssen to develop a diagnostic device to identify patients with amyloidosis with cardiac involvement from routine echocardiograms. The rare condition, which causes an abnormal protein build up in the heart, is very dangerous and hard to identify.

Same faces, new places

  • Maternal health startup Maven Clinic hired Jaclyn D’Aversa Emeigh, formerly JPMorgan Chase’s head of paid social and media marketing, as its director of social media and content operations.
  • Clinical trials platform maker Medidata promoted Rama Kondru and Sastry Chilukuri from their former roles as CEO and founding president of Medidata Acorn AI, respectively, to the role of co-CEOs. Tarek Sherif and Glen de Vries, Medidata’s co-founders and former co-CEOs, will serve as chair and vice-chair of Dassault Systèmes Life Sciences & Healthcare, respectively.

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