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Troubles mount for Cerebral

Online mental health company Cerebral was hit with a grand jury subpoena from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York last week — the same day it announced plans to pause stimulant prescriptions for new customers amid rising concerns about inappropriate prescribing of some ADHD drugs. Those concerns had led some pharmacies — including CVS, Walmart, and Cerebral “preferred pharmacy partner” Truepill —  to block, delay, or stop filling some prescriptions from telehealth providers including Cerebral.

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The company is still advertising its services on Facebook, though it’s “actively adjusting” its marketing strategy to emphasize screening and counseling services instead of ADHD prescriptions, a spokesperson said. Armaan Gandhi, head of brand at Cerebral, told STAT that part of adjusting its ADHD practice “includes updating the language on our ads to accurately reflect this change.” Mohana has the story.

Exclusive: nference plans to get ahead of the next pandemic  and it wants your help

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Machine learning company nference has made its business out of culling troves of patients’ clinical notes for patterns. It’s just that kind of analysis that tipped founders off that loss of taste and smell might be linked to Covid-19 infection: a finding they quickly passed on to the CDC. As founder Venky Soundararajan looks ahead to the next global public health crisis, he’s betting that there’s even more crucial information hidden in clinical notes that might be revealed if they’re combined with viral genome sequencing: hints about the evolution of diseases, for instance.

Nference is the sole founding partner of a new initiative aimed at joining viral sequencing with electronic health records to prepare for the next pandemic — and it’s looking for philanthropic foundations, health systems and industry partners across the globe to both ramp up testing and to build out the underlying IT infrastructure for health records so that companies like nference can analyze it for clues about containment and prevention, Soundararajan tells STAT. “This is not just about SARS-CoV-2,” he said. “This is about any virus that has the potential to spread quickly.”

Part of the plan is to get health systems across the world to invest in sequencing so that companies like nference have more global data to pull from. And nference is offering its own machine learning software at-cost to interested partners. With enough data, Soundarajan said, “we could have a blueprint for the next mutation.”

Federal audit flags interoperability failures

A new federal audit spotlights gaps in a multibillion dollar effort to create fluid health data exchange between the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs. Despite adoption of a common electronic health record from Cerner, the effort has failed to consistently integrate historic patient information into the new system, the audit found. It also highlighted a lack of software interfaces to enable automatic uploading of data collected by medical devices, and poor controls over health record access. In short, the dream of a seamlessly connected health record ecosystem with the federal government is still far from a reality.

Can telehealth open up the Paxlovid bottleneck?

There’s finally a steadier supply of oral antivirals to treat Covid-19, but not enough patients are getting them in the five-day window when they’re most effective. Some public health departments think telehealth could help: Last week, Massachusetts launched free televisits and at-home delivery of Paxlovid for residents, and New York City’s similar program has already delivered more than 2,000 courses of the drug. Free programs are critical to ensure the drugs help the most vulnerable patients, but a simple Google search shows telehealth companies advertising to anyone who has trouble getting a primary care appointment. The next step for virtual care companies: Closing the loop the same way the federal ‘test-to-treat’ program has, by providing testing, doctor’s appointments, and at-home drug delivery in one place. Read more in Katie’s latest.

The new geography of telemedicine

PERCENTAGE OF CHILDREN AGED 0-17 WHO USED TELEMEDICINE BECAUSE OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC, BY URBANIZATION LEVEL AND REGION: UNITED STATES, JULY-DECEMBER 2020. CDC

A new report on pediatric telemedicine use by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spotlights geographic disparities in the use of the technology during the Covid-19 pandemic. The biggest gap was between rural (7%) and large urban (16%) communities. But there were also significant differences between regions, with the Northeast seeing by far the greatest uptake (20%) and the South (11%) and Midwest (13%) seeing considerably less. The report also breaks down use among different types of patients, finding that the technology appeared to gain widespread adoption by pediatric patients with disabilities and developmental conditions.       

Just getting $tarted

  • The venture capital firm General Catalyst and Intermountain Healthcare struck up a partnership in which the health system will implement novel technologies created by General Catalyst’s portfolio companies. The effort will focus on advancing value-based care and include startups such as OliveTranscarentCommureSprinter Health, and Cadence.
  • The US Department of Veterans Affairs inked a deal with the health AI company Tempus to use its genetic sequencing tests to deliver more personalized cancer care to VA patients. The multi-year deal will roll out Tempus tests across the VA’s 171 medical centers.
  • Heard, a startup that handles bookkeeping for behavioral health providers, raised $10 million in a Series A round led by Footwork. The company charges a subscription fee for the use of its software to handle administrative tasks such as payroll and accounting services.

CMOs and CEOs

  • As Allscripts offloads its products catering to hospitals and large practices, it’s getting a new CEO: Former president Rick Poulton will step into the role as Paul Beck steps down. Poulton will oversee the company as it focuses on its life science and insurer data business, Veradigm.
  • Digital health company Lark Health named Lynne Nowak as its new chief medical officer. She comes from Evernorth, where she was vice president of clinical, data, and provider solutions.
  • In the last two weeks, telehealth companies Amwell and Teladoc have each announced new CMOs. Teladoc’s is a chief medical officer, bringing on Vidya Raman-Tangella from her role as health care and life sciences GM at Amazon Web Services. Amwell’s hire is for chief marketing officer, pulling Susan Worthy from Optum.

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