DIGITAL HEALTH BRIEFING: Apple leaps into EHR market — Telehealth to hit mainstream in 2018 — Accenture, Loopback hope to clear up value-based care

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APPLE LEAPS INTO THE HEALTH RECORD MARKET: An update to Apple’s iOS, announced Wednesday, included a beta version of its Health app that will allow iPhone users to store and share their medical records from a range of healthcare systems in the US. So far, 12 hospitals and clinics have partnered with Apple for the pilot, including John Hopkins Medicine, Cedars-Sinai, and Penn Medicine. These hospitals will be able to push health records notifications to eligible consumers’ phones, including medications, immunizations, lab results, and vitals. A beta version of the app became available on January 24 with the iOS 11.3 update, and officials expect it to be available as a free download within a few months.

The Health app update is an important step in solving the interoperability issues that plague the electronic health records (EHR) market. That’s important because healthcare is being increasingly consumerized and patients are more willing to move between systems that provide the best experience, rather than staying within a specific network, according to a 2017 survey by West. And because most healthcare systems have different IT standards, this can result in mismatched or incomplete patient EHRs, creating issues with the standard of care and causing a bottleneck in patient triage.

Eventually, the update could evolve into allowing patients to add real-time data to their medical records, such as exercise and sleeping patterns. That would give care providers a much fuller picture of the patient’s health, helping with things like chronic illness management, preventative medicine, and improving the overall quality of care.

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TELEHEALTH TO GO MAINSTREAM IN 2018 IN NORTH AMERICA: 75% of healthcare delivery organizations (HDO) in the US and Canada are either operating or planning to launch a telehealth service in 2018, according to a new study by embedded video tech company Vidyo. Telehealth is the umbrella term that encompasses a wide range of health diagnostic and management technologies that deliver healthcare remotely to patients, this includes video- and voice-telemedicine, remote patient monitoring, and health apps. One reason why telehealth is appealing to HDOs is its ROI potential. Around half of 300 clinical and IT professionals responsible for health and tech investments reported increased cost savings to their practice or facility, and over half reported that telehealth improved the efficiency and timeliness of care delivery, according to the study. However, hurdles such as physician reimbursement and the cost of implementation of telehealth services could still impede remaining organizations from providing telehealth to consumers.

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ACCENTURE, LOOPBACK JOIN FORCES TO IMPROVE NEW PAYMENT MODELS: Accenture is partnering with population health management company Loopback Analytics to make it easier for hospitals and clinics to develop and use value-based care payment models, according to HealthcareITNews. Value-based reimbursement (VBR) is an emerging payment model that focuses on measuring a patient’s health outcome against the cost of delivering the outcome. That differs from fee-for-service – the predominant system – that charges for the number of services delivered to the patient, such as lab tests, MRIs, and clinical visits. Since VBR is based on positive health outcomes rather than the medical services provided, it’s often more appealing to consumers. However, this can also make it difficult to measure from a business standpoint. One of the aims of the Accenture-Loopback partnership will be to help health systems improve cost efficiencies of delivering healthcare and have more consistent clinical outcomes. This will make it easier to measure the cost of care for patients on these new models. Accenture will lean on Loopback’s platform to help clients measure their clinical performance and suggest areas for improvement. The two companies hope that the partnership will give providers clearer guidelines to assess the financial impact of future VBR instances.

PHILIPS LEADS INVESTMENT IN REMOTE PATIENT MONITORING (RPM) COMPANY LINDACARE: The startup received around $8.6 million in funding from companies, including venture capitalist Capricorn ICT Arkiv, and Connecticut Innovations, according to MobiHealthNews. RPM is a sub-segment of telehealth that focuses on the monitoring of patients outside of conventional clinical settings. This can help reduce healthcare costs and increase access to care. A common use case is for the monitoring of cardiac diseases – the leading cause of death in US adults. RPM lets patients and caregivers keep track of their illnesses without the need for repeat hospital or clinic visits for ECGs. The global RPM market is projected to grow at an annualized rate of 17% between 2014 and 2022 to surpass $2 billion in value, according to Allied Market Research. LindaCare, which is based in both Leuven, Belgium, and Connecticut plans to use the funding to expand its US footprint as well as broadening the scope of cardiac diseases its products monitor. The company hopes the strategic partnership with Philips will help its global ambitions, and increase its credibility amongst healthcare systems, according to LindaCare founder and CEO Shahram Sharif.

In other news…

  • Practice Fusion, an electronic health record (EHR) company, reportedly accepted a lower acquisition offer from Allscripts after it was unable to resolve an investigation by the Department of Justice, according to FierceHealthcare. Allscripts originally offered $250 million for the EHR company, before lowering the offer to $100 million amid a slew of DOJ investigations into EHR companies.