Friday Five: The week’s top digital health news and views (12 February 2021)

Hinge Health tops January’s big-buck VC fundraises; gaitQ gets smart with Parkinson’s device; Edwards Lifesciences spinout shoots for heart healthcare transformation; what physicians think of ECG smartwatches; digital therapeutics make inroads.  

Venture investors digging deep for digital health 

Good news for healthtech startups and scaleups looking to raise cash this year. The flow of venture capital continues to be strong, even after exiting 2020 with record levels of investment made in digital health companies. FirstWord HealthTech recorded 45 venture financing rounds of at least $1 million, and over $1.8 billion was raised in total. Digital musculoskeletal therapy provider Hinge Health raised the month's biggest round, at $300 million, but there were also six other $100 million-plus deals inked last month. To find out who raised what in January, get the names and numbers from our full infographic at Spotlight On: January 2021's digital health VC deal flow


Oxford Uni spin-out gets smart with Parkinson’s device

One early-stage startup to have recently filled its coffers is Oxford University spin-out gaitQ, which will use its pre-seed funds to advance development of its wearable smart cueing device for people with Parkinson's. The gaitQ system is designed to overcome gait-freezing episodes and while there are other cueing devices on the market, uptake has been low due to them being “clunky, indiscreet and not really fit for everyday use,” says gaitQ CEO Tristan Collins, He told FirstWord HealthTech that gaitQ’s system would not only be unobtrusive, but be able to learn and adapt to each user’s gait-freezing pattern so that it can be suitable for as many people as possible. To get the lowdown on gaitQ, see One To Watch: gaitQ aims to make step change in Parkinson’s market.


egnite seeks to “spark” transformation in structural heart care

Don’t be mistaken into thinking egnite, a new company carved out of heart valves leader Edwards Lifesciences, is just another vendor of software for interpreting echocardiograms. CEO Joel Portice told FirstWord HealthTech that improving the detection of structural heart disease is core to egnite’s mission, but it aims to use technology on a broader scale so that patients don’t slip through the gaps in the care pathway. This means applying AI and predictive models for improving patient outreach and engagement so as to guide patients through the journey towards appropriate treatment and care. See Wider View: Edwards’ healthtech spin-out is more than a heart imaging software vendor to get more insights on this new company in the cardiovascular space. 

Where do ECG wearables now stand with clinicians?  

It was two years ago that Apple announced it was introducing ECG features into its Apple Watch series 4 and since then, the ECG smartwatch market has got a lot more crowded. The latest newcomer is CardiacSense, with its CE-marked device, and it’ll be rubbing shoulders not only with Apple, but with other tech players like Samsung and Fitbit. But have these products made any headway in being part of the armamentarium for tackling arrhythmias? Are they being used frequently as part of clinicians’ arrhythmia screening strategies? We’re running another physician poll to find out. You can see the list of questions here: Physician Views: Are smartwatches becoming part and parcel of AF screening strategies? 

Look out for the results next week!


DTA’s Coder on embedding DTx into mainstream healthcare

One category of healthtech products that is making progress in integrating itself into medical practice is digital therapeutics, according to executive director of the Digital Therapeutics Alliance (DTA) Megan Coder. While the DTA still has its work cut out in further educating stakeholders on the value digital therapeutics can bring to healthcare, evidence of acceptance can be seen in how such products are now included in formularies of well-established pharmacies, says Coder. She believes one area where digital therapeutics “will really shine” is in chronic care management: “That’s where I see us coming through in the long haul and really showing the benefit of the digital therapeutics industry there. To get further insights from Coder on the changes in attitudes to digital therapeutics pre- and post-COVID and appetite for these tools globally, among other things, see Spotlight On: Digital therapeutics “pretty close” to being well-integrated into practice.


Other stories you might have missed:

Orexo to test opioid addiction digital therapeutic in alliance with payers

BrainQ's AI device for reducing disability following stroke gets FDA breakthrough status

Sensyne licenses MagnifEye for use with Excalibur's lateral flow diagnostic tests


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