Friday Five: The week’s top digital health news and views (16 April 2021)

Microsoft stocks up on $20bn Nuance deal; iRhythm stocks down on Novitas’ unfavourable rates; Amgen assesses digital’s impact on heart drug regime; Mayo Clinic steps up investment remote diagnostics; AstraZeneca opens up more on Amaze. 

Microsoft bags top spot in digital health M&A league table with Nuance deal

Microsoft’s stock got a boost at the start of the week when the tech giant announced Monday it has inked a $19.6 billion deal to buy the specialist in conversational AI Nuance Communications. Nuance is the company whose tech powers Apple’s Siri voice assistant; it already has a partnership with Microsoft, as its ambient clinical intelligence technology - designed to streamline workflow for healthcare professionals - is built on Microsoft's Azure cloud computing service. According to Microsoft, Nuance's solutions are used by more than 55% of physicians and 75% of radiologists, as well as in 77% of hospitals in the US. This deal signals Microsoft’s further push into healthcare, and it also trumps Q1’s biggest digital health M&A transaction, which was Optum’s $13 billion purchase of health IT company Change Healthcare [see Spotlight On: 5 key takeaways M&A dealmaking in Q1 2021]. 

iRhythm stocks nosedive on heart monitoring reimbursement news

Unlike Microsoft, shares in ambulatory cardiac monitoring specialist iRhythm Technologies went into freefall when the market opened on Monday following news over the weekend that Medicare payer Novitas is persisting with less-than-favourable reimbursement rates for extended Holter monitoring systems like the company’s Zio XT. These rates published on April 10 were an update to an even lower price Novitas had originally proposed in January - while the new rates of just above-$100 were an improvement over January’s $40-plus, they still fell short from the historical rates of over $300. iRhythm voiced its disappointment and said the April-published rates were not enough to cover the cost for the company to deliver Zio XT to customers. Subsequently it was pulling that service out of the Medicare segment. This news doesn’t just impact iRhythm, but also other players in this space, including Philips and Boston Scientific who have respectively acquired iRhythm’s closest rivals, and Bardy Diagnostics [for further analysis on the impact on these companies, see Wider View: iRhythm to cut losses short in long-term Holter for Medicare].  

Amgen looks into remote monitoring’s impact on heart failure drug regime

Further evidence of pharma stepping up efforts to go beyond the pill and into patient monitoring outside the clinical setting is biotech firm Amgen’s partnership with Datos Health. The two companies are collaborating on a multi-centred new study to evaluate the impact of digital health data - collected using Datos’ remote care automation platform - on improving the treatment of heart failure (HF). Specifically, the study will compare how guideline-directed HF therapy that use these remotely collected health data, such as heart rate and blood pressure measurements, fares against traditional practices that do not use these digital resources. 

Mayo Clinic’s two new ventures to boost remote diagnostics offering

Mayo Clinic has invested in and launched two companies, Anumana and Lucem Health, which were established to develop technologies that would support the Clinic’s newly created remote diagnostics and management platform (RDMP). The RDMP platform is designed to provide clinician decision support, diagnostic insights and care recommendations. Anumana, set up by the Mayo Clinic and health IT company nference, will focus on developing and commercialising digital sensor diagnostics - initially for heart disease patients - by applying nference’s AI to Mayo Clinic's repository of medical data. Lucem Health, which the Mayo Clinic founded together with Commure, is focused on collating data from different sources (including connected, remote patient telemetry devices) and analysing the data to produce diagnostic insights. 

AstraZeneca’s data readout from Amaze pilots out by summer

The first readout from AstraZeneca’s pilot studies of its new chronic disease management platform Amaze should be ready by the summer, FirstWord HealthTech learnt this week in an interview with the pharma company’s Chief Commercial Digital Officer Karan Arora. Amaze marks AstraZeneca’s first end-to-end digital monitoring platform, and Arora indicated that a lot of thought went into the design of the solution, ensuring that it addressed three key “gaps” that were noted in current chronic care management offerings. These were related to patient usage of the platform, the usage by healthcare providers, and the ability for one platform to address comorbidities associated with the primary disease. To also find out what AstraZeneca’s strategy is for monetising the platform and how it envisage Amaze to evolve over time, see our Q&A with Arora -  Spotlight On: AstraZeneca’s roadmap into chronic disease care management.

Other top articles include:

One To Watch: Recuro on acquisition trail for “all those gauges” to keep your health running in top gear

Medtronic launches GI Genius in US as first AI system for colonoscopy

Roche, Biocorp launch Mallya smart insulin pen device in France

AstraZeneca, Sanguina to study anaemia-detecting app for use in CKD

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