Friday Five: The week’s top digital health news and views (23 April 2021)

Telehealth here to stay; Illumina feels the heat; AliveCor picks on Apple; Pear juices up portfolio; Virta among April’s big-buck VC fundraises.

Telehealth survey: remote care continues, one year post-COVID   

It’s been a year since the pandemic took hold of the globe and FirstWord started tracking the impact of COVID-19 on physician-patient interaction. So how have trends in in-person and remote consultations changed over the past 12 months or so? In the sixth edition of FirstWord’s telehealth survey, which was fielded to 940 physicians across 10 countries between March 29 and April 9, our survey results show in-person interactions between physician and patient have gone up from a year ago, which is as expected what with lockdown restrictions having eased in several countries - or at least healthcare systems being better prepared than at the start of the pandemic. However, we also found that physicians have not given up conducting patient consultations via telecommunication methods. Interaction levels by phone, email, video and text  have not dropped that much from a year ago when lockdown restrictions were probably at its strictest in many jurisdictions. A positive signal of telemedicine being now firmly embedded in medical practice?

Full data from our telehealth survey, including a breakdown by geography and medical specialty, can be found here:

Physician Views: Increased and sustained levels of telehealth being practiced, one year into COVID-19

Physician Views: German physicians go back to in-person consultations in full force

Physician Views: GPs, psychiatrists now going strong with hybrid physical-virtual care model


Antitrust watchdogs turn up the heat on Illumina-Grail merger

First it was the US Federal Trade Commission and now, the European Commission is also scrutinising Illumina’s proposed $8 billion-acquisition of multiple cancer early detection (MCED) test specialist Grail. Even though the transaction does not have an EU dimension, the alleged anti-competitive implications of having Illumina claiming a significant stake in the MCED market once it brings Grail into the fold and how the next-gen sequencing leader could then make it difficult for Grail’s rivals to get to the NGS tech necessary to conduct MCED tests have incited France - and subsequently a few other EU member states - to request a review by the Commission. Illumina is not going down without a fight, though having this additional roadblock is going to - in the best case scenario - delay Grail coming home to the company from which it was spun out, or have Illumina give up on yet another pivotal M&A deal. For further analysis, see Wider View: Is Grail moving further out of Illumina’s reach?

AliveCor takes on Apple over ECG watch

In a veritable David versus Goliath scenario, AliveCor - one of the early companies to bring to market a user-friendly mobile ECG technology - is attempting to block tech giant Apple from importing into the US its Apple Watch, claiming the product infringes three of its patents. In a filing with the US International Trade Commission, AliveCor said it is seeking relief for Apple's “intentional copying” of the former’s technology underlying its suite of KardiaMobile personal ECG monitors. The company had launched KardiaMobile in 2011, and Apple launched its ECG feature on its Apple Watch series 4 in 2018. Since then, the Apple ECG feature is now available in subsequent versions of Apple Watch, and in addition to the US, is approved in Europe and other international markets.

How Pear is juicing up its digital therapeutics portfolio  

The news flow from Pear Therapeutics has quickened considerably in the last few months, as the company ramps up its in-licensing activities to broaden its portfolio and pipeline, while accelerating commercialisation of its existing prescription digital therapeutics (PDTs). The in-licensed assets include enabling technologies such as physiologic sensing data and vocal biomarkers that CEO Corey McCann says will drive “more efficacious and more sophisticated PDTs.” FirstWord HealthTech spoke to the chief executive to find out more about the work Pear is doing to integrate these acquired capabilities into its platform, the progress the company’s made in increasing market uptake of its flagship PDTs, reSET and reSET-O, and also learn there is still opportunity after a failed Phase II study. For the full interview, see  Spotlight On: Pear accelerates move into new generation of digital therapeutics

Virta among April’s big-buck diabetes venture deals 

Virta Health has made it to April’s expanding roll call of nine-figure venture financing deals, having just raised $133 million in series E funds. This is the second $100m-plus round in as many weeks raised by a scale-up targeting the diabetes market. Virta’s product is a digital platform encompassing nutritional advice and continuous remote care to reverse - not just manage - type 2 diabetes. This latest round values Virta at $2 billion. Last week, wearable insulin delivery tech specialist CeQur said it has raised $115 million, which will be used to commercialise its FDA-cleared and CE marked CeQur Simplicity insulin patch. 

Other top articles include:

Wider View: Digital a key driver keeping J&J’s med device division on road to growth

Intuitive Surgical says da Vinci procedures up in Q1 as pandemic "eases"

Halodoc advances digital healthcare platform with $80 million raise

Older adults may be shunning digital tech due to "ageist" bias by healthcare workers

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