DIGITAL HEALTH BRIEFING: Johnson & Johnson introduces healthcare platform — NIH will give out 10,000 Fitbit devices — Hasbro, Brown develop robotic companions

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JOHNSON & JOHNSON INTRODUCES HEALTH PLATFORM: Johnson & Johnson (J&J) introduced its new Health Partner platform, which will give patients preparing for or recovering from knee, hip, and weight loss surgery, easier access to digital health solutions. The patient-facing platform will be distributed to providers through Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Companies’ CareAdvantage program.

The Health Partners platform will provide personalised patient care via three connected digital tools:

  • A website that provides patients with pre-treatment educational materials and resources.
  • A mobile app that helps to guide patients through surgical preparation and recovery.
  • A care portal for providers to enable real-time interaction throughout a patient’s treatment experience.

A primary aim of the new platform will be increasing treatment adherence, which is a major strain on the healthcare system.For example, in the US, between 20% and 30% of medication prescriptions are never filled, according to a review in the Annals of Internal Medicine. This is estimated to cause 125,000 deaths per year and cost the healthcare system between $US100 billion and $US289 billion a year. As digital health technologies make it easier for providers to engage patients throughout the treatment process, adherence will likely rise.

Increased adherence could lower associated costs for some providers.Patients who don’t stick to the prescribed medication often need to return for follow up care. At least 10% of hospitalizations are caused by a lack of adherence. This could result in revenue losses for hospitals as a result of the Hospital Readmission Reduction Program (HRRP) by Medicaid — the program financially penalizes hospitals with high rates of readmissions. Total Medicare penalties assessed on hospitals for readmissions is expected to reach $US528 million in 2017, up 26% from about $US420 million in 2016.

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US GOVERNMENT TO GIVE OUT 10,000 FITBIT DEVICES TO SUPPORT RESEARCH INITIATIVE: In an effort to kick-start its All of US research program, the US national health institute (NIH) plans to hand out 10,000 Fitbit wearable trackers to volunteers, according to Modern Healthcare. First announced in 2015, All of Us (formerly known as the Cohort Program) aims to build a national research cohort of one million US participants — it currently has around 8,000 volunteers. It will use insights from the cohort to tailor medical care to the individuals based on their lifestyles. The program volunteers will choose between two of Fitbits’ devices — the Charge 2 and Alta HR — to wear for a year. During this time, the devices will collect lifestyle information such as sleep patterns, heart rate, and physical activity. Wearable devices, which include health and fitness bands, smartwatches, and other connected sensors, provide a massive opportunity for the entire medical field because they can provide near-continuous data on the lifestyle of patients. This data can be used to help monitor chronic illnesses which could help to lower costs associated follow-up care. After collecting the data, the next challenge is figuring out how to effectively process it.

Fitbit shipments and revenue

HASBRO, BROWN UNIVERSITY PARTNER TO DEVELOP AI PETS FOR ELDERLY:The toy maker and university have joined forces for the Affordable Robotic Intelligence for Elderly Support (ARIES) program, which aims to help elderly patients monitor things like medication intake and illness symptoms and to help alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation, according to MobiHealthNews. The Brown researchers will help Hasbro add medication reminders and basic artificial intelligence (AI) into Hasbro’s Joy for All Companion Pets — animatronic dogs and cats for older adults. Solving loneliness and isolation is a growing focus in the digital health market. These symptoms can lead to poor health behaviours that exacerbate chronic health disorders, a major expense in health care. And as the ageing population expands, projects such as ARIES could help mitigate an increasing strain on the economy. In the US, chronic diseases and the health risk behaviours that cause them account for most health care costs, according to the CDC. By 2025, US healthcare spending will account for nearly 25% of GDP.

FTC ADDS SUPPORT TO VETERANS AFFAIRS TELEHEALTH RULE: In a letter to the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) this week, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said that a ruling that lets VA practitioners treat patients in any US state via telehealth could have broader positive implications for the healthcare industry, FierceHealthcare reports. Telehealth refers to the use telecommunications technology, such as video-conferencing or messaging, to deliver healthcare. The ruling initially aimed to solve a regulatory hurdle which kept VA practitioners from practicing across state lines. This meant that in some instances, veterans couldn’t get the same level of treatment as they could in other states. The FTC letter highlighted that the VA ruling could also serve as a model of the potential benefits of telehealth for a range of non-VA-healthcare providers, legislators, and employers. That could create a path to more permissive regulation for telehealth. In 2017, 71% of US healthcare providers said they are using telehealth technology to connect with patients, up from 54% of healthcare providers in 2014, according to HIMSS Analytics.

Bii share of US providers deploying telehealth

NHS INTRODUCES A NEW TELEHEALTH SERVICE: The National Health Service England is piloting a new digital health offering that will enable patients to consult with their general practitioner (GP) via a video link on their smartphones, according to the BBC. The 24-hour service, dubbed “GP at Hand,” will initially provide more than 3 million patients in the greater London area access to a video consultation within two hours after a user inputs their symptoms. This new service is likely a part of the NHS’s larger initiative to help GPs implement online consultation programs — in October, the NHS launched a £45 million ($US59 million) fund that will be used to launch digital consultation services. Digital health services in England, even those beyond telehealth, will likely become a larger part of the region’s healthcare system. The future of primary care will have to be “way more technology-enabled,” according to Dr. Robert Varnam, head of general practice development at NHS England cited by to Digital Health.

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