Digital health news update: VR as the treatment and the Sunflower State's post-AHCA debate

April 2, 2017

Author: Matt Arnold, Principal Analyst

  •  We've seen a lot of buzz and some activity around VR applications for patient and physician education, but here's a new one -- VR as a treatment for pain? In a 100-patient study led by Dr. Brennan Spiegel (of Cedars-Sinai and MyGIHealth fame), patients using Oculus headsets to watch a nature video had a 24% reduction in pain scores compared to the control group, which watched the video on a TV. One recent study projected that VR will be a $60 billion industry by 2021.
     
  • Rumors that Anthem, a major ACA individual marketplace insurer, was considering dropping out of the exchanges for 2018 roiled the healthcare policy world and called into question the program’s stability, even setting aside the political intrigues surrounding it. Knowledgeable observers say it may be that Anthem is just posturing for more support from the government in the wake of the failure of the AHCA legislation (and note that the insurer’s CEO was a lonely voice of support for the AHCA after meeting with Trump), but an exit would leave many counties with one or no insurers.

 

  • But the biggest ACA-related story of the past week may have been Kansas’ GOP-ruled legislature moving to expand Medicaid – the governor has vetoed it, but if proponents can pick up a handful more votes, they can surpass him. The arch-conservative state is one of 19 that continue to hold out against the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid, but hospitals are pushing for those states to move on in the wake of ACA repeal stalling out, and at least a few states seem to be moving that way. Of the ACA’s two big coverage components – the insurance exchanges and the Medicaid expansion – only the exchanges appear to be in any danger of “exploding,” per the president’s prediction.

 

 

  • Purdue is testing out a pain monitoring iOS app in partnership with Geisinger, the digital-savvy Pennsylvania-based health system. The system, which is being used by 200 Geisinger patients for the pilot, is a digital pain log, more or less – patients input their symptoms, and that data is fed into the patient’s EMR along with activity, sleep and heart rate metrics, allowing HCPs to make better-informed decisions about when to wean them off of opioids. It’s integrated with Apple’s ResearchKit platform and runs on iPhones and Apple Watches.

 

  • In other wearables efforts, Sanofi’s Xyzal team used trackers to monitor sleep and activity in 160 people – half of them allergy sufferers, half not – and found that the allergy sufferers slept more poorly and walked less than non-sufferers, teeing up a marketing campaign emphasizing the impact of untreated allergies on people’s ability to perform during the day.

 

 

 

  • Wired checked in on the growing use of patient influencers to inform pharma marketing and how Wego Health is “democratizing the lucrative business of health care by bringing in people who actually live with the disease.”

 

 

 

  • In mHealth privacy news, a trio of app developers, including the team behind Runtastic, had their hands slapped for sharing sensitive user data without affirmative permission.

 

 

 

 

 

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