USC Announces Strategic Partners For Virtual Care Clinic

In October 2015 at its annual USC Body Computing Conference, University of Southern California leaders unveiled their latest digital health initiative, a virtual care clinic that will expand patient access to USC’s care delivery system while simultaneously acting as a digital health innovation lab and accelerator program where telehealth-focused technology will be developed to move the patient encounter out of the office and onto the computer. “Be prepared for hologram house calls,” said Leslie Saxon, MD, a cardiologist and founder of the USC Center for Body Computing. Saxon then went on to demonstrate hologram-based patient visit technology as well as virtual reality-based approaches to treatment.

USC Announces Strategic Partners For Virtual Care Clinic

Now,  USC’s Center for Body Computing is announcing eight strategic partners that will join the Virtual Care Clinic program in its effort to virtualize care delivery. Alongside engineers working from the USC Institute of Creative Technologies, teams from Doctor Evidence, IMS Health, Karten Design, Medable, Planet Grande, Proteus Digital Health, and VSP Global will work to integrate various new technologies into the Virtual Care Clinic technology infrastructure. The group will work together to create a platform that physicians working within Keck Medicine of USC can use to deliver remote care. Kern’s ophthalmology group, which is ranked ninth nationally for ophthalmologic services, will be the first to go live on the platform.

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CMS Letter States Theranos Lab Poses An “Immediate Jeopardy” To Patient Safety

On Sunday of this week, the Wall Street Journal broke yet another story on Theranos, this time suggesting that a damaging report on a CMS inspection conducted in one of its testing facilities late last year was days from being released to the public. While the full report has yet been made public, CMS published a scathing public letter to Theranos this week broadly outlining deficiencies it found while inspecting Theranos’ California lab facility. Those deficiencies, CMS says, “pose immediate jeopardy to patient health and safety,” and require correction within 10 days if the lab is to avoid losing its license to perform Medicare tests. 

CMS Letter States Theranos Lab Poses An “Immediate Jeopardy” To Patient Safety

The CMS letter outlines five major deficiencies found during its inspection, the most serious of which was found during the inspection of its hematology test process. Hematology is a broad category of lab tests that includes blood cell counts and measuring how long it takes for blood to clot, a common test used to monitor patients taking blood thinners. These are routine tests by any measure, yet CMS indicated that it was here that deficiencies were found that posed “immediate jeopardy” to patient safety. News of the letter made immediate headlines, as Theranos has been the subject of intense media scrutiny since a series of investigative reports published in October questioned the company’s core technology, as well as its accountability and ethics.

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Neurotrack Closes $6.5 Million In Fresh Funding, Launches Flagship Cognitive Assessment

Palo Alto-based digital health startup Neurotrack announces that it has raised a $6.5 million Series B funding round led by Khosla Ventures, with additional investments from AME Cloud Ventures, ISeed Ventures, and returning investors Social Capital and Founders Fund. The new funding brings Neurotrack’s lifetime funding level to $9.5 million since its 2012 formation. The company started out in Boston, and was a member of the Boston-based Rock Health incubator program in the spring of 2012 before moving its headquarters to California.

Neurotrack Closes $6.5 Million In Fresh Funding, Launches Flagship Cognitive Assessment

Since its formation, Neurotrack has been working to develop a cognitive assessment tool that can accurately diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment by displaying on-screen pictures to the patient and then analyzing their eye movements while they look over the images. Developers pair images on the screen so that one is familiar to the patient, while the second is unfamiliar. Next, a camera tracks the patient’s eye movement and eye fixation to measure which images the patients are focusing on longer. Then, percentages for how much of the total time the patient spent focused on both the familiar and unfamiliar image were calculated. This information is then used to detect abnormalities in the hippocampus that are unique to Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment. Because the hippocampus is the first part of the brain that is affected by these conditions, researchers using the new tool were able to accurately diagnose the conditions as early as six years before any signs or symptoms presented. Currently, there is no reliable screening for early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, but treatment is far more effective in patients who are diagnosed early. Neurotrack’s diagnostic test takes just five minutes to administer, and because of this, the company hopes to see it incorporated into standard preventative screenings for at-risk populations across the US.

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Texas Medical Center Introduces Second Class To Its Digital Health Accelerator Program

Texas Medical Center unveils the second class of its digital health accelerator, TMCx. The program was formally launched as a partnership between TMC and Village Capital, a Washington DC-based VC firm, in December 2014. At the time, 12 startups were granted admission into the program, where they received $50,000 in seed funding from Village Capital, and on-site mentorship from executives at Texas Medical Center for the duration of the four-month program. Now, TMCx is offering startups an opportunity to join the accelerator without giving up equity. Instead, startups will have an opportunity to work with advisors during the accelerator program to raise capital as part of the standard curriculum. As with most accelerator programs, curriculum involves a significant amount of time focused on practicing for VC meetings, and the program concludes with a Demo Day to an audience of potential investors.

Texas Medical Center Introduces Second Class To Its Digital Health Accelerator Program

This year, TMCx has accepted 13 startups to the program, with five from the local Houston area, and the remainder based throughout the US. The newly accepted members of the TMCx class are:

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More Bad News On The Way For Theranos

The past six months have not been good for Theranos, the Silicon Valley lab test startup once valued at an astounding $9 billion. A series of damaging investigative reports published in the Wall Street Journal by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Carreyrou took the company to task for marketing its new blood-testing process as a groundbreaking new innovation when, behind the scenes, it was actually processing a vast majority of the blood samples it collected with conventional analyzers acquired from its competitors. The initial story was followed by another reporting that the FDA had ordered the startup to stop using its “nanotainer” blood storage device, a key component of its testing process, because it was an “unregulated medical device.” Shortly after, questions arose as to the accuracy of the company’s lab analyzer, and accusations were cast suggesting that the company took steps to hide potentially dangerous variances in accuracy from auditors.

More Bad News On The Way For Theranos

Now, Theranos is on the cusp of what will likely be another major blow to its public image and long-term viability. Citing sources “familiar with the matter,” The Wall Street Journal reports that during a recent inspection of Theranos’ lab facilities, CMS auditors discovered serious issues that may put the company in jeopardy of being suspended from the Medicare program. Details are not yet available on what issues might have been discovered during the inspection, which lasted several months, but the inspection reports from the visit are expected to be released publically soon.

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