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InnovationRx: A Mental Health Startup Unionizes; Plus, Covid Emergency To End In May

InnovationRx: A Mental Health Startup Unionizes; Plus, Covid Emergency To End In May

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Therapists at mental health startup Resilience Lab voted to unionize on Wednesday, one of the first successful unionization efforts at a digital health company. The move comes two months after the New York-based company announced a $15 million Series A led by Viewside Capital Partners and Morningside. The current and former employees I spoke to said there were growing concerns among employees after the company fired 12 therapists, changed the way the rest were paid and introduced third-party software to track patient progress.

In 2022, around 1.2 million healthcare workers were members of unions, accounting for 13 percent of the total healthcare workforce, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It remains to be seen whether employees at more healthtech companies might follow suit. “All workers deserve the support of a union, whether they conduct their business online or face-to-face,” Henry Garrido, executive director of District Council 37, which is representing the Resilience Lab employees, said in a statement.


A Quick Remedy Proves Elusive For Lifesaving Pulse Oximeter’s Problems With Darker Skin

Since the start of the pandemic, the popular medical device has been indispensable for measuring oxygen in the blood, but dangerously inaccurate in patients with darker skin. Now the FDA is in the hot seat and Black researchers at Brown University and Tufts University are working separately to redesign the pulse oximeter so that it’s accurate for everybody. While the FDA is expected to move slowly, industry watchers say there’s one way the agency can make medical devices in general work for all patients—change the requirements for testing. The FDA requires just 15% of study participants, or two people, to have dark skin, well below a number that would be representative of American demographics.

Read more here.


Deals Of The Week

Diagnostics: Sherlock Biosciences has acquired Sense Biodetection, as the company looks to bring more handheld Crispr and synthetic biology-based diagnostics to market. Sherlock received the first emergency use authorization for Crispr-based technology from the FDA for its Covid test in 2020.

Value-Based Care: Pearl Health, which provides platform technologies to help primary-care providers shift to value-based care models, has raised a $75 million series B round to accelerate its growth and product development.

Cancer Treatments: U.K.-based Grey Wolf Therapeutics, a biotech startup focused on developing new types of cancer immunotherapies, has raised a $49 million series B round co-led by Pfizer Ventures and Earlybird Venture Capital.

Telehealth For Parents: Simplified, which offers a telehealth platform for infant care and support, announced this week that it is now an in-network provider for Aetna’s health insurance plans.


Noteworthy

Humana reported a $15 million net loss in the fourth quarter, but the health insurer projected enrollment in its Medicare Advantage plans will increase by more than 625,000 people in 2023.

Major drugstore chains, including CVS, Walgreens and Walmart, have announced they will be reducing hours in March following pharmacist labor shortages.

The global use of antibiotics in animals will rise by the end of the decade, which could accelerate the spread of hard-to-treat, resistant superbugs, according to a new study.

Coronavirus Updates

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Covid-19 has caused the death of over 1.1 million Americans. According to the CDC, over 3,900 Americans were hospitalized every day for the disease this past week and over 500 a day died from it. Nevertheless, the Biden Administration has stated that it will not renew the current public health emergency declaration for the Covid-19 epidemic when it expires on May 11. The World Health Organization, in a meeting earlier this week, took the opposite approach, stating that the pandemic continues to be a global health emergency.

What does ending the public health emergency mean practically for combating the disease?

First, it could leave several million Medicaid patients without health insurance coverage, and others in limbo as states go through the process of figuring out who’s eligible for Medicaid and how to handle the loss of supplemental funding being provided by the federal government under the current emergency.

Second, it will mean the return of Medicare’s three-day rule, in which the agency would only pay for care in a skilled nursing facility if the care followed at least three days of hospitalization.

Third, it also means that Congress will have to make decisions about Medicare paying for telehealth visits. During the public health emergency, Medicare is paying for these visits, but the law only extends it through 2023 if the emergency ends.

These are just a few of the changes that will hit the country after the public health emergency ends, because there were a lot of policies made at the federal government’s direction to handle the way the pandemic impacted the healthcare system. Absent that, many decisions about healthcare will return to the states, meaning providers will have to make adjustments in response to the actions of those governments. Time will tell how that will impact patients.


Study Finds Covid A Leading Cause Of Death Among Children And Adolescents

According to a new study, Covid placed in the top 10 leading causes of death for children of all age groups, but there are several precautions (like vaccines, masks and isolation), which effectively protect against the virus.

Read more here.

Other Coronavirus News

On Tuesday, Pfizer said it expects sales for its Covid-19 vaccine and oral treatment to decline significantly this year with Covid cases and hospitalizations stabilizing and government subsidization of the shots drying up.

Swiss pharma giant Roche launched a new Covid test designed to help researchers find the highly contagious omicron offshoot XBB.1.5—unofficially nicknamed “Kraken”—which is better at skirting immune defenses and rapidly spreading across the U.S. and into other countries.

Across Forbes

After Layoffs And A CEO Change, Cometeer’s Frozen Coffee Pod Business Is In Hot Water

Fallen Unicorns: Startup Billionaires Nearly $100 Billion Poorer Than A Year Ago

Wall Street’s Most Connected Black Woman Has An Ingenious Idea To Narrow The Wealth Gap

What Else We are Reading

Will a new wave of RSV vaccines stop the dangerous virus? (Nature)

Amgen pricing for its Humira biosimilar may benefit PBMs and insurers more than patients (Stat)

Bleach Is Toxic, But Plenty of Americans Are Still Drinking It (Bloomberg)

What do you think?

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