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How Hims & Hers Built a Business Entirely Centered on Telehealth

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Hims & Hers has grown rapidly across both of its lines – for men and for women – supporting care for many conditions that patients often feel uncomfortable talking about, including sexual health, mental health, contraception and hair loss. One of the big keys to the company’s success has been telehealth.

Melissa Baird, COO at Hims & Hers, leads a team of engineers that designed a telehealth experience that engages and connects patient care across its service lines, especially for stigmatized conditions.

Baird and the team have gone to great lengths to ensure that every part of the telehealth encounter leaves the customer feeling safe and secure while inspiring confidence. Under her leadership, Hims & Hers was able to stand up multiple services during the pandemic, as well. Early in the pandemic, the company launched mental health and primary care service lines.

Healthcare IT News sat down with Baird to discuss the company’s unique brand of telehealth and how she and her team have developed the technology for a winning endeavor.

Q. What was the strategy behind incorporating full-blown telemedicine into your business?

A. Telemedicine has always been at the core of Hims & Hers’ business. It’s the concept that got us off the ground and in front of consumers since the get-go.

While fleshing out our business prior to launch, we realized consumers are inundated with products advertising support for a healthful lifestyle, but there is little scientific evidence backing most of them. It was then we recognized that we wanted to do something that helped in a real way – providing high-quality digital health services via real, seasoned medical professionals as well as affordable and effective products that are backed by science.

We began by helping people tackle hair loss and sexual health, as these are common conditions that cause social anxiety and can be embarrassing to talk about with someone, even a doctor. In fact, we found these terms to be health issues that were commonly searched on the internet as people craved more information, but also wanted to do so in private.

We knew there are real, effective treatment options on the market for these conditions, so we looked to find a better way to educate folks about them and a more convenient way to get them treatment.

Even from the first week of launch, we understood that we had hit a nerve with the general public (in a good way). Our business took off immediately, and we were more driven than ever to continue helping people access care and education in a different, more convenient and welcoming way.

While we began with only providing care and treatment for two conditions, it required an immense amount of work on the back-end. We started from nothing and had to build our own system, platform and capabilities to be able to provide high-quality telemedicine services that we believed would change the game of accessing healthcare.

In order to facilitate compliant patient/provider connections, we had to incorporate all of the privacy and regulatory components and quality structures to provide telemedicine, which is required whether you’re treating for hair loss or a sinus infection.

Our way of doing so has proven to be a core competency of ours, enabling us to expand into other treatment areas that can also benefit from the smoother, more personalized telehealth experience.

Q. You are responsible for engineering at the company. You have gone to great lengths to ensure that every part of a telehealth encounter leaves a customer feeling safe and secure, while inspiring confidence. How have you accomplished this, and why is it important?

A. Everything we do at Hims & Hers and every move we make as a business is always with consumers top-of-mind.

Our vision and passion is ultimately to help more people access personalized care and treatment via a high-quality, convenient and welcoming setting. Therefore, it’s true we take patient safety and privacy incredibly seriously and prioritize making them feel good about receiving care through our platform.

To receive medical care from licensed healthcare professionals, patients must provide personal data such as their medical history. On the Hims & Hers platform, all patient data is encrypted in motion and at rest, and is SOC2 compliant. We follow HIPAA guidelines and employ strict access controls.

In addition, our medical providers have adopted a robust quality program to ensure high-quality provider-patient interactions, adherence to evidence-based guidelines, and consistency of information. Our content and blog articles are also regularly reviewed by the medical team for accuracy and are updated if needed.

We have a loyal base of customers who come to us, trusting that we’ll match them with a quality provider, give them accurate information, and keep their data safe and secure. To us, these are seen as table stakes in healthcare since, after all, people are trusting you with their health.

What we’ve taken as our own, to provide an amazing and unique healthcare experience, resides in our customer flow, patient intake, provider interaction and follow-up processes. These were all intentionally built to educate and inspire people to take care of themselves, and to feel confident that the care that they are receiving is safe and equal to, or greater than, what they would get in a traditional doctor’s office.

Q. In addition to sexual health, contraception and hair loss, the pandemic led you to forge into mental health and primary care. How are those two businesses going, and what did you have to do differently with telehealth to address these two types of care?

A. Both mental health and primary care services were always on our business road map. The pandemic, with its sudden acute need, simply pulled those initiatives up in the timeline.

By the spring of 2020 we had built a robust platform connecting thousands of patients each day to hundreds of providers, all digitally. We knew we were uniquely positioned to help with the emerging situation.

First we launched primary care. The rationale was if we could take some burden off of the traditional healthcare system, it would have more bandwidth to focus on COVID-19 patients. It would also keep people that needed to see a provider for something routine, such as a sinus infection or bug bite, from being exposed to COVID-19 inside of a medical facility.

We launched that service exceptionally quickly, in a matter of days, and provided the service at cost. A large portion of our existing provider network was family practice and trained in general medicine, so they were well-qualified to treat primary care conditions.

What was different was the delivery mechanisms of both the service and the medications, which we luckily were able to figure out quickly to relieve brick-and-mortar hospitals and clinics. Now, a patient can speak with a provider in a number of different ways (phone, video, text) across dozens of conditions and, if needed, have a prescription sent to a pharmacy of the patient’s choice.

Mental health, while also on the road map, became such an acute need in 2020 that we worked non-stop to build it quicker than planned. While there is some overlap, mental health services have some different procedures, and a different type of provider base is required. It was definitely more challenging than bringing primary care services to the platform.

With that said, this is a fast-growing business within our company. We are still continuing to build it out in full, but today we offer psychiatry services in 44 states, therapy services in 32 states, and free online support group sessions led by a mental health or wellness professional.

Q. What does the future of telehealth look like to you, especially after the pandemic at some point recedes?

A. The pandemic forced nearly all of us to rethink how we do things in life. Simple tasks we took for granted were suddenly impossible, and we had to adopt a different approach – going to work, grocery shopping and visiting the doctor.

Telehealth was already gaining popularity pre-pandemic as a more convenient alternative to a brick-and-mortar healthcare experience. The pandemic, I believe, by requiring many to leverage the technology, has accelerated telehealth adoption by decades.

I’ve heard from many people who tried telehealth for the first time and feel like it’s a miracle to be able to simply chat with a provider from home versus the onerous in-person experience.

Providers, too, are realizing the conveniences associated with providing digital care, in that they have more freedom to control their schedules, the ability to help more people, etc. I envision telehealth being a first stop for people not seeking urgent or emergency care, and don’t see Americans reverting back to a brick-and-mortar experience if it’s not necessary.

The most exciting thing is that we are just now scratching the surface of what this could mean for health overall. Telehealth reduces cost, lowers patient time commitment, reduces embarrassment, unhinges geography from access to experts, and reduces provider burnout. All of those elements are the recipe for more and earlier patient interactions with healthcare providers.

With more and earlier access, providers can catch warning signs earlier. And capabilities continue to expand as the market grows and businesses innovate and diagnostic, testing and treatment tools are reimagined with at-home telehealth in mind.

While many conditions still need to be addressed in person, these new capabilities will unlock treatment to more and more of them. Ultimately, the more often a human can interact with an expert in human health, the healthier we will be as a population of humans. And this is just the beginning.

Historically, moments of mass crisis have also proven to be moments of revolution and innovation. The 2008 economic crisis spurred the sharing economy. The Cold War birthed the internet and email. World War II was the first time penicillin was manufactured en masse.

Telehealth – and its benefits – in my opinion, will be one of the greatest innovations of this pandemic, and it will be benefiting us long after we’re explaining what things used to be like to our great-grandchildren.

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer: bsiwicki@himss.org
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

Original Source: healthcareitnews.com

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Health Care

Apple Sues NSO Group, Accusing It of Spying on Users in New Lawsuit

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Apple announced this week that it was suing NSO Group, an Israeli surveillance technology company, in federal court for allegedly accessing users’ devices without authorization.

In addition to damages, the tech giant is seeking to block NSO Group from accessing or using any Apple products, or developing spyware that could be used on Apple products in the future.

“State-sponsored actors like the NSO Group spend millions of dollars on sophisticated surveillance technologies without effective accountability,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, in a statement. “That needs to change.”

Apple devices are “the most secure consumer hardware on the market,” he contended, but “private companies developing state-sponsored spyware have become even more dangerous.

“While these cybersecurity threats only impact a very small number of our customers, we take any attack on our users very seriously, and we’re constantly working to strengthen the security and privacy protections in iOS to keep all our users safe,” Federighi added.

NSO Group offered a statement to Healthcare IT News in response to requests for comment.

“Thousands of lives were saved around the world thanks to NSO Group’s technologies used by its customers,” said NSO Group representatives. “Pedophiles and terrorists can freely operate in technological safe-havens, and we provide governments the lawful tools to fight it. NSO Group will continue to advocate for the truth.”

WHY IT MATTERS

NSO Group says its surveillance technology is used by government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to track criminals.

But as Apple outlines in its complaint, the company’s spyware has reportedly been used against journalists, human rights activists, dissidents, public officials and others.

This month, the U.S. Department of Commerce included the NSO Group in its Entity List for “engaging in activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.” Specifically, the agency said that NSO Group had enabled foreign governments, via its spyware, to “maliciously target” individuals such as embassy workers and academics and to “conduct transnational repression.”

In its complaint, Apple zeroed in on “FORCEDENTRY,” an exploit for a vulnerability used to break into a victim’s device and install NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware product.

The company accused attackers of creating Apple IDs to send malicious data to a victim’s device, which then allowed NSO Group or its clients to surreptitiously deliver Pegasus.

“On information and belief, Defendants provide consulting and expert services to their clients, assist them with their deployment and use of Pegasus, and participate in their attacks on Apple devices, servers and users,” according to the complaint. Although Apple has not observed any evidence of successful remote attacks against devices running iOS 15 or later, it said that each attack carries substantial costs for the company, including the necessity to redirect resources.

“In the meantime, on information and belief, Defendants continue with their pernicious efforts to target and harm Apple and its customers by infecting, exploiting, and misusing Apple devices and software,” said the complaint.

The company also announced that it would be contributing any damages from the lawsuit, plus an extra $10 million, to organizations pursuing cybersurveillance research and advocacy.

“At Apple, we are always working to defend our users against even the most complex cyberattacks,” said Ivan Krstic, head of Apple Security Engineering and Architecture, in a statement.

“The steps we’re taking today will send a clear message: In a free society, it is unacceptable to weaponize powerful state-sponsored spyware against those who seek to make the world a better place.”

THE LARGER TREND

Nation-states have increasingly relied on sophisticated software to carry out governmental objectives.

As Errol Weiss, H-ISAC chief security officer, pointed out in an interview with Healthcare IT News earlier this month, cyber-offensive capabilities have now become the norm, not the exception.

“A few years ago, you could count maybe a few dozen countries that had a decent, offensive cyber capability. And now it’s probably the opposite,” he said. The U.S. government has raised the alarm about these developments, most recently regarding an Iran-sponsored hacker group targeting healthcare.

ON THE RECORD

“Our threat intelligence and engineering teams work around the clock to analyze new threats, rapidly patch vulnerabilities, and develop industry-leading new protections in our software and silicon,” said Apple’s Krstic in a statement.

“Apple runs one of the most sophisticated security engineering operations in the world, and we will continue to work tirelessly to protect our users from abusive state-sponsored actors like NSO Group,” he said.

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: kjercich@himss.org
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

Article: healthcareitnews.com

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French Researchers Reveal Chatbot Skills to Override Vaccine Hesitancy

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A team of French cognitive scientists has addressed the urgent issue of vaccine hesitancy within many EU countries and proposes a new approach. With a study published in October this year, the researchers successfully demonstrated that the reluctance to be vaccinated could be decreased by deploying chatbot technology.

WHY IT MATTERS

The chatbot study involved researchers from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research INSERM and ENS-PSL.

The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, found that interaction with a chatbot developed by CNRS, ENS-PSL and INSERM was able to reduce vaccination refusal by 20 per cent within a test group of 338 participants.

In the control group, which received only brief information about the COVID-19 vaccination, there were no comparable results in terms of general views and willingness to vaccinate.

THE LARGER TREND

Although nearly three-quarters of all adult Europeans are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, there remain huge disparities in vaccination rates across countries.

According to the vaccine tracker of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) as of 25 November 2021, individual EU countries such as Portugal (81.5 per cent), Ireland (76.2 per cent) and Denmark (76 per cent) have already made great progress in immunising their populations with a full COVID-19 vaccination, while the vaccination rate of other countries such as Germany, France or Austria continues to stagnate at below 70 per cent.

In other parts of Europe, especially in the south-west, the vaccination rates are significantly lower than 50 per cent. In Slovakia (45.7 per cent), Romania (37.3 per cent) and Bulgaria (24.7 per cent), very few people have received the double COVID-19 vaccine dose.

These vaccination backlogs are not only due to vaccine shortages, but in many cases a result of existing scepticism of many Europeans.

The researchers from France now hope that technology-based communication, such as chatbots, could have a positive impact on these figures in the future.

ON THE RECORD

“It remains to be shown whether the effects of chatbot interaction are lasting, and whether they are the same across age groups, and among those most resistant to vaccination”, emphasised the authors of the study with predominantly young and well-educated participants.

They added: “Half of the experimental group later tried to persuade others to get vaccinated, with three-quarters of them stating they drew information provided by the chatbot to do so.”

Source: healthcareitnews.com

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Health Care

Roundup: Medanta Adopts Qure.ai’s X-ray Software, India to Open a Medical Cobotics Centre, and More Briefs

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Medanta taps Qure.ai for AI-driven chest x-ray analysis

Medanta, a multi-speciality medical group in India, has partnered with Qure.ai to implement the latter’s artificial intelligence software to enhance chest x-ray analysis.

The hospital group will be adopting the qXR software which automatically analyses chest x-rays and spots findings for better diagnosis and treatment. The AI tool can detect 30 abnormalities of the lungs, pleura, heart, bones and diaphragm.

“Medanta strives to deliver world-class healthcare through its high-end medical equipment and superior infrastructure. State-of-the-art technology is an essential aspect of healthcare delivery,” Dr Naresh Trehan, chairman and managing director of Medanta, was quoted as saying in a news report.

The Qure.ai software has also been adopted by Fujifilm Corporation for its portable X-ray FDR Xair system. Through its recent partnership with AstraZeneca Malaysia, the startup has brought its x-ray software to some primary care clinics in Malaysia to support the early detection of lung cancer there.

Medical cobotics centre to be launched in India

The I-Hub Foundation for Cobotics at the Indian Institute of Technology – Delhi (IIT Delhi) and iHub Anubhuti at the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology – Delhi (IIITD) have signed a memorandum of understanding to set up India’s first medical cobotics centre.

The two government-backed university technology hubs have been developing advanced technologies in robotics and collaborative robots (cobotics), digital health, sensing and computing technologies for robotic-assisted surgeries, training, and medical procedures.

According to a press statement, the Medical Cobotics Centre (MCC) at IIITD will be a tech-enabled medical simulation and training facility for young resident doctors, as well as other healthcare professionals, paramedical staff, technicians, engineers, and researchers.

It will also serve as a validation centre for research outcomes in the area of healthcare cobotics and digital health. This upcoming facility will establish partnerships with companies, undertake research, and work toward the commercialisation of technologies.

MMC’s training programmes will be at multiple levels and cohort-specific, such as urology, neurology, and laparoscopy, but will be initially limited to minimally invasive surgeries. Experts from All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi and other medical colleges will be consulted for these programmes and invited as guest faculty to conduct them.

The first batch of trainees is targeted to be inducted around April-May next year. They will be initially trained with basic training simulators while advanced surgical robots will come in the next phase.

Moreover, the centre will also be a place for various technology innovation hubs under the Indian government’s National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems to “showcase their medical-related projects and products with applications,” according to IHFC CEO Ashutosh Dutt Sharm and IHFC Project Director Subir Kumar Saha.

Philips Foundation backs cardiac rehab programme in Singapore

Philips Foundation is funding one of the centres run by social service agency Singapore Heart Foundation that provides subsidised cardiac rehabilitation services.

The year-long project of Royal Philips’ non-profit organisation aims to reduce the mortality rate of cardiac incidences and help lower a patient’s risk of hospital readmission.

Specifically, it intends to close the gap in patients’ lack of participation in rehab programmes, which is considered a huge barrier in the secondary prevention of heart diseases. It was reported that only between 6%-15% of Singaporean patients attend cardiac rehabilitation programmes.

SHF-Philips Foundation Heart Wellness Centre is one of the social services’ three centres that provide cardiac patients and at-risk individuals with access to heart health.

Philips’ support, according to SHF Heart Wellness Centres Chairman Dr Tan Yong Seng, will provide SHF with the “resources required to continue providing affordable and quality support to the patients in need, as well as give our team the capacity to focus on raising awareness on the importance of cardiac rehab[ilitation] and drive higher participation in our programmes”.

Under the partnership, 20 sites in Singapore will be equipped with the Philips HeartStart automated external defibrillators (AED) and 500 persons will be trained in giving cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and AED over a year.

“Through the heart wellness centre’s education initiatives, the AED roll-out and the CPR training, we want to equip individuals and communities with the knowledge and resources to reduce the mortality rates of cardiac incidences in Singapore,” Philips Singapore Country Manager Ivy Lai said.

Original Source: healthcareitnews.com

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