Our team is back with yet another monthly recap to help busy healthcare marketers stay on top of the latest trends and news.

The COVID-19 virus is back in the headlines as infection rates skyrocket in those states and regions where vaccination rates are low. On the regulatory front, the Biden administration continues to invest federal funding in the healthcare sector to combat the pandemic and address issues like physician burnout. Additionally, both HeartFlow and One Medical were involved in $2B+ acquisitions as M&A activity shows no signs of slowing. Finally, emerging trends focus on health equity concerns as a top priority, along with breakthroughs in precision medicine for the treatment of neurological disorders like Parkinson’s and dementia.



CDC recommends masks indoors even for some vaccinated against COVID-19
Federal health officials advised on July 27 those people who’ve had their COVID-19 shots wear masks in public indoor settings in areas with widespread transmission of the coronavirus. This is a major setback in the progress in the U.S. epidemic that reflects a surging variant and the country’s ongoing struggles to increase vaccination rates.

Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine Effective Against Variants
Moderna announced that its COVID-19 vaccine produced neutralizing titers against all coronavirus variants tested, including South Africa’s Beta variant, three lineage variants of India’s strain, the Delta variants, and Uganda and Angola’s variants in a Phase 1 clinical trial. Moderna claims that these new data reinforce their belief that its COVID-19 vaccine should remain protective against newly detected variants.

Three states responsible for 40 percent of new COVID-19 cases
Florida, Texas and Missouri accounted for 40 percent of new COVID-19 cases reported nationwide the week of July 22, says White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator. One in five of all new infections occurred in Florida. All three states have vaccination rates below 50 percent with Missouri at just 40 percent.



Biden scrutinizes hospital mergers, supports price transparency with exec order
President Biden signed an executive order that requests the FTC change merger requirements to prevent closures of rural hospitals and increased prices after a hospital merger occurs. He also asked the FTC to ban or limit noncompete agreements that stymie competition for medical personnel.

Biden administration invests $103M in reducing physician burnout
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced that $103 million in funds will go toward reducing burnout among physicians and other healthcare workers over a three-year period. The money comes from the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill the President signed into law in March. Healthcare workers in rural and underserved communities will be specific targets of these investments said HHS.

What the 2022 Physician Fee Schedule Pitch Means for Health Equity
As part of its newly unveiled 2022 Physician Fee Schedule proposal, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services mandates that ACOs provide quality reporting on all Medicare patients it serves. CMS also seeks recommendations on how ACOs can utilize their resources to ensure that patients, regardless of racial/ethnic group, geographic location and/or income status, have access to equal care and improve the quality of care provided to certain communities to address the healthcare disparities that currently exist.

VA now ‘reimagining’ approach to Cerner EHR modernization
During a hearing in front of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs this past week regarding the VA’s use of the Cerner EHR system, the group found problems with patient safety, productivity, cost, schedule and performance.

Supreme Court Declines to Hear Case Challenging CMS’ Site-Neutral Pay Policy
The Supreme Court declined to hear a case brought by the American Hospital Association (AHA) challenging CMS on its decision to expand its site-neutral payment policy. AHA applauds site-neutral payments as it helps close the payment gap between procedures performed at inpatient and outpatient locations but tried to appeal the 2019 Outpatient Prospective Payment System Rule that reduced the pay rate overall for outpatient services performed off-site.

In Reversal, F.D.A. Calls for Limits on Who Gets Alzheimer’s Drug
Under fire for approving Aduhelm for all Alzheimer’s patients, the Food and Drug Administration greatly narrowed its use to only those with mild memory or thinking problems rather than applying to all Alzheimer’s patients at any stage of the disease.



Amwell Scoops Up two Digital Health Companies for $320M
Amwell is buying two digital health companies for $320 million to expand its services beyond telehealth visits. The two acquisitions are SilverCloud Health, a digital mental health platform, and Conversa Health, which offers automated virtual healthcare.

HeartFlow announces plans to merge, go public in deal worth $2.4B
HeartFlow, a California-based cardiac imaging company, has signed a deal to merge with Longview Acquisition Corp. II and form a publicly traded company. Once the merger is complete, the combined entity will go by the name HeartFlow Group.

One Medical to Acquire Iora Health for $2.1B

One Medical has entered an agreement to purchase Iora Health, a competing primary care provider, in a $2.1 billion all-stock deal. One Medical has traditionally focused on primary care for the commercially insured while Iora Health has a Medicare focus. The deal is expected to close in the late third quarter or fourth quarter of 2021.

Health Catalyst to acquire SaaS technology company Twistle for $104.5M
Population health solution provider Health Catalyst has signed a deal to acquire U.S. healthcare technology company Twistle, which offers a clinical workflow and patient engagement platform, for nearly $104.5m. Twistle automates HIPAA-compliant communication between care teams and patients to transform the patient experience.



Telehealth use continues to tumble post-pandemic
Based on private health-insurance data, national telehealth utilization dropped 12.5% this spring, slipping from 5.6% of claims in March to 4.9% in April.

Patient Trust, Health Equity Among Leading Post-COVID Health Trends

A new study from Forrester found that patient trust and health equity are the top two long-term concerns for the healthcare sector post-pandemic. Health systems will need to reconcile the solutions healthcare quickly propped up with longer-term priorities to continue moving forward to adapt workflows accordingly.

Health Systems and Hospital Tech Budgets Expected to Grow Thanks to Biden’s Economic Stimulus Package

A new Forrester report said that technology budgets in all industries are expected to grow, including in the healthcare sector. Investments for software affiliated with process automation is expected to increase by 33% in 2022, followed by AI software at 16%.

Patient Safety Racial Health Disparities Persist Despite Care Site

New analysis from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Urban Institute uncovered racial health disparities in patient safety incidents, with Black patients more likely than White patients to experience adverse patient safety events even within the same hospital.

Neurological Disease Study Leads to Precision Medicine Progress
Women on hormone therapy showed they were up to 58% less likely to develop neurodegenerative diseases according to a new study developed by the University of Arizona Health Sciences. By pinpointing hormone therapies that appear to reduce the likelihood of developing a neurodegenerative disease, researchers say they may be able to use precision medicine to prevent Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and dementia for those who show the genetic marker for those diseases.