12/19/16

The Rock Weekly

Rock Yearly: the biggest digital health news of 2016

To say 2016 was a whirlwind of a year is an understatement—both in digital health and the rest of the world. Before we turn the calendar page, we’re looking back at the biggest news you were most interested in this year.

PS: We’re off next week. See you in the new year!

Health tech gained more traction and notoriety—from billionaires, The Beltway, and beyond

Though less influential for digital health than the original bill, the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act was signed into law, allocating $6.3B for EHRs, precision medicine, interoperability, and mental health.

The Precision Medicine Initiative gained steam—ushering in support for the sharing of genetic and health data in hopes of a future of individualized healthcare. The FDA aims to recruit 100M Americans for the research (99M more than the Obama Administration’s goal), which shouldn’t be too difficult—54% of Americans would “definitely or probably” be willing to take part.

Although pharma companies are intrigued by the prospect of getting digital health innovation into their DNA, it appears they’re sticking to low-risk moves (like partnerships)—for now.

Despite near silence during the campaign, newly-elected Trump went full force discussing healthcare reform the last two months of the year. So far, he’s nominated Obamacare opponent Tom Price for HHS secretary and got the entire healthcare system bracing for possible unknown changes.

Digital health entrepreneurs got some guidance

From former skeptics: The AMA reversed its view of digital health tools as “snake oil” and delivered guiding principles for entrepreneurs, such as “following evidence-based practice guidelines to ensure patient safety and quality of outcomes.”

From industry overseers: The FDA delivered long-awaited guidance to digital health entrepreneurs on claims about general wellness. Federal agencies unite—the FDA and FTC put their heads together to create a new tool to provide health app developers clarity on how laws apply to them.

From the inner circle: Apple laid down some new laws for health app developers, stating “If your app behaves in a way that risks physical harm, we may reject it.”

Genomics is at a critical inflection point in healthcare. Delivering on the promise of genomics depends on three main factors—many of which are within the purview of digital health.

We watched some pretty exciting things unfold—especially from the tech giants. (You guys really love this type of news.)

While it’s difficult to surmise what Apple’s ultimate vision for health might be, potential uses of their technology range from helping monitor Parkinson’s to FDA-regulated cardiac devices. This year they launched CareKit, an open-source framework for hospitals and developers to build apps that allow patients to better track and understand their disease. Note: half of consumers would trust Apple with their health data—that’s less than Google and more than Facebook.

Verily (fka Google) teamed up with Vanderbilt and NIH to mine health, genetic, and lifestyle data of 79K people and partnered with the NHS to access 1.6M data records. Google also hit a few rough spots this year—STAT chronicled all its healthcare misfires.

Zuckerberg of Facebook fame launched an initiative with his wife Priscilla Chan to “cure all diseases,” and is allowed to commercialize any discovery it funds (FYI: that’s pretty standard).

From security breaches to due diligence in investing, the industry learned a few lessons the hard way

Cyberattacks across healthcare are growing exponentially (no surprise here—health records are more valuable than credit card numbers on the black market). What is a surprise is that cyberattacks have yet to hurt healthcare’s bottom line.

Watching the Theranos saga unfold over the course of the year was a shocking and disappointing experience for investors, entrepreneurs, and consumers alike. Let’s hope we can put hype-filled claims to bed for good.

Despite attracting a record 20M active daily users, Pokemon Go saw a major drop in engagement after just two months. The accidental health app is a poster child for the dilemma facing other healthcare technologies—how do you keep users engaged?


We’ve never been more motivated to support those on the front lines of healthcare and help foster a culture of innovation. Eat, drink, and be merry this holiday season, and rest up for 2017—we’ve got a lot of work to do.

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