Apple’s WWDC 2023 Announcements – Some Thoughts On Potential Healthcare Applications

“This morning’s announcements, deep integration with hardware software and services, it’s something only Apple can do. Today we’re going to make some of our biggest announcements at WWDC. As well as introducing some exciting new products.”

Tim Cook, CEO, Apple
Image Credit: Apple Inc.

Over the past two decades, Apple Inc. has released many industry-shifting products: the iPod in 2001, the iPhone in 2007, the iPad in 2010, and the Apple Watch in 2015. Yesterday the company hoped to do it again — with its first mixed-reality headset. While no product will ever live up to the iPhone, the headset has the potential to usher in a new era: It could kick off the shift to a different interface that upends how people work, play games, and entertain themselves.

The headset announcement was part of Apple’s keynote address at its Worldwide Developers Conference, and it was a long presentation — more than two hours — to jam everything in. Beyond the headset, Apple covered various changes to its software platforms, and the company rolled out other new hardware, such as fresh Macs. So, here’s a summary of what was covered, along with some thoughts about how each development might play in healthcare.

Apple unveils 15-inch MacBook Air – Apple just unveiled the 15-inch MacBook Air. It’s 11.5mm thick, just over 3 pounds, and powered by Apple’s own M2 chipset. The video demo showcased a standard headphone jack, two USB-C ports, and Apple’s MagSafe charging dock. The laptop will ship in four colors, including Midnight and Starlight. The laptop features an 18-hour battery with an 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU. It costs $1,299, can be ordered today, and will be available next week.

Image Credit: Apple, Inc.

Apple unveils new $6,999 Mac Pro with M2 Ultra – It’ll feature the M2 Ultra’s 24-core CPU, support up to a 76-core GPU, eight Thunderbolt 4 ports, and up to six of Apple’s high-end Pro Display XDR. Both products can be ordered today for availability next week.

Image Credit: Apple, Inc.

Apple announces iOS 17 with a ton of new features – Apple is unveiling updates to three apps, Phone, Facetime, and Messages. Some highlights:

  • Personalized contact posters, either using photos or Memoji, will allow users to choose their contact card for other users. Live transcription, in real-time, will also be coming for phone voicemails.
  • Facetime will finally get a voicemail functionality, allowing users to leave a video message for their friends.
  • And messaging will be revamped with more powerful search functionality and a catch-up feature for group chats. You can also see the location of your friends while messaging them.
  • New stickers live in a “drawer,” with expanded options, including emoji expansion and rotatable optionality.
  • Live photos can also be made into an animated sticker.
  • A Check-in feature lets you tell a family member or friend when you’re home. Or, if you’re delayed, it’ll tell your friend that, too
  • Messaging apps will now have a different layout, expanding to take up the entire screen.
  • Users can now bump two iPhones or Apple Watches together to share contacts, music, internet, or other shared activities with each other, a feature called “NameDrop.”
Image Credit: Apple, Inc.

What might this mean for healthcare? – Consider the opportunity to share a person’s health care record using the Name Drop feature. Or the check-in feature being used to make sure that a patient who needs ongoing care is safe at home and doing well.

Image Credit: Apple, Inc.

Apple announces new iPadOS 17 software for iPad – Some highlights:

  • Multiple timers for iPad, at last. “We truly live in an age of wonders,” Apple executive Craig Federighi said.
  • The Health app has been added to the iPad as well.
  • Machine-learning tech for PDFs to identify fields even if they’re not built into the PDF.
  • Expanded functionality for iPad’s widgets, including enhanced interactivity for third-party developers. Apple showcased functionality for Quizlet.
  • New customization options for the iPad lock screen, similar to how iPhone users can customize their lock screens. Weather, photo shuffle, and emojis are all part of the offering.
  • Live Activity, a la iOS, which creates a widget-like functionality for users to track scores, delivery orders, or other developer-customizable, continually updating information.
Image Credit: Apple, Inc.

Apple announces macOS Sonoma for Macs – so, the mystery about the name is finally over. Here are some of the highlights:

  • New Gaming functionality, taking advantage of Apple’s more powerful graphics processing units and Apple’s Metal 3 framework.
  • They have expanded video-conferencing functionality through FaceTime. New overlay functions allow customers to appear on top or alongside their presentations.
  • New AR functionality for full-screen reactions that will also be available in Zoom, Teams, and WebEx.
  • Game Mode will prioritize the game’s processing power utilization, allowing more consistent framerates.
  • Widgets are coming to the macOS on the desktop. They used to live in the Mac’s Notification Center. Like the iPad, they’ll be interactive and developer-enabled.
  • Screensavers, like on tvOS, will be coming to macOS.
  • Safari is getting some under-the-hood improvements and enhanced Private Browsing functionality.
Image Credit: Apple, Inc.

Apple announces watchOS 10 for Apple Watch – The software will be available to all users in the Fall. Some highlights:

  • Users can turn the digital crown to reveal widgets, like the weather and calendar.
  • Users can long press to add a widget to their smart stack.
  • Apple introduced new apps like world clock, which features clocks with background colors reflecting the time of day.
  • When users rotate the digital crown, it shows new, full-screen displays.
  • Two new watch faces are available, including a Snoopy and Woodstock watch face and a palate watch face.
  • Users can access new active features, like cycling and hiking. Cycling workouts from the watch will show up on paired iPhone devices, and hikers will have access to new topography elevation details.
  • Developers can also use new workout APIs so that users can start a workout from apps like Training Peaks, for example.
  • In the health app, users can use screening tools and resources to support and evaluate their mental health.
  • WatchOS 10 can measure the amount of time users spend in daylight, as well as how close users’ screens are to their eyes. Apple said these new features could help prevent conditions like myopia.
Image Credit: Apple, Inc.

What might this mean for healthcare? – I find it interesting that the health app features are reviewed during the WatchOS presentation. Apple has announced a range of new health features coming to iOS 17, iPadOS 17, and watchOS 10, focusing on two key areas: mental health and vision health. Recognizing the importance of mental health, Apple has introduced new features that allow users to log their momentary emotions and daily moods and gain insights into their mental well-being. Through the updated Health app on iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch, users can now engage in an interactive and intuitive reflection on their state of mind. By selecting from a range of multidimensional shapes and describing their emotions, users can develop emotional awareness and resilience. The digital crown lets you scroll through emotions to choose how you’re feeling, and you can even identify triggers that have made you feel this way.

Image Credit: Apple, Inc.

Nearsightedness (Myopia) is the most common cause of visual impairment worldwide. which is estimated to affect more than 30 percent of the current population. And is expected to increase to 50 percent or about 5 billion people in 2050. care providers recommend a few critical behaviors in children. To help reduce the risk of myopia. Two of these behaviors include spending more time outdoors in bright light and increasing distance to see things such as equipment or books. The new screen distance feature uses the same TrueDepth camera that powers Face ID on iPad and iPhones to encourage users to move their devices further away after holding the device closer than 12 inches continuously. The Screen Distance feature can remind young users to practice healthy viewing habits, which can reduce the risk of myopia and offers adult users the opportunity to reduce the visual strain associated with digital devices.

“Mental health and eye health are paramount. but is often overlooked. That’s why we’re very excited to introduce features that will provide valuable new insights to help users gain even greater insight into their health. These insights help users make decisions in their daily lives. and have more information when talking to your doctor.”

Sumbul Desai, MD, Apple’s vice president of health

Apple Vision Pro headset – By this point, we were close to two hours into the event, and everyone was holding their breath for the “big announcement.” Tim didn’t disappoint with his “one more thing” transition.

Image Credit: Apple, Inc.

Apple’s headset is finally here, and it’s called Vision Pro. It’ll retail for $3,499 early next year on Apple’s website. Tons of detail was provided, and it was challenging to capture it all. But here are some of my notes:

  • It is controlled by your eyes, hands, and voice.
  • You are no longer limited by the display.
  • The entire interface will feel “present” in your room.
  • Shadows are used to help you understand scale.
  • Apps can be made any scale in your space (room), just like moving natural objects.
  • “Environments” transform your space to extend your room or allow you to immerse within a scenic environment.
  • Tapping fingers to click and flicking to scroll looks amazing.
  • Siri will work with Vision Pro.
  • ‘EyeSight’ innovation allows others to see your eyes and tell if you are using an app or in an experience while the goggles are on.
  • When someone is nearby, they will appear in your view.
  • It’s in sync via iCloud to your other devices.
  • Your entire world is a canvas for apps.
  • You can send and receive 3D objects in iMessage and then interact with that object in 3D.
  • Magic keyboard and trackpad allow you to type and browse in VR.
  • Bring a MAC into vision pro, and then expand your view.
  • FaceTime becomes Spatial. People appear in your room, life-sized, with spatial sound.
  • You can use apps with other people in Vision Pro.
  • Panoramic images appear all around you.
  • Vision Pro is Apple’s First 3D camera.
  • You can take a spatial video or photo with a button push while wearing the device. It allows you to essentially record real life and rewatch those events later on in VR.
    -Spatial Cinema allows you to create a movie screen anywhere in your home and any size. It’s a movie theater with spatial auto anytime you want.
  • You can use AirPods with the device so others can’t hear the movie you may be watching.
  • 3D movies work on Vision Pro.
  • You can play your favorite Apple Arcade games.
  • Apple has teamed with Disney for some content on Vision Pro.
  • Apple Vision Pro will work for people who wear glasses using special lenses.
  • It will unlock via eye recognition. No more facial recognition required, as it will use a much more comprehensive eye recognition.
  • The 23-million-pixel panel has more pixels than a 4K television per eye.
Image Credit: Apple, Inc.

“You can control it with hands, eyes, and voice. Relive your most important memories in an entirely new way,”

Tim Cook, CEO, Apple, Inc.
YouTube Video Credit: Apple, Inc.

In their initial segmentation for the product, Apple presentations focused on work, home, and entertainment. Most of the applications that were said to be available at product delivery were presented in each of those segments.

Disney CEO Bob Iger also appeared to tout a partnership between Disney and Apple: enhancing the viewing experience for Disney’s treasure trove of content through Apple’s VR technology. For example, the demo included a three-dimensional visualization of a basketball court and an immersive National Geographic application that placed the viewer in the ocean.

Image Credit: Apple, Inc.

Working with Unity, “hundreds of thousands” of iPad and iPhone apps will run on visionOS at launch. Microsoft’s Office Productivity suite will also work on visionOS.

Image Credit: Apple, Inc.

What I found especially interesting was that Apple carefully avoided using the terms VR, AR, MR, and Metaverse in the presentation. They carefully described the Vision Pro as a “spatial computing” device in what I guess was an attempt at a product differentiation strategy.

Somewhat frustratingly (but also probably for the best experience), Vision Pro requires magnetically attached corrective lenses, for users with prescription lenses like me. Other headsets use physical spacers to accommodate glasses, but Vision Pro’s advanced eye-tracking capabilities help drive visionOS. That probably means eye glass reflectivity is a deal breaker for Vision Pro, thus the less convenient solution. Vision-correct accessories are sold separately. However, and this is a big but, Apple adds that “not all prescriptions are supported.” What does this mean? Hopefully, we’ll find out soon.

What might this mean for healthcare? – Building on the experience first made available on Apple Watch, the Mindfulness app on Vision Pro will allow users to create private and calm spaces to reflect, focus and center themselves in what is likely to be a game-changer.

I’m also interested in how the Vision Pro might be used in medical education. One of the images shown was an anatomy app that gave a short example of how the system might make studying anatomy a more personal and immersive experience.

Image Credit: Apple, Inc.

You could also imagine the headset being used to train surgeons in complex operations and combining the simulation with expert proctoring by experts across the globe with AI assistants.

Image Credit: Getty Images

There’s no doubt that Vision Pro could be used in physical and occupational therapy too. XRHealth is one of the few companies focused on providing V.R. physical and occupational therapy at home; based in Boston, it is covered by many insurance programs in Massachusetts and nationally by Medicare. The company is working to get more insurance companies to cover its services. Without insurance, people can pay $179 monthly for the headsets and two physical or occupational therapy appointments monthly with a panel of therapists the company provides.

Image Credit: University of Michigan Medicine

One of the most successful areas in healthcare has been post-traumatic stress disorder (the Veterans Health Administration was an early adopter) and has also been used to reduce pain and anxiety without medication.

Image Credit: USC Institute for Creative Technologies

“The breadth and depth of features, attention to user experience, and integration of mixed reality is astonishing. Hard to imagine, even a few years ago, a device of this magnitude coming to market. It’s expensive, but given its manifold uses, this device has ridiculous potential.”

Brennan Spiegel, MD, MSHS, Director of Health Research, Cedars Sinai

Apple announces visionOS software platform for Vision Pro headset – Apple’s Vision Pro headset will run on visionOS, a brand-new platform for the Vision Pro headset. It’s a spatial computing platform that developers can build for, much as they would for iOS on iPhone or macOS for Mac. It will be able to run a multi-app, 3D engine, and Apple said it is the first operating system designed from the ground up for spatial computing.

The immediate aftermath – The crowd assembled at Apple Park was reported to be excited. Still, the reaction to Apple’s new augmented reality headset reveal was somewhat more muted than other announcements earlier in the day, such as the iPad’s ability to set multiple timers or the ability to locate a lost Apple TV Siri Remote. Apple stock dipped on Monday after it announced its highly-anticipated Vision Pro headset, falling into the red momentarily.

“Apple is so good at making hardware, they’re so good at UX, in a way that other folks who have entered the space haven’t been. So I think this could be a real ‘capture the imagination’ kind of year.”

Anand Agarawala, Cofounder and Chief Executive of AR/VR company Spatial

I think it’s important to remember that Apple isn’t positioning this first version as a “consumer” device. One thing is still certain, however. Apple clearly understands the shortcomings of AR right now, and the Vision Pro seems to dismantle the issues with the tech piece by piece. It’s insanely expensive, and it’s only for a select few early adopters. But from what we know right now, that group will likely be very pleased. My bet: they’ll sell as many as they can manufacture in 2024. I’ll wait until I can see one at the Apple Store and find out more about the prescription lens options before I consider purchasing one of these. But I’m impressed.

Summer Reading Recommendations – 2023

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”

Charles W. Eliot
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I’ve always been an avid reader. Whenever I have some free time, you’ll usually find my nose buried in a book (especially now that I can read on almost any electronic device). And, since Memorial Day is traditionally considered the “unofficial” start of Summer, I thought I’d share some of my favorite reads from the first half of 2023 to consider adding to your beach reading list.

I read across a wide variety of genres, so I’m including some healthcare technology books along with some of my favorite fiction and nonfiction titles from this year so far. (All hyperlinks are to the Kindle versions of the book.)

First is The AI Revolution in Medicine: GPT-4 and Beyond by Peter Lee, Ph.D., Carey Goldberg, and Isaac “Zak” Kohane, MD, Ph.D. Whether you’re a physician, patient, healthcare leader, payer, policymaker, or investor, AI will profoundly impact you — and it might make the difference between life or death. Be informed, be ready, and take charge — with this book. A terrific read that separates the hype from the potential of this vital technology.

Redefining the Boundaries of Medicine: The High-Tech, High-Touch Path Into the Future by Paul Cerrato, MA, and John D. Halamka, MD, MS. Redefining the Boundaries of Medicine by Paul Cerrato and Dr. John Halamka challenges the profession to renegotiate its priorities and address the fact that it’s become timid and reluctant to explore new care delivery models. The guiding premise of this book is that rethinking and reimagining the way medicine is practiced in the 21st century will improve health outcomes and that technology is central to this transformation.

Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity by Peter Attia, MD, with Bill Gifford. Dr. Peter Attia draws on the latest science to deliver innovative nutritional interventions, techniques for optimizing exercise and sleep, and tools for addressing emotional and mental health. This is not “biohacking”; it’s science: a well-founded strategic and tactical approach to extending lifespan while also improving our physical, cognitive, and emotional health. Dr. Attia’s aim is less to tell you what to do and more to help you learn how to think about long-term health to create the best plan for you as an individual.

How Covid Crashed the System: A Guide to Fixing American Health Care by Dr. David Nash and Charles Wohlforth. Covid patients overwhelmed American hospitals. The world’s most advanced and expensive healthcare system crumbled, short of supplies and personnel. The U.S. lost more patients than any other nation during the pandemic. How could this happen? And how could this disaster lead to a more resilient, rational, and equitable healthcare system in the future? Using systemic analysis of the Covid crash, the authors find reasons to hope. America’s healthcare establishment resisted reform for decades, mired in waste and avoidable errors. Now, the pandemic crisis has exposed its flaws for all to see, creating opportunities for systemic changes. Even without new laws or government policies, America is moving toward a transformed health system responsible for our wellness.

Tom Peters’ Compact Guide to Excellence by Tom Peters and Nancye Green. Tom Peters’ Compact Guide to Excellence (IdeaPress Publishing) is full of inspiration for anyone aged 20 to 80, from cashiers to CEOs. Legendary, best-selling business author Tom Peters partnered with the iconic designer Nancye Green of Donovan/Green to create this guidebook for leaders in the workplace. Peters and Green have packed this strikingly designed little book with exhilarating quotes that will urge you to recognize what truly matters at work. Over the decades, Peters has gathered these gems of wisdom from those down in the trenches creating extraordinary places to work. Green has wrought the most accessible and captivating way to absorb that wisdom. I’ve been a Tom Peters fan since he co-authored In Search of Excellence with Bob Waterman. Tom Peters’ Compact Guide to Excellence argues that business leaders must start putting people first and helping them prepare for a rocky future. As we come to terms with the debilitating pandemic, confront extreme wealth inequality, and wrestle with destabilizing technological revolutions still in their infancy, it is clear that “Extreme Humanism”—treating one another humanely—is the best path forward.

Strategy Savvy: Balanced Strategy Development Approach Using Insights, Culture, Operations, and Digitization by Hesham O. Dinana, Ph.D. I was especially delighted to purchase and read this book since Dr. Dinana is a former Philips colleague of mine. Many strategy books focus on the perspective of large multinational corporations that have the capacity and capabilities to develop and implement a strategy using very structured methodologies and tools. This book will add a new dimension by focusing on the use of Strategy-as-Practice (SaP), intuition, and serendipity as important complements that can be used by large corporations as well as small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurs to develop and implement winning strategies. This is an important dimension to support the strategic decision-making process frequently undermined in traditional strategic planning and management-focused books. He presents an approach driven by four propellers—insights, culture, operations, and digitization—to ensure the arrival at a better future. I loved this re-envisioning of how to approach strategy in any sized organization.

From Whispers to Shouts: The Ways We Talk About Cancer by Elaine Schattner. It’s hard today to remember how recently cancer was a silent killer, a dreaded disease that people rarely discuss publicly. In hospitals and doctors’ offices, conversations about malignancy were hushed, and hope was limited. In this deeply researched book, Elaine Schattner reveals a sea change—from before 1900 to the present—in how ordinary people talk about cancer. The book examines the public perception of cancer through stories in newspapers and magazines, social media, and popular culture. It probes the evolving relationship between journalists and medical specialists and illuminates the role of women and charities in distributing medical information. Schattner traces the origins of patient advocacy and activism from the 1920s onward, highlighting how, while doctors have lost control of messages about cancer, survivors have gained visibility and voice.

Drowning: The Rescue of Flight 1421 by TJ Newman. The flight attendant turned New York Times bestselling author T. J. Newman returns with an edge-of-your-seat thriller (no, really) about a commercial jetliner that crashes into the ocean and sinks to the bottom with passengers trapped inside—and the extraordinary rescue operation to save them. I couldn’t put this one down. I read it in a single evening. I can’t wait for the movie version.

The Last Kingdom (Cotton Malone Book 17) by Steve Berry. I have read all seventeen books in this series. And this latest doesn’t disappoint. I’ve also visited King Ludwig’s castle in Bavaria, so the subject matter fascinated me. King Ludwig II of Bavaria was an enigmatic figure who was deposed in 1886, mysteriously drowning three days later. Eccentric to the point of madness, history tells us that in the years before he died, Ludwig engaged in a worldwide search for a new kingdom, one separate, apart, and in place of Bavaria. A place he could retreat into and rule as he wished. But a question remains: did he succeed? Another great read.

The Cabinet of Dr. Leng (Agent Pendergast Series Book 21) by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. This is another series that I’ve read for years. Preston & Child continue their #1 bestselling series featuring FBI Special Agent Pendergast and Constance Greene as they cross paths with New York’s deadliest serial killer: Pendergast’s own ancestor…and now his greatest foe. These authors never disappoint.

The Nazi Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch. With all the hallmarks of a Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch page-turner, The Nazi Conspiracy explores the great political minds of the twentieth century, investigating the pivotal years of the war in gripping detail. This meeting of the Big Three changed the course of World War II. Here’s the inside story of how it almost led to a world-shattering disaster.

Escaping Gravity: My Quest to Transform NASA and Launch a New Space Age by Lori Garver. Escaping Gravity is former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver’s firsthand account of how a handful of revolutionaries overcame the political patronage and bureaucracy that threatened the space agency. The success of Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, and countless other commercial space efforts were preceded by decades of work by a group of people Garver calls “space pirates.” Their quest to transform NASA put Garver in the crosshairs of Congress, the aerospace industry, and hero astronauts trying to protect their own profits and mythology within a system that had held power since the 1950s. As a certifiable “space nut,” I enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at how this evolved.

So there you have my dozen recommendations for your reading pleasure this Summer. Let me know in the comments whether you have any other books I should consider adding. I’m always looking for the next great reading adventure. Thanks for reading the blog and your comments and suggestions for additional topics to research and post. Enjoy the Summer and happy reading!

Health Tech News This Week – June 3, 2023

What happened in health care technology this week, and why it’s important.

Image Credit:

Get Ready for 3D-Printed Organs and a Knife That ‘Smells’ Tumors

Hospitals are evolving at warp speed, and autonomous surgical robots are just the beginning. Wired UK lists eight technologies they expect to see soon. The list includes Fully autonomous surgical robots, Smart toilets to monitor and detect disease, Virtual reality therapy, 3D-printed organs, Contact-free monitoring, Ambient documentation, Portable MRI scanners, and A knife that ‘smells’ tumors.

Why it’s important – Many of these technologies are already being implemented in countries worldwide. The challenge is a question of scale. How rapidly will these be implemented? Will everyone have access to them? In the U.S., will there be payment for their use? Will they have clear benefits for a broad number of patients?

Infographic of the week – An analysis of data from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), which spent US$45 billion on biomedical research in 2022, shows that many diseases that affect more women than men are underfunded compared with how much disability and death they cause — measured in disability-adjusted life years (DALYs). If funding were determined only by the burden of each disease, the circles below would all be the same color.

Image Credit: Nature | Vol617 | 4May2023

Radiography and medical students benefit from VR training

Eric Ridley in Aunt reports that most radiography and medical students appreciate the value of virtual reality (VR) simulation-based training to learn about radiation protection in the interventional radiology (IR) suite, according to research published online on May 25 in Radiography. In their study, the researchers used a 3D VR program from Virtual Medical Coaching designed to improve the understanding of radiation safety in IR. The program features a virtual IR room with a biplanar C-arm, an operating table, a patient undergoing an interventional procedure, two surgeons, an anesthetist and their assistant, a circulating nurse, a scrub nurse, and multiple pieces of equipment, according to the authors. Users can choose from neuro, abdominal, and cardiovascular procedure options. The software visualizes the areas and intensity where radiation is present during the procedure, as well as the real-time effect on radiation dose to staff from, for example, moving away from the radiation source or utilizing lead shields or glasses, according to the researchers.

Demonstration of the radiation field and the radiation intensity in the 3D VR interventional suite. The intensity of the radiation field is represented by red for the highest intensity, moving through yellow, green, and finally, blue which depicts low intensity. Image and caption courtesy of Radiography through Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Why it’s important – After introducing 3D VR radiation dosimetry simulation software to a group of medical students and radiography students, a research team led by Prof. Louise Rainford of University College Dublin found that 80% enjoyed the experience. And nearly 75% reported that the software increased their confidence. Furthermore, many of the students felt that the technology could serve as a suitable tool for assessment in low-stakes examinations, according to the researchers.

YouTube video of the week – From Healthcare IT Today – Six Months to a Virtual ICU at Houston Methodist – The video is full of intriguing details. For instance, they proudly offered every patient an iPad when the virtual ICU opened to deliver care and allow patients to talk to their families outside the hospital. But staff found they had to clean the iPad frequently, so the ICU is moving toward delivering the services through the TV instead. Thanks to the Sickbay Platform, the virtual service permits more monitoring and reduces staffing needs, a critical achievement in these times of clinician flight from the field. Learn from the video how Houston Methodist uses smart devices to collect vital statistics and avoid the hated nightly ritual all patients go through of being woken up to take vital signs.

YouTube Video Credit: Healthcare IT Today channel

A new AI chatbot called Pi is designed to serve as your personal assistant — here’s how it works

Brittany Nguyen in Business Insider reports that there’s a new AI chatbot on the scene — and this one wants to get personal. Pi, which stands for “personal intelligence,” was released Tuesday by Inflection AI. The AI startup has three cofounders: Mustafa Suleyman, the co-founder of DeepMind; Karén Simonyan, the company’s chief scientist; and LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman. Pi is designed to be conversational and offer emotional support. In its opening dialogue, Pi tells users it’s meant to be “useful, friendly and fun” and prompts users to ask for advice or answers or to talk about whatever’s on their mind. Pi has been trained on data as recent as November 2022, Forbes reported. Details that can make a person identifiable are not used in training, Suleyman told Bloomberg.

Why it’s important – Like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard chatbots, Pi is based on LLMs or large language models. This means the bots are trained to generate text answers by analyzing large quantities of online content. Users can delete their accounts through the iPhone or iPad apps or by sending an email request to Inflection AI with the phone number they used to register, the spokesperson said. Users can also request via email that Inflection AI delete its copy of conversations.

An Eating Disorder Chatbot Is Suspended for Giving Harmful Advice

A nonprofit has suspended the use of a chatbot that was giving potentially damaging advice to people seeking help for eating disorders. Wired’s Amanda Hoover reports that Tessa, which the National Eating Disorders Association used, was found to be doling out advice about calorie cutting and weight loss that could exacerbate eating disorders. uld shut down its two-decade-old helpline staffed by a small paid group and an army of volunteers. NEDA said yesterday that it has paused the chatbot, and the nonprofit’s CEO, Liz Thompson, says the organization has concerns over language Tessa used that is “against our policies and core beliefs as an eating disorder organization.”

Why it’s important – The news plays into larger fears about losing jobs to advances in generative artificial intelligence. But it also shows how harmful and unpredictable chatbots can be. As researchers are still grappling with rapid advances in AI tech and its potential fallouts, companies are rushing a range of chatbots into the market, and real people are put at risk. Crisis and help hotlines are vital resources. That’s partly because accessing mental health care in the US is prohibitively expensive. A therapy session can cost $100 to $200 or more, and in-patient treatment for eating disorders may cost more than $1,000 daily. Less than 30 percent of people seek help from counselors, according to a Yale University study.

Neuralink can now study its brain implant in humans, but it’s still catching up to its peers

Neuralink announced the long-awaited FDA nod on Thursday evening. FDA spokesperson Carly Kemper told STAT in an email that the agency “acknowledges and understands that Neuralink has announced that its investigational device exemption (IDE) for its implant/R1 robot was approved by the FDA and that it may now begin conducting human clinical trials for its device.” Lizzy Lawrence reports on the development in her STAT article (subscription required). It’s a critical turning point for the Elon Musk-led company — but the startup, however closely watched, is playing catch-up compared to its peers in the neurotechnology field.

“These are small markets, this is very expensive technology, and insurance payers don’t tend to cover things that ultimately will cost millions of dollars per patient. It’s also really complex technology that’s hard to scale out. The truth is NeuraLink is behind the curve compared to their competitors and playing catch up.”

Kip Ludwig, former program director for neural engineering at the National Institutes of Health

Why it’s important – Neuralink is one of a handful of companies building brain-computer interfaces or implanted devices that aim to translate brain activity into physical actions. The technology could help restore movement for paralyzed patients or allow them to control a mobile phone with their minds. The first BCI was implanted in a human by Blackrock Neurotech in 2004. Other companies have joined the fray since then, including Synchron, which is currently recruiting patients for an early feasibility study. The field continues to advance rapidly; just this week, a man paralyzed by a spinal cord injury walked naturally after Swiss researchers implanted a brain-spine interface.

New Alzheimer’s Drugs Offer Subtle Benefits—With Real Risks

Grace Huckens from Wired UK reports that Antibody treatments clear amyloid protein from patients’ brains, slowing the progression of their disease but potentially inducing deadly swelling. In June 2021, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the antibody aducanumab a preliminary form of authorization called accelerated approval. However, the decision was mired in controversy—many experts believed there was no reason to think the drug would help patients. But with the next anti-amyloid drug, lecanemab, the story was clearer. It received accelerated approval in January of this year after a Phase III trial showed that it modestly slowed cognitive decline, as measured by the Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) scale, a tool for evaluating a person’s ability to accomplish the tasks of daily living. While all the patients studied saw their scores worsen over time, those on the drug saw theirs decline by 0.5 points less than patients receiving a placebo. And this May, Eli Lilly announced that its drug, donanemab, appears to slow decline a bit more—by about 0.7 points.

Why it’s important – It’s not just the benefits of these drugs that are uncertain. During the Phase III lecanemab and donanemab trials, a total of six patients may have died as a result of side effects. Amyloid-targeting antibodies frequently cause the brain to swell and bleed, and though most patients experience no symptoms, a few suffer severe consequences. Those risks weigh heavily on the minds of many clinicians. People may be willing to take on grave risks to slow their disease. But candidates for anti-amyloid therapies are so mildly impaired that they can typically maintain their pre-Alzheimer’s lifestyles for a period and may live for a decade or more with their disease. If they are elderly, there’s a good chance something else will kill them before Alzheimer’s does.

Burnout Continues To Crush Clinicians, But Voice Tech and AI Could Help

Clinicians — including doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals — face high levels of stress and burnout due to the nature of their work, with about half of all healthcare workers reporting burnout in a recent Harvard study. Increased workload, long hours, and patient demands can all contribute to this burnout, potentially leading to decreased job satisfaction and quality of care. MedCity News’ Patrick Higley reports that advances in natural language processing (NLP), generative AI, and ambient voice technology offer potential solutions to this problem and burnout contributor. By leveraging these technologies, healthcare organizations can reduce the burden on clinicians and improve their well-being, ultimately resulting in better patient outcomes. This is already a large and growing field, with Grand View Research reporting a market size of $17.7 billion in 2022, which is expected to grow to $53.6 billion by 2030.

Why it’s important – Besides reducing workload, NLP and ambient voice technology can also improve the quality of care that clinicians provide. By analyzing EHRs and other patient data, NLP algorithms can identify potential health risk factors and recommend preventative measures. This can help clinicians to identify health problems earlier and provide more targeted interventions, ultimately leading to better patient outcomes. Together, these technologies have enormous potential to reduce burnout among clinicians by reducing administrative workload, improving healthcare workers’ efficiency, and creating additional capacity by freeing up time that can be used for other tasks. Automating routine tasks such as data entry and appointment scheduling also reduces the administrative burden on clinicians, allowing them to spend more time on patient care — reducing stress, improving job satisfaction, and ultimately leading to better quality of care.

Finally, good luck to those attending the 2023 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) at McCormick Place in Chicago this weekend. With the Taylor Swift Eras Tour concert series at Soldier Field, I’m betting that traffic and just getting around will be a nightmare.

Image Credit: Stacey Tinianov Twitter Timeline 6/2/2023
Taylor Swift Stage setup in Soldier Field, Image Credit: Barry Butler

Health Tech News This Week – May 27, 2023

What happened in health care technology this week, and why it’s important.

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Epic is going all in on generative AI in healthcare. Here’s why a handful of health systems are eager to test-drive it

Heather Landi kicks off the coverage this week with her article in Fierce Healthcare online. UNC Health has been tapped to test-drive Epic’s generative AI tools to help overworked clinicians respond to a deluge of patient messages. The initial rollout will begin with five to 10 physicians at UNC Health. The program will use generative AI to auto-draft responses to some of the most common and time-intensive patient messages. The health system joins other early adopters from UC San Diego Health, the University of Wisconsin Health, and Stanford Health Care. Epic announced in April during the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Conference in Chicago that it was working with Microsoft to integrate large language model tools and AI into its electronic health record software. The health IT vendor and the tech giant are collaborating to combine the Azure OpenAI Service with Epic’s EHR software with an initial focus on drafting message responses.

“They’re going to be using this in the early-stage adoption to look for things like, ‘What is the accuracy of the text that the system is drafting?’ and, ‘What are the potential use cases in terms of how physicians can make it more effective for them?’ We also think that having this multispecialty approach we may help Epic understand where there may be opportunities for specialty-specific tweaking of the models to make it more effective for a given specialty.”

Brent Lamm, UNC Health’s Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, UNC Health

Why it’s important – Physicians and informatics leaders will also evaluate the tech’s user interface to ensure it is easy for clinicians to use. The health system expects to eventually scale up the generative AI-based messaging tool to a broader group of physicians. Along with the draft message responses, Epic and Microsoft also are working on using generative AI to analyze medical records while looking for trends.

Infographic of the week – The opportunity for the retailers, led in market share by CVS Health’s Minute Clinic and Kroger’s The Little Clinic, is to serve up population health and a health data infrastructure/platform that can enable health citizens to have a data-enabled, contemporary #digitalhealth medical home. This model could also scale to under-served people.

Image Credit: Definitive Healthcare, ClinicView

Drug Delivery System for Chronic Diseases Created Using AI

Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers say they have used artificial intelligence models and machine-learning algorithms to successfully predict which components of amino acids that make up therapeutic proteins are most likely to deliver therapeutic drugs to animal eye cells safely. Published May 2 in Nature Communications, the new research showed that artificial intelligence-designed models accurately predicted an effective sequence of amino acids, also known as peptides or small proteins, that would bind to a particular chemical in rabbit eye cells and safely dispense medications over several weeks, reducing the need for frequent, strict treatment schedules. The team specifically investigated peptides that bind to melanin. This compound provides color to the eye but has the advantage of being widely present throughout specialized structures in eye cells.

“We believe we are well on the way to finding solutions in trying to improve patient care and quality of life using drug delivery systems. The ultimate goal is creating something that we can translate out of the lab and actually make people’s lives better.”

Laura Ensign, Ph.D., Marcella E. Woll professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Why it’s important – The project, a collaboration with researchers from the University of Maryland, holds promise for advancing new and more tolerable drug treatments for common chronic blinding eye diseases, including glaucoma and macular degeneration, which affect 3 million and about 20 million people in the United States, respectively. Current drug therapies for these diseases, consisting of multiple daily eyedrops or frequent eye injections, are effective. Still, such delivery systems may be difficult to sustain and tolerate over time and have encouraged scientific efforts to develop delivery systems that would bind to components of eye cells and safely extend the therapeutic impact of the medications they carry.

iHealthScreen receives FDA 510(k) for AI-enabled eye screening system

Jessica Hagen reports that iHealthScreen, maker of AI-enabled software for retinal imaging, received FDA 510(k) clearance for its iPredict Eye Screening System that leverages AI to help providers determine if a patient over 50 has age-related macular degeneration. The iPredict System screens for AMD by using AI to analyze high-resolution images of a patient’s eyes taken with a color fundus camera. The test can be done in five minutes, and results are available within 60 seconds.

Why it’s important – If a medical task is repetitive and/or data-driven, it is ripe for automation. Screening the eye for signs of age-related macular degeneration is one of those. In 2019, 19.8 million individuals in the U.S. lived with some form of age-related macular degeneration, an increase of more than 2.75 times previous estimates, according to a study in JAMA Ophthalmology.

Video of the weekCan Our Current Workforce Meet Patient Expectations: Tina Shah, MD, set the stage for the Top of Mind Summit with a keynote address that tackled a pervasive and challenging issue in health care: provider burnout. Her presentation, which came on the first night of the Summit, set the stage for many of the sessions that followed the next day. Whether it was intentional or not, the audience at Top of Mind heard again and again from a variety of speakers that burnout was an issue affecting many parts of health systems.

Dr. Shah offered three concluding thoughts on how health systems can move forward and ensure that their clinicians are prepared to meet the demands of patients. First, technology solutions must be co-designed with the patient and provider experience in mind. Second, technology should be leveraged to reduce the cognitive load on clinicians. It needs to be better integrated and operate in the background to make care delivery easier for clinicians, not more burdensome. And finally, clinicians simply need more time and greater resources to confront all the challenges they’re facing. “And when we do that … there’s no limit in where we can go,” she said.

You can view Dr. Shah’s entire presentation here:

State of Digital Health Q1’23 Report

CB Insights’ latest report (subscription required) reveals that global digital health funding holds steady at $3.4B in Q1’23 after plummeting for four straight quarters. Care delivery and navigation tech companies saw 44% of all funding and 37% of all deals across seven digital health categories. Half of the category’s funding went to 5 of the quarter’s top 10 deals. As a result, the category also saw the highest average disclosed deal size ($12.6M).

Image Credit: CB Insights State of Digital Health Q1’23 Report

Why it’s important – Global digital health funding and deals stabilize after a year of decline. That’s good news for startups seeking funding to advance their business goals in 2023.

Brain signatures for chronic pain identified in a small group of individuals

For the first time, researchers have recorded pain-related data from inside the brain of individuals with chronic pain disorders caused by stroke or amputation (phantom limb pain). Four participants, three with post-stroke pain and one with phantom limb pain were surgically implanted with electrodes targeting their ACC and OFC. Several times a day, each participant was asked to answer questions related to how they would rate the pain they were experiencing, including strength, type of pain, and how their pain level was making them feel emotionally. They would then initiate a brain recording by clicking a remote-control device, which provided a snapshot of the activity in the ACC and OFC at that exact moment. Using machine learning analyses, the research team was able to use activity in the OFC to predict the participants’ chronic pain state.

Why it’s important – The findings are a key step to identifying pain-specific biomarkers toward personalizing pain management for individuals, leading to the development of new technologies and advances to better understand brain circuits, a major component of the NIH BRAIN Initiative. Chronic pain is one of the most significant contributors to disability worldwide. Neuropathic pain is caused by damage to the nervous system itself. It most commonly occurs due to injury to the nerves in our bodies, but for the individuals in this study, their pain is thought to originate from the brain itself. This kind of pain does not respond well to current treatments and can be debilitating for people living with it. These findings, which represent a first step towards developing novel methods for tracking and treating chronic pain, were published in Nature Neuroscience and funded by the National Institutes of Health’s Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative and the Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative, or NIH HEAL Initiative.

America’s drug shortages reach new heights

Shortages of cancer drugs and other life-saving medications are reaching their worst point in a decade, forcing physicians to develop workarounds and the Biden administration to mount an all-of-government response. Axios’ Tina Reed reports the story. There are more than 300 drugs in shortage, the highest since 2014, per the American Society for Health-System Pharmacists. While the Biden administration and Congress are both examining ways to address what has been dubbed a national security issue — including via a reauthorization of the Pandemics and All-Hazards Preparedness Act, or PAHPA. But solutions could be expensive and disruptive. The FDA can identify problems and work with manufacturers but lacks the expertise and, in some cases, authority to address more significant economic issues around the industry.

Why it’s important – The shortfalls are surfacing deeply entrenched problems in America’s drug supply chain, particularly around commonly-used generic drugs. A recent House hearing examined a “race to the bottom” in price that chills investment in manufacturing and can leave just one or two companies actively producing a drug in shortage. There are more than 300 drugs in shortage, the highest since 2014, per the American Society for Health-System Pharmacists. America’s drug shortage problem could get worse as generics makers cut back on manufacturing, but it’s unclear whether the government is capable of responding.

Finally, let’s remember all who have served our nation this Memorial Day weekend.

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Health Tech News This Week – May 20, 2023

What happened in health care technology this week, and why it’s important.

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Amputees could feel warmth of human touch with new bionic technology

Reuters contributors Cecile Mantovani and Denis Balibouse kick off this week’s reporting with this research that had thermal electrodes placed on the skin of their residual arm, amputees such as Fidati reported feeling hot or cold sensations in their phantom hand and fingers, as well as directly on the arm, according to the trials by the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). The 59-year-old Italian is among 27 amputees who took part in the trials, with 17 of them reporting a successful test.

“Temperature feedback is essential for relaying information that goes beyond touch, it leads to feelings of affection. We are social beings and warmth is an important part of that.”

Silvestro Micera, Professor at EPFL and Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies

Why it’s important – Those tested have also been able to differentiate between plastic, glass, and copper, pointing to where they feel the sensations on images of a hand. The technology, which has been tested for over two years, does not need to be implanted. It can be worn on the skin and combined with a regular prosthetic.

Infographic of the week – From Dr. Bertalan Meskó and his team at The Medical Futurist Institute – The integration of ChatGPT into healthcare services is no longer a futuristic concept for many companies in the industry. An increasing number of companies are now leveraging its capabilities for tasks such as data analysis, referral preparation, and conversation transcription, among others. As evidence of this trend, they’ve compiled a list of companies that have integrated ChatGPT already.

Image Credit: Dr. Bertalan Meskó, The Medical Futurist Institute

Aging body scans to aid understanding of why diseases occur

The world’s biggest human imaging project is set to rescan the brains and bodies of 60,000 UK volunteers to find new ways of treating and preventing disease. Fergus Walsh reports his experiences on the project in his article on BBC News online. First launched in 2006, UK Biobank set out to be the most comprehensive study of the nation’s health. The imaging part of the project was started in 2014 and involves detailed scans of the brain and the rest of the body.

Why it’s important – The study has already led to a genetic test for people born with an increased risk of coronary heart disease. More than 7,000 peer-reviewed papers have been published, nearly a third of those last year alone, showing how its scientific value is increasing over time. In 2018, researchers devised a genetic test to detect people born with an increased risk of coronary heart disease by analyzing genomic data from the UK Biobank.

Podcast of the week – From the On With Kara Swisher podcast series, Kara Swisher talks to the FTC chair Lina Khan about big-tech misbehavior and how to regulate AI. You can access the episode here:

Image Credit: Vox Media Podcast Network

EHRs negatively affect well-being of healthcare teams, study finds

Electronic health records are the dominant form of communication among healthcare teams. Still, while a JAMA Network Open study found that they facilitate straightforward, task-related communication, they limit “rich and social” communication. Jeff Lagasse reports the story in Healthcare Finance online. The technology shifts attention away from the human needs of the care team, they said, and interventions to cultivate interpersonal interactions and team function are necessary to complement the efficiency benefits of health information technology. A previous study by several of the same authors indicated that EHR requirements often take precedence over other physician core competencies, disrupting professional conduct and causing distress to physicians and team members.

Why it’s important – Several physicians were interviewed for the paper, and while they agreed that the EHR has improved lean and task-related communication – suitable for simple, uncomplicated tasks – they perceived that the EHR negatively impacts team function by amplifying disagreement and introducing conflict. The results suggest that the EHR supports looser forms of interprofessional work, such as networking and coordination, at the expense of more intense collaboration and teamwork. This study explores a reverse connection, suggesting that fostering physician well-being may be beneficial for team function and, therefore, may minimize unprofessional behaviors instigated by physician distress. This represents yet another rationale for system approaches to address burnout in healthcare. The new findings track with a 2021 study showing EHR-integrated patient-generated health data may create burdens for clinicians, leading to burnout. Based on surveys of more than 20,000 U.S.-based physicians, data published in November showed overall burnout rates at 49% over a three-year window.

Kaiser creates new AI, machine learning grant program

Naomi Diaz reports that The Permanente Medical Group, part of Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente, has launched a new AI and machine learning program that will grant three to five health systems up to $750,000 in her article in Becker’s Health IT online. The program dubbed the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research Augmented Intelligence in Medicine and Healthcare Initiative, or AIM-HI, Coordinating Center, will give money to health systems using AI and machine learning to improve diagnoses and patient outcomes, according to a May 17 press release from Kaiser.

Why it’s important – Kaiser is aiming to cut through the buzz around AI in health care to prove the promise and positive impact of this exciting technology for improving patient outcomes. In addition to supporting algorithmic research, the AIM-HI program will develop best practices and enhance the capacity for AI/ML deployment in diverse healthcare settings.

Can Artificial Intelligence Solve The Growing Mental Health Crisis?

Increased awareness around mental health has introduced significant innovation and investment into new remedies and treatment modalities. One such novel concept is using artificial intelligence in the mental health space. Forbes contributor Sai Balasubramanian, M.D., J.D. writes that with the advent of generative AI, conversational AI, and natural language processing, the thought of using artificial intelligence systems to provide human companionship has now become mainstream.

Why it’s important – In his balanced look at the state of the industry, the author lays out the pros and cons of deploying this technology in the mental health field. While artificial intelligence certainly can solve potential access inequities, conveniently provide healthcare services and even provide companionship to those that most require it, it has to be developed with guardrails in place for numerous reasons. Using AI technology in this capacity means that a significant amount of sensitive patient information will also be collected. Developers must ensure that this data will never be compromised and that patient privacy is always the top priority, especially amidst a landscape of growing cybersecurity threats. Moreover, perhaps the most critical concern is an existential one: How far should humanity go with this? While the benefits of AI are undoubtedly numerous, innovators have to be cautious about the limitations of these systems. Notably, the systems are only as good as the models and datasets they can learn from. In the wrong hands, these systems could very easily provide incorrect or dangerous recommendations to vulnerable populations.

The Daring Robot Surgery That Saved a Man’s Life

Two doctors, separated by thousands of miles, carried out a lifesaving operation using a robot. Wired’s Joao Medeiros brings us the story. The surgery took place on May 21. Fernando, wearing full personal protective equipment, operated the console of the surgical robot two meters away from the patient. The robot has four articulated arms, three fitted with surgical instruments, and a fourth holding a thin tube with a camera at the end, which, upon insertion into Tajer’s abdomen, allowed Fernando to see inside the patient. Porter, wearing his pajama robe and sitting at his home in Seattle, had access to that exact same view on his laptop. For five hours, he guided Fernando through the surgery step by step, talking to her while using an augmented-reality pointer to identify anatomical parts and drawing annotations to pinpoint where specific incisions should be made.

“When we started we only had in mind the live surgery feature. But then we thought, what if people want to have feedback after the operation or to review their performance? That’s why we built the library.”

Nadine Hachach-Haram, CEO, Proximie

Why it’s important – Currently, more than 95 percent of the surgical sessions using Proximie are also recorded in its online library, which enables surgeons to edit and tag footage that can be later used for training or debriefing. This library currently stores more than 20,000 videos of surgeries, making it the largest database of this sort. Today more than 20 percent of NHS hospitals have access to the software.

World Record Achieved for X-Ray at Highest Altitude

Mike Cairnie of portable x-ray developer MinXray has earned a world record for acquiring a portable chest x-ray of a patient last year on Mt. Everest in Nepal. Will Morton from Aunt Minnie reports the story. Cairnie, described by a radiologist and colleague Dr. Saurabh Jha in an interview with as “the Indiana Jones of radiology,” is MinXray’s director of global and military sales. The pair made the trek up Mt. Everest last year along with several other colleagues leading Project Khumbu, a proof-of-concept initiative to increase access to imaging in remote areas in Nepal. The record achieved during the project is also notable for artificial intelligence (AI) developer, whose software is installed on the battery-powered digital radiography system. The software can automatically generate chest X-ray interpretation reports and identify tuberculosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, lung cancer, and medical emergencies such as lung collapse, for instance.

“The highest altitude operating an x-ray machine is 5,364 m (17,598 ft) and was achieved by Michael Cairnie (USA), in Mount Everest Base Camp, Khumjung, Nepal, on 21 April 2022.”

Guinness World Records announcement

Why it’s important – Another example of bringing medical imaging to the patient instead of the patient to the imaging location. People with medical emergencies in remote areas simply have no access to the technology. Pairing portable imaging technologies (x-ray, Ultrasound, MRI, CT, etc.) with AI dramatically expand the availability of medical imaging to even the most remote areas of the globe.

Me And My Digital Twin: I Have A Brand New Deepfake Avatar

Finally, this week, this article from Dr. Bertalan Mesko describes his experiences in creating his own avatar. Synthesia approached him with an intriguing proposal – would he be interested in creating a digital avatar? Of course, he was! The prospect was too tempting to resist. Initially, the plan involved him traveling to London to work with their team. However, with his own studio, crew, and equipment, including a 4K camera and a green screen, they could tackle the task right at The Medical Futurist HQ. The team compiled the necessary footage without setting foot outside their studio. Here’s a YouTube video showing the result.

YouTube Video Credit: Dr. Bertalan Meskó

Why it’s important – As you can see in the video, my initial reaction was that it was pretty creepy. First of all, the avatar doesn’t blink. At all. That is by far the eeriest part of the experience. Also, its gestures and emphasis points are slightly off, making it apparent that the technology isn’t perfect yet. The interesting question is whether this technology can be applied to medical purposes. For now, the answer is no in the case of replacing live doctor-patient interactions. The “uncanny valley” effect is too strong; the avatar cannot convey emotions and empathize, which are vital in the medical field. Therefore, at this stage, a patient would likely find a written message from their doctor without a visible avatar more comforting.

Health Tech News This Week – May 13, 2023

What happened in health care technology this week, and why it’s important.

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How One Company Is Tackling Medication Adherence

Mail-order pharmacies like Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company and Amazon’s RxPass are gaining popularity. But they’re missing in-depth consultations with pharmacists. Aspen RxHealth is trying to fill this gap and sees itself as a potential mail-order pharmacy partner. Marissa Plescia covers the story in MedCity News. Rather than act as the dispenser of medications, it focuses on pharmacist-patient consultations to help patients better understand their medications. The company works with health plans — including Humana, UnitedHealthcare, and Centene — to connect patients with pharmacists who contract with Aspen. Payer clients pay Aspen once consultations are completed. These patients are matched with pharmacists based on factors like location and language. Then they have a telephone conversation to discuss their medications, how to take them correctly, and how they affect them. After that first consultation, patients can stay in touch with the pharmacist for continuing care.

“I can get my medications more affordably, more quickly from the comfort of my home. But what’s missing is somebody who’s really driving appropriate use of all medications — kind of a quarterback if you will — to see across all the different dispensing sites, have all of the information, and empower that patient … to make sure they’re on the right mix of meds to drive the intended outcome.”

David Medvedeff, co-founder and CEO of Aspen RxHealth

Why it’s important – As mail-order pharmacies gain popularity, Medvedeff sees Aspen as a potential partner for these companies so they can supplement their expertise in accessibility with Aspen’s clinical expertise. He said Aspen has reached out to several mail-order pharmacies and is in conversation with some of the more tech-forward pharmacies, though he didn’t name which ones.

Infographic of the week – One of the best infographic slides ever created is from Adam Fein, CEO of Drug Channels Institute and Founder & President of Pembroke Consulting. Every Fall, US #healthcare and #healthinsurance aficionados eagerly await Adam’s annual publishing of his “Vertical Business Relationships Among Insurers, PBMs, Specialty Pharmacies, and Providers” infographic –> it is an industry mainstay.

Image Credit: Pembroke Consulting, d/b/a/ Drug Channels Institute

Revolutionary ear-EEG device aims to detect Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s early

This important development is reported in Innovations Origins online. Rigshospitalet, Aarhus University, and T&W Engineering collaborate on a groundbreaking project to develop an ear-EEG device for the early detection of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Funded by a DKK 15 million grant from Innovation Fund Denmark, the device measures the brain’s electrical activity and sleep patterns, which can indicate early signs of these neurodegenerative disorders. The ear-EEG device, known as the PANDA-project device, is designed to be similar to in-ear headphones, making it easy and comfortable for patients to wear. PANDA, which stands for “Progression Assessment in Neurodegenerative Disorders of Ageing,” is a four-year project with a total budget of DKK 26 million. The main focus is to create a simple, at-home solution for the early detection and monitoring of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Image Credit: T&W Engineering

Why it’s important – Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases are not only a growing financial burden for the healthcare sector but also a significant challenge for patients and their families. Current methods for dementia diagnosis and monitoring are not scalable and not suitable for repeated measurements to trace or monitor disease progression. By developing home-based solutions, health profiles can be improved, leading to earlier diagnosis and better patient treatment options. By introducing the ear-EEG device as a home-based screening tool, patients can be diagnosed more easily and earlier than today. This would greatly benefit both patients and healthcare systems, reducing the impact of these serious brain diseases on individuals, families, and society.

Podcast of the week – “An unfiltered look at what AI can (and cannot) do” This Unfiltered episode of Fixing Healthcare welcomes Dr. Jonathan Fisher, a respected cardiologist and renowned advocate for physician well-being. ChatGPT is constantly challenging our understanding of what generative AI can accomplish. From acing medical-licensing tests to coding entire websites from simple prompts and even simulating talented musicians like Drake and Weeknd, the question now is: what can’t AI do? How will this thinking, and our human biases, apply to medicine—both for patients and doctors? You can listen to the podcast here.

Image Credit: Fixing Healthcare Podcast

Knitted Glove Massages the Hand to Treat Edema

Conn Hastings in Medgadget online reports that a team of medical engineers at Cornell University has developed a knitted glove designed to treat hand edema, where fluid accumulation leads to hand swelling. The glove is a machine-knit textile that can be customized for individual patients in terms of hand size and shape. It also contains shape memory alloy springs as actuators. Cleverly, the actuators work sequentially, beginning at the fingertip and progressing back along the finger to shunt the fluid away. See a video about the technology below.

YouTube Video Credit: Hybrid Body Lab

Why it’s important – Hand edema involves swelling of the hand and fingers and can be caused by injury or certain conditions. The swelling is not just uncomfortable but can significantly interfere with a person’s ability to perform daily activities, particularly tasks that require a high level of finger dexterity. The condition can make it difficult for patients to perform daily activities, and current treatment often involves receiving a manual edema massage performed by a trained healthcare worker. However, this is time-consuming, expensive and requires patients to attend regular appointments. This new technology is intended for at-home use and consists of a knitted glove with in-built robotic actuators that gently squeeze the hand. The actuations occur consecutively to shunt fluid from the fingertips back to the proximal portion of the hand, helping to reduce edema.

Northwell launches AI startup with Aegis

Northwell Holdings and Aegis Ventures are starting a company that uses retinal imaging and artificial intelligence to detect and diagnose diseases. Gabriel Perna brings us the story in Modern Healthcare online. Northwell and Aegis are forming Optain with technology developed by Australian company Eyetelligence. Optain’s AI technology analyzes images from a small retinal camera to screen for and diagnose multiple chronic and acute conditions. Northwell Health will be Optain’s first commercial customer in America once the company receives regulatory approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

Why it’s important – Dr. Richard Braunstein, senior vice president and executive director of ophthalmology at Northwell Health, said he envisions using the technology to screen for cardiovascular, neurological, and chronic diseases. Initially, the goal will be to use it in ophthalmology. But given Northwell’s size, which includes more than 21 hospitals and 890 outpatient facilities, a lot of room exists to experiment with finding ways to use the technology, he said. Optain will work with Northwell on research and development while the regulatory approval and commercial rollout processes are underway, said Optain CEO Jeff Dunkel. While Eyetelligence has received regulatory approval in Australia and Asia, he said the U.S. market offers the most growth potential.

How AI is helping UC San Diego Health lower its sepsis mortality rate

In other AI news, UC San Diego Health is using artificial intelligence in the emergency department to analyze bedside and EHR data to predict which patients are most at risk for developing sepsis, La Jolla Light reported on May 6. Naomi Diaz in Becker’s Health IT reports that the health system is also using AI to predict which patients will develop bowel obstructions after surgery and is working on studying how AI responds to patient messages.

“We implemented this algorithm six months ago, and in our emergency department in the last six months we’ve had the lowest observed [versus] expected mortality and sepsis that we’ve ever seen at UC San Diego Health.”

Christopher Longhurst, MD, chief medical officer and chief digital officer, UC San Diego Health

Why it’s important – The health system is working on building a new center for digital information and artificial intelligence that can house the organization’s digital information it is gathering through these various programs and pilots.

Chest Wearable Provides Key Heart Measurements

More from Conn Hastings at Medgadget this week. Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have developed a new chest wearable that can obtain electrocardiogram and seismocardiogram data from the underlying heart. While basic ECG can be monitored via smart watches, no other wearable combines it with seismocardiography, which would conventionally be obtained by listening to the heart using a stethoscope. Pairing both measurements into one device allows clinicians to get a more complete picture of cardiac health while freeing patients to go about their daily activities wearing an unobtrusive wearable. This latest offering is a flexible “e-tattoo” that conforms to the chest’s skin and can provide continuous cardiac monitoring for at least 24 hours, although the penny-sized battery can last up to 40 hours and can be swapped out by the patient if required. The flexible patch weighs just 2.5 grams and can wirelessly transmit cardiac data. Study in journal Advanced Electronic Materials: A Chest-Conformable, Wireless Electro-Mechanical E-Tattoo for Measuring Multiple Cardiac Time Intervals

Image Credit: University of Texas at Austin

Why it’s important – Wearables are changing how we monitor patients and obtain clinical data, replacing the inconvenient medical appointments and bulky electronics of the past. Applying a wearable to the skin could let patients go about their daily business while providing valuable health data that could reveal a health problem and prompt early treatment.

Cyberattacks on hospitals are growing threats to patient safety, experts say

Finally, this story by Nicole Wetsman was broadcast on ABC News this week. Hospitals have become a top target for ransomware gangs, which take control of vulnerable online networks and demand a ransom to unlock them, severely disrupting patient care. The number of attacks on U.S. hospitals each year doubled between 2016 and 2021, from 43 to 91, according to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Last year saw an even greater number of incidents, the American Hospital Association said. Healthcare systems are often underprepared to stop these attacks, cybersecurity experts said, even though research shows they come with genuine health risks for patients.

“We’re not yet in a place where we can reliably say the hospital your family depends upon in most of America is, at a minimum, cyber hygiene-level sufficient to fend off preventable attacks.”

Josh Corman, a leading expert on cybersecurity and health care

Why it’s importantNewly published research in the journal JAMA Network Open documents a ripple effect that can impact health care and the patient experience across an entire region. The study looked at the fallout from a single ransomware attack on a single San Diego hospital in 2021. It found that emergency rooms at adjacent hospitals had more ambulances arrive and saw more patients than expected, and had longer wait times for all patients seeking care. The number of situations where a patient left without being seen by a doctor rose by 127%.

The Hottest Job In IT Today: AI Whisperer

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Tech is known for high-paying jobs — and for one new hot job in the industry, you don’t even need a STEM degree. The rise of generative AI tools like ChatGPT is creating a need for “prompt engineers,” people who write questions and prose for AI chatbots to test and improve their answers. Some of these roles have salaries as high as $375,000 and don’t always require tech degrees. Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, the developer of ChatGPT, has spoken about the need for prompt engineers. In February, he tweeted that “writing a great prompt for a chatbot persona is an amazingly high-leverage skill.”

A prompt engineer is responsible for crafting text inputs that effectively guide AI systems like ChatGPT to produce better results. They help companies train their workforce to harness AI tools and improve the performance of AI applications. With diverse educational backgrounds, prompt engineers often come from history, philosophy, or English language disciplines, as the role involves linguistic creativity and distilling complex ideas into concise prompts.

There are many startups and new tools to help engineer prompts, including PromptPerfect and PromptingGuide. Online schools are beginning to offer courses in prompting, and PromptBase is an online marketplace for buying and selling high-quality prompts. The list goes on and on and will undoubtedly grow.

The market for prompt engineers is growing. PromptBase, a prompt marketplace launched last June, allows people to hire prompt engineers or sell their prompts. Despite the opportunities in prompt engineering for people without tech backgrounds, most high-paying roles require people with more experience and higher levels of education in tech-focused areas, recruiters told Bloomberg.

“Salaries start at £40,000, but we’ve got candidates on our database looking for £200,000 to £300,000 a year. Expert prompt engineers can name their price.”

Mark Standen, Recruiter, Hays, a recruitment agency in the UK and Ireland

Prompt Engineers in Healthcare

Prompt engineers will play a crucial role in the healthcare industry’s future, designing and implementing prompts that improve patient outcomes. By working closely with healthcare providers and payers, they can understand each problem and find a solution. Effective prompts require constant monitoring and adjustment, ensuring they remain effective and efficient. Prompt engineers can help healthcare professionals make informed decisions by leveraging their skills and expertise, ultimately leading to better patient care.

For example, Boston Children’s posted a job posting in April for an “AI prompt engineer” to work on its innovation and digital health accelerator. The person will design and develop AI prompts using large language models like ChatGPT. Dr. John Brownstein, Chief Innovation Officer at Boston Children’s, believes that the skill set of the next decade is going to be someone with the skills of a prompt engineer. Someone who knows how to interface with large language models. Someone who knows how to ask the right questions to get the right detail. Someone who knows the boundaries by which these things work and that they don’t work.

Potential applications – Some potential applications in healthcare follow:

Data analysts analyze and interpret healthcare data to identify trends and insights that can inform the design and implementation of effective prompts. They collaborate closely with prompt engineers to develop and refine prompts, ensuring they are data-driven and aligned with healthcare providers’ and payers’ needs. Data analysts also monitor the prompt’s performance, providing regular reports and insights to prompt engineers, who use this feedback to make necessary adjustments and improve the prompt’s efficacy.

Clinical researchers can benefit from prompt engineering skills to improve data collection and analysis, which is essential for conducting clinical trials and research. Researchers can ensure more accurate and efficient data collection by utilizing prompts tailored to the study or trial.

Medical coders can also use prompt engineering skills to improve the medical coding process. With well-designed prompts, medical coders can create more efficient natural language processing algorithms to automate coding and reduce errors.

Medical education – Medical students, healthcare workers, and patients can all use Chat GPT as a tool in medical education in various ways. The capacity of Chat GPT to offer students tailored learning experiences is one of its most important benefits. It can communicate with students, ascertain their educational requirements, and deliver pertinent and timely information. Access to a multitude of medical knowledge, including anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and pathology, is available to medical students through Chat GPT. The program can assist students in learning complex ideas, studying for tests, and preparing for clinical rotations. Additionally, it can give rapid feedback on students’ progress and point out areas that need more research.

ChatGPT in medical education has several benefits over conventional teaching techniques. Its capacity to offer pupils tailored learning experiences is one of its most important benefits. The AI app can adjust to the individual learning requirements of every student, delivering pertinent information in real time that can enhance learning outcomes by increasing student engagement, knowledge retention, and acquisition. Additionally, Chat GPT is accessible 24/7, making it a convenient tool for medical students, healthcare workers, and patients. This can lessen geographic obstacles to medical education and improve access to medical knowledge. The capacity of Chat GPT to produce human-like responses is another benefit of utilizing it in medical teaching. The chatbot can carry on detailed discussions and comprehend the conversation’s context, which enables it to offer incredibly appropriate responses. This can raise the standard of medical education and improve students’ learning opportunities.

While Chat GPT has several benefits over conventional teaching techniques, there are several drawbacks to its application in medical education. One of its key drawbacks is that it cannot offer experiential learning opportunities. ChatGPT cannot replace the necessity of hands-on training in medical education, which is only possible through practical training. Additionally, Chat GPT is reliant on the caliber of the training data. The reliability of the chatbot’s responses may be affected if the data is biased or inaccurate. For Chat GPT to give accurate and trustworthy information, it is crucial to guarantee that the data used to train it is accurate and unbiased.

There may also be roles in developing AI-powered prompt engineering tools within healthcare IT. These roles may involve machine learning, NLP, and data analytics expertise.

Challenges in Prompt Engineering in Healthcare

When it comes to NLP tasks in the medical field, prompt engineering faces several challenges. First, medical data is usually limited and specialized, making it difficult to cover all domain knowledge and thus restricting the model’s generalization ability. Secondly, the medical field is rich in terminology and domain knowledge but often complex, which requires effective integration of this knowledge into prompts. Additionally, different medical tasks require different prompt designs, which requires balancing the complexity and interpretability of prompts while also utilizing existing medical domain knowledge to guide the model to generate high-quality predictions. Finally, the prompt design also needs to consider how to avoid introducing human bias or erroneous information to ensure the fairness and accuracy of the model.

It should be noted that NLP tasks in the medical field are highly challenging as they involve a large amount of domain knowledge and specialized terminology, which may not be easily understood or processed by general NLP models. Therefore, the importance of prompt engineering in the medical field is self-evident. With the emergence of multimodal information in the medical field, combining multiple modalities such as text, images, and speech can better address practical problems in the medical domain. Additionally, conducting multi-task research by integrating multiple medical research tasks can provide better services for clinical healthcare.

Prompt engineering is revolutionizing the healthcare industry with limitless potential. By investing in prompt engineering and understanding its implications, organizations can position themselves as leaders in the industry and ensure they are prepared for the future. The possibilities are endless, and the benefits are profound; it’s time to embrace prompt engineering and unlock its full potential for the betterment of healthcare.

Health Tech News This Week – May 6, 2023

What happened in health care technology this week, and why it’s important.

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Why Boston Children’s is hiring a ChatGPT super user

Gabriel Perna reports that as healthcare contemplates the use of generative artificial intelligence technology, Boston Children’s Hospital is moving from strategy to salary in his article in Digital Health Business and Technology online. The Boston-based hospital is hiring someone to use OpenAI’s generative AI application ChatGPT. Boston Children’s posted a job posting in April for an “AI prompt engineer” to work on its innovation and digital health accelerator. The person will design and develop AI prompts using large language models like ChatGPT.

“Right out of the box, I don’t think I’ve seen anything as transformational since the iPhone or Google.”

John Brownstein, MD, Chief Innovation Officer, Boston Children’s

Why it’s important – According to Brownstein, when margins are challenging and we’re in a tough economy, upskilling the workforce with these tools can be incredibly beneficial. The skill set of the next decade is going to be someone with the skills of a prompt engineer. Someone who knows how to interface with large language models. Someone who knows how to ask the right questions to get the correct detail. Someone who knows the boundaries by which these things work and that they don’t work.

Infographic of the week – Our homes and working environments will be loaded with connected appliances, virtual assistants, motion sensors, and remote monitoring tools connected to smart infrastructure. Beyond this, bioelectronic implants, smart clothing, ingestible sensors, and ultimately nanobots and smart dust will map the very surfaces and interior spaces of our bodies. The net effect of this ever-present IoMT will be to drive unprecedented growth in the quantity and quality of healthcare data available.

Image Credit: Shaping the next generation of digital and data-driven healthcare, and sustainable practices, February, 2023 – E&Y

John Deere employees now using Comau exoskeletons

John Deere employees now have access to multiple Comau MATE-XT exoskeletons. Brianna Wessling covers the story in The Robot Report online. The MATE-XT exoskeleton, which is worn like a backpack, can accurately replicate all shoulder movements, helping employees perform their jobs comfortably by reducing muscle fatigue without limiting mobility or adding bulk. For John Deere employees, this means helping them move hundreds of packages a day to ensure parts are ready for next-day delivery.

Image Credit: Comau

Why it’s important – The devices aim to sustain worker well-being, alleviate physical stress and reduce ergonomic risk within its parts logistics operations. muscular balance while optimizing the energy expenditure needed to stabilize and sustain the arm’s weight. While wearing the exoskeleton, arm stability can be maintained using only 10% of the operator’s maximum capacity.

Video of the week – “The amazing AI super tutor for students and teachers” Sal Khan, the founder, and CEO of Khan Academy, thinks artificial intelligence could spark the most significant positive transformation education has ever seen. He shares the opportunities he sees for students and educators to collaborate with AI tools — including the potential of a personal AI tutor for every student and an AI teaching assistant for every teacher — and demos some exciting new features for their educational chatbot, Khanmigo.

You Tube Video Credit: TED


Eric Wicklund reports that researchers say their AI algorithm can analyze clinical data and images of a patient’s heart and calculate the probability of cardiac arrest and other concerns over several years. The tool analyzes clinical data, such as age, weight, gender, heart rate, and blood pressure, alongside heart images showing blood flow to the heart muscle and expansions and contractions.

Why it’s important – Doctors and patients can use these graphs to track how risk changes over time and to identify individual risk factors. They can also interactively modify certain risk factors to see how they impact a patient’s risk. Researchers say these tools could help providers develop more personalized care plans for patients and improve patient engagement.

Biotech firm beats Elon Musk’s Neuralink, has implanted brain chips in 50 people for ailments

Mehul Reuben Das reports that while Elon Musk and the people at Neuralink are trying to get FDA approval to test their Neuralink BCIs on people and get them approved for medical uses, a biotech in Utah seems to have beaten them to the goal quite handsomely, and has already implanted brain chips in dozens of patients. Blackrock Neurotech, headquartered in Salt Lake City, aspires to cure physical disability, blindness, deafness, and depression. The NeuroPort Array chip enables individuals to control robotic limbs and wheelchairs, play video games, and even sense feelings. It uses nearly 100 microneedles that attach to the brain and read electrical signals produced by someone’s thoughts. More than three dozen people have so far received it. The device was first implanted in a human in 2004. Company leaders hope to bring it to market soon, announcing in 2021 they aimed for the following year.

Image Credit: Blackrock Neurotech

“Our long-term goal is for our implants to be as widely available to persons with paralysis as pacemakers are to those with heart problems.”

Marcus Gerhardt, co-founder of Blackrock

Why it’s important – The device monitors electrical impulses created by the wearer’s thoughts after implantation. These signals are decoded by machine learning software into digital commands such as cursor movements, which may be utilized to operate prostheses and computer equipment. This can assist someone in drawing with a robotic arm, utilizing computer programs, or controlling a wheelchair or prosthetic limb. However, the company is now seeking FDA approval for devices designed for use outside of the lab, such as those used by people with paralysis at home.

Wearable devices may be able to capture well-being through effortless data collection using AI

Applying machine learning models, a type of artificial intelligence (AI), to data collected passively from wearable devices can identify a patient’s degree of resilience and well-being, according to investigators at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. The findings, reported in the May 2 issue of JAMIA Open, support wearable devices, such as the Apple Watch, as a way to monitor and assess psychological states remotely without requiring the completion of mental health questionnaires.

Why it’s important – Subjects wore an Apple Watch Series 4 or 5 for the duration of their participation, measuring heart rate variability and resting heart rate throughout the follow-up period. Surveys were collected measuring resilience, optimism, and emotional support at baseline. The metrics collected were found to be predictive in identifying resilience or well-being states. Despite the Warrior Watch Study not being designed to evaluate this endpoint, the findings support the further assessment of psychological characteristics from passively collected wearable data.

Brain Activity Decoder Can Reveal Stories in People’s Minds

A new artificial intelligence system called a semantic decoder can translate a person’s brain activity — while listening to a story or silently imagining telling a story — into a continuous stream of text. The system developed by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin might help people who are mentally conscious yet unable to speak physically, such as those debilitated by strokes, to communicate intelligibly again. The study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, was led by Jerry Tang, a doctoral student in computer science, and Alex Huth, an assistant professor of neuroscience and computer science at UT Austin. The work partially relies on a transformer model similar to the ones that power Open AI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard.

Image Credit: Nolan Zunk/The University of Texas at Austin.

Why it’s important – Unlike other language decoding systems in development, this system does not require subjects to have surgical implants, making the process noninvasive. Participants also do not need to use only words from a prescribed list. Brain activity is measured using an fMRI scanner after extensive training of the decoder, in which the individual listens to hours of podcasts in the scanner. Later, provided that the participant is open to having their thoughts decoded, listening to a new story or imagining telling a story allows the machine to generate corresponding text from brain activity alone. The system currently is not practical for use outside of the laboratory because of its reliance on the time need for an fMRI machine. But the researchers think this work could transfer to other, more portable brain-imaging systems, such as functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS).

Breakthrough for sweat: health monitoring device from UH researchers

Researchers at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Engineering have taken a giant leap forward in sweat analysis with an innovative 3D-printed wearable sweat sensor called the “sweatainer.” Harnessing the power of additive manufacturing (3D-printing), the researchers have developed a new type of wearable sweat sensor that expands the capability of wearable sweat devices. The sweatainer is a small, wearable device similar in size to a child’s sticker that collects and analyzes sweat, offering a glimpse into the future of health monitoring. By incorporating various sensors, the sweatainer can analyze sweat in a mode similar to previous wearable sweat-sensing systems. The findings were published in Sciences Advances on May 3.

Image Credit: University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Engineering

Why it’s important – Sweat is more than just a sign of a good workout. It holds vital information about our health, providing clues to dehydration, fatigue, blood sugar levels, and even serious conditions such as cystic fibrosis, diabetes, and heart failure. Traditional approaches for sweat collection use absorbent pads or microbore (very narrow) tubes pressed against the epidermis (surface layer of the skin) using bands or straps to capture sweat as it emerges from the skin. These techniques require trained personnel, special handling, and costly laboratory equipment. One unique feature of the sweatainer is its “multi-draw” sweat collection method, which allows for collecting multiple, separate sweat samples for analysis either directly on the device or sent to a lab. Inspired by the vacutainer used in clinical blood sampling, this advancement not only makes sweat collection more efficient but also opens up new possibilities for at-home testing, storing samples for future research, and integrating with existing health monitoring methods.

How AI Can Be Used To Cut a $1 Trillion Healthcare Problem

While clinicians and other medical experts continue to debate ML’s effectiveness for treating patients, they’re neglecting a much more dependable and equally impactful use case: administrative work. ML has tremendous potential to streamline tedious administrative tasks and free up valuable time for clinicians, ultimately leading to better patient outcomes. Chris Riopelle, CEO and co-founder of Strive Health, highlights the opportunities in his Fast Company article online*.

One potential use case involves AI-powered scribing solutions, which several startups are beginning to roll out. These solutions take detailed notes of a patient and provider’s conversation, which helps streamline and better capture the visit, allowing for a more productive appointment.

Another trending use case is prior authorizations, or PAs. PAs occur when a healthcare payor requires a provider to secure approval to carry out a specific procedure or prescribe a medication. Physicians and their staff spend almost two full business days each week on PAs, and they can be a major source of contention between payors and providers. ML can quickly compile relevant patient information from EHRs and provide data-backed recommendations about the benefits of various treatment options. While providers still review the information and make the final call, ML can help reduce the time required to complete each PA.

Why it’s important – The U.S. spends nearly $4 trillion on healthcare annually, and administrative costs account for a quarter of this figure. For those not in the medical field, it can be challenging to grasp how much time clinicians spend daily on administrative work. ML has significant potential for helping providers streamline their administrative responsibilities and, as a result, foster better and more fulfilling patient experiences.

Health Tech News This Week – April 29, 2023

What happened in healthcare technology this week, and why it’s important.

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How AI and Facial Recognition Could Spot Stroke and Other Diseases

Eric Niiler in The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) reports that researchers are training computer algorithms in efforts to identify ailments and speed treatment quickly. Patients at Johns Hopkins Hospital suspected of having a stroke might get an unusual request from physicians: Can we film your face? The doctors’ goal is to identify stroke patients by facial characteristics instead of waiting for brain scans or blood tests, helping speed both treatment and recovery. The Johns Hopkins team is training a computer algorithm to recognize changes in the patient’s features, such as the paralysis of certain facial muscles or unusual eye movements, that might indicate damage to the brain from a stroke as opposed to seizures, severe migraines, or anxiety disorders.

Meanwhile, other researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are looking at facial recognition to diagnose the progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a degenerative nerve disease that affects the muscles. And a Florida-based startup has developed a tool to help pediatricians diagnose rare genetic conditions by analyzing images of children’s facial features.

Florida-based biotech firm FDNA has developed a software program that aims to use facial recognition to diagnose rare genetic conditions in young children. The Face2Gene platform allows a doctor to upload scans of a patient’s face to a smartphone app and then get a recommendation on whether the image might indicate one of 1,500 conditions or syndromes associated with facial features. The platform has 47,000 users, including geneticists, neurologists, pediatric specialists, and researchers.

In Boston, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and MIT are using facial recognition to identify and track ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, which leads to the deterioration of muscles affecting movement, speech, and eventually breathing. The team is working with EverythingALS, a nonprofit patient group that is part of a foundation set up to speed methods of diagnosis and potential cures for the disease.

Why it’s important – Early research efforts point to a future in which facial scans, perhaps embedded in a smartphone camera or even a bathroom mirror, might monitor our general health while picking up signs of long-term neurological ailments such as dementia. Some researchers believe algorithms might even be used to track how well a treatment or drug works by detecting changes in a person’s face. However, as AI tackles health conditions with multiple causes — such as heart disease, cancer, or dementia — computer scientists who develop the algorithms will have to work closely with doctors to explain how the AI makes the decisions that lead to its diagnosis.

Infographic of the week – Olivier Gevaert and the team at Stanford University identify federated learning as a unique solution to this challenge that also enables the proliferation and active sharing of digital twin technology without revealing patient information. Federated learning is a technique that uses a decentralized approach to training machine learning models. Rather than collecting local data samples onto large servers for constant fine-tuning of machine learning models, federated learning allows devices to train and update models without explicitly exchanging data while keeping the data locally on the device and only sharing the model updates. Here is the paper in The Lancet

Image Credit: The Lancet, Augmenting digital twins with federated learning in medicine

Apple Plans AI-Powered Health Coaching Service, Mood Tracker and iPad Health App

Apple Inc. is working on an artificial intelligence-powered health coaching service and new technology for tracking emotions, its latest attempt to lock in users with health and wellness features. Mark Gurman reports on the plans in his Bloomberg article online. The new coaching service — codenamed Quartz — is designed to keep users motivated to exercise, improve eating habits and help them sleep better, according to people who know the project. The idea is to use AI and data from an Apple Watch to make suggestions and create coaching programs tailored to specific users, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the initiatives haven’t been announced yet.

The tools for tracking emotion and managing vision conditions, such as nearsightedness, will be added to the health app this year. The initial version of the emotion tracker will let users log their mood, answer questions about their day and compare the results over time. But in the future, Apple hopes the iPhone could use algorithms to determine a user’s mood via their speech, what words they’ve typed, and other data on their devices.

Why it’s important – The move is part of a broader health push at the company, which has made such features central to its devices, especially the Apple Watch. Its latest efforts also include expanding the health app to the iPad and features that could help users with poor vision. It will be interesting to see how much airtime these developments receive at the annual WWDC conference on June 5th. Stay tuned.

Podcast of the week – The world lost a powerful voice and advocate for patients’ rights this week. I was deeply saddened by the news of Casey Quinlan H.U.M.A.N.🌟 passing. Casey fiercely advocated for all things #PatientsIncluded, #GimmeMyDamnData, equity, inclusion, and burning down the status quo that harmed patients. Here’s Casey talking with Grace Cordovano, Ph.D., BCPA, on (no surprises) The Value of Our Medical Information:

Image Credit: Casey Quinlan LinkedIn Bio

Two-component system could offer a new way to halt internal bleeding

Anne Trafton in MIT News that MIT engineers have designed a two-component system that can be injected into the body and help form blood clots at the sites of internal injury. These materials, which mimic how the body naturally forms clots, could offer a way to keep people with severe internal injuries alive until they can reach a hospital. Unlike previously developed hemostatic systems, the new MIT technology mimics the actions of both platelets — the cells that initiate blood clotting — and fibrinogen, a protein that helps forms clots.

Why it’s important – Blood loss from traumatic events such as car crashes contributes to more than 2.5 million deaths per year worldwide. This blunt trauma can cause internal bleeding from organs such as the liver, which is difficult to detect and treat. In such cases, it’s critical to stop the bleeding as soon as possible until a patient can be transported to the hospital for further treatment. Finding ways to prevent internal bleeding could significantly impact the armed services, where delayed treatment for internal hemorrhage is one of the largest causes of preventable death.

Amazon pulls the plug on Halo health tracking devices

Amazon announced it would close its Halo division. It is notifying employees in the U.S. and Canada of layoffs and telling Halo users that the device and app will no longer function as of August 1. Jessica Hagen reports on this development in her article in MobiHealthNews. Amazon Halo is a wrist-worn health tracker with an accompanying app that uses health metrics designed to give users a comprehensive look at their health and wellness and to provide actionable recommendations to make improvements. Customers will be provided full refunds on Amazon Halo Band, Amazon Halo View, Amazon Halo Rise, and Amazon Halo accessory band purchases made within the past 12 months. They can also receive refunds for unused Halo subscription fees. The company said health data pertaining to the Halo wearables would also be deleted on August 1.

Why it’s important – This announcement underscores the difficulties that even large tech companies like Amazon have in getting traction in the health wearables space. The company entered the wearable device market in August 2020 with the release of Halo. It has since added new features to its wearable, including Movement Health, and has updated the Halo line, adding the Halo View in 2021 and Halo Rise in 2022.

Top Smart Algorithms In Healthcare

Dr. Bertalan Mesko and his team at The Medical Futurist Institute posted this article online this week. As artificial intelligence tools have been invading more or less every area of healthcare, they made a list to keep track of the top AI algorithms aiming for better diagnostics, more sophisticated patient care, or further sighted predictions of diseases.

Why it’s important – By enumerating the top AI tools they discovered in healthcare so far, they also aim to add what they believe is already useful for the work of medical professionals.

A simple paper test could offer early cancer diagnosis

Another article from Anne Trafton in MIT News. MIT engineers have designed a new nanoparticle sensor that could enable early cancer diagnosis with a simple urine test. The sensors, which can detect many different cancerous proteins, could also be used to distinguish the type of tumor or how it is responding to treatment. The nanoparticles are designed so that when they encounter a tumor, they shed short DNA sequences excreted in the urine. Analyzing these DNA “barcodes” can reveal distinguishing features of a particular patient’s tumor. The researchers designed their test to be performed using a strip of paper, similar to an at-home Covid test, which they hope could make it affordable and accessible to as many patients as possible.

Image Credit: MIT

Why it’s important – This kind of testing could be used not only for detecting cancer but also for measuring how well a patient’s tumor responds to treatment and whether it has recurred after treatment. The researchers are now working on further developing the particles with the goal of testing them in humans.

A research team airs the messy truth about AI in medicine — and gives hospitals a guide to fix it

In public, hospitals rave about artificial intelligence. They trumpet the technology in press releases, plaster its use on billboards, and sprinkle AI into speeches touting its ability to detect diseases earlier and make health care faster, better, and cheaper. But on the front lines, the hype is smashing into a starkly different reality. Casey Ross in Stat reports that a new report aims to drag these tensions into the open through interviews with physicians and data scientists struggling to implement AI tools in healthcare organizations nationwide. Their unvarnished reviews, compiled by researchers at Duke University, reveal a yawning gap between the marketing of AI and the months, sometimes years, of toil it takes to get the technology to work the right way in the real world.

The research team, dubbed the Health AI Partnership, has leveraged the findings to build an online guide to help health systems overcome implementation barriers that most organizations now stumble through alone. It’s a desperately needed service at a time when the adoption of AI for decision-making in medicine is outpacing efforts to oversee its use.

Why it’s important – The challenges uncovered by the project point to a dawning realization about AI’s use in health care: building the algorithm is the easiest part of the work. The real difficulty lies in figuring out how to incorporate the technology into the daily routines of doctors and nurses and the complicated care delivery and technical systems surrounding them. AI must be finely tuned to those environments and evaluated within them so that its benefits and costs can be clearly understood and compared. As it stands, health systems are not set up to do that work — at least not across the board. Many are hiring more data scientists and engineers. But those specialists often work in self-contained units that help build or buy AI models and then struggle behind the scenes to keep them working properly.

These microbes found in tumors promote cancer. What if we just kill them?

Most bacteria in the human body help us thrive, but recent studies show that some infiltrate tumors, helping them grow, spread, and become more difficult for the immune system to destroy. National Geographic’s Sanjay Mishra reports (subscription required) that a study published recently in Nature shows that bacteria in oral and colorectal tumors can directly promote cancer by suppressing the human immune response and helping cancer cells spread more rapidly. An accompanying study published in the journal Cell Reports finds that some anticancer drugs, such as 5-fluorouracil, may be effective because they also kill the bacteria which help the tumor develop.

Why it’s important – Together, these two studies suggest that understanding the relationship between tumors and their resident microbes could be vital for fighting and eliminating certain cancers. So far, Bullman’s study shows that 15 percent of the 1,846 screened bioactive compounds that can kill F. nucleatum and other microbes also have potential as cancer chemotherapy drugs. That suggests that existing drugs can be reevaluated for their efficacy as both anticancer drugs and antimicrobial drugs— specifically targeting tumor-dwelling bacteria.

FDA approves first-ever fecal transplant pill to restore gut bacteria

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced the approval of the first-ever pill for fecal transplants, marking a significant milestone. Mrigakshi Dixit reviews this approval in her article in Interesting Engineering online. Seres Therapeutics, based in Massachusetts, developed the new pill after rigorously testing this version of the stool-based treatment. The FDA approved the prescription of pills based on a study of nearly 180 patients. According to the findings, approximately 88 percent of patients who followed the pill regimen did not experience reinfection after eight weeks. On the other hand, reinfection occurred in roughly 60 percent of those who received dummy pills, the Associated Press reported.

Why it’s important – The pill was created for people at risk of reinfections caused by the bacteria Clostridium difficile (C. diff). This bacteria frequently causes symptoms such as severe nausea, stomach ache, and diarrhea. Developed using healthy bacteria found in human waste, the pill could be an effective tool to fight gut infections. According to experts, this new pill method makes fecal transplants easier and less invasive.

Kaiser Foundation Hospitals’ new nonprofit Risant Health is acquiring Geisinger Health

While not a technology article, it’s one announcement this week that generated a buzz online and in print. The move was announced Wednesday by both the Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Geisinger Health. The definitive agreement will make Geisinger the first health system to join Risant Health. Susan Morse was one of the dozens of writers posting on the announcement in her article in Healthcare Finance online. Geisinger will maintain its name and mission and continue working with other health plans, employed physicians, and independent providers. Risant Health will operate separately and distinctly from Kaiser Permanente’s core integrated care and coverage model while building upon Kaiser Permanente’s 80 years of expertise in value-based care.

Why it’s important – Risant Health is a new nonprofit organization created by Kaiser Foundation Hospitals to expand and accelerate the adoption of value-based care in diverse, multi-payer, multi-provider, community-based health system environments. It is expected to grow by acquiring and connecting a portfolio of like-minded, nonprofit, value-oriented community-based health systems anchored in their respective communities. Health systems that become part of Risant Health will continue to operate as regional or community-based health systems while gaining expertise, resources, and support through Risant Health’s value-based platform, Kaiser said. In the announcement, Kaiser said it hoped to invest $5 billion in Risant over the next five years in addition to its spending on Kaiser’s core operations. The company expects to add five or six health systems to Risant in that time. This will be one to watch for sure.

Health Tech News This Week – April 22, 2023

What happened in health care technology this week, and why it’s important.

Image Credit:

Wearable patch can painlessly deliver drugs through the skin

Anne Trafton from MIT News reports on this development. MIT researchers have developed a wearable patch that applies painless ultrasonic waves to the skin, creating tiny channels that drugs can pass through. Ultrasound exposure has been shown to enhance the skin’s permeability to small-molecule drugs, but most existing techniques for performing this kind of drug delivery require bulky equipment. The MIT team wanted to come up with a way to perform this kind of transdermal drug delivery with a lightweight, wearable patch, which could make it easier to use for a variety of applications.

YouTube Video Credit: MIT Media Lab

Why it’s important – This approach could lend itself to the delivery of treatments for various skin conditions and could also be adapted to deliver hormones, muscle relaxants, and other drugs. With the device’s current version, drugs can penetrate a few millimeters into the skin, making this approach potentially useful for drugs that act locally within the skin. These could include niacinamide or vitamin C, which is used to treat age spots or other dark spots on the skin, or topical drugs used to heal burns. With further modifications to increase the penetration depth, this technique could also be used for drugs that need to reach the bloodstream, such as caffeine, fentanyl, or lidocaine.

Infographic of the week – From Dr. Bertalan Mesko and his team at The Medical Futurist Institute comes this updated infographic showing the increase in the number of FDA-approved AI-based medical devices by medical discipline, type of submission, and final decision date.

Image Credit: Dr. Bertalan Mesko, The Medical Futurist Institute

Your Smartwatch Could Detect Early Parkinson’s Signs

Commercially available smartwatches and phones can capture key features of early, untreated Parkinson’s disease, according to a new study as reported by Mark Michaud-Rochester in Futurity online. In the new WATCH-PD study, researchers at multiple sites across the United States recruited 82 individuals with early, untreated Parkinson’s and 50 age-matched controls and followed them for 12 months. The study volunteers wore research-grade sensors, an Apple Watch, and an iPhone while performing standardized assessments in the clinic. At home, participants wore the smartwatch seven days after each clinic visit and completed motor, speech, and cognitive tasks on the smartphone every other week. The smartphone app tracked finger-taping speed, performance on cognitive tasks, and speech, while the smartwatch was able to measure arm movement, duration of tremors, and gait features. The researchers were able to detect motor and non-motor features that differed between individuals with early Parkinson’s and age-matched controls. The team is performing longitudinal analysis and also conducting a study that will follow participants for a longer period to determine which digital measures are sensitive enough to help researchers evaluate whether an experimental therapy is making a meaningful impact on the progression of the disease.

Why it’s important – These technologies could provide researchers with more objective and continuous ways to measure the disease and bring new treatments to market faster, particularly for patients in the early stages of the disease. These findings reinforce what other studies have shown—digital devices can differentiate between people with and without early Parkinson’s and are more sensitive than traditional rating scales for some measures of Parkinson’s disease.

Podcast of the week – This week’s recommendation is Halle Tecco’s The Heart of Healthcare podcast episode: Why Fertility Care is Utterly Broken. In it, she shares a full version of an article she published in Fortune. Halle contends that the entire fertility care system is broken. In the “Iron Triangle” of healthcare (access, cost, and quality), fertility care fails at each point. It’s not accessible, it costs too much, and the treatment outcomes are dismal. You can listen to the podcast here.

Image Credit: The Heart of Healthcare podcast

Noah Medical Rakes In $150M for Its Robotic Lung Biopsy Platform

Medical robotics startup Noah Medical recently closed a $150 million Series B funding round. The company’s robotic platform, called the Galaxy System, was designed to help physicians find, biopsy, and diagnose lung cancer lesions more easily and confidently. Katie Adams highlighted the developments in her article in MedCity News. The cost and complexity of current systems for lung bronchoscopy and advanced imaging technologies mean that few clinics and hospitals can deploy these together. Noah’s robotic platform, called the Galaxy System, was designed to address these problems. The system was created so physicians could find, biopsy, and confidently diagnose lesions.

The Galaxy System offers real-time navigation technology to help physicians find lesions more easily. It also provides intraprocedural imaging to correct CT-to-body divergence and gives physicians confirmation that their tool is in the patient’s lesion. The system includes a single-use, disposable bronchoscope that was designed to reduce the risk of cross-contamination and patient infection while also improving procedural workflow.

Why it’s important – Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. About two-thirds of cancerous lesions are in the outer portion of the lungs, making them difficult to navigate and biopsy. Today, most physicians rely on CT scans taken before a procedure as their primary source of information on lesion location. However, there can be a significant divergence between the images on a scan and the location of lesions in the body during the actual procedure. In the Noah system, the bronchoscope is always on camera, which enables direct visualization for the entire procedure, including at the time of biopsy.

The signs of heart disease your phone can spot

This past week, Martin Cooper, the man who led the team that developed the first ever mobile phone – a beige-colored brick of a device with buttons and no screen – predicted said he believes that cell phones will become a vital tool for monitoring our health. That promise is already being realized. Tom Ough reports in the BBC that in March 2022, scientists at the University of Washington used an iPhone to detect clotting in a single drop of blood. They used the device’s Lidar (light detecting and ranging) sensor, which uses pulsed beams to build 3D images of the phone’s surroundings. Other researchers have been developing techniques that use the camera in your phone to measure different aspects of heart health, such as blood pressure. Engineers at the University of Southern California have developed a prototype handheld ultrasound scanner that can link to a smartphone to produce echocardiograms that can monitor how blood flows through the heart.

Image Credit: Justin Chan/University of Washington

Why it’s important – The device could be a “cheap, simple, and effective” way of identifying patients who need further investigation. There are also hopes that smartphones could even provide a cheaper and more portable way of diagnosing harder-to-spot heart conditions. Although many of these technologies are still in the research and trial stages of development, there are some ways of checking your health with your phone. Elizabeth Woyke, author of The Smartphone: Anatomy of an Industry, points to an American start-up called Riva that tracks blood pressure using a phone’s camera and its camera flash. “You put your fingers on the smartphone camera, and then it measures the wave shapes in your blood vessels to track your blood pressure. It’s kind of amazing,” she says.

Roundup of the Best Coverage of the 2023 HIMSS Conference

HIMSS23 shows that the health IT community has returned with a passion for learning what’s just around the corner and a practical mindset for maximizing investments in infrastructure to improve care and reduce costs. Here are some of the articles I found that did an excellent job of covering the news from this important conference.