Health Tech News This Week – December 4, 2021

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

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British man given 3D printed eye in world first, hospital says

Sara Spray from CNN reports that a British man has become the first patient in the world to be fitted with a 3D printed eye, according to Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. Moorfields Eye Hospital said in a press release Thursday that the prosthetic is the first fully digital prosthetic eye created for a patient. As well as appearing more realistic, the procedure is considered less invasive. Fitting traditional prosthetics requires a mold to be taken of the eye socket, whereas in 3D prosthetic eye development, the socket is scanned digitally to create a detailed image. The 3D image was then sent to Germany to be printed before being shipped back to the UK, where it was finished and polished by a Moorfields Eye Hospital ocularist.

Why it’s important – 3D printing has the potential to “cut in half” the time it takes to develop a prosthetic eye, from six weeks to around two or three. And, if the ongoing clinical trial proves the technique’s efficacy, 3D printing will add another use case to the growing list of medical applications already available.


“WORLD’S FIRST” 3D PRINTED IMMUNIZED SKIN MODEL ENABLES COLD PLASMA WOUND HEALING TREATMENT FOR BURNS

In other 3D printing news, Hayley Everett reported new research done by regenerative medicine firm CTI BIOTECH, the French Armed Forces Biomedical Research Institute, École Polytechnique, and Institut Pasteur to develop cold plasma technology for the treatment of infected burns and the wound healing of skin grafts. Cold plasma is a non-invasive, non-thermal, and painless technology that works by energizing a gas with an electric current to cause the formation of nitrogen and reactive oxygen with pro-healing, reparative, and bactericidal properties. These properties are particularly effective in improving the management of infected burns while also facilitating tissue repair.

Why it’s important – According to the World Health Organization, nearly 30,000 people suffer burns that require medical attention every day, totaling up to 11 million patients per year across the globe. The fourth most common cause of injury worldwide, burns, are considered a significant public health issue. Using the company’s 3D bioprinted CTISkin model, the NOVOPLASM consortium implemented clinical strategies for skin healing and management of burn patients. Research work carried out during the program has also shown the cold plasma technology promotes the formation of new blood vessels and mobilizes the immune cells present in the skin wound.


Innovative silicon nanochip can reprogram biological tissue in living body

A silicon device that can change skin tissue into blood vessels and nerve cells has advanced from prototype to standardized fabrication, meaning it can now be made in a consistent, reproducible way. As reported in Nature Protocols, this work, developed by researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine, takes the device one step closer to potential use as a treatment for people with various health concerns.

The technology, tissue nano transfection, is a non-invasive nanochip device that can reprogram tissue function by applying a harmless electric spark to deliver specific genes in a fraction of a second. In laboratory studies, the device successfully converted skin tissue into blood vessels to repair a badly injured leg. The technology is currently being used to reprogram tissue for different kinds of therapies, such as repairing brain damage caused by stroke or preventing and reversing nerve damage caused by diabetes.

Why it’s important – The researchers hope to seek FDA approval for the chip within a year. Once it receives FDA approval, the device could be used for clinical research in people, including patients in hospitals, health centers, and emergency rooms, as well as in other emergencies by first responders or the military. While still in the very early stage of development, this could be a serious step towards bringing nanotechnology to the everyday practice of medicine. And it’s not even an invasive method.


Digital health inclusion can provide healthcare for all – this is how

The World Economic Forum developed a series of principles that could guide equity and inclusion in digitalized healthcare. The pandemic made clear that broadband access is now a ‘social determinant of health.’ Without meaningful access to broadband, individuals are excluded from the advances of connected care. For many, this means a lack of access to clinical care itself. The Shared Guiding Principles for Digital Health Inclusion are intended as a series of questions that partners can ask themselves to design digital health products and services. They are based on the belief that the heart of ethics is to ask the tough questions first, at an early stage in product or partnership development.

WEF leveraged work at Apollo Hospitals in India and Jefferson Health in the U.S. in formulating these principles. In India, Apollo Hospitals has launched a unique personalized, proactive health management program specially designed to help predict risk, prevent premature health events, and overcome chronic lifestyle diseases. The 3-year healthcare management program has been created based on 22 million health checks, building on Apollo’s pioneering efforts in preventive care for over 37 years. This plan is primary care-based and able to mitigate emergency care and provide assistance for those who are immobile. In Philadelphia, Jefferson Health has launched its Centre for Connected Care to be a leader in research studies around the barriers to connected care. The center will host the first US ‘consensus conference’ for research in telehealth in 2022. Already, the center has found that while language and income are barriers against the adoption of digital health services, the most significant barrier remains trust.

Why it’s important – Connected care offers tremendous opportunities to the communities we serve. It can bring assistance to the unserved and underserved. It can help individuals age successfully at home. It can develop models of prevention based on monitoring of pre-disease markers. Most importantly, shifting the locus of healthcare to the home democratizes healthcare. It forces the healthcare system to account for family dynamics and social resources. And it gives people the opportunity to thrive and be happy without healthcare delivery getting in the way.


How Essen Health Care used an AI virtual care assistant to make thousands of patient calls in just days

Bill Siwicki reports on the New York State Health Home program in his article in Healthcare IT News. The New York State Health Home program is designed for the neediest Medicaid patients. It aims to reduce healthcare costs by decreasing inpatient costs (and utilization) by addressing social determinants such as housing, transportation, and food. MyndYou is a vendor of an AI-powered virtual-care assistant called MyEleanor. According to Sahgal, the company offered an effective automated solution to let Essen Health Care respond to patients in need much more efficiently.

MyEleanor contacts Essen Health Care patients by phone and listens not only to what they say but also to how they say it. AI, natural language processing, and proprietary algorithms work together.

“Patients open up to Eleanor, often telling her things they won’t even tell their doctor – but she can also detect worsening medical conditions from what they’re not saying, too, including falls risk, behavioral health issues and more.”

Sumir Sahgal, M.D., lead physician and founder at Essen Health Care

Why it’s important – This case demonstrates the power of using chatbots in care delivery, especially in underserved areas. After the one-week setup, the campaign started with 4,000 patients, and the early contact rate was 35%. Patients’ responses included giving MyEleanor up-to-date connect information, outreach preferences, additional phone numbers, and self-reported information about their specific needs. In addition, 130 out of the 500 patients identified as high-risk signed up for the ongoing call with Eleanor.


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