Health Tech News This Week – December 31, 2021

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

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At-home wireless monitoring of acute hemodynamic disturbances to detect sleep apnea and sleep stages via a soft sternal patch

An article in Science Advances describes research from Georgia Tech on a fully integrated, wearable patch for at-home use capable of wirelessly monitoring the mechanical, electrical, and optical signals that arise from acute hemodynamic disturbances during sleep apnea and changes in the sleep stage. The soft sternal patch is the first device to demonstrate simultaneous recording of ECG, PPG, and SCG from a single location, enabling accurate derivation of the vital SCOPER metrics recommended by the AASM to diagnose OSA. In addition, this device provides crucial insights into how the cardiovascular system responds to apneas with a second-by-second resolution, which is not possible with even the most expensive and sophisticated echocardiograms or alternative cardiovascular mapping systems.

Image Credit: Georgia Tech

Why it’s important – The combined assessment of ECG and SCG allows for a thorough evaluation of the electrical and mechanical function of the cardiovascular system during OSA. Trial results report apnea and hypopnea detection with 95% precision and 100% sensitivity compared to data professionally scored by licensed clinicians. In addition to accurately detecting apneas, this device provides clinicians with critical insights into how each apnea affects the patient’s cardiac mechanics, blood oxygenation, and sleep quality. One limitation to the study was the small sample size. So, more extensive studies will be required to determine whether these results hold across a larger cohort of test subjects.

Infographic of the week – COVID-19 Risk Level by State as of December 27th

Image Credit: Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University

New Wearable Detects Respiratory Exacerbations: Interview with Dr. Maria Artunduaga, CEO of Respira Labs

Conn Hastings of Medgadget interviews the CEO of Respira Labs in this online article. Respira Labs, a MedTech company, based in California, created the Sylvee sensor, an adhesive patch that the user wears on their lower rib cage and monitors respiratory health. The device works through acoustic resonance, whereby it emits sound into the chest cavity and analyzes the echoed vibrations. The measured data provide information on lung air volume and correlate with the amount of air trapped in the lungs, which can offer a warning sign that a respiratory exacerbation is possible.

Why it’s important – COPD (or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) is the third leading cause of U.S. deaths, affecting 30 million Americans today and killing more than 150,000 people a year in the U.S., with a cost of $49 billion annually. Asthma affects 26 million Americans at an annual cost of more than $80 billion per year. With many COVID-19 patients experiencing impaired breathing for sustained periods after their initial infection has subsided, this type of technology could be very useful in monitoring respiratory health. Up to 43% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients report persistent dyspnea (breathlessness) up to six months after discharge, and a substantial proportion of them continue to suffer from respiratory symptoms for much longer. Today, up to 30% of COVID-19 survivors report long-term respiratory symptoms — about 11.5 million people to date in the U.S. It’s clear from these statistics that left unchecked or untreated, respiratory symptoms can lead to permanent lung damage and progressive deterioration of lung function.

Three missing pieces the digital therapeutics sector needs to succeed in 2022

The digital therapeutics space saw notable advances in both regulation and funding rounds in 2021, as hundreds of millions in new funding poured into the sector. Mario Aguilar reports in STAT (subscription required) that to get widespread adoption, digital therapeutics will need to continue to prove they work and that they can save money, secure more reliable reimbursement from health plans, and streamline patient experiences.

Why it’s important – Evidence continues to be a sticking point for digital therapeutics. Unsurprisingly, clinical trials conducted by companies in controlled settings don’t sway all observers. Real-world data acquisition and analysis will help solve that problem. In 2022, we’ll be watching for more data. Digital products for managing chronic conditions — diabetes, hypertension, musculoskeletal problems, and behavioral health — have made significant progress already. I wrote about digital formularies in a previous post. But pharmacy benefits managers and health plans are not equipped to evaluate and adopt these products, though a few limited pilots are cropping up around the country. Finally, even if digital therapeutics companies can secure good data and reliable reimbursement, they face another major challenge: getting products out into the world so that patients use them — and do so correctly. The path to accessing products must be simple, and doctors need to be able to monitor their patients’ progress without creating loads of additional work.

A Happy and Healthy New Year to All!

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