Health Tech News This Week – February 5, 2022

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

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FDA Clears World’s First Credit-Card-Sized Personal ECG

In a press release this week, AliveCor announced the launch of KardiaMobile Card, the slimmest, most convenient personal ECG device ever created. At the size of a standard credit card, KardiaMobile Card fits easily into any wallet and delivers a medical-grade, single-lead ECG in 30 seconds. KardiaMobile Card pairs with a smartphone using Bluetooth technology to detect six of the most common arrhythmias, more than any other personal ECG on the market. KardiaMobile Card users also have access to cardiologist analyses of ECGs, monthly heart health reports, and automatic sharing of ECG recordings. The device’s algorithm is based on AliveCor’s AI-enabled Kardia technology, which more than 170 peer-reviewed studies have evaluated. Designed to resist weather, water, and wear and tear, KardiaMobile Card is AliveCor’s most portable and durable ECG available, allowing users to take an ECG recording anytime, anywhere.

Video Credit: AliveCor, Inc.

Why it’s important – KardiaMobile Card comes at a critical moment when both heart arrhythmias and hypertension, a risk factor for atrial fibrillation and other arrhythmias, are becoming more common. These cardiac conditions have massive economic impacts. Hypertension costs the U.S. healthcare system an estimated $316 billion annually. The addition of the KardiaMobile Card is an excellent addition to the AliveCor family of devices and reinforces the importance of putting real-time data within reach of patients.

Infographics of the weekWonderman Thompson Health released a new report – Healthcare 2022: Trends, Predictions, Challenges & Opportunities. This is one graphic from that report, focusing on mental health. And MIT Technology Review reports some survey results from McKinsey that show “the great resignation” isn’t over yet.

Image Credit: Wunderman Thompson Health report
Image Credit: MIT Technology Review, McKinsey Survey

Illumina’s embrace of long-read technology signals a shift in the DNA-sequencing market

STAT’S Jonathan Wosen reported on an announcement made by Illumina at the annual JP Morgan Health Care Conference that it plans to roll out new technology in the latter half of 2022, dubbed Infinity, which will read DNA in far larger chunks than the firm has ever tackled before. The news was striking because the new technology isn’t so new. Known as long-read sequencing, it has been around for years but was seen as a niche market. Illumina became the world’s leading sequencing company by using short-read machines that made sequencing DNA fast and cheap, and ubiquitous.

Why it’s important – Illumina’s competitors scoffed at the company’s prospects of rivaling existing players, while others think Infinity could help Illumina hold onto its massive customer base. All agreed that the sequencing market is slowly shifting to longer reads. Current long-read firms told STAT they don’t expect the rollout of Infinity to make a significant dent in their customer base.

Trial of wearable health technology for cancer patients opens

The University of Manchester announced_ the opening of a new clinical trial to test cutting-edge wearable technologies involving patients who have received cancer treatment. Called EMBRaCE (Enhanced Monitoring for Better Recovery and Cancer Experience), the trial is a collaboration between Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, and The University of Manchester. The trial opens initially for blood cancer, lung, and colorectal cancer patients and will run across Greater Manchester.

“This trial will assess if the latest wearable technology has a role in cancer care. It will help us to identify ways that clinical staff can individualise treatment before, during, and after therapy. We will find out if 24/7 data from these wearable sensors can be used to support patient recovery and provide accurate measurement outside clinic. It could even support the development of new cancer treatments by developing a digital platform for clinical trials in cancer involving wearable devices or fitness trackers.”

Dr Michael Merchant, Senior Lecturer in Proton Therapy Physics, at The University of Manchester

Why it’s important – The technologies can assess a range of vital signs, including electrocardiogram (ECG), heart rate, temperature, physical activity levels, and sleep. The technologies under investigation include a smart ring worn on any finger made by the company Oura, the Withings ScanWatch, a hybrid smartwatch, and the Isansys system, which is worn on the chest.

AI-powered stethoscope from Eko spots heart failure in seconds

A study published in The Lancet Digital Health has shown that a ‘smart’ stethoscope developed by US digital health company Eko can be used to screen people for heart failure in a few seconds during a standard physical examination. The device tested in the independent study combines a stethoscope used to listen to heart sounds with a single-lead electrocardiogram (ECG). It uses an algorithm to detect low left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) – the reduced outflow of blood from the heart to the aorta – which is a common characteristic of heart failure.

Image Credit: Eko Health

Why it’s important – If LVEF is 40% or less, a patient is considered to have heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF), sometimes known as systolic heart failure, which is generally diagnosed in hospital. HFrEF accounts for around half of all heart failure patients. Around 80% of patients are diagnosed after an emergency hospital admission, even though 40% of patients have symptoms that should be detectable in primary care and allow earlier treatment. The intelligent device was 80% to 90% likely to correctly identify patients with an LVEF of 40% or less, depending on the location used to take the measurement, with an 80% likelihood of accurately spotting patients who did not meet that threshold.

Scipher Medicine’s blood test shows the benefits of precision medicine in rheumatoid arthritis

Arundharti Parmar from MedCity News reports on the results of a study that examined treatment and outcomes for 212 rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients whose healthcare providers used its PrismRA blood test. Specifically, the blood test was used to predict non-response to the world’s largest drug class — tumor necrosis factor inhibitor (TNFi). The Study to Accelerate Information of Molecular Signatures (AIMS) found RA patients whose PrismRA blood test indicated that they would not respond to TNFi therapy but received it anyway did not respond 90% of the time. Meanwhile, patients whose treatment was guided by PrismRA had three times better clinical responses than patients who didn’t.

Why it’s important – This clinical study clarifies that a blood test capable of predicting patient responses to a commonly prescribed class of rheumatoid arthritis therapies could fundamentally shift the treatment paradigm. If this test becomes a regular part of the care regimen, it could significantly improve more than just patient outcomes. That’s because there is a financial burden of failed treatments, especially if the company’s claim that two-thirds of patients taking TNFi therapies do not respond clinically is accurate. A retrospective study of RA patients found that “patients who respond to their targeted therapy incur on average $6,091 less per year in total medical costs (not including the cost of targeted therapy) than non-responders.”

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