Health Tech News This Week – March 12, 2022

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

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Brightline’s behavioral telehealth platform is giving kids—and their caregivers—peace of mind

Ruth Reader reports on Brightline in Fast Company’s issue on the most innovative companies of 2022. Even before the pandemic began, children in the United States were in distress. In 2018, suicide was a leading cause of death for children 10 to 24. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that 22% of kids have mental, emotional, or behavioral health issues. Only a fifth of those gets care from an appropriate provider. In 2021, Brightline expanded beyond traditional therapy to include behavioral coaching, offering a more affordable option. It also went from a cash-pay product in California to an insurer-covered service in 44 states.

Why it’s important – Brightline’s nationally available pediatric behavioral health coaching sessions are an excellent first step for families who are new to mental health care. In these 30-minute video sessions, behavioral health coaches let kids talk about stressful days, help them get on track with school, and boost their confidence.

Infographic of the week – Nine of the top 20 fastest growing jobs are in healthcare or related fields, as the baby boomer population ages.

Image Credit: Visual Capitalist – Source data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Health care statistics of the week – Data released from CDC on US maternal mortality rates in 2020.

Image Credit: CDC

“To put it bluntly, these numbers in general are only possible in a society that doesn’t care for mothers and babies and more specifically for Black mothers and babies.”

Vikas Chowdhry, Chief Analytics and Information Officer, Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation (PCCI)

Hospital-at-home program helps Island Health boost patient satisfaction

Healthcare IT News’ Bill Siwicki reported on this effort at Island Health, which will be featured in a session at HIMSS 2022 next week. Island Health is the publicly funded healthcare provider in the southwestern portion of the Canadian province of British Columbia. Island Health’s hospital-at-home program was created to determine whether treating acute-care patients in their own homes is as effective as an in-hospital treatment. The program was launched to enable patients to receive safe, effective care virtually and in person from providers experienced in hospital medicine and acute care.

Why it’s important – The benefits of hospital-at-home programs can include a more patient-centered approach to hospital care, lower rates of hospital-based complications, such as infection, and reduced pressures on hospital beds and emergency departments. And, feedback from Island Health’s patients has been positive. In formally gathering feedback from Island Health’s hospital-at-home patients, 98% of patients interviewed have said that if they had the opportunity to enroll in the hospital-at-home program again, they would.

Digital wound care tech company Swift Medical rolls out new imaging device

Digital wound care startup Swift Medical is building out its imaging capabilities to enable more advanced care in patients’ homes. As reported by Heather Landi in Fierce Healthcare, the company unveiled a new hardware device that wirelessly attaches to a smartphone camera and captures beneath-the-skin clinical data. The device, called Swift Ray 1, fits into the palm of a clinician or patient’s hand and allows them to capture powerful medical images from anywhere, according to the company.

Why it’s important – Patients with wounds frequently suffer from other, more eminent conditions such as diabetes or hypertension, which conceal the severe impact of wounds. In the U.S., more than 30% of all healthcare beds are occupied by patients with wounds, costing Medicare alone nearly $100 billion annually. Patients with wounds often experience chronic pain, loss of mobility, social isolation, depression, frequent hospitalization, amputation, and even death. The new device captures and analyzes critical physiological characteristics of wounds that can indicate causes for concern or improper healing, such as signs of infection, bacterial colonization, tissue compromise, perfusion, inflammation, or blood oxygen levels. The new device illuminates these invisible, beneath-the-skin characteristics through long-wave infrared, near-infrared, ultraviolet, and enhanced RGB imaging technology.

Researchers harness AI and Robotics to treat spinal cord injuries

Rutgers University researchers reported on their work employing artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics to formulate therapeutic proteins, which has successfully stabilized an enzyme able to degrade scar tissue resulting from spinal cord injuries and promote tissue regeneration.

“This study represents one of the first times artificial intelligence and robotics have been used to formulate highly sensitive therapeutic proteins and extend their activity by such a large amount. It’s a major scientific achievement.”

Adam Gormley, Assistant Professor of biomedical engineering at Rutgers School of Engineering (SOE) at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

Why it’s important – Spinal cord injuries, or SCIs, can negatively impact the physical, psychological, and socio-economic well-being of patients and their families. Soon after an SCI, a secondary cascade of inflammation produces dense scar tissue that can inhibit or prevent nervous tissue regeneration. The enzyme successfully stabilized in the study, ChABC, is known to degrade scar tissue molecules and promote tissue regeneration.

How remote patient monitoring is moving into the mainstream

The COVID-19 pandemic most certainly has driven telehealth into the mainstream of healthcare. And one area of telehealth that has seen tremendous gains in the past two years is remote patient monitoring. Bill Siwicki in Healthcare IT News summarizes an interview he conducted recently with Dr. Waqaas Al-Siddiq, chairman, CEO, and founder of Biotricity, a medical diagnostic and healthcare technology company that offers both physician- and consumer-facing RPM devices. He explained how RPM could help manage chronic conditions and ease the burden on hospitals, described the future of wearables, and shared some lessons learned during the pandemic.

Why it’s important – I’ve written extensively on the benefits of RPM for patients. Being able to see what’s happening while they’re at home, away from the clinic, prevents this. Real-time remote patient monitoring is what made a difference here. With real-time monitoring, you’re able to watch blood glucose levels, heart rhythm changes, and vital signs live. If you’re alerted to a problem, you’re able to decide the appropriate course of action before the patient rushes into the emergency room or reaches a point where this is needed. You’re better able to manage treatment and adherence.

Google’s Care Studio announces Conditions, an AI-backed tool

As reported by Laura Lovett in MobiHealthNews, Google is continuing its work in the EHR space, with a new AI-backed tool called Conditions, aimed at giving doctors a holistic view of a patient. The new feature will be part of Google’s clinician-facing search tool that helps organize patients’ medical records, Care Studio; its VP Paul Muret announced at ViVE this week. Muret explained that Care Studio’s original feature is helpful for clinicians when they know what they are looking for in a medical record. Conditions, meanwhile, can help get the most essential information into a clinician’s hands before they search.

Why it’s important – Despite spending millions of dollars in HITECH funding, EHR usability has been a significant challenge in healthcare for more than a decade. A 2019 study out of the Mayo Clinic linked the lack of EHR usability to burnout. Google is pitching this new technology as a way to surface helpful information more readily.

Owlet launches new sleep wearable for kids up to 5 years old

Another Laura Lovett piece features baby wearable company Owlet, which expands its scope to young children with the launch of Owlet Dream Sock Plus, which is intended for children up to 5 years of age. Previously its smart socks only covered children up 1o 18 months. The technology, designed to give insights about a child’s sleep, can be around a child’s foot. The wearable can send data via Bluetooth to a caregiver’s Owlet Dream app about a child’s wakings, heart rate, and movement. Caregivers can tap into the app to see sleep status and statistics over time.

Why it’s important – According to the CDC, sleep is vital to prevent Type 2 diabetes, obesity, poor mental health, attention problems, and injuries. The agency recommends that toddlers get between 11 and 14 hours of sleep a day, and preschoolers get 10-13 hours. Here’s the problem: the system costs $359, which comes with the sock sensor, a base station, and three sizes of fabric socks. That is a pretty costly investment for many new parents, limiting adoption. Also, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the Utah-based startup. In November, the company pulled its connected-sock wearables from the market following an October FDA warning letter that the company was out of regulatory compliance. Following this announcement, investors filed a class-action lawsuit against the company, alleging that it failed to disclose the socks needed FDA clearance before hitting the market. As always, Caveat Emptor.

Optical Probe Measures Dental Plaque Acidity

A team at the University of Washington has developed an optical probe that can detect the acidity of dental plaque. Medgadget’s Conn Hastings reports on the new technology, which the researchers have called the O-pH system, and relies on fluorescence to measure local acidity levels in and around the teeth. The current iteration of the device is a prototype, and the researchers are still figuring out how it can be most helpful to patients and dentists alike.

Image Credit: University of Washington

Why it’s important – The acidity created by bacteria within plaque causes cavities, and knowing which areas of the teeth are particularly acidic could help dentists to predict where cavities are likely to arise. The knowledge could help someone change their oral hygiene practices, such as brushing more in high-risk areas. And the new device provides a quantitative measurement of overall oral health, which may give dentists and other clinicians an easy way to diagnose and track certain conditions.

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