What happened in health care technology this week, and why it’s important.
Liverpool Hospital trials smart gloves to train surgeons
Hospital and Healthcare.com.au posted an article on the development of smart gloves to provide surgical trainees with instant and accurate feedback. The surgical gloves, invented by engineers at Western Sydney University, have been built around low-cost sensors which can record hand movements in fine detail, giving trainee surgeons and their mentors actionable data to evaluate and improve on intricate surgical procedures.
Why it’s important – While surgical techniques have advanced significantly in the last century, training still fundamentally relies on observation — mentors looking over the shoulder of trainees to give personal feedback. Technology like simulators is hugely expensive, so students have limited access. The gloves developed by this team collect motion data and relay it to a smartphone or computer, where each tiny movement is recorded and visualized. The gloves are not a replacement for trainers but augment their ability to give advice. The next steps include developing a mobile app so students might take the gloves home for practice. Lower cost should mean higher utilization and broader use of the technology.
Infographic of the week – From Dr. Bertalan Mesko and The Medical Futurist Institute, an infographic about the role of #3Dprinting in the future of medicine and healthcare. Everything possible to 3D print today.
3D-printed tablets offer taste of personalized seven-second medicine
One of the many promising uses for 3D printing is the creation of personalized medicines, in which dosages and drug combinations can be tailored to an individual’s needs. A new advance in this area has demonstrated how these types of drugs could be produced onsite and on-demand, with a printing technique that makes tablets in seconds. Nick Lavars of New Atlas reports on the work of scientists at University College London (UCL), who were looking to build on a 3D printing technique known as vat photopolymerization. In medicine production, this method involves a resin containing dissolved drugs and a photoreactive chemical, which can be solidified by light during printing to form a tablet.
Why it’s important – Another example of how 3D-printed medicines are evolving at a rapid pace and reaching the clinic. The development of faster 3D printers that can produce pills within seconds can drive a more on-demand approach to delivery. If this can be done in a cost-efficient manner, it could drive adoption.
A Voice-Activated Video Communication System for Nurses to Communicate With Inpatients With COVID-19
Published in the JMIR online, this paper presents a pilot project conducted at Mass General Brigham Health System. They deployed a video intercom communication system (VICS) developed in-house that allowed clinical staff to connect over video to a securely configured tablet inside a patient room. This telehealth solution was implemented to reduce PPE usage and maintain a human connection at the bedside. They used a modified 2-way video communication device (Amazon Echo Show 8) configured to allow drop-in video calls to the patient room.
Why it’s important – This pilot demonstrates the feasibility of deploying a consumer-grade voice assistant device in COVID-19 patient rooms. Although there are a variety of technologies that can be used to deliver similar 2-way video communication, they found the Echo Show device engaging; it differentiates itself due to the voice technologies and Alexa functionalities for both clinician and patient entertainment. To enable future deployments at scale, security and privacy enhancements to the Echo Show and data analytics will need to be further explored.
AI uses voice biomarkers to predict coronary artery disease
Mayo Clinic researchers use artificial intelligence (AI) to discover and test what the voice can reveal about a patient’s heart health. In a recent study, the research team used an AI trained for specific vocal biomarkers to accurately predict which patients were more likely to have clogged arteries that led to further heart problems. Compared to those with low vocal biomarker scores, patients with a high vocal biomarker score at baseline were more likely to have severe chest pain or coronary issues that sent them to the hospital or emergency department.
Why it’s important – This work builds on earlier studies that looked for signals in the voice of patients with coronary artery disease and then identified the most significant vocal biomarker components. Although still in the research stages, AI voice analysis technology could be a low-cost, noninvasive digital health tool to monitor a patient’s risk of coronary artery blockage over time from just about anywhere.
Home-Based Remote Patient Monitoring Yields Highly Accurate BP Readings
A new study shows that home-based blood pressure measurement is highly reliable, with a mean difference of -0.1 mmHg compared with ambulatory monitoring. Mark Melchionna reported on this research in an article on mHealth Intelligence. The study included 510 participants between 18 and 85 years old from 12 Washington State-based primary care centers. These participants were divided equally into one of three groups: clinic, home, or kiosk-based methods of BP measurement. The clinic group had their BP measured during follow-up care, while the home group had their BP measured twice a day for five days, and the kiosk group three times a day for three days. All participants also completed 24-hour ambulatory monitoring (ABPM) at three-week follow-ups.
Why it’s important – These results indicate that home BP monitoring has substantial credibility compared to a clinic- and kiosk-based settings. But to further enhance BP measurements, addressing the detection of excessive or weak hypertension is necessary, according to the researchers. But there are various limitations to the study that could have affected the data. Obtaining participants from a single healthcare organization could have produced skewed results since they were all receiving the same type of care. Lack of variation in the race and ethnicity of participants could have also affected the data.
Smartphone App Calculates Genetic Risk of Coronary Artery Disease
Conn Hastings in Medgadget reports that researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in California have developed a smartphone app that can calculate a user’s genetic risk of coronary artery disease. The app can import genetic information from a commonly used genetic testing service, 23andMe, and provide a personalized risk assessment of coronary artery disease. So far, the Scripps team investigated 721 people who used the app to calculate their genetic risk of coronary artery disease. Then they followed up with them a year later to see if the results had changed their approach to treatment.
Why it’s important – The researchers behind this latest technology have exploited the increasingly common phenomenon whereby people use online genetic testing services to trace their ancestry or identify health risks. Fortunately, genetic testing is becoming more common. This should help to alert such people to their risk and the need to take pre-emptive action in lifestyle changes and pharmacological intervention.
How AI Is Using Facial Detection To Spot Rare Diseases In Children
An excellent article by Forbes Contributor Ganes Kesari. Technology is stepping up to solve the twin challenges of making a correct diagnosis and offering high-quality care. Kesari tells the story of Andrew’s parents, who consulted Dr. Karen Gripp, Professor of Pediatrics at Nemours Children’s Hospital, and she decided to investigate. In addition to conventional procedures, she ran a quick diagnosis on Face2Gene, a computer vision-powered app that looks for indications of rare diseases. The facial picture uploaded to the app showed a strong match for Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome (SLO), a rare condition that affects about 1 in 40,000 children.
Why it’s important – Two factors make rare genetic diseases deadlier—poor awareness and a scarcity of targeted treatments. One in 12 babies is born with a rare disease. Despite over 300 million rare disease patients worldwide, there is low awareness about these conditions. With over 10,000 rare diseases affecting children, the patient count is spread thin with an extremely long tail. To complicate matters, access to geneticists isn’t easy. An appointment could take months. These results, and others like it, demonstrate that the ease of discovering rare diseases through a click-and-upload app coupled with a strong distribution strategy can make the detection of rare diseases simpler and more efficient. This could help incentivize drug discovery for the next 10% of rare diseases that have no cure today.
New Gait MyoElectric Stimulator Designed to Improve Walking Ability
Innovation Lab, Innovation Institute’s national health care incubator; and MultiCare Health System, a Washington state not-for-profit health care organization; announced the development of the Gait MyoElectric Stimulator (GMES), a unique functional electrical stimulation device that uses dual stimulator technology to help improve walking ability in patients with neuromuscular conditions such as stroke, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis. Applied to the lower leg of patients with these conditions, GMES is an intuitive, wearable device for patients with hemiplegia or hemiparesis (paralysis or weakness on one side of the body), the most common physical consequence of stroke. GMES provides stimulation from multiple channels to opposing muscles, with that dual stimulation designed to improve post-stroke gait.
Why it’s important – Current functional electric stimulation (FES) devices seek to treat only one symptom of hemiplegia: foot drop (an inability to raise the front of the foot). Simply lifting the foot does not smooth a patient’s halted gait, so a significant limp persists. GMES is different: It mimics normal walking function with dual stimulation — dorsiflexion and plantar flexion — plus motion sensors designed for gait and stability improvement. GMES shows the potential to help patients relearn how to walk independently without long-term dependence on the device.
Holograms Are Giving Events the ‘Beam Me Up’ Experience
No longer the preserve of sci-fi movies, hologram technology is becoming a real communications option. Michelle Russell detailed the experience of sitting in the audience at Caesars Forum in January when PCMA Convening Leaders 2022 emcee Holly Ransom spoke from the stage to closing keynote speaker Indra Nooyi, former chairman and CEO of PepsiCo. Nooyi appeared life-sized next to Ransom on the screen as a hologram — the two were seated in similar director-style chairs and spoke to each other in real-time.
Why it’s important – Body language makes up more than half of communication today. Proponents of holograms believe we’re robbing audiences of that when using a webcam in a Zoom call or remote speakers at hybrid conferences. “Holographic presence is about emotions. If I can create the illusion that three people participating in the discussion are there — because we are talking about an illusion — it would mean the world,” according to Andrew Dorcas, ARHT’s senior vice president, sales and marketing.