Health Tech News This Week – April 23, 2022

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

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Mayo Clinic to launch staffing tool app to find ‘right nurse for the right role’

Mike Millard reports in Healthcare IT News that Mayo is working with KLOC HEALTH to develop the mobile, on-demand scheduling tool to help it predict staffing options more accurately and flexibly. Mayo Clinic has entered a know-how agreement with the startup to co-create an on-demand tool that can help match nurses for immediate, short- and long-term assignments based on variable data such as availability, location, certifications, skill sets, and interests. The goal is to enable real-time communication with nursing staff to help find “the right individual, for the right position, at the right location and at the right time,” according to KLOC HEALTH.

Why it’s important – Innovations like these are coming just in time, as beleaguered nurses are worn down and struggling after more than two years of pandemic stress. One recent survey found that as many as 90% of nurses are considering leaving the healthcare profession due to job dissatisfaction and burnout. Mayo Clinic nurses will be empowered to build their own profiles on the tool and offer real-time feedback on their performance, job satisfaction, and peer reviews.

Infographic of the week – Estimated amount of data created on the Internet in one minute in 2021. Any bets on what this will look like at the end of 2022? (Vote in the poll below)

Image Credit: Statista
A Minute on the Internet in 2022

After reviewing the infographic from Statista above, how much data per minute do you think will be added compared to 2021? (Select your choice in one of the boxes and press “vote” when you’ve made your selection.)

NHS England announces plans for £240M federated data platform

In the EMEA edition of Healthcare IT News, Tammy Lovell highlights this NHS platform is intended to be “an ecosystem of technologies and services.” It will be built around five major use cases: population health and person insight, care coordination, elective recovery, vaccines and immunization, and the supply chain.

Why it’s important – The virtual database takes data from various sources and converts them to a standard model, providing a single data source for front-end applications. This can facilitate access to sensitive health data, offering a potential solution to address the issue of siloed health data and barriers to data sharing.

CRISPR pioneer expects to see gene-edited babies within 25 years

It’s been ten years since CRISPR gene-editing pioneer Jennifer Doudna published the landmark paper that landed a Nobel Prize for her and colleague Emmanuelle Charpentier. The researcher already sees advancement toward some of its loftier goals. The Seattle Times’ Angelica Peebles interviewed Doudna in this article.

“Over the next 25 years, it’s entirely possible. When I think about 25 years ago and how much progress has been made, that’s extraordinary. I don’t imagine things are going to be slowing down from here, then it’s probably a very real possibility.”

Jennifer Doudna, PhD, University of California at Berkeley biochemist and founder of the Innovative Genomics Institutes

Why it’s important – In an email following the interview, Doudna said she is “not advocating for human germline editing, simply stating that it is likely to happen in the next 25 years given the direction of research and technology development. It often takes decades for new technology to impact the whole research landscape or actual applications. It’s extraordinary that CRISPR, within a decade, is already there. Is there more work to be done? Of course. There’s always more.”

Fujifilm develops AI tech for predicting Alzheimer’s progression

Adam Ang in MobiHealthNews reported on this clinical trial, which has shown that it can predict AD progression with 88% and 84% accuracy in American and Japanese patients, respectively. The AI predictive technology was built using Fujifilm’s advanced image recognition technologies. Using both AI and deep tech, atrophy patterns as seen on 3D MRI brain images were extracted and calculated from the hippocampus and the anterior temporal lobe, both regions that are strongly correlated with the progression of AD. From these patterns, AD progression is predicted.

Image Credit: Fujifilm Corporation

Why it’s important – Despite advances in AD treatment in recent years, many clinical trials have not been successful, given the low percentage of patients who progress from mild cognitive impairment to AD within two years. Many of such patients remain unchanged even if placed under a placebo. Moving forward, the partners seek to predict the speed of patients’ progression to AD and investigate the possibility of improving the success rate of their clinical trials by excluding patient participants who do not progress to AD and reducing the gap in the distribution of progression speed between control and treatment groups. They also plan to conduct more clinical trials soon.

Does Health Care AI have a Credibility Problem?

A great post by John Halamka, M.D., president of Mayo Clinic Platform, and Paul Cerrato, senior research analyst and communications specialist, Mayo Clinic Platform. The authors argue that many physicians ignore the recommendations provided by machine learning algorithms because they don’t trust them. A few imaginative software enhancements may give them more confidence in an algorithm’s diagnostic and therapeutic suggestions.

Why it’s important – While developers continue to provide innovative AI tools that have the potential to redefine the practice of medicine, most physicians and nurses do not have the background in data science required to grasp what’s “under the hood fully,” one reason why many hesitate to incorporate the diagnostic and treatment recommendations coming from these algorithms. The authors provide two ways this dilemma can be addressed. A must-read post from two of the best in the business.

Samsung Medical Center goes mobile with hospital admission process

More reporting from Adam Ang on news that Samsung Medical Center has introduced a mobile admission process to simplify patient hospitalization. According to the hospital, it now takes five steps – down from 10 – to get admitted to SMC. A patient will first receive access to the mobile admission site via text message. They can select available rooms, complete a COVID-19 questionnaire and test, and sign administrative forms. After this, the patient can proceed to the center’s payment or registration desk, where they will receive an ID wristband and hospitalization guide leaflet. Once received, they can be admitted to the inpatient ward.

Why it’s important – SMC says that its new admission process – which has been in place since end-October – takes about five minutes to complete, compared to the average time of 20-30 minutes previously. Aside from providing convenience, the mobile admission process has also minimized the risk of infections, especially from COVID-19, due to minimal physical interaction. The consumer satisfaction benefits from implementing this technology which results in reduced wait and procedure time, allowing them to deliver medical services more quickly, should be considered as well.

Everything You Need To Know Before Getting An RFID Implant

Another great post from Dr. Bertalan Mesko and his team at The Medical Futurist Institute. Here’s what you should know about RFID chips before implanting them into your body.

YouTube video credit: The Medical Futurist

Why it’s important – As with all of their research, this post covers the landscape of implantable RFID chips in considerable detail, highlighting the good, bad, and risks associated with implementing this technology on a broad scale. A great read!

Hologram doctors beamed to space station to visit astronauts

In 2021, a team of hologram doctors was “holoported” to space to visit astronauts living aboard the International Space Station, NASA has revealed in a new post. The hologram teams, led by NASA flight surgeon Dr. Josef Schmid and Fernando De La Peña Llaca, CEO of software provider Aexa Aerospace, were the first humans ever to be “holoported” from Earth to space. Chelsea Gohd reported on this in her article on The medical teams holoported to the station on Oct. 8. Using the Microsoft Hololens Kinect camera and a personal computer with custom Aexa software, European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who was on board the station, had a holo-conversation with Schmid and De La Pena’s teams. The holograms of the doctors were visible live in the middle of the space station.

Image Credit: ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet

Why it’s important – Even though this might seem like just an exciting story to a “space geek” like me, many NASA innovations eventually find their way into the practice of medicine here on earth. And if you can make the technology work at the distances highlighted in the article, imagine how useful this would be in remote areas of the planet.

CDC launches new infectious disease forecasting center

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officially launched a new center to forecast infectious disease outbreaks. The Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics is “the equivalent of the National Weather Service for infectious diseases,” the agency said in a statement Tuesday. Nicole Westman covered the story in her article on The Verge. Along with experts in data analytics and disease modeling, the center will also have communications specialists on staff to interpret the information for the public.

Why it’s important – The CDC has never had a dedicated infectious disease forecasting program. It has spent the past two years struggling to compile and distribute information about the spread of COVID-19 promptly. Researchers at the center have already produced data helping improve understanding of the omicron variant of the virus, showing that it caused less severe outcomes than the delta variant in the U.S. The challenge will be whether this creates another layer of burden on efforts to communicate effectively.

Can Robots Save Nursing Homes?

The pandemic has given new urgency to developing robots and ‘virtual assisted living’ that can help care for aging adults, physically and emotionally. John Leland reports on a program at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, in his NY Times article. The robot program in Duluth is just one of several newly energized efforts to use robots and other technology to solve some of the problems in nursing homes and assisted living facilities — or to help people stay out of them. The trend began before the pandemic, but Covid-19 gave it new urgency. With $2 million from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Dr. Khan plans to place two robots in eight nursing homes operated by Monarch Healthcare Management. This for-profit company has about 40 homes around the state. One robot, a two-foot-tall model called NAO, priced at about $12,500, will lead classes in yoga, tai chi, and strength training. The larger robot, Pepper, which costs about $32,000, will socialize, tell jokes and play games with residents.

“Robots are going to play a major role in reminding us to take our medications, keeping us socially engaged, helping us if we fall and can’t get up, navigating getting food delivered to the home. Toilets will give you a checkup a day and tell you if you’re not taking your pills or getting nutrition. Pretty soon your toilet will be talking about you.”

Joseph F. Coughlin, AgeLab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Why it’s important – The title of the article is clearly click-bait. However, for specific repetitive and low-skilled tasks, there is a place for robots in assisted living facilities. The question is: how far do you go? The use of robots in nursing homes raises a range of ethical issues. Who should get access to the robots’ extensive monitoring data — only the residents and doctors, or should their families also have it? And will the robots ultimately diminish human-to-human contact, an essential part of care? On the plus side, unlike human workers, robots never get in a bad mood or tire of having to repeat themselves. On the negative side, staff concerns about whether robots will replace their jobs have prompted executives to be cautious about the broad implementation of the technology. We can probably learn a lot from the experiences in Japan, where the use of companion robots is much more prevalent.

These hospital robot vulnerabilities were promptly caught and killed

Staying with the robot theme, Zachy Hennessey in The Jerusalem Post reported that Cyber security start-up Cynerio, specializing in healthcare Internet of Things (IoT) security solutions, discovered five vulnerabilities that affect commonly used robots found in hundreds of hospitals worldwide. According to the company, the group of vulnerabilities – referred to as JekyllBot:5 – can be used to disrupt the delivery of medication or supplies, impede staff, and remotely surveil patients and doctors. Following Cynerio’s discovery, the manufacturer of the robots in question, Aethon, has released several patches to mitigate the vulnerabilities.

Why it’s important – While cybersecurity threats are generally front-of-mind for health systems around the world, often less attention is paid to IoT-connected systems like intelligent autonomous robots, which are designed to handle healthcare-related tasks such as distributing medication, cleaning, and transporting hospital supplies. The robots leverage radio waves, sensors, cameras, and other technology to open doors, take elevators and travel throughout hospitals unassisted without bumping into people and objects. However, the technology that enables the robots to move around the hospital independently makes their vulnerabilities dangerous in the hands of a potential attacker. This is something that should be added to the checklist for review in cybersecurity plans for every organization.

Hospital Robots Are Helping Combat a Wave of Nurse Burnout

It’s a robot trifecta this week. Khari Johnson reports in Wired that since February, the nurses at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg, Virginia, have had an extra assistant on their shifts: Moxi, a nearly 6-foot-tall robot that ferries medication, supplies, lab samples, and personal items through the halls, from floor to floor. After two years of battling Covid-19 and related burnout, nurses say it’s been a welcome relief. Moxi is one of several specialized delivery robots that has been developed in recent years to ease the strain on health care workers.

“In 2018, any hospital that was thinking about working with us, it was a special project for the CFO or innovation project about the hospital of the future. What we saw over the last two years is that almost every single health care system is thinking about robotics and automation or has robotics and automation on their strategic agenda.”

Andrea Thomaz, CEO, Diligent Robotics

Why it’s important – The simple things Moxi does can make a difference. It can save nurses the 30 minutes it might take to go from the fifth floor to the basement to pick up medication that can’t go through the tube system from the pharmacy. And picking up after-hour meals for patients is one of Moxi’s most popular tasks. Since two Moxi robots began operating in the halls of Mary Washington Hospital in February, they’ve given workers back approximately 600 hours of time.

I’ve written on the topic of robotics in health care before. You can read that post here:

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