Health Tech News This Week – June 25, 2022

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

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Wearables are collecting a flood of data. An ambitious new study of pregnancy aims to prove that’s it is valuable for health

Mario Aguilar in STAT reports that when Stephen Friend left Apple in 2017 after a stint helping to jumpstart its health efforts, the company’s marketing engine was already promoting a future that hadn’t arrived: Apple devices were going to help you live a healthier life. He fervently believes that the data collected continuously by consumer devices can be used to improve how care is delivered and give patients a far more personalized way to manage their health. It was with that possibility in mind that Friend co-founded the nonprofit 4YouandMe to swing for the fences to prove the value of consumer devices in medical care.

4YouandMe has launched an effort to follow the pregnancies of roughly 1,000 people, collecting a constant stream of hundreds of measures from devices and regular reports about symptoms like mood and fatigue. The goal, first and foremost, is to prove that so much data can be reliably collected. But beyond that, the researchers hope they can use some of these measures to describe the unique experience of an individual pregnancy and how much variability there is between individuals. While the study, called Better Understanding the Metamorphosis of Pregnancy, or BUMP, is only seeking to understand the feasibility of methods, it could also pave the way for new technologies that can predict complications or provide better direct treatment.

“I think that this [study] would give more granular data across the time period to be able to answer some unique questions about how pregnancy affects a woman’s health.”

Catherine Spong, Chief of maternal fetal medicine and Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Why it’s important – Pregnancy is a prime target for what 4YouandMe wants to accomplish. It occurs over a finite period, brings a string of dramatic physical transformations, and should create a lush data set to mine for insights. That also makes it an all-in bet. The BUMP study is remarkable for the sheer amount of data it aims to collect before conception, during pregnancy, and postpartum. Participants will sport a Garmin smartwatch and an Oura smart ring, step daily on a Bodyport cardiac scale, and field frequent questions about how they’re feeling in a smartphone app and interviews with the research team. They’ll complete walking and cognition tests and video diaries. Some participants will submit genetic data. Those who opt-in will contribute anonymized details about their Instagram activity and phone usage. The data, which will be available to other researchers, could also open the door to future work on pregnancy.

Infographics of the week – Interesting infographic from CB Insights segmenting companies developing technologies and solutions for the Digital Hospital market. The global digital health market size was valued at USD 175.6 billion in 2021 is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27.7% from 2022 to 2030. Increasing smartphone penetration, improving internet connectivity, advancing healthcare IT infrastructure, growing healthcare expenditure, rising prevalence of chronic diseases, increasing demand for remote patient monitoring services, and increasing accessibility of virtual care are driving market growth. Information from Grandview Research Digital Health Market Size & Share Report, 2022-2030.

Image Credit: CB Insights

The second infographic this week shows that healthcare is a differentiator in a turbulent job market and is one of the top three priorities when considering workplace benefits. Mental health is one of the key areas they look for. Source:Yahoo Finance

Truveta partners with Pfizer to monitor COVID-19 therapies, treatments

Truveta, a data platform company backed by some of the country’s largest health systems, is partnering with big pharma company Pfizer to monitor the safety of its COVID-19 vaccines and therapies. Brock Turner reports the announcement in his article on Modern Healthcare’s Digital Health & Business Technology. Truveta said the partnership would allow Pfizer to evaluate and identify trends and treatments in real-time using de-identified data from 50 million people. The data doesn’t just use clinical information from the electronic health record but socio-economic data and daily mortality data. The company’s CEO Terry Myerson, said he’s optimistic this deal can bolster trust and begin to combat vaccine hesitancy.

“I think at some level, that’s why it’s so important for us to have such a large data set, because even America is so diverse.”

Terry Myerson, CEO, Truveta

Why it’s important – Altogether, the partnership will give Pfizer access to data from Truveta’s 20 health system members across 42 states. These health systems represent more than 16% of U.S. patient care. Myerson declined to share specifics on how health systems are compensated through this deal but said it is relatively proportional to the overall number of patients. The company compensates its partners for anonymized patient data submitted by providers.

Researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a wearable textile exomuscle that serves as an extra layer of muscles.

ETH reported on their research in a press release this week. They aim to use it to increase the upper body strength and endurance of people with restricted mobility. This idea led to the creation of the Myoshirt: a soft, wearable exomuscle for the upper body. It is a kind of vest with cuffs for the upper arms accompanied by a small box containing all the technology that is not used directly on the body. Working via sensors embedded in the fabric, an intelligent algorithm detects the wearer’s intentional movements and the amount of force required. A motor then shortens a cable in the material running parallel to the wearer’s muscles – a sort of artificial tendon – supporting the desired movement. This assistance is always in tune with the user’s movements and can be tailored to their individual preferences. The user is always in control and can override the device anytime.

YouTube video credit: ETH, Zurich

Why it’s important – The researchers have recently tested this prototype for the first time in a study featuring 12 participants: ten people without any physical impairments, one person with muscular dystrophy (Michael Hagmann), and one person with a spinal cord injury. The results were promising: all participants could lift their arms and/or objects for much longer thanks to the exomuscle. Endurance increased by about a third in the healthy subjects and by roughly 60% in the participant with muscular dystrophy. In contrast, the participant with a spinal cord injury could perform the exercises three times as long. The exomuscle made it less taxing on their muscles, with the overwhelming majority of the participants finding the device intuitive to use.

AI Detects Autism Speech Patterns Across Different Languages

A new study led by Northwestern University researchers used machine learning—a branch of artificial intelligence—to identify speech patterns in children with autism that were consistent between English and Cantonese, suggesting that speech features might be a valuable tool for diagnosing the condition. Northwestern reported on the research in Neuroscience News. The data used to train the algorithm were recordings of English- and Cantonese-speaking young people with and without autism telling their version of the story depicted in a wordless children’s picture book called “Frog, Where Are You?”

Why it’s important – Children with autism often talk more slowly than typically developing children and exhibit other differences in pitch, intonation, and rhythm. But those differences (called “prosodic differences’” by researchers) have been surprisingly challenging to characterize consistently and objectively, and their origins have remained unclear for decades. Using this method, we were able to identify features of speech that can predict the diagnosis of autism. The most prominent of those features is rhythm. They are hopeful that this study can be the foundation for future work on autism that leverages machine learning. The researchers believe that their work has the potential to contribute to an improved understanding of autism.

Interesting video – Honda is creating an on-shoe navigation system for persons with vision impairment to help them avoid issues when they are out and about.

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Vitestro Introduces an Automated Blood Drawing Device Using AI

Dutch medical robotics company @Vitestro unveiled an autonomous blood drawing device combining artificial intelligence, ultrasound imaging, and robotics. Vitestro’s device combines AI-based, ultrasound-guided 3D reconstruction with robotic needle insertion, ensuring accurate and secure blood collection. The procedure is performed fully automatically, from tourniquet to bandage application. The device can be used under supervision by patients 16 years and older, including those with comorbidities and/or difficult venous access.

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Why it’s important – In clinical studies, the device prototype has already performed 1,500 automated blood draws on more than 1,000 patients. A trained healthcare professional can supervise several devices, managing multiple patients simultaneously. The increased efficiency enables hospitals and clinical laboratories to address workforce shortages or even free up staff and deploy them where needed. The full release of the product is expected in 2024.

Bracelet launched to track pain in people who can’t express it

Mdoloris, a specialist in medical pain monitoring technologies, unveils ANI Guardian, a connected bracelet to track the well-being and pain of people that cannot express it. The bracelet miniaturizes a patented technology that was until now only available in hospitals. The wireless bracelet remotely shares data with caregivers, family, and medical specialists in real-time. The release was covered in MedTech News this week. ANI Guardian seeks to measure the well-being of non-verbal patients in a non-invasive and understandable manner. Building on prior Mdoloris pain monitoring products which have been successfully used in hospitals (such as La Paz in Madrid, Spain, for a study on video games and cancer), it uses signals from the nervous system to track and display the patient’s pain and comfort levels at all times.

Why it’s important – According to the WHO, an estimated 55 million people worldwide are suffering from a form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. These patients often cannot self-report their level of pain and comfort, which places them at increased risk for under-diagnosed and under-treated pain. This also concerns people on the autistic spectrum, in palliative care, or suffering from multiple disabilities. The connected bracelet miniaturizes the ANI technology, which is already used in hospitals worldwide. It is the first time that such technology is available to everyone in such an accessible form. Having been the subject of more than 200 international publications, the ANI technology monitors pain. It displays it in real-time on a screen to help avoid under or overdosing by enabling doctors to give the correct dosage.

4 thoughts on “Health Tech News This Week – June 25, 2022

  1. I wonder how the BUMP study will change in light of the recent Supreme Court Decision. I can’t imagine many pregnant women being persuaded to provide any data or sign up to participate in a study like this — randomized it might be, but by signing up you identify you are pregnant — and that is dangerous in Republican states.

  2. These disparate healthcare innovations reported show how robust healthcare innovation has become and being made aware of them adds to opportunities to improve patients lives.Prime examples presented are the muscle exoskeleton and pain detection for m=nonverbal patients.

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