Health Tech News This Week – October 29, 2022

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

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Wearable EEG Patch Measures Brain Activity

Researchers at Osaka University in Japan engineered a wearable electroencephalography (EEG) device to measure brain activity, potentially letting clinicians monitor conditions such as depression or dementia. Conn Hastings reports on this research in his Medgadget article this week. This latest technology aims to allow for at-home measurements of brain activity. The device consists of a near-transparent patch that is flexible and stretchy. The adhesive patch can be worn on the forehead and provides brain activity readings comparable in accuracy to those obtained using larger and more expensive equipment.

Why it’s important – At present, assessing brain activity requires a trip to a facility with bulky and expensive equipment, making long-term monitoring difficult. Wearable EEGs have been developed previously and include electrodes that contact the scalp, but these bulky headsets are not convenient for long-term use and can cause pain and discomfort if worn for a long time. They can also suffer from a poor signal-to-noise ratio, making it difficult to obtain useful readings. Assessing neural activity during daily life may be more meaningful. Such measurements could provide a window into long-term trends and changes in brain activity during different tasks rather than a mere snapshot in time.

Infographics of the week – First, this graphic from The Kaiser Family Foundation and Rock Health shows the dramatic underfunding and investment into research and development of women’s health solutions. Here’s a link to my earlier post on the growth opportunity in FemTech.

Image Credit: Kaiser Family Foundation, Rock Health

This week’s second infographic comes from The American Hospital Association and highlights the rapid consolidation of health systems in the United States and shows the percentage of hospitals (67%) and beds (76%) that are system-affiliated.

Image Credit: American Hospital Association

And the third infographic from Nisha Metha posted on her LinkedIn timeline highlights data from the AAMC, Medscape, and Definitive Healthcare that shows how many healthcare workers left the workforce in 2021. “Jarring” doesn’t begin to describe these numbers. She correctly asks: “What happens to this industry that makes up about 20% of the nation’s GDP when they don’t have the workers to staff it? More importantly, what happens to our patients (and make no mistake, we are all patients)?”

The cutting-edge cellular therapies aiming to ease America’s organ shortage

Despite being the wealthiest nation on the face of the planet, the United States chronically runs short of transplantable organs. No matter where the transplanted organ comes from, getting it into the patient will invariably involve a significant surgical procedure. Engadget’s Andrew Tarantola brings us the story. The Lygenesis company recently unveiled its non-invasive solution: tricking the patient’s body into growing a series of miniature, ectopic liver “organoids” in its own lymphatic system like a crop of blood-scrubbing potatoes. The Lygenesis technique doesn’t require a whole donated liver or even a large fraction of one. In fact, each donated organ can be split among several dozen recipients. “Using our technology, a single donated liver can reach 75 or more patients”, according to the company.

YouTube Video Credit: Lygenesis, Inc.

Why it’s important – While the liver is the only human organ known capable of regenerating itself if you damage yours badly enough for long enough — as some 30 million Americans have — then the only treatment is a transplant. Assuming you can even acquire one for doctors to stick in you. Every year demand for replacement livers outstrips supply by tens of thousands. “Only one-third of those on the liver transplant waiting list will be transplanted, and the need for livers is projected to increase 23 percent in the next 20 years. Once engrafted into a lymph node, the liver organoid will grow and vascularize over two to three months until it is large enough to begin supporting the existing liver. Even with end-stage disease, a liver can retain up to 30 percent of its original functionality. These organoids are designed to augment and support the existing organ rather than replace it outright.

Resource alertAndrew Rebhan from Sg2 posted this resource on Telehealth Use in Rural Healthcare in his LinkedIn feed this week. If this is something you want to learn more about, he recommends visiting the Rural Health Information Hub, which offers toolkits, case studies, and a ton of other resources on all things related to telehealth in rural locations. I was unaware of this valuable resource. Thanks, Andrew, for bringing it to my attention.

A novel 3D-printed light-sensing medical device could prove to be a lifesaver for lupus patients

Nergis Firtina from Interesting Engineering posted this story on how the University of Minnesota Twin Cities’ engineering and medical teams have created a novel 3D-printed medical device that can provide real-time feedback to link light exposure to disease flare-ups when placed directly on the skin. The system is connected with a specially designed portable console to track and link symptoms to light exposure continually.

YouTube Video Credit: University of Minnesota

“We can give them to participants and track what light they were exposed to and determine how we can predict symptoms. We will also continue testing in the lab to improve the device.”

David Pearson, University of Minnesota Medical School dermatologist and co-author of the study

Why it’s important – Lupus or Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is an autoimmune rheumatic disease that affects many organs in the body. It is characterized by a red rash in the form of a butterfly on the face. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, about 1.5 million Americans, and at least 5 million people worldwide, have a form of lupus. The research team has received approval to start using humans as test subjects for the device and will shortly begin enrolling individuals for the study.

The future of wearable health tech

The wearable health tech market is predicted to be one of the largest and fastest-growing markets of the next decade. Consumer-led healthcare will change patient care pathways, driving the industry to grow and collaborate in new ways, both with patients around their health and with partners and innovators. Wearables will primarily support people living healthy lives, and then diagnostic and therapeutic abilities will follow, led by the user at the point of care. Mark Goldstone, a Partner at Eckuity, and a venture investor in early-stage Health Tech provides his perspective in his online article on MedCity News.

Why it’s important – I’ve written on the growth and development of wearable technologies in a previous post. Consumer-led healthcare will change patient care pathways, driving the industry to grow and collaborate in new ways, both with patients around their health and with partners and innovators. Wearable health tech will be highly disruptive as its impact will spread across many market sectors – from healthcare delivery to diagnostics to therapeutics. Essential to successful investment is understanding precisely which technologies, market sectors, and regulatory factors will ultimately drive market growth. For companies developing wearable health trackers, Dr. Bertalan Mesko and his team at The Medical Futurist Institute offer these 10+1 Commandments for consideration.

3 wearable health projects in Australia score federal funding

In other news on the healthcare wearables front, Adam Ang reports that the Australian government has awarded grants to research projects working on wearable technology to improve health monitoring for Australians in his article on MobiHealthNews ANZ. A project at Curtin University, provided with A$1.5 million ($950,000) funding, will develop and test wearable sensors to monitor the movement of children with cerebral palsy who cannot walk. Another project at the University of New South Wales (A$1.9 million or $1.2 million) will try out a cuffless blood pressure device in adults with hypertension. A Bond University project (A$1.09 million or $700,000) will combine data from wearable devices and patients’ medical records to help people with Type 2 diabetes set goals and monitor their progress on physical activity, blood sugar, and BP control.

By putting existing new technologies to the test, these research projects could lead to rapid improvements in health outcomes for people with chronic conditions and for First Australians and others living in remote areas.”

Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health

Why it’s important – These grants represent the Australian government’s commitment to funding research into remote monitoring and wearable technologies. Last year, the Australian government set aside A$10 million ($7 million) for the Primary Health Care Research Initiative grant under the Medical Research Future Fund. The grant is supporting research projects that are testing and implementing new applications of existing wearable electronic devices and examining ways to deliver point-of-care testing in rural and remote areas.

YouTube expands credible health information labels to providers

YouTube is expanding product features that aim to provide information and context about credible health sources to include videos made by licensed healthcare professionals. Emily Olsen has the details in her article on MobiHealthNews. The health source information panels, first introduced in the U.S. last year, label health content from authoritative sources like educational institutions, public health departments, hospitals, and government entities. These videos are pulled into health content shelves at the top of health-related searches. Starting October 28th, healthcare professionals can apply to make their content eligible for these features. Applicants will need to provide proof of their license, have a channel in good standing on YouTube, and follow best practices for sharing health information, as determined by the Council of Medical Specialty Societies, the National Academy of Medicine, and the World Health Organization.

“We’re trying to advance the field of how platforms, us and others, are able to show the cues and clues that people would need to be able to better trust and judge the health information they’re receiving.”

Dr. Garth Graham, director and global head of healthcare and public health at YouTube

Why it’s important – The spread of health misinformation on social media became a concern during the COVID-19 pandemic as some users pushed falsehoods about the disease, its treatments, and the vaccines. An analysis published earlier this year in BMJ Global Health found that approximately 11% of YouTube’s most viewed videos on COVID-19 vaccines, which amassed 18 million views, contradicted information from the WHO or the CDC.

These 8 Countries Could Put Together The World’s Most Advanced Healthcare System

Finally, this interesting post from Dr. Bertalan Mesko and his team at The Medical Futurist Institute. This is their take on how one might create a global healthcare “super system,” taking the best parts of eight countries’ healthcare delivery systems and combining them. They address the following components and (countries):

  • Business incubation (Israel)
  • Government policy around e-patients (Denmark)
  • Medical association and leadership (Canada)
  • Regulatory body (USA)
  • Virtual wards (United Kingdom)
  • Health IT infrastructure (South Korea)
  • Best digital health application process (Germany)
  • Patient inclusion and longevity-oriented thinking (Estonia)

Why it’s important – I like the broad perspective they bring to this thought process from their extensive research and analysis of global health systems. I wrote an earlier post about what we can learn from other countries’ experiences in digital health that featured some of Dr. Mesko’s initial research. This takes that research to the next level.

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