Health Tech News This Week – November 5, 2022

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

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Exclusive: Children’s hospitals partner on digital health initiative

Redesign Health, a New York City-based healthcare startup creator, said Thursday it was partnering with a consortium of children’s hospitals to co-develop a series of new digital health companies. Brock Turner reports on the developments in his Modern Healthcare article. The KidsX consortium was founded at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles three years ago and included 32 children’s hospitals, such as Advocate Children’s Hospital, Boston Children’s, Geisinger Children’s, and Texas Children’s Hospital. With its KidsX build program, Redesign and KidsX hospitals will convene and determine areas to build new pediatric-focused digital health companies. Members of KidsX will also receive early access to pediatrics-related ventures being created at Redesign Health.

Why it’s important – Less than 1% of all digital health investment is focused on pediatric patients. Solutions that are being presented to them don’t meet their needs. While some existing solutions can be adapted for pediatric populations, there are core differences between what hospitals need and what’s out there in the market. I think this initiative led by the leading Children’s health systems in the country is precisely the way to solve this dilemma.

Infographic of the week – This infographic comes from CB Insights and provides an interesting segmentation approach to highlighting companies working to support patients managing diabetes. Here’s how they break it down:

  • Education & Prevention
    Companies in this sector provide educational tools that cover medication administration, nutrition, and ongoing care for the management and prevention of diabetic episodes
  • Diagnostics
    Companies in this category look to expedite and enhance diagnosis for diabetic patients through the use of technologies such as artificial intelligence and infrared light
  • Glucose Monitoring Devices
    Diabetic patients need to monitor their blood glucose levels continuously throughout the day. While this has traditionally been performed via finger stick checks, new technology is being developed to automate this process and make it less invasive
  • Insulin Delivery Devices
    Companies in this space develop devices that effectively deliver required insulin doses to diabetic patients in a timely manner. Often requiring a series of injections over the course of the day, patients with diabetes have welcomed technology that makes the process less invasive and more automated
  • Closed-Loop Devices
    These companies support comprehensive diabetes management through combined glucose monitoring and insulin administration solutions. These closed-loop systems take a single, integrated approach to diabetes management
  • D2C Consumables
    Companies in this category provide testing and treatment supplies directly to consumers. Testing supplies include glucose monitoring devices and test strips for blood samples that can be analyzed to determine dosing needs
  • Digital Therapeutics
    Startups in this market utilize evidence-based research to develop software and apps that offer on-demand, personalized treatment options for ongoing diabetes care. This technology has helped enhance the overall health of diabetic patients and their ability to manage the disease via increased engagement, improved treatment compliance, and modified behaviors
  • Virtual Care
    Virtual care became more heavily utilized amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and diabetic patients have benefitted from this service. Many of the major telehealth platforms have established diabetes-specific virtual care programs
  • Drug Therapies
    Companies in this category are targeting new ways to treat diabetes through the use of medication and drug delivery options
  • Ophthalmology Care
    These startups provide care for eye complications that are commonly associated with diabetic patients, most notably diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and cataracts
  • Podiatry Care
    These startups develop technologies that target either onset prevention or improved care for diabetic foot conditions
Image Credit: CB Insights

Sci-fi no more: Introducing the contact lenses of the future

In addition to correcting sight, researchers are working on features such as augmented reality, night vision, and the ability to zoom in and out, as well as diagnosing and treating pathologies. Isabel Rubio brings us the story in El Pais, Science and Technology online. If there is one field where scientists and tech giants are trying to harness the potential of contact lenses, it is health. A review published in the journal Advanced Materials Technologies explains that contact lens sensors can be used to monitor many diseases and conditions.

“The presence of biomarkers in the tear fluid will lead to diagnostic contact lenses that will help detect and treat systemic and ocular diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and dry eye syndrome.”

Ana Belén Cisneros del Río, deputy dean of the College of Opticians-Optometrists in the Spanish region of Castilla y León

Why it’s important – The experts predict that future lenses will be able to monitor eye pressure, look for glaucoma (a disease that damages the optic nerve) and even produce images of the retinal vasculature for the early detection of hypertension, stroke, and diabetes. One limitation of these lenses is that they can generally only detect a single biomarker in the eye, such as glucose or lactic acid. These lenses could also be helpful for the treatment of some eye pathologies.

Podcast of the week – “India-based doctor breaks rule that great healthcare must be expensive” – In this interview, hosts Jeremy Corr and Dr. Robert Pearl ask Dr. Shetty about the rules of American medicine that must be broken to replicate the success he (and his hospitals) have achieved. Shetty is a heart surgeon trained in both London and the United States. Today, he owns and operates 11 hospitals in India and a new facility in the Cayman Islands. The cost of care in his health centers is as low as you’ll find anywhere in the world. Yet the quality of care is as good as you’ll find anywhere in the world.

Image Credit: Fixing Healthcare Podcast

Scientists Use mRNA Technology To Create a Potent Flu Vaccine That Could Last For Years

In a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and other institutions have cooked up an mRNA-based influenza vaccine that targets four viral proteins that tend to remain the same across different strains of influenza. Inverse’s Miriam Fauzia interviewed the researchers in her online article. For their influenza vaccine, the researchers created an mRNA cocktail encoding the four influenza proteins neuraminidase, nucleoprotein, matrix protein 2, and the stalk portion of hemagglutinin (which is conserved compared to its head domain).

Why it’s important – Flu vaccines are updated yearly based on influenza patterns most recently seen in the southern hemisphere, such as Australia; its flu season runs from April to October. The current seasonal vaccines that use three or four inactivated [influenza] viruses primarily target the immunodominant head domain… but the problem is that the virus can change that pretty quickly and escape from protective immunity. The researchers also expect it wouldn’t need to undergo annual updates as our current ones do. Instead, they might last for a few years.

When it comes to caring for underserved patients, health tech is still figuring out what success looks like

While the market is crowded with companies claiming their products meaningfully improve health — especially for underserved groups — there is still no industry-wide standard slate of metrics to evaluate them thoroughly. Some are reporting how many new appointments they’ve created among lower-income or underrepresented populations; others are coming up with new ways to approximate how their app or wearable specifically helped rural and urban patients with chronic conditions, for instance. Mohana Ravindranath provides the details in her STAT article. Given that companies are still experimenting with new measures, it’s typically up to health systems or employers buying these services to set their own benchmarks for equity — whether it’s reaching specific populations or getting them to stay active on the app or wearable device.

“If you’re seeking to address serious mental illness in populations of folks who struggle with mental health challenges and social needs, then we can all agree that a text message is not enough…if you’re seeking to move the needle on getting someone who has insurance, who has a primary care provider, to see their primary care provider for a preventive visit, and you know they’re digitally engaged, maybe a text message is enough. I agree there isn’t a standard measure. But I would argue that that may not be the right thing to push for.”

Toyin Ajayi, CEO, Cityblock

Why it’s important – Health tech companies facing increasing economic uncertainty and belt-tightening from customers — including employers and payers — could find that clearer metrics on patient impact will make or break their businesses. The Digital Medicine Society helped build a “Market Opportunity Model” that CEO Jennifer Goldsack said companies could use to slice their market and revenue size opportunities by variables like age, race and ethnicity, income, education, and disability status. Her quote in the article sums it up best: “As an industry, we’re drilling down on the wrong thing. We’re spending time with great consternation about new process measures, engagement, and retention. How about whether it makes people better?”

Health informatics startup Truveta unveils search engine to probe data from 70M patients

More than two years after its founding, health data startup Truveta released a platform Tuesday that provides access to information from more than 70 million patients. The tool, Truveta Studio, culls de-identified data from patients across the startup’s 25 health system partners. Geek Wire’s Charlotte Schubert reported on the announcement this week. Truveta Studio pulls from a massive dataset, representing about 16% of all U.S. healthcare from 43 states. The patient population is also ethnically, racially, and socio-economically diverse. Users can query for a specific condition, such as long COVID, and quickly pull up associated demographic data, such as the age and sex of patients. Users can also narrow their dataset to people who have long COVID and other conditions like chronic kidney disease. At the heart of the solution is Truveta Prose: the first language that expresses computable clinical concepts, combining events from a patient’s longitudinal history. Prose also compiles records across massive datasets. The Truveta platform is available to health researchers within the company’s partner institutions, which include Providence, and to outside customers. Customers include pharma giant Pfizer and medical device company Boston Scientific. You can find more information about Truveta Studio and download their White Paper on their approach to data analytics here.

Image Credit: Truveta

“Truveta Studio offers a dataset that’s huge, comprehensive, and up to date. And the Truveta Library makes it easy to do critical documentation and communication about how we’re defining our cohorts.”

Ari Robicsek, Providence Health, Chief Medical Analytics Officer and Senior Vice President of Research

Why it’s important – Truveta updates data daily from its partners, pulling together events from a patient’s medical history, including diagnoses, medications, procedures, and devices. Truveta also aimed for consistency and transparency in how it defines conditions and stratifies patients and enables researchers to skip these steps before mining the data. But the platform also allows users to shift these parameters within its library to adapt them to their research. In my opinion, Truveta represents the ideal model for the aggregation of large patient datasets and analytics for research in the future.

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