Health Tech News This Week – December 3, 2022

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

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From finding the right candidates to keeping them, how hospitals are using AI to address workforce needs

Anne Burky’s article in Fierce Healthcare reports that companies are using AI to ease hiring and retention while freeing up resources like manager time and company funds to create new opportunities for career development and offer higher wages. Healthcare organizations struggling under a mountain of unfilled job postings are turning to technology to address staffing shortages. Artificial intelligence and machine learning models are easing the application process, automizing workflow to decrease burnout, and offering leadership time to connect with employees, health tech executives say. The technology also provides ways to help healthcare professionals find the right job, stay in the right position, and interact with coworkers and patients on a more human level.

“What’s going to help increase retention? Flexibility and new opportunities. It’s a way to engage your existing workforce, to allow them to have the opportunities that historically are challenging to manage manually.”

Dani Bowie, Vice President, clinical strategy and transformation, Trusted Health

Why it’s important – Almost 334,000 clinicians, including physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants, exited the workforce in 2021 due to retirement, burnout, and pandemic-related stressors, including increased workplace violence, according to a recent report from Definitive Healthcare. On average, hospitals are experiencing 27.1% nurse turnover, up from 18.7% in 2020. Hospital staff turnover is at 25.9%, up from 19.5%, according to the 2022 NSI National Health Care Retention and RN Staffing Report. And there are no signs that this will change at any time in the near future. The average age of nurses is already 57 years, according to Definitive Healthcare’s data, pointing to a quickly approaching cliff where the healthcare shortage will become an even greater crisis. Even with hefty sign-on bonuses, human resource departments cannot hire people fast enough as organizations can’t get hires to stay.

Infographics of the week – This graphic is from an excellent article by McKinsey, which suggests expanding from the legacy framing of three phases of life—childhood, adulthood, and old age to encompass healthy aging. The four dimensions of health are shaped by social and personal influencing factors that support a holistic view of health. This concept of health extending beyond physical attributes resonates with older adults. A recent MHI survey found that most older adults think all four dimensions of health are important. This is a great framework to follow when creating healthcare services for older adults.

Image Credit: McKinsey Health Institute

The second infographic this week comes from Dr. Tazeen Rizvi. Digital innovations can be leveraged to improve access to #healthservices, especially for those with limited access to quality care in hard-to-reach areas. However, digital health deployment is constrained by many challenges, including poor coordination, lack of stakeholder involvement, weak health systems, lack of awareness and knowledge about digital health, inadequate infrastructures, and lack of interoperability of the numerous digital health systems. He lists the steps mentioned below which can help in reducing barriers to adoption:

Image Credit: Dr. Tazeen Rizvi

Here’s a third infographic from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, having the right picture is worth even more. When conveying a concept as nuanced as the difference between equality and equity, developing a visual that effectively engages diverse audiences and helps generate meaningful conversations can take time and a great deal of input, thought, and care. Their goal was to make it simple enough for a wide array of audiences to use and understand. I think they succeeded beautifully with this version.

Image Credit: Joan Barlow, RWJF

Podcast of the week – This week’s recommendation is the Health & Veritas podcast featuring Dr. Eric Topol: Pushing Medicine into the Future (Health & Veritas Ep. 58). Yale physician-professors Howard Forman and Harlan Krumholz talk about the latest news and ideas in healthcare and seek out the truth amid the noise. In this episode, they’re joined by Dr. Eric Topol, a physician and writer who is widely recognized both as a leading researcher and a public voice on medicine and health. They discuss his career turn toward genomics and digital health, and the fight against misinformation on Twitter. You can listen here.

To Prepare for Future Surges, U.S. Hospitals Must Start Planning — & Sharing Resources

Harvard Business School Professor Regina E. Herzlinger published this article in Medical Device News Magazine Online. And while not specifically a technology piece, I thought it was important to share it with readers of this blog. She asks the question: since many hospitals struggled (and in many cases, failed) to adapt to the strain of each COVID-19 surge, is the U.S. healthcare system now better prepared to weather the next inevitable public health emergency? So far, the answer is largely “no.” Her solution to the surge problem requires hospitals to create surge plans that form shared resource networks. She and her colleague Dr. Richard J. Boxer extensively discussed and wrote about alternative approaches to surge capacity management, including in a recent Health Affairs article. They recommend that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) require oversight of a new accounting standard for surge capacity management.

“Ultimately, I can see no reason for hospitals to not coordinate their efforts during future surges. The benefits to hospitals and to the public are manifold—and most importantly, lives will be saved when these changes are made. The sooner our nation can get started on this initiative, the better for all involved.”

Regina E. Herzlinger, Nancy R. McPherson Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School

Why it’s important – Although controversial, Herzlinger’s plan would have numerous benefits, which she outlines in the Health Affairs article. Since we’re not out of the woods yet with the current pandemic and are likely to experience similar surges in the future, I think this is an important topic to consider. This is well worth reading.

Apple earbuds show promise as hearing aids in clinical trial

A paper published in iScience takes the blurring of the line between earbuds and hearing aids a step further by asking if Apple AirPods can help people with mild to moderate hearing loss. As reported by Nick Paul Taylor in MedTech Dive online, researchers found the earbuds meet four of the five standards for personal sound amplification products and perform comparably to hearing aids in terms of speech perception in quiet environments. Apple’s earbuds have a “live listen” feature that transmits amplified environmental sounds into the ears of the wearer, much like a hearing aid does.

Image Credit: Apple, Inc.

Why it’s important – The study suggests that some consumer earbuds can function as hearing aids to potentially further lower the cost and address the stigma associated with the technology.

Testing Amazon Clinic, the tech giant’s latest foray into healthcare

Geek Wire’s Charlotte Schubert shares her experiences testing the company’s latest foray into healthcare in her article this week. Amazon Clinic is available to adults between the ages of 18 and 64 in 32 states, using third-party digital health companies like SteadyMD and HealthTap. People can order treatments from pharmacies, including another Amazon health endeavor, Amazon Pharmacy. She provides a step-by-step review of her entire experience, including a peek at the section on how Amazon Clinic handles the critical HIPAA issue. She also includes some great screenshots to give readers a sense of the user interface. She summarizes the encounter this way:

‘The interaction was professional, pleasant and clear — and it was easy. The fee also includes two weeks for follow-up messages after the initial consultation.”

Charlotte Schubert, Geek Wire online

Why it’s important – The model does away with time-consuming face-to-face interactions and offers the possibility of precise communication through text. Having an affordable online option like Amazon Clinic, connected to a well-known brand such as Amazon, might help people seek care for common conditions they would otherwise ignore and help them get prescription renewals. While reporters have criticized Amazon for the fits and starts to their healthcare initiatives. But it seems clear to me that Amazon appears to be set on continuing investments in healthcare despite recent layoffs and cuts to other parts of its business. In a memo to employees about the job cuts, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy called out healthcare as one of the company’s “newer initiatives that we’ve been working on for a number of years and have conviction in pursuing.” Given the size, complexity, and potential for technology to further transform the healthcare market, the sector has emerged as one of the most likely industries where Amazon could find a fourth pillar of its business alongside its existing three: Amazon Web Services, Amazon Prime, and Amazon Marketplace.

Bionaut Labs Develop Robots to Deliver Drugs Directly into the Brain

The team of researchers behind Apple’s Face ID, from Bionaut Labs, has developed robots that deliver drugs directly into the brain. Disha Chopra reports on the development in her article on Analytics Drift online. The trials aim to deliver drugs with the help of tiny robots to treat certain types of brain tumors at complex locations and a rare neurological disorder called Dandy-Walker Syndrome, which is a congenital (happening before birth) condition where the cerebellum does not develop normally. The cerebellum is an area at the back of the brain that controls movement and balance.

Why it’s important– These robots, a few millimeters long with a robust micro-magnet, could also perform biopsies. They use external control frameworks and, under predetermined magnetic fields, poke a hole in the targeted area and release the drug.

GE Healthcare teams up with augmented reality company MediView XR

GE Healthcare and MediView XR, a med-tech company that leverages augmented reality, announced their collaboration to co-develop the OmnifyXR Interventional Suite System. It will combine medical imaging and mixed-reality solutions to assist physicians and their care teams. Jessica Hagen covers the story in her article on MobiHealth News online. The collaboration will pair GE’s imaging technologies with MediView’s augmented reality and surgical navigation expertise to allow physicians to evaluate multiple holographic displays of live imaging in 3D using Microsoft’s HoloLens technology.

Why it’s important – The aim is to help physicians better assess a patient’s anatomy, make more informed clinical decisions and allow for remote collaboration by care teams in different locations. The companies’ stated goal is to create the interventional suite of the future –- one designed to improve ergonomics, with natural interactions for optimized workflow and facilitates care team collaboration.

CMR Surgical and J&J are partnering on surgical robotics

Chris Newmarker from reports on the recent announcement from CMR Surgical that Johnson & Johnson MedTech’s Ethicon business will work with CMR to sell its Versius surgical robotics systems in select markets. The collaboration involves commercial teams from the two companies working together. They’ll focus on selling to select hospitals in Italy, France, Germany, and Brazil. To meet the growing demand, CMR Surgical is working on building a roughly 75,000-square-foot global manufacturing hub in Cambridgeshire.

Why it’s important – This partnership should allow CMR to expand its footprint in the surgical robotics market by leveraging the reach of J&J Ethicon, helping it compete against industry giant Intuitive Surgical. The news comes only weeks after the Cambridge, U.K.–based surgical robotics upstart announced that it had installed more than 100 Versius robotic surgery systems worldwide. There are now Versius robots in operation across Europe, Asia, Australia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

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