Health Tech News This Week – December 17, 2022

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

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Here’s How Skilled Nursing Facilities Can Use Virtual Reality Too

Avi Philipson writes in MedCity News that skilled nursing facilities are no strangers to innovative technology. Their equipment is more advanced than ever before, technology is an integral part of their services, and it’s helping to improve staff’s day-to-day lives. While some skilled nursing facilities and long-term care centers have already found a use for virtual reality in their facilities, many SNFs and LTC centers have yet to make VR a part of their offerings. He highlighted three areas where VR can use virtual reality at their organizations to benefit residents.

  • VR can improve rehabilitation services – It’s challenging to maintain a resident’s interest and motivation when it comes to working out, especially because routines can become monotonous so quickly. VR can make stretches and exercises more exciting, thus keeping more residents engaged.
  • VR can slow cognitive decline – Using VR exercise games, which is also known as ‘exergaming’ or ‘gamercising,’ can help to prevent and slow cognitive decline. Research backs this up, saying that VR exergaming has the potential to have a significant impact on dementia, Alzheimer’s, and even Parkinson’s disease.
  • VR promotes socialization – VR headsets can be handed out to a large group, and these individuals can play games or travel worldwide together. Engaging in a group activity like this is a great way to mix up the usual events and bring an entirely new visually entertaining aspect to your residents’ days, which will bridge connections on a whole different level.

Why it’s important – Virtual reality gives residents freedom that facilities can’t offer without technology. Early pilot projects have demonstrated benefits in all three areas described above and have been shown to improve the quality of life for residents in facilities that use the technology.

Infographics of the week – CB Insights has unveiled the fourth annual Digital Health 150 — a list of 150 of the top private companies transforming healthcare with digital technology. Winners are focusing on everything from reimagining clinical care to making healthcare more accessible for underserved populations to leveraging tech like AR/VR to improve surgical training.

Image Credit: CB Insights

The second infographic this week is from The Medical Futurist Institute. Nutrigenomics could be the biggest flop in digital health or one of the most exciting trends. It could help people better adjust their diet based on their genomic and metabolic background. They analyzed the global market to find those companies that provide such services. It contains the countries companies originate from, the year they were founded, and the price of their service now.

Image Credit: The Medical Futurist Institute


Abigail Klein Leichman on Israeli21c online reports that automated drug delivery is a critical star in the constellation of technologies enabling more people to get medical care outside hospitals. Devices that deliver medications can extend “hospital at home” services to many more patients.

YouTube video credit: Eitan Medical

Why it’s important – Devices that deliver infusions at home or close to home reduce stress on patients, reduce costs, and reduce the workload of chronically short-staffed hospitals.

Base editing: Revolutionary therapy clears girl’s incurable cancer

A teenage girl’s incurable cancer has been cleared from her body with the first use of a revolutionary new type of medicine. The BBC’s James Gallagher reports on Alyssa’s story in his online article. Alyssa, who is 13 and from Leicester, was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia in May last year. Her cancer was aggressive. Chemotherapy and then a bone-marrow transplant could not rid it from her body. The team at Great Ormond Street used a technology called base editing, which was invented only six years ago. The large group of doctors and scientists used this tool to engineer a new T-cell capable of hunting down and killing Alyssa’s cancerous T-cells. After a month, Alyssa was in remission and was given a second bone-marrow transplant to regrow her immune system.

“It is extremely exciting. Obviously, this is a new field in medicine and it’s fascinating that we can redirect the immune system to fight cancer.”

Robert Chiesa, MD, Great Ormond Street Hospital

Why it’s important – The technology used in Alyssa’s case, though, only scratches the surface of what base editing could achieve. In Alyssa’s therapy, each base edit involved breaking a section of genetic code, so it no longer worked. But there are more nuanced applications where instead of switching an instruction off you can fix a defective one. Sickle-cell anemia, for example, is caused by just one base change that could be corrected. There are already trials of base editing underway in sickle-cell disease, as well as high cholesterol that runs in families and the blood disorder beta-thalassemia.

England to sequence genomes of 100,000 newborns, to try to catch illness earlier

Stat’s Andrew Joseph reports that The Newborn Genomes Programme will scan DNA for mutations that can cause some 200 conditions. Such early sequencing is meant to identify genetic diseases quickly and to help families avoid the often yearslong “diagnostic odysseys” that can begin when children start to show vague symptoms — missing developmental milestones, for example — and only end when they eventually get a firm diagnosis. Early interventions, perhaps before symptoms appear, could also stave off the damage these diseases cause. The study’s results — which will also consider the economics and ethics of such an intervention — will inform whether and how the U.K.’s National Health Service would offer wider newborn sequencing.

“The conditions that we’re choosing are the ones that are well-established that this gene causes this condition, and that that condition needs to be treated before age 5.”

David Bick, Principal Clinician, Newborn Genomes Programme.

Why it’s important – Sequencing of newborns has proven its worth when there’s suspicion of a genetic disease; an early diagnosis can inform treatments before a condition gets particularly severe.

Amazon Alexa supports care providers with senior living product

Amazon has launched Alexa Smart Properties for Senior Living, enabling Alexa devices to be integrated into assisted living and care facilities. Cora Lydon outlines the details in her article in Digital Health online. Alexa Smart Properties will specifically support the needs of older residents and those providing care to them. It allows care providers to deploy, manage and service a fleet of Echo devices quickly, remotely, and at scale, working with solution providers to customize them. Care teams can communicate with residents using Amazon Alexa features such as making announcements and voice and video calls. Property managers will also be able to engage with residents by displaying activities, menus, and reminders on Echo Show devices.

Why it’s important – This isn’t the first time Amazon has announced this type of initiative. Two years ago, Amazon introduced The Care Hub, a set of care features for US customers to help support independent living for older people. And, while the platform can empower residents to control their environment with an Amazon Alexa device, giving them greater independence, recent reports that Amazon is cutting back on their commitment to Alexa devices raise concerns that the long-term support for platforms like this is questionable. We need to watch this closely.

ChatGPT Is a Tipping Point for AI

Ethan Mollick, in the Harvard Business Review, discusses the impact of ChatGPT on businesses across multiple industries. While versions of GPT have been around for a while, this model has crossed a threshold: It’s genuinely useful for a wide range of tasks, from creating software to generating business ideas to writing a wedding toast. While previous generations of the system could technically do these things, the quality of the outputs was much lower than that of an average human. The new model is much better, often startlingly so. His conclusion: This is a very big deal. The businesses that understand the significance of this change — and act on it first — will be at a considerable advantage. Especially as ChatGPT is just the first of many similar chatbots that will soon be available, and they are increasing in capacity exponentially every year.

Why it’s important – It has an incredible capacity to perform different kinds of writing with more significant implications than might be initially apparent. The use of AI in writing can significantly increase the productivity of businesses in a variety of industries. By utilizing AI’s ability to quickly and accurately generate written content, companies can save time and resources, allowing them to focus on other essential tasks. This is particularly beneficial for industries such as marketing and advertising, consulting, and finance, where high-quality written materials are vital for communicating with clients and stakeholders. What about healthcare, you ask? Some physicians have already started using ChatGPT to generate letters to insurance companies to challenge denials of critical procedures for patients. (See video below) And we’ve only scratched the surface of the platform’s full potential.

TikTok Video Credit: One Rheumatology, Palm Beach, FL

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