Health Tech News This Week – December 31, 2022

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

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Digital Health Tools Need a New Benchmark

Saira Ghafur’s article in Wired kicks off the news coverage this week. In it, she states that the whole-scale adoption and impact of digital health technology in national health systems worldwide has not yet fully materialized. A critical reason is that they often lack the necessary scientific evidence to back the range of benefits—from improved health outcomes for patients to better cost-benefit outcomes for payers such as insurance companies and health care providers—that its manufacturers claim they can deliver. A recent study by health tech seed fund Rock Health and Johns Hopkins University demonstrated the extent of the problem. Only 20 percent achieved the threshold considered acceptable for rigorously tested solutions.

Why it’s important – In 2023, we will see heightened scrutiny for the evidence required of digital health technologies and how that evidence is generated. This will be led by regulators and payors, who will need increasing clarity on evidence for reimbursement. This is already happening in the UK, the US, and Germany. Regulators will also move toward accepting these novel methodologies as validation and favor a more pragmatic approach to evidence generation. Recently, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has set up the Early Value Assessment Program for Digital Tools. This program will help select promising technologies and rapidly assess their clinical effectiveness and impact before embarking on more robust trials. In 2023, pilots will be conducted for digital apps for anxiety and depression in children, and it is hoped this will be rolled out as well for early cancer diagnostics, adult mental health, and cardiovascular disease. Soon, programs such as these will allow clinicians to properly evaluate any bold claims made by digital health companies regarding their products.

Infographics of the week – We know Digital health opens up new opportunities for entrepreneurs and startups, and larger MedTech companies to add value. However, as the chart from McKinsey & Company below suggests, these tools and solutions (be they apps or devices or wearables, or even virtual-care solutions like telehealth) should ideally fix a real problem or jobs to be done along the entire patient pathway, from primary prevention and screening through diagnosis and staging to treatment and the subsequent management of a disease, condition. Capturing such opportunities depends on understanding where these pain/friction points lie for patients, physicians, other clinicians, providers, and payers and how a given digital health or health-tech solution will address them. The clearer this is (to target customers or investors), the more likely it is that the e-health tool will experience growth.

Image Credit: McKinsey & Company

The second infographic this week is from Dr. Tazeen Rizvi. Ambient clinical intelligence utilizes technologies, including artificial intelligence, big data, the Internet of Things (IoT), human-computer interaction (HCI), and others, to allow voice-enabled AI to automatically document patient encounters during a consultation between clinicians, healthcare teams, patients, and their families.

Google might use rings and bracelets as input methods for its upcoming AR glasses

This year at Google I/O, one of the things Google also teased was the launch of future AR glasses. They might work a little differently from what we saw from Google previously with Glass, though. Google’s already exploring two wildly different input methods for the upcoming device, according to sources. Arol Wright reports on the rumors in Android Police online. As per 9to5Google, and its sources familiar with development at Google, the company is looking at smart rings and bracelets as input methods for these upcoming glasses. The other solution Google is looking at, bracelets, might work with a similar principle, letting you swipe and tap on it with your finger. The bracelet would also have haptic feedback.

Why it’s important – It’s perhaps early days to know how these AR glasses will work, but one thing is clear from the reporting on both Google and Apple, 2023 will be a big year for new AR wearables coming to market. I’ve written on this topic and various use cases in this earlier post. These will be exciting developments to watch in the new year.

Mass General, Mayo Clinic, & More Share AI, Analytics Plans for Next Year

Shania Kennedy, Assistant Editor at xTelligent Media, reports that leaders from Mass General Brigham, Mayo Clinic, Mount Sinai, and Cleveland Clinic discussed with HealthITAnalytics what their health systems’ plans are for next year to build on existing initiatives, deploy new projects, address challenges, and innovate in the AI and data analytics space. Some data indicate that health systems still face challenges caused or worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. These organizations plan to use and invest in health IT tools, such as patient portals, telehealth, and artificial intelligence (AI), to overcome them.

“We’re going to put more algorithms in place because we have all the infrastructure to do it, [and] we’re going to develop more algorithms because we now have the capability to do that at scale much faster. All of that’s going to continue; all of that’s going to ramp up.”

Keith Dreyer, DO, PhD, Chief Data Science Officer and Chief Imaging Information Officer, Mass General Brigham

Why it’s important – For many, top priorities from last year, such as patient access to care and efficiency improvements, will carry over into 2023. But the question of what tools organizations will leverage and how they’ll deploy them remains. This article is excellent background information for companies looking to develop AI solutions for healthcare.

Yes, The Waverly Labs Ambassador Can Translate Languages Live

While not recent news, this device is hew to me, so I wanted to feature it in this post. Waverly Labs Ambassador makes instant translation possible. Designed to be worn over an ear, the Ambassador allows you to step into any conversation around you, regardless of their spoken language, and engage with them. It is not an audio recorder, nor is it a transcription device; it’s a bonafide instant translation tool. The Ambassador design is simplistic and comes in two colors: Black and Wine Red. To equip it, slide it over one of your ears, and you can start hopping into conversations.

Image Credit: Waverly Labs
YouTube Video Credit: Waverly Labs

Why it’s important – The Ambassador can translate 20 languages and 42 dialects. Specifically, these are the available options: English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic, Greek, Russian, Hindi, Turkish, Polish, Chinese Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Cantonese, Hebrew, Thai, Vietnamese and Dutch. If you consider that many countries share the same languages and more than one educational systems stress bilingual or trilingual education, you’ll be able to communicate with virtually anybody you’d like. The days of scrambling for a translation app on your phone are gone and out the window. All you need to do is choose which translation mode you’d like (Listen/Lecture/Converse), and you’re all set. Imagine not having to wait for a hospital translator to come down to converse with a patient about their condition and care plan. It could be a real time-saver.

Wearable skin patch monitors hemoglobin in deep tissues

A team of engineers at the University of California San Diego has developed an electronic patch that can monitor biomolecules in deep tissues, including hemoglobin. This gives medical professionals unprecedented access to crucial information that could help spot life-threatening conditions such as malignant tumors, organ dysfunction, cerebral or gut hemorrhages, and more. As reported in Nanotechnology World, The new, flexible, low-form-factor wearable patch comfortably attaches to the skin, allowing for long-term noninvasive monitoring. It can perform three-dimensional hemoglobin mapping with a submillimeter spatial resolution in deep tissues, down to centimeters below the skin, versus other wearable electrochemical devices that only sense the biomolecules on the skin surface. It can achieve high contrast to other tissues. Due to its optical selectivity, it can expand the range of detectable molecules, integrating different laser diodes with different wavelengths, along with its potential clinical applications.

Image Credit: @ Xiaoxiang Gao/Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego

Why it’s important – Low blood perfusion inside the body may cause severe organ dysfunctions and is associated with various ailments, including heart attacks and vascular diseases of the extremities. At the same time, abnormal blood accumulation in areas such as the brain, abdomen, or cysts can indicate cerebral or visceral hemorrhage or malignant tumors. Continuous monitoring can aid the diagnosis of these conditions and help facilitate timely and potentially life-saving interventions.

New AI Listens to Toilet Sounds to Detect Diarrhea

In what must be one of the unusual headlines of the year, this Medscape article by Denny Watkins reports that a design for a “Diarrhea Detector” that could alert health officials to disease outbreaks like cholera was recently presented by engineers from Georgia Tech Research Institute. The AI could be used with home smart devices to monitor one’s bowel health. A prototype accurately identified diarrhea 98% of the time in tests; the engineers told a conference of the Acoustical Society of America in Nashville. Even with background noise, it was correct 96% of the time.

Why it’s important – Cholera infects millions of people each year, killing up to 143,000 who become dehydrated from severe diarrhea, according to the World Health Organization. Many deaths could be avoided with an oral rehydration solution if the outbreak is spotted fast enough. Cholera can be lethal within 24 hours after symptoms start. The device could be installed in public toilets where inadequate plumbing raises the risk of a cholera outbreak.

How the Right Technology can Simplify a Healthcare Worker’s Life

In a guest post in Healthcare IT Today, Marcus Mossberger, Future of Work Strategist at Infor, contends that hospital and health system C-suite must adopt new, strategic approaches to technology—embracing a practical, objective, and sustainable workplace well-being technology platform. The right technology, which is the manifestation of contemporary thinking by hospitals and health systems, does three things on a single, cloud-based platform. It advises. It augments. And it automates.

Why it’s important – Today’s healthcare workers put up with poor user experiences on their current technologies. They’re frustrated by unconnected, disparate IT systems that force them to interrupt their workflows to log in and out of a system before they can continue their work. Technologies that simplify or eliminate repetitive tasks can empower clinical and non-clinical staff to practice at the top of their license or perform higher-level and more gratifying responsibilities. Technologies that help people do their jobs better can improve job performance and satisfaction.

It’s hard to believe that we’re at the end of another year already. My sincere thanks to all those who have read, commented upon, and shared my posts on this blog in 2022. I wish you and your loved ones a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous 2023. It will be interesting to see how technology innovations will impact health care next year.

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