What happened in health care technology this week, and why it’s important.
Apple Makes Major Progress on No-Prick Blood Glucose Tracking for Its Watch
Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reports that Apple Inc. has a moonshot-style project underway that dates back to the Steve Jobs era: noninvasive and continuous blood glucose monitoring. The goal of this secret endeavor — dubbed E5 — is to measure how much glucose is in someone’s body without pricking the skin for blood. After hitting significant milestones recently, the company now believes it could eventually bring glucose monitoring to market, according to people familiar with the effort. Years of work are still ahead, but the move could upend a multibillion-dollar industry.
Why it’s important – Roughly 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes, and they typically rely on a device that pokes the skin for a blood sample. There are also patches from Dexcom Inc. and Abbott Laboratories that are inserted into the skin but must be replaced every two weeks. If perfected, such a breakthrough would be a boon to diabetics and help cement Apple as a powerhouse in health care. Adding the monitoring system to the Apple Watch, the ultimate goal would also make that device an essential item for millions of diabetics worldwide.
Infographics of the week – Americans say they’re worried about opioids and gun violence, but what they really want the government to tackle is rising drug costs and health bills, according to the new Axios-Ipsos American Health Index. The national survey of 1,213 U.S. adults found almost 8 in 10 want insurers to cover weight-loss drugs, and nearly 9 in 10 back a monthly cap on out-of-pocket costs for insulin.
From Rock Health’s 2022 Digital Health Consumer Adoption Survey – In 2022, 46% of Survey respondents reported owning a wearable device, a steady albeit slight increase from 2021 (45%) and 2020 (43%). However, as overall wearable ownership grows toward the 50% threshold, ownership disparities remain among consumer communities. Wearable ownership remains more prevalent among respondents with “early adopter” characteristics: 74% of younger respondents with higher income and higher educational attainment reported owning a wearable. However, wearable ownership among this cohort declined from its peak in 2020 (80%)—this aligns with 2022 buying trends, with global consumer wearable sales slacking amid inflation and recessionary concerns.
Apple Watch saves owner’s life from fatal internal bleeding after nap, here’s what happened
The Apple Watch saved the wearer’s life by alerting him to a racing pulse after a nap, which led to a diagnosis of severe internal bleeding. The owner, an account called “digitalmofo,” posted the incident titled, “Well, my Apple Watch 7 just saved my life.” The Economic Times published the article online. The owner went on to say that “severe internal bleeding” was to blame.”Emergency medical services (EMS) originally reported a heart attack, but it turned out to be GI bleeding,” the report reads. “They said I wouldn’t have made it if I hadn’t gotten there for a transfusion when I did,” the user stated.
Why it’s important – Another example of how having a wearable device that is non-obtrusive and available 24×7 can identify potential health problems before they become critical. If you couple this article with the first one in this post and the infographic above, you can see Apple’s continuing focus on remote monitoring with various applications has a readymade market to capitalize upon.
Podcast of the week – From the Fixing Healthcare podcast series, hosts Dr. Robert Pearl and Jeremy Corr explore how healthcare has become monopolized, from hospitals and health systems to the drug industry and beyond. Whether you provide medical care or receive it, you’ll learn much from this conversation.
60% of patients uncomfortable with AI in healthcare settings, survey finds
About six in 10 U.S. adults said they would feel uncomfortable if their provider used artificial intelligence tools to diagnose them and recommend treatments in a care setting, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center. Hailey Mensik covered the story in her article on Healthcare Dive. While a majority said they would want AI technology for skin cancer detection, large shares said they would not feel comfortable being the subject of the other use cases.
Why it’s important – The potential for AI tools to diminish personal connections between patients and providers is a key concern, according to the survey, which included responses from over 11,000 U.S. adults collected in December. Patients also fear their health records could become less secure. Respondents, however, acknowledged potential benefits, including that AI could reduce the number of mistakes providers make. They also expressed optimism about AI’s potential impact on racial and ethnic biases in healthcare settings, even as the technology has been criticized for exacerbating those issues.
Zoom is helping MaineGeneral Health boost its telehealth success
Bill Siwicki reports that The health system used another telemedicine vendor’s tools when the pandemic first hit. But it quickly saw what Zoom could do for virtual care innovation across several departments and specialties. Healthcare IT News interviewed Laura Mrazik, telehealth manager at MaineGeneral Health, to discuss best uses and best practices with Zoom so others can learn from MaineGeneral’s lessons.
Why it’s important – Maine General Health appreciates Zoom’s ability for the client organization to control settings at the account level, internally, and the application’s flexibility to meet the needs of different use cases. Zoom’s support portal has both a forum to ask other clients questions and a library of instructions for how their team can troubleshoot or make configuration changes appropriately. Patients are not required to create and remember a username and password to join their virtual visit. Many have already become familiar with Zoom in their distance communication with friends or family.
Engineering skin grafts for complex body parts
A research team led by Dr. Hasan Erbil Abaci of Columbia University has been working on methods to make 3D-engineered skin in the shape of complex body parts. Such custom grafts could then be transplanted intact, with minimal suturing required. In a new study, the team tested their skin-culture system using models of human hands and the hindlimbs of mice. Results were published on January 27, 2023, in Science Advances.
Why it’s important – Skin grafts are a vital treatment for burns and other extensive skin injuries. Since the 1980s, advances in bioengineering have allowed researchers to grow new patches of skin in the lab. Such engineered grafts are less traumatic for patients than transplanting skin from elsewhere on the body. Compared with standard, flat-cultured grafts, the 3D-cultured skin was more resistant to stresses produced by movement. Further analysis showed that the 3D cultures had higher levels of extracellular matrix proteins, supportive proteins found in mature skin.
2 thoughts on “Health Tech News This Week – February 25, 2023”
I wanted to comment on your discussion about the increased functionality of the Applewatch, particularly the glucose monitor. I guess you would characterize me as “Early Majority” in the phase-in of new products and services. I recently purchased the watch firstly, to tell time and secondly to monitor my sleep habits and step count each day. As I am learning more about the capability of this watch, I see that it can do EKGs and blood oxygen, which I find a bit mind blowing. It even coaches me to get walking when I sit too long! As I learn more about this piece of technology I am sure my mind will be stretched even more.
I had flashbacks to the tricorder that was used in the Star Trek TV show. Then I looked up the definition of the tricorder and wikipedia describes it as “a multifunctional hand-held device that can perform environmental scans, data recording, and data analysis; hence the word “tricorder” to refer to the three functions of sensing, recording, and computing.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tricorder).
Apple watch >= Tricorder ?
This is an exciting time to be in healthcare !!!! Beam me up Scotty !
Although it is very early in the development process, I think the glucose monitoring function could be a game changer. I’m betting that the FDA clearance process will be very challenging for Apple, but from what Mark Gurman has been able to find out from reliable sources, they have an impressive team setting up the filing and will hold off until they are certain they can prove it works well.
As you already know I’ve had an Apple Watch since series one was introduced. My current version is series 7 and I couldn’t be more pleased. ⌚️
Love your Star Trek reference!