Health Tech News This Week – April 1, 2023

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

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Your Speech May Reveal Early Signs of Alzheimer’s

Wired’s Amit Katwala reports that startup Accexible says the way you talk can indicate preclinical Alzheimer’s or other underlying health conditions. Accexible’s product—which is accessible on a computer, app, or through a phone call—assesses the linguistic content of someone’s speech, as well as how they’re speaking, to identify changes that may indicate an underlying problem. The company promises 90 percent accuracy and results in just a few minutes. The idea is that general practitioners can use the app as a screening test, and neurologists can use it to monitor how their patients progress over time. The company is exploring whether the model can predict levels of beta-amyloid, the protein that builds up inside the brain in Alzheimer’s patients. Aguirre hopes that Accexible will eventually be able to detect a range of health conditions and expedite access to treatment.

YouTube Video Credit: Wired Events

Why it’s important – Hundreds of millions worldwide suffer from Alzheimer’s and mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. However, these are still underdiagnosed or detected too late for optimal intervention. If a patient comes in with a memory complaint, a doctor can use the technology to run a screening test and then refer them to a memory clinic for further attention if needed.

Infographics of the weekGoldman Sachs Economics Research report on AI’s impact on economic growth concludes that if generative AI delivers on its promised capabilities, the labor market could face significant disruption. Using data on occupational tasks in the US and Europe, we find that roughly two-thirds of current jobs are exposed to some degree of AI automation and that generative AI could substitute up to one-fourth of current work. Extrapolating our estimates globally suggests that generative AI could expose the equivalent of 300mn full-time jobs to automation.

Image Credit: Goldman Sachs: The Potentially Large Effects of Artificial Intelligence on Economic Growth (Briggs/Kodnani)

This week’s second infographic is from a slide presented at the VMed 2023 conference. “Awe” is the “feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends your understanding of the world.” There are important medical benefits of awe, outlined in this slide from @TYarbrow & Katheleen Benton’s talk at #vMed23 on #VR for hospice.

Image Credit: T Yarbrow, Kathleen Benton, vMed23 Conference presentation

One final infographic from Dr. Brennan Spiegel at the VMed Conference this week – “Wow, look how many locations within @DeptVetAffairs are actively using #VR for patient care! The VA has been innovating in medical #XR for years. Caitlin Rawlins from VA is now presenting “XR in the VA” at our #vMed23 conference. Helping vets, one headset at a time.”

Image Credit: Department of Veterans Affairs

‘Smart bandage’ with biosensors could help chronic wounds heal, study claims

Nicola Davis reports that a smart bandage that can monitor chronic wounds and help them to heal has been developed by scientists who say the device could aid people with diabetic ulcers, burns, and non-healing surgical wounds in her article in The Guardian. The device has two parts – one reusable, flexible printed circuit board and one disposable patch. The disposable patch contains biosensors, electrodes, and drug-loaded hydrogels. The biosensors mean the “smart bandage” device can monitor features of the wound such as its temperature, pH, and levels of substances including glucose, uric acid, and lactate – metrics that provide essential insights into whether the wound is infected and its levels of inflammation.

Why it’s important – According to figures from 2018, there are 2.2 million people in the UK with chronic wounds, costing the NHS £5.3bn a year. The device allows for electrical stimulation to be applied – a technique previously found to encourage wounds to heal but has been hampered by bulky equipment. It also enables the controlled release of anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial drugs. All the signals can be wirelessly sent to a user interface [such as] a computer or a cellphone. While further work is needed, including studies with pigs and humans, it is hoped the smart bandages could be used in clinics in the next five to 10 years.

Podcast of the week – This week’s recommendation is from Halle Tecco’s The Heart of Healthcare series. “Can AI Move Us From Incremental to Exponential Progress in Healthcare?” features Adrian Aoun, CEO of Forward, an AI-based healthcare system combining world-class private doctors with new technology to enable proactive, data-driven primary care to discuss how artificial intelligence (AI) can help us achieve exponential improvements to human health. You can listen to the episode here.

Image Credit: The Heart of Healthcare Podcast

Smart glasses at Basildon Hospital speed up procedures

Smart glasses are being used at a hospital to help reduce waiting lists for heart procedures. Martin Giles from BBC News reports the story. Staff at Basildon Hospital wear a high-resolution camera and earpiece to connect with experts remotely. The hospital is the first in the UK to use the set-up when patients are having faulty heart valves replaced. The glasses share live video and audio with industry experts – based in Hemel Hempstead and sometimes overseas – who can zoom in on pieces of medical equipment and give advice ahead of and during surgery.

Image Credit: Martin Giles, BBC

Why it’s important – When waiting lists were at their highest in 2021 between July and September, the average wait time for a TAVI procedure at Basildon Hospital was just over seven months. This has since come down to two-and-a-half months, based on the most recent available data from October to December 2022. The smart glasses also mean staff can be trained remotely.

ViVe 2023: CancerX co-hosts Moffitt Cancer Center, Digital Medicine Society unveil ‘Moonshot’ digital health effort

The annual ViVe Conference was held in Nashville this week. Heather Landi from Fierce Healthcare covers one of the major announcements made at the conference. Moffitt Cancer Center and the Digital Medicine Society call on the healthcare and digital health industry to accelerate technology-driven efforts to fight cancer. The two organizations are collaborating to speed up the pace of cancer innovation, and they want others to join the effort. As unveiled on Tuesday at the ViVE conference, Moffitt Cancer Center and DiMe are co-hosting the new CancerX public-private partnership as part of the Biden administration’s reignited Cancer Moonshot. The aim is to leverage industry collaboration and disruptive innovation to reduce the burden of cancer for all people.

Executives from Moffitt Cancer Center and DiMe also unveiled Tuesday the first 21 organizations participating as founding partners in the CancerX effort, including the American Cancer Society, Biofourmis, Current Health, Memorial Sloane Kettering, Takeda Digital Ventures, Lightship, Science37, and the Veterans Health Administration, among many others.

Listen to this Digital Health Today podcast where Jennifer Goldsack shares exciting details about the new #CancerX effort DiME is co-hosting with Moffitt Cancer Center in response to The White House. After listening, visit their site to learn more:

“There is absolutely no reason why it can’t happen. And we were completely committed to delivering on this timeline because the alternative is unacceptable.”

Jennifer Goldsack, CEO, Digital Medicine Society

Why it’s important – In 2023, 1,958,310 new cancer cases and 609,820 cancer deaths are projected to occur in the U.S. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S, and those patients that do survive are 2½ times more likely to declare bankruptcy than those without the disease. Cancer affects all population groups in the U.S., but due to social, environmental, and economic disadvantages, certain groups bear a disproportionate burden of cancer compared with other groups. Digital innovation is generally lagging behind in cancer compared to all other therapeutic areas, according to Jennifer Goldsack, the CEO of the Digital Medicine Society.

South Korea clears Sky Labs’ cuffless blood pressure monitoring feature

South Korean health tech startup Sky Labs has recently obtained the approval of the South Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety for the latest blood pressure monitoring feature on its ring-type health monitoring device. Adam Ang from MobiHealthNews reports that the company targets to receive a similar clearance from the US FDA by yearend. Worn on the finger, CART-I Plus uses PPG and sensor algorithms to measure and monitor blood pressure continuously around the clock. It provides a range of blood pressure data, including nighttime blood pressure, morning blood pressure, and blood pressure variability.

Image Credit: Sky Labs

Why it’s important – The blood pressure monitoring feature on CART supports treatment decision-making and medication dosage adjustment. It also aids in tracking changes in lifestyle habits, such as sleep, stress management, exercise, alcohol consumption, and response to blood pressure medication. For outpatient care and general health monitoring, there is great interest in being able to accurately and frequently measure BP outside of a clinical setting using mobile or wearable devices. One possible solution is photoplethysmography (PPG), which is most commonly used in pulse oximetry in clinical settings for measuring oxygen saturation. PPG technology is becoming more readily available, inexpensive, convenient, and easily integrated into portable devices. Here’s a link to a journal article on the use of PPG in mobile monitoring.

When It Comes to Radiology, What Can We Teach ChatGPT ?

Dr. Nina Kotler authored this opinion piece in MedCity News online. The potential of ChatGPT is exciting. Radiologists have come a long way on the AI journey. What started as a fear from some that AI would replace them has evolved into a more nuanced understanding that AI’s most significant contribution to medical imaging is to make them better radiologists. Dr. Kotler identifies several use cases for ChatGPT in radiology, including:

  • Improving the radiology report – By offering quality control oversight, suggesting relevant positive and negative findings, and providing radiologists with appropriate follow-up recommendations based on population health best practices, ChatGPT can also enhance the quality of the radiology report.
  • Improve patient information rads receive – ChatGPT can summarize prior radiology reports, medical notes, laboratory data, and provided history to give radiologists a far more complete patient historiological than we have had since the advent of the digital age.
  • Identify best practices – While ChatGPT can’t yet review the medical images, it can display the latest best practice recommendations tailored to the patient based on reported pathology, making best practices more ubiquitous across the specialty.
  • Flag billing requirements – To receive reimbursement, Medicare requires radiologists to adhere to complex and evolving requirements that are arduous and inefficient for the radiologist to manage. Enter ChatGPT to flag Medicare requirements and prompt radiologists to include them in their reports helping reduce physician burden.
  • Create CPT code mapping from radiology reports – With the application of reinforcement learning, particularly in intricate sub-specialties like interventional radiology, ChatGPT could help guarantee that radiologists are appropriately reimbursed for their services.
  • Improve comment letters to government agencies – ChatGPT could create efficiencies, especially for entities with fewer resources, by writing first drafts of comment letters. Importantly, this assistance can markedly improve the volume of input on proposed rules, regulations, and guidance, hopefully making government agencies more connected to their constituents.

Why it’s important – The potential of ChatGPT is exciting and has the potential to streamline radiology workflow. Appropriately implemented, ChatGPT can minimize some of the administrative burdens on radiologists. However, augmenting the technology with clinical expertise is essential. Optimal augmentation can only occur by educating the clinician about how the tool works. Hopefully, radiologists will step up to the challenge and provide the guidance necessary to make the tool useful in their day-to-day clinical work.

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