Health Tech News This Week – April 15, 2023

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

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Digital pathology experts say that human-centered augmented intelligence will remain the standard for pathology, radiology

As artificial intelligence and machine learning are adopted across the industry, radiologists and pathologists are blasting the same alarm as countless others by asking whether AI-powered diagnostics are here for their jobs. Annie Burky reports that experts say that with the future of healthcare in augmented intelligence, not artificial, there is no reason to panic in her article in Fierce Healthcare.

Despite expert urgings, medical students are still wary of the future of service specialties like radiology and pathology. A recent survey of medical students found that 23% of the 532 asked said they would not consider pursuing a career in diagnostic radiology. The survey data published in Academic Radiology showed that between 2017 and 2021, the percentage of students who believed job prospects in radiology to be limited increased from 50% to 71%.

Why it’s important – Experts say you’ll see across the industry that humans are still at the center. To have an algorithm make a final diagnosis, you need regulation to support that. And who is responsible if that diagnosis is wrong? So that’s a lot of hoops to go over until we reach the point where we trust a computer entirely to make a prediction between life and death. When asked about technology readiness and if and when a day will come when technology replaces radiologists and pathologists, researchers from the University of Houston say it’s too far in the future to be sure. Some people are saying 50 years. Some people say 100. Anything, at this point, is a wild guess.

Infographic of the week – What if we designed programs where the Commercial Determinants of Health (CDoH) join up with the drivers of health we have called the Social Determinants of Health (#SDoH)? The Lancet‘s collection of research published online on March 23, 2022, explores CDoH’s role in shaping public and individual health, along with potential calls to action for addressing these challenges.

Image Credit: The Lancet, March 23, 2023

Machine-Learning Model Predicts Risk of Pediatric Deterioration

Nationwide Children’s Hospital researchers utilized a machine-learning tool with an EHR-integrated risk index algorithm to alert providers of early pediatric deterioration. Sarai Rodriguez reports on the study published in the Pediatric Critical Care Medicine journal. The Deterioration Risk Index (DRI), based on a Watchstander program already used at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, leverages familiar alert responses to promote adoption, such as patient assessments, care team huddles within 30 minutes, risk mitigation, and escalation plans.

The study revealed that the DRI exhibited 2.4 times greater sensitivity than the existing situational awareness program, with a four-fold increase in sensitivity observed for the cardiac group and a three-fold increase for the malignancy group. Moreover, the model demonstrated more precise alerting, requiring 2.3 times fewer alarms per detected event. Following implementation, the pilot study reported a 77 percent reduction in deterioration events during the first 18 months compared to the situational awareness program.

Why it’s important – Earlier identification of high-risk patients is crucial in preventing adverse events and code blue situations, as patient deterioration can rapidly escalate from seemingly ordinary to critical. For organizations that see large numbers of medically complex patients, risk-scoring methods are particularly helpful.

75% of doctors may soon recommend robots for socially isolated seniors: results from a 25-country global physician survey

Sermo partnered with leading academic experts to field the survey in recognition of recent advances in social robotics and generative AI, timed with National Robotics Week this April. Newer AI-enhanced robots with better algorithms, speech, and vision are coming closer to having a “personality” and being able to build personal relationships and adapt their behavior based on experience. Clinical trials, as well as systematic reviews of social robots for older adults, have found promising benefits in many areas, such as reduced stress and loneliness, as well as improved health outcomes.

Image Credit: Sermo Technology & The Future of Social Connectedness Survey, 2022

Why it’s important – Approximately 1 billion people worldwide are lonely – including more than 40% of seniors. Loneliness in the elderly is a significant risk factor for physical and mental ill-health and early death. For example, a 2023 study of 400,000 middle-aged and older adults found that both social isolation and loneliness increased the risk for hospitalization or death from heart failure by 15-20%. In the US alone, there is a shortage of some 450,000 senior caregivers, exacerbating the loneliness crisis.

Walgreens, Cariloop bring MS care coaches into select neurology-specialty pharmacies

Fierce Healthcare’s Annie Burky reports that Walgreens unveiled a new partnership with Cariloop to unite the capabilities of Walgreens pharmacists and Cariloop’s care coaches to support those living with multiple sclerosis and their caregivers. The partnership will begin phase one this year by starting with select Walgreens neurology-specialty pharmacies. Walgreens pharmacists will help complement Cariloop’s care coaches by creating connections and facilitating on-the-ground support. For phase two, metrics like increased medication adherence and improved outcomes, or even the health and stress of caregivers, will be measured.

Why it’s important – Cariloop’s care coach team is comprised of experienced healthcare professionals, including registered nurses, occupational therapists, and clinical social workers who supplement their previous medical education with Cariloop’s training aimed at decreasing even the most mundane barriers to care.

Why Some Scientists Believe the Future of Medicine Lies in Creating Digital Twins

Peter Coveney and Roger Highfield feature the research in their online article in Time. Virtual organs are the culmination of research that stretches back more than half a century to experiments in the 1950s on the conveniently-large nerves from a squid. Today, in Oxford, Computational Medicine Professor Blanca Rodriguez’s team has passed another critical milestone for digital heart twins. While Noble’s first cell model relied on a handful of equations, her model uses several dozens. Most important, her human virtual heart predictions are more accurate than comparable animal studies, offering a way to reduce vivisection—the process of operating on live animals for scientific research. In one virtual “drug trial,” for example, where 62 drugs and reference compounds were tested in more than a thousand simulations of human heart cells, her team predicted the risk that drugs would cause abnormal heart rhythms with 89% accuracy. When they compared these computer predictions with data obtained from previously-conducted comparable animal studies, the animal research was less accurate (75%).

Why it’s important – In coming decades, though, doctors will be able to use digital twins—which see the exchange of data and insights between a real and virtual human—to predict better what lies in store for patients, helping what is primarily a one-size-fits-all approach evolve into one that is genuinely predictive and personalized. These simulations can look just like the real thing, but they are vastly more sophisticated than Hollywood visual effects because they behave like the real thing—from how the heart moves to the charged atoms that zip in and out of its cells. And they are already beginning to help doctors to predict how the particular heart of a specific patient will respond to a particular treatment.

The First FDA-Approved Video Game Was Developed in San Francisco

Could a video game treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder—better known as ADHD? It may sound like science fiction or a clever idea from a kid’s brain to get out of doing homework. Christina J. Campodonico reports that EndeavorRx, a first-of-its-kind, FDA-approved digital therapeutic, is accurate. Some Bay Area families are turning to the game as an alternative to traditional medication for the neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts 6.1 million children nationwide.

Image Credit: Morgan Ellis/The Standard

EndeavorRx challenges patients to zip through alien worlds, collecting whimsical creatures and objects. Toggling between tasks, like steering your spaceship and capturing flying critters, trains the mind to maintain attention even after the color playscapes fade and players return to real life. The game also responds in real-time to users’ input. For instance, it may speed up gameplay if you’re performing well or slow down if you’re stumbling along; the game will also update itself with new challenges or rewards based on a player’s performance.

Why it’s important – One in three children who played the game 25 minutes a day, five days a week for four weeks no longer had an attention deficit on at least one measure of attention, and 68% of parents noticed an improvement in ADHD-related impairments after two months of treatment, according to study findings published on EndeavorRx’s website. The results of another study are promising enough that Akili Interactive is seeking to expand the prescription label for children ages 13-17. Gazzaley said he hopes that with research, video game technology can be applied to treat a wide array of cognitive disorders—from anxiety and depression to multiple sclerosis or dementia.

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