Health Tech News This Week – October 8, 2022

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

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

WHO and partners launch world’s most extensive freely accessible AI health worker

The World Health Organization, with support from the Qatar Ministry of Health, launched the AI-powered WHO Digital Health Worker, Florence version 2.0, offering an innovative and interactive platform to share a myriad of health topics in seven languages at the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) in Qatar. Florence can share advice on mental health, give tips to destress, provide guidance on how to eat right, be more active, and quit tobacco and e-cigarettes. She can also offer information on COVID-19 vaccines and more. Florence 2.0 is now available in English, with Arabic, French, Spanish, Chinese, Hindi, and Russian to follow. The project is supported by technology company Soul Machines, which brings avatars to life as autonomously animated Digital People.

“We know that providing advice on Florence’s key health topics, including mental health, nutrition and tobacco cessation is an important tool in our commitment to support people to make healthy lifestyle choices.”

Dr Yousuf Al Maslamani, Official Healthcare Spokesperson for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, Ministry of Public Health.

Why it’s important – Florence has helped fight misinformation around COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. The pandemic has had a significant effect on mental health. It is estimated that 1 in every eight people in the world lives with a mental disorder. Her topics like tobacco and unhealthy diet kill 16 million people yearly, while physical inactivity kills an estimated 830 000. These deaths are due to diseases like cancer, heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes that can be prevented and controlled with the proper support. Will a truly useful chatbot come from the WHO to be used globally? I have my doubts, but the message is clear from the WHO: we need to deploy A.I.-based medical technologies as healthcare worker shortages will be with us forever.


Infographic of the week – Three-quarters of Americans give U.S. healthcare affordability a D or F rating, according to a new poll from Gallup and West Health. Over 5,000 Americans were asked to grade the U.S. healthcare system overall regarding affordability, equity, accessibility, and quality. Overall, 44% of Americans gave the entire system a poor or failing grade. One in 3 said healthcare affordability deserved an F.

Image Credit: West Health/Gallup Healthcare in America report

Specialized smart soft contact lenses can address global issue of glaucoma diagnosis, management

Purdue University published the results of a study demonstrating that the development of specialized smart soft contact lenses that accurately measure intraocular pressure (IOP) in a person’s eye could be the latest answer to stopping glaucoma-related blindness. The new technology is highlighted in a study published in the journal Nature Communications. The study compares Purdue’s technology to the current gold standard and other home monitoring systems. It examines how the Purdue technology can gather vital IOP measurements for 24-hour cycles, even during sleep.

Image Credit: Purdue University

“We hope our approach can be also tailored for aiding and detecting other chronic ocular diseases and for other functions.”

Chi Hwan Lee, the Leslie A. Geddes Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering in Purdue’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering

Why it’s important – The technology serves as another option for eye specialists to identify glaucoma, which, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, can steal a person’s vision without early warning signs or pain and affects more than 80 million people worldwide. The only known modifiable risk factor is lowering a person’s IOP, which is difficult to monitor for long periods, particularly during sleep. While exams can be performed in a specialist’s office and at-home monitoring systems are available, they all have limitations. For instance, in-office measures are time-consuming, and current at-home technology is challenging to use, is uncomfortable, and doesn’t gather sufficient data at the proper time periods or over long enough time periods for specialists to use the information to make optimized treatment decisions appropriately.


WORLD-FIRST 3D BIOPRINTED BIOIMPEDANCE CHIPS UNLOCK IN-VIVO SKIN DISEASE MODELING

Regenerative medicine specialist CTIBiotech has partnered with pharmaceutical firm Gattefossé to develop 3D bioprinted skin chips that enable the patient-specific modeling of skin diseases. Paul Hanaphy reports on the developments in his article on 3D Printing Industry. By assessing a tissue’s sebum levels, the oily substance in human tissues that helps our skin barrier to function, the lab-on-a-chip devices can non-invasively model the skin diseases of patients. Using their chips, the firms say it could now be possible to establish a more direct link between lab data and human research and develop more efficient cosmetic treatments.

Image Credit: CTIBiotech

Why it’s important – While scientists understand the molecule’s role in the body, they haven’t yet managed to draw a straight line between sebum disruption and skin disease in specific patients. The firms have worked together to establish this lab-human data link by creating a 3D bioprinted model based around ‘bioimpedance.’ Widely used to measure health, body composition, and diet, the analysis method sees a current applied to patients to calculate impedance (resistance) and assess if they need to make lifestyle changes accordingly.


A bionic pancreas could solve one of the biggest challenges of diabetes

In a recent trial, a bionic pancreas that automatically delivers insulin proved more effective than pumps or injections at lowering blood glucose levels in people with type 1 diabetes. The bionic pancreas, a credit card-sized device called an iLet, monitors a person’s levels around the clock and automatically delivers insulin when needed through a tiny cannula, a thin tube inserted into the body. It is worn constantly, generally on the abdomen. The device determines all insulin doses based on the user’s weight, and the user can’t adjust the doses. The results were featured in an article by Rhiannon Williams in MIT Technology Review online. A Harvard Medical School team has submitted its findings from the study, described in the New England Journal of Medicine, to the FDA to bring the product to market in the US eventually. While a team from Boston University and Massachusetts General Hospital first tested the bionic pancreas in 2010, this is the most extensive trial undertaken so far.

Why it’s important – Type 1 diabetes is a serious condition that causes a person’s level of glucose, or sugar, to become too high because the pancreas can’t produce enough insulin. This hormone keeps blood glucose under control. People with type 1 diabetes need to monitor their glucose levels and take insulin daily. Other types of artificial pancreas exist, but they typically require the user to input information before they will deliver insulin, including the amount of carbohydrates they ate in their last meal. Instead, the iLet takes the user’s weight and the type of meal they’re eating, such as breakfast, lunch, or dinner, added by the user via the iLet interface. It uses an adaptive learning algorithm to deliver insulin automatically. The device could remove the need for a person with diabetes to calculate the amount of carbohydrates in a meal, which is a significant benefit.


Pfizer pays almost $120 million for app that detects COVID from a cough

Pharma giant Pfizer has shelled out nearly US$120 million to acquire a small Australian company claiming to have developed a smartphone app that can accurately diagnose COVID-19 by analyzing the sound of a cough. Rich Hardy covers the story in his article in New Atlas online. For around a decade, the small Australian digital healthcare company ResApp has been working on developing an algorithm that can diagnose respiratory illnesses by simply studying the sound of a patient’s cough. Initially, the system was trained to diagnose pneumonia, but by 2019 the researchers had shown the technology could effectively distinguish asthma, croup, and bronchiolitis. When the pandemic struck in 2020, the team unsurprisingly quickly pivoted to incorporate COVID-19 diagnoses into its cough-recognition technology. By early 2022 the first data from a pilot trial testing the COVID algorithm revealed impressively good results. The trial found the system could accurately detect 92% of positive COVID cases solely from the sound of a cough. The system also recorded 80% specificity, meaning only two out of every ten people screened received false positive results.

Image Credit: ResApp Health

Why it’s important – Pfizer believes the COVID-19 screening tool is the next step to potentially provide new solutions for consumers that aim to quell this disease. They plan on refining this algorithm further and working with regulators worldwide to bring this vital product to consumers as quickly as possible.


Stem cell patch surgery to mend spina bifida in the womb

Michelle Roberts brings us this story in the BBC News online. US doctors say they have successfully performed surgery on babies in the womb to repair harmful spine defects using a special, therapeutic stem cell patch method. It is a patch that contains immature cells, called stem cells, that can grow with the baby. Baby Robbie is one of the first humans to have the treatment. The UC Davis team plan to treat about 35 babies as part of their trial. More studies and follow-ups are needed to assess how well the treatment works. Robbie and the other babies will have check-ups to see their progress with skills such as walking and potty training.

Image Credit: UC Davis Health

Why it’s important – Without treatment, spina bifida can sometimes lead to a range of lifelong issues, including problems with mobility because of nerve damage. In extreme cases, the spinal canal remains open and exposed. If the defect is not closed to protect it shortly before or after birth, it can cause total paralysis of the legs. Surgeons have already used keyhole surgery on babies in the womb to mend the gap. Now the US team has gone a step further, fitting a graft or implant to bridge the repair.


MIT team develops burrowing robotic pill to break through the intestine’s drug-blocking mucus

One of the many barriers to getting drugs where they need to be in the human body lies in the digestive tract, where walls of mucus line the insides of the intestines. This layer can be an especially tricky obstacle for converting large-molecule biological treatments such as insulin into an easy-to-take pill. MIT’s solution? Burrow through it, using a robotic capsule that can tunnel its way through the thick mucus wall. Connor Hale reports that researchers at the university have developed a motorized pill with a spinning auger-like endpiece designed to displace the mucus and deliver its payload directly to the organ in his article in Fierce Biotech. They say it could be developed into a more straightforward method for administering various drugs, such as insulin or the antibiotic vancomycin, which currently have to be given via an injection.

Why it’s important – What the RoboCap does is transiently displace the initial mucus barrier and then enhance absorption by maximizing the dispersion of the drug locally. By combining all of these elements, they are maximizing their capacity to provide the optimal situation for the drug to be absorbed. In the National Institutes of Health-funded study, researchers found their capsule could deliver 20 to 40 times more insulin or vancomycin in animals compared to similar capsules without the mucus-clearing mechanism. Once the drug is released, the capsule passes through the digestive tract on its own, and the study found that the mucus layer reforms after a few hours.


Inflation has digital health companies shifting gears

It’s not the best economic environment for consumer-driven digital health businesses. As Gabriel Perna reports in his article on Digital Health Business & Technology, this has caused some organizations to accelerate a shift toward a business-to-business (B2B) strategy.

“To offer a value proposition that is appealing enough for consumers in the direct-to-consumer space, you have to appeal to them in a way where they’re motivated to take action. The reality is that most people are not motivated to take action.”

Aike Ho, partner at the San Francisco-based venture capital firm ACME Capital

Why it’s important – The B2B opportunity is bigger, the margins are better, and the acquisition cost is lower. If you’re B2B and your value proposition is that you can make a company’s members healthier and, therefore, you’ll spend less on them, this resonates even more in an economic downturn. Employers are interested in using digital health solutions to retain talent in a tight labor market. An August survey from the Business Group on Health, a trade group representing 72 Fortune 100 companies and other large public-sector employers, found that expanded virtual health and telehealth services are here to stay for 94% of employers.


How Digital Technologies Can Support Breast Cancer Awareness – Breast Cancer Awareness Month – October, 2022

“Please get your annual mammogram. I was six months late this time. I shudder to think what might have happened if I had put it off longer. But just as importantly, please find out if you need additional screening.”

Katie Couric, Journalist
Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

Katie Couric was diagnosed with breast cancer over the summer and subsequently underwent surgery and radiation treatments that finished this week. In the personal essay and on her essay and on Instagram, Couric, who is 65, shared information about the prevalence of breast cancer. “Every two minutes, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States. On June 21st, I became one of them,” she wrote in a social media post shared Wednesday morning. “As we approach #BreastCancerAwarenessMonth, I wanted to share my personal story with you all and encourage you to get screened and understand that you may fall into a category of women who needs more than a mammogram.”

Today, there are more than 3.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States, with 268,600 new cases expected to be diagnosed this year alone. With an estimated 89% of United States online and 72% owning smartphones, digital health technologies are uniquely situated to bridge the gap in breast cancer care through detection, intervention, and management. As we begin Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I wanted to dig deeper into the current developments and highlight some of the most promising digital health solutions to promote early detection and improve patient care for breast cancer patients and survivors.


Breast Cancer Apps – One of the most stabilizing things you can do with a breast cancer diagnosis is to get the correct information. In addition to your doctor, the right app can be a great place to find answers to all your questions. It can also offer access to a supportive community that understands what you’re navigating. Here are some of the most highly recommended apps based on their quality content, reliability, and user recommendations:

Breast Cancer Healthline – Those who are newly diagnosed, receiving treatment, or in remission will find support and camaraderie in the app’s one-on-one chats and group discussions. This is a place to find and receive advice, access current news and research, and connect with people who genuinely get it.

Cancer Therapy Advisor – An app designed for oncology professionals, Cancer Therapy Advisor compiles the latest in oncology news and trends, cancer treatment regimens, full-length features, slideshows, case studies, and drug information for various cancer types.

BELONG Beating Cancer Together – This free app helps get you access to the best care without a high cost of entry. You can directly communicate with researchers, experts, and other medical professionals who can give you quick, accurate responses to your pressing questions about breast cancer. You can also keep all your records within the app and share them with your doctor and your loved ones, too. You can browse and sign up for clinical trials and access leading oncologists, radiologists, researchers & nurses to answer your questions.

OWise Breast CancerOWise is an accredited mobile app and website that helps you regain control of your life from the first day of a breast cancer diagnosis. OWise provides safe, reliable, and credible information and practical support and guidance. You can monitor and share changes in your day-to-day well-being with your care team or other trusted individuals. This way, you can help your doctors to make timely and informed decisions on how to give you more personalized care.

Mammosphere – Life Image is the creator of Mammosphere. This breast imaging and cancer prevention application lets patients digitally transfer records to and from health care providers at the click of a button. 1 in 4 patients fails to gather their records promptly, skyrocketing the risk of being called back for additional testing or receiving a false positive. Life Image, based in Newton, MA, reduces the number of false positives for breast cancer by up to 60% and drives up patients’ chances of receiving an efficient and accurate diagnosis.

UntireUntire, founded by Door Vonk, is an app that provides cancer patients and survivors with the tools to cope with extreme fatigue. As a result of cancer, its medical treatments, and the emotional and social impact of such a severe illness causes patients to suffer from severe fatigue. Developed by psychologists with the contributions of patients and researchers, Untire uses scientifically proven theories and mindfulness-based techniques to increase cancer patients’ energy and improve their lives. With less fatigue, cancer patients can fight cancer without sacrificing their enjoyment of life.

Savor Health – By leveraging a team of oncology nutrition experts and the latest technology, Savor Health—founded by Susan Bratton—designs individually personalized nutrition solutions to meet the unique needs of cancer patients at every step along their journey. This innovative technology utilizes deep learning models to promote algorithm-driven meal, content recommendations and nutritional counseling through a team of oncology credentialed registered dietitians and nurses.


A.I. and Clinical Decision Support

PathAIPath AI, founded in Boston, MA, utilizes artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to improve the accuracy and speed of pathologist diagnoses and ensure patients get the correct diagnosis and the most effective treatment.

MIT Computer Science and AI LabMassachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab developed a new deep learning-based AI prediction model that can anticipate the development of breast cancer up to five years in advance. This innovative technology, trained on over 90,000 mammograms and 600,000 patient outcomes, can accurately predict over 30% of all cancer patients in the highest-risk category compared to the 18% detected by current models. In developing its technique, MIT sought to address disparities in detection inequality among minorities; Black women are more than 42% more likely than white women to die from breast cancer, a statistic primarily driven by the lack of minority representation in current early detection techniques.

Kheiron – London-based Kheiron has developed a machine learning platform dubbed Mia. Mia analyzes standard mammography images to help radiologists decide whether or not a woman requires further evaluation. The company says the software has already shown success in a multi-center clinical study

Google/Hologic – Global medical device company Hologic is another early adopter of the imaging suite. The company is using Google Cloud’s offering to strengthen its diagnostic platform that screens women for cervical cancer. Hologic will store its images using the suite, and it will develop an AI model with Google Cloud to improve diagnostic accuracy for those cancer images.


Digital technologies in breast health – Some critical ideas for scaling up from pilot programs to full-scale implementation:

  • Technology is an enabler, but feedback from the people at the forefront of providing care, particularly nurses, is essential to scaling up pilot projects.
  • Equally important is making sure that the people using the technology are properly trained.
  • Implement quality monitoring protocols
  • Set up public-private collaborations
  • Identify and scale-up high-potential solutions: who’s out there working on new ideas?
  • Find people who know how to analyse data.
  • Build into projects the questions that will help provide the answers to scaling up a project: who do we need to talk to; what data will be needed to convince governments, investors, organisations to participate?
  • Scale isn’t just about reach: it’s showing that the technology can be adapted to the local environment.
  • Scaling up successfully means being able to convince investors that the environment you’re working in is viable.
  • Understand the local digital regulatory environment.
  • And finally: never lose sight of the patient’s needs throughout the process of scaling up a pilot project.

Innovations in mobile health and social media applications are occurring across the cancer spectrum, from primary prevention to screening, early diagnosis, treatment, survivorship, and end-of-life care. Thousands of health-oriented mobile sites and apps have already been developed with the advantages of low- or no-cost, high scalability, self-tracking, tailored feedback functionalities, use of images and video for enhanced health literacy, broad reach, and data sharing for large-scale analytics. More and more research demonstrates that digital health interventions can support and improve patient experiences and outcomes. For breast cancer patients and survivors, digital health technology can ultimately increase their chances of a good quality of life and positive health outcomes.

Health Tech News This Week – October 1, 2022

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

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

The Tech That Will Push VR to the Limits of the Human Eye

Ed Gent in Singularity Hub reports that researchers from Samsung and Stanford University say emerging technologies could soon get us close to the theoretical limit of pixel density, ushering in powerful new VR headsets. The most likely near-term innovation in displays, say the authors, exploits a quirk of human biology. The eye can only distinguish 60 PPD in the central region of the retina, known as the fovea, with significantly lower sensitivity on the periphery. If eye movements can be accurately tracked, then you only need to render the highest definition in the particular section of the display that the user is looking at. While the required improvements in eye and head tracking add extra complexity to designs, the authors say this is probably the innovation that will happen soonest.

Why it’s important – One of the most significant limitations is current display technology. In a VR headset, screens sit just a few centimeters in front of our eyes, so they need to pack a huge number of pixels into a very small space to approach the definition you might expect from the latest 4K TV. It’s important to remember that there are a host of issues other than just better displays that will need to be solved if VR is to become widely commercialized. In particular, powering these headsets raises complicated challenges around battery capacity and the ability to dissipate heat from onboard electronics. While more immersive virtual experiences are likely still some way off, the road map to get us there is well in place.


Infographics of the week – Another great infographic from Dr. Tazeen Rizvi. Patients’ expectations in healthcare continue to increase as users become more involved in their health. New health tech tools, virtual care, and digital wearables meet a critical healthcare need as they transform clinical care by bridging the gap between #clinical recommendations and patient actions. Incorporating emergent technologies into clinical practice may bridge the gaps between patients’ behavior change and healthcarepractices, but are systems meeting the patient’s needs and expectations? He created this infographic to help organizations assess whether they are hitting the mark.

Infographic Credit: Copyright Dr. Tazeen Rizvi

This week’s second infographic comes from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). It presents the results of their latest COVID-19 survey on whether they know if the new bivalent vaccine is recommended for them.

Image Credit: Kaiser Family Foundation survey

And a third infographic this week from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that healthcare services and college tuition and books represented the highest costs of goods and services based on price changes from January 2000 to June 2022.

Image Credit: AEI, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Garmin introduces its first smart blood pressure monitor

Garmin now has an FDA-cleared (not to be confused with FDA-approved) smart blood pressure monitor to accompany its other health-focused wearables. Jess Weatherbed brings us the story on The Verge.com. The Garmin Index BPM Smart Blood Pressure Monitor allows users to measure systolic and diastolic blood pressure and syncs that data with the Garmin Connect mobile app that also syncs with Garmin devices like smartwatches, chest straps, smart scales, and bike computers. Users can set reminders to take their blood pressure, with readings available to view in 7-day, 4-week, and 1-year reports, which can be exported as a PDF if you need to share them with a health care provider. Up to 16 users can use the Index to track their individual readings and sync to their own Garmin Connect accounts, and the cuff is adjustable to fit arm sizes from 9-17 inches in circumference.

Image Credit: Garmin

Why it’s important – The Index BPM is FDA-cleared, meaning that the manufacturer can demonstrate that the product is “substantially equivalent” to a similar and legal market device with either FDA clearance or the gold standard FDA approval. Contextually, rival health company Withings announced its first blood pressure monitor capable of connecting to an iPhone back in 2011. Several other models of smart blood pressure monitors have since been released by Withings, such as the similarly FDA-cleared Withings BPM Connect. So, while this is Garmin’s first attempt at a dedicated smart BPM device, it’s not blazing any trails.


Virtual Children Will Be Commonplace In 50 Yrs & May ‘Help Combat Overpopulation’

This article in anonymous wire.com gets the prize for weirdness this week. “BabyX” is an experiment by New Zealand-based company Soul Machines. The project aims to humanize AI to make it more appealing for the public to interact with. Rair Foundation reports: In AI by Design: A Plan For Living With Artificial Intelligence, Ms. Campbell argues that concerns about overpopulation will prompt society to embrace digital children. It is a demographic transformation that she has nicknamed the “Tamagotchi generation.” Ms. Campbell said that, through CGI and advanced machine learning, digital children would have photo-realistic faces and bodies, and they would be able to recognize and respond to their parents using facial tracking and voice analysis. They will be capable of speech and simulated emotional responses encompassing a baby’s coo, a child’s giggle, and a teenager’s backchat. Their parents will be able to interact with them in their chosen digital environments, such as a sitting room, park, or swimming pool. They will also be able to choose how quickly their digital children grow up, if at all.

Why it’s important – I’ve written on MetaHuman research in an earlier blog post and featured some of the work being done by Soul Machines. I understand the points that proponents are making about how they might reduce loneliness in the elderly. Japan has extensively researched this area, and their programs proved effective, especially during the pandemic. But I’m having real difficulty with the idea of virtual children. I’ve made it no secret that I think that Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, and his idea of the metaverse represent an existential threat to society. Unless we’re cautious, people who are having trouble dealing with the current reality will immerse themselves in their own alternate reality that feeds their biases and reinforces their beliefs to the extent that will damage our social and societal fabric beyond repair.


Monitoring gait at home with radio waves in Parkinson’s disease: A marker of severity, progression, and medication response

An excellent research paper published in Science Translational Medicine outlining the development of a home device able to detect and analyze movements of individuals while performing day-to-day activities. The device emits radio waves and detects them after they bounce back off the people’s bodies, inferring gait speed. Cross-sectional data analysis shows that at-home gait speed strongly correlates with gold-standard PD assessments, as evaluated by the Movement Disorder Society-Sponsored Revision of the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (MDS-UPDRS) part III subscore and total score.

Image Credit: Yingcheng Liu, et.al., Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Why it’s important – Parkinson’s disease (PD) affects about 1 to 2% of people aged 65 and older and is the fastest growing neurological disorder globally. It is the prototypic degenerative movement disorder, characterized by a combination of slowness, stiffness, tremor, and postural instability, that results in gait dysfunction. Tracking the progression of Parkinson’s disease (PD) requires extended visits to the clinic and is subjected to several biases. At-home gait speed also provides a more sensitive marker for tracking disease progression over time than the widely used MDS-UPDRS. Further, the monitored gait speed captured symptom fluctuations in response to medications and their impact on the patient’s daily functioning. This study shows the feasibility of continuous, objective, sensitive, and passive assessment of PD at home and hence has the potential to improve clinical care and drug clinical trials. For a comprehensive review of how technology can support patients with Parkinson’s disease, see my earlier post on the topic.


Zoom’s impact on intercontinental startup investment

An INVEST Digital Health panel discussion on investment beyond the traditional hubs of venture capital investment touched on the role of Zoom in making it easier to maintain relationships with startups across the country in places like Indiana, Utah, Colorado, and beyond. Stephanie Baum reports on the conference in her article In MedCity News. When it comes to investment, including healthcare and biotech, companies in the Bay area, Boston, and New York tend to get the lion’s share of venture capital. But in recent years, there’s been greater attention to investment in companies beyond those regions. The Covid-19 pandemic also played a significant role, as people were forced to limit travel and use Zoom to connect.

Why it’s important – The panel offered a window into how investors find companies that match their investment theses, even in states that are not thought of as startup hubs. Zoom has “flattened the world” of investment opportunities to a large extent and provides startups anywhere in the world greater visibility to the investment community at large. That’s good news for both sides of the equation.


Health Tech News This Week – September 24, 2022

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

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

Apple Wins a Patent for a Mixed Reality Headset (MRH) That Could Assist Those With Various Stages your of Alzheimer’s Disease

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially granted Apple a patent related to head-mounted devices and, more particularly, head-mounted devices that can detect and respond to a user’s behavior. More specifically, Apple’s patent envisions their future Mixed Reality Headset being able to test and assist seniors suspected of showing signs of Alzheimer’s Disease. With Augmented Reality, exercises could be performed in the real world that test for aphasia and apraxia. It could also detect and respond to a user’s expressions of agnosia. Lastly, the AR features could flash names of people in front of them should they forget and much more. As reported in Patently Apple online, Head-mounted devices, as presented in Apple’s granted patent, can provide non-invasive mechanisms for detecting and responding to symptoms of cognitive decline.

Why it’s important – The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that Alzheimer’s will affect 80 million people by the year 2040. Alzheimer’s disease has slow pathogenesis and is a persistent neurological dysfunction that deteriorates over time. Many individuals facing cognitive decline show physical or emotional signs of the issue. Some of these signs may be too subtle to notice within a limited time, particularly at an early stage of such conditions. A head-mounted device can be regularly and frequently worn while the user performs regular daily tasks. Because a head-mounted device can be mobile and allow a user to see an external environment, the use of the head-mounted device allows the user to maintain a high quality of life. Accordingly, the user may be more likely to use it regularly and often, thereby providing the head-mounted device with ample opportunities to collect data.


Infographic of the week – This week’s infographic comes from a Nature Reviews Materials publication on the End-to-end design of wearable sensors. This Review details the recent developments in the field of wearable sensors with a particular focus on the sensing, decision-making, and power units to establish a framework for designing and implementing wearable devices. In the foreseeable future, the extension of the capabilities of wearables beyond diagnostic sensing through the integration of feedback loops would pave the way for (third-generation) wearable devices for theranostic applications. Smart bandages, for example, could allow for real-time monitoring of wound healing through pH measurement and, in the case of an infection, treatment by on-demand delivery of antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs. Another trend is to enhance the capabilities of current wearable continuous glucose-monitoring systems to release insulin to the patient in a closed-loop manner.

Image Credit: End-to-end design of wearable sensors

The Broad Institute and NVIDIA Bring NVIDIA Clara to Terra Cloud Platform Serving 25,000 Researchers Advancing Biomedical Discovery

In a press release, NVIDIA announced a partnership with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard to provide the Terra cloud platform and its over 25,000 users — from biomedical researchers in academia, startups, and large pharma companies — with the AI and acceleration tools needed to analyze massive amounts of healthcare data quickly. The collaboration is designed to connect NVIDIA’s AI expertise and healthcare computing platforms with the Broad Institute’s world-renowned researchers, scientists, and open platforms.

“Life sciences are in the midst of a data revolution, and researchers are in critical need of a new approach to bring machine learning into biomedicine. In this collaboration, we aim to expand our mission of data sharing and collaborative processes to scale genomics research.”

Anthony Philippakis, Chief Data Officer, Broad Institute

Why it’s important – The Broad Institute aims to enable the next generation of collaborative biomedical research by providing an open cloud platform that connects researchers both to each other and to the datasets and tools they need to achieve scientific breakthroughs. By expanding their collaboration with The Broad Institute,m NVIDIA can bring the power of large language models to ultimately deliver joint solutions and narrow the divide between insights from researchers and tangible benefits for patients.


The omnichannel strategy of retail health

Retail pharmacy chains and Amazon are transforming themselves into omnichannel healthcare providers, developing primary care services and virtual tools through acquisitions, partnerships and investments. Stephanie Baum’s article in MedCity News reports that the goal is to not only adapt to their customers’ preferences but to act on demographic shifts and perceived consumer needs to make healthcare more easily accessible through employer health plans. She reviews the moves by Amazon, Walgreens, CVS Health, and Walmart in developing their omnichannel strategies.

Image Credit: 2021 Omnichannel Healthcare Experience report, Avtex

Why it’s important – What I found most interesting in this article were the results of the 2021 Omnichannel Healthcare Experience report by Avtex, surveying healthcare setting preferences by generation. It noted that Millennials favored using walk-in retail clinics to address their primary care needs, in contrast to Baby Boomers and Generation X, who prefer going to a doctor’s office. Yet telehealth was used in significant numbers across generations. Among their key findings:

  • Brick and mortar is no longer the only channel of delivery. Healthcare providers must now engage patients with a multi-channel healthcare experience.
  • There is no single patient profile that can be used to provide and deliver care – patient needs range widely across demographics, including age, sex, ethnicity, and more. Understanding your patients, and tailoring to their journeys and their needs, is crucial to providing the best care.
  • Telehealth continues to grow as an alternative channel to delivering care.
  • Across all age groups, mental health needs and utilization are increasing.
  • The live, human element is not going away.
  • Healthcare providers and payers should develop a communication strategy that is not “either/or,” but rather “AND” – omnichannel is the expectation.
  • Segmenting, understanding, and supporting your audience’s needs and preferences is more important than ever.
  • In both payer and provider environments, ease of use was noted as a barrier to communication.

In keeping with these recommendations about developing an omnichannel strategy, see this great infographic on consumer strategy from my former colleagues at Sg2. If you are not currently an Sg2 member, you really should consider talking with them about their comprehensive portfolio of intelligence, analytics, and consulting services.

Infographic Credit: Sg2, a Vizient Company

An end to malaria?

In the latest example of leveraging the COVID-19 work in developing mRNA vaccines, Yale School of Medicine reports on their research in developing an mRNA vaccine for malaria. Self-amplifying RNAs contain the “teaching” vaccine mRNA plus a code for an enzyme that allows the genetic material to self-replicate inside the vaccinated cell over several weeks. Replication means injecting much smaller amounts of vaccine to achieve adequate immunization, making the vaccines cheaper and easier to distribute—much more accessible for the developing world. While more research is needed—for instance, in determining the length of vaccine efficacy—Bucala is hopeful. Yale was granted a patent for this approach in 2021, paving the way for continued development and ultimate testing in human clinical trials.

“Malaria is both a huge medical problem and a huge social problem.”

Richard Bucala, MD, PhD, Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor of Medicine (Rheumatology), Professor of Pathology and of Epidemiology (microbial diseases), Yale School of Medicine

Why it’s important – Malaria, the world’s second most deadly communicable disease (after tuberculosis), has coexisted with humanity for over 100,000 years. While the mosquito-borne illness was virtually wiped out in this country in the early 1950s, many more U.S. travelers in the recent past have been returning from parts of the world where the disease is endemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 2,000 Americans are diagnosed with malaria each year, most of them frequent travelers or immigrants. But malaria exacts its greatest toll in sub-Saharan Africa, where it kills over half a million people annually. Most are children who have not yet developed any immunity to the disease. Another highly vulnerable population is pregnant women; immunity to the disease is decreased by pregnancy.


This Device Tracks Parkinson’s by Watching You Walk Around at Home

In a previous study, the device demonstrated the ability to detect Parkinson’s disease by simply “listening” to people sleeping—thanks to an AI that researchers trained to analyze a person’s breathing patterns as they snooze. In a new study published Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the same team discovered that the device could also monitor a patient’s movement and walking speed wirelessly as they move about their room. This information can then be sent to doctors and neurologists to help them better understand the severity and progression of the disease. Tony Ho Tran reported on the work in his article on The Daily Beast. The device works by sending radio signals throughout a room the patient is in that bounce back to it, allowing it to “see” its environment. It’s not unlike the same way bats use echolocation to pick up on their surroundings. The device’s AI can identify the patient and monitor them as they go about their day in their room.

“By being able to have a device in the home that can monitor a patient and tell the doctor remotely about the progression of the disease, and the patient’s medication response so they can attend to the patient even if the patient can’t come to the clinic—now they have real, reliable information—that actually goes a long way toward improving equity and access.”

Dina Katabi, MIT computer science researcher

Why it’s important – I’ve written previously on how technologies can support patients with Parkinson’s disease. For the more than 10 million people living with Parkinson’s, tracking the progression of the disease is vital to letting doctors know whether patients are responding well to medicine, whether symptoms are becoming more severe, and how the disease is impacting everyday life. The problem for many patients, though, is that they can’t always get to a hospital or doctor’s office easily—whether because they live too far away or their illness prevents them from traveling easily. A device like this can go a long way in helping treat—and potentially slow down—the progression and severity of Parkinson’s disease. While it’s not a cure, it can benefit the lives of the millions living with neurodegenerative illness, giving them a better quality of care and life—all from the comfort of their bedroom.


5 ways tech can combat addiction treatment’s staffing shortage

Finally, here is a guest post on Venture Beat by Dr. Thomas Britton, CEO of American Addiction Centers. Over the past few years, we’ve seen a worst-case scenario developing in the addiction treatment industry: The need for treatment has skyrocketed while the number of clinical personnel has rapidly declined. While workforce recruitment and development must remain a top priority, we also need urgent and innovative solutions that can provide essential stop-gap care options. Technology is playing a pivotal role in getting people the help they need and acts as a force multiplier for the staff currently in place. Despite the beneficial impact of technology today, behavioral health will need to intensify its use to meet increased demand with a continuing and intensifying shortage of critical staffing. His five recommendations:

  • Chatbots that leverage AI to engage individuals during a crisis or keep them engaged in the aftermath can provide an essential lifeline.
  • Providers need to create benchmark outcomes to strive for while identifying the interventions necessary to achieve them.
  • Well-designed virtual services have proven to have positive outcomes consistent with face-to-face treatment in most applications. Insurers are getting fully on board with this new modality, ensuring it will become a mainstay of modern addiction treatment.
  • Wearables can be used to monitor addiction by incentivizing positive behaviors and spotting indicators that could signal the risk of relapse. They can also be set up for geofencing to provide warnings if someone in recovery is venturing near places that aren’t good for their sobriety. It can also provide reminders and reinforcement of positive behaviors like exercising, meditation, attending meetings, and other stress management tools.
  • Digital communities maintain recovery connections. Extending patient interaction for up to 12 months creates a 60-80% success rate, compared to just 30% for a 90-day inpatient stay.

Why it’s important – With an estimated 60 million people in the U.S. using substances that would benefit from treatment —and more than 100,000 overdose deaths last year alone, the need for substance use disorder (SUD) treatment has never been greater. At the same time, employee turnover in the industry is as high as 50%, with roughly 25% of those who’ve left reporting that they are not planning to return to the field. The Office of National Drug Control Policy has predicted a staffing shortage of as many as 150,000 providers within the next five years. This considerable deficit will undoubtedly put millions of people at risk and could cost countless lives. Leveraging technology can certainly help address these issues.


Health Tech News This Week – September 17, 2022

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

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

Tasso receives FDA 510(k) for patch-like home blood collection device

Emily Olsen’s article in MobiHealthNews starts this week’s coverage. Tasso received FDA 510(k) clearance for its patch-like blood collection device, the Tasso+. The device includes a lancet, which adheres to the arm that connects to a test tube for collection. After users rub their arm or use a heat pack and sanitize the test site, they press a button on the front of the device to begin drawing capillary blood. Then the tube can be removed and sent to a lab for analysis. According to Tasso, it usually takes 10 to 15 minutes to complete the test. The newly cleared Tasso+ will be available in the fourth quarter of this year. Other companies aiming to bring more lab tests into the home include EverlyWell, Cue Health, and traditional player Labcorp, which recently partnered with Getlabs to offer at-home sample collection. Telehealth giant Teladoc has also recently expanded into home collection for its primary care program through a collaboration with Scarlet Health.

Why it’s important – The company said the clearance would allow pharmaceutical companies to use the device for decentralized clinical trials. At the same time, healthcare systems and physicians could utilize it for patient care. The FDA Class II medical device clearance will help improve patient care by relieving traditional phlebotomy-related bottlenecks and enabling more individuals to get the tests they need at the time they are required.


Infographic of the week – This week’s infographic comes from a new report just released by Kaufman Hall on behalf of the American Hospital Association (AHA). Anywhere from 53% to 68% of the nation’s hospitals will end 2022 with their operations in the red versus the 34% reported in 2019. The group’s “optimistic” projections place 2022’s hospital margins 37% lower than what it recorded in 2019. Its “pessimistic” prediction sees that margin decline plummet to 133%. The shortages and losses are forcing many providers to pick and choose which services and locations they can still afford to run. For technology companies looking to sell their products and services into the health care market, these projections are sobering news. What is already a long sales cycle will become even more challenging. Unless the company can demonstrate clear benefits regarding cost reductions, labor savings, or direct impact on the bottom line, they can expect the next few years to be a long, tough slog.

Image Credit: Kaufman Hall

Cancers in Adults Under 50 Have Increased Dramatically Around The Globe

Since 1990, the number of adults under the age of 50 developing cancer has increased dramatically around the world. Fiona MacDonald reports on this disturbing trend in her article on Science Alert. Researchers are already aware that since the 1940s and 1950s, there’s been an increase in people getting late-onset cancer, which means developing cancer after the age of 50. The review looked at data across 14 cancer types: breast, colorectal (CRC), endometrial, esophageal, extrahepatic bile duct, gallbladder, head and neck, kidney, liver, bone marrow, pancreas, prostate, stomach, and thyroid cancer. All of these cancers had been shown by global cancer data to be on the rise in adults under 50 between the years 2000 and 2012. But the researchers took things one step further and reviewed any available studies that could shed light on possible risk factors for these cancers. They also looked for clues in the literature describing any unique clinical and biological characteristics of tumors of early-onset cancers compared to those of late-onset cancers diagnosed after 50. The goal, to quote the title of the paper, was to figure out: “Is early-onset cancer an emerging global epidemic?” According to their results, the answer is yes. At least, this seems to be the case since the 1990s.

Why it’s important – It’s not a groundbreaking notion that cancers are on the rise in modern society. On top of simply being better at finding early-onset cancers nowadays, the evidence suggests that the ‘shift’ in cancer rates happened earlier, when those now in their middle ages were children, around the middle of the last century. Among the 14 cancer types on the rise that we studied, eight were related to the digestive system. Other risk factors include sugary beverages, type 2 diabetes, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and alcohol consumption, all of which have significantly increased since the 1950s. The long-term hope is that we can educate people to lead healthier lifestyles in their early years to reduce the risk of early-onset cancers.


Is Salesforce the big tech company that figured out healthcare?

There’s been a lot of reporting in recent years about the role that big tech companies will play in healthcare in the future. Most of that reporting centers around the usual suspects: Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook. One company hasn’t received as much attention. Gabriel Perna’s article in Digital Health & Business Technology sets out to correct that omission. While other tech giants have faltered trying to figure out what they’re trying to do in healthcare, Salesforce has quietly become a significant player in the space. Experts say the company’s rise has coincided with a healthcare industry that’s increasingly open to customer-focused technology. Salesforce’s customer base has grown to include health systems, insurance companies, public health departments, pharmaceutical and life sciences firms, retail health, digital health companies, and more. The company has evolved and rapidly iterated, updating its health cloud last September to connect with remote patient monitoring and other connected devices. Executives say its goal is to create a cloud-based, consumer-centered ecosystem connecting clinical, financial, and consumer data.

“CRM isn’t just a marketing solution. It’s an end-to-end consumer solution in a way that an EHR is not. The EHR is a back-office tool. It’s not your engagement tool.”

Leah McCanna, Senior Director, Huron Consulting

Why it’s important – Two things happened during the pandemic that buoyed Salesforce’s position in healthcare. First, companies in other industries began using its technology to launch internal and external health and wellness campaigns. Secondly, the health crisis has required healthcare organizations to communicate with and guide patients through a specific care journey. CRM tools, effectively applied, have shown they can help in COVID management and other use cases. Salesforce can expect competition from the big guns in EHRs Epic and Cerner.


The sound of your voice might diagnose diseases

Researchers are building a database of human voices that they’ll use to develop AI-based tools that could eventually diagnose serious diseases; they’re targeting everything from Alzheimer’s to cancer. Nicole Wetsman reports the story in The Verge. The National Institutes of Health-funded project, announced Tuesday, is an effort to turn the human voice into something that could be used as a biomarker for diseases, like blood or temperature. The project is funded through the Bridge2AI program at the NIH, which supports projects that build ethical, rigorous, and accessible datasets that can be used to develop AI tools. It’ll run over four years and could get up to $14 million in funding over that time period. The research team will start by building an app that will collect voice data from participants with conditions like vocal fold paralysis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, depression, pneumonia, and autism. A clinician will supervise all the voice collections.

“What’s beautiful about voice data is that it’s probably one of the cheapest types of data that you can collect from people.”

Olivier Elemento, iProfessor, Institute for Computational Biomedicine, Weill Cornell Medicine

Why it’s important – For now, the new research program isn’t interested in building programs for home devices. It’s focused on developing tools that would be used by doctors in doctor’s offices and clinics. It’d be beneficial in lower-resourced settings where someone might not be able to see a specialist. Medical researchers aren’t the only groups interested in using voice to diagnose disease — big tech companies that make voice assistants are also. Amazon has patents that would use Alexa to determine if people have emotional problems, like depression, or physical issues, like a sore throat. Theoretically, if the sounds in someone’s voice showed signs of something like Alzheimer’s, a passive in-home voice assistant could flag the condition. That’d raise another layer of ethical and legal problems, which experts are already starting to think through.


Hype versus reality: What you can’t do with DeepMind’s AlphaFold in drug discovery

DeepMind’s AlphaFold model has predicted nearly all known protein structures discovered yet, though its ability to help scientists find new drugs remains unproven. Katyanna Quach separates the hype from the reality in her article in The A Register online. Advances in AI algorithms and training have led to software development, such as AlphaFold, that can accurately predict the 3D shapes of proteins given their amino acid combinations. AlphaFold is impressive and has now predicted over 200 million proteins from their amino acid strings. Researchers hoped that building such an extensive database would allow scientists to develop treatments targeting specific proteins associated with diseases such as cancer or dementia. Coming up with such medicines may require you to know the physical structure of the protein, which is where programs like AlphaFold can be used. An investigation led by academics at MIT in America, however, shows just how difficult the task is in practice. Essentially, the AI software is useful in one step of the process – structure prediction – but can’t help in other stages, such as modeling how drugs and proteins would physically interact.

Why it’s important – Breakthroughs such as AlphaFold are expanding the possibilities for in silico (computer simulation) drug discovery efforts. Still, these developments need to be coupled with additional advances in other aspects of modeling that are part of drug discovery efforts. Being able to model these types of chemical interactions is an unsolved problem. No algorithm is perfect. Even if scientists have a good model of the protein, its shape changes when it interacts with a potential drug candidate in mysterious ways. AlphaFold may prove helpful in other parts of the drug discovery pipeline, where comparing protein structures obtained via different methods against the model’s predictions is valuable.


Healthcare plays by CVS, Walgreens and Amazon will drive more partnerships, tech investment, experts say

CVS, Walgreens, and Amazon are ramping up their focus on in-home medical services and primary care, and it will cause significant disruptions for more traditional brick-and-mortar providers. Heather Landi reports on these developments in her article on Fierce Healthcare. With the rapid move to healthcare at home, companies are seizing opportunities to take a piece of the market. CVS rival Walgreens made a $330 million majority-stake investment in post-acute and home care company CareCentrix. Best Buy shelled out $400 million for remote patient monitoring company Current Health. Amazon plans to buy primary care company One Medical for $3.9 billion. Walmart is expanding into medical services by opening about 20 in-person clinic locations across Georgia, Arkansas, Illinois, and now Florida, with locations attached to its supercenter stores.

“This is yet another warning to health systems that if they do not own the front door—someone else will. So health systems will either need to build up their virtual team and partners to expand their own front doors, or hope they can eek out some partnerships with those who do.”

Lyle Berkowitz, M.D., CEO, KeyCare

Why it’s important – As the industry shifts to the home as a site of care, legacy patient-provider relationships and businesses will face disruption. Health systems would do well to consider how they are positioned to deliver care at home as an integrated part of their care models. This may include evaluating legacy home health assets and programs while also rapidly evaluating the business case for launching a hospital at-home program as part of their broader strategic and operational plan.


New Israeli AI tech can detect cancerous biomarkers in real time

Artificial intelligence (AI) models developed by Sheba Medical Center and the Imagene precision-oncology-diagnosis company in Tel Aviv have been used to detect cancerous biomarkers in real-time from a biopsy image alone. The Jerusalem Post’s Judy Siegel-Itzkovich profiles the research. The researchers have just published their findings in the Modern Pathology journal. It appears under the title “Direct identification of ALK and ROS1 fusions in non-small cell lung cancer from hematoxylin and eosin-stained slides using deep learning algorithms.” The study compared the performance of ALK and ROS1 conventional testing methods to that of Imagene’s AI solutions. Immunohistochemistry (IHC), Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), and NGS were used as gold standard methods for the analysis. Validation of the ALK/ROS1 classifier on a cohort of lung cancer cases at the pathology department at Sheba Medical Center displayed sensitivities of 100% for both genes and specificity of 100% and 98.6% for ALK and ROS1, respectively. These results present unprecedented accuracy levels that are comparable with the gold-standard techniques.

Why it’s important – Identifying gene alterations is vital for improving patient care and guiding targeted therapeutic decisions. Lung cancer, resulting primarily from smoking, is the most common cancer and accounts for some 1.76 million deaths per year worldwide. Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) comprises 85% of all lung cancers and is typically diagnosed at advanced stages.

Apple “Far Out” Event Reinforces Commitment to Health and Wellness

“Today we’re here to talk about three products that have become essential in our lives: iPhone, AirPods and Apple Watch.”

Tim Cook, CEO, Apple
Image Credit: Apple

Apple’s September 2022 “Far Out” event is over, and it was packed full of announcements. The 90-minute show saw updates to a wide range of Apple products, including iPhones and the Apple Watch, and a few software features that could make using Apple products more seamless. What I was interested to hear was whether the company would continue to develop applications across the product line to support health and wellness. And several additions reinforce their focus in that area. But before reviewing the product introductions, Apple showed a video titled “Dear Apple,” which featured users talking about how Apple devices saved their lives.

YouTube video credit: Apple

First up was the Apple Watch Series 8 rollout focused on women’s health, including a body temperature sensor that can help with advanced cycle tracking. The new watch, available to pre-order immediately and shipping on September 16, also features car crash detection, a new low-power mode, international roaming, and new faces and bands.

Image Credit: Apple
YiuTube video credit: Apple

Apple Watch now has an alert for ovulation. The marquee feature of the Series 8 is a new body temperature sensor, which enables retroactive ovulation detection — essential info for family planning. The temperature sensor is powered by two thermometers, one close to the skin on the back of the watch and the other under the screen to measure ambient temperature. The dual-sensor design gives a more accurate reading of body temperature. By tracking temperature changes at night, the watch can detect a biphasic shift, which is an increase in body temperature that occurs in response to changing hormones. In light of the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, all cycle health data is private and encrypted.

“This design improves accuracy by reducing bias from the outside environment.”

Dr. Sumbul Ahmed Desai, Apple VP Health
Image Credit: Apple

Apple Watch Series 8 will detect car crashes. The Apple Watch Series 8 includes new car crash detection functionality. Called “Crash Detection,” it can detect if you are involved in a severe car crash and contact emergency services and emergency contacts. After years of analyzing car crash data, Crash Detection relies on two new motion sensors: an improved three-axis gyroscope and a high-G Force accelerometer. The new accelerometer can measure up to 256 Gs and samples motion more than 3,000 times a second. As well as motion data, Crash Detection uses the barometer, GPS, and the iPhone microphone to detect whether a serious crash has taken place. The barometer, for example, can detect airbags going off. It can detect front impact crashes, side impacts, rear-end collisions, and rollovers.

Image Credit: Apple

Apple fans hoping for an Apple Watch “Pro” were granted their wish in the rugged and feature-packed Apple Watch Ultra. This entry in the lineup offers the largest display (49 mm), longest battery life (36 hours, up to 60 in low power mode), and strongest build of any Apple Watch. There’s added functionality like a diving gauge and a new customizable action button that lets you set a specific task with a single tap. This flagship Apple Watch comes in at $799, which can appear steep alongside the $399 Series 8. So, it won’t be for everyone. It’s also important to consider the repair costs if necessary. According to the support section of Apple’s website (which provides estimates of repair costs), the $799 smartwatch targeted at athletes and adventure-y types will cost $499 to fix, so long as you’re doing anything other than swapping out a dying battery. For comparison, the most affordable version of the new Apple Watch Series 8 costs just $399 to purchase brand new—$100 cheaper than reviving a dead Ultra. If you’ve ever hummed and hawed over shelling out extra for AppleCare service, the $100 extra charge it adds to the Apple Watch Ultra is probably well worth it, as it drops repair fees to just $79. It’s the first Apple device specifically designed for extreme use cases, including diving adventures, which increases the odds of it getting damaged, so why not decrease the risks of sticker shock should the unfortunate happen?


The iPhone 14 lineup continued the themes from the Watch introductions. All of the new iPhone 14 models support Apple’s new Emergency SOS via Satellite feature, which lets you access emergency services in the most remote locations, as well as Crash Detection if you (god forbid) are ever in an accident. There’s broad 5G support across the board, Face ID, ultra-wideband chips to find the precise location of your AirTags, OLED screens, MagSafe connectivity, Apple’s Ceramic Shield glass to protect the screen, and IP68 water resistance. These safety features build on Apple’s established reputation for security and privacy, an investment that should not be underestimated.

YouTube video credit: Apple

The bigger story was around the iPhone 14 Pro models. It’s almost unfair how many more features there are in the 6.1-inch iPhone 14 Pro. For starters, the infamous notch is gone. You still get Face ID, but Apple has slimmed down the selfie camera and sensors into a pill-shaped cutout called the Dynamic Island. Interestingly, the island expands to show passive information, like music that’s playing, a timer that’s running—and you can expand it to see some controls.

Image Credit: Apple

The Max is the same as the iPhone 14 Pro, except it has a bigger 6.7-inch screen. Both the new Pro models have a new 48-MP primary camera, joined by the 12-MP ultrawide and a 12-MP telephoto, giving you more versatility when shooting photos than non-Pro models. If battery life is your biggest concern, then the Max is the way to go, as Apple cites up to 29 hours of video playback, whereas the iPhone 14 Pro sits at 23 hours.

Another health feature to watch for is a new Medications tool in the Health app update that arrives today with iOS 16. The app lets you create a list of your medications and supplements by scanning bottles with your iPhone’s camera or typing the name in a search bar. You can schedule notifications to show up on your iPhone or Apple Watch when it’s time to take them. When the alert pops up on your screen, you can indicate whether you’ve taken or skipped the dose. The tool tracks your medication-taking history. You can also dismiss the notification or be reminded later. You can share your medication log with family members or caregivers, who can help you keep track. And the tool can even tell you if your medications might not work well together.

Image Credit: Apple

The reaction from the trade press was decidedly mixed. One Washington Post Perspective writer’s headline was:

“Apple has invented a new reason to upgrade your iPhone: fear.”

Geoffrey Fowler, Washington Post

Others thought the announcements, while interesting, wasn’t enough to warrant the usual fan-boy cheering that typically accompanies an Apple product event.

My take: I didn’t expect much in the way of game-changing announcements this time. The performance updates in all the technologies featured aren’t orders of magnitude greater than the products they replace. I own one of each of the featured products, and I don’t think I will be rushing out to update any of them this time around. What I appreciated most about the event was the continued development and focus on healthcare across products and how these developments are tightly integrated across devices. It’s what I like most about the Watch, iPhone, iPad, and Mac products I own. Couple that with Apple’s ongoing attention to privacy, and you have a winning formula for continued growth. I really think that the Apple events still live up to Steve Jobs’ lessons on the company core values that he articulated so well in this video he made shortly after returning to Apple in 1997.

YouTube video credit: Rene Brokop

Health Tech News This Week – September 10, 2022

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

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

Tool to spot breast cancer at home wins UK Dyson award

A device to help detect breast cancer has won the prestigious UK James Dyson Award. Shiona McCallum reported on the story on the BBC News website. Users build a personalized map of their torso by inputting their breast size and shape and pressing the handheld device over their chest. Once a month, soundwaves are used to record tissue composition – and if there are any suspicious changes or abnormalities, users are advised to see a healthcare professional. Dotplot will now progress to the international stage of the James Dyson Award, with the winner announced on 16 November.

Image Credit: James Dyson Award

“Obviously, it’s in the early stages of development, so it does need to go through medicine regulatory device checks to make sure that it is actually adequate at detecting breast cancers.”

Frankie Jackson-Spence, M.D., Oncologist

Why it’s important – Breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK, but many women do not perform regular self-examinations. The technology is similar to mammograms for over-50s or ultrasound scans offered to women worried about a lump. Medical professionals have welcomed the invention but warn it is no substitute for going to the doctor.


Infographic of the week – As health systems grapple with the challenges in staffing their organizations, Gist Healthcare created a great infographic showing what they believe are the critical components of a successful employee value proposition, which must have a clear vision and focus on the things most important to employee needs: compensation, work-life balance, and career support. Systems can use the guiding questions listed in each column to craft a value proposition that is differentiated in their local labor market, informed by their level of resources, and undergirded by their own culture and values.

Image Credit: Gist Healthcare

“World’s first” non-invasive continuous glucose monitor to launch

GlucoRx and Cardiff University are set to bring out the world’s first non-invasive continuous glucose monitor (CGM) in what they say will herald a new era of needle-free monitoring for people with diabetes. MedTech Innovation reports that the GlucoRx BioXensor uses radio frequency technology alongside a multiple-sensor approach to measuring blood glucose levels every minute. The small and discreet wearable multi-sensor device weighs 14g and is 42mm in diameter by 7mm.

“GlucoRx BioXensor has standout accuracy with a proven MARD of 10.4%, owing to its multi sensor approach capturing blood glucose as well as Sp02, ECG, respiration rate, heart rate, temperature, activity, sleep, and early fall detection. The wearable device has a longer shelf-life because it is not chemical in its action.”

Chris Chapman, GlucoRx chief operating officer

Why it’s important – According to the World Health Organization, approximately 422 million people around the globe have diabetes. Currently, people with diabetes must prick their fingers to extract and test their blood several times a day using glucometers or apply semi-invasive devices such as continuous blood glucose monitors (CGMs). When used as an early intervention to change lifestyle, the GlucoRx BioXensor will assist in preventing the onset of diabetes or its remission and improve quality of life with its smart alarms and remote monitoring technology.


This company is about to grow new organs in a person for the first time

Volunteers with severe liver disease will soon undergo a procedure that could lead them to grow a second liver. Jessica Hamzelou reports on the research in her article in MIT Technology Review. The company behind the treatment, LyGenesis, hopes to save people with devastating liver diseases who are not eligible for transplants. Their approach is to inject liver cells from a donor into the lymph nodes of sick recipients, which can give rise to entirely new miniature organs. These mini livers should help compensate for an existing diseased one. The approach appears to work in mice, pigs, and dogs. Now we’ll find out if it works in people.

Why it’s important – Donor organs are in short supply, and many of those donated can’t be used—for example, sometimes the tissue is too damaged. The team at LyGenesis is taking a less invasive approach. The healthy liver cells will be delivered via an endoscope—a tube fed down the throat. This tube will be guided by ultrasound, and when it reaches the target lymph node, a surgeon will be able to inject the cells directly through it. The new approach can use organs that would otherwise have been discarded, and the researchers reckon they can get treatments for around 75 people from a single donated organ.


It’s time to embrace the tech that could confront the crisis in aging

Ahmad Alghazi, CEO & founder at CAN, wrote this opinion piece in Venture Beat. A constellation of technologies can help aging populations thrive and live independently — and for longer. These include AI and self-driving autos, remote monitoring (with privacy protection), a complete and dynamic data profile, and cellular connectivity to selected intelligent sensors and mobility aids. By reducing the care individuals require, advanced technologies and data become force multipliers for caregivers and create a better future for the elderly.

Why it’s important – I’ve written earlier on technologies that support aging in place. These technologies can’t be adopted fast enough. In 2015, the world had 900 million people aged 60 and over. In 2050, there will be 2 billion of them. Given the dimensions and urgency of the crisis of aging, the market for innovation in technology for elder health and well-being will continue to flourish.


Open-Source Automated Insulin Delivery in Type 1 Diabetes

Many patients with type 1 diabetes use open-source automated insulin delivery (AID) systems. Data are needed on the efficacy and safety of an open-source AID system. An article published in the NEJM reports on the findings of the CREATE trial (RCT studying the #OpenAPS algorithm in a modified version of AndroidAPS in persons with type 1 diabetes). The AID system was a modified version of AndroidAPS 2.8 (with a standard OpenAPS 0.7.0 algorithm) paired with a preproduction DANA-i insulin pump and Dexcom G6 CGM, which has an Android smartphone application as the user interface.

“In children and adults with type 1 diabetes, the use of an open-source AID system resulted in a significantly higher percentage of time in the target glucose range than the use of a sensor-augmented insulin pump at 24 weeks.”

NEJM article

Why it’s important – This outcome is great news for the diabetes and #wearenotwaiting communities. In children and adults with type 1 diabetes, the use of an open-source AID system resulted in a significantly higher percentage of time (3 hours 21 minutes more in the target range per day)than the use of a sensor-augmented insulin pump at 24 weeks.


Most Consumers Are Health and Wellness Consumers Even in Hard Financial Times, Accenture Finds

In her latest blog post, Jane SARASOHN-KAHN reviews the results of a survey where Accenture polled over 11,000 consumers in 17 countries, considering how people are faring amid “widespread uncertainty and personal financial strains,” in the firm’s words. While two in three consumers feel financially stressed, 4 in 5 intend to grow or hold their personal spending on health and fitness steady in the next year. Net-net for U.S. consumers, 76% of people would plan to spend more or maintain their spending on health and wellness over the next twelve months.

Image Credit: Accenture

Why it’s important – As always, Jane’s conclusions are spot on. The importance of this research is summarized in Jane’s Hot Takes at the conclusion of her post:

  • As patients grow muscles as health citizens, they have come to learn more about public health and how their behaviors impact and co-determine others’ (as we have learned through the work of Christakis and Fowler in their Connected research, among other studies into social networks’ impacts on health)
  • As patients continue to morph into health consumers and medical bill payers, they will seek value-based care based on their values, customers, preferences, and beliefs
  • Patients seek more personalized guidance for health care decisions and self-care, from assessing approaches to dealing with cancer diagnoses to recommendations for wearable tech based on individual goals, budgets, and features.

Driving Adoption of Nocturnal Scratch as a Digital Endpoint & Improving Patients’ Lives

I’ve long been impressed with the work being done by the Digital Medicine Society (DiME). This week they announced a watershed moment in the digital measurement space: the first pre-competitive development of a digital endpoint! DiMe and partners announced new patient-generated data and evidence supporting the use of a new digital clinical measure. They’ve developed and deployed digital measures for patients with #atopicdermatitis. By using digital tools and sensor-generated #data, they’ve collected essential information about patients’ nighttime scratching, measuring and quantifying their behavior in real-time. And they’ve created a new toolkit that shows you how to adopt nocturnal scratch as a digital endpoint for atopic dermatitis. It also serves as a blueprint for developing and deploying #digital endpoints in #clinicaltrials and #medical product development.

Image Credit: Digital Medicine Society
Image Credit: Digital Medicine Society

Why it’s important – Atopic dermatitis affects up to 2.4% of the world’s population, with nighttime scratching being a predominant and burdensome symptom for patients. These findings formed a Conceptual Model for Nocturnal Scratching, which will be published later in 2022. The results can help you anchor the narrative about nocturnal scratching in meaningful aspects of patients’ lives. If you are not following DiME, you should add them to your list of digital resources now. You’ll be glad you did.

Health Tech News This Week – September 3, 2022

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

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

This week was a very busy news week with dozens of articles to consider. Here are the ones that I found the most interesting:

AI COULD REDUCE GAPS IN HEART ATTACK CARE FOR WOMEN

Researchers have developed a new artificial intelligence-based risk score that improves personalized care for female patients with heart attacks. The University of Zurich posted this summary of its research in Futurity online. In their study, the researchers analyzed data from 420,781 patients with the most common type of heart attack. Using a machine learning algorithm and the largest datasets in Europe, we were able to develop a novel artificial intelligence-based risk score that accounts for sex-related differences in the baseline risk profile and improves the prediction of mortality in both sexes.

“I hope the implementation of this novel score in treatment algorithms will refine current treatment strategies, reduce sex inequalities, and eventually improve the survival of patients with heart attacks—both male and female.”

Thomas F. Lüscher, professor at the Center for Molecular Cardiology, University of Zurich

Why it’s important – There are notable differences in the disease phenotype observed in females and males. Our study shows that women and men differ significantly in their risk factor profile at hospital admission,” says Lüscher. When age differences at admission and existing risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes are disregarded, female heart-attack patients have higher mortality than male patients. Lüscher and his team see huge potential in the application of artificial intelligence for the management of heart disease both in male and female patients.


Infographics of the week – Great summary from Dr. Bertalan Mesko and his team at The Medical Futurist Institute on tech companies collaborating with healthcare institutions. I always fund these extremely valuable in my teaching work. Bringing this information together in a single infographic makes having a substantive conversation much more effortless.

Image Credit: Dr. Bertalan Mesko – The Medical Futurist Institute

The second infographic this week was created by S3 Connected Health, and is a terrific look at how digital health companies can approach product development along the spectrum from tactical to strategic to increase RoI and demonstrate value to healthcare organizations.

Image Credit: S3 Connected Health

Fingertip Sensor Measures Lithium Levels in Sweat

Researchers at UCLA have developed a fingertip sensor that can rapidly provide data on lithium levels in the body. Conn Hastings reported on this development in his Medgadget article. Used as a treatment for bipolar disorder and depression, lithium requires very accurate and sensitive dosing, with too little providing no therapeutic benefit but slightly too much potentially leading to unwanted side effects. The new electrochemical sensor incorporates a hydrogel pad that facilitates sensitive measurements, which require an aqueous environment. An ion-selective electrode detects the lithium ions present in the sweat on the fingertip, providing a result in as little as 30 seconds.

Image Credit: UCLA

Why it’s important – At present, the most common method to assess lithium levels involves a blood draw and subsequent lab testing, which is inconvenient and cumbersome. Lithium can be a very effective treatment for bipolar disorder. Still, it is tricky to get the dose just right to maximize its therapeutic properties while reducing the risk of potentially dangerous side effects. Another issue with the drug is the potential for poor patient compliance. If a patient misses some doses and their medication does not appear to be working, a clinician typically must perform a blood draw and order a lab test to see if lithium levels are out of whack. This is time-consuming, invasive, and expensive. Through a single touch, the new device can obtain clinically useful molecular-level information about what is circulating in the body.


An ambitious stroke prevention study tests the Apple Watch’s promise in health

Currently, millions of people with an irregular heartbeat are told to take expensive blood thinners, which prevent strokes but also increase the risk of dangerous bleeding. Stat’s Mario Aguilar reports that a new study will investigate whether Apple Watches can be used as part of a strategy to minimize the use of those medications when they’re not needed. The seven-year study, expected to launch next spring, will compare strokes, bleeding, and health care cost outcomes between people who are given the standard course of blood thinners and an experimental group that will be directed to take medication only after an Apple Watch detects prolonged atrial fibrillation. Apple will donate devices to the project and is assisting in the development of the study application. As part of that work, the company is helping researchers build a custom algorithm for the study, which will check the heart rhythm of participants much more frequently than the algorithm available to the general public. Upon detecting atrial fibrillation that lasts several hours, patients will be directed by the software to take blood thinners until the highest risk of stroke has passed, rather than being left on the drugs indefinitely.

Why it’s important – If the experimental arm of the study can prevent strokes and reduce bleeding, it would be a significant advance for cardiac care. It would also be a coup for Apple, which for years has been developing — and aggressively marketing — features that detect irregular heart rhythms in individuals but have yet to show they can directly impact care and improve outcomes. An upcoming version of Apple’s iPhone software also has a feature to help users manage their medications. One key question will be how reliably and accurately the new algorithm used for the study can catch instances of A-fib. For the algorithm used in the Apple Watch available to the general public, the company’s studies show 88.6% sensitivity in detecting people who have irregular heart rhythms, according to documents published by the Food and Drug Administration. Those data are an important reminder of how the accuracy of consumer wearables can impact any intervention using them at scale.


Late-Breaking Heart Research: AI More Accurate Than Technicians

A Cedars Sinai and Smidt Heart Institute Study, Presented at European Society of Cardiology Congress 2022, Shows Artificial Intelligence Can Better Assess and Diagnose Cardiac Function. Previously, researchers at the Smidt Heart Institute and Stanford University developed one of the first artificial intelligence technologies to assess cardiac function, specifically, left ventricular ejection fraction—the key heart measurement used in diagnosing cardiac function. Their research was published in the prestigious journal Nature. Building on this past research, the most recent study assessed the impact of artificial intelligence in clinical deployment as part of a prospective, blinded, and randomized controlled clinical trial.

In the study, Cedars-Sinai cardiologists evaluated 3,495 transthoracic echocardiogram studies, comparing initial assessment by artificial intelligence or by a sonographer—also known as an ultrasound technician. One of the significant findings was that cardiologists more frequently agreed with the AI initial assessment, such that they corrected only 16.8% of the initial assessments made by AI and simultaneously corrected 27.2% of the initial assessments made by the sonographers. This difference demonstrated not only non-inferiority but actually the superiority of AI.

“This trial was powered to show non-inferiority of the AI compared to sonographer tracings, and so we were pleasantly surprised when the results actually showed superiority for AI with respect to the pre-specified outcomes.”

David Ouyang, MD, Cardiologist, Department of Cardiology, Smidt Heart Institute

Why it’s important – The results have immediate translational implications for patients undergoing cardiac function imaging and broader implications for the field of cardiac imaging. When developed in the right way, artificial intelligence offers the opportunity to improve the quality of echocardiogram readings as well as increase efficiencies in the time and effort spent by busy cardiologists and sonographers alike.


How Vibrant Gastro’s vibrating pill treats chronic constipation without drugs

The swallowable, vibrating, Vibrant capsule has won FDA marketing authorization as a new treatment for chronic idiopathic constipation. Jim Hammerand reported on the development in Medical Design and Outsourcing. The drug-free capsule is indicated for adults with chronic idiopathic constipation who have not experienced relief despite using laxative therapies for at least one month. Vibrant Gastro says its technology is built on the premise that our circadian rhythm — commonly referred to as our “biological clock” — plays an essential role in our biological digestive process. The Vibrant pill’s mechanical vibration of the colon can synchronize an out-of-sync patient and improve bowel movements.

To start the treatment, a patient with a prescription places the Vibrant capsule in the accompanying multi-use activation pod device to activate the capsule, then swallows the capsule with a glass of water. The capsule passively moves through the digestive system to the colon, where it vibrates to mechanically stimulate the colon and resynchronize the biological clock to improve daily bowel movement bio-rhythm.

Why it’s important – The pivotal trial’s outcomes demonstrated superiority with respect to both the proportion of patients with at least one additional complete spontaneous bowel movement per week compared to baseline, 40.51% in the treatment arm, compared to 22.92% in the control arm, a difference of 17.6% (chi-square p-value = 0.0011) and at least two additional complete bowel movements per week, 23.42% in the treatment arm, compared to 11.81% in the control arm, a difference of 10.0%. The treatment is for chronic constipation, defined as fewer than three bowel movements per week, with symptoms persisting for weeks or months. The new device will be available in select U.S. states early next year, with gradual national expansion throughout 2023.


An international team sets out to cure genetic heart diseases with one shot

Called the CureHeart Project, the team — which includes researchers from Oxford, Harvard, Singapore’s National Heart Research Institute, and pharma multinational Bristol Myers Squibb — will develop therapies for inherited heart muscle conditions, which impact millions and can cause sudden death, including in young people. B. David Zarley posted an article on the project in Freethink online. They plan to tackle the problem using two types of targeted techniques, called base editing and prime editing. Many of the mutations seen in these patients come down to one fateful letter in their DNA code. That has raised the possibility that researchers could alter that one single letter and restore the code so that it is now making a normal gene with normal function. When the cause is a fault in one copy of a gene, which stops the healthy copy from working, they want to switch off the faulty copy; their second approach will be to edit the broken gene sequence itself to correct it. They’ve demonstrated both methods in mouse models.

“Our goals are to fix the hearts, to stabilise them where they are and perhaps to revert them back to more normal function.”

Christine Seidman, professor of medicine and genetics at Harvard Medical School and co-lead of CureHeart

Why it’s important – Inherited heart muscle diseases cause abnormalities in the heart, which are passed on through families. People of any age can fall victim to sudden heart failure and death, and there is generally a 50/50 chance of passing the problem along to their children. Many different mutations can cause them, but in total, they affect one out of every 250 people worldwide. By using prime and base editing — very precise tools for editing DNA — the team hopes to develop an injectable cure to repair faulty heart genes.


NeuraLight is making neurological diagnostics more precise

Hillel Fuld in Fast Company brings us this article on NeuraLight, a VC-backed startup that aims to digitize neurological evaluation and care. Cofounded by former Chorus.ai president Micha Breakstone, NeuraLight’s AI-driven platform integrates multiple digital markers to accelerate and improve drug development, monitoring, and precision care for patients with neurological disorders. The idea is that if you improve the diagnosis process, you can intervene earlier, improving prognosis, and often, as in the case of relapsing-remitting MS, even changing the course of the disease. NeuraLight recently launched a trial in collaboration with a publicly traded pharma company, NeuroSense. The trial aims to establish whether NeuraLight can predict the progression of ALS using their platform.

“After watching two of my grandparents battle with Alzheimer’s and Dementia, I began studying these diseases in depth, and it soon became clear to me that cures for these diseases are extremely hard to discover because they lack robust objective and sensitive measures.”

Micha Breakstone, Co-founder, NeuraLight

Why it’s important – Research spanning several decades and published in hundreds of peer-reviewed papers has established that oculometric markers—that is, biomarkers extracted from measuring micro-movements of the eye—can be used to diagnose and predict the progression of a wide range of neurological disorders. These digital markers serve as a reliable proxy for currently used clinical endpoints. They will provide an accurate snapshot of a person’s neurological status, enabling pharmaceutical companies to introduce smart phenotyping, reduce misdiagnosis, and accurately and sensitively measure disease progression.


AI could help deliver greater success at birth

With machine learning, Mayo Clinic researchers found it is possible to predict how patterns of changes in pregnant patients who are in labor can help identify whether a vaginal delivery will occur with good outcomes for mom and baby. Andrea Fox reports on the research in her article in Healthcare IT News. According to the published study, of the 228,438 delivery episodes in the database, there were 779 antepartum, intrapartum, and postpartum variables. The algorithms analyzed data known at the time of admission in labor – patient baseline characteristics, the patient’s most recent clinical assessment, and labor progress from admission. Researchers used 66,586 records in the prediction models, where 14,439 deliveries (21.68%) reported poor labor outcomes.

Why it’s important – The ability to change the shape of and open the birth canal to make way for a baby to be born varies from patient to patient. When obstetricians analyze contractions, as well as fetal heartbeats, they assess the progress of labor and make recommendations on levels of care for the medically risky delivery process of birth. The use of the models could result in more individualized clinical decisions using the baseline characteristics of each patient, and they could also be a tool to help remote physicians and midwives transfer rural or remote patients to the appropriate level of care.


Study trains AI to predict optimal anti-seizure meds for new epilepsy patients

In other news on the AI front, Adam Ang brings us this article in MobiHealthNews. An international study led by Monash University has done what could be the world’s first demonstration of an AI model that can predict the optimal anti-seizure medication for newly diagnosed epilepsy patients. The research team has trained a deep-learning prediction model using clinical information from around 1,800 patients in five health care centers in Australia, Malaysia, China, and the United Kingdom. The model is designed by the Monash Medical AI Group and is trained using Monash’s MASSIVE computing facility. Findings from the study, which was published in the journal JAMA Neurology, showed that the AI model has a “modest” 65% accuracy in predicting the best anti-seizure medication.

Why it’s important – About 70 million people worldwide have epilepsy. Until now, there has been a lot of guesswork and experimentation by doctors on which anti-seizure drugs their patients will respond to. Currently, the predictive model is intended for adults with new-onset epilepsy who are about to begin their medication. The AI model still has a modest prediction accuracy and is slated for a wider clinical trial soon.


Walgreens finalizes CareCentrix majority stake acquisition

Walgreens Boots Alliance has completed its majority share acquisition of CareCentrix, a home-centered platform that coordinates care to the home for health plans, patients, and providers. Jeff Lagasse provides the details in his article in Healthcare Finance. The partnership was pursued primarily because of the belief that it would better address the needs of people with complex or chronic conditions as they transition out of the hospital. CareCentrix touted its analytics capabilities, emphasizing the transition to home-based care that could potentially reduce hospital readmissions and improve patient satisfaction and outcomes.

Why it’s important – Healthcare services delivered after discharge, including care delivered in the home, are one of the fastest-growing segments in healthcare today. Caring for patients from the hospital to the home represents more than $75 billion in annual healthcare costs for payers, providers, and patients, according to Walgreens. This is the latest example of retail pharmacy and big tech companies moving more aggressively into primary care and home health. After Labor Day, we should hear which company has been successful in its bid to purchase Signify Health. The three bidders in the mix are CVS, Amazon, and United Healthcare. It will be interesting to see who emerges as the top choice.


Top 10 Research Topics To Pursue In Digital Health

Finally, this article from Dr. Bertalan Mesko and his team at The Medical Futurist Institute offers some insights to anyone who is willing to dive deep into digital health but is unsure about the best direction to take. They’ve compiled a list of ten research topics we believe are promising for anyone wishing to find their calling in digital health research.

Why it’s important – I always find these posts interesting and thought-provoking. The topics suggested all fit well into the evolving digital health landscape and would benefit from additional research.

Health Tech News This Week – August 27, 2022

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

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

3 shifts in healthcare to expect from telehealth innovations in 2023

Eric Bacon’s article in MedCity News is first up this week. With Covid still at the forefront of healthcare leaders’ minds, some may not be prioritizing healthcare technology trends — let alone making predictions about what 2023 has in store for telehealth innovations. That’s why the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services is also offering 1,135 waivers through October 2022. Another guideline adds 150 days beyond the PHE deadline, which could push things back to spring of next year. Bacon contends that the telehealth industry will continue to drive innovation that helps bring telehealth more permanently and creatively into the care continuum. You’ll see device integration and be able to perform even more complicated tests, like dialysis, at home. He identifies three major shifts we’ll soon see from telehealth innovations:

  • Hospital in the home – The global Covid crisis made it clear that we need a better bridge between hospitals and our homes. It created a whole new setting that can be treated in a different way, which sparked the Acute Hospital Care at Home Program.
  • Telehealth ICUs – While not a new concept, one study found almost half of acute care facilities had no intensivists on staff. This can, unfortunately, mean a patient cannot receive the quality of care they desperately need. Investing in telehealth ICUs allows better care for the sickest of the sick, regardless of their location, as intensivists can be brought to the patient through telemedicine technology. The United States is the global leader in telehealth ICUs, with a 20% market penetration. While impressive, that still leaves a significant 80% market that will be very competitive.
  • Enterprise integration – Health system leaders can’t rely on piecemeal layers tied together with virtual duct tape. It ruins the care continuum and makes for an interrupted workflow. Whether you see a patient in the ICU or at home, it should be within the same workflow to simplify the process and make it scalable.

Why it’s important – The telehealth industry is quickly becoming a quarter-trillion-dollar sector. Some of the revenue that might have been coming from an acute facility is now moving toward healthcare in the home. This is especially true in specialized facilities, like skilled nursing facilities, that may have different rules for state licensure or reimbursement. The telehealth industry will continue to drive innovation that helps bring telehealth more permanently and creatively into the care continuum.


Infographic of the week – This one comes from Rock Health, which recommends a “back to basics” approach to tying innovation efforts to desired outcomes. This graphic demonstrates how based on your decisions around desired outputs (the what), you can begin evaluating the various pathways (the how) that lead to each. Several trails can take you to the metaphorical mountaintop of your choice, but understanding your options set is a good start. Excellent information, as always.

Image Credit: Rock Health

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

Featured Article: Incredible women in health tech | the 2022 longlist

Kirsty Rigg authored this article in Health Tech World online. When it comes to women in health tech, the imbalance is similar to what you would find in STEM overall (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths). Figures show that in health technology specifically, only one woman in five people is working in the industry. The lack of women in AI, health tech, and tech overall has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the numbers generally never balanced out before that. She raises a glass to the powerful, inspirational, and outstanding women who have made their mark in health tech against the odds.

Why it’s important – Need I say anything? We need more visibility and recognition for these fantastic female tech entrepreneurs. Congratulations to all the women who made this impressive list and the many others who have not yet received the recognition they deserve.


Diagnosing Mental Health Disorders Through AI Facial Expression Evaluation

Researchers from Germany have developed a method for identifying mental disorders based on facial expressions interpreted by computer vision. Martin Anderson reports on the new research in his article on Unite.AI online. The new approach can not only distinguish between unaffected and affected subjects but can also correctly distinguish depression from schizophrenia, as well as the degree to which the patient is currently affected by the disease. Individuals with affective disorders tend to have raised eyebrows, leaden gazes, swollen faces, and hang-dog mouth expressions. To protect patient privacy, these composite images are the only ones made available to support the new work. The researchers have dubbed this technique Opto Electronic Encephalography (OEG), a completely passive method of inferring mental state by facial image analysis instead of topical sensors or ray-based medical imaging technologies.

‘Overall, the results predicted by the machine show better correlations compared to the pure clinical observer rating based questionnaires and are also objective. The relatively short measurement period of a few minutes for the computer vision approaches is also noteworthy, whereas hours are sometimes required for the clinical interviews.’

Research Paper, The Face of Affective Disorders

Why it’s important – Until now, facial affect recognition has been primarily used as a potential tool for basic diagnosis. The new approach, instead, offers a possible method to evaluate patient progress throughout treatment or else (potentially, though the paper does not suggest it) in their own domestic environment for outpatient monitoring. The authors conclude that OEG could possibly be not just a mere secondary aide to diagnosis and treatment but, in the long term, a potential replacement for certain evaluative parts of the treatment pipeline and one that could cut down on time necessary for patient monitoring and initial diagnosis.


MaineGeneral hits congestive heart failure readmission rate of 0% using RPM

MaineGeneral Health in Augusta had high, rising readmission rates for congestive heart failure. In January 2020, the organization launched a remote patient monitoring pilot, working with vendor Health Recovery Solutions to monitor CHF patients after discharge from the hospital. Bill Siwicki reported the story for Healthcare IT News. During the pilot, MaineGeneral Health learned it takes more clinical time to monitor and follow up with patients. Because of this, it hired a full-time employee to monitor the patient panel. As the program grew to more than 100 patients, the organization expanded to allowing referrals for patients with any chronic condition or COVID-19 and hired additional clinical staff. For remote patient monitoring, as patients record their data, it is transmitted in real-time to a central care team. If an issue is identified, the team can provide immediate support through video conferencing with the patient, education, or consulting the patient’s primary or specialty care provider to determine if the clinical intervention (medication change, for example) is necessary. MaineGeneral Health monitors patients for an average of 90 days before they graduate from the program. The vast majority of patients are 61 to 90 years old.

“Overall, MaineGeneral’s most recent RPM satisfaction rates show 90% of RPM patients are satisfied or very satisfied with the impact of the program and their ability to become an active participant in their health.”

Laura Mrazik, telehealth coordinator at MaineGeneral Health

Why it’s important – This case is an excellent example of the benefits of RPM in patient care. In May and June 2022, MaineGeneral achieved a CMS-CHF readmission rate of 0%, compared with 20% and 26.7% in the same months the prior year. Additionally, the overall CHF readmission rate has hit 0% in four of the last nine months. Also, MaineGeneral’s adherence rates to taking vitals – blood pressure, weight, O2 saturation – has consistently maintained an average higher than the vendor’s book of business.


The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

This is a fascinating article by Britt H. Young in IEEE Spectrum online that argues that the prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical. Today, the people who design prostheses tend to be well-intentioned engineers rather than amputees themselves. (One notable exception to this comment is Hugh Herr, associate professor of media arts and sciences and leader of the Biomechatronics Group in MIT’s Media Lab. Herr is building sophisticated devices that aid human movement by mimicking nature. I wrote an earlier post on a PBS documentary that featured Herr’s work.) The fleshy stumps of the world act as repositories for these designers’ dreams of a high-tech, superhuman future. The author knows this because, throughout her life, she has been fitted with some of the most cutting-edge prosthetic devices on the market.

“It’s time to ask who prostheses are really for, and what we hope they will actually accomplish.”

Britt H. Young, IEEE Spectrum

Why it’s important – In the United States alone, more than 2 million people live with limb loss, and 185,000 people receive amputations every year. Bionic hands seek to make disabled people “whole” to have them participate in a culturally two-handed world. But it’s more important that they get to live the lives they want, with access to the tools they need, than it is to make them look like everyone else. There are inexpensive, accessible, low-tech prosthetics that are available right now and need innovation investments to bring down costs further and improve functionality. And in the United States, at least, there is a broken insurance system that needs fixing. Releasing ourselves from the bionic-hand arms race can open up the possibilities of more functional designs that are more useful and affordable and might help us bring our prosthetic aspirations back down to earth. The author is working on a book about what the prosthetics industry tells us about the future of bodies and disability and the limits of tech’s ability to solve all our problems. I’ll be one of the first to purchase a copy when it’s available. I’m sure it will be a great read.


Sensor Detects Parkinsons’ During Sleep

A new sensor that passively monitors breathing during sleep can not only detect Parkinson’s but also track the progression of the disease over time, researchers report. Mark Michaud-Rochester’s article in Futurity reports that researchers used an artificial intelligence tool to sift through mountains of data from study participants to find patterns that identify the disease and determine severity. The study is one of several research projects exploring new ways to harness remote monitoring, smartphones, smartwatches, and other technologies to improve care and advance research in Parkinson’s and other diseases.

Why it’s important – Parkinson’s is the fastest-growing neurological disorder in the world, outpacing Alzheimer’s. More than one million Americans are currently living with the disease. While there are rare genetic forms of the disease, many cases of Parkinson’s are likely caused by exposure to certain industrial chemicals and pesticides. An early diagnosis could enable patients to start treatments earlier, potentially forestalling the progression of the disease. More precise measurement of the progression of the disease—which can vary significantly from patient to patient—will also enable scientists to better measure if experimental therapies are working. Proven remote monitoring technologies will also allow researchers to recruit study participants more widely, measure the impact new therapies more quickly, and, hopefully, find new effective treatments faster.


Smart Socks Help Prevent Falls Among At-Risk Patients

Researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center have tested the PUP (Patient is Up) Smart Socks, developed by a MedTech company called Palarum, in their ability to reduce falls among at-risk patients. The socks contain pressure sensors that alert caregivers when a patient is attempting to stand up. This can include situations such as a patient getting out of bed to go to the toilet. The socks can wirelessly communicate with the system, which then alerts the caregivers closest to the patient so that they can arrive and provide assistance as soon as possible. A recent study showed that the system significantly reduced fall rates in patients at high risk of such incidents. Conn Hastings brings us this story in his article in Medgadget. This new system is present on the patients and staff themselves in the form of wireless smart socks containing pressure sensors and alert badges that staff wear. The socks alert the three nearest caregivers when a patient attempts to get out of bed, and then the next closest three if one of the first three is not present in the room within the first 60 seconds, and the system progresses to an all-staff call within 90 seconds.

Image Credit: Palarum
YouTube video credit: Palarum PUP

Why it’s important – A fall can spell severe consequences for frail and vulnerable patients and can often be the start of a downward health spiral. It is not typically possible to monitor high-risk patients every minute of the day, but wireless technologies are well-suited to fulfill an assistive role in this context. Falls often happen when a high-risk patient attempts to get out of bed to use the restroom, and this is the time that having a caregiver present to assist can dramatically reduce the risk of such incidents. Current approaches sometimes involve pressure sensors in beds or seating, but these frequently give false alarms, leading to alarm fatigue and reduced effectiveness of such systems.


Health Tech News This Week – August 20, 2022

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

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

Bicycle Health partners with Tele911 to offer opioid use treatment

First up this week is Emily Olsen’s article in MobiHealthNews on Bicycle Health, which offers virtual opioid use disorder treatment, and is partnering with emergency telehealth provider Tele911 to connect patients to continuing care after an overdose or health crisis. Tele911 works with paramedics to determine if patients need to be transported to a hospital emergency room or if they can be treated at home or another care site. Under the partnership, those who experienced an overdose or have symptoms of opioid use disorder will be evaluated by Tele911 emergency physicians, and a social worker can refer them to Bicycle Health.

Why it’s important – A recent study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy found that most opioid use disorder patients don’t receive medication-assisted treatment. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, just over 10% of people 12 and older with a substance use disorder received any treatment in the past year. Other companies offering telehealth care for substance use disorder include Boulder Care, which recently scooped up $36 million; Ophelia, which announced two fundraising rounds in 2021; and Quit Genius, which partnered with B2B insurance company Evry Health earlier this year.


Infographics of the week – This graphic from an open access article on Nature Digital Medicine presents a comprehensive Framework for Digital Health Equity, detailing key digital determinants of health (DDoH) to support the work of digital health tool creators in the industry, health systems operations, and academia. The rapid digitization of healthcare may widen health disparities if solutions are not developed with these determinants in mind.

This week’s second infographic comes from the New England Journal of Medicine’s Catalyst publication Digital Technology’s Promise for Better Health Care Delivery: How emerging technologies will drive the transformation. It shows that health care organizations, 70%, use technology such as screening apps, mindfulness and meditation apps, and chat-based psychotherapy for mental and behavioral health, according to our survey. More than half of Council members, 62%, say their organizations use digital tools to care for dementia patients. Nearly half of the organizations, 47%, use or plan to adopt digital chronic disease management technologies within the next two years for remote patient monitoring and data analytics tools.

Image Credit: NEJM, Digital Technology’s Promise for Better Health Care Delivery: How emerging technologies will drive the transformation, pg.9

An ‘EpiPen’ bracelet? Assuta Ashdod develops concept to save lives

Judy Siegel-Itzkovich published this article in The Jerusalem Post about a pediatric nurse at Samson Assuta Ashdod University Hospital who has developed the concept for the first-ever compact epinephrine injection device (often referred to by the proper name “EpiPen”) that can be worn on a child’s wrist like a bracelet. The device, which would be comfortable to carry, water resistant, and have a 16-millimeters long needle, could help save the lives of children and adults with food, drug, and other allergies. Sberro-Cohen said she has already met with engineers and knows that creating her epinephrine injection device is possible. Now, she is just looking for an investor to help make it happen. She said it would take five to seven years from the time the device was made until it received full Food and Drug Administration approval as a medical device.

Why it’s important – In the US alone, there are 32 million people who have such allergies, and 200,000 are rushed to emergency medicine departments for urgent treatment to prevent or treat anaphylactic shock. As Sberro-Cohen noted, hospitalization results from the person forgetting to carry an epinephrine injection device containing epinephrine, which is an essential first treatment for such allergic reactions. While this is still in early-stage development, the benefits of such a device are considerable.


NHS trust dramatically reduces acute kidney injury, with help from AI

A condition linked to thousands of UK deaths has been significantly reduced by healthcare professionals at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, with the help of a new care model supported by specialist nurses and developed in partnership with NHS technology provider C2-Ai. This article appeared in Health Tech Digital online. Created to help identify and promptly treat patients in hospitals at risk from acute kidney injury, the project has led to a reduction in hospital-acquired AKI of more than 80%. It also enables a range of other patient safety improvements in and beyond the hospital. It combines risk stratification digital tools developed by C2-Ai, accessed by staff through an app, with care processes developed at the trust involving a new specialist nursing team, preventive specialist intervention, assessment, and follow-up.

“There has been a big policy emphasis on the importance of data in saving lives in the NHS in recent months. This project is a prime example of how using technology to give healthcare professionals near real-time and quantifiable risk information, combined with a culture focussed on learning and driving forward clinical best practice, can make a big difference to patient safety and ease pressure on busy NHS hospitals.”

Mark Ratnarajah, M.D., Pediatrician and UK managing director at C2-Ai

Why it’s important – The partnership has resulted in patients being detected earlier – preventing AKI from occurring or mitigating the worsening of existing AKI. Accordingly, patients have been more effectively triaged to the correct care pathways, including referral and transfer to tertiary renal units where appropriate. In addition to its impact on patient care, the project has delivered significant financial gains. The trust has saved more than £2 million in direct costs from reductions in AKI incidence. Additional savings at the commissioner level have also been achieved through avoidance of renal replacement therapy, while improved transfers of patients have released ICU capacity to support other elective surgery activities at a time when hospitals across the country are dealing with a growing national backlog.


Why aren’t digital pills taking off?

Manasi Vaidya’s article on Pharmaceutical Technology online on why digital pills have not exploded in pharma. Privacy and logistical concerns, especially while studying such applications for vulnerable populations, have lingered. When dealing with vulnerable people, it is essential to make sure patients are aware of what the sensors in digital pills intend to do, that there is no penalty if they forget a medication, and that they are meant to be helpful and not a hindrance. Despite these concerns, the development of digital pills and sensors continues to evolve. For example, the digital health company etectRx (pronounced as e-tect-are-ex) works with investigators who can use such real-time data. The company’s FDA-cleared ID-Cap system involves an ingestible capsule plus a device worn around the neck with a lanyard. An app relays messages from the device to a secure cloud-based server.

“The issue here is we haven’t created a compelling case from an economic, payer, and user space, all at the same time, in such a way that everybody can win.”

Eric Buffkin, CEO, etectRx

Why it’s important – Digital pills offer the chance to monitor and improve medication adherence. High adherence is critical in HIV to get the viral load to undetectable levels and to protect people from getting AIDS. Hepatitis C treatments cost several thousand dollars, and digital pills can help us understand if a lack of a response is because the patient hasn’t taken their pills or if it’s something else. The biggest obstacle to the widespread adoption of digital pills has been payment. Payers have to see the health and economic benefit to buy in. There have been some recent steps in that direction. In its 2022 Physician Fee Schedule, CMS included five codes that can be used to seek reimbursement for remote therapeutic monitoring and included therapy adherence, respiratory system status, and musculoskeletal system status as examples. This presents a straightforward therapy monitoring reimbursement system in those areas.


Tough Gel Adhesives for Wound Healing

From the Wyss Institute comes this article highlighting work by researchers who have developed a new super-strong hydrogel adhesive inspired by the glue secreted by a common slug that is biocompatible, flexible, and can stick to dynamically moving tissues even in the presence of blood. The hydrogel itself is a hybrid of two different types of polymers: a seaweed extract called alginate that is used to thicken food, and polyacrylamide, which is the primary material in soft contact lenses. When these relatively weak polymers become entangled with each other, they create a molecular network that demonstrates unprecedented toughness and resilience for hydrogel materials – on par with the body’s natural cartilage. When combined with an adhesive layer containing positively-charged polymer molecules (chitosan), the resulting hybrid material can bind to tissues stronger than any other available adhesive, stretch up to 20 times its initial length, and attach to wet tissue surfaces undergoing dynamic movement (e.g., a beating heart).

Why it’s important – The hydrogel adhesive has numerous potential applications in the medical field, either as a patch that can be cut to desired sizes and applied to many tissues, including bone, cartilage, tendon, or pleura, or as an injectable solution for deeper injuries. It can also be used to attach medical devices to their target structures, such as an actuator to support heart function. While the current iteration is designed to be a permanent structure, it could be made to biodegrade over time as the body heals from an injury.


The Unintended Consequences of OTC Hearing Aids

Over-the-counter hearing aids will be available by October. They’ll benefit many but could lead to stigmatization, inadequate testing, and even hearing loss. This opinion article in Wired by Jaipreet Virdii highlights some of the potential issues associated with the decision by the FDA that over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids can be sold without a prescription to people with mild-to-moderate hearing loss. OTC hearing aids will be available as soon as October. The author contends that while this new business model means manufacturers can sell directly to consumers, it may have unintended consequences for him or other deaf people who have more than moderate hearing loss. One issue is that without individualized fitting, consumers may experience frustration with their hearing devices, if not further deterioration of hearing loss—an issue that OTC hearing aids will likely exacerbate, as they will have preset or limited settings. The most pressing concern is how OTC hearing aids are marketed. Advertisements and press releases emphasize that untreated hearing loss can be serious: In addition to physiological stresses, it is often associated with dementia, depression, and social isolation. These campaigns primarily target older adults on a fixed income, thus reinforcing stereotypical associations of hearing loss with aging.

Moreover, advertisements for these OTC hearing aids indicate that they will be “invisible” and therefore able to reduce the stigma or embarrassment of deafness. Such marketing strategies push deafened people into a binary: Either they’re “hearing passing,” or they’re part of Deaf culture and communicate predominately with sign language. Both groups, however, are expected to accept medical and technological options for “cures.”

Why it’s important – According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, approximately 13 percent of the American population—30 million—aged 12 years or older have hearing loss as determined by standard hearing tests. About 28.8 million US adults could benefit from wearing hearing aids, but for reasons of cost, accessibility, stigma, and preference, they choose not to. Once OTC hearing aids hit the market, they will offer consumers cheaper, accessible, and technologically sophisticated options for improving hearing. It’s important to understand that while OTC hearing aids will undoubtedly transform the consumer market, they are not a one-size-fits-all solution, nor will they replace the intricate services provided by professional audiologists and hearing instrument specialists.


Engineers fabricate a chip-free, wireless electronic “skin”

Jennifer Chu from the MIT Technology Office posted this article online reporting that MIT engineers have devised a new kind of wearable sensor that communicates wirelessly without requiring onboard chips or batteries. Their design, detailed today in Science, opens a path toward chip-free wireless sensors. The team’s sensor design is a form of electronic skin, or “e-skin” — a flexible, semiconducting film that conforms to the skin like electronic Scotch tape. The heart of the sensor is an ultrathin, high-quality film of gallium nitride. This material is known for its piezoelectric properties. It can produce an electrical signal in response to mechanical strain and mechanically vibrate in response to an electrical impulse.

“You could put it on your body like a bandage, and paired with a wireless reader on your cellphone, you could wirelessly monitor your pulse, sweat, and other biological signals.”

Jeehwan Kim, Associate Professor, mechanical engineering and of materials science and engineering, Research Laboratory of Electronics.

Why it’s important – Most wireless sensors today communicate via embedded Bluetooth chips powered by small batteries. But these conventional chips and power sources will likely be too bulky for next-generation sensors, which take on smaller, thinner, more flexible forms. The researchers see their results as the first step toward chip-free wireless sensors. They envision the current device being paired with other selective membranes to monitor other vital biomarkers.


DIY Blood Draw – Could Patients Collect Blood At Home?

Finally, here’s an article from Dr. Bertalan Mesko and his team at The Medical Futurist Institute discussing that blood draws are essential, but this doesn’t make them anyone’s favorite pastime: they are time-consuming and involve needles. They ask: Is there a way to make it in a do-it-yourself (DIY) fashion? Can we collect blood samples at home? This is an excellent review of the current state of research and clinical applications.

Why it’s important – DTC tests have one thing in common: the results arrive directly to the customer, who can decide if and with whom they are willing to share them. But, it’s important to understand that having a DIY blood collecting machine will not create a brave new world, but – if nothing else – they could vastly improve participation in clinical trials.