Health Tech News This Week – May 27, 2023

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

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Epic is going all in on generative AI in healthcare. Here’s why a handful of health systems are eager to test-drive it

Heather Landi kicks off the coverage this week with her article in Fierce Healthcare online. UNC Health has been tapped to test-drive Epic’s generative AI tools to help overworked clinicians respond to a deluge of patient messages. The initial rollout will begin with five to 10 physicians at UNC Health. The program will use generative AI to auto-draft responses to some of the most common and time-intensive patient messages. The health system joins other early adopters from UC San Diego Health, the University of Wisconsin Health, and Stanford Health Care. Epic announced in April during the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Conference in Chicago that it was working with Microsoft to integrate large language model tools and AI into its electronic health record software. The health IT vendor and the tech giant are collaborating to combine the Azure OpenAI Service with Epic’s EHR software with an initial focus on drafting message responses.

“They’re going to be using this in the early-stage adoption to look for things like, ‘What is the accuracy of the text that the system is drafting?’ and, ‘What are the potential use cases in terms of how physicians can make it more effective for them?’ We also think that having this multispecialty approach we may help Epic understand where there may be opportunities for specialty-specific tweaking of the models to make it more effective for a given specialty.”

Brent Lamm, UNC Health’s Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, UNC Health

Why it’s important – Physicians and informatics leaders will also evaluate the tech’s user interface to ensure it is easy for clinicians to use. The health system expects to eventually scale up the generative AI-based messaging tool to a broader group of physicians. Along with the draft message responses, Epic and Microsoft also are working on using generative AI to analyze medical records while looking for trends.

Infographic of the week – The opportunity for the retailers, led in market share by CVS Health’s Minute Clinic and Kroger’s The Little Clinic, is to serve up population health and a health data infrastructure/platform that can enable health citizens to have a data-enabled, contemporary #digitalhealth medical home. This model could also scale to under-served people.

Image Credit: Definitive Healthcare, ClinicView

Drug Delivery System for Chronic Diseases Created Using AI

Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers say they have used artificial intelligence models and machine-learning algorithms to successfully predict which components of amino acids that make up therapeutic proteins are most likely to deliver therapeutic drugs to animal eye cells safely. Published May 2 in Nature Communications, the new research showed that artificial intelligence-designed models accurately predicted an effective sequence of amino acids, also known as peptides or small proteins, that would bind to a particular chemical in rabbit eye cells and safely dispense medications over several weeks, reducing the need for frequent, strict treatment schedules. The team specifically investigated peptides that bind to melanin. This compound provides color to the eye but has the advantage of being widely present throughout specialized structures in eye cells.

“We believe we are well on the way to finding solutions in trying to improve patient care and quality of life using drug delivery systems. The ultimate goal is creating something that we can translate out of the lab and actually make people’s lives better.”

Laura Ensign, Ph.D., Marcella E. Woll professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Why it’s important – The project, a collaboration with researchers from the University of Maryland, holds promise for advancing new and more tolerable drug treatments for common chronic blinding eye diseases, including glaucoma and macular degeneration, which affect 3 million and about 20 million people in the United States, respectively. Current drug therapies for these diseases, consisting of multiple daily eyedrops or frequent eye injections, are effective. Still, such delivery systems may be difficult to sustain and tolerate over time and have encouraged scientific efforts to develop delivery systems that would bind to components of eye cells and safely extend the therapeutic impact of the medications they carry.

iHealthScreen receives FDA 510(k) for AI-enabled eye screening system

Jessica Hagen reports that iHealthScreen, maker of AI-enabled software for retinal imaging, received FDA 510(k) clearance for its iPredict Eye Screening System that leverages AI to help providers determine if a patient over 50 has age-related macular degeneration. The iPredict System screens for AMD by using AI to analyze high-resolution images of a patient’s eyes taken with a color fundus camera. The test can be done in five minutes, and results are available within 60 seconds.

Why it’s important – If a medical task is repetitive and/or data-driven, it is ripe for automation. Screening the eye for signs of age-related macular degeneration is one of those. In 2019, 19.8 million individuals in the U.S. lived with some form of age-related macular degeneration, an increase of more than 2.75 times previous estimates, according to a study in JAMA Ophthalmology.

Video of the weekCan Our Current Workforce Meet Patient Expectations: Tina Shah, MD, set the stage for the Top of Mind Summit with a keynote address that tackled a pervasive and challenging issue in health care: provider burnout. Her presentation, which came on the first night of the Summit, set the stage for many of the sessions that followed the next day. Whether it was intentional or not, the audience at Top of Mind heard again and again from a variety of speakers that burnout was an issue affecting many parts of health systems.

Dr. Shah offered three concluding thoughts on how health systems can move forward and ensure that their clinicians are prepared to meet the demands of patients. First, technology solutions must be co-designed with the patient and provider experience in mind. Second, technology should be leveraged to reduce the cognitive load on clinicians. It needs to be better integrated and operate in the background to make care delivery easier for clinicians, not more burdensome. And finally, clinicians simply need more time and greater resources to confront all the challenges they’re facing. “And when we do that … there’s no limit in where we can go,” she said.

You can view Dr. Shah’s entire presentation here:

State of Digital Health Q1’23 Report

CB Insights’ latest report (subscription required) reveals that global digital health funding holds steady at $3.4B in Q1’23 after plummeting for four straight quarters. Care delivery and navigation tech companies saw 44% of all funding and 37% of all deals across seven digital health categories. Half of the category’s funding went to 5 of the quarter’s top 10 deals. As a result, the category also saw the highest average disclosed deal size ($12.6M).

Image Credit: CB Insights State of Digital Health Q1’23 Report

Why it’s important – Global digital health funding and deals stabilize after a year of decline. That’s good news for startups seeking funding to advance their business goals in 2023.

Brain signatures for chronic pain identified in a small group of individuals

For the first time, researchers have recorded pain-related data from inside the brain of individuals with chronic pain disorders caused by stroke or amputation (phantom limb pain). Four participants, three with post-stroke pain and one with phantom limb pain were surgically implanted with electrodes targeting their ACC and OFC. Several times a day, each participant was asked to answer questions related to how they would rate the pain they were experiencing, including strength, type of pain, and how their pain level was making them feel emotionally. They would then initiate a brain recording by clicking a remote-control device, which provided a snapshot of the activity in the ACC and OFC at that exact moment. Using machine learning analyses, the research team was able to use activity in the OFC to predict the participants’ chronic pain state.

Why it’s important – The findings are a key step to identifying pain-specific biomarkers toward personalizing pain management for individuals, leading to the development of new technologies and advances to better understand brain circuits, a major component of the NIH BRAIN Initiative. Chronic pain is one of the most significant contributors to disability worldwide. Neuropathic pain is caused by damage to the nervous system itself. It most commonly occurs due to injury to the nerves in our bodies, but for the individuals in this study, their pain is thought to originate from the brain itself. This kind of pain does not respond well to current treatments and can be debilitating for people living with it. These findings, which represent a first step towards developing novel methods for tracking and treating chronic pain, were published in Nature Neuroscience and funded by the National Institutes of Health’s Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative and the Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative, or NIH HEAL Initiative.

America’s drug shortages reach new heights

Shortages of cancer drugs and other life-saving medications are reaching their worst point in a decade, forcing physicians to develop workarounds and the Biden administration to mount an all-of-government response. Axios’ Tina Reed reports the story. There are more than 300 drugs in shortage, the highest since 2014, per the American Society for Health-System Pharmacists. While the Biden administration and Congress are both examining ways to address what has been dubbed a national security issue — including via a reauthorization of the Pandemics and All-Hazards Preparedness Act, or PAHPA. But solutions could be expensive and disruptive. The FDA can identify problems and work with manufacturers but lacks the expertise and, in some cases, authority to address more significant economic issues around the industry.

Why it’s important – The shortfalls are surfacing deeply entrenched problems in America’s drug supply chain, particularly around commonly-used generic drugs. A recent House hearing examined a “race to the bottom” in price that chills investment in manufacturing and can leave just one or two companies actively producing a drug in shortage. There are more than 300 drugs in shortage, the highest since 2014, per the American Society for Health-System Pharmacists. America’s drug shortage problem could get worse as generics makers cut back on manufacturing, but it’s unclear whether the government is capable of responding.

Finally, let’s remember all who have served our nation this Memorial Day weekend.

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Health Tech News This Week – May 20, 2023

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

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Amputees could feel warmth of human touch with new bionic technology

Reuters contributors Cecile Mantovani and Denis Balibouse kick off this week’s reporting with this research that had thermal electrodes placed on the skin of their residual arm, amputees such as Fidati reported feeling hot or cold sensations in their phantom hand and fingers, as well as directly on the arm, according to the trials by the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). The 59-year-old Italian is among 27 amputees who took part in the trials, with 17 of them reporting a successful test.

“Temperature feedback is essential for relaying information that goes beyond touch, it leads to feelings of affection. We are social beings and warmth is an important part of that.”

Silvestro Micera, Professor at EPFL and Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies

Why it’s important – Those tested have also been able to differentiate between plastic, glass, and copper, pointing to where they feel the sensations on images of a hand. The technology, which has been tested for over two years, does not need to be implanted. It can be worn on the skin and combined with a regular prosthetic.

Infographic of the week – From Dr. Bertalan Meskó and his team at The Medical Futurist Institute – The integration of ChatGPT into healthcare services is no longer a futuristic concept for many companies in the industry. An increasing number of companies are now leveraging its capabilities for tasks such as data analysis, referral preparation, and conversation transcription, among others. As evidence of this trend, they’ve compiled a list of companies that have integrated ChatGPT already.

Image Credit: Dr. Bertalan Meskó, The Medical Futurist Institute

Aging body scans to aid understanding of why diseases occur

The world’s biggest human imaging project is set to rescan the brains and bodies of 60,000 UK volunteers to find new ways of treating and preventing disease. Fergus Walsh reports his experiences on the project in his article on BBC News online. First launched in 2006, UK Biobank set out to be the most comprehensive study of the nation’s health. The imaging part of the project was started in 2014 and involves detailed scans of the brain and the rest of the body.

Why it’s important – The study has already led to a genetic test for people born with an increased risk of coronary heart disease. More than 7,000 peer-reviewed papers have been published, nearly a third of those last year alone, showing how its scientific value is increasing over time. In 2018, researchers devised a genetic test to detect people born with an increased risk of coronary heart disease by analyzing genomic data from the UK Biobank.

Podcast of the week – From the On With Kara Swisher podcast series, Kara Swisher talks to the FTC chair Lina Khan about big-tech misbehavior and how to regulate AI. You can access the episode here:

Image Credit: Vox Media Podcast Network

EHRs negatively affect well-being of healthcare teams, study finds

Electronic health records are the dominant form of communication among healthcare teams. Still, while a JAMA Network Open study found that they facilitate straightforward, task-related communication, they limit “rich and social” communication. Jeff Lagasse reports the story in Healthcare Finance online. The technology shifts attention away from the human needs of the care team, they said, and interventions to cultivate interpersonal interactions and team function are necessary to complement the efficiency benefits of health information technology. A previous study by several of the same authors indicated that EHR requirements often take precedence over other physician core competencies, disrupting professional conduct and causing distress to physicians and team members.

Why it’s important – Several physicians were interviewed for the paper, and while they agreed that the EHR has improved lean and task-related communication – suitable for simple, uncomplicated tasks – they perceived that the EHR negatively impacts team function by amplifying disagreement and introducing conflict. The results suggest that the EHR supports looser forms of interprofessional work, such as networking and coordination, at the expense of more intense collaboration and teamwork. This study explores a reverse connection, suggesting that fostering physician well-being may be beneficial for team function and, therefore, may minimize unprofessional behaviors instigated by physician distress. This represents yet another rationale for system approaches to address burnout in healthcare. The new findings track with a 2021 study showing EHR-integrated patient-generated health data may create burdens for clinicians, leading to burnout. Based on surveys of more than 20,000 U.S.-based physicians, data published in November showed overall burnout rates at 49% over a three-year window.

Kaiser creates new AI, machine learning grant program

Naomi Diaz reports that The Permanente Medical Group, part of Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente, has launched a new AI and machine learning program that will grant three to five health systems up to $750,000 in her article in Becker’s Health IT online. The program dubbed the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research Augmented Intelligence in Medicine and Healthcare Initiative, or AIM-HI, Coordinating Center, will give money to health systems using AI and machine learning to improve diagnoses and patient outcomes, according to a May 17 press release from Kaiser.

Why it’s important – Kaiser is aiming to cut through the buzz around AI in health care to prove the promise and positive impact of this exciting technology for improving patient outcomes. In addition to supporting algorithmic research, the AIM-HI program will develop best practices and enhance the capacity for AI/ML deployment in diverse healthcare settings.

Can Artificial Intelligence Solve The Growing Mental Health Crisis?

Increased awareness around mental health has introduced significant innovation and investment into new remedies and treatment modalities. One such novel concept is using artificial intelligence in the mental health space. Forbes contributor Sai Balasubramanian, M.D., J.D. writes that with the advent of generative AI, conversational AI, and natural language processing, the thought of using artificial intelligence systems to provide human companionship has now become mainstream.

Why it’s important – In his balanced look at the state of the industry, the author lays out the pros and cons of deploying this technology in the mental health field. While artificial intelligence certainly can solve potential access inequities, conveniently provide healthcare services and even provide companionship to those that most require it, it has to be developed with guardrails in place for numerous reasons. Using AI technology in this capacity means that a significant amount of sensitive patient information will also be collected. Developers must ensure that this data will never be compromised and that patient privacy is always the top priority, especially amidst a landscape of growing cybersecurity threats. Moreover, perhaps the most critical concern is an existential one: How far should humanity go with this? While the benefits of AI are undoubtedly numerous, innovators have to be cautious about the limitations of these systems. Notably, the systems are only as good as the models and datasets they can learn from. In the wrong hands, these systems could very easily provide incorrect or dangerous recommendations to vulnerable populations.

The Daring Robot Surgery That Saved a Man’s Life

Two doctors, separated by thousands of miles, carried out a lifesaving operation using a robot. Wired’s Joao Medeiros brings us the story. The surgery took place on May 21. Fernando, wearing full personal protective equipment, operated the console of the surgical robot two meters away from the patient. The robot has four articulated arms, three fitted with surgical instruments, and a fourth holding a thin tube with a camera at the end, which, upon insertion into Tajer’s abdomen, allowed Fernando to see inside the patient. Porter, wearing his pajama robe and sitting at his home in Seattle, had access to that exact same view on his laptop. For five hours, he guided Fernando through the surgery step by step, talking to her while using an augmented-reality pointer to identify anatomical parts and drawing annotations to pinpoint where specific incisions should be made.

“When we started we only had in mind the live surgery feature. But then we thought, what if people want to have feedback after the operation or to review their performance? That’s why we built the library.”

Nadine Hachach-Haram, CEO, Proximie

Why it’s important – Currently, more than 95 percent of the surgical sessions using Proximie are also recorded in its online library, which enables surgeons to edit and tag footage that can be later used for training or debriefing. This library currently stores more than 20,000 videos of surgeries, making it the largest database of this sort. Today more than 20 percent of NHS hospitals have access to the software.

World Record Achieved for X-Ray at Highest Altitude

Mike Cairnie of portable x-ray developer MinXray has earned a world record for acquiring a portable chest x-ray of a patient last year on Mt. Everest in Nepal. Will Morton from Aunt Minnie reports the story. Cairnie, described by a radiologist and colleague Dr. Saurabh Jha in an interview with as “the Indiana Jones of radiology,” is MinXray’s director of global and military sales. The pair made the trek up Mt. Everest last year along with several other colleagues leading Project Khumbu, a proof-of-concept initiative to increase access to imaging in remote areas in Nepal. The record achieved during the project is also notable for artificial intelligence (AI) developer, whose software is installed on the battery-powered digital radiography system. The software can automatically generate chest X-ray interpretation reports and identify tuberculosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, lung cancer, and medical emergencies such as lung collapse, for instance.

“The highest altitude operating an x-ray machine is 5,364 m (17,598 ft) and was achieved by Michael Cairnie (USA), in Mount Everest Base Camp, Khumjung, Nepal, on 21 April 2022.”

Guinness World Records announcement

Why it’s important – Another example of bringing medical imaging to the patient instead of the patient to the imaging location. People with medical emergencies in remote areas simply have no access to the technology. Pairing portable imaging technologies (x-ray, Ultrasound, MRI, CT, etc.) with AI dramatically expand the availability of medical imaging to even the most remote areas of the globe.

Me And My Digital Twin: I Have A Brand New Deepfake Avatar

Finally, this week, this article from Dr. Bertalan Mesko describes his experiences in creating his own avatar. Synthesia approached him with an intriguing proposal – would he be interested in creating a digital avatar? Of course, he was! The prospect was too tempting to resist. Initially, the plan involved him traveling to London to work with their team. However, with his own studio, crew, and equipment, including a 4K camera and a green screen, they could tackle the task right at The Medical Futurist HQ. The team compiled the necessary footage without setting foot outside their studio. Here’s a YouTube video showing the result.

YouTube Video Credit: Dr. Bertalan Meskó

Why it’s important – As you can see in the video, my initial reaction was that it was pretty creepy. First of all, the avatar doesn’t blink. At all. That is by far the eeriest part of the experience. Also, its gestures and emphasis points are slightly off, making it apparent that the technology isn’t perfect yet. The interesting question is whether this technology can be applied to medical purposes. For now, the answer is no in the case of replacing live doctor-patient interactions. The “uncanny valley” effect is too strong; the avatar cannot convey emotions and empathize, which are vital in the medical field. Therefore, at this stage, a patient would likely find a written message from their doctor without a visible avatar more comforting.

Health Tech News This Week – May 13, 2023

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

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How One Company Is Tackling Medication Adherence

Mail-order pharmacies like Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company and Amazon’s RxPass are gaining popularity. But they’re missing in-depth consultations with pharmacists. Aspen RxHealth is trying to fill this gap and sees itself as a potential mail-order pharmacy partner. Marissa Plescia covers the story in MedCity News. Rather than act as the dispenser of medications, it focuses on pharmacist-patient consultations to help patients better understand their medications. The company works with health plans — including Humana, UnitedHealthcare, and Centene — to connect patients with pharmacists who contract with Aspen. Payer clients pay Aspen once consultations are completed. These patients are matched with pharmacists based on factors like location and language. Then they have a telephone conversation to discuss their medications, how to take them correctly, and how they affect them. After that first consultation, patients can stay in touch with the pharmacist for continuing care.

“I can get my medications more affordably, more quickly from the comfort of my home. But what’s missing is somebody who’s really driving appropriate use of all medications — kind of a quarterback if you will — to see across all the different dispensing sites, have all of the information, and empower that patient … to make sure they’re on the right mix of meds to drive the intended outcome.”

David Medvedeff, co-founder and CEO of Aspen RxHealth

Why it’s important – As mail-order pharmacies gain popularity, Medvedeff sees Aspen as a potential partner for these companies so they can supplement their expertise in accessibility with Aspen’s clinical expertise. He said Aspen has reached out to several mail-order pharmacies and is in conversation with some of the more tech-forward pharmacies, though he didn’t name which ones.

Infographic of the week – One of the best infographic slides ever created is from Adam Fein, CEO of Drug Channels Institute and Founder & President of Pembroke Consulting. Every Fall, US #healthcare and #healthinsurance aficionados eagerly await Adam’s annual publishing of his “Vertical Business Relationships Among Insurers, PBMs, Specialty Pharmacies, and Providers” infographic –> it is an industry mainstay.

Image Credit: Pembroke Consulting, d/b/a/ Drug Channels Institute

Revolutionary ear-EEG device aims to detect Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s early

This important development is reported in Innovations Origins online. Rigshospitalet, Aarhus University, and T&W Engineering collaborate on a groundbreaking project to develop an ear-EEG device for the early detection of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Funded by a DKK 15 million grant from Innovation Fund Denmark, the device measures the brain’s electrical activity and sleep patterns, which can indicate early signs of these neurodegenerative disorders. The ear-EEG device, known as the PANDA-project device, is designed to be similar to in-ear headphones, making it easy and comfortable for patients to wear. PANDA, which stands for “Progression Assessment in Neurodegenerative Disorders of Ageing,” is a four-year project with a total budget of DKK 26 million. The main focus is to create a simple, at-home solution for the early detection and monitoring of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Image Credit: T&W Engineering

Why it’s important – Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases are not only a growing financial burden for the healthcare sector but also a significant challenge for patients and their families. Current methods for dementia diagnosis and monitoring are not scalable and not suitable for repeated measurements to trace or monitor disease progression. By developing home-based solutions, health profiles can be improved, leading to earlier diagnosis and better patient treatment options. By introducing the ear-EEG device as a home-based screening tool, patients can be diagnosed more easily and earlier than today. This would greatly benefit both patients and healthcare systems, reducing the impact of these serious brain diseases on individuals, families, and society.

Podcast of the week – “An unfiltered look at what AI can (and cannot) do” This Unfiltered episode of Fixing Healthcare welcomes Dr. Jonathan Fisher, a respected cardiologist and renowned advocate for physician well-being. ChatGPT is constantly challenging our understanding of what generative AI can accomplish. From acing medical-licensing tests to coding entire websites from simple prompts and even simulating talented musicians like Drake and Weeknd, the question now is: what can’t AI do? How will this thinking, and our human biases, apply to medicine—both for patients and doctors? You can listen to the podcast here.

Image Credit: Fixing Healthcare Podcast

Knitted Glove Massages the Hand to Treat Edema

Conn Hastings in Medgadget online reports that a team of medical engineers at Cornell University has developed a knitted glove designed to treat hand edema, where fluid accumulation leads to hand swelling. The glove is a machine-knit textile that can be customized for individual patients in terms of hand size and shape. It also contains shape memory alloy springs as actuators. Cleverly, the actuators work sequentially, beginning at the fingertip and progressing back along the finger to shunt the fluid away. See a video about the technology below.

YouTube Video Credit: Hybrid Body Lab

Why it’s important – Hand edema involves swelling of the hand and fingers and can be caused by injury or certain conditions. The swelling is not just uncomfortable but can significantly interfere with a person’s ability to perform daily activities, particularly tasks that require a high level of finger dexterity. The condition can make it difficult for patients to perform daily activities, and current treatment often involves receiving a manual edema massage performed by a trained healthcare worker. However, this is time-consuming, expensive and requires patients to attend regular appointments. This new technology is intended for at-home use and consists of a knitted glove with in-built robotic actuators that gently squeeze the hand. The actuations occur consecutively to shunt fluid from the fingertips back to the proximal portion of the hand, helping to reduce edema.

Northwell launches AI startup with Aegis

Northwell Holdings and Aegis Ventures are starting a company that uses retinal imaging and artificial intelligence to detect and diagnose diseases. Gabriel Perna brings us the story in Modern Healthcare online. Northwell and Aegis are forming Optain with technology developed by Australian company Eyetelligence. Optain’s AI technology analyzes images from a small retinal camera to screen for and diagnose multiple chronic and acute conditions. Northwell Health will be Optain’s first commercial customer in America once the company receives regulatory approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

Why it’s important – Dr. Richard Braunstein, senior vice president and executive director of ophthalmology at Northwell Health, said he envisions using the technology to screen for cardiovascular, neurological, and chronic diseases. Initially, the goal will be to use it in ophthalmology. But given Northwell’s size, which includes more than 21 hospitals and 890 outpatient facilities, a lot of room exists to experiment with finding ways to use the technology, he said. Optain will work with Northwell on research and development while the regulatory approval and commercial rollout processes are underway, said Optain CEO Jeff Dunkel. While Eyetelligence has received regulatory approval in Australia and Asia, he said the U.S. market offers the most growth potential.

How AI is helping UC San Diego Health lower its sepsis mortality rate

In other AI news, UC San Diego Health is using artificial intelligence in the emergency department to analyze bedside and EHR data to predict which patients are most at risk for developing sepsis, La Jolla Light reported on May 6. Naomi Diaz in Becker’s Health IT reports that the health system is also using AI to predict which patients will develop bowel obstructions after surgery and is working on studying how AI responds to patient messages.

“We implemented this algorithm six months ago, and in our emergency department in the last six months we’ve had the lowest observed [versus] expected mortality and sepsis that we’ve ever seen at UC San Diego Health.”

Christopher Longhurst, MD, chief medical officer and chief digital officer, UC San Diego Health

Why it’s important – The health system is working on building a new center for digital information and artificial intelligence that can house the organization’s digital information it is gathering through these various programs and pilots.

Chest Wearable Provides Key Heart Measurements

More from Conn Hastings at Medgadget this week. Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have developed a new chest wearable that can obtain electrocardiogram and seismocardiogram data from the underlying heart. While basic ECG can be monitored via smart watches, no other wearable combines it with seismocardiography, which would conventionally be obtained by listening to the heart using a stethoscope. Pairing both measurements into one device allows clinicians to get a more complete picture of cardiac health while freeing patients to go about their daily activities wearing an unobtrusive wearable. This latest offering is a flexible “e-tattoo” that conforms to the chest’s skin and can provide continuous cardiac monitoring for at least 24 hours, although the penny-sized battery can last up to 40 hours and can be swapped out by the patient if required. The flexible patch weighs just 2.5 grams and can wirelessly transmit cardiac data. Study in journal Advanced Electronic Materials: A Chest-Conformable, Wireless Electro-Mechanical E-Tattoo for Measuring Multiple Cardiac Time Intervals

Image Credit: University of Texas at Austin

Why it’s important – Wearables are changing how we monitor patients and obtain clinical data, replacing the inconvenient medical appointments and bulky electronics of the past. Applying a wearable to the skin could let patients go about their daily business while providing valuable health data that could reveal a health problem and prompt early treatment.

Cyberattacks on hospitals are growing threats to patient safety, experts say

Finally, this story by Nicole Wetsman was broadcast on ABC News this week. Hospitals have become a top target for ransomware gangs, which take control of vulnerable online networks and demand a ransom to unlock them, severely disrupting patient care. The number of attacks on U.S. hospitals each year doubled between 2016 and 2021, from 43 to 91, according to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Last year saw an even greater number of incidents, the American Hospital Association said. Healthcare systems are often underprepared to stop these attacks, cybersecurity experts said, even though research shows they come with genuine health risks for patients.

“We’re not yet in a place where we can reliably say the hospital your family depends upon in most of America is, at a minimum, cyber hygiene-level sufficient to fend off preventable attacks.”

Josh Corman, a leading expert on cybersecurity and health care

Why it’s importantNewly published research in the journal JAMA Network Open documents a ripple effect that can impact health care and the patient experience across an entire region. The study looked at the fallout from a single ransomware attack on a single San Diego hospital in 2021. It found that emergency rooms at adjacent hospitals had more ambulances arrive and saw more patients than expected, and had longer wait times for all patients seeking care. The number of situations where a patient left without being seen by a doctor rose by 127%.

Health Tech News This Week – May 6, 2023

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

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Why Boston Children’s is hiring a ChatGPT super user

Gabriel Perna reports that as healthcare contemplates the use of generative artificial intelligence technology, Boston Children’s Hospital is moving from strategy to salary in his article in Digital Health Business and Technology online. The Boston-based hospital is hiring someone to use OpenAI’s generative AI application ChatGPT. Boston Children’s posted a job posting in April for an “AI prompt engineer” to work on its innovation and digital health accelerator. The person will design and develop AI prompts using large language models like ChatGPT.

“Right out of the box, I don’t think I’ve seen anything as transformational since the iPhone or Google.”

John Brownstein, MD, Chief Innovation Officer, Boston Children’s

Why it’s important – According to Brownstein, when margins are challenging and we’re in a tough economy, upskilling the workforce with these tools can be incredibly beneficial. The skill set of the next decade is going to be someone with the skills of a prompt engineer. Someone who knows how to interface with large language models. Someone who knows how to ask the right questions to get the correct detail. Someone who knows the boundaries by which these things work and that they don’t work.

Infographic of the week – Our homes and working environments will be loaded with connected appliances, virtual assistants, motion sensors, and remote monitoring tools connected to smart infrastructure. Beyond this, bioelectronic implants, smart clothing, ingestible sensors, and ultimately nanobots and smart dust will map the very surfaces and interior spaces of our bodies. The net effect of this ever-present IoMT will be to drive unprecedented growth in the quantity and quality of healthcare data available.

Image Credit: Shaping the next generation of digital and data-driven healthcare, and sustainable practices, February, 2023 – E&Y

John Deere employees now using Comau exoskeletons

John Deere employees now have access to multiple Comau MATE-XT exoskeletons. Brianna Wessling covers the story in The Robot Report online. The MATE-XT exoskeleton, which is worn like a backpack, can accurately replicate all shoulder movements, helping employees perform their jobs comfortably by reducing muscle fatigue without limiting mobility or adding bulk. For John Deere employees, this means helping them move hundreds of packages a day to ensure parts are ready for next-day delivery.

Image Credit: Comau

Why it’s important – The devices aim to sustain worker well-being, alleviate physical stress and reduce ergonomic risk within its parts logistics operations. muscular balance while optimizing the energy expenditure needed to stabilize and sustain the arm’s weight. While wearing the exoskeleton, arm stability can be maintained using only 10% of the operator’s maximum capacity.

Video of the week – “The amazing AI super tutor for students and teachers” Sal Khan, the founder, and CEO of Khan Academy, thinks artificial intelligence could spark the most significant positive transformation education has ever seen. He shares the opportunities he sees for students and educators to collaborate with AI tools — including the potential of a personal AI tutor for every student and an AI teaching assistant for every teacher — and demos some exciting new features for their educational chatbot, Khanmigo.

You Tube Video Credit: TED


Eric Wicklund reports that researchers say their AI algorithm can analyze clinical data and images of a patient’s heart and calculate the probability of cardiac arrest and other concerns over several years. The tool analyzes clinical data, such as age, weight, gender, heart rate, and blood pressure, alongside heart images showing blood flow to the heart muscle and expansions and contractions.

Why it’s important – Doctors and patients can use these graphs to track how risk changes over time and to identify individual risk factors. They can also interactively modify certain risk factors to see how they impact a patient’s risk. Researchers say these tools could help providers develop more personalized care plans for patients and improve patient engagement.

Biotech firm beats Elon Musk’s Neuralink, has implanted brain chips in 50 people for ailments

Mehul Reuben Das reports that while Elon Musk and the people at Neuralink are trying to get FDA approval to test their Neuralink BCIs on people and get them approved for medical uses, a biotech in Utah seems to have beaten them to the goal quite handsomely, and has already implanted brain chips in dozens of patients. Blackrock Neurotech, headquartered in Salt Lake City, aspires to cure physical disability, blindness, deafness, and depression. The NeuroPort Array chip enables individuals to control robotic limbs and wheelchairs, play video games, and even sense feelings. It uses nearly 100 microneedles that attach to the brain and read electrical signals produced by someone’s thoughts. More than three dozen people have so far received it. The device was first implanted in a human in 2004. Company leaders hope to bring it to market soon, announcing in 2021 they aimed for the following year.

Image Credit: Blackrock Neurotech

“Our long-term goal is for our implants to be as widely available to persons with paralysis as pacemakers are to those with heart problems.”

Marcus Gerhardt, co-founder of Blackrock

Why it’s important – The device monitors electrical impulses created by the wearer’s thoughts after implantation. These signals are decoded by machine learning software into digital commands such as cursor movements, which may be utilized to operate prostheses and computer equipment. This can assist someone in drawing with a robotic arm, utilizing computer programs, or controlling a wheelchair or prosthetic limb. However, the company is now seeking FDA approval for devices designed for use outside of the lab, such as those used by people with paralysis at home.

Wearable devices may be able to capture well-being through effortless data collection using AI

Applying machine learning models, a type of artificial intelligence (AI), to data collected passively from wearable devices can identify a patient’s degree of resilience and well-being, according to investigators at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. The findings, reported in the May 2 issue of JAMIA Open, support wearable devices, such as the Apple Watch, as a way to monitor and assess psychological states remotely without requiring the completion of mental health questionnaires.

Why it’s important – Subjects wore an Apple Watch Series 4 or 5 for the duration of their participation, measuring heart rate variability and resting heart rate throughout the follow-up period. Surveys were collected measuring resilience, optimism, and emotional support at baseline. The metrics collected were found to be predictive in identifying resilience or well-being states. Despite the Warrior Watch Study not being designed to evaluate this endpoint, the findings support the further assessment of psychological characteristics from passively collected wearable data.

Brain Activity Decoder Can Reveal Stories in People’s Minds

A new artificial intelligence system called a semantic decoder can translate a person’s brain activity — while listening to a story or silently imagining telling a story — into a continuous stream of text. The system developed by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin might help people who are mentally conscious yet unable to speak physically, such as those debilitated by strokes, to communicate intelligibly again. The study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, was led by Jerry Tang, a doctoral student in computer science, and Alex Huth, an assistant professor of neuroscience and computer science at UT Austin. The work partially relies on a transformer model similar to the ones that power Open AI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard.

Image Credit: Nolan Zunk/The University of Texas at Austin.

Why it’s important – Unlike other language decoding systems in development, this system does not require subjects to have surgical implants, making the process noninvasive. Participants also do not need to use only words from a prescribed list. Brain activity is measured using an fMRI scanner after extensive training of the decoder, in which the individual listens to hours of podcasts in the scanner. Later, provided that the participant is open to having their thoughts decoded, listening to a new story or imagining telling a story allows the machine to generate corresponding text from brain activity alone. The system currently is not practical for use outside of the laboratory because of its reliance on the time need for an fMRI machine. But the researchers think this work could transfer to other, more portable brain-imaging systems, such as functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS).

Breakthrough for sweat: health monitoring device from UH researchers

Researchers at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Engineering have taken a giant leap forward in sweat analysis with an innovative 3D-printed wearable sweat sensor called the “sweatainer.” Harnessing the power of additive manufacturing (3D-printing), the researchers have developed a new type of wearable sweat sensor that expands the capability of wearable sweat devices. The sweatainer is a small, wearable device similar in size to a child’s sticker that collects and analyzes sweat, offering a glimpse into the future of health monitoring. By incorporating various sensors, the sweatainer can analyze sweat in a mode similar to previous wearable sweat-sensing systems. The findings were published in Sciences Advances on May 3.

Image Credit: University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Engineering

Why it’s important – Sweat is more than just a sign of a good workout. It holds vital information about our health, providing clues to dehydration, fatigue, blood sugar levels, and even serious conditions such as cystic fibrosis, diabetes, and heart failure. Traditional approaches for sweat collection use absorbent pads or microbore (very narrow) tubes pressed against the epidermis (surface layer of the skin) using bands or straps to capture sweat as it emerges from the skin. These techniques require trained personnel, special handling, and costly laboratory equipment. One unique feature of the sweatainer is its “multi-draw” sweat collection method, which allows for collecting multiple, separate sweat samples for analysis either directly on the device or sent to a lab. Inspired by the vacutainer used in clinical blood sampling, this advancement not only makes sweat collection more efficient but also opens up new possibilities for at-home testing, storing samples for future research, and integrating with existing health monitoring methods.

How AI Can Be Used To Cut a $1 Trillion Healthcare Problem

While clinicians and other medical experts continue to debate ML’s effectiveness for treating patients, they’re neglecting a much more dependable and equally impactful use case: administrative work. ML has tremendous potential to streamline tedious administrative tasks and free up valuable time for clinicians, ultimately leading to better patient outcomes. Chris Riopelle, CEO and co-founder of Strive Health, highlights the opportunities in his Fast Company article online*.

One potential use case involves AI-powered scribing solutions, which several startups are beginning to roll out. These solutions take detailed notes of a patient and provider’s conversation, which helps streamline and better capture the visit, allowing for a more productive appointment.

Another trending use case is prior authorizations, or PAs. PAs occur when a healthcare payor requires a provider to secure approval to carry out a specific procedure or prescribe a medication. Physicians and their staff spend almost two full business days each week on PAs, and they can be a major source of contention between payors and providers. ML can quickly compile relevant patient information from EHRs and provide data-backed recommendations about the benefits of various treatment options. While providers still review the information and make the final call, ML can help reduce the time required to complete each PA.

Why it’s important – The U.S. spends nearly $4 trillion on healthcare annually, and administrative costs account for a quarter of this figure. For those not in the medical field, it can be challenging to grasp how much time clinicians spend daily on administrative work. ML has significant potential for helping providers streamline their administrative responsibilities and, as a result, foster better and more fulfilling patient experiences.

Health Tech News This Week – April 29, 2023

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

Image Credit:

How AI and Facial Recognition Could Spot Stroke and Other Diseases

Eric Niiler in The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) reports that researchers are training computer algorithms in efforts to identify ailments and speed treatment quickly. Patients at Johns Hopkins Hospital suspected of having a stroke might get an unusual request from physicians: Can we film your face? The doctors’ goal is to identify stroke patients by facial characteristics instead of waiting for brain scans or blood tests, helping speed both treatment and recovery. The Johns Hopkins team is training a computer algorithm to recognize changes in the patient’s features, such as the paralysis of certain facial muscles or unusual eye movements, that might indicate damage to the brain from a stroke as opposed to seizures, severe migraines, or anxiety disorders.

Meanwhile, other researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are looking at facial recognition to diagnose the progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a degenerative nerve disease that affects the muscles. And a Florida-based startup has developed a tool to help pediatricians diagnose rare genetic conditions by analyzing images of children’s facial features.

Florida-based biotech firm FDNA has developed a software program that aims to use facial recognition to diagnose rare genetic conditions in young children. The Face2Gene platform allows a doctor to upload scans of a patient’s face to a smartphone app and then get a recommendation on whether the image might indicate one of 1,500 conditions or syndromes associated with facial features. The platform has 47,000 users, including geneticists, neurologists, pediatric specialists, and researchers.

In Boston, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and MIT are using facial recognition to identify and track ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, which leads to the deterioration of muscles affecting movement, speech, and eventually breathing. The team is working with EverythingALS, a nonprofit patient group that is part of a foundation set up to speed methods of diagnosis and potential cures for the disease.

Why it’s important – Early research efforts point to a future in which facial scans, perhaps embedded in a smartphone camera or even a bathroom mirror, might monitor our general health while picking up signs of long-term neurological ailments such as dementia. Some researchers believe algorithms might even be used to track how well a treatment or drug works by detecting changes in a person’s face. However, as AI tackles health conditions with multiple causes — such as heart disease, cancer, or dementia — computer scientists who develop the algorithms will have to work closely with doctors to explain how the AI makes the decisions that lead to its diagnosis.

Infographic of the week – Olivier Gevaert and the team at Stanford University identify federated learning as a unique solution to this challenge that also enables the proliferation and active sharing of digital twin technology without revealing patient information. Federated learning is a technique that uses a decentralized approach to training machine learning models. Rather than collecting local data samples onto large servers for constant fine-tuning of machine learning models, federated learning allows devices to train and update models without explicitly exchanging data while keeping the data locally on the device and only sharing the model updates. Here is the paper in The Lancet

Image Credit: The Lancet, Augmenting digital twins with federated learning in medicine

Apple Plans AI-Powered Health Coaching Service, Mood Tracker and iPad Health App

Apple Inc. is working on an artificial intelligence-powered health coaching service and new technology for tracking emotions, its latest attempt to lock in users with health and wellness features. Mark Gurman reports on the plans in his Bloomberg article online. The new coaching service — codenamed Quartz — is designed to keep users motivated to exercise, improve eating habits and help them sleep better, according to people who know the project. The idea is to use AI and data from an Apple Watch to make suggestions and create coaching programs tailored to specific users, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the initiatives haven’t been announced yet.

The tools for tracking emotion and managing vision conditions, such as nearsightedness, will be added to the health app this year. The initial version of the emotion tracker will let users log their mood, answer questions about their day and compare the results over time. But in the future, Apple hopes the iPhone could use algorithms to determine a user’s mood via their speech, what words they’ve typed, and other data on their devices.

Why it’s important – The move is part of a broader health push at the company, which has made such features central to its devices, especially the Apple Watch. Its latest efforts also include expanding the health app to the iPad and features that could help users with poor vision. It will be interesting to see how much airtime these developments receive at the annual WWDC conference on June 5th. Stay tuned.

Podcast of the week – The world lost a powerful voice and advocate for patients’ rights this week. I was deeply saddened by the news of Casey Quinlan H.U.M.A.N.🌟 passing. Casey fiercely advocated for all things #PatientsIncluded, #GimmeMyDamnData, equity, inclusion, and burning down the status quo that harmed patients. Here’s Casey talking with Grace Cordovano, Ph.D., BCPA, on (no surprises) The Value of Our Medical Information:

Image Credit: Casey Quinlan LinkedIn Bio

Two-component system could offer a new way to halt internal bleeding

Anne Trafton in MIT News that MIT engineers have designed a two-component system that can be injected into the body and help form blood clots at the sites of internal injury. These materials, which mimic how the body naturally forms clots, could offer a way to keep people with severe internal injuries alive until they can reach a hospital. Unlike previously developed hemostatic systems, the new MIT technology mimics the actions of both platelets — the cells that initiate blood clotting — and fibrinogen, a protein that helps forms clots.

Why it’s important – Blood loss from traumatic events such as car crashes contributes to more than 2.5 million deaths per year worldwide. This blunt trauma can cause internal bleeding from organs such as the liver, which is difficult to detect and treat. In such cases, it’s critical to stop the bleeding as soon as possible until a patient can be transported to the hospital for further treatment. Finding ways to prevent internal bleeding could significantly impact the armed services, where delayed treatment for internal hemorrhage is one of the largest causes of preventable death.

Amazon pulls the plug on Halo health tracking devices

Amazon announced it would close its Halo division. It is notifying employees in the U.S. and Canada of layoffs and telling Halo users that the device and app will no longer function as of August 1. Jessica Hagen reports on this development in her article in MobiHealthNews. Amazon Halo is a wrist-worn health tracker with an accompanying app that uses health metrics designed to give users a comprehensive look at their health and wellness and to provide actionable recommendations to make improvements. Customers will be provided full refunds on Amazon Halo Band, Amazon Halo View, Amazon Halo Rise, and Amazon Halo accessory band purchases made within the past 12 months. They can also receive refunds for unused Halo subscription fees. The company said health data pertaining to the Halo wearables would also be deleted on August 1.

Why it’s important – This announcement underscores the difficulties that even large tech companies like Amazon have in getting traction in the health wearables space. The company entered the wearable device market in August 2020 with the release of Halo. It has since added new features to its wearable, including Movement Health, and has updated the Halo line, adding the Halo View in 2021 and Halo Rise in 2022.

Top Smart Algorithms In Healthcare

Dr. Bertalan Mesko and his team at The Medical Futurist Institute posted this article online this week. As artificial intelligence tools have been invading more or less every area of healthcare, they made a list to keep track of the top AI algorithms aiming for better diagnostics, more sophisticated patient care, or further sighted predictions of diseases.

Why it’s important – By enumerating the top AI tools they discovered in healthcare so far, they also aim to add what they believe is already useful for the work of medical professionals.

A simple paper test could offer early cancer diagnosis

Another article from Anne Trafton in MIT News. MIT engineers have designed a new nanoparticle sensor that could enable early cancer diagnosis with a simple urine test. The sensors, which can detect many different cancerous proteins, could also be used to distinguish the type of tumor or how it is responding to treatment. The nanoparticles are designed so that when they encounter a tumor, they shed short DNA sequences excreted in the urine. Analyzing these DNA “barcodes” can reveal distinguishing features of a particular patient’s tumor. The researchers designed their test to be performed using a strip of paper, similar to an at-home Covid test, which they hope could make it affordable and accessible to as many patients as possible.

Image Credit: MIT

Why it’s important – This kind of testing could be used not only for detecting cancer but also for measuring how well a patient’s tumor responds to treatment and whether it has recurred after treatment. The researchers are now working on further developing the particles with the goal of testing them in humans.

A research team airs the messy truth about AI in medicine — and gives hospitals a guide to fix it

In public, hospitals rave about artificial intelligence. They trumpet the technology in press releases, plaster its use on billboards, and sprinkle AI into speeches touting its ability to detect diseases earlier and make health care faster, better, and cheaper. But on the front lines, the hype is smashing into a starkly different reality. Casey Ross in Stat reports that a new report aims to drag these tensions into the open through interviews with physicians and data scientists struggling to implement AI tools in healthcare organizations nationwide. Their unvarnished reviews, compiled by researchers at Duke University, reveal a yawning gap between the marketing of AI and the months, sometimes years, of toil it takes to get the technology to work the right way in the real world.

The research team, dubbed the Health AI Partnership, has leveraged the findings to build an online guide to help health systems overcome implementation barriers that most organizations now stumble through alone. It’s a desperately needed service at a time when the adoption of AI for decision-making in medicine is outpacing efforts to oversee its use.

Why it’s important – The challenges uncovered by the project point to a dawning realization about AI’s use in health care: building the algorithm is the easiest part of the work. The real difficulty lies in figuring out how to incorporate the technology into the daily routines of doctors and nurses and the complicated care delivery and technical systems surrounding them. AI must be finely tuned to those environments and evaluated within them so that its benefits and costs can be clearly understood and compared. As it stands, health systems are not set up to do that work — at least not across the board. Many are hiring more data scientists and engineers. But those specialists often work in self-contained units that help build or buy AI models and then struggle behind the scenes to keep them working properly.

These microbes found in tumors promote cancer. What if we just kill them?

Most bacteria in the human body help us thrive, but recent studies show that some infiltrate tumors, helping them grow, spread, and become more difficult for the immune system to destroy. National Geographic’s Sanjay Mishra reports (subscription required) that a study published recently in Nature shows that bacteria in oral and colorectal tumors can directly promote cancer by suppressing the human immune response and helping cancer cells spread more rapidly. An accompanying study published in the journal Cell Reports finds that some anticancer drugs, such as 5-fluorouracil, may be effective because they also kill the bacteria which help the tumor develop.

Why it’s important – Together, these two studies suggest that understanding the relationship between tumors and their resident microbes could be vital for fighting and eliminating certain cancers. So far, Bullman’s study shows that 15 percent of the 1,846 screened bioactive compounds that can kill F. nucleatum and other microbes also have potential as cancer chemotherapy drugs. That suggests that existing drugs can be reevaluated for their efficacy as both anticancer drugs and antimicrobial drugs— specifically targeting tumor-dwelling bacteria.

FDA approves first-ever fecal transplant pill to restore gut bacteria

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced the approval of the first-ever pill for fecal transplants, marking a significant milestone. Mrigakshi Dixit reviews this approval in her article in Interesting Engineering online. Seres Therapeutics, based in Massachusetts, developed the new pill after rigorously testing this version of the stool-based treatment. The FDA approved the prescription of pills based on a study of nearly 180 patients. According to the findings, approximately 88 percent of patients who followed the pill regimen did not experience reinfection after eight weeks. On the other hand, reinfection occurred in roughly 60 percent of those who received dummy pills, the Associated Press reported.

Why it’s important – The pill was created for people at risk of reinfections caused by the bacteria Clostridium difficile (C. diff). This bacteria frequently causes symptoms such as severe nausea, stomach ache, and diarrhea. Developed using healthy bacteria found in human waste, the pill could be an effective tool to fight gut infections. According to experts, this new pill method makes fecal transplants easier and less invasive.

Kaiser Foundation Hospitals’ new nonprofit Risant Health is acquiring Geisinger Health

While not a technology article, it’s one announcement this week that generated a buzz online and in print. The move was announced Wednesday by both the Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Geisinger Health. The definitive agreement will make Geisinger the first health system to join Risant Health. Susan Morse was one of the dozens of writers posting on the announcement in her article in Healthcare Finance online. Geisinger will maintain its name and mission and continue working with other health plans, employed physicians, and independent providers. Risant Health will operate separately and distinctly from Kaiser Permanente’s core integrated care and coverage model while building upon Kaiser Permanente’s 80 years of expertise in value-based care.

Why it’s important – Risant Health is a new nonprofit organization created by Kaiser Foundation Hospitals to expand and accelerate the adoption of value-based care in diverse, multi-payer, multi-provider, community-based health system environments. It is expected to grow by acquiring and connecting a portfolio of like-minded, nonprofit, value-oriented community-based health systems anchored in their respective communities. Health systems that become part of Risant Health will continue to operate as regional or community-based health systems while gaining expertise, resources, and support through Risant Health’s value-based platform, Kaiser said. In the announcement, Kaiser said it hoped to invest $5 billion in Risant over the next five years in addition to its spending on Kaiser’s core operations. The company expects to add five or six health systems to Risant in that time. This will be one to watch for sure.

Health Tech News This Week – April 22, 2023

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

Image Credit:

Wearable patch can painlessly deliver drugs through the skin

Anne Trafton from MIT News reports on this development. MIT researchers have developed a wearable patch that applies painless ultrasonic waves to the skin, creating tiny channels that drugs can pass through. Ultrasound exposure has been shown to enhance the skin’s permeability to small-molecule drugs, but most existing techniques for performing this kind of drug delivery require bulky equipment. The MIT team wanted to come up with a way to perform this kind of transdermal drug delivery with a lightweight, wearable patch, which could make it easier to use for a variety of applications.

YouTube Video Credit: MIT Media Lab

Why it’s important – This approach could lend itself to the delivery of treatments for various skin conditions and could also be adapted to deliver hormones, muscle relaxants, and other drugs. With the device’s current version, drugs can penetrate a few millimeters into the skin, making this approach potentially useful for drugs that act locally within the skin. These could include niacinamide or vitamin C, which is used to treat age spots or other dark spots on the skin, or topical drugs used to heal burns. With further modifications to increase the penetration depth, this technique could also be used for drugs that need to reach the bloodstream, such as caffeine, fentanyl, or lidocaine.

Infographic of the week – From Dr. Bertalan Mesko and his team at The Medical Futurist Institute comes this updated infographic showing the increase in the number of FDA-approved AI-based medical devices by medical discipline, type of submission, and final decision date.

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

Your Smartwatch Could Detect Early Parkinson’s Signs

Commercially available smartwatches and phones can capture key features of early, untreated Parkinson’s disease, according to a new study as reported by Mark Michaud-Rochester in Futurity online. In the new WATCH-PD study, researchers at multiple sites across the United States recruited 82 individuals with early, untreated Parkinson’s and 50 age-matched controls and followed them for 12 months. The study volunteers wore research-grade sensors, an Apple Watch, and an iPhone while performing standardized assessments in the clinic. At home, participants wore the smartwatch seven days after each clinic visit and completed motor, speech, and cognitive tasks on the smartphone every other week. The smartphone app tracked finger-taping speed, performance on cognitive tasks, and speech, while the smartwatch was able to measure arm movement, duration of tremors, and gait features. The researchers were able to detect motor and non-motor features that differed between individuals with early Parkinson’s and age-matched controls. The team is performing longitudinal analysis and also conducting a study that will follow participants for a longer period to determine which digital measures are sensitive enough to help researchers evaluate whether an experimental therapy is making a meaningful impact on the progression of the disease.

Why it’s important – These technologies could provide researchers with more objective and continuous ways to measure the disease and bring new treatments to market faster, particularly for patients in the early stages of the disease. These findings reinforce what other studies have shown—digital devices can differentiate between people with and without early Parkinson’s and are more sensitive than traditional rating scales for some measures of Parkinson’s disease.

Podcast of the week – This week’s recommendation is Halle Tecco’s The Heart of Healthcare podcast episode: Why Fertility Care is Utterly Broken. In it, she shares a full version of an article she published in Fortune. Halle contends that the entire fertility care system is broken. In the “Iron Triangle” of healthcare (access, cost, and quality), fertility care fails at each point. It’s not accessible, it costs too much, and the treatment outcomes are dismal. You can listen to the podcast here.

Image Credit: The Heart of Healthcare podcast

Noah Medical Rakes In $150M for Its Robotic Lung Biopsy Platform

Medical robotics startup Noah Medical recently closed a $150 million Series B funding round. The company’s robotic platform, called the Galaxy System, was designed to help physicians find, biopsy, and diagnose lung cancer lesions more easily and confidently. Katie Adams highlighted the developments in her article in MedCity News. The cost and complexity of current systems for lung bronchoscopy and advanced imaging technologies mean that few clinics and hospitals can deploy these together. Noah’s robotic platform, called the Galaxy System, was designed to address these problems. The system was created so physicians could find, biopsy, and confidently diagnose lesions.

The Galaxy System offers real-time navigation technology to help physicians find lesions more easily. It also provides intraprocedural imaging to correct CT-to-body divergence and gives physicians confirmation that their tool is in the patient’s lesion. The system includes a single-use, disposable bronchoscope that was designed to reduce the risk of cross-contamination and patient infection while also improving procedural workflow.

Why it’s important – Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. About two-thirds of cancerous lesions are in the outer portion of the lungs, making them difficult to navigate and biopsy. Today, most physicians rely on CT scans taken before a procedure as their primary source of information on lesion location. However, there can be a significant divergence between the images on a scan and the location of lesions in the body during the actual procedure. In the Noah system, the bronchoscope is always on camera, which enables direct visualization for the entire procedure, including at the time of biopsy.

The signs of heart disease your phone can spot

This past week, Martin Cooper, the man who led the team that developed the first ever mobile phone – a beige-colored brick of a device with buttons and no screen – predicted said he believes that cell phones will become a vital tool for monitoring our health. That promise is already being realized. Tom Ough reports in the BBC that in March 2022, scientists at the University of Washington used an iPhone to detect clotting in a single drop of blood. They used the device’s Lidar (light detecting and ranging) sensor, which uses pulsed beams to build 3D images of the phone’s surroundings. Other researchers have been developing techniques that use the camera in your phone to measure different aspects of heart health, such as blood pressure. Engineers at the University of Southern California have developed a prototype handheld ultrasound scanner that can link to a smartphone to produce echocardiograms that can monitor how blood flows through the heart.

Image Credit: Justin Chan/University of Washington

Why it’s important – The device could be a “cheap, simple, and effective” way of identifying patients who need further investigation. There are also hopes that smartphones could even provide a cheaper and more portable way of diagnosing harder-to-spot heart conditions. Although many of these technologies are still in the research and trial stages of development, there are some ways of checking your health with your phone. Elizabeth Woyke, author of The Smartphone: Anatomy of an Industry, points to an American start-up called Riva that tracks blood pressure using a phone’s camera and its camera flash. “You put your fingers on the smartphone camera, and then it measures the wave shapes in your blood vessels to track your blood pressure. It’s kind of amazing,” she says.

Roundup of the Best Coverage of the 2023 HIMSS Conference

HIMSS23 shows that the health IT community has returned with a passion for learning what’s just around the corner and a practical mindset for maximizing investments in infrastructure to improve care and reduce costs. Here are some of the articles I found that did an excellent job of covering the news from this important conference.

Health Tech News This Week – April 15, 2023

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

Image Credit:

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: The Lancet, March 23, 2023

Machine-Learning Model Predicts Risk of Pediatric Deterioration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: Morgan Ellis/The Standard

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

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

Health Tech News This Week – April 8, 2023

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

Image Credit:

Pear Therapeutics files for bankruptcy

Pear Therapeutics, a maker of prescription digital therapeutics, announced today that it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and is seeking a sale of its business or assets. Jessica Hagen reports the story in her article in MobiHealthNews. The company will continue its scaled-down operations during Chapter 11 as it seeks a sale, and Pear will use its available cash to fund its operations and costs post-petition.

Why it’s important – The publicly-traded company wasn’t immune to the many layoffs throughout the digital health sector. In November, Pear said it would cut its workforce by about 59 employees, or around 22% of the company. In July, it let go of approximately 25 employees, making up about 9% of its workforce.

Infographic of the week – According to Gartner experts, these 4️⃣ key themes will prove critical for product leaders to evaluate as part of their competitive strategy:

➡ Smart world
➡ Productivity revolution
➡ Transparency and privacy
➡ New critical technology enabler

Image Credit: Gartner

AI-equipped eyeglasses can read silent speech

Louis DiPietro from the Cornell Bowers CIS College of Computing
and Information Science highlights this development
in the Cornell Chronicle. Developed by Cornell’s Smart Computer Interfaces for Future Interactions (SciFi) Lab, the low-power, wearable interface requires just a few minutes of user training data before it will recognize commands and can be run on a smartphone, researchers said. Outfitted with a pair of microphones and speakers smaller than pencil erasers, the EchoSpeech glasses become a wearable AI-powered sonar system, sending and receiving soundwaves across the face and sensing mouth movements. A deep learning algorithm, also developed by SciFi Lab researchers, analyzes these echo profiles in real-time with about 95% accuracy.

Image Credit: Cornell’s Smart Computer Interfaces for Future Interactions (SciFi) Lab

Why it’s important – Acoustic-sensing technology like EchoSpeech removes the need for wearable video cameras. And because audio data is much smaller than image or video data, it requires less bandwidth to process and can be relayed to a smartphone via Bluetooth in real-time. In its present form, EchoSpeech could be used to communicate with others via smartphone in places where speech is inconvenient or inappropriate, like a noisy restaurant or quiet library. The silent speech interface can also be paired with a stylus and used with design software like CAD, all but eliminating the need for a keyboard and a mouse.

Podcast of the week – Vital Sounds – The Nocturnist’s Emily Silverman talks with medical student Melanie Ambler, who is also a cellist, and shares a story about the most memorable cello concert she’s ever performed, which happened to be over Zoom with an audience of only one person. In addition to her medical studies at Stanford, Melanie works as a musician “on call” for Project: Music Heals Us, which you’ll hear more about in the conversation that follows her story. She graduated from Brown in 2019 and was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to study music and dementia in France. Melanie told her story live at The Nocturnists show in San Francisco in June 2022 and then, as you’ll hear in our conversation, again in Chicago in September 2022 at a special show we did at the Women in Medicine Summit. And it’s that second performance that you’ll hear in this episode today. In the following conversation, we’ll talk about Melanie’s love of her instrument, her experience working with The Nocturnists’ story coaches and a bit more about her work at the intersection of music and medicine. You can listen to the podcast here.

Image Credit: The Nocturnists Podcast Series

Mind-Controlled Robots: New Graphene Sensors Are Turning Science Fiction Into Reality

It sounds like something from science fiction: Don a specialized, electronic headband and control a robot using your mind. But now, recent research published in ACS Applied Nano Materials has taken a step toward making this a reality. By designing a special, 3D-patterned structure that doesn’t rely on sticky conductive gels, the team has created “dry” sensors that can measure the brain’s electrical activity, even amidst hair and the bumps and curves of the head.

The team created several 3D graphene-coated structures with different shapes and patterns, each around 10 µm thick. Of the shapes tested, a hexagonal pattern worked the best on the curvy, hairy surface of the occipital region — the spot at the base of the head where the brain’s visual cortex is located. The team incorporated eight of these sensors into an elastic headband, which held them against the back of the head. When combined with an augmented reality headset displaying visual cues, the electrodes could detect which cue was being viewed, then work with a computer to interpret the signals into commands that controlled the motion of a four-legged robot — completely hands-free.

Image Credit: Adapted from ACS Applied Nano Materials, 2023, DOI: 10.1021/acsanm.2c05546

Why it’s important – Most non-invasive versions involve the use of “wet” sensors, which are stuck onto the head with a gloopy gel that can irritate the scalp and sometimes trigger allergic reactions. Although the new electrodes didn’t yet work quite as well as the wet sensors, the researchers say that this work represents a first step toward developing robust, easily implemented dry sensors to help expand the applications of brain-machine interfaces.

BioGPT: A game-changer for pharma and healthcare

ChatGPT has already made waves and has been deployed to write codes, new poems, songs, recipes, and whatnot. Language models that use transformer-based architectures, such as GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer), facilitate the analysis of large, complex datasets and generate human-like responses to questions. Amandeep Singh, a senior consultant at MP Advisors, reports on the benefits and potential pitfalls in his article in Pharmaphorum online.

Microsoft recently released a new AI language model, BioGPT, specifically designed for the life sciences industry. The model has been trained on a diverse set of biomedical text data, including scientific publications, clinical notes, and drug labels, making it an invaluable tool for scientists across various life science domains.

Why it’s important – Compared to GPT models that are trained on more general text data, BioGPT has a deeper understanding of the language used in biomedical research and can generate more accurate and relevant outputs for biomedical tasks, such as drug discovery, disease classification, and clinical decision support. BioGPT is also able to capture the nuances, subtleties, and syntax of the biomedical language, such as differentiating between drug names, gene names, and protein names, which is essential for many biomedical applications.

Current Health CEO: At-Home Care Models Could Lead to Better Staff Retention

Many healthcare workers prefer providing at-home care because it allows them to provide more personal, less hectic care than they can on the hospital floor, said Current Health CEO Chris McGhee. He thinks health systems should realize that switching more healthcare workers to at-home care could help alleviate the burnout crisis and improve staff retention levels. Katie Adams brings us the interview in her article in MedCity News.

“A health system CIO said to me the other day ‘We need to see ourselves no longer as just a set of buildings, but as a deliverer of healthcare within our community. And that means not just in hospitals, but in the patient’s home.”

Chris McGhee, CEO, Current Health

Why it’s important – If you’re on a floor in the hospital, you may get 30 seconds with a patient, then you get paged away, and you have a job list that’s two pages long. If you’re in hospital-at-home, you’re going in for an hour. You’re spending an hour with that patient in their own home — seeing how they live, spending time with them and their caregivers, and really getting to understand them and deliver care in a much more personal and holistic way than you can inside the hospital. Because of this, the work nurses do under at-home care models feels a lot more aligned with the reason they decided to join the healthcare sector in the first place — to help people and feel like they’re making a difference.

Health Tech News This Week – April 1, 2023

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

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Your Speech May Reveal Early Signs of Alzheimer’s

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

YouTube Video Credit: Wired Events

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: Department of Veterans Affairs

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: The Heart of Healthcare Podcast

Smart glasses at Basildon Hospital speed up procedures

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

Image Credit: Martin Giles, BBC

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jennifer Goldsack, CEO, Digital Medicine Society

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

South Korea clears Sky Labs’ cuffless blood pressure monitoring feature

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

Image Credit: Sky Labs

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

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

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

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

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

Health Tech News This Week – March 25, 2023

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

Image Credit:

3D-Printed Insole Measures Foot Pressure Right In Shoe

A new 3D-printed customized insole uses integrated sensors to measure the pressure on the sole of the foot directly in the shoe during various activities. Peter Ruegg reports on the development in Futurity online.

Before specialists can accurately fit such insoles, they must first create a pressure profile of the feet. To this end, athletes or patients have to walk barefoot over pressure-sensitive mats, where they leave their footprints. Based on this pressure profile, orthopedists then create customized insoles by hand. The problem with this approach is that optimizations and adjustments take time. Another disadvantage is that the pressure-sensitive mats allow measurements only in a confined space but not during workouts or outdoor activities. The new invention, described in Scientific Reports, addresses these issues.

YouTube Video Credit: ETH, zurich

Why it’s important – These insoles aren’t just easy to use; they’re also easy to make. They are produced in just one step—including the integrated sensors and conductors—using a single 3D printer called an extruder. In the future, 3D-printed insoles with integrated sensors could be used by athletes or in physiotherapy, for example, to measure training or therapy progress. Based on such measurement data, training plans can be adjusted, and permanent shoe insoles with different hard and soft zones can be produced using 3D printing. There are no commercialization plans right now. But the potential market for these insoles would appear to be significant.

Podcasts of the week – When this story hit my news feeds this week, I knew it would be the recommendation. To quote from the Substack article by one of the founders Rory Cellan-Jones: “Like many an idea, good or bad, it was born in a pub. Over the last 18 months, a group of us with Parkinson’s have been meeting in the Ladbroke Arms in London’s Notting Hill Gate, and now we are launching a podcast. It is called Movers and Shakers, and in those familiar words, it is available wherever you get your podcasts. The podcast aims to educate and inform but, most of all, to entertain. There are an estimated 145,000 people with Parkinson’s in the UK, and we hope to reach not just them but their relatives and carers and anyone who wants to hear five grumpy old men and one wise woman reflect on what they have learned from confronting illness.”

Image Credit: Movers & Shakers Podcast

This week’s second recommendation is from Dr. Zeev Neuwirth’s podcast series Creating a New Healthcare. The episode is titled: Addressing the crisis of rural healthcare in America. His guest, Dr. Jennifer Schneider, is the co-founder & CEO of Homeward Health. Before this, she served as Chief Medical Officer of Livongo and then as its President, where she led the company’s strategic clinical product vision, data science & clinical trials. As many of you know, Livongo was acquired by Teladoc in the largest digital health acquisition to date. Before Livongo, Dr. Schneider held several key leadership roles at Castlight Health, including as its Chief Medical Officer. Earlier in her career, she was a health outcomes researcher and Chief Resident at Stanford University and has practiced as an attending physician at Stanford University and Kaiser Permanente. She is the author of Decoding Health Signals: Silicon Valley’s Consumer-First Approach to a New Era of Health, which explores how companies use big data analytics and artificial intelligence to reinvent care delivery for people with chronic conditions. This is a critically important topic and should be required listening for all.

Image Credit: Creating a New Healthcare podcast

Google launches Open Health Stack for app developers, unveils new AI partnerships

Google continues to build out its health-related initiatives leveraging artificial intelligence to help consumers find information on internet searches, advance language-generating tech and offer new tools for developers to build health apps. Fierce Healthcare’s Heather Landi reports that the tech giant also unveiled new AI partnerships focused on cancer screenings and maternal health and efforts to give Fitbit users easier access to health and wellness data from their devices.

Last fall, the Google Search team rolled out multiple features for its search engine to make it easier for users to access key information about obtaining Medicaid and Medicare benefits. Building on those efforts, Google said it would make Medicaid re-enrollment information easier to find on Search. The company also announced that it’s making it easier for people to find affordable healthcare centers nearby. Consumers will be able to see providers that identify as community health centers offering free or low-cost care, according to Hema Budaraju, senior director of product, health, and social impact at Google Search.

Why it’s important – Google wants to accelerate the future of digital care in low-resource settings to lower the barrier to equitable healthcare. To that end, they announced the launch of the Open House stack, the suite of open-source tools to help local developers create next-generation healthcare apps. Open Health Stack uses FHIR resources as its underlying data standard that, makes it easier to build patient-centered solutions that can connect within and across healthcare systems. For example, one component, the Android FHIR SDK, makes the data stored on the app secure and accessible offline so that it’s safe and helpful even in places without cell phone coverage or internet access.

Infographic of the week – Another great infographic from Dr. Bertalan Mesko and his team at The Medical Futurist Institute listing tech giants’ collaborations with healthcare institutions.

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

Sooma’s neuromodulation therapy for depression granted FDA breakthrough status

Sooma Medical has received U.S. Food and Drug Administration breakthrough designation for its neuromodulation depression therapy. Nick Paul Taylor brings us the story in his MedTech Dive article. Treatment with the portable, patient-administered transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) device consists of daily 30-minute sessions for at least three weeks. By delivering a mild current to stimulate parts of the brain, Sooma hopes to improve depressive symptoms. A study in the European Union, where the device is on the market, found more than half of patients have a complete clinical response, and tolerability to the treatment is good. Sooma funded the single-arm study.

Image Credit: Sooma

Why it’s important – The Helsinki-based MedTech has developed a head cap that the patient wears to eliminate needing a technician or nurse to measure the electrode locations. When the hand-held stimulation device is activated, it sends a current through the electrodes in the cap and adjusts the level based on the resistance provided by the hair and skin. The device has applications in several indications — the first sham-controlled trial looked at tinnitus — but the breakthrough designation is limited to depression. Earlier this year, researchers linked the Sooma device to a reduction in symptoms in patients with major depressive disorder in a real-world study. The study lacked a control group.

Providence, Luna Partner to Provide Patients At-Home Physical Therapy

Providence recently launched a program to expand its patients’ access to in-home physical therapy. The health system is launching the initiative in partnership with Luna, a provider of in-home outpatient physical therapy that serves patients in nearly 30 states, as reported by Katie Adams in MedCity News.

Using Luna’s technology platform, Providence clinicians will match their patients to Luna’s therapists based on specialty, geography, and schedules. Once matched, patients can start having physical therapy sessions like the type administered in a traditional outpatient clinic, but from their home. To ensure consistent and quality care, the same therapist will treat the patient for the entirety of their care plan. Luna’s platform also allows patients to communicate with their physical therapist and discuss their care needs between visits.

Why it’s important – Providence wanted to reduce patient friction points and ensure quality and continuity of care within the health system. Providence is beginning this program by launching it in the central Puget Sound area. Starting in April, physicians at three select Providence locations in this area will begin referring their patients to Luna. The health system has plans to extend the initiative to the greater Puget Sound area after assessing the first pilot.

Nvidia, Medtronic Partner to Create AI Platform for Medical Devices

Another Katie Adams story outlines how the two companies plan to create a marketplace for AI applications that will allow developers and clinicians to develop their own algorithms to use on Medtronic’s medical devices. The first incarnation of the two companies’ shared vision will incorporate Nvidia’s AI technology into Medtronic’s GI Genius intelligent endoscopy module. GI Genius is the first AI-assisted colonoscopy tool cleared by the Food and Drug Administration to help physicians detect polyps that can lead to colorectal cancer. As part of their collaboration, the two companies plan to create a medical device marketplace for AI applications. The marketplace, which will run on Nvidia technology, will allow developers and clinicians to develop their own algorithms to use on Medtronic’s medical devices.

“This is a model I think is really great for the industry because it’s not easy for an AI developer with a single application to bring it to market. But when you have a world leader like Medtronic, who understands how to do the clinical trials and do the FDA submissions and actually bring the application to market, that’s when you have that three-way triangle of technology developer and medical device leader to really accelerate the pace of innovation.”

Kimberly Powell, Vice President and General Manager of healthcare, Nvidia

Why it’s important – Embedding these technologies into GI Genius will give doctors “AI-enhanced” diagnostic images that can help them detect polyps earlier so that patients can start cancer treatment sooner. More and more healthcare technology companies are exploring real-time AI because of its ability to help inform decisions at the point of care.

Cleveland Clinic and IBM Unveil First Quantum Computer Dedicated to Healthcare Research

In a press release from the Cleveland Clinic, the health system announced the first deployment of an onsite private sector IBM-managed quantum computer in the United States. The IBM Quantum System One installed at Cleveland Clinic will be the first quantum computer in the world to be uniquely dedicated to healthcare research to help Cleveland Clinic accelerate biomedical discoveries.

Image Credit: IBM Quantum System One at Cleveland Clinic (Courtesy: Cleveland Clinic)

Why it’s important – Quantum computing is a rapidly emerging technology that harnesses the laws of quantum mechanics to solve problems that today’s most powerful supercomputers cannot practically solve. Tapping into these new computational spaces could help researchers identify new medicines and treatments more quickly. The release’s title is a bit misleading (having the system installed on site is not the same as already in use), but the initiative does indeed plan to use quantum computers in the future.

Instacart reaches deal with Boston Children’s to help deliver nutritious meals to patients

Grocery delivery technology company Instacart announced several new tools for providers to get food to patients, becoming the latest tech company to explore options to address food insecurity. Fierce Healthcare’s Robert King reports that Instacart announced Friday it would offer a suite of digital tools to Boston Children’s Hospital to enable tailored nutrition deliveries to patients. One of the tools provided by Instacart includes Fresh Funds, which are essentially stipends that will allow patients to purchase certain foods from Instacart directly. The provider would select recommended items or specific ingredients for medically tailored meal plans. Another tool is called Care Carts, where a provider can send a custom grocery delivery directly to a patient. Other tools include shoppable recipes, virtual storefronts, and digital lists a provider can build and share with patients, who can then shop for the products on the Instacart app.

Image Credit: Instacart

Why it’s important – Access to nutritious foods can deliver healthier outcomes, but several challenges have prevented healthcare providers from effectively adopting food as medicine programs at scale. With Fresh Funds, patients can select the foods that best fit their personal tastes and dietary needs and order directly from Instacart grocery retailers using their stipend. Patients can consent with Instacart to share their purchase history with their providers to better understand eating habits. This technology can also give providers tools to measure program effectiveness and identify where nutritious foods can impact health most.

Oak Street, Interwell Combine Primary Care & Dialysis with New Joint Venture

Another article from Katie Adams reports that Oak Street Health teamed up with kidney care management company Interwell Health to create a joint venture called OakWell, which seeks to provide primary care to end-stage kidney disease patients directly in existing dialysis centers. The plan is to start by partnering with dialysis centers in Chicago, Houston, and Dallas-Fort Worth and begin offering care services in these areas in the third quarter of this year. OakWell’s primary care teams will work closely with patients’ nephrologists to deliver them appropriate care while they are in dialysis centers. This will eliminate the barrier of attending separate, additional medical appointments.

Why it’s important – Patients who receive in-center dialysis treatment typically spend upwards of 12 hours per week in a dialysis center, which makes it difficult to attend other healthcare appointments. This is problematic because dialysis patients usually have other chronic conditions that require the attention of a primary care provider. Kidney patients have unique challenges, so bringing more coordinated primary and kidney care into the dialysis center can be transformational. These care teams will focus on managing patients’ chronic conditions, helping them avoid missed dialysis treatments, rescheduling any missed dialysis treatments, and coordinating care that needs to take place outside the center. They will also provide behavioral health and renal pharmacy support services, as well as facilitate the coordination of kidney transplants when possible.