An estimated $1 trillion of the $3.3 trillion that the U.S. spends annually on health care is wasted — presenting an opportunity for disruption by tech startups. However, overcoming the protectionist tendencies of industry incumbents is one thing, dealing with outdated federal regulations is another. These laws include the Copeland Anti-kickback Act (1934), the Stark Law (1990) that bans a physician from doing referrals in which there is a conflict of interest, and the patient privacy HIPAA Act (1996). Created with noble intentions, these regulations are widely recognized barriers to aligning health care stakeholder relationships with the essential needs of the patients. They also impede digital-based solutions and stifle innovation, and as such need to be replaced with contemporary regulations that protect patient confidentiality while fostering greater flexibility and empowering digital transformation.
IN A former leatherworks just off Euston Road in London, a hopeful firm is starting up. BenevolentAI’s main room is large and open-plan. In it, scientists and coders sit busily on benches, plying their various trades. The firm’s star, though, has a private, temperature-controlled office. That star is a powerful computer that runs the software which sits at the heart of BenevolentAI’s business.
This software is an artificial-intelligence system.
AI, as it is known for short, comes in several guises. But BenevolentAI’s version of it is a form of machine learning that can draw inferences about what it has learned. In particular, it can process natural language and formulate new ideas from what it reads. Its job is to sift through vast chemical libraries, medical databases and conventionally presented scientific papers, looking for potential drug molecules.
Over and above clearing a number of devices, the FDA had a busy year in 2016, passing a number of draft and final guidances related to digital health, having some notable conversations with vendors, and even turning down some devices whose FDA clearance was expected this year. We've rounded up the year's 510(k)'s in a separate article, but here's a rundown on some of the other actions the regulatory body took, as well as a brief look ahead at what 2017 might have in store for the FDA.
It’s come to this. More than four years after Qualcomm Foundation launched its $10 million Tricorder XPRIZE competition challenging companies to develop a 21st century version of a Star Trek medical device, the field of finalists has been whittled down to just two contenders. Final Frontier Medical Devices, based in the Philadelphia suburban town of Paoli, and Dynamical Biomarkers is based in Boston.Now these teams are entering the realm of live testing on consumers. The criteria for the contest means each team’s device has to measure five vital signs and test for 10 core conditions, including: anemia, atrial fibrillation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, leukocytosis, pneumonia, otitis media, sleep apnea, and urinary tract infection. Additionally, the devices are required to detect three elective health conditions from a set including strep throat, an HIV screen, hypertension, melanoma and shingles. They have to provide a diagnosis within minutes, according to the announcement.
Humans are about 72% accurate at reading emotions from facial expressions, computer vision is already up to 82%. That's just the start. What's coming next are wearables that read exactly what is going on in your emotional health, not just physical, and align it with what's happening in your life.We've already explored some of the biofeedback tech looking to minimise stress along with the now and next of tracking health and happiness. One new way we can think about what's in store for emotion sensing is to break it down into input (tracking), analysis and algorithms, and output in the form of apps and exercises.
Among the key health technology lessons that 2016 has reinforced: biology is fiendishly complex; data ≠ insight; impacting health – whether making new drugs or meaningfully changing behavior – is hard; and palpable progress, experienced by patients, is starting to occur (and is tremendously exciting).
Soon, your Fitbit won’t just be monitoring how many steps you take in a day — it will also keep tabs on your glucose levels. On Tuesday, Medtronic and Fitbit announced a new partnership that seeks to “integrate health and activity tracking for patients living with diabetes and their physicians and care teams.” For the first time, Fitbit users will be able to take advantage of Medtronic’s medical technology and gain valuable insights into how their exercise regimens impact glucose levels, hopefully leading to better management of the condition. And of course, it’s manifesting itself as an app — myLog.
A new app combines data, artificial intelligence technology, human interaction and psychology to beat diabetes.Glyco Leap is the flagship product of Singapore-based digital health startup Holmusk. The digital program combines different health tools such as a fitness tracker and glucometer, interactive coaching from certified dietitians and a mobile application to help people manage or reduce their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.The app is yet another example of growing innovations in health care that makes use of mobile technology. Organizations, including big and small firms, are increasingly looking at the different ways they can use mobile tech as more people rely on their phones for daily needs such as shopping, booking a cab or fitness tracking.
BioBeats, the leader in digital health and artificial intelligence, today announces that it has created a new proprietary algorithm that effectively estimates user stress level from physiological signals. BioBeats Hear and Now platform uses machine learning and AI to provide highly personalized stress monitoring and management tools for individuals as well as corporate wellness programs.
"Exciting, interesting and fun" are probably not the first words that come to mind when you are considering quitting smoking.But Tasmanian researchers are working on a way to make weeks of nicotine withdrawal just that.A Heart Foundation grant of just more than $50,000 will allow Ivan Bindoff, a senior research fellow at UTAS, to test the viability of an app he has developed called Quittr.The app rewards quitters with virtual currency to redeem in a game."It's based on the premise that we know mobile health apps help people quit smoking, but we also know most people don't stick at it," he said."They don't engage in the app for more than a few days.
When Vic Gundotra left Google in 2014, he thought he might retire, forever. But a lingering interest in wearable technology and machine learning led him to AliveCor, which lets users monitor their heart health from their smartphones.
Diving back into the fray of tech, Gundotra is now convinced that the potential of wearables and machine learning is just starting to be unlocked. AliveCor’s portable EKG sensor, Kardia, alerts users if their heartbeats are irregular — and now, the Mayo Clinic, an AliveCor investor, has begun identifying other signals in an EKG reading that a human might miss.
The future of healthcare could be in your pocket. Two new medical apps that help people monitor their health at home, reducing their need to visit a doctor, are set to be rolled out to as many as four UK National Health Service trusts over the next year.The apps, which are currently being trialled in four hospitals in Oxfordshire, UK, transmit patient data from a tablet or smartphone directly to clinicians. According to Ilan Lieberman, a member of the Royal Society of Medicine’s council on telemedicine and ehealth, such apps will have a huge impact on the management of chronic diseases.One system, called GDm-health, helps manage the treatment of gestational diabetes – a condition that affects about 1 in 10 pregnant women. The smartphone app lets women send each blood glucose reading they take at home to their diabetes clinician.
WHEN IT comes to addressing epidemics — and a lot of other global challenges — the Silicon Valley startup mentality doesn’t work.I study how infectious diseases spread. Late last year, a colleague and I found ourselves pitching our science to an organization that spends millions of tech-industry dollars to accelerate and disrupt the kind of research we do. Their representative was just out of college, and he carried himself with the aggressively relaxed manner of a new Silicon Valley convert. Despite his confidence, it soon became clear that he knew virtually nothing about epidemiology, biostatistics, health systems, or health policy. He was nevertheless convinced that cash and some programmers should be able to fix global health.
A designer robot that nags you to take your pills, go for a walk or phone your children could be your companion in old age.The Elli.Q resembles a small speaker with an attached tablet computer. It was created by the Swiss designer Yves Béhar and Intuitive Robotics, an Israeli company, and is being displayed at the New Old exhibition at the Design Museum.It can do similar things to the Amazon Echo smart speaker, such as switching on music or TV programmes, making Skype calls or turning up the heating in response to voice commands. However, unlike Echo, which waits for your orders, Elli.Q suggests activities based on your previous behaviour and recommendations by family members.
The UK National Health Service is to trial an artificially intelligent (AI) medical application in place of its NHS 111 non-emergency helpline.The app comes from Babylon Health, a UK start-up specializing in remote healthcare applications. It enables users to type their symptoms into a chat box – much like texting – and the app will perform triage for urgent but non-life-threatening conditions.The trial is set to start at the end of January, meaning that for the next six months more than 1.2m people in north central London will be able to access the app, according to the FT.
The era of "Quantified Self" (a term coined in 2007 by US WIRED founding executive editor Kevin Kelly) is relatively new. The first Fitbit digital step counters launched in late 2009 and we've since seen an explosion of various wearables, apps and digital health devices all riding the exponential wave of smaller and cheaper mobile-connected and app-ified sensors and computing.
Recent studies indicate that by 2030 the United States population will be comprised of around 74 million elderly individuals1. Such a percentage is reason to look at new senior health solutions that can provide proper, swift and affordable care.Adults are living longer lives now, and they are experiencing new health, economic and living struggles. With many of the elderly experiencing health problems that include poor mobility, vision loss, hearing loss, communication barriers and memory loss, wearable technology can be helpful.
It was a session short on talk of actual dollars, but investor money will keep flowing into digital healthcare—under certain conditions.That’s the group consensus of four Wall Street bankers and a venture capital executive that spoke this morning in New York at the 2016 Digital Health Conference sponsored by the New York eHealth Collaborative.For next year healthcare investors—especially digital healthcare investors—will continue to look for start-up and growing technology companies that are developing consumer applications that solve problems, help to better structure predictive health information and better manage risk.
We currently see highly varied uses of mobile solutions in healthcare, from clinical applications to managed health, and perhaps even more diversity in the users themselves and how they engage with mobile healthcare. Too often, these users are treated as monoliths that either do or do not use mobile health solutions. But in order to see true gains in mobile adoption, more precise segmentation and understanding of these users is essential.
Current cancer treatment is based on episodic encounters. Even during chemotherapy, patients generally see their physician for maybe eight to ten minutes every three weeks, said Peter Kuhn, ATOM-HP’s co-lead researcher and a professor of medicine, biomedical engineering, and aerospace and mechanical engineering at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.“The more than 30,000 minutes between visits are a missed opportunity,” Kuhn said. “Technology can be leveraged to fill this gap and provide a comprehensive picture. The collected data can lead to better treatment decisions, better survival rates, and better understanding between physician and patient.”
Wachter, professor and chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, author of "The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine's Computer Age," and notable expert in health IT circles, told a packed audience at the New World Stages venue in New York City's theater district that the two major trends currently occurring in healthcare are the pressure to deliver high quality care at a low cost while also becoming digitized. "What's odd isn't that we're being pressurized to deliver high value care at low costs, but [rather] that this is new," said Wachter. "This is a mega trend and is independent of which administration is in the White House. This is a bipartisan issue."
It's been a rough couple of weeks for wearables. Yesterday, Lenovo announced it was abandoning its Moto Androidwear line indefinitely, with head of global product development Shakil Barkat saying "wearables do not have broad enough appeal for us to continue to build on it year after year,” according to The Verge. Last week it came out that Pebble, which arguably invented the smartwatch space, is being bought by Fitbit for a price that reportedly won't cover its debts. And Angel, which was to be the open source wearable that allowed anyone to adapt the technology to their needs, also shut down recently (MobiHealthNews broke the news last week).If that's not enough for you, go back a little further and you'll see Intel laying off its wearables group and killing the Basis line and Microsoft essentially killing the Microsoft Band back in October. And that's without even mentioning Jawbone, which has been in a sort of slow motion decline for months if not years without a new product in sight. This is surely not a complete list.
Digital health tech is moving beyond the consumer market. Research from Frost & Sullivan shows that the healthcare wearables device market could more than triple to $18.9 billion in 2020 from $5.1 billion in 2015. The healthcare and pharmaceutical industries are fully embracing wearables to monitor patients between visits, improve patient adherence to medications and accelerate clinical drug trials.Wearables can give healthcare professionals insights into patient behavior and disease progression through a steady flow of electronic data transmitted by the devices. Medical wearables also enable clinicians and pharmaceutical companies conducting drug trials to collect more patient-generated health data to guide treatment for individual patients and contribute to ongoing population health analytics research initiatives.
Guelph’s Erin MacIndoe Sproule and her team won an award at the recent Break Inequality Hackathon competition at the Google headquarters in Kitchener. The aim of the event, organized by Developers without Borders, was to find innovative ways to use digital/mobile technology to address social or health problems in the developing world. The MacIndoe Sproule team won the Innovation Award at the event, and a $500 prize, for their Red Tracker, a cellphone app that could help women in a developing country better understand their fertility.The simple app allows women to keep track of their menstrual cycle and ovulation, and sent that information to a health care provider, so that community health workers can better serve communities, specifically in Bangladesh.
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