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Last Week in Health Tech: October 9th, 2017


Last week, healthcare technology was all over the stock market, and while interesting, talking about the financial side of health tech isn’t our usual focus. As previously noted, this weekly post is all about keeping you in the know by distilling journalism on the topic of healthcare technology into an easier-to-read format. 

Here are the top health tech stories from the week of 10/9/2017.

  • In a bit of repeat business, there was more talk of the so-called “Uber of healthcare technology.”  This time, however, the article is not about the “concierge” approach of a particular app, but a deeper discussion that relates more to the patient. It comes from GeekWire’s Health Tech Podcast, and in context with the next article, these and our previous week’s articles about digital innovation in home-based healthcare provide a very interesting contrast.
  • There was also a lot of traffic going back and forth about the possibility that we’ve reached a place in healthcare technology where the realization of a truly modern “home healthcare system” might in fact be possible. Interviewed for the piece, Vivek Srivastava, the co-founder and CEO of Healthcare AtHome, said, “Technology, I believe, is the backbone of home care. No home care can survive in an effective way if technology investment is not done…”. With Healthcare atHome taking off in India and the home healthcare market expected to grow to 280 billion by 2020, it’s interesting to watch as this nascent field begins to take root and position itself in the health tech market.
  • One of the most fascinating aspects of healthcare technology is that it is sometimes designed to interact with us directly, or even to stand in where we might need human help (think of the smart prostheses the Navy demonstrated earlier this month, for example). In general, our society has a tendency to turn to the social sciences and chemistry rather than to engineering when it comes to mental illness, but Jo Aggarwal and her husband, Ramakant Vempati, defied that idea when they launched an Wysa, an AI-driven chatbot that uses cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to engage with those struggling with mental health issues. While a chatbot may seem like a trivial way to address something so heavy, the responses they’ve gotten are promising: with more than 1 million active users, they validate the need behind creating Wysa while simultaneously highlighting just how deeply the problem of mental illness runs. Wysa is a great reminder that innovation does not necessarily require invention and can come from applying “old” technology to fields which don’t often incorporate it.
  • From Newswise, a press release details four medical breakthroughs that are almost here, including much smarter wearables, a digital cure for blindness, non-invasive and immediate diagnoses of cancer, and headgear that will make you “smarter and more physically fit.”  Whether or not these claims are true—and what their vision of “soon” is—remains to be seen. As per usual when it comes to promising tech, if these miraculous visions for our future are to be realized, their power will come from the ability to meaningfully analyze the data these technologies produce. Beyond that, is will also come down to the ability of these devices to operate within the same ecosystem as the others, something we know requires some thought and effort to pull off.
  • In news that ties directly into what we do here at Redox, Cerner continues their mission to “fix” the burden imposed upon patients by the current state of how we handle our healthcare records, the underlying theme of which is the importance of interoperability to the continued progress of healthcare. In short, it isn’t so much about their brand of solution, but how urgent the adoption of interoperability truly is and, moreover, how directly it affects our care. One solutions’ spokesman went so far as to say that “It shouldn’t matter if it’s [our Electronic Health Record (EHR)] or somebody else’s EHR. We need data from multiple places, and we need that data to flow freely.” On the same topic, MedPage Today published a piece about the complexity of EHRs, going on to provide some guidelines for providers on how to better optimize their EHR model.
  • Australia invested a reported $13 million in new medical technologies, and they weren’t the only ones: Utah gave Stryker, a company out of Salt Lake City, a $3.4 million incentive to expand the medical technology arm of the company. Another piece of domestic news is a new bill designed to tackle the issue of medical device cybersecurity was introduced. Given the complexity of the issue, it will be interesting to see if this a problem best solved by Congress, but also considering the importance of the issue, we also hope they come up with something effectual. 
  • In other news on the EHR front, GE was awarded the “CareQuality” certification, meaning that the companies responsible for EHRs and owned by GE are now operating more efficiently and with improved security (along with increases in a host of other standards). This certification is important because obtaining it requires a certain (if not perfect) level of interoperability, and it’s encouraging to see a corporation like GE taking actionable steps toward making interoperability a priority.
  • And to send you off on a slightly curious note, the UK government’s own report (commissioned back in March) urges their nationalized health service, the NHS, to open patient records for study…by AI. Which begs the questions of whether an entire population of a country would be okay with a computer reading their records to look for patterns in the public health system. While the report urges it, the companies behind the AI that would analyze the data despair at their current level of access. The CEO of a startup is quoted as saying, “We have tried to approach the NHS to see if there was a way to access some of this data but we have struggled to even find the right person to talk to. Navigating a complex organisation like the NHS is an unfathomable task for small startups…”. It’s interesting to see how a very real and likely beneficial application of deep learning can be hindered by not only human communication, but the apprehension around turning over medical records to outside companies. How this scenario plays out—and whether or not people are willing to trust the promise of AI—will be telling.

That’s it for this week. Till next time, happy reading!

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Written by George McLaughlin

Early stage start-up guy turned healthcare nerd. George has worn a lot of hats during his time at Redox but these days he leads up our product marketing efforts.