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Last Week in Health Tech


It is often difficult to keep up with the news these days, primarily due to the sheer volume new information available on a daily basis. This holds true even when one narrows the field to news specifically related to healthcare and the way technology constantly reshapes it—and parsing through it to get to the news that actually matters complicates things even further.

The whole exercise can soon become tremendously overwhelming, especially when one takes into account the ever-rapidly growing nature of technology itself. But staying informed, and helping others do the same, is something we’re passionate about, and while we could just link you to a tutorial about RSS feeds, you’d run into the same problem.

So we’re not just going to bombard you with links; rather, we aim to provide a helpful summary and a concise analysis so that you can keep up with what’s going on and click to read more if you’re interested in the specifics.

To that end, let’s take a look at what happened last week, the week of September 25, 2017.

Last week, we saw more buzz about the relatively recent adoption of the blockchain in healthcare technology in more than one instance. First, we learned that Change Healthcare had decided to enable blockchain transactions as part of their idea that “it’s essential that [they] aggressively and pervasively introduce new technologies into healthcare at scale.”  However, they aren’t the only ones: the Hashed Health Blockchain Consortium was joined this week by Accenture, as announced at theDistributed: Health 2017 conference.

(If your current knowledge of the blockchain is limited to that fact that it’s BitCoin’s “underlying technology”, it’s not entirely your fault. Despite the amount of journalism about BitCoin itself and other rising cryptocurrencies like Ethereum, many people remain in the dark about how they work—in other words, how the blockchain works. This knowledge is key to understanding how its expansion into the realm of healthcare and what the blockchain means for the future of your privacy. Unfortunately, the constraints of our focus prevents us from providing you with a full explanation of the particulars just here. Fortunately, we can link you to a piece that does a great job of telling you just what the blockchain is and how it works.)

This is great news for patients—the very idea and various implementations of blockchain technology into healthcare tell us that there may soon emerge a standard for establishing cryptographic trust, one of the biggest stumbling blocks to making a secure system interoperable. With the proper cryptography in place, and some basic education on the matter, the blockchain is poised to help smooth over many of such stumbling blocks put in place by, for instance, HIPPA (which requires a certain level of encryption for any communication between patient and provider that includes any medical information) and other regulations.

In more local news, Chicago’s mayor Rahm Emanuel sees the city as the natural center to what would become a multi-billion dollar healthcare technology-based industry. Emanuel’s argument is that all the elements to support it exist in Chicago, making the plan more farsighted than it is far-fetched.  “[Since the pieces are already there it makes] Chicago really unique in the country,” Emanuel said.  “It doesn’t lean just on pharmaceuticals…on medical devices…on insurance companies..[or] on healthcare, hospital systems. It has all of them in one place.”

Another story from last week is that of the expansion of a very interesting nonprofit called “Last Mile Health,” whose aim is to address a problem in healthcare analogous to the one in internet technology from which it borrows its name. More specifically, the article is about Dr. Raj Panjabi’s organization, which previously deployed 10,000 primary-level providers in native nation of Liberia to stem the ongoing Ebola epidemic that began in 2014. Dr. Panjabi’s belief is that primary care, which can be difficult to find (if not outright absent in large sectors of the world), is absolutely essential. According to Dr. Punjabi, a “$3,000” (estimate from Dr. Punjabi himself) community health worker is “a key part of stopping larger pandemics,” which will otherwise inevitably cost the world billions in dollars and uncountable lives. Perhaps the most elegant aspect of Panjabi’s solution is that it tackles joblessness and healthcare with the aid of technology in a part of the world where technology adoption is low and/or difficult. Listen to Dr. Punjabi explain it in this video and interview.

One story repeatedly reported on last week was the successful round of funding by a 2002 healthcare startup called PatientSafe, whose goal is to scale healthcare technology across the various devices used in the industry. It sounds simple enough, but creating a functional tool that works across an array of devices and software ecosystems is a large ask indeed. The new company, which promises a better workflow through a single app, managed to raise $25 million dollars in what is now a closed round of investment. While it exists currently only as potential, PatientSafe is exactly the kind of product that the Redox Engine could connect to other solutions in a myriad of ways.

Lastly, a smaller item still worth mentioning is that the company “Beyond Limits” is hiring a new president, Dr. Manikanda Arunachalam (expert in both cardiology and venture capital). “Beyond Limits” is a company of interest right now because they are one (of albeit an increasing number) of healthcare operators offering an “AI” solution to healthcare technology. With such a strong addition to their team, it’ll be interesting to see where this promising company heads in the coming months.

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

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Written by George McLauglin