Welcome to Digital Health Briefing, a new morning email providing the latest news, data, and insight on how digital technology is disrupting the healthcare ecosystem, produced by BI Intelligence.
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THREE TOP TRENDS FROM HEALTHCONF 2017: At this year's HealthConf, held in Lisbon, Portugal, BI Intelligence identified three emerging trends that will likely impact much of the innovation in the healthcare space over the next year: AI's potential to enhance medical diagnostics, how fitness tracking data can be used to create actionable insights for diagnostics and prevention, and the emergence of "Ambient Intelligence."
- The healthcare industry is captivated by the potential for AI to make medical diagnostics faster and more accurate. Machine learning (ML) — a segment of AI in which computers are programmed to learn how to solve problems — can be used to pore over massive troves of patient and historical data, in order to refine diagnoses of medical conditions and paint a clearer picture of the patient for doctors. For example, the Ada Health app uses ML in its chatbot to help condense a user’s symptoms into a list of possible conditions before reaching out to a medical doctor. But, AI is still a long way from being fully autonomous and should be confined to augmenting the work of medical professionals, Ada CMO Claire Novorol said during the health conference.
- Fitness device makers and healthcare institutions are partnering to explore ways in which health and fitness data can be used to prevent illnesses. The rapid adoption of wearables has resulted in a flood of personal fitness and health data — for example, fitness band maker, Fitbit has more than 90 billion hours of heart rate data and 5.4 billion nights of sleep stored in its database. And while, eventually, this data could help in preventing things like heart failure, there's not yet enough evidence to prove its viability. Fitbit is working with Georgetown University to see if fitness trackers are a reliable method of detecting heartbeat irregularities, Fitbit co-founder Eric Friedman said during the conference. If the device senses the user's heartbeat is weak it could send a notification telling the person to “see a doctor.”
- The emergence of AI and the Internet of Things (IoT) is paving the way for "ambient intelligence" in hospitals. This is effectively the combination of connected devices and AI providing a constant feed of information about the patient's environment and wellbeing to hospital staff, according to Philips chief innovation and strategy head Jeroen Tas. These systems, built into hospital rooms and wards, can recognize the patient and their situation, configure to their needs, and respond to changes in their health or condition. The AI can also alert doctors and staff to any negative changes to either the patient or the environment, which could help to prevent sudden and unexpected outcomes for patients.
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NEW REGULATION COULD HELP GENETIC HEALTH RISK TEST PROVIDERS: The commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Scott Gottlieb, announced plans to restructure the regulatory process around direct-to-consumer genetic health risk tests. The proposed regulations create a framework that will allow certain companies to bring more tests to market by eliminating a requirement for premarket review for every new test they release. Instead, these companies will only be required to pass a one-time initial review of their processes with the FDA. This would allow the FDA to assess the company rather than every single product being produced, in a similar fashion to the “Pre-Cert for Software Pilot Program”, which was designed by the FDA to streamline regulation around health-related software and products. If the proposed regulation were to be approved it could prove to be a major facilitator of growth, as regulation has already proved to be a roadblock for players in the space — 23andMe, the genetic testing company, originally offered assessments for more than 250 diseases and conditions but this was eventually dropped to just 10 tests due to FDA regulations, according to Gizmodo.
AUSTRALIA TRIES TO STRENGTHEN ITS DIGITAL HEALTH RECORDS SYSTEM: A new partnership between the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) and the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) is expected to increase the number of pharmacists using My Health Record, a digital system that enables providers to share secure health data, according to ITWire. The PSA is in a strong position to boost awareness of the system and its capabilities to pharmacies across the region as the society represents roughly 30,000 pharmacists. As part of the partnership, the society will be able to give its own input as it can "review, update, and develop professional guidelines for pharmacy practice, and implementation tools for digital health," according to the Minister for Health Greg Hunt. This system, which currently has over 5 million Australians on it, could become a major tool for health providers to strengthen their decision making and care — they will have access to widespread clinical information such as discharge summaries, allergies, and medication usage. However, for the system to be effective, the ADHA will need to continue to find ways, whether through partnerships or incentives, to get the majority of physicians and consumers in the region to sign up and share data.
VAICA INTRODUCES A SMART MEDICATION STORAGE DEVICE: Vaica, the Israel-based medication adherence solution provider, launched its new smart storage device for pharmaceutical companies, Capsuled. The device, which leverages cloud-based software, provides auditory and visual alerts to remind users to take medication, educational videos, and time messages of encouragement. In addition, the device can also compile weekly adherence reports and provides users with a way to contact their healthcare provider. These features could help drive up engagement with patients, which could go a long way to improving the rate of positive patient outcome through medication adherence. Low medication adherence rates, or the share of patients who don't take their medication as prescribed, is a huge cost to healthcare systems. In the US, for example, poor medication adherence is estimated to cost the healthcare system between $100 billion and $289 billion a year.