QS’ing, Google Glass and other wearable tech on BBC’s Newsnight (UK)

Here’s one for UK-residents only owing to tech restrictions – unless other readers know how to access it via a UK proxy server – it’s an item on the BBC’s Newsnight programme yesterday (available via the BBC iPlayer for six more days) and it covers various forms of wearable technology. The 15 minute slot beginning at 34 minutes includes a report to demonstrate forms of the technology and a discussion about the associated ethics. The staggering conclusion is that it is awesome technology but we should worry about how the companies that collect data from it will use the information. Newsnight 3 June 2013. Heads up thanks to Mike Clark.

Saypage Telehealth introduced at West Suffolk Hospital (UK)

When this editor worked for the NHS in West Suffolk – long, long ago – my colleagues and I always denied the saying that West Suffolk was ‘the graveyard of ambition’, and we pointed to numerous innovations that we introduced without fanfare into our various fields. So it is pleasing to see that the tradition appears to be continuing. The following press release describes the introduction of a hospital-to-home internet-based video link system to reduce the need for some orthopaedic patients to attend hospital to receive post-operative follow-up consultations. Significantly, it appears to be a development championed by an enthusiastic hospital consultant. We have seen over and over again that technological solutions to care pathway problems work best when they are adopted from the ground up. West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust Launches Virtual Orthopaedics Outpatients Clinic Built On Saypage Telemedicine Platform. (Saypage press release) [Will the people who use the system be counted towards the 3millionlives (3ML) target? Oh! Silly me! No one is counting anything, and it’s an aspiration, not a target!]

Related links: What is Saypage Telehealth? and Saypage User Guide.

Instead of pharmaceuticals, electroceuticals?

Electroceuticals–using electrical impulses to modulate the body’s neural circuits as an alternative to drugs–are gaining momentum, and probably a lot closer to being realized than say, genomics. According to the article, if you can map how a disease affects the neural circuitry, then ‘remapping’ through stimulating or inhibiting the malfunctioning pathways via tiny electrodes may show a way to health without biological drugs. For instance, stimulating the vagus nerve seems to reduce the production of cytokines — immune system mediators — and blocks inflammation through boosting the immune system. It has been successfully used on a preliminary basis in treating inflammatory disease with rheumatoid arthritis. Multiple research teams have experimented with additional conditions such as respiratory diseases, asthma and diabetes–and possibly neuro-psychiatric disorders like Parkinson’s and epilepsy. It’s been successful enough to date to warrant a small investment from pharma giant Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK). Wired.co.uk

Health tech growing fast in Brazil and Asia-Pacific

Brazil’s strong growth in mHealth and medical apps is detailed in three recent studies from PwC, PwC-GSMA, Research2Guidance and the New Cities Foundation. PwC is pegging mobile health apps at $46.6 million by 2015, with PwC-GSMA projecting that 43.9 million additional patients could be treated with mobile health technology in Brazil and Mexico by 2017. Research2Guidance confirms that Brazil’s an Android market, outselling iOS in the 10 most downloaded health and fitness apps by 17 times. The Geneva/Paris-based New Cities Foundation equipped doctors and nurses at a family clinic in Santa Marta, Rio de Janiero, Brazil with a $42,000 ‘backpack’ for home care, containing a GE Vscan portable ultrasound, a TuffSat pulse oximeter, an Accutrend blood monitor, an EKG machine, a blood pressure monitor, a weight scale, a digital thermometer, tape measure and stethoscope. Savings were about $200,000 per 100 patients/year. Mobihealthnews.

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/gimlet-eye.jpg” thumb_width=”100″ /] The Gimlet Eye, having read this, just sent a message to your Editor. Could it be The Eye’s undisclosed location?  Perhaps we should be… ‘Flying Down to Rio’?

In Asia-Pacific, the $55 billion APAC medical devices market–nearly 25 percent of the world market– is expected to grow over 10 percent per year over the next three years, outstripping rest-of-world growth by 4 points. Growth in China and India is especially striking, with India’s medical device growth at 16 percent per year for three years. Healthcare is improving in less developed areas, and the age 65+ population in greater developed countries is increasing as a proportion of the population as birth rates fall (in Japan, 24 percent–with Japan also the overwhelming leader in patents). While much broader than mobile health or telehealth, the overall category serves as a pointer to growth opportunities in the very near future. MD+DI  Hat tip to reader George Margelis, MD via LinkedIn, who advocates Australia take a greater leadership position in developing ‘medtech’. 

Avatars to help schizophrenics cope with ‘the voices’

One of the most common features of schizophrenia is the inability to control the voices that tell you what to do–at minimum annoying, but sometimes urge you to harm yourself or another. Anti-psychotic drugs do not silence them in 25 percent of cases. This approach from University College London researchers puts faces to the voices–and, by letting the patient create them, gives the patient control. With a therapist, each of the 16 patients in the study created an avatar with a computer-generated face and voice ‘matching’ the ‘voice in the head’.

In up to seven 30-minute sessions, each subject interacted with their entity’s avatar, and were encouraged to oppose its threats and orders. Not only did this allow the subjects to get comfortable with the idea of standing up to the “actual” entities themselves, but because they had taken part in creating the avatars, it helped them realize that the entities actually originated within their own mind. Additionally, each subject received an MP3 recording of their sessions, which they could listen to whenever they started hearing voices again.

Almost all participants experienced a reduction in the frequency and severity of their episodes–and three of the subjects, who had been experiencing hallucinations for 16, 13 and 3.5 years, stopped hearing voices completely. The research team just received a £1.3 million (US$1.98 million) grant from the Wellcome Trust to expand the research starting in July.  Avatars help schizophrenics gain control of voices in their heads (Gizmag)

Sensory feedback adds to prosthetics and situational awareness

There have been a number of prosthetics developed in recent years that directly connect with nerves, but their drawbacks have included deterioration of the nerve-prosthetic connection over time and lack of reliability in acting like a natural limb. With over 2,000 American military personnel suffering major amputations since 2000,  the US Department of Defense’s DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is working to advance better nerve-connected prosthetics through the RE-NET–Reliable Neural-Interface Technology–program. DARPA uses nerve/muscle interfaces to give amputees feedback and improve control (Gizmag) For the sight-impaired, the Russian company Oriense is extending its technology that assists robots to avoid objects to a human-worn camera/sensor combination. It combines a Primesense sensor (akin to Microsoft’s Kinect camera) with Oriense’s software which scans data from the sensor and gives voice notifications about where objects are and if they are directly in your path. The prototype would not be out of place on a robot (camera on chest, computer in hand, earbud) but second generation promises to be more streamlined. From robot tech to humans: hardware to “see” the world around you (MedCityNews).

AdhereTech wins Healthcare Innovation World Cup

AdhereTech, a med reminder startup from the Summer 2012 Blueprint Health class, recently won the $50,000 Healthcare Innovation World Cup sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim and organized by NYC-based independent healthcare research organization HITLAB (Healthcare Innovation Technology Lab). The annual competition challenges innovators in healthcare and IT to help solve global health issues; this year’s focus was diabetes prevention and management. AdhereTech is nearly to market with an M2M-connected compact bottle for pills or liquids that not only reminds, but also provides a measurement of pills/liquids remaining in the bottle [TTA 28 March]. Second place with a prize of $10,000 went to Indian company Team IITKgp which is developing a non-invasive blood glucose measurement device. Runners-up: in third place with an award of $5,000 was India’s Team SmartSense, developing a multianalyte sensing device for diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and Ohio’s Team EndoGoal, a mobile and web-based social rewards program for people with insulin-dependent diabetes who track daily glucose levels. All four teams had previously received $2,500 for reaching the final rounds as semi-finalists in the US and India. The awards were hosted by the German Center for Research and Innovation (GCRI). Congratulations to all. Release.  Website

Telecare: A waste of time or the future of health and social care? (UK)

A longish article on the Building Better Healthcare website (for the building industry) gives a fairly comprehensive overview of the current state of telecare in the UK. It ranges from ‘pendant or chord’ [sic] to ‘buddi’ via the TSA Code of Practice and a number of council examples. It’s probably a reasonable response to ‘What is Telecare?’ for industry outsiders: Special report: Telecare: A waste of time or the future of health and social care?

The Eye has it (UK)

It is not TTA’s own Gimlet Eye that features in this item, but Private Eye “a fortnightly British satirical and current affairs magazine” (Wikipedia) which, in the current issue (1341), picks up again [TTA Nov. 2010] the matter of the North Yorkshire and York (NYY) procurement of Tunstall telehealth equipment and the subsequent writing off of its capital value. The page 31 item does not make it into the highly cut-down online version of the magazine and there is nothing in it with which readers of the Yorkshire Post newspaper or of TTA’s own coverage [March 2013] will be unfamiliar.

Rather surprisingly, Private Eye does not pick up on what should be the matter of most concern for taxpayers – the status of the funds paid to Tunstall under the terms of the contract but for which no goods or services have been called off by the health services. We have not had any indication that these funds have been or will be returned to the public purse and, indeed, we speculate that there may not be a contractual requirement or mechanism to do so any more. However, Tunstall’s directors, being ethical people, surely cannot be comfortable with this situation and it will be interesting to see how they resolve it.