Tech that assists those with speech impairments, telemedicine for mapping public health

This year’s trend to develop technologies that solve specific but important problems, such as improving navigation for the visually impaired, [TTA 8 June] continues:

  • Voice-controlled assistance systems are becoming commonplace, from improved interactive voice response (IVR) to Siri, Echo, and Alexa. Their limitation is that their recognition systems understand only standard, not impaired or even heavily accented speech. For those with the latter, a Tel Aviv-based startup called Voiceitt has developed Talkitt, an app that learns an individual’s speech based on basic, everyday spoken (or typed input) phrases and after a training period, converts them into normal audio speech or text messages on a tablet or smartphone. This aids with everyday life as well as devices like Echo and Alexa. Voiceitt is out of the Dreamit Health accelerator and was just seed funded with $2 million. This Editor notes from the TechCrunch article that it’s described as ‘the thin edge of the wedge’ and ‘a market with need’. It will be introduced this year to health systems and schools to assist those with speech impairments due to health conditions. Hat tip to Editor Emeritus Steve Hards
  • Diagnosing degenerative diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, which is preventable but if untreated eventually blinds the patient, is doubly difficult when the patient is in a rural, economically disadvantaged, predominantly minority, and medically underserved area of the US. Ophthalmologist Seema Garg has been on a quest since 2009 to have this recognized as a public health threat. The North Carolina Diabetic Retinopathy Telemedicine Network out of University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, headed by Dr. Garg, collaborated with five NC clinics to recruit patients with diabetes. Her team then trained primary care staff to take digital retinal photographs transmitted over a secure network to be examined for symptoms. The public health study used Geographic Information Systems (GIS)-mapping for patient accessibility to ophthalmologists, demographics, and risk factors such as higher A1C levels, minority race, older age, kidney disease, and stroke. JAMA Ophthalmology, Futurity  Hat tip to Toni Bunting of TASK Ltd. (and former TTA Ireland editor)

Phobic? There’s an app for that.

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/phobia10.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Everyone has certain fears or things that have a high ‘eeewwww’ factor (see left). Phobious, a new app, uses virtual reality on a smartphone that after several sessions of gradual exposure, desensitizes the user to potentially disabling fears such as dentists, insects, flying and dogs. (Can it work in the backyard when you’re about to be attacked by bees and Godzilla-sized weeds?–The Gimlet Eye) It was developed by a group from Barcelona by way of Charm City a/k/a Baltimore, Maryland, participating in the prestigiously backed DreamIt Health Baltimore accelerator’s 2014 class. The app is currently available for $49 in the Apple App Store and Google Play, with a 3D goggle device VR system due in September at $149–$299 with two psychology sessions. According to MedCityNews, the founders are seeking $750,000 in funding, plan to develop a clinical quality version and obtain FDA clearance and CE Marking. The progress in VR therapy made in less than four years is startling when this Editor considers the price of the CAREN system (Motek and Polycom) which was tested on Iraq and Afghanistan veterans back in June 2010: $500,000. (Ed. note: if you have a phobia about typos, don’t look at the Phobious website!)

mHealth Summit 2013: Sunday Venture+ Forum

Lois Drapin, Founder & CEO of The Drapin Group, provides a recap of the Venture+ Forum held the day before the official start of the mHealth Summit 2013. This is the first of her dispatches, courtesy of HIT Consultant.

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/mooc1.png” thumb_width=”150″ /]Yes, it’s true. Sunday’s Venture+ Forum, one of the day-long events that takes place before the official start of the mHealth Summit 2013, was a lot like living Gartner’s Hype Cycle in one day. Before I tell you why, let me first offer my sincere apologies to Gartner Inc. (I’ll reference the Gartner methodology in underlined italics). Absolutely no offense is meant, but this borrowed framework could be the assist I need at 1 a.m. to offer up my POV.

Keynote Speaker: Jack Young, Director of Qualcomm Ventures

The day began with Jack Young, Director of Qualcomm Ventures and head of the Qualcomm Life Fund. He talked about trends that we should all know by now— the rising costs of healthcare (at $8K per human per capita, health is the most expensive subscription in our home); the aging population (a company in Japan reported that it had sold more adult diapers than baby diapers this past year). Qualcomm sees the Technology Trigger in the emergence of wearables or “mini working computers” and with big data in health such as claims data, EMR data, genomic data, consumer and social data. The wearables industry is emerging, having come into our lives connected to our smartphones. In this way, if you will, our social-ness is changing too. When you wear a wearable (watch, glasses, shoe, shirt, pin—whatever item(s) we choose), we are more likely to accept that “I’m on the journey” to health, wellness and well-being. We’re involving our friends, families and co-workers. The data that is, or will be coming from our use of wearables and other sources, will give us meaningful insights that can change behavior and health outcomes. It sounds a bit like ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’, yet who doesn’t love an investor with ‘California Dreamin’’ on his mind. I know I do.

But I already could feel the climb toward the Peak of Inflated Expectations. It really didn’t seem too far away or too high up. (more…)