TTA’s Week: CES as major health event, Walgreens Boots, CVS-Aetna, Verily’s billion, and more

 

 

We round up the Official Healthcare Circus of CES, Verily rolls along with $1 bn in investment, and Walgreens Boots finally makes an alliance splash with Microsoft

It’s Official: CES is now a health tech event (And still a circus! We round up the top coverage so you don’t have to)
News roundup: Walgreens Boots-Microsoft, TytoCare, CVS-Aetna moves along, Care Innovations exits Louisville
Verily, Google’s life sciences arm, gathers in another billion to go…where? (A mystery)

Our first full week in January is full of news and events, from CES to RSM, plus lots of healthcare acceleration!

News roundup: CES’ early beat, CVS-Aetna pauses, digital health fizzes, Yorkshire & Humber Propels
Events, Dear Friends, Events part 2: Newcastle and Texas accelerate, Aging2.0 NYC gets happy, AutoBlock’s Meetup, Wearable Tech, HealthImpact East
Events, Dear Friends, Events: Hancock at the RSM, MedStartr NOLA Challenge, RSM and The King’s Fund

We start our 2019 first in West Africa with a health facility mapping initiative addressing epidemics and service distribution. On to the UK with Babylon Health’s chatbot problems revealing an increasingly fractious relationship with the business press–one of our most read articles ever. And 3rings may be exiting, but doing so with grace and consideration–another Top Read.

Healthsites, eHealth Africa mapping health facility locations in West Africa to improve emergency care (Fighting epidemics and improving disaster response using health tech)
Is Babylon Health the next Theranos? Or just being made out to be by the press? (Soapbox) (A few best practices might stop a growing pile-on–or a Big Problem)
3rings’ well-handled transition to their March shutdown (updated) (Referring their clients to other UK companies based on the customer’s needs) 

Our final Alert for 2018 ended with a Dickens quote and hope–for an effective treatment for dementia. Assistive tech crosses over to transportation. Health blockchainers merge, CVS-Aetna held up again, and there’s comings and goings–one good, one bad.

Happy Holidays and a most Festive Season! (Best wishes from the Editors)

Ultrasound to break up brain amyloid plaques moving to human trials in 2019 (Very hopeful news)
News roundup: CVS-Aetna still on hold, blockchainers Change acquires PokitDoc, Teladoc’s COO resigns under insider cloud, Clapp joins Cricket (Includes two comings and goings)
Kompaï robotics gets FABULOS in EU Horizon 2020 automated minibus competition (Assistive tech in robotics crosses over to transportation)

VA gets back to expanding home telehealth for veterans. Older tech and even furniture integrates with digital health. And No18 goes to war with REALLY old tech–calling Godzilla and Tokyo!

VA expands telehealth services again with T-Mobile’s 70,000 lines (Adding home telehealth access for distant veterans is back to their old vision)
Why they matter: the $225 million acquisition of Propeller Health; Hill-Rom’s integration of EarlySense’s bed monitor (Reviving old tech with the new means $$ to young companies)
Just the Fax. Or Matt Hancock versus the Fax Machines (UK) (A solution leading to Unintended Consequences)

A medical tricorder, once so close, fades into the distance as reality sets in. CVS-Aetna faces an unexpected hurdle. A PERS tech company loses its innovative muse. And plenty of company news!

News roundup: NeuroPace’s brain study, Welbeing’s Liverpool win, VA’s Apple talks, Medtronic’s diabetes move
Unaliwear’s model/muse, Joan Hall, passes at 85 (A remarkable woman)
Will there ever be a medical ‘tricorder’? (Not a race, but a search. Don’t miss David Doherty/3G Doctor’s comment)
CVS-Aetna merger closes, but hardly ‘rubber stamped’ in Federal court (There once was a judge who threw a spanner…)

Is there really hope that telehealth will finally be accepted by US doctors because they will actually be paid for it–and then pay vendors? And in No Surprise, Google exercises right of ownership, reorgs DeepMind Health into new division.

UK’s DeepMind loses Streams, health projects to Google Health (DeepMind UK staff, initiatives stay–for now)
The wind may finally be at the back of telehealth distribution and payment (US) (Real advances in Medicare reimbursement could not come sooner for emerging and struggling companies)

Babylon Health’s AI diagnostic efficacy challenged. CVS-Aetna’s merger out of the oven by Thanksgiving. And a win for TECS with Canary Care.

Is Babylon Health’s AI on par with a human diagnostician? Claim questioned in ‘The Lancet’. (What $100 million should be solving)
Comings and goings: CVS-Aetna finalizing, Anthem sued over merger, top changes at IBM Watson Health 
Canary Care re-emerges as Canary Care Global Ltd, confirms continued operations (A happier outcome)


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Telehealth & Telecare Aware: covering the news on latest developments in telecare, telehealth, telemedicine and health tech, worldwide–thoughtfully and from the view of fellow professionals

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donna.cusano@telecareaware.com

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It’s Official: CES is now a health tech event

CES is now, officially, a health tech event. It’s not just the timing before CES of the flashy but apparently cratering JP Morgan annual healthcare investment conference in the absurdly pricey venue of San Francisco (FierceBiotech on the #MoveJPM backlash; the general disillusion with it expressed well here). It’s the fact that whatever mainstreaming health tech has actually accomplished, it’s far better represented in Las Vegas. Always a place of beginnings, endings, fun, and gambles taken, health tech fits right in, big or small.

CES reported that 2019 boasted an increase of 25 percent health-related exhibitors and a 15 percent increase in the amount of floor space dedicated to health tech. One winner was a big gamble by a small company–Living in Digital Times, which organizes and stages the Digital Health SummitTen years later, it turned out to be right place, right time for the founders who work hard to keep it on trend. Lifestyle, robotics, self-care, assistive tech (even exoskeletons), wearables, cosmetic “wellness” devices like P&G’s Opté, and Alexa-type gadgets all now fit into the CES purview. Trial balloons by young companies, AI-powered concept devices from big companies, watches (including the Apple-beater Move ECG from the revitalized Withings TTA 10 Oct 18 and Omron’s HeartGuide), and robots all appeared. Samsung again brought out a brace of concept robots, ElliQ is finally available for pre-order after three years at a measly $1,500, and yes, Pepper from Softbank made its appearance and apparently didn’t wilt.

Sleep tech was another hot item, with a spin on sleep diagnostics or improvement from many products. A brainwave product, Urgonight from France, claims to be able to train your brain to sleep better. (Send one to Rick Astley who was a poster child for not Sleeping.)  Mental health is a natural crossover into sleep tech and robots, with a $5,000 Japanese robot, Lovot, capable of responsive cuddling and comfort.

CNET has probably the best coverage and articles on health which stick to the facts (slim in some cases as they are); anyone who wants to catch up with the feel and flavor of this three-ring circus can start and stay there. Their full show coverage is here. Dr. Jayne at HISTalk also did an excellent health-related product roundup in her Curbside Consult column. Mobihealthnews also has a very long running list of health tech pictures and announcements as part of its limited coverage, including the mea culpas and promised transparency of onetime health ed unicorn Outcome Health [TTA 29 Jan 18].

Beyond the plethora of products encouraging ever more to come forward, what ones will even make it to market, far more be winners? Aside from the Samsungs and P&Gs, which of these young companies planting their stake at CES will be there next year?  As in past CES, the wheel goes round and round, and where it stops, nobody knows. Even the JPM investors. 

A critical take on Pepper’s Parliament Question Time (UK)

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/103886629_mediaitem103886628.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Perhaps this Editor should have been less credulous. Somewhere, this Editor failed to notice a mention in the press she picked up that Pepper’s Question Time before the Commons select committee on education had been fully prearranged and scripted. (Thank you and a Big Tip of The Hat to reader Alistair Appleby for pointing that out.) It made Pepper’s appearance a little less than All That Sensational–more like a pre-recording delivered by an automaton prompted through a Middlesex University student’s smartphone.

Mr. Appleby provided a link to a Wired UK article that bears close reading. It sharply critiques not only the presentation, but also the trivialization of what the select committee was really examining, which was the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” of large-scale automation and its disruptive effects on the work of the all-too-near future.

Wired‘s reporter Gian Volpicelli sat in the front row and acidulously observed that Pepper’s appearance was a PR stunt that detracted from the substantive (I think) conversation that preceded it.

“For one hour before Pepper’s triumphal entrance, three experts from UCL, Nesta and Siemens engaged just in that kind of nuanced, data-based, academic conversation with the Committee’s MPs. They studiously tackled issue after unresolved issue, from AI bias, to education reform, to pure epistemology. “What is knowledge? Why should we believe something?,” asked UCL professor Rose Luckin at one point. “What a wonderful philosophical discourse,” committee member William Wragg MP would remark – under the austere blue gaze of Maggie Thatcher’s portrait. “

It does sound like the usual academic drift-off into La La Land, making it a discussion on Big Issues That Make Your Head Hurt because they have a thousand possible outcomes out of H.G. Wells and Aldous Huxley, but what is remarkable is that neither BBC News nor the Guardian saw fit to mention the experts’ testimony.

Mr. Volpicelli rightly labels Pepper’s appearance a media stunt that gained all the attention versus a real discussion about the societal effect of future robots. Will it be the Pepper-future of cute machines that can perform few tasks and are non-threatening? Will it be the Atlas-future, the one projected by Boston Dynamics’ humanoid athlete-robot that does parkour and skillfully leaps large boxes, funded by DARPA to be a search and rescue robot? Will the future belong to the weirdly humanoid Frubber-skinned Sophia, who fell into the ‘uncanny valley’ at CES last January [TTA 23 Jan] — the same CES where Pepper ‘fainted’ to a non-working slump (schlump?) More than likely, it will be the robotic arm that flips and bags the fast-food burger that is more of the immediate future–and displacing low-wage workers–than any of the above. We need to have a very serious chat about Pepper’s pointless parliamentary pantomime 

Pepper pays a first-ever robot visit to Commons on the future of AI and robotics on education, older adult care (UK)

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/103886629_mediaitem103886628.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Pepper paid a visit to a House of Commons select committee on education and became the very first robot to meet with MPs. Accompanied by students from Middlesex University, where Pepper is part of an initiative on teaching primary school-level children, he made a short presentation about the future of artificial intelligence in education and older adult care.

Certainly his introduction has some historic value. Pepper bowed and then said in his rather high-pitched and somewhat Japanese-inflected voice: “Good morning, chair [Robert Halfon]. Thank you for inviting me to give evidence today. My name is Pepper and I am a resident robot at Middlesex University.”

Pepper used voice, gesture, and his embedded front tablet to explain about the role robots like him will play in education and healthcare. At Middlesex, final year students in robotics, education, psychology, and biomedicine like Joana Miranda, one of his two escorts, work with Pepper on projects such as developing numeracy skills in primary school students. According to BBC News, Tory MP Lucy Allan dryly noted that Pepper was “better than some of the ministers we have had before us”.

In healthcare for older adults, the Pepper robot developed by Softbank is part of a major research project funded by the EU, the Japanese Government and UK’s Horizon 2020. The objective of the three-year CARESSES program is to develop a culturally aware robot to provide care suited to a wide variety of individuals and reduce loneliness. Another desired outcome is to relieve pressure in hospitals and care homes by promoting independent living at home with a care robot.

The education committee is examining the “fourth industrial revolution” which impacts STEM education, school curriculum, and workforce skills (and reskilling). Videos on BBC News and Gevul News (YouTube) A tart take on Pepper versus PM Theresa May from The Guardian. (And no fainting, as Pepper did at CES earlier this year.) Hat tip to The King’s Fund weekly newsletter.

Japan as aging bellwether: experiential VR, claim that robots increase activity by 50 percent

Japan’s population is the oldest on average in the world, with over 27 percent of its population aged over 65 and the highest average life expectancy at 83.7 years. Writer Shiho Fukada spent a year researching aging tech supported by the Pulitzer Center. In STAT, he profiles innovation in two areas we’ve highlighted previously: VR experiences for those who are restricted in their mobility and the effect of robots in elder care.

Bringing experiences to the older person. A Tokyo therapist, Kenta Toshima, takes videos of his travels to 29 countries and 55 cities, then shares them with his patients on a smartphone mounted on an inexpensive cardboard viewer to simulate full VR. His concept, Virtually Able, has positive results and he is trying to develop a study. Yet in the US, Dr. Sonya Kim has been developing this in a commercial model via OneCaringTeam and Aloha VR.  [TTA 21 Nov 16 and 11 Nov 17These VR experiences for residents of long-term care are being researched for easing anxiety, increasing positive feelings, stimulation, and connectedness in older people with mobility difficulties or dementia, with Cedars-Sinai in LA evaluating VR for pain reduction with mixed results.

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Pepper-daughter.jpg” thumb_width=”200″ /]Robotics in monitoring and connectedness. It’s another look at Palro and Pepper [TTA 24 Oct 17], this time in action at the Flos Higashi-kojiya Senior Care Facility in Tokyo, at a nursing home run by the Social Welfare Corporation of Tokyo Seishinkai, and in a home with an older couple. Robots, as we’ve noted, are stepping in the care and connectedness gap.

  • For older adults living at home by themselves, interactive robots like Pepper can aid with tasks but as you’ll see in the video, the wide-eyed Pepper becomes a ‘daughter-bot’ (left and above from the video) that remarkably increases engagement between this older couple in a typically crowded Japanese home.
  • In Japan, as in the West, there’s a shortage of care staff able to engage with residents in senior living. In the video, Palro struts across a table to the admiration of a group of older women in assisted living and leads them in an exercise routine.
  • In a Tokyo nursing home, a Guardian desktop robot not only monitors the well-being of patients in nursing care using audio and video, but also communicates interactively with the patient to give a feeling of personal attention and encouragement. Mr. Fukada at 06:14 quotes a study that residents living with robots are 50 percent more active and that 70 percent without robots are less active, but unfortunately this is not footnoted.

What is evident is that Japan continues to pioneer in robotics for care of older adults and in general (CES), but the takeup in other countries, with some exception for Europe, is not that great–yet. Previously in TTA: Japan’s workarounds for adult care shortage, Japan’s hard lessons on an aging population

 

Robots, robots at CES: ElliQ, Sophia the ‘humanoid’, companions, pets, butlers, maids…and at a supermarket near you?

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Overrun-by-Robots1-183×108.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]CES as usual was a Robot Showcase, though without the presence of our recent Spotlight Robot Kompaï.  One of our other Spotlighters, Intuition Robotics‘ ElliQ companion robot, won the CES Best of Innovation Award in the Smart Home category (release).

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/sophia-header.jpg” thumb_width=”100″ /]Much press went to Hanson Robotics’ Sophia, a Frubber-skinned humanoid robot from Hong Kong. It (She?) sees through cameras and sensors, through them recognizes speech and facial expressions, responds through natural language processing, and has a motion control system. It started walking on its own at CES courtesy of DRC-HUBO-developed legs. Its creator David Hanson, backed by Disney (Animatronics!) looks forward to an adult-level of general intelligence via AI development for future uses such as customer service, caring for children or older adults, or therapy. It has the ‘uncanny valley’ problem of verging on lifelike. The BBC interviewed Sophia at CES. (No, they didn’t sign her to be a presenter.) SFGate. The AI crowd in Silicon Valley and Facebook’s AI head with the interesting name of Yann LeCun performed a Two-Minute Hate about her to a rather partisan writer in The Verge. (Not Invented Here Syndrome? Perhaps they’re just envious.)

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/aibo.jpg” thumb_width=”100″ /]Most of CES’ robots were a Parade of Cute and When Not Cute, Wistful. Or Not Working. Sony’s brought back the Aibo robot dog out of its 2006 retirement with the ERS 1000, which lacks only a non-shed coat to be puppy-like. According to the WSJ, $1,700 will make Aibo your companion–and it doesn’t need food or walking. Blue Frog Robotics’ Buddy is a family companion, control point for connected homes, and security monitor. You might trip over it and the $1,500 cost. More in the utility line is Ubtech Robotics’ Walker which, unlike the Walker of ‘Point Blank’, isn’t looking for his $93,000 but will walk point around your house for security, connect you to your home controls, and ‘butler’ your appointments, emails, and video calls. The maid’s duties will be done by the Aeolus Robot, which will sweep, pick up and put away your things, and also do some assistant work. Honda’s 3E robots are Transformer-like for more commercial duties like assistants, smart scooters, and carriers. A more here-and-now robot addressing a major need is another robotic glove for those with hand or mobility restrictions, the leather glove-like NeoMano.

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Pepper-faints.jpg” thumb_width=”100″ /]Not every robot was on their best behavior. Going on the fritz were LG’s CLOi smart home controller–on stage, no less. YYD’s latest robot, not only a home assistant but also a health status/chronic disease monitor, died into screen code in front of a BBC reporter. One of Softbank’s Pepper robots (left) was so overwhelmed by the excitement of CES that it fainted. Perhaps time to return to the calm of the Ostend, Belgium hospital? [TTA 21 June 16] Wired UK, South China Morning Post, CNet

Back in the Real World. Welcomed into Scottish supermarket chain Margiotta was ‘ShopBot’, dubbed Fabio. In an experiment run by Heriot-Watt University for the BBC’s Six Robots & Us (UK viewers only), Fabio was programmed with directions to hundreds of items in the store. It had an abundance of cute. Customers initially liked Fabio. Unfortunately, its conversational quality and conveyance of information were sorely lacking. For instance, Fabio told customers to go to the ‘alcohol section’ when they wanted beer. (Now if they wanted Scotch….) On top of it, its mobility was limited, and the disability laws don’t apply. So the Margiottas sacked Fabio, with regrets but no severance, after one week on the job. Oh. Telegraph (paywalled), Yahoo News UK

Japan’s workarounds for adult care shortage: robots, exoskeletons, sensors

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/robear.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]The problem of Japan’s aging population–the oldest worldwide with 32 percent aged 60+ (2013, RFE)–and shortage of care workers has led to a variety of ‘digital health solutions’ in the past few years, some of them smart, many of them gimmicky, expensive, or non-translatable to other cultures. There have been the comfort robot semi-toys (the PARO seal, the Chapit mouse), the humanoid exercise-leading robots (Palro), and IoT gizmos. Smarter are the functional robots which can transfer a patient to/from bed and wheelchair disguised as cuddly bears (Robear, developed by Riken and Sumitomo Riko) and Panasonic’s exoskeletons for lifting assistance.

Japan’s problem: how to support more older adults in homes with increasingly less care staff, and how to pay for it. The Financial Times quotes Japan government statistics that by 2025 there will be 2.5m skilled care workers but 380,000 more are needed. The working age population is shrinking by 1 percent per year and immigration to Japan is near-nonexistent. Japan is looking to technology to do more with fewer people, for instance transferring social contact or hard, dirty work to robots. The very real challenge is to produce and support the devices at a reasonable price for both domestic use and–where the real money is–export. 

The Abe government in 2012 budgeted ¥2.39bn ($21m) for development of nursing care robots, with the Ministry for Economy, Trade and Industry tasked to find and subsidize 24 companies–not a lot of money and parceled out thinly. Five years later, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare determined that “deeper work is needed on machinery and software that can either replace human care workers or increase staff efficiency.” Even Panasonic concurred that robots cannot offset the loss of human carers on quality of services. At this point. Japan leads in robots under development with SoftBank’s Pepper and NAO, with Toshiba’s ChihiraAiko ‘geisha robot’ (Guardian) debuting at CES 2015 and Toyota’s ongoing work with their Human Support Robot (HSR)–a moving article on its use with US Army CWO Romy Camargo is here. (attribution correction and addition–Ed.)

The next generation of care aids by now has moved away from comfort pets to sensors and software that anticipate care needs. Projects under development include self-driving toilets (sic) that move to the patient; mattress sensor-supplied AI which can sense toileting needs (DFree) and other bed activity; improved ‘communication robots’ which understand and deploy stored knowledge. Japan’s businesses also realize the huge potential of the $16 trillion China market–if China doesn’t get there first–and other Asian countries such as Thailand, a favored retirement spot for well-off Japanese. In Japanese discussions, ‘aging in place’ seems to be absent as an alternative, perhaps due to small families.

But Japan must move quickly, more so than the leisurely pace so far. Already Thailand is pioneering smart cities with Intel and Dell [TTA 16 Aug 16] and remote patient monitoring with Western companies such as Philips [TTA 30 Aug]. There’s the US and Western Europe, but incumbents are plentiful and the bumpy health tech ride tends not to suit Japanese companies’ deliberate style. Can they seize the day?  Financial Times (PDF here if paywalled) Hat tip to reader Susanne Woodman of BRE (Photo: Robear) 

Robot greeter on the job at Ostend, Belgium hospital–and those killer robots

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Robot-Belgique-1.png” thumb_width=”250″ /]This humanoid (but not Terminator-like, its developers are careful to say!) robot is currently on the job as a receptionist at Ostend, Belgium hospital AZ Damiaan. Equipped with healthcare-oriented software developed by local company Zora Robotics, the Aldebaran/SoftBank Robotics’ demure Pepper robot stands 1.2 meters (just under 4 feet), speaks 19 languages and works for about 20 hours on a single charge. Pepper communicates via its tablet interface but also is responsive to actions and emotions in what SoftBank calls a natural and intuitive way. The Pepper robot was first deployed in the hospital’s maternity area. The video has an awwwww…. illustration of a newborn grasping Pepper’s fingers. Previously, the toddler sized Nao robot worked with patients at AZ Damiaan for physical therapy. (Nao robots have also been featured in modern dance and as greeters at Japanese hotels and banks.) Reuters (video 1:51)

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/robottoy-1.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]This is a far more benign take on robots than the Daily Mail‘s recent screamer that “Killer robots are ‘quickly moving toward reality’ and humanity only has a YEAR to ban them” which conflates drone weaponry (human guided) with ground robots (human guided). As of now, They’re Still Puppets (more…)