Will there ever be a medical ‘tricorder’?

ZDNet teases us that ‘the race is on’, but is it? It’s a great clickbait headline, but the substance of the article illustrates the distance between today’s tech reality versus the picture of Star Trek’s Bones pointing a Tricorder at a patient and immediately pronouncing that your malady was Sakuro’s Disease or some strange Vulcan malady.

Was it that long ago that the Scanadu Scout was the odds-on bet to be the Tricorder? The hype began in 2012 [TTA 23 May 2013] with Indiegogo funding, competing for the XPRIZE, and breathless pronouncements at nearly every healthcare conference. By 2016, it missed the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE finals (with Northern Ireland’s Intelesens), bricked all sold units to date to comply with FDA regulations on investigational devices, and with Chinese money in hand, moved into other testing devices. Those looking for Scanadu today will be disappointed as their website is unreachable. The DeBrowers and medical director Alan Greene, all of whom were fêted on the healthcare scene, are engaged over at Doc.ai with a new mission of decentralizing precision medicine onto the blockchain using AI, using your medical data gathered on an app (of course).

Google X was up next as Scanadu was fading. There were various devices they were hyping and testing as Google’s life sciences skunk works morphed into Verily, but to date they have all petered out, with some questions raised about people and project churn at the Alphabet unit [TTA 6 April 2016] .

Basil Leaf Technologies (as Final Frontier Medical Devices) wound up winning last year’s final Qualcomm XPRIZE with DxtER, which could diagnose and interpret a defined set of 13 health conditions to various degrees, while continuously monitoring five vital health metrics, using a mix of sensors and an AI-powered diagnostic engine. What they are planning to market first is not DxtER, but a single-disease device to monitor congestive cardiac failure (CCF) since FDA approval for DxtER “would take aeons to be approved.”

Urine tests are also a ‘wet’ way into a tricorder state, with both Basil Leaf and the University of Glasgow working on devices which could quickly scan for metabolites in urine that indicate particular diseases.

QuantuMDx’s Q-POC, from Newcastle UK, is expected to launch in 2019 with handheld diagnostics for bacterial and viral infections. In addition to quick diagnostics for outbreaks in less developed countries, they are also developing diagnostics to prescribe the right antibiotic the first time. This is critical in treatment superbugs such as MRSA and MSSA, as well as more garden variety infections which can go wrong quickly. TTA profiled their crowdfunding launch in 2014.

The ZDNet article wraps up with a bit of romance about how a tricorder is needed for Mars, but down here on Earth, the reality is that a tricorder will likely be a combination of devices and analytics, stitched together by machine learning and AI.

Recent developments in digital health – RSM event report

The third successive year’s sellout “Recent developments in digital health” event, hosted by the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) in London, UK, attracted prestigious speakers from across the NHS, industry and academia and provided delegates with a comprehensive overview of digital healthcare advancements in 2015.

Organised by Dr Andrew Harper, from the Telemedicine & eHealth Section at the RSM, the meeting provided insight into how the NHS is lining up to integrate and deploy digital health technologies to advance patient care.

Attracting senior NHS England members including: Paul Rice, Head of Technology Strategy; Dr Mahiben Marruthappu and Dr Harpreet Sood, Senior Fellows to the Chief Executive, the vision for digital health integration and deployment throughout the NHS was finely characterised and explained to delegates.

These sessions were supplemented by real-world experiences from Dr Dominic (more…)

Are health apps ‘discriminating’ against developing countries?

The ‘discrimination’ noted here comes from a study published this month in the Journal of Medical Internet Research’s mHealth and uHealth (JMIR), which attempts to cross-reference ‘high-income country’ and ‘low- and middle-income countries’ diseases with the number of apps available for those diseases. The count is based on a review of literature and apps stores. Unfortunately the study, as reported in FierceMobileHealthcare, sounds quite broad-brush. In general, they assert, there are more apps for high-income country diseases such as dementia and ischemic heart disease. Apps for low-income country diseases, such as lower respiratory diseases and malaria, are fewer. Exceptions are apps for HIV/AIDS, which disproportionately affects low income countries but are abundant, and the dearth of apps for  trachea, bronchus and lung cancers prevalent in high and middle-income countries. No mention of whether certain diseases are more effectively controlled by app usage than others, though. JMIR study.

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/screen-shot-2014-01-10-at-3-00-24-am.png” thumb_width=”150″ /]Better than a ‘malaria app’ would be eradication, and a step towards this is rapid, accurate and inexpensive analysis of this increasingly drug-resistant disease. A Newcastle, UK company, QuantuMDx, founded by molecular biologist Jonathan O’Halloran, will be crowdfunding a miniature malaria blood testing device called Q-POC, which takes a blood sample; through DNA sequencing provides a malaria diagnosis and screens for drug resistance in a record 15 minutes, without running water or stable electricity. The crowdfunding on Indiegogo starting 12 February is to fund the device through clinical trials. Eventual markets are Brazil, India and Africa, then to extend the technology to TB, STDs and cardiovascular disease. MedCityNews