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.

Scanadu gets the #SCAMadu Rage of the Crowd, misses XPRIZE finals, raises $6.5 million

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Scanadu-Scout.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]UPDATED December has been a mense horribilis for Scanadu, what with bricking the Scanadu Scout next year, missing the Qualcomm XPRIZE finals and a low equity raise.

Scanadu Scout heading to Doorstop and Paperweight-ville. This all-in-one diagnostic device, which promoted itself as a tricorder worthy of Star Trek‘s Bones, announced on 13 December that on 15 May next year, it will deactivate all units. (What Bones would say: “It’s dead, Jim!”) Users of this admittedly investigational device who purchased it for $200 starting in 2014, glitches and all, [TTA 5 Apr 14], are facing not only that it will ‘cease to function’ but also presumably the loss of access to their data as well. A Scanadu spokesperson to TechCrunch last week (13 Dec) attributed the action as necessary to comply with FDA regulations requiring investigational use devices to be deactivated at the end of the study.

Scanadu also failed to make the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE Final Two, also announced on the same day. They had already teamed with Intelesens of Northern Ireland. (More below)

Mobihealthnews reported on Sunday 18 December that Scanadu completed an additional $6.5 million equity funding, according to a SEC filing. Investors are not disclosed. The funding dated 7 December is considerably less than their $35 million Series B raise, primarily from Chinese VC investors, back in April 2015 which is the bulk of their now $56.1 million funding to date (CrunchBase). It is hard to interpret this one way or another, but MHN’s Jonah Comstock doesn’t hesitate to relate it to both the Scout bricking and the XPRIZE loss. To this Editor, it’s either conservative or like a line of credit, but why now, and not what you expect after a healthy Series B.

Returning to the soon-to-be bricked Scouts, there is no mention of current customer compensation, swap or discounting on future purchases of other Scanadu products, such as Vitals, the successor to the Scout, or Urine for urine testing. (more…)

A tricorder one step closer: Tyto Care gains FDA clearance for its digital stethoscope (US)

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Mom_using_on_child_ear.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Only a few years ago, the Star of the Future of Digital Health was the ‘tricorder’–that all-in-one vital signs device that Bones on Star Trek wielded with such élan (when he wasn’t uttering ‘He’s dead, Jim’). We haven’t heard much from Scanadu since early last year when it raised $35 million for its Series B and when it teamed with with Northern Ireland’s Intelesens as a finalist for the seemingly never-ending Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE. (Seven finalists are now in consumer testing with awards in early 2017.)

In the meantime, others have been proceeding in bringing their devices into reality far sooner, for real people with everyday health problems who want to examine a child, another family member or even themselves at home. One of these companies is Israel’s Tyto Care (picture above at left), which received FDA 510(k) Class II clearance for its digital stethoscope snap-on to the main device to monitor heart and lung sounds. The device also includes a digital imaging otoscope for ear exams, a throat scope, a skin camera and thermometer swipe. The Tyto home device includes video guidance instructions as part of the smartphone or tablet platform to enable a correct reading. It connects to an online platform to send the information, either in real time or store-and-forward, to a primary care physician the user selects. Tyto Care has been in investigational marketing in the US as well as Israel, bolstered by over $18 million in international investment. They are targeting home DTC as well as professional markets through practices, payers, virtual visit providers and possibly retail (one of their investors is Walgreens Boots). Release If you are attending MEDICA 2017 in Düsseldorf on 16 November, you can see Tyto Care demonstrated at the 5th Annual MEDICA App Competition.

Another all-in-one device is Las Vegas-based MedWand, which is still in pre-marketing. MedWand seems to feature clinic and ‘group’ packages as well as the individual device which includes a pulse oximeter. They received another round of undisclosed financing from Maxim Ventures, the venture arm for semi-conductor developer Maxim Integrated Products at end of September. Release.

Silicon Valley’s betting on ‘citizen doctors’, ‘citizen science’ and useful data

A fascinating and slightly cynical overview of Silicon Valley’s ideological view of health tech that will fix our ‘deeply flawed healthcare system’ and what is getting funded (or not) is in next month’s San Francisco magazine. It profiles the ‘citizen doctor’ founders of vital signs ‘tricorder’ Scanadu (Sam–who’s not often mentioned–and Walter De Brouwer), bacteria tracker uBiome, ‘personal data recorder’ and experience charter We Are Curious (founded by Linda Avey, a long-departed co-founder of 23andme) and touches on the Theranos debacle. While these stories are bracing and in the instance of the De Brouwers, courageous, the notion of ‘citizen science’ (defined as direct-to-consumer health data) and its companion, Dr Eric Topol’s patient-centered/controlled medicine, has its drawbacks, viewed through the slightly gimlety ‘digital doctor’ eye of UC San Francisco’s Dr Robert Wachter. “The overarching message—not just from Theranos but from other companies struggling to get a toehold—is that, ultimately, the laws of economic gravity hold. The companies will have to produce products that add real value, either to patients or to payers. If they don’t, the market—or the regulators—won’t treat them kindly.” Flatly, there aren’t enough Quantified Selfers right now to support these companies. And Mr Market is a hard master. 23andme is back in the good graces of the FDA after a two-year scuffle and back doing direct response TV here in the US. Scanadu’s two products, Vitals (formerly Scout) and Urine are still not through the long slog of FDA clearance. The jury’s out on Theranos. And all these companies, including ‘unicorn’ Theranos, are bleeding cash and nowhere near turning a profit. ModernLuxury. Hat tip to Dr Topol via Twitter, who had a patient-centered conversation with Dr Wachter that we covered back in September.  Another recent podcast with Dr Wachter is here (Community Health Center radio).

Update: ‘Citizen science’ is nothing new, as revealed by the Science Museum (London)–it’s over 300 years old. While it entered the OED in 2014, ‘in 1715, Edmund Halley used Philosophical Transactions to ask colleagues to help him observe a total solar eclipse, prompting observers from all over the country to respond.’ Other examples are from Benjamin Robins in the same publication in 1749 on fireworks, Charles Darwin and evolution, to the present day. The difference is the flow–similar to what we now call crowdsourcing versus the individual using the data to affect their care.

 

‘All-in-one’ SensoSCAN medical sensor launches at HIMSS CHC

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/1110151347a.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]And it’s not Scanadu. Scanadu may be the ‘tricorder’ of the future, but telehealth companies are looking for a here-and-now medical monitoring device that can take the place of multiple health monitors and provide clinically accurate readings. This Editor noted Swiss-American company SensoGRAM‘s press release at last year’s mHealth Summit, but this year, in a large booth near the front of the now HIMSS Connected Health Conference expo floor, they were demonstrating production versions of SensoSCAN. The fingertip sensor, similar to a pulse oximeter, measures blood pressure, respiration rate, heart rate, and O2 saturation, plus activity levels and fall detection, and sends the information to your smartphone via app. It is being sold DTC on their website ‘for informational purposes only’ for $349.99. According to chief administrative officer Lisa D’Auria (her hand at left), they are also in clinical trials for FDA 510(k) clearance, hoping to have within less than a year, and are in progress with CE Marking. Unusually, it is manufactured in the US. Release.

Can digital health solve China’s healthcare quality, distribution problems?

Earlier this year [TTA 21 May] we noted China’s interest, governmental moves and private investments in digital health as part of ‘Internet Plus’: Tencent Holdings and Fosun International led the $35 million Series B round for ‘healthcare tricorder’ Scanadu; ZTE Health; Alibaba‘s investment in data cruncher CITIC 21CN. Now McKinsey partner Florian Then analyzed for Yahoo! Finance the promise of telemedicine and telehealth in that country, and the great problems they must solve. The huge disparity of care between urban and rural hospitals drives patients to the former, regardless of long distances and inconvenience. In population health, the unhealthy habits of much of China’s population make US/UK/EU concerns look unimportant: one of every three of the world’s smokers and 300 million hypertensives live in China.

A possible telemedicine-driven solution would be for urban hospitals to support via doctor consults and email rural hospitals to get patients into the medical system locally and earlier. Education would be delivered online, probably through those 847 million mobile phones on which 83 percent of Chinese Internet users access the web (market intelligence firm IDC). China also appears to be liberalizing (more…)

‘Internet Plus’ nurturing China’s nascent digital health market

Back in April this Editor was surprised by the interest Chinese investment companies had in Scanadu–and vice versa. Two of the three, Tencent Holdings and Fosun International, led the $35 million Series B round. Scanadu in return reportedly is developing products primarily for the China market, such as a urine analyzer.

Somewhat surprising, but it should not be, is the extent that private money tacks to the winds of official Chinese government policy. Ecns.com, the online site of the state China News Service, reports that part of the government ‘Internet Plus’ initiative will be targeted to the health and social care needs of 212 million people over 60 in China–a surprising 15.5 percent of the population. The civil affairs vice-minister has publicly advocated the use of the Internet, cloud computing and big data to transform care for the aged. Oddly, this also includes the development of ‘e-commerce’ for seniors.The language is also interesting and very careful–“The country’s population also features a large number of elderly people who are disabled and who are faced with empty nests and poverty” and a similar to the West shortage of carers. (more…)

Scanadu raises $35 million in Series B, develops for China market

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Scanadu-Scout.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Eric Topol’s Doctorless Patient takes one step closer to reality. The Scanadu ‘tricorder’ vital signs diagnostic ‘hockey puck’ received a major vote of confidence on Monday where it counts–funding. Their Series B of $35 million came from nine investors, led by Tencent Holdings, Fosun International and including Three Leaf Ventures, AME Cloud Ventures, Redmile Group, Relay Ventures, I Globe Partners, Fenox Venture Capital and CBC Capital. Three Leaf, AME and Relay also invested in their Series A. Tencent, Fosun and CBC are Chinese; I Globe is from Singapore. Why the Asian interest? It turns out that China is extremely interested and forward thinking in mobile healthcare–it has a lot of rural area to cover, all health-underserved, as is the rest of Asia. The introduction of the company was made by Jerry Wang, a Yahoo founder and former CEO.

Scanadu is also nearing market: Fortune reports that a $199 consumer version of the Scanadu Scout will be released in 2016, pending FDA approval, and in development is a urinalysis test, Scanadu Urine, an app that would analyze the color of a testing stick. (more…)

Scanadu, Intelesens team for Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE (US/UK)

Does it seem that the run-up to the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE has been going on forever? Perception is reality since its various stages have been taking place since 2013 and the $10 million award won’t be until early 2016. This past August, the finalists were narrowed to 10. Now two are teaming up: the best known, California-based Scanadu and (known to our Readers) Belfast-based Intelesens zensor in what will now be known as Team Scanadu/Intelesens. Team zensor also includes Northern Ireland-based Randox clinical diagnostics, CHIC (Connected Health Innovation Centre) as facilitator and CIGA Healthcare for self-test products. Scanadu shipped the Scout as a non-FDA-cleared working prototype (more…)

Data streams of the future analyzed at NYeC Digital Health

Guest columnist Sarianne Gruber (@subtleimpact) also attended the NYeC Digital Health Conference and reflects on what to do with all that data patients and devices are generating–a natural for her as she is a consultant in data analytics for Encore Health Resources. 

The New York eHealth Collaborative hosted its fourth annual Digital Health Conference at New York City’s Chelsea Piers on November 17 and 18. There I was joined by 850 health-related professionals to listen, engage and see how life science meets digital technology. No doubt we have become a digital culture. Even seated on an airplane, I noticed the gentleman next to me wearing a Fitbit, and we strike up a conversation on step and sleep data and our dislike of the new dashboard. At the conference, Keynote Speaker Dr. Eric Topol, a Cleveland Clinic cardiologist and a leading practitioner of digital medicine, shared with us his thoughts on what it means be a part of this digital revolution as a patient and a doctor. Technology changes the scope of individual care. Advances in genomics now gives us answers based on our DNA that will genetically determine the success of medications and treatments. Epigenomics, a molecular diagnostics company, can prescreen an unborn baby of a mother with cancer with a simple blood test, sequencing the DNA, to manage her therapy. I was fascinated to hear that a genomic signal sensor can detect heart attacks and warn you of this possibly fatal event, and that necklace for heart failure patients can monitor fluid status averting repeated readmissions for these patients. Dr. Topol believes that digitized 24/7 patient health data will shift the patient–doctor relationship. Bringing in your self-monitored data, eliminates “the how are you feeling questions” and instead the doctor can confirm diagnosis and start treating the patient. “Patient owning data is a foreign concept and the digital revolution ushered this in.“ (more…)

NYeC Digital Health Conference (New York City)

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/nyec_dhc_2014_logo.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]17-18 November 2014, Pier 60, Chelsea Piers, New York

The New York eHealth Collaborative will hold its fourth annual Digital Health Conference with two full days of meetings and presentations. They are returning to Chelsea Piers on the Hudson River which will have ample room for the more than 850 attendees expected.

  • Keynote speakers include Eric J. Topol, MD, Director, Scripps Translational Science Institute and the controversial
    Ezekiel J. Emanuel, MD, Vice Provost for Global Initiatives & Chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, University of Pennsylvania.
  • The agenda includes ‘Big Data in Healthcare: Hype and Hope on the Path to Personalized Medicine’ to ‘Designing Wearables for the Long Run’ with a stop at Xanadu…no, Scanadu courtesy of their chief medical officer Alan Greene MD speaking on ‘Science, Sensors, and Superpowers—From Sci-Fi to Reality’.

Important: TTA readers receive a 10% registration discount. Use code TTA when registering at DigitalHealthConference.com  TTA is a media partner of the 2014 Digital Health Conference.

34 to 22 to 10: the Tricorder XPrize finalists

The Qualcomm Tricorder XPrize has arrived at the ‘Final 10’ for the $10 million prize going to the best (and working) “precision diagnostic technolog(y), making definitive health assessment available directly to “health consumers.”” . Less than one year ago, 34 companies had made it through from the initial 255 [TTA 12 Nov 13]. Further reductions brought the next stage to 22. Making the Final 10 are, as expected, Scanadu, but the UK/NI favorite has to be zensor (Intelesens) with its sensor-based patient monitoring in home, hospitals and assisted living (which your Editors have been following since 2010). Four are American companies with one Canadian (Cloud DX), one Indian (Danvantri), one Taiwanese (Dynamical Biomarkers Group), tw0 from the UK (zensor and SCANurse) and one from Slovenia (MESI). Next steps? Supplying X Prize with working prototypes sometime this wenter, 30 complete devices which will be tested at a medical center (not disclosed) May-October 2015 and the award in January 2016. Press release, Mobihealthnews.

Not X enough for you? There’s another, little-noticed XPrize–the Nokia Sensing XChallenge (more…)

Of tricorders and lemmings

Telehealth & Telecare Aware is privileged to break the news of the new Tricorder-like device developed by iMonsys called EIMO, a compliment we take to heart. Watch the demo video:
 

 
It seems perhaps a trifle churlish therefore to point out that there is similar functionality in other products under development, such as Wello, which looks like it is going to become available about the same time, too. However the Wello slips over your phone so is much less intrusive and, some would say, has more cool. There are of course a bunch of competitors for the Tricorder X prize too, perhaps most famously the Scanadu Scout.

To explain where the lemmings come in, this reviewer went to a Wayra event recently (at which there were some brilliant pitches, especially from Cookiesmart (telepathology), Handle My Health, My Clinical Outcomes, Virtually Free and BreakBad, that we hope to cover in a future blog).

On arrival, the warm-up had already started, given by a financier who asked if anyone remembered Star Trek. He went on to say (more…)

UK-centered review of mobile health tech

Perhaps it’s the focus of this US-based Editor, but other than the occasional feature in the Guardian, Times or Telegraph, there are few articles on digital health written as general audience overviews of problems to be solved and relative capabilities of devices, rather than whiz-bang gadget fests. Thus this Editor’s attention to one just published in TechAdvisor/PC Advisor. Springing off of Quantified Selfer Dr Larry Smarr’s early diagnosis of Crohn’s disease, and based on his principle of ‘devices can help us notice trends before they become serious’, the writer reviews enabling tech such as mobile ECG AliveCor; Azoi’s Wello iPhone case/Android peripheral measuring heart rate, blood pressure, temperature and lung capacity; the overabundance of unproven health apps leading to the NHS’ Choices HealthApps library [TTA 9 May 13, RSM meeting summary 22 Apr] and web-based Vitrucare from Dynamic Health Systems for long-term chronic condition management. Oddly the article mentions Qualcomm and the Tricorder X Prize without in the same (heavy) breath, Scanadu. (Ed. Note–a check of their blog indicates no update on their delayed shipments due to production problems, TTA 5 Apr) Medical apps and devices are placing the future of healthcare in the palm of our hands

Scanadu hitting the tech ‘glitch’ wall?

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Blog-04-04.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Tricorder XPrize-qualifying Scanadu, which eventually raised a stunning $1.6 million on Indiegogo [TTA 23 May 13], has stopped delivery of units to its early backers which started on 31 March. According to its blog late this week, their readings were not working as expected for temperature, there were inconsistencies in reading scans between the Scanadu device (categorized as ‘investigational’) and the app (via the smartphone), and the manufacturing tool to make the devices broke. Scanadu CEO Walter De Brouwer stated that “We hope that this (the delay) will not be more than 8-12 weeks.” The Scanadu Scout was also submitted for FDA clearance but requires usability studies to gain approval. In this Editor’s experience, all tech devices eventually hit the ‘glitch wall’, either at or near the outset or when the system scales up. Better to fix now than later, and kudos for their C-level for being forthcoming–because most are not. Also MedCityNews.

The CES of Health: post-scripts

It’s Everywhere, Everyday, Disruptive, Not Impressive and Still ‘Bicycles for Fish’.

Neil Versel’s first major article recaps the Digital Health Summit ‘Point of Care Everywhere’ panel with Dr. Joseph Kvedar of Partners HealthCare/Center for Connected Health, Walter De Brouwer, founder and CEO of Scanadu (the tri-corder everyone’s waiting for) and Laura Mitchell, VP of business development at ‘grizzled pioneer’ in telecare and telehealth GrandCare Systems. The key is integration–for Dr. Kvedar, making it ‘about life, personal and social’; for Mr. DeBrower, bringing digital health into the home; for Ms. Mitchell, persuading long-term-care providers that technology provides useful, actionable information. Some surprises here: Scanadu will be shipping 8,800 units in March to its Indiegogo supporters and is going into a Scripps Health clinical trial; Dr. Kvedar admitted that the latest CCH startup, social wellness site Wellocracy [TTA 30 Oct] is “still searching for its audience.” The headline is “Mobile health has a lot of power, but it’s raw and new”–but is that helpful in positioning it to the Big Users–payers, pharma, providers–who are not all that daring? Mobihealthnews 

Everyday Health with the Digital Health Summit announced on Thursday their 2014 awards for innovation to five US companies for ‘achievement in technology innovation aimed at improving health outcomes.’ They include Scanadu but also four less heralded companies: (more…)