Hotwire | The Health Tech Weekly Round up – 17 February - Hotwire

by Catherine Desmidt

The Health Tech Weekly Round up – 17 February

We take a look at this week’s biggest developments, research and investment news from the world of Health Tech.

mClinica raises $6.3M

The Singapore-based startup was founded in 2012 and seeks to provide healthcare data in Southeast Asia through its in-country work with pharmaceutical stores. Unlike the US or the UK where the consumer healthcare space is dominated by large chains like Boots or Walgreens, mClinica argue that Southeast Asia is dominated by small independent stores which make gathering data incredibly difficult. They believe mobile devices and the internet have the power to change this, their solution tracking what medicines are prescribed, dispensed and bought in small stores – which account for 97% of all pharmacies in the region. Customers simply provide their mobile number once to register and at tills to collect points and discounts. “We can make a massive leap forward [and create] a national infrastructure in just a few months,” CEO and Founder Farouk Meralli explained to TechCrunch.

Brits want FitBits added to their ‘work perks’

A new report titled ‘Digital Dexterity: Denied’ from technology giant Ricoh UK polled 2000 British workers revealing surprising new workplace trends. 37% of those polled said they would move jobs to a company which had better digital skills, with 46% saying they would like wearables with health-tech apps added to their inclusive employee packages. Chas Moloney, director of Ricoh UK said, “Mastering digital dexterity is critical for career building and workers are looking to employers to do the heavy lifting and ensure opportunities for skills training are in place.”

Meet Molly, the virtual medical assistant developed by San Francisco startup Sensely

The AI powered app seeks to turn traditional ideas of artificial intelligence on its head. This app is friendly and caring, they ask users to take their blood pressure or measure their weight in a non-demanding fashion and then take data from a wide range of Bluetooth-enabled devices. Based on a short conversation with patients, the technology can calculate the risk of the patient.  “Around 5 percent of the population is responsible for about 50 percent of (healthcare) costs, said Sensely found and CEO Adam Odessky in a phone interview with MedCity News. “We focused on the people who are frequent flyers, who are in and out of the hospital and have a chronic disease, whether that’s heart failure, COPD or diabetes.”

SwyMed the telemedicine backpack brings ‘care anywhere’

The Massachusetts based company wants to bring telemedicine to remote locations with low-to-no connectivity.  They have unveiled SwyMed their DOT Telemedicine Backpack this week ahead of HIMSS next month. The idea is that home healthcare workers can provide more care in remote locations rather than requesting expensive emergency department visits. The backpack contains modems, antennae, tablets and a fifteen-hour battery as well as traditional health tools like ultrasounds. Jeffrey Urdan, chief operating officer of SwyMed, told MobiHealthNews. “What do you do today? You dial on the radio, call on the phone, you describe what you see, the doctor kind of makes the best guess at what you’re describing and it’s just a longer, more complicated interaction. With this technology, you walk into the house with a backpack, you fire up a video conference, and the doctor can interact with the patient directly. The doctor is in the kit.”

PennApps is acquired by TheBlindGuide

The company which advances technology for the visually impaired originally started as a hackathon for a group of students from the University of Pennsylvania. The group renamed themselves as ThirdEye in 2014. The app itself uses Google Cloud Vision to identify and then voice brief descriptions of items even going so far as to verbalise photos. TheBlindGuide, an ecommerce retailer for the visually impaired was the perfect choice said Rajat Bhageria cofounder and CEO of ThirdEye. In a piece for Forbes he described the company’s “deep understanding of the visually impaired (through their current eCommerce business) and their expertise in healthcare” would allow them to advance ThirdEye’s product beyond the U.S.

A Fitbit worn on your skin?

“Patches are no longer just for nicotine.” CNBC reports. New health-tracking sensors that are stuck to the skin and measure much more than wrist-wearing gadgets like Fitbits are catching on. Smart patches are able to continuously scan the body and sync up to smartphone apps, alerting users to any distressing signs. Experts believe this will help transform healthcare by allowing consumers to collect their own data and take their health into their own hands. “This is an evolutionary technology,” said Kate McCarthy, a senior analyst at Forrester Research.

Logisticare and Lyft join forces to transport elderly patients

The three-year partnership will aim to help elderly riders make it to all of their healthcare programmes and appointments, especially last minute ones. Whilst their joint force will initially simply make their reach larger, the companies have also developed an integrated platform to help address rider’s needs, reducing inefficiency and minimising cancellations. “Having this additional flexible transportation option with Lyft is an effective, scalable way for us to ensure both improved cost effectiveness and on-demand service,” LogistiCare CEO Albert Cortina said in a statement. “As the healthcare and social service industries continue to enhance their transportation benefit to encourage independent living and improve health outcomes, this ride-sharing solution can mirror what riders are already accessing for their own personal use.”

Virtual reality to ease chronic pain

Movement and exercise are often a key part of chronic pain management but for many patients it is simply too difficult. Virtual reality allows patients to feel like they are walking, they can then drift into a meditative state where hopefully pain becomes relaxed. Lead researcher Diane Gromala has found virtual reality to be an incredibly effective medication for her patients. A chronic pain sufferer herself, she began researching what virtual reality could do for pain sufferers in 1999. “Taking care of my chronic pain became a full-time job. So at some point I had to make a choice — either stop working or charge full force ahead by making it a motivation for my research. You can guess what I chose,” she said. “As researchers we have a big task ahead of us, and sometimes it means exploring whether out-of-the-box methods like VR can help.”

As physical and digital worlds collide, improved consumer experiences and new tech will result

“By fusing the virtual and real worlds, the possibilities are endless” says Shane Wall, Chief Technology Officer at HP. In a piece for Forbes he uses healthcare as an example where the development of digital health he believes will eventually result in faster drug development times, incredibly personalised treatments and ubiquitous care. This will all lead to a culture of prevention, our health culture now he writes swaying towards elimination. Millennials and those in Generation Z will expect more technology to make their aging lifestyles easier and more enriched and new tech will develop to meet these demands.

San Diego based Jecure launches and raises $20M in the process

The new platform brings a research approach to tackling liver fibrosis and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Jecure is working on a portfolio of drugs as well as biomarkers to help diagnose but also track the disease once it has taken hold. “Once you have this phenotype of NASH with the persistent cell death and inflammation, patients progress to a NASH fibrotic component and eventually develop the end-stage severe fibrosis,” Ariel Feldstein, professor of gastroenterology at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) explained. “Where we are aiming is what we strongly believe is the sweet spot in the progression of the disease. The stage where there is a significant increase in intracellular injury, which brings the activation of an immune response.”

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