Welcome to Digital Health Briefing, a new morning email providing the latest news, data, and insight on how digital technology is disrupting the healthcare ecosystem, produced by BI Intelligence.
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APPLE, STANFORD MEDICINE LAUNCH APPLE WATCH AFIB STUDY: Apple launched the Apple Heart Study app last Thursday to monitor users’ heart rhythms using the Apple Watch heart rate sensor and alert users who are experiencing Atrial Fibrillation (AFib). The company has partnered with Stanford Medicine to carry out research related to the program. AFib, costs the US around $6 billion annually, and is responsible for about 130,000 deaths and 750,000 hospitalizations in the US every year, the CDC reports.
Participants who receive a notification of a heart irregularity get a free virtual consultation with a physician from telehealth company American Well, which also partnered with Apple and Stanford Medicine for the program. As part of the program, participants receive an electrocardiogram (ECG) patch that allows for further, more accurate heart monitoring.
Stanford Medicine hopes the study will demonstrate how health tracking wearables could usher in more proactive user health monitoring. This could help reduce hospitalizations of patients due to preventable illnesses. While the Apple Watch isn’t accurate enough to diagnose heart conditions – it detects heart irregularities with 97% accuracy – it’s a valuable screening tool for heart arrhythmias like AFib, which can go undiagnosed since people often do not experience outward symptoms.
For Apple, the study could help to solidify its narrative that the Apple Watch is “the ultimate device for a healthy lifestyle.” Apple repositioned the Watch as a health and fitness tracking device in mid-2016 after initial sales began to dwindle. Since then, the company has reportedly explored more in-depth ways of making the Apple Watch an indispensable device. Aside from heart rate tracking, the company is also allegedly working on developing a glucose tracker for diabetics and has partnered with US health insurer Aetna to help track and monitor users’ health and fitness, which could help lower premiums for customers.
MDLIVE INTRODUCES AN AI-POWERED CHATBOT: MDLIVE, a telehealth provider, has introduced a new AI-powered chatbot, named Sophie, to ease users through the registration process. To initiate the conversation, users text “SOPHIE” to MDLIVE and receive a web link. The chatbot, which is able to recognize registration-related commands, then starts the registration process by asking the user’s name. Sophie marks the first time a virtual care platform is using a chatbot. If successful, it could pave the way for broader adoption of chatbot technology in healthcare. Registering eligible users for teleservices is one of the major hurdles companies like MDLIVE encounter. Chatbot technology can help make the user experience more enjoyable by making it more conversational. That could increase the number of users registering on a platform. MDLIVE found that Sophie was 50% more effective than traditional efforts, such as email campaigns, in boosting registrations, according to MobiHealthNews. Chatbot technology can also be leveraged to perform other tasks – in 2018, Sophie will have added capabilities, such as scheduling appointments and making diagnostic recommendations based on symptoms – which could help lower costs for providers and offer a better experience for patients.
- BI Intelligence
HEALTH WIZZ LAUNCHES ITS BLOCKCHAIN-POWERED MOBILE PLATFORM: Health Wizz, the mobile application provider, launched a blockchain-powered platform that enables consumers to securely aggregate, organize, and share their medical record data. Users of the platform will be able to download their health data from various sources, including wearables, lab reports, doctors, and hospitals. This data can then be shared with physicians, personal trainers, or researchers. The platform could be an effective tool for both consumers and providers by addressing some of the issues that have plagued the electronic health record (EHR) market, including data security and interoperability. For example, users will have access to all of their medical data, which isn’t the case with EHRs due to lack of interoperability, and this data can be shared with providers even if EHR systems are down due to security issues.
NUANCE LAUNCHES AI MARKETPLACE FOR MEDICAL IMAGING: Nuance Communications, a voice and language software company, launched the Nuance AI Marketplace for Diagnostic Imaging that aims to accelerate the development of artificial intelligence (AI) for medical imaging, such as x-rays. The marketplace allows developers to share their AI algorithms with each other, which hospitals or radiology practices can then use. Nuance believes the algorithms found in AI Marketplace, which leverage Nvidia’s AI technology, could be used to help cut down on the amount of time spent on paperwork and other routine processes. The announcement followed just one day after GE and NVIDIA announced a similar partnership.
IN OTHER NEWS…
- The US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma says that electronic health records could provide new opportunities and efficiencies if they’re designed properly, FierceHealthcare reports.
- HIMSS Analytics research found that telemedicine is a driving force behind connectivity in rural US hospitals and healthcare organizations, according to Healthcare IT News. However, poor latency and network connections have been inhibiting usage and need to be overcome.
- The global healthcare cloud computing market is projected to hit $10 billion by 2021, according to Frost and Sullivan. Demand for the cloud is being driven primarily by the need to improve system efficiency, deliver value-based care, and enable productive collaborations.