Tag Archive for: digital health

November 2022 Digital Health Roundup

November is full of promise using science to help in the fight against cancer. Scientists have made genetically engineered bacteria robots to release cancer fighting chemicals using magnetic force. Engineers have developed artificial intelligence to help predict the recurrence of a deadly cancer, melanoma. Pancreatic cancer is another deadly cancer that is difficult to treat. Scientists have developed a radioactive implant to help doctors treat pancreatic cancer.

Scientists Use Magnets to Deliver Cancer-Killing ‘Micro-Robots’ Into the Body

Scientists have conceived of a new way to deliver cancer-killing compounds, called enterotoxins, to tumors using bionic bacteria that are steered by a magnetic field, according to a report by Invers published last week reports InterestingEngineering.com . The bacteria hung down a specific tumor and releases naturally produced anti-cancer chemicals to kill the cancer. The scientists use aquatic bacteria because of its magnetostatic quality, it has tiny iron crystals inside that can be guided by magnetic force.

They made genetically engineered bacteria robots whose nanoparticles make them release the chemicals that fight cancer on cue. It is a slimy feces shaped robot that consists of polyvinyl alcohol, borax, and particles of neodymium magnets to move the slime around. It uses biohybrid bacteria. Some cancers can’t be operated on due to the tumor’s location; this treatment offers hope for those types of tumors. These tiny robots have been tested on mice and shown to have three times more precision in the delivery of the biohybrid bacteria to kill the cancer. Find more information here.

AI Could Help Cancer Patients Avoid a Deadly Recurrence

AI could help doctors identify which skin cancer patients are at high-risk of a melanoma recurrence before their initial cancer is even treated- giving them a head start to recommend more aggressive treatments that can prevent a recurrence reports Freethink.com . Melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer, and recurrence is often caught in late stages making it harder to treat. In the early stages of skin cancer, it is often just removed and not treated with drugs. The drugs used to treat melanoma are immune checkpoint inhibitors and often can have serious side effects.

If doctors know ahead of time that patients were at risk of recurrence, they could treat the cancer more aggressively with those drugs. A team from Massachusetts General Hospital is training and validating algorithms to predict recurrence of melanoma within five years for patients. They used electronic health records and data from over 1,700 early-stage melanomas to train the AI. They found the two best predictors of recurrence are tumor thickness and the rate of cancer cell division. The AI model was found to have a sensitivity of 76% so the team is trying to improve the algorithm to be more specific. The AI shows great promise for helping doctors fight skin cancers. Find more information here.

A Radioactive Tumor Implant is a Major Breakthrough for Treating Pancreatic Cancer

In what can be called a quantum leap in medical science, the most successful treatment for pancreatic cancer ever recorded in mouse models is here. Biomedical engineers at Duke University have developed an approach that completely eliminates tumors in 80 percent of mice across various model types, as opposed to most trials that solely halt the growth of such tumors reports InterestingEngineering.com .

Pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer related deaths. It is currently hard to treat due to its location and the effects on the surrounding tissue. Scientists have developed an implant that has radioactive iodine-131 that is surrounded by a gel like depot. They can put the implant into the tumor to emit radiation that penetrates the tumor without reaching surrounding tissue. In mice models, scientists use the implant in combination with giving a chemotherapy drug- Paclitaxel. These two together have given good results and are moving into other phases of clinical trials. Scientists believe that the constant radiation to the pancreas makes the drug interact with the cancer in a way that has a stronger effect on the tumor. Find more information here.

October 2022 Digital Health Roundup

Scientists have out done themselves in the arena of innovation for cancer treatments and detection this month. Fibroscan is a tool using ultrasound for oncologists to detect liver changes that could lead to further testing for diagnosing and treating liver cancer. A group of researchers have developed artificial intelligence to help oncologists determine the best drug therapy for each patient and their individual cancer. A small wireless implant is being tested to help battle deadly brain cancer tumors with less side effects than standard treatments for the patient.

Can A Fibroscan Detect Liver Cancer

Fibroscan is a noninvasive imaging test that may help diagnose liver cancer reports Healthline.com. Fibroscan uses ultrasound or sound waves to see the liver. It bounces sound waves off of the liver and can show signs of damage such as scarring and stiffness. Scarring or stiffness can be signs of cancer. Fibroscan shows more detail than a standard ultrasound and it can show changes to the liver over time. This tool has been helpful for finding hepatocellular carcinoma which is the most common type of liver cancer. If the Fibroscan detects certain changes to the liver, a biopsy can be done to detect if cancer is present. The Fibroscan is a quick test lasting about 15 minutes that requires fasting 3 hours before the test. Early detection of liver cancer increases the patient’s chance of survival. Click to read the full story.

It’s Like Molecular Speed Dating: LSU Using Artificial Intelligence In Cancer Treatment

Using algorithms originally designed to map complex social networks, like those utilized by Facebook, researchers generated three-dimensional graphs of molecular datasets that include cancer cell lines, drug compounds and interactions among proteins inside the human body reports TheAdvocate.com. This AI helps oncologists find drug therapies that work best on each patients different cancer. The information this AI provides will help patients get the correct treatment quicker and cut cost by choosing the right treatment the first time. The graphs created are analyzed by the AI. Researchers train the AI by inputing data, then ask it for what medicine would work best for that particular cancer. The AI makes a prediction based on the data and the researchers test the results in a wet lab. The team used six combinations of cancer cell lines with the drugs most toxic to their gene profile. The AI is able to match the cancer cell lines with the best drug much quicker, giving the patient the best treatment option. Click to read the full story.

A Small Wireless Implant Could Help Kill Deadly Brain Tumors

Researchers at Stanford Medicine developed and tested a wireless device in mice that is small enough to be inserted into a mouse’s brain to kill cancerous cells reports InterestingEngineering.com. This implant is activated remotely and heats up nanoparticles that are injected into the cancerous tumor to kill the cancer. The nanopartilces treat only the tumor so it has less side effects than chemotherapy and radiation. The implant uses photothermal treatment which uses light to heat up the nanoparticles. Photothermal treatment used to only be used during surgery when the brain was exposed to a light, but with the implant it can be done remotely. The device generates heat at the precise site of the tumor and is implanted between the skin and the skull. Then gold nanoparticles are injected into the tumor through a tiny hole in the skull. The implant then sends out infrared light that penetrates the brain tissue to activate the nanoparticles, it increases the temperature by up to 5 degrees Celsius. The power of the implant and wavelength of light can be adjusted to treat the cancer. Click to read full story.

September 2022 Notable News

This month, researchers and scientists reveal the results from studies that are valuable tools for the prevention and treatment of cancer. Currently, they are studying the reasons why there has been a dramatic rise in the number of people getting cancer under the age of fifty. The results of this study may promote people to make changes in their lifestyle to prevent cancer. Stress is also a significant risk factor for causing cancer; it is now considered the 6th vital sign for detecting cancer. Researchers have discovered why air pollution causes cancer; the reason is different than what was previously thought. This discovery could offer hope for people diagnosed with lung cancer that are not smokers.

Dramatic Rise in Cancer in People Under 50

A study by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital reveals that the incidence of early onset cancers-including breast, colon, esophagus, kidney, liver, and pancreas- has dramatically increased around the world, with the rise beginning around 1990 reports news.havard.edu . People born a decade later have a higher risk of developing cancer later in life due to things they were exposed to earlier in life. Some factors that are causing this increased risk are diet, lifestyle choices, weight gain, environmental exposures, and a persons’ microbiome. The best weapons to fight cancer are still screening and early detection. Some other factors that are on the rise are alcohol consumption, sleep deprivation, smoking, obesity, and a diet high in processed foods. There has also been an increase in eight cancers that are related to the digestive system. Many of these factors are easily changed with lifestyle modification. Find more information here.

The Role of Distress in Cancer

For those who do not know, cancer is not a specific disease but a cluster of over 200 diseases typified by dysfunctional cell growth that is rapidly replicated. The challenge is that the body’s immune system often misses detecting the stealth cell growth and then has difficulty eliminating it reports Psychologytoday.com . Stress causes inflammation, the proteins involved in inflammation are what feed cancer. Stress has been found to be the 6th vital sign in finding cancer. People can manage other risk factors for cancer such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and chemical exposures; stress can be managed as well. People need to be encouraged to overcome trauma, treat anxiety and depression, and promote emotional healing. More effort needs to be made to decrease stress to help prevent cancer. Find more information here.

Mystery of Why Air Pollution Causes Cancer is ‘Solved’ in Major Breakthrough Offering Hope for Treatment

Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute in London found that rather than damaging cells directly, air pollution instead ‘wakes up’ dormant mutations and causes them to become cancerous reports The-sun.com . This new research explains why non-smokers are getting cancer. This knowledge changed previous ideas that cancer was formed from a healthy cell mutating. Air pollution triggers the damaged dormant cells to turn into cancerous cells. Discovering the mechanism that causes the cancer cells to grow can help scientists develop cancer blocking treatments. The air pollution causes this mechanism to start in the lungs. Smoking is still the leading cause of lung cancer, but air pollution has a significant impact on lung cancer as well. Find more information here.

September 2022 Digital Health Roundup

The diagnosis of pancreatic cancer used to be considered a death sentence, due to its late detection and difficulty in treatment delivery. With the help of science and technology, pancreatic cancer is a now treatable cancer. Scientists have created a glass bubble nanocarrier to help make the treatment of pancreatic cancer more effective. An Artificial Intelligence program has been created to help detect pancreatic cancer in its early stages to help increase survivability for patients diagnosed with this cancer. Scientists have discovered that using photodynamic therapy to treat many cancers, including pancreatic cancer, is more specific in its delivery and less harmful to the patient.

‘Glass Bubble’ Nanocarrier Boosts Effects of Combination Therapy for Pancreatic Cancer

In hopes of turning the tide, UCLA researchers have developed a technology that delivers a combination therapy to pancreatic tumors using nanoscale particles loaded with irinotecan, a chemotherapy drug approved as part of a drug regimen for pancreatic cancer, and 3M-052, an investigative drug that can boost immune activity and help overcome tumors’ resistance reports Phys.org . One of the reasons pancreatic cancers are hard to treat is that the cancer is protected by biological factors that make it resist treatment. The use of the nanoparticle for treatment helps to shrink the cancerous tumors and prevent metastasis. This nanocarrier attracts more cancer killing immune cells to the pancreatic tumors. There is a double layer of lipids surrounding the core of the glass bubble. The bubble is made of silica and has a hollow core filled with the cancer drugs. The fatty tail of the carrier is used for the second drug delivery. This nanocarrier method helps prevent drug leakage and toxicity to surrounding tissues. It can break through the rugged barrier that is around the pancreatic cancer tumors to deliver the treatment. Find more information here.

Pancreatic Cancer: New AI Program Could Help with Early Detection

If caught early, pancreatic cancer is treatable. Experts say that early detection is the best way to improve the chances of survival as the prognosis worsens significantly once the tumor grows beyond 2 centimeters reports healthline.com . There are currently no valid screening tests for this deadly cancer for patients without any symptoms. The standard use of CT scans for detection does not always find the tumors in the difficult to visualize pancreas. The pancreas is close to many other structures and varies in size and shape. In Taiwan, scientists have made a clinically applicable computer aided detection tool that helps to easily find the pancreas. This program is accurately finding pancreatic cancer in its early stages. The use of liquid biopsy in combination with this AI program work together for early detection. Liquid biopsy is a blood test that finds the biomarkers showing there is cancer present. This program offers hope for early detection of pancreatic cancer and increases survivability for patients. Find more information here.

Photodynamic Therapy Offers Promise for Cancer Treatment

Photodynamic therapy –the use of precisely targeted light, usually from a laser, that activates or “turns on” a drug to kill cells- has been used mostly to treat skin cancers, since it is easier to deliver light to the outside of the body. But light does not travel far through the body tissues reports MedicalXpress.com . The goal of this therapy is to get the light as close as possible to red light, which has the longest wavelength, to penetrate tissue using the lowest energy. The use of the lower energy causes less harm to surrounding tissues. Doctors use a two-photon light, in which two particles of light hit at the same time. The cancer killing molecule that is activated only by light can destroy cancer cells that are resistant to chemotherapy. This therapy has been tested on drug resistant pancreatic and breast cancers. Scientists can examine cancers for levels of a certain protein using phototherapy. The light fluoresces differently for various levels. A high level of the protein shows red, and a low level shows yellow. This test shows whether the patient will be responsive or resistant to chemotherapy. If the patient is resistant, doctors can use the photodynamic therapy. This therapy is given via IV infusion in an outpatient setting and fiber optics deliver the light. Find more information here.

August 2022 Digital Health Roundup

As technology improves, it has a direct effect on improving cancer detection and patient outcomes. New artificial intelligence (AI) is combing several types of available health and research data to predict patients’ cancer outcomes. Improvements in the abilities of the CT scan increase precision of treatments, increasing quality of life for patients. Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia is using AI to improve colon cancer detection for their community.

New AI Technology Integrates Multiple Data Types to Predict Cancer Outcomes

A new study from researchers from the Mahmood Lab at Brigham and Women’s Hospital reveals a proof-of-concept model that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to combine multiple types of data from different sources to predict patient outcomes for 14 different types of cancer reports MedicalXpress.com . The researchers used publicly available information from The Cancer Genome Atlas about the many genomic types of cancer. In considering how to treat cancer patients’, clinicians get information from many sources. They use patient health information, patient family history, histology, as well as the genomic sources. This is a large amount of information to consider and is time consuming to gather from all available resources to make accurate predictions of the patient outcome. Researchers have developed an algorithm that learns prognostic information from many sources. This new AI uses the algorithm to help predict the cancer patient’s outcome. Included in this algorithm is information from the doctors about the patient’s immune response, patient radiology, and the patient’s electronic medical record. This AI is another tool to help the physician and patient treat the cancer and have a better outcome. Find more information here.

New CT Technology to Diminish the Overall Burden of Cancer Treatment

The flat table of a CT could only move right to left, back to front, and up and down. The newest technology allows the table to roll, and Dover explained that it is similar to a “log roll,” and it also can move like and “X” reports TrussvilleTribune.com . Radiation used for cancer treatment is a valuable tool, but it can also be very damaging to the surrounding organs and tissues. Clinicians must align the patient in exactly the right position to give the dose of radiation needed, this new CT allows for millimeter precision. The new availability of table positions allows for a higher dose with fewer treatments and greater accuracy. This new CT also is better for patient convenience by decreasing patient travel time with the need for fewer treatments. More of the radiation dose can go directly to the tumor which allows for better chances of a successful treatment. With less radiation damaging other areas of the body, there are less long-term side effects. This gives patients better outcomes short-term and long–term. Another advance with this CT scan is that it can monitor patient breathing cycles. It can show changes in the body position throughout the breathing cycle in real time to help the clinician make the needed adjustments. Find more information here.

Grady Memorial Hospital to Use AI Technology to Improve Colon Cancer Screening

Grady Memorial Hospital is using a new technology platform donated by Medtronic to improve colon cancer screening in medically underserved communities reports healthleadersmedia.com . The GI Genius modules uses an artificial intelligence algorithm to help doctors find colorectal polyps in real time. There is a higher risk for colon cancer in Black adults. Once diagnosed, Black adults have been having worse outcomes. Research shows that part of the problem is a knowledge barrier; patients are not aware that the screening age for colon cancer has changed to 45 years of age. At Grady Memorial, 30% of their patients are uninsured so there is a cost barrier to cancer diagnosis and treatment. This technology is an AI-assisted colonoscopy, combining the AI with the physicians’ own eyes and experience. The GI Genius has been shown to improve cancer detection by 50%. Earlier colon cancer detection equals better outcomes for patients. Find more information here.

July 2022 Digital Health Roundup

This July, healthcare providers partner up with technology to give cancer patients a better outcome. Gamma Knife technology, a knife-free approach, helps to treat brain and neck cancers. Radiologists use artificial intelligence (AI) to help them catch more cancers on mammograms, leading to increased survivability. The United Kingdom is using technology, in the form of drones, to deliver chemotherapy to cancer patients in isolated areas.

Gamma Knife Technology Treats Brain Tumors Without Surgery

Despite the name, there is no cutting or incisions involved in the Gamma Knife method; instead, radiation and computer-guided planning are used to treat abnormalities in the brain reports TheBlade.com. This technique treats metastatic cancer, malignancies, benign tumors, lesions, and malformations in the head and neck area. The use of gamma rays to the affected area is precise and helps to keep the surrounding tissue healthy. The Gamma Knife is a way to get surgery without using a knife. There is no pain, no anesthesia, the only requirement is that the patient must lay still. This technique is a good choice for people who are unable to undergo surgery, underwent prior brain surgery, or have tumors located in hard-to-reach places. Cancer patients that go through this procedure, have follow-up MRIs to check the status of the area treated. Find more information here.

Doctors Using AI Catch Breast Cancer More Often Than Either Does Alone

Radiologists assisted by an AI screen for breast cancer more successfully than they do when they work alone, according to new research. That same AI produces more accurate results in the hands of radiologists than it does when operating solo reports MITtechnologyreview.com. This artificial intelligence (AI) is called Vara and has been fed data from over 360,000 mammograms with the notes and assessments from the radiologists. It is being used in Germany and Mexico. This AI saves lives by analyzing mammograms and categorizes them as normal or abnormal, the not normal ones are flagged for the radiologist to review. There is a shortage of specialists, and this can help the radiologists free up more time to spend with patients. Radiologists alone can miss catching some of the cancer on the mammograms due to working long hours and being tired. Radiologists review everything the AI interprets and together cancer patients are getting better diagnosis and treatment. Find more information here.

UK Tries Cancer Meds by Drone

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has launched the world’s first trial to deliver chemotherapy via drone – a move that could make receiving cancer treatment cheaper, more convenient and less taxing on patients and the environment reports Freethink.com. Some patients must travel several hours using different modes of transportation to get their chemotherapy. The drone can deliver the medication in a matter of minutes to a hospital or doctor office that is closer to the patient. This delivery method cuts transportation costs to the patient and lowers carbon emissions, impacting the environment. The UK is creating drone corridors to hospitals. Recently, drones have been used to deliver medical supplies in war zones, coronavirus tests to labs, and delivered transplant organs. Find more information here.

June 2022 Digital Health Roundup

June brings exciting news combining science and technology to aid the fight on cancer. Scientists have used an established tool, ultrasound, in a new way to deliver immunotherapy to cancer patients. A Southwest Florida oncologist is bringing new cancer technology to make the delivery of radiation more precise and safer for patients. Ion technology, which is a robotic bronchoscopy, is helping doctors diagnose and treat lung cancer faster.

UTSW Researchers Develop Microbubble Technology to Enhance Cancer Immunotherapy

Researchers at UT Southwestern have developed a first-of-its-kind ultrasound-guided cancer immunotherapy platform that delivers immunostimulant agents to cells for the development of systemic anti-tumor immunity reports utsouthwestern.edu. The microbubble-assisted ultrasound guided immunotherapy of cancer (MUSIC) makes the bubbles oscillate which creates holes to deliver agents into the cells. The immunotherapy agents cause immune responses to kill cancer lesions and tumors. These agents have a lower toxicity and limit the risk of an inflammatory response. Ultrasound is much more affordable and widely available, making this a better treatment option for patients. Find more information here.

SWFL Doctor Uses New Technology to Help Direct Radiation Treatments for Cancer

Dr Dosoretz’s practice is the first in the country to use a new smart system called identify. A combination of hardware and software tool that generates a 3D model of a patient’s body allowing technicians to make real time adjustments for even the slightest movements reports WINKNews.com. This tracking and mapping system makes radiation delivery more precise. The increase in precision of radiation delivery affects the other organs near the cancer less, causing less side effects and less damage to the body. This technology will not deliver the radiation unless the patient is in the exact correct position allowing for better outcomes. Find more information here.

New Technology at South Shore Helps Diagnose Cancer Earlier

The ion technology, in which they are the first in Long Island to have, is a method of how you can streamline someone to get a lung biopsy through a bronchoscope, which is a camera that goes through the airway, and it helps navigate all the way to any part of the lung with this new technology reports islipbulletin.net. During this procedure, the doctors can diagnose lung cancer from a lesion sample as well as obtaining a sample from the lymph nodes. These samples allow for staging of the cancer to be determined all during one procedure. Ion technology allows for a significantly earlier diagnosis and the decision whether surgery or other treatments are needed can be determined earlier. This robotic bronchoscopy cuts the diagnosis time from 4 months down to 3 weeks. Earlier diagnosis of lung cancer can cause a better outcome for the patient. Find more information here.

There’s an App for That…Or There Should Be: Utilizing Technology for Better Health Outcomes

Health literacy has always been a passion project of mine ever since I was diagnosed with cancer. I stand by the notion that plain language and clear communication leads to better health outcomes. However, communicating with our care team isn’t always easy. How many of us have gone into an appointment only to leave the office 10 minutes later, wondering what happened and what our copay went to? Were all of our issues and questions addressed? 

This is where we have to come in as advocates for our own health, and below are a few ways to do this: 

  • Try and focus on one ailment per appointment 
  • Write down a list of questions you want addressed prior to the appointment 
  • Ask questions during the appointment – you are the expert of your body and health 
  • If something doesn’t make sense, ask for the information to be explained in another way. Patients are found to be more compliant if they know: 
    • How to take their medications properly 
    • Why specific blood tests and imaging are ordered (i.e. if they’re necessary) 

How do we keep track of all of this information, though? There are patient portals that keep track of our appointments and records, but those can often be hard to navigate, and they lack the capability of being able to enter our own information (i.e. about how we’re feeling). Additionally, different health systems have different portals, leading not only to lost passwords, but a missed opportunity for integrated healthcare. This is essentially senseless for cancer patients who have to keep track of multiple appointments and medications, all while trying to keep afloat in a system that wasn’t built for patients and their caregivers. 

However, there’s a role technology can play here. I’ve heard of patients carrying around large binders of their records from appointment to appointment, but if we’re being honest, I don’t believe a physician or other member of a patient’s care team is going to take the time to go through it. Instead, utilizing the power of the device that we’re constantly carrying around and looking at may be the way to go (in addition to a smaller folder or journal for those that are comfortable with paper). 

If we think about it, there’s an app for everything, and having an app to keep track of our cancer journey should be no different. What should this app be able to do? Here are a few things that I think are especially important: 

  • Keep track of: 
    • Medications (dosage, picture of what it looks like, how to take it and what to do if you accidentally miss a dose or take more than what is prescribed, ability to refill) 
    • Blood work (results and what they mean [featuring a scale of what’s low vs. normal vs. high], what to ask your doctor about in terms of next steps) 
    • Imaging (results and what they mean, what to ask your doctor in terms of next steps) 
  • Ability to connect with all members of your care team (primary care doctor, oncologist, nurse navigator even if they work in different health systems) 
  • Ability to connect with caregivers and share information with them 
  • A diary to describe daily thoughts, symptoms, and side effects, flagging specific keywords that can alert a member of your care team 
  • A calendar with appointments (date/time, office location, directions) 
  • Tips to assist with mental health (i.e. offering local or national support groups [both virtual and in-person], counseling that accepts insurance and/or is offered on a sliding scale) 
  • Exercise routines featuring different forms of exercise (yoga, pilates, HIIT, weightlifting, playing a sport, walking and running, etc.) based on you’re feeling side effect- and energy-wise 
  • Information about nutrition through the different phases of a cancer journey (pre-treatment vs. in-treatment vs. post-treatment) that includes recipes 
  • Most importantly, all of this information should be in plain language that’s easy to understand in whatever language the patient is most comfortable reading 

Having an app that features all of these capabilities, I believe, would push the needle forward in patient care, not only creating better health outcomes, but a more satisfied patient. What would you add to the list? 

Enabling Patients to Win Back Their Health with Digital Technology

Part of the far-reaching impact of the recent pandemic has been the way it has impacted mobile health. In an atmosphere where mobility is limited due to necessity, people (both patients and caregivers) have been forced to rely on mobile and digital solutions to connect and find new ways for digital delivery of healthcare. Recent statistics from IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science’s 2021 trends report show us that more than 90,000 new digital health applications (apps) were added to app stores in 2020 for a total of 350,000 health apps currently available from the various global app stores. On average, we are talking about adding more than 250 new healthcare apps every day. The global mobile health market is expected to reach 189 Billion USD by 2025.

But if you look deeper into it, the picture gets a little skewed. Only 110 health-related apps downloaded more than 10 million times (nearly half of all downloads) which means that downloads and the corresponding use of apps are heavily skewed. This basically means that although mobile health is on the rise, it is difficult to gain patient trust. Patients are likely to seek help only from a handful of trusted and well-reviewed sources. The popularity of the NHS (National Health Service) app bears this out. It has been the most downloaded free app in England (growing from 200,000 users in January 2020 to more than 16 million in September 2021).

Despite this, the future of healthcare is clearly mobile as digital health has seen record-breaking investment in both 2020 and 2021. Globally, digital health investments got a massive infusion of $24 billion of investments in digital health in 2020 and again $14.7 billion in funding halfway through 2021, according to Rock Health’s quarterly report on digital health funding. The investments indicate that the massive uptick in app downloads is likely to continue post-pandemic as well. This is good news for patients as digital technology can indeed pave a path for them to win back a degree of control over their own health management.

Why It Matters?

While digital empowerment has been traditionally associated with improvements in both clinical and financial outcomes, its impact on health literacy has been limited. The latter is key to unlocking true digital empowerment in healthcare. Without adequate health literacy, patients cannot hope to achieve the outcomes they want in healthcare, nor stop themselves from making preventable mistakes in healthcare management and promotion. Digital health literacy can go a long way in ensuring that patients have access to the right accredited sources, in the right tone and language that enables them to take the right decisions at the right time.

How Digital Technology Can Empower the Patient

How Digital Technology Can Empower the Patient

Building a Doctor-Patient Partnership

Empowering the patient to become a full-fledged partner of the healthcare delivery team is not a novel concept, but needs to be applied more widely. There is evidence in a 2015 study published in PLOS ONE that measured patient engagement within the scope of an active patient-partner program. The results were unequivocal in that patients who acted as a healthcare partner typically assumed a much more active role in their treatment. While the care was still monitored (as distinct from patient self-management), the patient triggered all follow-ups and played an active role in their recovery.

Better Health Literacy for Patients and Careers

Digital technology can be key to driving higher and better patient engagement through patient education and quick access to information. Digital technology, such as those enabled by IT Consulting Los Angeles, also enables a greater degree of personalization through improved information access, two-way remote monitoring, treatment adherence etc. all supporting better health outcomes.

Patient Partnering Requires an Effective Technology Foundation

Patient as a partner philosophy requires giving patients comprehensive access to clinical information. This presents a greater technical challenge than many anticipate. Gartner estimates that as much as 80 percent of clinically relevant content, like medical images and third-party archives, lives outside of the electronic patient record (EPR). This means that care providers are hindered technically (rather than having philosophical differences or being bound by organization policy) from enabling patients to be on the same wavelength on their healthcare journey.

Encouraging Self-Management

As outlined before, digital technology has tremendous potential in enabling better patient outcomes through the patient undertaking a more active and informed role in their own recovery. Examples of this are evident in the way patients use technical tools to find information online, determine treatment options, rate providers, and provide reviews. Healthcare needs to be more accepting of self-management tendencies and technologies.

Enables Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)

RPM uses technical tools to monitor patient vitals and health status outside the clinic and update remote care providers in real time. This is picking up momentum with the increasing popularity of the bio sensing wearables and more portable devices capable of automatically monitoring a broader range of physiology (from posture to brain activity), processing this data into actionable insights and transmitting it to the relevant Electronic Patient Record (EPR) for care providers in real time. This can literally open frontiers for patients with chronic conditions leading to radically improved health outcomes and quality of life. Care providers also get an immediate overview of a patient’s medical history in real-time, thereby enabling early diagnoses and early intervention – even in the case of emergencies.

February 2022 Digital Health Round Up

Technological advances show promise in the areas of cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. During the pandemic, the virtual visit was introduced to adapt to the changing needs of healthcare. Healthcare providers and patients have demanded that telemedicine evolve to provide for an effective patient experience. Providers are harnessing the power of technology to make a less invasive way to diagnose colon cancer, which is the 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Two Squadrons at Keesler Air force base are joining forces and using digital health technology to make radiation therapy for cancer patients safer and more precise.

The Virtual Visit

This trend is here to stay; 76% of Americans indicated that they plan to use telehealth either more or at the same rate, even after the pandemic subsides, reports MedCityNews.com . To provide “distributed care” or care that is brought to the patient instead of the patient going to the care. It requires data and artificial intelligence (AI) to drive the digital health experience.  Healthcare providers use data and clinical history to create a strong patient relationship. The digital interaction is documented and can be shared with other providers to provide continuity. Providers create easy to use platforms to make appointments, view records, and link to the virtual visit all from one site. Telemetry tools are available to monitor patient conditions at home and use diagnostic tools to input for AI algorithms. Insurance companies and Medicaid offer billing codes and reimbursement for virtual visits. There are guidelines in place for data governance to insure patient privacy. Find more information here.

Cancer Detecting Pill

The Colon Capsule Endoscopy device, or Pillcam, passes through the digestive system taking 50,000 pictures of the bowel on its way, reports BBCNews.com . This pill camera requires the same preparation as a colonoscopy and has been used on its 2000th patient in Scotland. The pill still must be swallowed in the hospital setting but the patient can go home as it passes through their system. The patient wears a recorder on their waist to record the images.  Many patients have a fear of having a colonoscopy and avoid getting the procedure done. The Colon Capsule Endoscopy device is less invasive than a colonoscopy, it’s painless, and there is no sedation required.  Pillcam allows for early detection of colon cancer and therefore the patient gets treatment faster. Find more information here.

Customized Care for Cancer Patients

In an effort to make radiation therapy for cancer patients more accurate and effective, the 81st Diagnostic and Therapeutic Squadron joins forces with the 81st Dental Squadron to shape radiation bolus for each patient, reports WXXV25.com. They use digital dentistry software in combination with 3D Printers to help cancer patients by making an artificial surface specific to each patient.  This artificial surface acts as a barrier, allowing the radiation to work, as well as make the radiation bolus specific to each case. During the radiation bolus, the machine scans the patient’s face creating a custom prosthesis that can be used every time there is a treatment. This process makes the radiation therapy more precise and safer for the cancer patient. Find more information here.

January 2022 Digital Health Round Up

Technology has changed the face of healthcare; this new year begins with exciting advances that positively affect the patient and the provider. Providers embracing telemedicine are creating opportunities to change the entire patient experience. The use of AI (artificial intelligence) can take care of tasks that free up more time for providers to spend with the patients. AI is also being used to help identify patients with certain head and neck cancers, that would benefit from lower doses of radiation, decreasing radiation toxicity and side effects for patients.

Healthcare Technology

If you can achieve the right mix of high-tech, high-touch options, you’ve hit the sweet spot for improving equity and accessibility, patient engagement, health outcomes, loyalty, and profitability, reports MedCityNews.com. Telemedicine offers patients a way to seek medical care without missing work and often from the comfort of their own home. With proper education, telemedicine makes healthcare accessible to everyone regardless of language barriers or disabilities. Telemedicine does not replace the hands-on approach of medicine, but it offers interesting and convenient options for patients. During the pandemic, telemedicine has proven to be a powerful tool to stay in touch with patients and keep everyone safer. Find more information here.

Artificial Intelligence to Support Both Caregivers and Patients

In healthcare, as in all fields, the job of AI is not to replace humans, but rather to perform repetitive, tedious and time-consuming tasks so that people don’t have to – freeing time for tasks that require personal touch, reports Enterpeneur.com. AI uses algorithms to predict patient volumes for hospitals, anticipating appropriate staffing for caregivers. AI can quickly sort through images and information saving providers time to get them the appropriate information faster. Humans will always be the ultimate decision makers, but AI can be a tool to help them provide better care. With the increasing demands on providers, time with patients is the most important aspect of their job. Artificial intelligence allows for more efficient use of that time, allowing for better patient outcomes. Find more information here.

Artificial Intelligence to Help Patients Avoid Excessive Radiation

A Case Western Reserve University led team of scientists has used artificial intelligence (AI) to identify which patients with certain head and neck cancers would benefit from reducing the intensity of treatments such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy, reports MedicalXpress.com. The AI program analyzed hundreds of tissue samples from patients with a particular type of head and neck cancer. It was able to pick out some of those patients that could have done well with a lower dose of radiation. Reducing the level of chemotherapy and radiation can significantly reduce some of the toxic side effects of the treatments. Using Artificial Intelligence to achieve this can give the patient better quality of life. There is hope in the future that this application can be used in clinical trials and eventually with other types of cancer as well. Find more information here.

Technology is an important partner to healthcare providers and patients. Every day there are great advances in treatment due to artificial intelligence. The potential of telemedicine is expanding and helpful in our daily lives. Technology is an area of healthcare to follow and see all the benefits it will provide for patients and caregivers alike.

November 2021 Digital Health Roundup

Fifty years of research have led to a lot of innovations. Technological advances mean that doctors are better able to monitor our health, and health and fitness apps can motivate us toward a healthier lifestyle, but studies show the benefits aren’t always equitable. In addition, more technology means more compromised data. Experts are warning governments to tighten up regulations, while others are asking for expanded and permanent access to telehealth.

Expanded Telehealth Coverage

The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) is asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to extend the Covid-19 public health emergency through the end of 2022, if not longer, reports healthcareitnews.com. The public health emergency has allowed for the expanded coverage of telehealth, but it is uncertain how and when the expanded coverage will end. The ATA is hoping HHS will give patients ample notification about the future of telehealth. While there has been support for the expanded telehealth rules to become permanent, Congress has not acted on that. The ATA is concerned that patients, who have become dependent on telehealth during the pandemic, will abruptly lose access to care if the public health emergency is not expanded, giving Congress time to put permanent policies in place. Read more about the ATA’s request to HHS here.

Digital Health Data

More access to care is good, but leading independent experts are warning countries to protect digital health data in order to prevent medical inequities and human rights abuses, reports ft.com. The group of experts produced a report that lists the benefits of telehealth, but also provided guidance for governments to use that would protect healthcare consumers from misuse of health data. Recommendations include increased regulations to protect children and providing equitable access through digital infrastructure. Learn more here.

The threat of healthcare data breaches is real. In 2021 more than 40 million patient records were compromised, reports healthcareitnews.com. The breaches can paralyze networks and lead to disruption of care. Find a list of 2021’s ten largest data breaches reported to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services here.

Health Apps

Technology-based health apps are more beneficial to people with higher socio-economic status, reports medicalxpress.com. Researchers found that middle and higher socio-economic health and exercise app users achieved a higher level of physical activity while users with lower socio-economic status received no clear benefits from using the apps. Researchers suggest that the findings indicate that further use and development should take into account the needs of users with lower socio-economic status to prevent inequalities among users. Find out more here.

Remote Monitoring

Doctors at Kentucky Cardiology in Lexington, Kentucky found that patients weren’t always keeping accurate records of their blood pressure at home, so they looked to technology for a solution, reports healthcareitnews.com. They contracted with a remote patient monitoring technology that automatically recorded the patient’s blood pressure results. Staff members were able to monitor the readings and contact the patient if they saw a reading that was unusual. Staff members were also notified if a patient was not taking their blood pressure. In those cases, staff members were able to contact the patient and review the how to do the readings or troubleshoot any issues. The program has been a big success and grown quickly and reached 86 percent patient engagement. Learn more about the remote monitoring program here.

National Cancer Act

Fifty years ago, the signing of the National Cancer Act of 1971 enabled fifty years of groundbreaking research and discoveries for the treatment of cancer. Many were technological innovations being highlighted by cancer.gov in celebration of the anniversary. The technologies include:

  • CRISPR, a gene-editing tool
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Telehealth
  • Cryo-EM, short for cryo-electron microscopy, a process that generates high-resolution images of how molecules behave
  • Infinium Assay, a process that analyzes genetic variations used in cancer research as well as a variety of other applications
  • Robotic Surgery

Learn more about each of these technological innovations and the National Cancer Act of 1971 here. Also, look for more about the National Cancer Act of 1971 in this month’s upcoming Notable News.

October 2021 Digital Health Roundup

The popularity of telemedicine is being embraced by insurance companies, and for now, the best place to identify skin cancer is still at the dermatologist’s office. Patients are concerned about privacy threats when it comes to technology in healthcare, and it turns out they have good reason to be. Fortunately, there are things being done to address the issue.

Privacy of Medical Records

A new survey shows that patients are concerned about privacy of medical records and the use of facial recognition technology in healthcare, reports upi.com. A large portion of the survey respondents perceive facial recognition technology as a privacy threat, but the use of the technology in healthcare has increased over the past few years as a way to prevent medical errors and provide extra security. With nearly 60 percent of respondents saying they are concerned about the security of these technologies, researchers are tasked with gaining public trust by increasing protections of healthcare information. Find more information here.

It seems that patients have reason to be concerned. Ransomware attacks are having negative effects on patient care, reports fiercehealthcare.com. A new report shows that ransomware attacks on healthcare organizations can lead to longer stays, delays in care leading to poor outcomes, and increases in patient transfers. The ransomware attacks are also linked to increased mortality rates. The report emphasizes the importance of increasing cybersecurity in healthcare to protect patients. Learn more about the report findings here.

Cybersecurity

Recognizing the cybersecurity vulnerabilities in healthcare, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released a best practices document as a resource for the healthcare industry, reports healthcareitnews.com. The document focuses on developing a cybersecurity communication strategy and offers aspects to consider in the event of a security breach. The FDA also plans to address medical device vulnerabilities so that patients who are dependent on medical devices will know what kinds of questions to ask their healthcare providers regarding the security of their devices. Get more information here and see the FDA best practices document here.

The U.S. Government is also investing in the future of information technology in public health, reports thehealthcaretechnologyreport.com. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has an initiative that will help to develop the health information technology workforce and will help to increasing the number of workers in the field from underrepresented communities. With funding from the American Rescue Plan, ten universities that serve diverse communities have cooperative agreements to build up the healthcare technology workforce over the next four years. Learn more about the initiative and the ten institutions that are participating here.

Skin Cancer App Fails

A setback for healthcare technology occurred recently when a flaw in a direct-to-consumer app used to detect skin cancer was identified at a European annual meeting of dermatology, reports medicalxpress.com. Researchers found that the app, which is available in Europe, incorrectly classified more than 60 percent of benign lesions as cancerous, and almost 18 percent of Merkel cell carcinomas and almost 23 percent of melanomas as benign. The problem appears to be that the app depends on available images to determine the status of a lesion, but there are not enough images of rare skin cancers available for better accuracy. Find more information here.

Telemedicine

If you love virtual visits to the doctor, you are in luck! Insurers are now offering new types of health coverage specifically for telemedicine, reports modernhealthcare.com. Some insurance companies have plans that require online visits for nonemergency care. The plans tend to have lower premiums and patients select a doctor for their virtual visits who can refer patients to in-person doctors within the network if needed. However, there is some concern that virtual care as the primary means of care may not be ideal. The concern is that things might get missed, like early signs of disease that a doctor would not be able to pick up on through a virtual visit. Learn more about the new type of insurance plans here.

September 2021 Digital Health Roundup

More and more technologies, from gaming technology to artificial intelligence, are being used in the quest to beat cancer. Electronic appointments are helping with taking medicine, and steps are being taken to protect patient data.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is working to combat breaches of personal data by making health apps more accountable when it comes to telling patients their data has been exposed, reports mobihealthnews.com. In a recently released statement, the FTC announced that health apps will need to notify users, the FTC, and possibly the media when data is compromised, and if they fail to make the notifications, they could be fined more than $40,000 a day. Learn more here.

Electronic directly observed therapy (eDOT) is a technology that is becoming more popular for providing medical services to patients, especially when it comes to taking medicine correctly, says ardorcomm-media.com. The eDOT appointments can be scheduled live, or they can be recorded. Providers can ensure that medications are taken properly and on time, and they can observe any side effects that may occur. Providers can also provide coaching or training during the appointments. The eDOT appointments require less time and resources than in-person visits. Find out more here.

Researchers are using 3D printing to create models of glioblastoma tumors, reports reuters.com. The models are made by taking part of the tumor from the patient’s brain and using it to print a 3D model of the tumor and then to fill it with the patient’s blood, creating a viable tumor. Researchers are then able to test how well various treatments will treat the tumor before they try them on the patient. Glioblastoma is the most common brain cancer in adults and is an aggressive cancer with poor prognosis. Learn more here.

Researchers have been inspired by gaming technology to create a virtual tool to study cancer, reports webmd.com. The tool, a virtual cancer tracker named Theia, for the Greek goddess of sight and clairvoyance, allows researchers from around the world to interact and study the cancer using 3D models and virtual reality. Get more information here.

A new type of artificial intelligence (AI) is being developed to detect lung cancer, says genengnews.com. It is a blood testing technology that can potentially detect over 90 percent of lung cancers. The test is called DELFI, which stands for DNA evaluation of fragments for early interception, and it can detect the fragmentation of DNA from cancer cells that circulate in the bloodstream. Researchers are hopeful that if lung cancer screening is as simple as a blood test, more people may get screened, and the cancer could be detected at earlier, more treatable stages. Learn more here.

Digital Health Roundup: June 2021

Digital healthcare is creating a better experience for patients and employees; one hospital has the data to prove it. Seniors, in particular, benefit from telehealth, and a bipartisan group of senators is trying to ensure that telehealth access is here to stay, but data privacy is a concern that experts say needs to be addressed.

Mobile healthcare apps may have some serious privacy problems, reports mobihealthnews.com. A study of more than 20,000 medical, health and fitness apps showed that the apps collect personal user information, but that it is not always secure, and the privacy practices are not always made clear. The study showed that 88 percent of mobile health apps could collect and share user data that includes contact information and user location. While the study also revealed that only 4 percent of the apps actually share user data, experts remain concerned about the privacy and data collection risks. Get more information here.

When it comes to virtual visits with their primary care doctors, a new study shows that telehealth is an effective form of care for senior citizens, says healthcareitnews.com. The study analyzed more than 300,000 telehealth visits which showed that virtual healthcare visits were successful in treating and solving the needs of patients in most cases. Researchers found that seniors were most likely to use telehealth visits for upper respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, and skin conditions. The study is encouraging for the future of care for seniors, as the effectiveness of telehealth visits is important for patients with mobility and other challenges that may prevent them from being seen by a provider in person. Learn more here.

Lawmakers are aware of the benefits of telehealth to seniors and those in rural areas, and they are trying to protect them. A bipartisan group of senators introduced a new bill this month that would continue access to telehealth for elderly and rural patients, reports pymnts.com. The Protecting Rural Telehealth Access Act aims to permanently expand patient access to telehealth. The bill would allow healthcare providers to offer virtual care, including consultations through telephone calls, to Medicare patients anywhere in the country. While the demand for telehealth is no longer as high as it was during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the demand is still higher than it was pre-pandemic especially in rural areas where access to care is often limited. Learn more here.

Digital healthcare technology is not only beneficial to patients in their own homes, but also during in-person visits. A New York hospital is using digital technology to improve patient satisfaction ratings, reports healthtechmagazine.net. Since 2018, Lenox Hill Hospital has been using a digital rounding platform to gather patient information and coordinate patient visits with nurses, the food and nutrition team, and other staff members. Collecting patient information in the digital rounding app from all staff members who visit the patient helps the teams anticipate and address patient needs. Hospital leadership says the system makes patient interaction proactive rather than reactive. The rounding platform was built with the input of nurses and has led to improvement in better experiences for patients and employees. Learn more about the Lenox Hill digital rounding program here.