Health Tech is Alive and Kicking!
Today's itinerary: Healthcare tech! We'll talk about tech innovations that are making healthcare safer and how rural healthcare is being reshaped.
August 29, 2019
Big Data and healthcare in Pittsburgh
Healthcare often seems like the last field to come kicking and screaming into the world of modern technology. From the clipboard of data they make you fill out with pen and paper to that little rubber mallet they smack your knee with, going to the doctor sometimes seems like traveling back in time. The Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance (PHDA), a consortium created by Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, wants to change that.
PHDA has teamed up with Amazon Web Services—Amazon’s machine learning arm—to harness the power of Big Data to improve healthcare and treat disease. The idea is to bring together normally isolated data sets, like patient information, diagnostic imaging, prescriptions, genomic profiles, and insurance records. By wrangling all that data, scientists hope to improve treatment, improve lab outcomes, and keep patients better informed so they can be more involved in their own care. And before you freak out about Amazon co-opting patients’ data and sending them ads for diamond-encrusted catheters, rest assured that all data in the project remains secure and anonymous and stays with PHDA institutions.
Using analytics to keep hospitals safe
One of the goals of Ecolab Healthcare in St. Paul, MN, is to help hospitals mitigate the risks associated with healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). The latest solution in its portfolio are digital dashboards that can provide predictive analytics to help forecast and reduce infection rates.
If you take a look at the stats—prepare for an anxiety spike—you’ll see why such a solution is needed:
Every year, millions of patients globally acquire a healthcare-associated infection. In a single year, 7% to 10% of all patients will acquire an HAI, and more than one million of those patients will die from their infections, including 75,000 in the US—more than the number of annual deaths from auto accidents and homicides combined.
“Our dashboards will help empower hospitals to promote cleaner and safer environments by helping to break the chain of infection while also reducing ancillary costs,” said Gail Peterson, vice president of marketing for Ecolab Healthcare.
Early sepsis detection with AI
Instances of sepsis are on the rise, increasing by 1.5 percent each year in the US. Sepsis—an extreme immune response to infection—can turn life-threatening in hours—sometimes in just minutes. According to data from Duke University School of Medicine, sepsis affects 1.5 million people and kills more than 250,000 Americans every year. And by some estimates, the health care costs of sepsis in the US run as high as $24 billion annually.
Durham, NC-based Duke Health has seen encouraging results from its efforts to detect sepsis as soon as possible. Last year, it developed an artificial intelligence (AI) system aimed at early detection. According to Suresh Balu, director of the Duke Institute for Health Innovation (DIHI), “With a deep learning model ingesting over 50,000 patient records and more than 32 million data points, we are able to identify patients at risk for developing sepsis with greater than 90% accuracy.”
And now, clinical analytics company Cohere Med, which is based in the US and India, has licensed this system. It plans to use Internet of Things (IoT) technology to enable real-time processing and improve the quality of clinical data and interoperability.
It's time, once again, for Name That Flyover City!
Answer these three questions and win, uh, an ego boost
- What city has the nickname of "Naptown"?
- Where is the Arnold Sports Festival held every year?
- Where was the world’s first polio vaccine created?
Want answers? We all want answers! Click here for answers.
Not a dry eye in the house
Dry eye is a condition that causes irritation and sometimes damage to the eyes—and by some estimates, a third of us suffer from it. Until now, though, treatment has been somewhat ineffective. Prescription eye drops typically need to be administered several times a day, and not everyone sticks to that regimen. And even if they do, the drops tend to dribble out or drain away through the tear ducts, so much of the benefit is lost.
Enter Alexis Nolfi, a bioengineer and fourth-year PhD student at the University of Pittsburgh’s McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Nolfi has been developing CyteSolutions Lens, a soft contact lens that uses a special coating to deliver a slow, sustained release of a drug to reduce inflammation and offer long-lasting relief of dry eye symptoms. It will eliminate the need for frequent dosing and reduce product loss.
And CyteSolutions Lens is on the innovation radar: It's just been named a finalist for the Pitt Innovation Challenge.
Can a blood test gauge pain level?
Image by Antonio Corigliano via pixabay
We've probably all had that question asked of us in the doctor’s office: “What is your pain level from 1-10?” While it’s a seemingly easy question, doctors don’t always get the most scientific answers from their patients. Some rugged guy might describe his bursting appendix pain as a 2, while someone with a lower pain threshold might assign a 10 to the pain from a paper cut.
Dr. Alexander B. Niculescu, a psychiatrist and researcher at the Indiana University School of Medicine, thinks he has found a better way to gauge pain through a blood test.
Niculescu’s company, MindX Sciences Inc., has developed a prototype for a blood test that objectively tell doctors if a patient is in pain and how severe that pain is. Molecular changes in a person’s blood can reflect what is happening in their brain, such as stress and anxiety.
It can also be used to match people to the correct medication or to develop new drugs.
Niculescu says the test will also be able to gauge pain with some hard-to-quantify mental health conditions, such as suicide risk, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Less risky cardiovascular surgery
Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Morgridge Institute for Research have developed a new method of generating smooth muscle cells for use in cardiovascular artery transplants.
(We had to look it up: Smooth muscle cells are one of two cell types used in artery transplants and are typically grown from stem cells, and until now they’ve been a big part of post-surgical risk.)
Problems with common growth factors
The most common growth factors used to develop the cells increases the risk for the smooth muscle cells to develop intimal hyperplasia, a condition in which the artery walls thicken after transplant.
The Morgridge team has created a growth factor that not only inhibits intimal hyperplasia, but makes RepSox better at producing smooth muscle cells, as well as a good candidate for post-surgical drugs to further reduce complication risks.
Research is ongoing, the team said.
Reshaping rural health care
A $40M medical facility in rural Illinois, which makes use of Cerner Corp's extensive pioneering Health Information Technologies, started accepting new patients July 22.
Neal Patterson died in July 2017, but the late CEO of Cerner Corp is still solving problems in his home state.
"Neal really believed that anything that an urban center could offer could be offered right here in rural with the use of technology,” said Martha Hadsall, chairwoman of the new Patterson Health Center.
The facility is situated between the towns of Harper and his native Anthony, IL.
Patterson approached two struggling hospitals in the area, which were operating just nine miles apart, to offer hefty financial assistance if the two would merge.
The 60-acre facility is slated to be transformative in the field of rural healthcare.
Made possible by a $35 million donation from The Patterson Family Foundation in 2017, it offers a 16-bed critical-access hospital, health clinic, physical therapy and rehabilitation center, and a wellness center. Plans for a fitness center, community center, community gardens, and a trail system are underway.
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