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5 Healthcare Technology Advances Making the News

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Healthcare technology is advancing so quickly that it can be difficult to keep up. Unfortunately, staying abreast of what's new isn't getting any easier. As a recent Allied Market Research report notes, the U.S. healthcare information technology market generated a little more than $61 billion in 2017. It is projected to reach more than $149 billion by 2025, growing at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 12% from 2018 to 2025.

While the acceleration of healthcare technology innovation can feel overwhelming, this growth is ultimately good for providers and patients. As a Healthcare IT News report notes, "Healthcare is at an exciting juncture right now. With analytics, cloud, mobile tools, open APIs, apps and so much patient data being generated and opened to developers, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about how hospitals can use technology to fix our broken system."

To help you catch up on recent healthcare technology news you may have missed, here are five advances that recently made headlines.

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1. AI-driven EKG

In a recent blog, we identified artificial intelligence (AI) as an emerging technology in healthcare to know. The Mayo Clinic has announced the results of a study that demonstrated a new way AI can improve healthcare: helping detect early asymptomatic left ventricular dysfunction, a precursor to heart failure that can be treated when identified.

The Mayo Clinic study found that applying AI to an electrocardiogram (EKG) results in an inexpensive, early indicator of the condition. According to a news release, Paul Friedman, MD, senior author of the study, said, "The ability to acquire an ubiquitous, easily accessible, inexpensive recording in 10 seconds — the EKG — and to digitally process it with AI to extract new information about previously hidden heart disease holds great promise for saving lives and improving health."

2. Telehealth kiosks in supermarkets

Shoppers at select Giant Eagle supermarkets in Pennsylvania can now connect with University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) clinicians from telehealth kiosks stationed in the pharmacy area of the stores. As a news release notes, the kiosks are available for use by anyone for treatment of minor illnesses, regardless of insurance status.

In addition to speaking via video with UPMC professionals, kiosks are outfitted with blood pressure cuffs, thermometers and otoscopes to aid in assessing symptoms. Clinicians recommend treatment plans, which include prescriptions or in-person office visits. Pharmacists and technicians are available on-site to assist with using the kiosks and devices.

The offering is an extension of UPMC AnywhereCare, which provides patients with online access to healthcare providers via computer or mobile device. An AnywhereCare visit cost varies from $0-$49, depending on insurance coverage.

In the release, Natasa Sokolovich, executive director of Telehealth Services at UPMC, said, "As the name says, we want our world-renowned UPMC care to be available to our patients anywhere, including the grocery store where they might already be looking for over-the-counter remedies. With UPMC AnywhereCare already available on smartphones, tablet, and personal computers, our partnership with Giant Eagle is one more way to make our high-quality care accessible to patients when and where they want it."

3. Head and neck cancer treatment management app

Recognizing a need to help head and neck cancer treatment patients better mange their post-treatment symptoms, The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research developed NorthTrac.

As a news release notes, this new app for the iPhone or iPad asks patients a series of symptom-based questions. If patients indicate issues with a particular symptom, the app provides a list of self-care tips that can help reduce or manage those symptoms. Information is collected and sent to each patient's medical professional for discussion during the next consult. The app also serves as an information resource for organizations to help head and neck cancer survivors.

In the release, Sewit Teckie, MD, one of the app developers, said, "A head and neck cancer patient who has completed all of her cancer treatment regimen typically sees her doctor every three months. It can be challenging to accurately track and discuss her symptoms and receive advice to relieve those symptoms. I developed NorthTrac with Feinstein Institute researchers and technologists to not only provide a way for patients to maintain a log of symptoms but also offer immediate informational resources to help combat those symptoms."

4. Multi-purpose, Bluetooth-controlled ingestible capsule

Researchers from several institutions have partnered to design an ingestible capsule that can be customized to deliver drugs and/or sense environmental conditions. Controlled via Bluetooth and manufactured using 3-D printing, the capsule can stay in a patient's stomach for at least a month, sending information and responding to instructions from a smartphone.

As a news release notes, the capsule could be particularly helpful for cases where drugs must be taken over an extended period. It could also be designed to sense infections, allergic reactions or other events and release a drug in response.

5. Digital neuropsychology

In the hopes of improving upon "pencil-and-paper" cognitive testing, researchers are exploring the value of "digital neuropsychology." As a news release notes, digital neuropsychology is the assessment of neuropsychological function using digital devices (e.g., smartphones).

Tests conducted on digital platforms can identify subtle and important information about test takers that would otherwise be impossible to capture using traditional assessments, according to Laura Germine, PhD, in the release. She said, "You can measure moment-to-moment changes as a person moves their finger across the touch screen. If that movement is not smooth, if there's jerkiness, we can get all that. We can record certain dynamics or 'micro behaviors' with digital assessment. It's amazing."

Germine and colleagues are working with the National Institute of Aging to develop an infrastructure to perform neuropsychological testing using mobile devices.

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