The potential for disruption in healthcare by Apple

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A lot has been said about the role of Apple in healthcare, the disruption it could bring and the need for it. If Steve Jobs was alive today, he would surely help the healthcare industry improve.

There is a lot of work and some progress are currently being made but they are slow to implement because evolution is not always seen as such (we all know about the learning curve…).

Apple is not the only company that could bring change and improvements, even disruption, in healthcare. All the technology companies are interested in this field and they will inevitably contribute to change the landscape.

What could Apple bring?

Analyze and integrate health data

The introduction of HealthKit in June 2014 was the start of a big wave of healthcare initiatives launched by Apple. Data collected via the HealthKit through wearables like the Apple Watch can be shared with the user’s doctor in order to improve the doctor-patient relationship. Data can then be integrated in the EHRs (Electronic Health Records) of the patient in order to enlarge the data collection.

Beyond data collection stands data analysis and it’s done with the help of the partnership with IBM Watson to support this effort.

Improve EHRs and real-time medical data to broaden prevention initiatives

Merging EHR and real-time data could enable the use of predictive analytics to anticipate health issues and diseases spread.

The implementation of EHRs could simplify and quicken the collection, use and consultation of medical data, especially in the case of emergencies. This could dramatically help to avoid medical errors due to the lack of specific retrospective information.

Partnerships

Apple has been and is still extremely smart in building strategic partnerships. 3 main partners worth keeping in mind:

  • IBM Watson: storage and analysis of raw data on IBM Watson Health Cloud for the data collected on HealthKit and ResearchKit.
  • Mayo Clinic: access to over 1 million patients in several countries around the world using dedicated proprietary EHR and communication tools for doctor-patient interactions.
  • Epic Systems: expertise in EHR covering over 100m people in USA.

HealthKit & ResearchKit

The main goal of the HealthKit is to collect data from wearables and other connected devices to better monitor individual health. HealthKit also allows the integration of 3rd party apps and devices.

ResearchKit is an add-on to the HealthKit as it helps create apps to improve clinical trials and medical studies.

Apple Watch v. 2.0 and new wearables

The new versions of the Apple Watch could potentially be developed into more sophisticated health-tracking devices with improved heart rate monitor. Moreover, thank to non-invasive technologies, new vital signs could to be captured and analyzed more accurately.

 

Related sources:

Why healthcare needs a Steve Jobs-like disruptor, STAT, February 2016.

Three More Industries Apple Could Disrupt, re/code, July 2015.

Steve Jobs didn’t disrupt, he adapted. So should healthcare, Becker’s Hospital Review, July 2014.

The Industries Apple Could Disrupt Next, Harvard Business Review, June 2014.

 

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Hacking the Human OS – IEEE

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A mind-blowing report from IEEE about the human body’s operating system

Can we harvest digital health data from trackers and sensors to improve our health and well-being? I summarized below what you will find on the IEEE dedicated web page. I was amazed by the variety and depth of all the innovations presented in these pages. Some of them have certainly the power to be game changers in the health care world. I’m looking forward to seeing all the advances coming to life!

Reading the Code

Several technologies are close to the market and will help us monitor our health. A very good example is the biostamps developed by John Rogers from the University of Illinois. These tiny, stretchable and skin-like sensors are able to send information and data to our smartphone alerting us whether something is happening in our body. More and more complex data could be sensed such as blood oxygen, blood glucose and even muscle weakness or sleep patterns.

Another fascinating example that could change the life of Type 1 diabetes patients is the artificial pancreas. It links “data from an implanted blood-sugar sensor to a computer, which then controls how a pump worn on the hip dribbles insulin under the skin through a pipette. In its fully realized form, the machine would take the patient out of the decision-making loop”. Advanced versions of the system are currently in clinical trials. Continuous monitoring is a huge advance in the field of disease management. It could strongly lighten the daily burden of each patient.

Another field where wearable are very popular: athletes. They are always eager to test the last innovation in the wearables arena. Physiological measurements can be extremely useful to optimize training and rest periods, improve performance and avoid injuries. Sleeves, wristbands, sensors equipped with highest technology can really make a difference in the way we monitor and track performance.

A device rapidly diagnosing any medical condition or disorder… Sounds like science fiction, right? Like in Star Trek… Some of you may recall the tricorder. And guess what? It’s about to become reality thank to a competition launched by Qualcomm. 300 teams registered, 10 finalists which are about to deliver their prototypes very soon. Once the winner has been chosen, real life clinical trials will start and we will know if it’s really working as expected. It’s a huge step forward as it will allow the diagnosis (and maybe the start of a treatment) for a lot of people, not only in US or Europe but also in emerging countries where the lack of medical infrastructure is killing human beings…

 

Analyzing the Code

Technology companies showed their interest in healthcare only recently… It’s welcomed because without technology you cannot do anything with data sets. However, some people are afraid of their data becoming public and being hacked. I think that between these two extreme opinions, we can take the good from both sides and see what this can bring us. “Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Samsung, have all launched e-health initiatives, mostly based around smartphones and wearables. Indeed, the fast-growing health care business would seem a natural next step for the tech giants”. A lot of deals have been signed between pharmaceutical companies and technology firms: Google and Novartis; IBM, Apple, Medtronic & JNJ… These are deals to follow in order to analyze the outcomes. Great initiatives could really emerge and I think we are at the beginning of a new era!

Long term analysis could help us understand in a more detailed way how we get sick, how the disease develop and how we could have anticipated it by looking at biomarkers trends.

The new era of precision medicine is making a big difference for patients. An open-source platform has transformed the way patients are being treated. Surgery is not always the best option in oncology for example and sometimes drug treatment is much more effective. A thorough and careful analysis of all the parameters will help doctors taking the right decision for the right patient at the right time.

Real-time epidemics modelling could have saved lives. Building treatment centers at the right locations, anticipating the spread of the disease (in this case, Ebola) and how to limit the contagion were several of the criteria used to run the model. We will never know what would have happen without such a model but globally we can say that modelling is critical in disease management. Additionally, it is not the use of a single model that will be helpful but the customized and accurate modelling for each and every epidemic, according to its characteristics.

 

Changing the Code

Performing surgical interventions at very small scales is becoming a reality. “Thanks to developments in microfabrication and other areas, researchers are pushing the limits on the size and capabilities of objects small enough to move through the human body”. “With the right design, researchers say, a microrobot—or a swarm of them—could deliver a highly targeted dose of drugs or radioactive seeds, clear a blood clot, perform a tissue biopsy, or even build a scaffold on which new cells could grow”. For the time being, tests have only been run in animals.

A new emerging medical field: electrical therapy. Vagus nerve stimulation has the potential to treat several conditions from migraine to asthma, even immune diseases. Progress is very slow and several failures have made history… but new startups are created and renew the interest in this type of technology.

W like Watson, the digital MD. Watson is based on machine learning: “bringing together computer scientists and clinicians to assemble a reference database, enter case studies, and ask thousands of questions. When the program makes mistakes, it self-adjusts. Researchers also evaluate the answers and manually tweak Watson’s underlying algorithms to generate better output. Here there’s a gulf between medicine as something that can be extrapolated in a straightforward manner from textbooks, journal articles, and clinical guidelines, and the much more complicated challenge of also codifying how a good doctor thinks.” Progress is under way.

 

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IBM strikes digital health deal with Apple, Medtronic and J&J – Financial Times

AppleWatchHealth data tracking and sharing is a reality

IBM teams up with Apple and other key health players to be in one of the hottest life sciences fields today: digital health. For more on this topic, check the dedicated category of my blog.

Using Apple’s HealthKit Platform, together with IBM app, will allow users to track their heart rate, calories burnt and cholesterol levels (and maybe much more data in the next future). The next step, if users are willing to do it, is to share these data with medical researchers, doctors and, why not, insurance companies (like in this NYT article). This emerging trend is called Data Philanthropy.

The current trend is now to have deeper ties between the life sciences and tech/IT fields.

It is fascinating to study health data trends from craddle to grave but the biggest challenge is to organize available data and electronic health records in order to better care for the patients and improve health outcomes without increasing costs.

IBM is fully committed as it also indicated it will commercialize dedicated tools for medical researchers, doctors and insurance companies with two goals in mind: support clinical trials (enrollment, data collection & analysis) AND contain healthcare costs. IBM already has a big data computing system named Watson, able to query this huge amount of data and spot trends.

The average patient will collect a terabyte of medical data in their lifetime. Our analytics will be able to find the dots, the clues that are eluding us, and find new breakthroughs,” said Michael Rhodin, senior vice-president of IBM Watson.

The two other deals done with J&J and Medtronic are showing the real life impact of digital health:

J&J has asked IBM to build a “coaching system” to ensure patients are fit enough to undergo spinal surgery or joint replacement, and to encourage them to do the right exercises after their operation.

– IBM is also working with Medtronic on a smart diabetes treatment system that would take readings from a patient’s glucose monitor and ensure their insulin pump dispenses the precise amount of drug required.

FT Article    Data For Health Report    38 Health Apps

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