NHS Teams Up With Google, IBM, and Phillips To Improve Quality Of Care

In October 2014, the NHS published a broad plan to begin incorporating various new technologies into its standard care guidelines by partnering with private vendors and collaboratively piloting technology-supplemented treatments across the country. Called the “Test Beds” project, the goal of the effort is to use small pilot projects to identify new solutions that have the potential to improve quality of care, and then ramp just those solutions up at a national level. NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens explains, “Our new NHS Test Beds program aims to cut through the hype and test the practical benefits for patients when we bring together some of these most promising technologies in receptive environments inside the world’s largest public, integrated health service.”

NHS Teams Up With Google, IBM, and Phillips To Improve Quality Of Care

For the past year and a half, administrators within the NHS have been firming up plans and locking in partnerships in preparation for its first batch of “Test Bed” pilots. Last Friday during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Stevens announced that the first seven pilot programs were ready and would be launching in the coming months.

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Singularity University Signs R&D Deal With Becton Dickinson

Singularity University announces this week that it has signed an R&D deal with medical technology firm Becton, Dickinson and Co. to collaborate on new digital health solutions. Under the new agreement, BD will work out of Singularity’s SU Labs on its campus in Silicon Valley, where BD associates will work with entrepreneurs and Singularity industry experts to help develop startups that it will then incubate within the BD organization. As an organization, BD operates three business units: BD Medical, BD Diagnostics, and BD Biosciences. BD Medical makes needles, catheters, and scalpels, which it sells directly to hospitals and clinics. BD Diagnostics manufactures a wide array of automated specimen collection and sample processing systems for reference laboratories and blood banks. BD Biosciences caters to research and clinical laboratories, as it manufactures equipment to analyze tissues down to the cellular level. In the announcement, Singularity notes that the first batch of BD associates to participate in the program will work on ideas that fall under the umbrella of digital health, before bringing the new technologies back to BD to be further developed within one of the companies’ existing verticals.

Singularity University Signs R&D Deal With Becton Dickinson

The arrangement is not a new one. Singularity has signed similar R&D deals with some other organizations that would seem to be an awkward fit in Silicon Valley. When the university launched its SU Labs, a think tank and innovation lab that plays matchmaker between startups and established corporations, the first three partnerships were with Coca Cola, Hershey, and Lowes. Hershey, for example, was primarily interested in using robotics and 3D printing to trim manufacturing costs. Also working out of SU labs is Bayer and Harman International Industries. Singularity CEO Rob Nail explains, “By combining a deep understanding of powerful tools like artificial intelligence, computing, genomics, robotics and design thinking, with deep innovation expertise and connections to corporations, governments, academia, nonprofits and investors, we provide partners such as BD an opportunity to do things differently, innovating like a startup outside of their own company’s walls to create transformative new business opportunities.” An eloquent way of describing what is likely the necessary revenue generating business side of Singularity University, which tends to focus a majority of its efforts on conferences that spin out philanthropic moonshot projects, but with limited revenue.

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Disappointing Evidence Mounts For Remote Patient Monitoring Technology

For years, entrepreneurs and investors have been developing new digital health tools and sensors under the untested assumption that once these solutions were put in the hands of patients and health systems, outcomes would improve and readmissions would drop. The premise is sound. Patients discharged from the hospital are generally not yet fully recovered, and with the help of technology, the remainder of a patient’s recovery can be remotely monitored while they are at home. Many extend this concept beyond the recovery period, suggesting that chronically ill patients would benefit from prolonged monitoring to support their disease management efforts. The metrics one would want to measure are known. For heart failure patients, a precise daily weight is a valuable metric because it helps clinicians spot fluid retention. For diabetics, blood sugar levels could help clinicians identify patients struggling to manage their condition. Patients with hypertension could benefit from remote monitoring of their blood pressure. Now, thanks to the work of digital health entrepreneurs, the sensors and apps exist to capture all of these metrics in the patient home and share them with local providers. The next step is to field test them and measure the improvement to outcomes, hospitalization rates, and readmission rates.

Disappointing Evidence Mounts For Remote Patient Monitoring Technology

In 2013, Spyglass Consulting conducted a small survey of health systems, home health agencies, hospices, and government agencies like the VA that were early adopters of remote patient monitoring technology. At the time, more than 50 percent of respondents questioned the clinical efficacy and potential for a return on investment from remote patient monitoring solutions. Fast forward two years, and researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and UCLA presented similar findings at the American Heart Association’s 2015 Scientific Summit. In this more recent study, researchers focused on heart failure patients, conducting a randomized control trial to measure changes to readmission rates and mortality rates when supplemental remote patient monitoring solutions were used. The study concluded that no meaningful improvements were made to either the 30-day readmission rates or six-month mortality rates of heart failure patients who were enrolled in the remote patient monitoring program.

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FDA Publishes Guidance On Cybersecurity Risk Management For Medical Devices

The FDA has published new draft guidance on managing cybersecurity threats that could compromise networked medical devices. Though no direct harm has been known to have occurred from cybersecurity attacks on medical devices, vulnerabilities in networked medical devices  have been known for years and widely reported on. White-coat hackers have published detailed vulnerability reports demonstrating how pacemakers, insulin pumps, and surgical robots could all be remotely controlled, producing potentially deadly results. In August 2015, the FDA issued its first ever safety alert over a cybersecurity vulnerability in a widely used medical device. The safety alert notified health systems that Hospira’s Symbiq Infusion System contained software vulnerabilities that “could allow an attacker to remotely control the operation of the device, potentially impacting the prescribed therapy and patient safety.” In February 2013, the President issued a series of executive orders tasking government agencies with strengthening the nation’s infrastructure against cybersecurity threats. A second executive order issued in February 2015 expands upon that directive by encouraging the creation of a cybersecurity information sharing network where government agencies and private business could collaborate on potential threats.

FDA Publishes Guidance On Cybersecurity Risk Management For Medical Devices

In response to the increased threat to equipment deemed critical to public health and the national infrastructure, the FDA has issued its new draft guidance to provide medical device manufacturers additional information on how to manage and mitigate post-market cybersecurity risks. For pre-market risk mitigation, the FDA references a 2014 document outlining appropriate design, test, and validation steps that should be taken by medical device manufacturers prior to submitting devices for approval.

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University of Illinois Researchers Unveil Bioresorbable Brain Implants

A team of researchers from the Materials Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, along with neurologists from Washington University School of Medicine and engineers from Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University, Northwestern University, and Korea University have published findings in Nature on new silicon-based implantable sensors that monitor temperature and brain swelling, but that do not need to be removed afterwards because each component is made from materials that are naturally broken down by the body over time.

University of Illinois Researchers Unveil Bioresorbable Brain Implants

The new sensors are smaller than a grain of rice and are made of dissolvable silicon that operate normally for a few weeks, and then are broken down and absorbed naturally by the body. The sensors monitor key biometrics and then wirelessly transmit the information to a receiver implanted just under the skin but over the skull. Researchers say the new sensors could initially replace traditional hardwired sensors used to monitor traumatic brain injury patients, but hope that they will eventually be developed to support a wider range of monitoring needs in other organ systems. Lead investigator John Rogers, who runs the Fredrick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois, explains ,"These kinds of systems have potential across a range of clinical practices, where therapeutic or monitoring devices are implanted or ingested, perform a sophisticated function, and then resorb harmlessly into the body after their function is no longer necessary."

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