Meta Analysis Confirms Text Message Reminders Boost Medication Adherence

A team of researchers from the University of Sydney, University of Oxford, and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have published findings from a meta analysis reviewing 16 studies evaluating the effectiveness of text message-based medication adherence programs. The researchers included only randomized control trials in their review and focused on studies measuring adherence improvements among chronically ill adults. In total, 16 studies were included in the analysis spanning a variety of patient demographics, text message programs, and chronic diseases.

Meta Analysis Confirms Text Message Reminders Boost Medication Adherence

Of the 16 trials included in the review, eight incorporated technology that provided computer-generated personalized text messages for patients, while another eight incorporated standard daily reminder messages. The duration of the studies varied, but average duration was 12 weeks. An important note is that medication adherence was not independently verified, and in all cases self-reporting was relied on to measure improvements. Still, the improvements were significant.

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USC Announces Strategic Partners For Virtual Care Clinic

In October 2015 at its annual USC Body Computing Conference, University of Southern California leaders unveiled their latest digital health initiative, a virtual care clinic that will expand patient access to USC’s care delivery system while simultaneously acting as a digital health innovation lab and accelerator program where telehealth-focused technology will be developed to move the patient encounter out of the office and onto the computer. “Be prepared for hologram house calls,” said Leslie Saxon, MD, a cardiologist and founder of the USC Center for Body Computing. Saxon then went on to demonstrate hologram-based patient visit technology as well as virtual reality-based approaches to treatment.

USC Announces Strategic Partners For Virtual Care Clinic

Now,  USC’s Center for Body Computing is announcing eight strategic partners that will join the Virtual Care Clinic program in its effort to virtualize care delivery. Alongside engineers working from the USC Institute of Creative Technologies, teams from Doctor Evidence, IMS Health, Karten Design, Medable, Planet Grande, Proteus Digital Health, and VSP Global will work to integrate various new technologies into the Virtual Care Clinic technology infrastructure. The group will work together to create a platform that physicians working within Keck Medicine of USC can use to deliver remote care. Kern’s ophthalmology group, which is ranked ninth nationally for ophthalmologic services, will be the first to go live on the platform.

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CMS Letter States Theranos Lab Poses An “Immediate Jeopardy” To Patient Safety

On Sunday of this week, the Wall Street Journal broke yet another story on Theranos, this time suggesting that a damaging report on a CMS inspection conducted in one of its testing facilities late last year was days from being released to the public. While the full report has yet been made public, CMS published a scathing public letter to Theranos this week broadly outlining deficiencies it found while inspecting Theranos’ California lab facility. Those deficiencies, CMS says, “pose immediate jeopardy to patient health and safety,” and require correction within 10 days if the lab is to avoid losing its license to perform Medicare tests. 

CMS Letter States Theranos Lab Poses An “Immediate Jeopardy” To Patient Safety

The CMS letter outlines five major deficiencies found during its inspection, the most serious of which was found during the inspection of its hematology test process. Hematology is a broad category of lab tests that includes blood cell counts and measuring how long it takes for blood to clot, a common test used to monitor patients taking blood thinners. These are routine tests by any measure, yet CMS indicated that it was here that deficiencies were found that posed “immediate jeopardy” to patient safety. News of the letter made immediate headlines, as Theranos has been the subject of intense media scrutiny since a series of investigative reports published in October questioned the company’s core technology, as well as its accountability and ethics.

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Neurotrack Closes $6.5 Million In Fresh Funding, Launches Flagship Cognitive Assessment

Palo Alto-based digital health startup Neurotrack announces that it has raised a $6.5 million Series B funding round led by Khosla Ventures, with additional investments from AME Cloud Ventures, ISeed Ventures, and returning investors Social Capital and Founders Fund. The new funding brings Neurotrack’s lifetime funding level to $9.5 million since its 2012 formation. The company started out in Boston, and was a member of the Boston-based Rock Health incubator program in the spring of 2012 before moving its headquarters to California.

Neurotrack Closes $6.5 Million In Fresh Funding, Launches Flagship Cognitive Assessment

Since its formation, Neurotrack has been working to develop a cognitive assessment tool that can accurately diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment by displaying on-screen pictures to the patient and then analyzing their eye movements while they look over the images. Developers pair images on the screen so that one is familiar to the patient, while the second is unfamiliar. Next, a camera tracks the patient’s eye movement and eye fixation to measure which images the patients are focusing on longer. Then, percentages for how much of the total time the patient spent focused on both the familiar and unfamiliar image were calculated. This information is then used to detect abnormalities in the hippocampus that are unique to Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment. Because the hippocampus is the first part of the brain that is affected by these conditions, researchers using the new tool were able to accurately diagnose the conditions as early as six years before any signs or symptoms presented. Currently, there is no reliable screening for early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, but treatment is far more effective in patients who are diagnosed early. Neurotrack’s diagnostic test takes just five minutes to administer, and because of this, the company hopes to see it incorporated into standard preventative screenings for at-risk populations across the US.

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Texas Medical Center Introduces Second Class To Its Digital Health Accelerator Program

Texas Medical Center unveils the second class of its digital health accelerator, TMCx. The program was formally launched as a partnership between TMC and Village Capital, a Washington DC-based VC firm, in December 2014. At the time, 12 startups were granted admission into the program, where they received $50,000 in seed funding from Village Capital, and on-site mentorship from executives at Texas Medical Center for the duration of the four-month program. Now, TMCx is offering startups an opportunity to join the accelerator without giving up equity. Instead, startups will have an opportunity to work with advisors during the accelerator program to raise capital as part of the standard curriculum. As with most accelerator programs, curriculum involves a significant amount of time focused on practicing for VC meetings, and the program concludes with a Demo Day to an audience of potential investors.

Texas Medical Center Introduces Second Class To Its Digital Health Accelerator Program

This year, TMCx has accepted 13 startups to the program, with five from the local Houston area, and the remainder based throughout the US. The newly accepted members of the TMCx class are:

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More Bad News On The Way For Theranos

The past six months have not been good for Theranos, the Silicon Valley lab test startup once valued at an astounding $9 billion. A series of damaging investigative reports published in the Wall Street Journal by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Carreyrou took the company to task for marketing its new blood-testing process as a groundbreaking new innovation when, behind the scenes, it was actually processing a vast majority of the blood samples it collected with conventional analyzers acquired from its competitors. The initial story was followed by another reporting that the FDA had ordered the startup to stop using its “nanotainer” blood storage device, a key component of its testing process, because it was an “unregulated medical device.” Shortly after, questions arose as to the accuracy of the company’s lab analyzer, and accusations were cast suggesting that the company took steps to hide potentially dangerous variances in accuracy from auditors.

More Bad News On The Way For Theranos

Now, Theranos is on the cusp of what will likely be another major blow to its public image and long-term viability. Citing sources “familiar with the matter,” The Wall Street Journal reports that during a recent inspection of Theranos’ lab facilities, CMS auditors discovered serious issues that may put the company in jeopardy of being suspended from the Medicare program. Details are not yet available on what issues might have been discovered during the inspection, which lasted several months, but the inspection reports from the visit are expected to be released publically soon.

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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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