Friday Roundup – August 11, 2017

The Friday Roundup is a collection of five stories that you need to know about each week. From policy, to innovations, look to us to keep you up to date on what’s happening in the healthcare industry.

Medical Associations Partner with the Human Diagnosis Project

Also known as Human Dx, the Human Diagnosis Project is an online system utilizing machine learning and crowdsourced knowledge to provide accessible care globally. Yesterday, it was announced that Human Dx will join forces with several organizations, including the American Medical Association, to form the Human Dx Alliance. The goal is to improve specialized care provided by the project.

 

Over the next five years, Human Dx plans to scale to support 30 million patients needing specialty care in the U.S., with a long-term goal of global impact. The platform works by letting doctors enter a case and essentially crowdsource knowledge from specialists contacted through the platform’s AI algorithm. This can cut down on the sometimes long and windy diagnosis process that often leaves patients frustrated and unsatisfied with the care they received.

Worried about Heart Disease? Now you can test for it

The developments in genetic testing just keep coming. This week, Color Genomics, a company known for their testing for genes associated with high risk of cancer, introduced a new section of testing for cardiovascular disease.

 

The test identifies a mutation that causes high cholesterol known as known as Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH). Early detection of FH is key as many patients are unaware of the mutation until they have a heart attack.

 

There is some dispute from cardiologists about whether the test is necessary as cholesterol tests are already fairly affordable and available.

Are Porcine Organs the Solution to Long Transplant Lists?

CRISPR is at it again with the world-altering research. Yesterday, the news came that researchers successfully removed a family of virus communicable to humans from piglets through genetic editing. Scientists have focused on pigs because their organs are a similar size to human’s and they can be bred easily and quickly.

 

The problem with pigs was one that now appears to be solved: They’re considerably biologically different from humans.

 

According to HHS, 116,00 people in the U.S. are currently waiting to receive a lifesaving organ transplant. Scientists are hopeful that alternative organ sources, like pigs, would lower this number significantly.

Immunotherapy Exhibits Promising Results for Type I Diabetes Treatment

A small clinical trial in the U.K. successfully treated 19 subjects with immunotherapy, allowing them to continue producing insulin. In contrast, patients receiving a placebo treatment had to increase their daily insulin use at an average of 50 percent.

 

The therapy exhibited no observable negative effects, despite some concerns from scientists that immunotherapy treatment could increase the immune system’s attack on insulin-producing cells.

 

For a disease that requires such intense self-medication and management, the promise of this immunotherapy is exciting news for those affected.

Microsoft Launches Blockchain Framework

Every industry seems to be attracted to the blockchain hype, and healthcare is no exception. Microsoft’s new framework, Coco, integrates with existing environments and therefore is considered “enterprise-ready.”

 

The appeal of blockchain for healthcare is mainly due to security. Health IT departments have identified it as a way to make health data “interoperable between EHRs and other software systems, and other emerging use cases.”

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Friday Roundup: August 4, 2017

The Friday Roundup is a collection of five stories that you need to know about each week. From policy, to innovations, look to us to keep you up to date on what’s happening in the healthcare industry.

State of Emergency Proposed for Opioid Epidemic

The recommendation comes in an interim report from the White House’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis released this past Monday. Health professionals have greeted the recommendation with a mixed response.

 

Some feel this is the right move because it would allow the Health and Human Services Secretary to take direct action like negotiating lower prices for naloxone. Others fear that the rhetoric used would bring similar consequences to the “war on drugs” years, in which those with addiction were heavily criminalized for their drug use.

 

One criticism came from Dr. Corey Waller, Senior Medical Director of Education and Policy for the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, who pointed out that even if a state of emergency is declared and funds become available there is not a sufficient workforce to handle the crisis.

Will Health Disparities Leak into the Genome?

Socioeconomic factors have been shown to have a large impact on one’s health, and with the wave of genetic editing research occurring, some worry limited access to technology will make genetic diseases a characteristic of marginalized communities.

 

“Restricting access to prenatal testing threatens to turn existing inequalities in our society into something biological and permanent,” genetic counselor and Sarah Lawrence professor Laura Hercher said.

 

Current prenatal screening tests for genetic disease cost upwards of $2,000, an unaffordable expense for many. In an article in Genome, Hercher refers to the financial and other limitations as contributions to the “ghettoization of genetic disease.”

NFL and NIH Don’t Play Well Together

The National Football League and the National Institute of Health have ceased their partnership for brain research. The parting will leave $16M of the $30M the NFL had pledged unspent.

 

The news broke three days after the New York Times published an extensive article about a recent study in which 110 of 111 brains of past NFL players were found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease caused by repeated blows to the head. Companies like VICIS have made great strides in CTE prevention, but they cannot change what has happened to football players in the past.

 

The NIH decided to let the contract expire in August. In the past, the league has been accused of trying to influence research by awarding it to doctors with connections to the league. At this time, it is unclear if the NFL will donate the remaining money pledged to the NIH through their fundraising arm or cease conversation with the NIH altogether.

 

What do you think this partnership termination means for the future of brain injuries in professional sports? Share your thoughts on Twitter or LinkedIn with the hashtag #NFLandNIH and tag us.

Senate Seeks to Influence Healthcare Elsewhere

With the lack of progress made on repealing, replacing, or improving the ACA, two senators  (Doris Matsui, D-California, and Bill Johnson, R-Ohio) have drafted a bill to expand telemedicine.

 

Several states already have laws relating to telemedicine on the books and the proposed legislation would allow the Health and Human Services secretary to oust Medicare restrictions if the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services conclude it reduces cost.

Superbugs are Afraid of Needles Too

Reducing the need for antibiotics is the name of the game when it comes to preventing antibiotic resistance, and more widespread vaccination against infections will do just that.

 

Vaccinations play a preventative role by keeping infections from occurring, but that’s not the only way they limit unnecessary antibiotic use. Vaccinating against viral infections is also important as antibiotics do not treat viruses, and protection from viral infections reduces the occurrence of secondary bacterial infections that can follow viruses and would require antibiotics.

 

Coupled with the benefits of “herd immunity,” a phrase that refers to when a large enough portion of the population is vaccinated that unvaccinated persons are not at risk, this appears to be an optimal way to fight antibiotic resistance.

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Friday Roundup – July 28, 2017

 

The Friday Roundup is a collection of five stories that you need to know about each week. From policy, to innovations, look to us to keep you up to date on what’s happening in the healthcare industry.

First Embryo Edited with CRISPR in US

Researchers from Portland, Oregon have become the first scientists in the US to edit a human embryo using CRISPR. Previously, most of the experimentation with CRISPR had been conducted in China.

 

Led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov, the experiment was promising as it had few “off-target” edits of genes CRISPR was meant to avoid. There was also no “mosaicism,” in which only some cells of an embryo have the intended DNA changes.

 

The process of using CRISPR to modify DNA of an embryo is referred to as “germline engineering” because the child produced would also pass the changes to their children through their own germ cells. Though the practice has great potential, like the ability to edit out genes that cause debilitating inherited diseases, many are concerned by the prospect of genetic enhancements and so-called “designer babies.”

Amazon Eyes Healthcare Frontier as Next Takeover

CNBC reported that Amazon has a super-secret stealth lab specifically for pursuing opportunities in healthcare. Nicknamed 1492 (possibly after Columbus), the group works on both software and hardware products.

 

This is just one of a few moves Amazon has made to position itself in healthcare. The company recently invested in Grail, a startup working on cancer detection, and various outlets have reported they are toying with the idea of formulating a pharmacy.

Making Sense of Metrics

A wide range of data from hospitals is now available, and is likely to influence a patient’s choice on where to receive treatment. However, an article in the New York Times points out that most metrics are not representative of a hospital’s performance and can easily be misinterpreted.

 

For example, many of the metrics are not adjusted for the socioeconomic status of a hospital’s patrons. Patients of a hospital in a wealthy region are likely to have more resources, which research indicates translates to better health. This might make it look like the hospital is higher quality, but that might not be due to its care.

 

What metrics do you use to decide where to seek care, if any? Tag us on Twitter (@angelMD_inc) or LinkedIn (@angelMD) and use the hashtag #MetricMixup to let us know.

Don’t Let Antibiotics Run Their Course

That’s the new message two scientists in Britain are exploring. Martin Llewlyn from the Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Tim Peto from the Oxford Biomedical Research Center and their colleagues argue that advice to complete the full course of prescribed antibiotics “contradicts the unambiguous fact that it’s not underuse but overuse that’s creating the resistance problem.”

 

Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem and cautionary practices like limiting antibiotic exposure could help curb its rise. Instead of completing the full course, they advocate for advising a patient to stop taking antibiotics when their condition begins to improve.

No Repeal without a Replacement

Earlier this week, the Senate rejected a bill that would repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, but not institute any kind of replacement. From here, it appears as though senators might consider a “skinny repeal” which would slice out a few pieces of the ACA, but leave it mostly intact until a more full-fledged plan is developed.

 

In addition to rejecting the repeal-only bill, senators also rejected the Better Care Reconciliation Act, an ACA replacement that the CBO estimated would have left 22 million more people uninsured by 2026. In comparison, a skinny repeal would lower that number to 16 million.

Edit: The senate rejected the “skinny repeal” in a 49-51 vote this morning.

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Friday Roundup – July 14, 2017

The Friday Roundup is a collection of five stories that you need to know about each week. From policy, to innovations, look to us to keep you up to date on what’s happening in the healthcare industry.

Digital Health has Lucrative Second Quarter

Investors contributed $3.8 billion to the digital health industry. The quarter alone was larger than the combined total annual funding for 2010 and 2011, according to Startup Health’s 2017 Mid-Year report. In addition, 2017 has seen more unique investors so far than the entirety of 2014, showing that the industry is attracting and keeping attention from investors new to the space. To date, there have been 306 deals in 2017 coming to a total of $6.5 billion.

 

Though the number of deals is consistent with earlier years, the size of deals has continued to grow, with more $100M+ deals projected for this year. The most active subsectors were Big Data/Analytics and Education/Training. The first one is hardly a shock, but the second shows the industry recognizes the shortage of healthcare professionals and is investing in solution to fix it.

First Sickle Cell Drug in 20 years Approved by FDA

Endari is a drug created by Emmaus Medical Inc. and has been approved to limit side effects of Sickle Cell that occur in the lungs and pain that is caused by the disorder.

 

Fortune Health points out that the situation with Sickle Cell — the fact that there hasn’t been a drug for many years and when there is, it only really helps manage the disorder — is indicative of how difficult it is to create “groundbreaking medicines.” Treatments for diseases like Sickle Cell, which affect a small portion of the population (about 100,000 Americans), often make slow progress. Though the FDA has attempted to focus more on rare diseases, it has come with missteps like the approval of a $89,000 decades-old muscular dystrophy treatment.

Department of Defense Backs Brain-Computer Interfaces

The U.S. is contributing $65 million to six different organizations with the goal of developing a way to record data from millions of neurons in the brain.The funding comes from the Neural Engineering System Design (NESD) program, a project meant to support President Obama’s BRAIN Initiative.

 

“By increasing the capacity of advanced neural interfaces to engage more than one million neurons in parallel, NESD aims to enable rich two-way communication with the brain at a scale that will help deepen our understanding of that organ’s underlying biology, complexity, and function,” NESD program founder Phillip Alvelda said in a statement.

 

This kind of information stream could eventually be the key to treating paralysis, speech disorders, and many other neurological based issues.

Outside Experts Recommend FDA Approval of CAR-T Cancer Therapy

Though the FDA’s final announcement of approval will not come until Oct. 3, the future of Novartis’ CAR-T therapy is promising. CTL019 is the first CAR-T therapy to reach the FDA and is proposed to treat children and young adults with advanced leukemia. CTL019 works by “programming” a patient’s white blood cells to focus on tumors.

 

The treatment was supported unanimously by the outside advisory board and has boasted impressive results such as an 83 percent remission rate.

 

Several other companies are working on CAR-T treatments, including Kite. The support Novartis earned from the advisory board bodes well for them and the future of CAR-T therapy, Kite’s CEO noted in a blog.

AI Bests Cardiologists in Detecting Cardiac Arrhythmias

Using data from the Zio patch created by SF-based startup iRhythm Technologies, researchers from Stanford developed an AI algorithm to detect cardiac arrhythmias. The program can detect 12 different types of arrhythmias and did so with more accuracy than the average cardiologist.

 

This kind of high-accuracy ECG-based diagnosis can save a lot of time for physicians and, when coupled with accessible ECG systems, will hopefully increase access to care without increased misdiagnosis.

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Friday Roundup – July 7, 2017

The Friday Roundup is a collection of five stories that you need to know about each week. From policy, to innovations, look to us to keep you up to date on what’s happening in the healthcare industry.

Google Violated UK Patient Privacy

The Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust did not comply with British data protection law when it shared patient data with Google’s artificial intelligence software DeepMind according to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Announced in November 2016, the partnership immediately drew criticism due to lack of transparency about what the data from 1.6 million patients would be used for. In a blog post, Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham wrote about what the healthcare industry can learn from the violation, including balancing the valuehttps://blog.angelmd.co/wp-admin/users.phps of privacy and innovation and advocating for increased law knowledge.

Surgeon General Nominee Announced

Current Indiana Health Commissioner Dr. Jerome Adams has been nominated by the President to assume the position of Surgeon General. The nomination has been met with a response that has become somewhat rare: bipartisan approval.

Adams, an anesthesiologist, is known as a public health leader for his work on the opioid crisis in Indiana. Most notably, Adams had to address an HIV outbreak in Indiana, which largely spread through needle use. He is recognized by the Indiana Health Department for convincing his appointer and then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to allow syringe exchanges in certain counties to limit the spread of HIV. If confirmed, Adams would serve a four-year term.

Aging Out Exacerbates Physician Shortage

There has long been concern around the lack of appropriate healthcare professionals and research from the Janis Orlowski, chief healthcare officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges, indicates it could get worse. Orlowski’s finding is something common in other industry and likely due to the Baby Boomer generation nearing retirement.

Orlowki indicates a shortage of 45,000-105,000 physicians within the next couple years, but the findings aren’t all bad. Her research shows the number of students attending U.S. medical schools has actually increased by 28 percent, but the lack of residency spots keeps them from becoming the professionals that are desperately needed.

Healthcare leaders have already taken Orlowki’s research and used it to form concrete policy suggestions that facilitate the utilization of young talent, like states implementing provisional medical licenses.

More Scrutiny Needed When it Comes to Antibiotic Trials

With issues like antibiotic resistance, prescribing the correct antibiotic to a patient has become increasingly difficult for physicians and is now being compounded by discrepancies between lab results and clinical trials.

New research indicates that initial testing needs to be in an environment more similar to the human body to reduce error. The researchers also note that this could be contributing to antibiotic resistance as “ineffective antibiotics [are] being prescribed as a result of these erroneous tests.”

Chasing the Fountain of Youth

One doctor’s pursuit of a drug to minimize the effects of aging has led him to metaformin, a drug typically used to treat type 2 diabetes that keeps blood sugar levels in check. Dr. Nir Barzilai is currently working to get the FDA to approve the pill for antiaging purposes.

The pill uses a compound from the French Lilac plant and when approved by the FDA in 1994, the drug was shown to improve health in a variety of ways. The FDA 25 to 40 percent less of metaformin users were diagnosed with cancer than diabetics under other treatment.

Barzilai is now leading a clinical study with metaformin with the goal of receiving FDA approval of it as an antiaging drug.

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