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 – 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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