People with Type 1 diabetes could soon be saying goodbye to sticking their fingers to check blood sugar levels. This news comes from a study among children with Type 1 diabetes conducted by the University of Virginia, that tested how well an artificial pancreas developed by the school performed at managing insulin and glucose levels against the patient’s home routine. The platform, which is controlled using a smartphone, uses algorithms that wirelessly link to a blood-sugar monitor and insulin pump worn by the patient, as well as to a remote-monitoring site. The children using the device averaged more time within the target blood-sugar range without an increase in hypoglycemia than those without. Also, probably no need to worry about getting kids to check their phones.
A secret team at Apple, made up of around 30 tech and biomedical experts, is working on a program that would use the Apple Watch as a sensor “that can noninvasively and continuously monitor blood sugar levels to better treat diabetes,” according to three bean-spillers close to the project. This was envisioned by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs prior to his death. The project has been ongoing for at least five years, and is reportedly run now by Apple’s SVP of hardware technologies, Johny Srouji. How would something like this work? Good question. According to a CNBC article, the program would “[shine] a light through the skin to measure indications of glucose.” It’s like something Q would create – for a diabetic 007.
Alexa could be preparing to handle that question and many more from people with diabetes following a partnership between Merck and Amazon Web Services. The two companies will work alongside Luminary Labs to run a challenge focused on using Amazon Echo’s voice-enabled software to assist those with diabetes, with the long-term hope of expanding to other chronic illnesses. The Echo, which is set to sell around 110 million devices over the next four years, may have utility in the future that’s beyond playing your favorite song or telling you the weather. With the help of developers, it could morph into a tool used to remind people of their nutrition plans or schedule their upcoming insulin dosages.
Cancer…the c-word is cancer. Grail, a Silicon Valley startup, is developing a blood test similar to a liquid biopsy that works proactively to spot cancer. According to Business Insider, the goal is to “identify the tiny bits of cancer DNA that are hanging out in our blood but are now undetectable.” A test like that will take time, massive clinical trials and, of course, money. Lucky for them, Grail just raised more than $900M in funding from big names like Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Celgene, McKesson Ventures, Merck, Tencent Holdings Limited, Varian Medical Systems, and even Amazon. Who knows, maybe Prime members can get test results delivered to their front door in less than two business days.
People in the US are living longer (and elsewhere, too, surely). Healthcare spending in the US is expected to increase from 5.5% of the economy today to almost 9% by 2046. But why? With most healthcare spending occurring in the last five years of life, that spending is fixed, and an increasing life expectancy should just push that spending out a few years. Several studies suggest that technology is a major cause of healthcare spending increases, accounting for as much as one-third to two-thirds of the increase. And technology, while good, is expensive. Just ask someone with a heart condition or ask a premature baby how technology helped them. They can answer because they’re still alive. That’s right. Our premature baby talks. So?
Patient portals, wearables, and mHealth apps–terms straight out of a sci-fi flick are becoming part of daily life. While companies want to improve the health and access to information for patients, these products may be facing a bit of a learning curve. The issue? Health literacy. A study from UT Austin discovered nearly half of Americans are skeptical of health information technology (HIT). Patients with low health literacy were less likely to perceive HIT tools as intuitive and helpful. They also described the information they shared as private, whereas those with high health literacy demonstrated the opposite. It’s imperative that HIT providers adapt the perception of this technology, lest they miss out on 150 million people saying “whatchu talkin’ ‘bout, Fitbit?”
Sanofi and Verily (Google Life Sciences) are the latest pharma/tech partnership in what’s being called the “Internet of Medical Things” (IoMT). Their joint venture, Onduo, will combine Sanofi’s experience in diabetes treatment with Verily’s reputation for consumer software, analytics, and miniature electronics. The IoMT market was $32.4 billion in 2015, but is projected to reach $163.2 billion by 2020. Other pharma/tech partnerships include: Pfizer and IBM teaming up to collect data from Parkinson’s patients, Novartis and Qualcomm collaborating on biometrics, and a host of other joint ventures related to smart pill bottles, smart inhalers, etc. The first Onduo products (TBD on specifics) are expected to launch in 2018.