Google Glass half full

In a pilot study by researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine, Google Glass was tested as a tool to help children with autism learn to read peoples’ facial expressions. As you may be aware, many people with autism struggle to interact socially, often lacking the ability to interpret others’ emotions from their facial expressions. That’s where Google Glass comes in. The technology was programmed to recognize and interpret facial expressions and provide children wearing the device feedback about others’ feelings. This feedback is given either in the form of words on the Glass screen or spoken into the wearer’s ear through a speaker. Parents of 12 of the 14 children reported increased eye contact and social interaction from their children post-intervention. The study represents a small sample and no control group, that said, it’s promising. Study participant quote: “Mommy, I can read minds!”

Amazon’s grand challenge

Been a while since Amazon has graced the annals of InsightCity, at least a few weeks. They’re back. Not wanting to be left out of the secret healthcare group club, CNBC reported Amazon created a secretive group called Grand Challenge, led by the creator of Google Glass (Babak Parviz). The group, which also goes by the names 1492 and Amazon X (because one code word is not enough), has more than 50 people working for it. What are they working on? First, they are “working with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, attempting to apply machine learning in ways that can help prevent and cure cancers.” Second, “internally dubbed Hera (more code names), which involves taking unstructured data from electronic medical records to identify an incorrect code or the misdiagnosis of a patient.” Cool, but that’s nothing compared to Amazon’s “Interesting Finds” section.

He’s wearing a wire

What do Gordon Gekko and Google have in common? (and please don’t say they both start with “G” – you’re smarter than that) They both know that the most valuable commodity is information. To that end, Google’s latest healthcare initiative has the company teaming up with Stanford physicians to audio record your doctor visit. Creepy? Maybe, but there’s more. Called a “digital scribe” the pilot program is designed to use the audio recording to populate your electronic health record (EHR), freeing the physician from taking and transcribing notes. Researchers will then use machine learning algorithms to detect patterns from the recordings that can be used to automatically complete a “progress note.” That sounds better. And really, how bad can it be? It’s not like the physician will be wearing a wire, right?

2. Dot-com vs Doctor

Anyone who would routinely choose against two-to-one odds would have to be considered crazy, right? Well, at least a third of Americans regularly take their chances when it comes to diagnosing symptoms. In a recent study reported in JAMA that compared diagnosis accuracy, it was discovered that physicians correctly diagnosed a patient 72% of the time, whereas computer apps did so 34% of the time. One major factor in the difference was the ability for doctors to reference patients’ medical histories. So, what could computers do if armed with more electronic health records? Well, IBM’s supercomputer “Watson” solved a months-old, doctor-stumping leukemia mystery in 10 minutes. Look for more calls from private app developers to tie into EMR data. That shouldn’t make us nervous, right?

5. Sanofi and Verily partner in IoMT

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.

5. Is Google’s biotech spinoff just science fiction?

A new report claims that Verily Life Sciences, the Google spinoff company responsible for things like glucose-monitoring contact lenses and a wristwatch-style cancer screener, may be more hype than reality. Stat, a healthcare news website owned by Boston Globe Media, published an investigative series reporting that three of Verily’s key projects are floundering. One former employee called the contact lenses “slideware,” a Silicon Valley term for something that doesn’t exist outside of a PowerPoint presentation. Verily defended its research, arguing that these projects take time because they’re “inherently difficult” and would like to remind everyone of another “slideware” project now called a self-driving car. “Science is easy,” said nobody, ever.