Virtual nurses, bots, AI: Digital health predictions for ’23

By Giles Bruce

A “headline-grabbing” health system/digital health company merger? Less digital health investment from hospitals? More virtual healthcare workers to meet staffing shortages?

These are some of the predictions health system chief digital officers made for the industry in 2023. Here are those digital health forecasts for the new year, as told to Becker’s by nine executives:

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Introducing Dentaverse, a virtual reality platform that is changing the future of dentistry

Dentaverse is a virtual environment where users can interact with one another, attend and host events and even present and learn about dental treatments and products.

By Jeremy Booth

BRUSSELS, Belgium: On 1 December, dental professionals from around the world gathered for the launch of a new, virtual reality (VR) environment called Dentaverse. Based on Web3 technologies, Dentaverse aims to create a meeting point for the global community of dentists, dental students and dental industry professionals. According to its founder and CEO, Martin Ravets, the platform has the potential to bridge the gap between physical and virtual oral care and to overcome the barriers of time and distance in order to create a truly inclusive international dental community.

Dental Tribune International (DTI) spoke with Ravets just hours before the launch using video call technology that connected DTI’s editorial office in Leipzig in Germany with Dentaverse’s headquarters in Brussels. Popularised during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, streaming and video call platforms can only take connectivity to a certain point. Commenting on the immersive experience that Dentaverse offers—including through the use of VR headsets—Ravets said: “If we were meeting there, we would have eye contact and you could see and follow my gestures and body language, and I yours. It would be a completely different type of interaction.”

Let us take a step back and explain exactly what Dentaverse is. Popular community-based web tools—such as Instagram and LinkedIn—underpin the platform, and these are mixed with new Web3 technologies, like blockchain, metaverse and cryptocurrency payment, in order to create a virtual environment where users can interact with one another, attend and host events, and even present and learn about dental treatments and products.

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Study: Medical debt threatens people’s health, housing

Soaring medical debt is setting U.S. adults up for higher risks of eviction, food insecurity and bad health outcomes regardless of insurance or income, a new study found.

By Sabrina Moreno

Why it matters: Uninsured or middle-to-low-income patients are more likely to get stuck with medical debt while the rich are largely spared. But even private insurance offers little protection against unaffordable bills, according to the study published in JAMA Open Network on Friday.

  • “Private insurance is a defective product. You pay for it and then when you get sick, there’s co-payments, there’s deductibles, there’s out-of-network fees, there’s things that aren’t covered at all,” said Steffie Woolhandler, a physician and public health professor at Hunter College who co-authored the study. 

The big picture: More than 100 million Americans live with medical debt, per an investigation by Kaiser Health News and NPR.

  • Mounting costs coupled with stagnant wages can force people into delaying necessary care, taking on multiple jobs, sacrificing essentials like groceries and depleting savings to the point of financial ruin.

Yes, but: People in states that expanded Medicaid reported an average of $3,000 less in medical debt than those in states who hadn’t, signaling a link between comprehensive coverage and lower bills.

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Mawi launches a patch to track your heart health faster and in real time

By Haje Jan Kamps

If you’ve ever had the misfortune of needing continuous EKG monitoring, you’ve probably used a Holter monitor. It’s like carrying a 1980s walkman made of metal with a bunch of wires going from it to your chest. If that sounds uncomfortable, and as if you won’t sleep or enjoy showers much for the two weeks you need to carry it around, you’ve neatly stumbled across the use case for the Mawi Heart Patch. The company just released its product, a two-lead cardiac monitor that can be read in real time.

There are consumer-grade products that can do EKG readings, including the Withings ScanWatch (and its fancier-looking sibling, the ScanWatch Horizon), and there are other patches on the market, such as the Zio patch, but Mawi claims to have done something unique, and suggests that its Heart Patch is the first ever single-use, two-lead cardiac monitor to reach the market.

The company describes it as “a stick-and-go, wireless solution” and further suggests that the disposable nature of the device is a benefit; it means that cardiologists can run tests on as many patients as they need to without having to wait for reusable Holter monitors to come back from other patients and get sanitized and maintained between uses.

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BITCOIN CAN FUND HIGH-QUALITY, EQUITABLE, HEALTHCARE FOR EVERYONE

Creating a system distributed by the internet the same way Bitcoin exists could create accessible healthcare for everyone.

By VISHVAS GARG

THE CURRENT GLOBAL HEALTH CARE SYSTEM IS BROKEN.

Over 6.2 million people have died of COVID-19-related deaths as of June 13, 2022. This is despite $8.9 trillion or 9.8% of global GDP spent on healthcare in 2019 worldwide.

More broadly, half the world lacks access to essential healthcare services. Furthermore, the current healthcare system leaves out the most vulnerable groups of people, leading to health disparities and inequities.

Health is a fundamental human right. It should be so for everyone.

Today, healthcare is delivered in one of two ways:

– Insurance-based healthcare systems: Generally, economically strong countries have insurance-based healthcare systems that may or may not offer universal coverage. Furthermore, health disparities and inequities are widely prevalent even among the most well-covered groups of people. As an example, in the United States racial and ethnic minorities, economically weaker sections of the population, and people who live anywhere other than in large, fringe metropolitan counties continue to experience worse quality healthcare.

– Out-of-pocket healthcare systems: Economically weaker countries usually have out-of-pocket healthcare systems. It is important to note that even in economies that have insurance-based healthcare systems, the most vulnerable group of people may still have to consume healthcare out-of-pocket. In the majority of the world where out-of-pocket systems are common, corruption, favoritism and lack of accountability is deep-rooted.

Both systems have one common attribute: intermediaries that control patient access or create inefficiencies or both.

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Advances in computer vision are set to disrupt the healthcare industry

Video is the future of healthcare, and computer vision breakthroughs are the key, says Coryn Ramirez, director of marketing at Presage Technologies. With new cutting-edge signal and image processing methods, it’s now possible for an ordinary phone camera to measure everything from heart beats to electricity, even under the most challenging conditions, including highly variable motion and lighting. Right now Presage Technologies is applying that capability to a broad range of emerging applications in healthcare and beyond.

“We want to increase the equity and the accessibility of healthcare for both provider and patient,” says Ramirez. “We see some of the barriers here where access to remote medicine or vitals shouldn’t be a $400 Apple Watch. We want to tap into the power of video to make it more efficient, more cost-effective, and safer for all parties.”

Presage Technologies has applied these advances in computer vision to a vitals by video platform that can capture and analyze vital signs, no matter where a patient is or what they’re doing. It’s continuous, passive video monitoring that’s also contactless – there’s no need for any type of wearable. Continuous monitoring means all the data is put into context, as a patient moves through their day and various levels of exertion. The technology can currently identify and track heart rate and heart rate variability, respiration rate and respiration quality. They’ve demonstrated the ability to capture oxygen saturation, and they’re working on blood pressure measurement now.

It’s a huge game changer for the healthcare industry in a broad array of applications, addressing industry concerns about safety, cost, equipment, environment and other unique scenarios. Yet it has applications outside the healthcare industry too, says Dr. Aya Eid, director of biomedical imaging at Presage.

“Wherever physiology has informative significance, we can provide value there,” Dr. Eid says. That includes applications that range far outside a doctor’s office.

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This hospital of the future gives a glimpse of healthcare transformed

Proposed structure in Qatar shows it will grow medicinal plants, generate energy and manage waste

Al Daayan Health District, a proposed hospital in Qatar, will be built on a 1.3-million-square-metre site near Doha.

With its low-rise profile, attractive courtyard gardens and modular construction, the proposed Al Daayan Health District in Qatar offers a stark contrast to hospitals that many residents in the Gulf — or other parts of the world — will be familiar with.

The plan for the 1.3-million-square-metre site near Doha is ambitious, but designers suggest it could become a regional standard in the future.

There are no tower blocks, medicinal plants are grown on-site and the facility can generate its own energy as well as deal with its own waste.

And it will be built by robots using 3D printing.

Commissioned by Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), a Qatari hospital operator, the master plan for Al Daayan Health District, unveiled in late 2021, is the work of Dutch architectural practice OMA and British engineering company Buro Happold.

In its brief to the architects, HMC said its existing infrastructure lacked space, did not have the capacity for current and future demand, and was “a major barrier to clinical service transformation”.

Speaking earlier this year at a healthcare conference in Berlin, Reinier de Graaf, the partner at OMA overseeing the project, suggested that hospital design, in general, was in need of a shake-up.Hospitals came to look like shopping malls or airports or hotels. They looked more like fantasy buildings or buildings that offered some escapeAnnmarie Adams, professor at McGill University

“When you consider that the main task of a hospital is to care for people, the environments they generate don’t seem to care about people. You see this impenetrable fortress,” he said.

Many contemporary hospitals are, Mr De Graaf said, large, anonymous, ugly and distant from the people they are built to serve.

“It’s fair to say that it’s probably largely the fault of hospitals that people dislike modern architecture, because they represent the worst of modern architecture,” he added.

The Qatari hospital is envisaged as having 1,400 beds, with patients staying on the first floor, while the ground floor is used for consultation rooms and other services. Machines located underground, meanwhile, are involved in keeping the hospital running.

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Future wearable health tech could measure gases released from skin

The study suggests future health sensors could work by detecting chemicals released from the skin.

By Tatyana Woodall

NEW RESEARCH POINTS WAY TO MONITORING METABOLIC DISEASES

Scientists have taken the first step to creating the next generation of wearable health monitors.  

Most research on measuring human biomarkers, which are measures of a body’s health, rely on electrical signals to sense the chemicals excreted in sweat. But sensors that rely on perspiration often require huge amounts of it just to get a reading. 

A new study suggests that a wearable sensor may be able to monitor the body’s health by detecting the gases released from a person’s skin. 

“It is completely non-invasive, and completely passive on the behalf of the user,” said Anthony Annerino, lead author of the study and a graduate student in materials science and engineering at The Ohio State University.  

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Average Retirees Spend More Than 30% of Social Security on This 1 Expense

Don’t underestimate how big a chunk it will take out of your Social Security benefits.

By Christy Bieber

Key Points

  • Many retirees rely on Social Security to help them cover costs.
  • Social Security benefits aren’t as big as people often think they will be.
  • The typical retiree spends around 31% of their Social Security income on one large expense. 

If you’re anticipating that Social Security benefits are going to help cover most of your expenses as a retiree, you’re in for a big disappointment. 

While your retirement income from the Social Security Administration will undoubtedly be helpful in supporting you in your later years, it’s nowhere near enough to provide for everything you need.

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Wireless E-Tattoo for Pneumonia Aims to Transform Patient Monitoring

Pneumonia has emerged as a life-threatening complication of COVID-19, accounting for nearly half of all patients who have died from the novel coronavirus in the U.S. since the beginning of the pandemic. Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, pneumonia was responsible for more than 43,000 deaths in 2019.

Monitoring pneumonia remains a challenge because it manifests itself differently in almost every patient and can develop in any patient infected by coronavirus. The Georgia Institute of Technology is part of a team of engineers, data scientists, and medical clinicians led by the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin that has been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation’s ASCENT program. The purpose of this project is to develop a wearable device for patients with pneumonia, allowing medical personnel to track their progress remotely and use data to predict how their condition may change.

This project combines state-of-the-art technology across wearable devices, integrated circuits and machine learning. And the larger goal is to develop ways to safely monitor patients remotely and maintain high-quality care, wherever they are.

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Americans Spending on Top 20 Drugs Nearly Doubles the Rest of the World Combined

A Pharmacy tech fills prescriptions at Rock Canyon Pharmacy in Provo, Utah, on May 20, 2020.

By Naveen Athrappully

The United States outspent every other country in the world combined when it came to the top-selling 20 pharmaceutical drugs, according to a recent analysis of company financial filings by Public Citizen.

Americans spent a total of $101.1 billion, while the rest of the world spent $56.8 billion, on the top 20 drugs. The key findings of the analysis report (pdf) indicate that U.S. consumers overpay for drugs, and do not necessarily intake more than people from other countries.

The best-selling 20 drugs brought $157.8 billion in total global revenue for pharma companies with the U.S. accounting for 64 percent of the revenue pie. The sizable disparity makes the U.S. market essentially a cash cow for Big Pharma, which is fighting efforts to decrease the spending.

“Deceptive TV ads paid for by Big Pharma try to frighten and mislead Americans about new legislative efforts that would empower Medicare to negotiate drug prices,” said the report.

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Next-gen wheelchairs are modular and shapeshifting

Next-generation wheelchairs are pushing the boundaries of mobility

Wheelchairs provide valuable independence to their owners. Designs vary according to the terrain and user needs. Both of these can change over time. However, their price makes it difficult to afford more than one chair.  In response, designers are taking cues from bikes and robotics to make wheelchairs that adapt to the varied user needs.

The UNAwheel Maxi device is a wheelchair add-on. It hooks onto the front of an existing chair and is compatible with basic and active wheelchairs without adding extra weight. It comes with button steering to accelerate, decelerate, and turn. 

The steering section is made of a combination of metal (hydroforming/cutting technology) and plastic (injection molding), the handles are made of rubber, and the main body of plastic (RIM). It is easy to operate and can be easily and quickly attached to and detached from the wheelchair. 

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