Five C-19-related tech advances that will change healthcare
The alliance of health and technology has long held huge promise (health tech is second only to fintech in terms of technology revenues in the UK, and funding is at an all-time high in the US). But what once brought benefits to niche pockets of society has been swiftly been adopted into the mainstream, as a result of the C-19 crisis.
Throughout the industry, technological advances have been quickly accelerated beyond the prototype stage, and the vast majority have proved successful. Here are five areas that touch both healthcare professionals and the general public, that will change the way the industry works for good.
1. Virtual trade shows and conferences
A major part of the life of a healthcare professional the world over, medical congresses and trade shows were one of the first things to be axed.
Attempting to replicate these shows digitally was not the answer. Offer people 15 webinars a day back-to-back and participants will end up checking emails in the background and popping off for breaks.
Canny organisers are paring back their events, requesting contributors distil their slot to a punchy 20-minutes and offering a range of formats which suit lockdown life – using podcasts, Facebook Live and panel events, as well as webinars and teleconferencing.
It’s also important to make some content available on demand, so participants can dip in and out over a three-day period, say, and save live-streaming for ‘headline acts’. Considering ways that include gamification, rewards and VR can boost engagement.
Virtual or digital, one thing is clear - replicating the offline conference online is not enough. Brands that adopt a broadcast mentality will be most successful. Think about a news channel approach – offering fewer long speeches and instead using an engaging compere to direct proceedings online.
2. Interactive student teaching
Whereas young doctors used to rely on watching operations side-by-side with surgeons, this is significantly more difficult now and, potentially unnecessary with the rise of virtual operations.
Making use of augmented reality (AR) means that medical students can not only remotely observe but also interact with surgeries - for example, clicking on body parts to learn more.
Companies like Proximie – who harness transformative technology to offer high quality healthcare and training opportunities, regardless of location - will be part of this future momentum.
3. The rise of virtual triaging
No longer a niche preserve undertaken by the likes of Push Doctor, we are all now experiencing successful virtual triaging in our daily lives.
Take my foot injury which was diagnosed last week, for example. It was all done over video with my local GP. She discussed it, looked at the injury on her screen and then proceeded to share links to online articles that we looked at together, helping her to explain it to me virtually and presenting possible treatments.
The potential for using this approach further in settings such as care homes, in particular, is clear, provided we all have access to the tech and are comfortable using it.
4. A surge in home testing using tech
Home testing was being adopted long before the crisis, and scale will now follow.
Companies are successfully using home UTI tests - where a patient gets a test delivered, pees on a stick and uses their smart phone to ascertain if they have an infection, for example. This method holds huge potential for all sorts of areas.
In the UK alone, we know that A&E visits are already down by 50%, which is a worrying trend. People are showing just how scared they are of surgeries and hospitals and so many won’t seek treatment that could be vital.
Home C-19 testing has been important in tackling the virus and the next step is to invest in tech to support all types of home tests to work with our new normal – such as easy-to-use apps and pre-recorded explanatory videos.
5. Medical grade diagnostic kits
As we all continue to take health into our own hands, there’s also an opportunity to go one further and introduce medical-grade diagnostic kits, sending results back for clinicians to review and advise remotely.
Communication is paramount here - to ensure people understand what they’re assessing, how to use and transport any equipment correctly.
To make these a part of our everyday lives, consumer messaging should be clear and easily digestible; non-technical instruction will be key to success.
Transformative, future-focused health tech has been much talking about over the last decade, with multiple shows springing up to showcase innovation. However, in reality it’s taken a global pandemic in C-19 to bring everything into sharp focus and accelerate our much-needed adaptation. Health tech is finally coming of age.
C. Light aim to detect Alzheimer's with AI and eye movements
C. Light Technologies, a neurotechnology and AI company based in Boston, has received funding for a pilot study that will assess changes in eye motion during the earliest stage of Alzheimer's, known as mild cognitive impairment.
C. Light Technologies has partnered with the UCSF Memory and Aging Center for this research. As new therapeutics for Alzheimer’s are introduced to the clinic, this UCSF technology has the potential to provide clinicians a better method to measure disease progression, and ultimately therapeutic efficacy, using C. Light’s novel retinal motion technology.
Eye motion has been used for decades to triage brain health, which is why doctors asks you to “follow my finger” when they want to assess whether you have concussion. In more than 30 years of research, studies have revealed that Alzheimer’s disease patients' eye movements are affected by the disease, though to date, these eye movements have only been measured on a larger scale.
C. Light’s research takes the eye movement tests to a microscopic level for earlier assessments. Clinicians can study and measure eye motion on a scale as small as 1/100th the size of a human hair, which can help them monitor a patient’s disease and treat it more effectively.
The tests are also easy to administer. Patients put their chin in a chinrest and focus on a target for 10 seconds. The test does not require eye dilation, and patients are permitted to blink. A very low-level laser light is shown through the pupil and reflects off the patient’s retina, while a sensitive camera records the cellular-level motion in a high-resolution video. This eye motion is then fed into C. Light’s advanced analytical platform.
“C. Light is creating an entirely new data stream about the status of brain health via the eye,” explains Dr. Christy K. Sheehy, co-founder of C. Light. “Our growing databases and accompanying AI can change the way we monitor and treat neurological disease for future generations. Ultimately, we’re working to increase the longevity and quality of life for our loved ones."
At the moment developing therapeutic treatments for the central nervous system is difficult, with success rates of only 8% to go from conception to market. One reason for this is the lack of tools to measure the progression of diseases that impact the nervous system.
Additionally clinical trials can take a decade to come to fruition because the methods used to assess drug efficacy are inefficient. C. Light believe they can change this.
“Before this year, it had been almost 20 years since an Alzheimer’s drug was brought to market" explains Sheehy. "Part of the reason for this very slow progress is that drug developers haven’t had viable biomarkers that they can use to effectively stratify patients and track disease on a fine scale. The ADDF’s investment will allow us to do that."
C. Light has received the investment from the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) through its Diagnostics Accelerator, a collaborative research initiative supported by Bill Gates, the Dolby family, and Jeff Bezos among other donors.
C. Light recently completed its second and final seed round raising $500,000, including the ADDF investment, which brings their total seed funding to more than $3 million. Second round seed funders included: ADDF, the Wisconsin River Business Angels, Abraham Investments, LLC and others.
The ADDF’s Diagnostics Accelerator has made previous investments in more than two dozen world-class research programmes to explore blood, ocular, and genetic biomarkers, as well as technology-based biomarkers to identify the early, subtle changes that happen in people with Alzheimer’s.