Digital health news bites for 2/1/2017

By Jonah Comstock
04:32 pm

Apple sees health as the future, the Apple Watch as the present. On Apple's Q1 conference call, CEO Tim Cook almost didn't mention the company's healthcare operations or aspirations at all. But in response to the final investor question, when asked whether future updates to the iPhone would be incremental, Cook alluded to health as one of the areas where the company sees substantive nonincremental growth for the future.

"I think the smartphone is still in the early innings of the game," he said. "I think there's lots more to do. I think it's become – every year it becomes more important to people's lives and there are more things people are doing with it. I talked a little bit about home automation, but I could have talked about health. I could have talked more about CarPlay. The use of it in the enterprise is growing significantly. And so when I look at all of these things, usage going up, app developers still innovating, [and] we've got some exciting things in the pipeline, I feel really, really good about it."

The other big news off the call relevant to the health space was the performance of the Apple Watch, which apparently did well despite the general slump most wearable companies have been in. Cook said the Apple Watch set all time unit and revenue records and that they couldn't keep up with demand.

Masimo adds early warning alerts overseas. Masimo's Root remote patient monitoring and connectivity platform got an upgrade with early warning scores, algorithms which take vital signs data like oxygen saturation, pulse rate, respiration rate, body temperature, and systolic blood pressure as well as input from clinicians to create a score that reflects a patient's risk of deterioration. The EWS system is not yet available in the US.

MIT demos emotion-sensing smartwatch. Using an iPhone 5S and a Samsung Simband, MIT researchers have created a wearable system that listens to a person's speech, as well as collecting physiological data like movement, heart rate, blood pressure, blood flow, and skin temperature, and detects the emotional tambor of different utterances, revealing whether the speaker is feeling positive, negative, or neutral. The prototype is more of a proof of concept, but the idea is that the system could some day serve as a social coach for people on the autism spectrum.

"As far as we know, this is the first experiment that collects both physical data and speech data in a passive but robust way, even while subjects are having natural, unstructured interactions,” Mohammed Ghassemi, a PhD candidate who co-authored the paper with graduate student Tuka Alhanai. “Our results show that it’s possible to classify the emotional tone of conversations in real-time.”

Figure 1 hits 1 million users, 2 billion case views. Figure 1, the "instagram for doctors" that lets doctors and med students share anonymized medical images and collaborate on diagnoses, now has a million users and has been used to view 2 billion cases, the company announced yesterday.

"Since we launched Figure 1 three years ago, we have experienced tremendous growth and momentum,” Dr. Joshua Landy, co-founder of Figure 1, said in a statement. “Reaching more than 2 billion case views is a meaningful step toward our goal of democratizing medical knowledge. The global demand for Figure 1 shows how important immediate collaboration is for the healthcare community, and we couldn’t be happier to see medical professionals and students come together on the platform to improve their practice. At Figure 1, we strongly believe that every patient deserves the best care, no matter their location or resources.” 

Coin kills product services. Coin, the first of three major smartwatch-oriented acquisitions for ailing wearable giant Fitbit, announced this week that it will shut down all product services by the end of February. Coin cards will still work as payment devices until their batteries give out (about two years from the time of activation), but users won't be able to load new cards, use the mobile app, or take advantage of the device's warranty. 


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