Digital health news briefs for 5/18/2017: Amazon's rumored pharma foray; Rapid growth for healthcare VR market

By Jonah Comstock

Amazon eyes the pharmacy business. CNBC is reporting that Amazon is getting serious about breaking into the pharmacy business, to the point that the company is hiring a business lead to create a strategy. The company has apparently been eyeing the space for a while but has now taken some more concrete moves. As well as hiring a business lead, the company has held at least one annual meeting to discuss the possibility.

Clue adds updates to support those on the pill. Fertility app Clue has added new functionality for users who are taking birth control pills. The app does more than just remind users to take the pill, although it does that. It also has them track whether the pill was taken, missed, taken late, or doubled up on, and informs users about potential changes to their fertility when they miss a dose.

Of course it’s worth noting that Clue uses de-identified data from its users for research purposes. This update could potentially create a large new dataset of real world data about how and when birth control pills are taken and how this affects other metrics that Clue tracks.

Tim Cook sits down with disability advocates. Apple CEO Tim Cook sat down with three YouTubers about Apple’s accessibility features and how the content creators (blind filmmaker James Rath, deaf advocate Rikki Poynter, and actress Tatiana Lee, who has spina bifida) use those features and how Apple thinks about accessibility. Read more at MacRumors, or check out the videos themselves.

Healthcare VR nearly a billion-dollar market. Kalorama has a new report out about virtual reality and augmented reality in healthcare, estimating that the market grew from $525 million in 2012 to an estimated $976 million in 2017. The research group points to surgery, medical education, professional training in healthcare, physical rehabilitation, pain management, and behavioral therapy, as the main use areas. 

"The term 'virtual reality' is used in different contexts," Kalorama analyst Emil Salazar said in a statement. ”Broadly, virtual reality is the means or capability to visualize and manipulate, or otherwise interact with, digital data representative of a real-world entity or environment. These digital data representatives are called virtual environments or VEs. VEs in healthcare would be an operating room, surgical site, patient anatomy, or therapeutic simulation.”