Google Glass helps kids with autism, Fitbit cycle tracking falls short, and other digital health briefs

By MobiHealthNews
04:07 pm

Google Glass system assists children with autism. A pilot exploratory study recently published in Nature suggests that a novel system running on Google Glass and an Android smartphone can assist with social-affective learning for children with autism. Conducted among 14 families using the tool three times a week for an average of 72 days, the researchers report improved scores among the children in various measures of autism spectrum disorder severity. In addition, the parents reported increased eye contact and greater social acuity from their children following the deployment.

“The results from this exploratory and feasibility study have provided us with a valuable preliminary understanding of the way that parents and children with autism engage with our Superpower Glass system, an important step before beginning a larger randomized control trial to determine efficacy,” the researchers wrote. “As such, this study has paved the way towards creating a more robust protocol via a blinded, crossover randomized control trial with a cohort of at least 50 families, including additional and standardized outcome measures to closely assess changes in emotion recognition, eye contact, and social skills that our Glass system may encourage in children with autism. We intend to benchmark gains in social acuity over the course of 12 weeks at intake, conclusion, and follow-up to the Superpower Glass therapy program and run an intention-to-treat analysis.”

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Fitbit’s cycle-tracking feature hits a snag. Fitbit is receiving heat from users due to the 10-day limit of its new period-tracking feature. The design, users argued on the company’s message boards, does not allow for menstrual cycle of eleven days or more, and suggest that the wearable maker did not adequately take women’s needs into consideration when designing the feature. Currently, Fitbit has asked concerned users to comment and vote on its online suggestions board.

Fitbit’s cycle-tracking feature is available on its Ionic and Versa smartwatches, as well as through a mobile app.

How does social media impact suicidal teens? The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has announced a $104,000 grant to support a Brown University study of how social media can influence adolescents’ suicidal thoughts or behaviors. The investigation is among the 26 new research studies this year that are being supported by the prevention organization, which has so far invested $5.3 million in the current funding cycle.

"There's more that we need to understand on the positive and negative effects of social media when it comes to mental health and suicide,” Jill Harkavy-Friedman, AFSP vice president of research, said in a statement. “An investment in this field of  research will help us to better advise people on how best to navigate social media for positive whole health outcomes.”

Let the buyer beware. A recently published review of various consumer health sports devices and applications has found that more than half had not been validated through independent literature. With many of these devices being promoted to users as a health resource, the researchers warned that consumers may be giving consumer-grade sensors more credence than they deserve.

"What is critical to understand here is that while most of these technologies are not labeled as 'medical devices' per se, their very existence, let alone the accompanying marketing, conveys a sensibility that they can be used to measure a standard of health," Dr. Jonathan Peake, of the School of Biomedical Sciences and Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation at the Queensland University of Technology in Australia and the study’s lead author, said in a statement. "There are ethical issues with this assumption that need to be addressed.”

Apple Fever. On Friday Apple updated its growing list of healthcare providers that support personal health records on the iPhone. The list now includes more than 75 providers. According to Apple Clinical and Health Informatics Lead  Dr. Ricky Bloomfield, new additions include UCLA Health, Memorial Community Health, Texas Health Resources, Baptist Health, Buffalo Medical Group, Carroll County Memorial Hospital, Coquille Valley Hospital, and Dr. Catherine Vanderloos. In March, Apple officially launched its Apple Health Records feature — just two months after deploying the beta version. The feature aggregates existing patient-generated data in a user’s health app with data from their EHR — if the user is a patient at a participating hospital. 


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