New charges in Fitbit stock manipulation scheme, multiplayer VR surgery training, and more digital health news briefs

By Dave Muoio
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Multiplayer surgeries. Virtual reality surgical training app maker Osso VR today launched a feature that allows multiple surgeons to train and interact within a single VR space. The new functionality can bring team members together for training regardless of physical location, according to a statement, and comes with the other benefits of collaborative, team-based training over solo instruction.

“We have seen multiplayer VR become the norm in the gaming world and take off in social applications,” Dr. Justin Barad, CEO of Osso VR, said in a statement. “Whether a surgical team is learning how to work together or a single surgeon is learning a new procedure with a medical device company, all training scenarios can benefit from removing the barriers of time, cost, location, and other resources or variables. Our solution makes it easy to create a training environment whenever someone needs it, not matter where they are.”

The best laid plans. Last week the SEC filed additional charges regarding a scheme conducted in 2016 to manipulate and profit from Fitbit’s stock prices. According to the complaint, SEC claims that Mark E. Burns purchased Fitbit call options minutes prior to filing a fake tender offer created by himself and a co-conspirator, Robert W. Murray. The offer from the nonexistent company, for which the two created a false account on the SEC’s EDGAR system, caused Fitbit’s stock to spike and Burns to profit approximately $13,000.

"We allege that Burns and Murray tried to camouflage their identities and their affiliation with an EDGAR account by using disguised IP and e-mail addresses," Robert A. Cohen, chief of the SEC’s Cyber Unit, said in a statement. "Despite their sophisticated efforts to avoid detection, we stopped their alleged abuse of our filing system and charged them with being responsible for this manipulation.”

The new filing follows charges made last year against Murray, who was sentenced to two years in prison after he plead guilty in November.

Another eye in the OR. Digital Surgery announced that it has developed a real-time AI system that can be used to provide surgical road maps inside of the operating room. By viewing the procedure through a camera and referencing a library of surgical data, the system analyzes patient anatomy and surgeons’ actions to predict the procedure’s next steps.

“What Digital Surgery has done with this technology feels like a comparison with the advent of laparoscopy which was a truly disruptive and groundbreaking revolution and paradigm shift in surgery. This resulted in a huge change in approach from maximally invasive to minimally invasive surgery,” Dr. Daniel Buchbinder, a consultant laparoscopic, bariatric, and robotic surgeon at the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said in a statement from Digital Surgery. “In the next five years, I expect there to be a transformation from non-AI to AI-supported surgery as common practice, benefiting training, patient safety, data collection and outcomes analysis. This is something my OR teams, clinical teams, and I would look forward to and will truly impact patient care.”

Increased access to tech-supported insurance. Haven Life, a MassMutual subsidiary that uses machine learning to verify the information provided by prospective customers, announced that it will be extending its service to legal immigrants and those with certain chronic conditions that may have previously precluded them from coverage.

"Cases where chronic illnesses are present is a point of contention across the industry," Mark Sayre, head of policy design at Haven Life said in a statement. "We're in a unique position to innovate the underwriting process so that it's not only easier to secure coverage but so that it also has fewer limitations on who qualifies."