Health Canada approves Apple Watch ECG, public health groups warn of tobacco's guerrilla social media ads and more digital health news briefs

Also: HoloLens may affect surgeon's precision dexterity; Backpack Health integrates EHRs.
By Dave Muoio
04:18 pm
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ECG, eh? The Apple Watch Series 4’s ECG and irregular heart rhythm notification functions have received approval from Canada’s health product regulator, according to listings on Health Canada’s website that were recently spotted by iPhone in Canada. With these in hand, its likely that devices owners living in the Great White North will soon have access to features that have so far been activated in the US, Hong Kong and much of Europe.

Above the influence. Over 100 public health, health advocacy and anti-tobacco groups have co-penned an open letter to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Instagram’s Adam Mosseri, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Snapchat’s Evan Spiegel calling for action against tobacco and e-cigarette advertising on their respective social media platforms. Citing reports from Reuters and the New York Times, the organizations highlighted cases where tobacco companies have sidestepped advertising policies prohibiting tobacco product promotion by featuring the substances in content posted by influencers.

“The evidence is clear that without swift action by Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, Philip Morris International and other tobacco companies will continue to use your platforms to addict the next generation of tobacco users around the world,” the organizations wrote. “Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter have a fantastic opportunity to prevent this from continuing. Due to the pressing nature of our request, we urge you to take immediate action and would be happy to discuss any ways in which we can help and/or support your next steps.”

Steady as she goes. A recent paper prepublished online in IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering warns that see-through head-mounted displays such as Microsoft HoloLens might inhibit specialists performing high-precision manual tasks, such as surgeries. In a small experiment where 20 people were tasked with connecting dots on a page with high accuracy, the participants’s lines were less precise when wearing the headgear.

“Although there is increasing interest in using commercial OST-HMDs to guide highprecision manual tasks that require accurate alignment of VR data to the actual target (such as surgical tasks), attention must be paid to the current limitations of available technology that is not designed for peripersonal space,” the study’s authors wrote.

PHR and EHR. The Backpack Health data management platform has been updated to automatically integrate a user’s EHR data, allowing users to view their personal health notes and records alongside clinical data. In addition, consenting users may allow research groups to access a de-identified version of their data for use in clinical research projects.

“With major interoperability challenges still facing the US healthcare system, centralizing all of a user’s personal health information is of crucial importance. At Backpack Health, we strive to empower patients by breaking down silos and giving users full control of their information, making this new integration a critical step towards full patient control of health data,” Jim Cavan, CEO and founder of Backpack Health, said in a statement. “The unique ability to view personal data, as inputted by the patient, integrated with electronic medical records empowers the patient by displaying a complete and accurate record. Additionally, it provides an opportunity for researchers to compare [EHR] information with observations from patients or family caregivers.”