Asus announces ECG fitness watch, monitoring device data to curtail violence and more digital health news briefs

Also: Women's health apps launch PCOS screening tools; uBiome files for bankruptcy.
By Dave Muoio
02:31 pm

Even more ECG. Electronics hardware company Asus pulled back the curtain on its latest health and fitness smartwatch today at IFA 2019 in Berlin. Engadget, TechRadar and others report that the VivoWatch SP includes a built-in ECG sensor alongside a PPG sensor, GPS tracking, an altimeter and roughly 14 days of battery life. The company is aiming for worldwide availability before the end of the year, and anticipates a price tag lower than $300.

Smart device surveillance. The Washington Post reported on a health care proposal that would use data from devices such as Apple Watches, Fitbits and Amazon Echos to spot behavioral changes that could precipitate violent behavior.

Spearheaded by the Suzanne Wright Foundation and recently brought before senior White House staffers as a response to high-profile mass shootings, HARPA (Health Advanced Research Projects Agency) would fall within the HHS and have a separate budget for its research, the Post wrote. This initial project proposal would apply artificial intelligence to data collected among volunteers and eventually opened to the public, the sources said, but with an emphasis on privacy regarding sensitive health data.

“Privacy must be safeguarded. Profiling must be avoided. Data protection capabilities will be the cornerstone of this effort,” they told the Post.

Pinging potential PCOS. AI-powered women’s health platform Flo Health has announced an in-app tool that allows users to input their symptoms and self-assess their risk of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). The algorithm-driven tool, called PCOS Health Assistant, is being made available to all users throughout the month of September, following which it will be triggered automatically based on symptom inputs.

“Irregularities in our cycles are absolutely clinically normal, so learning which deviations are a signal of something that needs to be verified with a doctor is truly empowering,” Kaila Staryga, VP of product at Flo, said in a statement. “We are proud to use technology to help nearly 1,500 women to-date, and even more in the future, self-assess their health from a PCOS perspective — and with more women’s health conditions in the future.”

Similarly, Berlin-based female health app Clue has also launched a new feature that identifies users with clinically irregular cycles who may be at risk of PCOS. Once flagged, the Irregular Cycles feature serves users a questionnaire and from this builds a report that can be shared with a practitioner. The feature is free for users of both Clue’s free and premium service, and only surfaces when the app detects potential case.

“We are passionate about data being used to progress female health, and we have already heard from multiple users who, after showing their doctors their own personalized Clue assessment, have started to receive the help they need,” Ida Tin, CEO and cofounder of Clue, said in a statement. “Clue being used to improve the lives of people is why we founded the company, and we are confident that the feature will lead to more people being diagnosed by healthcare professionals.”

uBiome winding down. uBiome, one of the pioneers of direct-to-consumer microbiome testing, has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and taken out an $8 million loan while it hunts for a buyer, the Wall Street Journal reports.

This comes about four months after the company was raided by the FDI, allegedly as part of an investigation regarding fraudulent insurance billing practices.


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