When Merdis Wells visited the diabetes clinic at the University Medical Center in New Orleans about a year ago, a nurse practitioner checked her eyes to look for signs of diabetic retinopathy, the most common cause of blindness. At her next visit, in February of this year, artificial intelligence software made the call. The clinic had just installed a system that's designed to identify patients who need follow-up attention. The Food and Drug Administration cleared the system -- called IDx-DR -- for use in 2018. The agency said it was the first time it had authorized the marketing of a device that makes a screening decision without a clinician having to get involved in the interpretation.
Amazon may be known as the "everything store," but the company's tendrils extend far beyond ecommerce. On Thursday, Amazon said Alexa-enabled devices can now handle customers' sensitive medical data, and it teased the release of a new kit that would allow approved outside developers to build Alexa skills that access users' private health information, paving the way for the voice assistant to play a bigger role in health care. With the announcement came the release of new skills giving Alexa the ability to relay and store blood sugar measurements from internet-connected monitoring devices, help schedule doctors' appointments, pass on post-op instructions from hospitals, and provide prescription delivery updates by securely accessing customers' private medical information. As part of the announcement, Amazon said it had committed to protect personal health information according to the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, which protects the privacy of medical records. Alexa's health and wellness team had been working to obtain HIPAA compliance for months.
Alexa's involvement in healthcare is about to extend well beyond putting Echo speakers in hospital rooms. Amazon has unveiled the first-ever HIPAA-compliant Alexa skills, letting you use the voice assistant to take care of sensitive medical issues. Joseph Health's skill can book a same-day appointment, for example, while Cigna and Express Scripts have introduced skills that respectively track wellness incentives and manage prescriptions. Livongo, meanwhile, has a skill for diabetics that can provide blood glucose readings and health tips. Other skills are coming from Atrium Health, Boston Hospital's post-surgery program and Swedish Health Connect.
When Dr. Eric Topol joined an experiment on using artificial intelligence to get personalized nutrition advice, he was hopeful. For two weeks, Topol, a cardiologist at Scripps Research, dutifully tracked everything he ate, wore a sensor to monitor his blood-glucose levels, and even collected and mailed off a stool sample for an analysis of his gut microbiome. The diet advice he got back stunned him: Eat Bratwurst, nuts, danishes, strawberries, and cheesecake. "It was crazy stuff," Topol told me. Bratwurst and cheesecake are foods Topol generally shirks because he considers them "unhealthy."
There are over 13M men in the US who struggle with their weight, and this demographic is currently being underserved by the majority of health and weight loss programs. Lyle is the app that fills this gap through its AI-powered service that helps men reach their health and weight loss goals. Lyle's proprietary technology simulates conversations with a real dietitian to introduce accountability as well as offer personalized meal plans based on the user's goals and health needs. With a few clicks and integrations, the app enables users to conveniently order groceries for the week through third-party vendors like Shipt and Instacart to ensure they are hitting their dietary goals. AlleyWatch sat down with Philip Kasumu about how his personal experience in the fitness and bodybuilding realm inspired him to create an app to promote health and wellness tailored to each man.
I hope you enjoyed your weekend. Would you want to be told you're dying over a video screen attached to a robot? A 78-year-old California man received news of his demise in exactly that fashion, the BBC reports. A robotic unit used to conduct telemedicine visits came into Ernest Quintana's hospital room, where he was with his granddaughter and a friend of his daughter's, and a doctor on its video screen (sitting at an unknown remote location) reportedly told him that his lungs were irrevocably damaged and he would soon die. Quintana passed away the following day.
Today, in these vision centers, technicians take eye scans and send them to doctors in Madurai for review. Automated diagnosis can streamline and expand the process, reaching more people in more places -- the kind of "McDonaldization" espoused by Dr. V. The technology still faces regulatory hurdles in India, in part because of the difficulty of navigating the country's bureaucracy. And though Google's eye system is now certified for use in Europe, it is still awaiting approval in the United States. Luke Oakden-Rayner, the director of medical imaging research at the Royal Adelaide Hospital in Australia, said these systems might even need new regulatory frameworks because existing rules weren't always sufficient. "I am not convinced that people care enough about the safety of these systems," he said.
Leading Chinese AI startup 4Paradigm has announced a strategic partnership with Shanghai's Ruijin Hospital on AI application in healthcare, especially chronic health conditions. The two today unveiled their first AI-backed diabetes prediction and management product, "Rui Ning Zhi Tang," which predicts diabetes and diabetic cardiovascular complications risk in the next three years and provides assessments and personalized solutions for disease prevention and control. Ruijin is one of the most highly reputed hospitals in China. Its Department of Endocrinology has topped national endocrinology rankings for eight consecutive years. Ruijin also leads the National Metabolic Clinical Research Center and the Key Laboratory of the Ministry of Health.
Doctors can sometimes make a diagnosis when faced with cataracts and blurry eye scans. The Google system still struggles to do this. It is trained largely on clear, unobstructed images of the retina, though Google is exploring the use of lower-quality images. Even with this limitation, Dr. Kim said, the system can augment what doctors can do on their own. Aravind already operates small vision centers in many of the cities and villages surrounding Madurai.