Vol. 142 February 15, 2016 Tech Update

Hub thumbnail 2015

A drop of blood for 100+ tests!
A company called Theranos, founded by a Stanford University drop-out, has developed a nanotechnology system for testing a finger prick of blood for anything from standard cholesterol level to still-developing genetic analysis. It is being test marketed in California by Walgreens pharmacy. Theranos plans to charge 50% of the Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement for the tests.

HealthSpot Station : A walk-in kiosk in a mall or drugstore with high-def video conferencing, a stethoscope, a thermometer, and a blood pressure cuff for immediate evaluation of non-emergencies; they accept insurance, including Medicare.

A 3-D printer creates a bioresorbable airway splint for an infant
A two-month old infant with congenital anomalies of the trachea and surrounding blood vessels had a local collapse of his tracheobronchial tree which could not be kept open with conventional ventilation. A hose, similar to the design of a vacuum cleaner hose, but much smaller of course, was fabricated by a 3-D printer. Seven days after insertion, weaning from his artificial ventilation was started. He was discharged from the hospital 21 days later after corrective vascular surgery.

Wearable fitness monitors – a $2 billion business
The early ones only counted steps. In the rush to self-quantify ourselves more and more measurements have been added to these wrist bands that now talk to our smartphones. Three different wrist bands can give three different counts. Sleep scientists pooh-pooh the wrist-worn sleep monitors. But, people buy them … as motivational devices, not scientific ones. If you add on the seductive social networks to share your data with all your friends, you have entered into the realm of what some would call  “fitness by humiliation”. If you subscribe to conspiracy theories you might wonder where all that personal data ends up? Who looks at it? Who owns it? No one knows. No one does, … yet.  In the spirit of full disclosure I admit that last year’s Christmas present of a Fitbit bracelet sits on my bureau, not my wrist.  I discovered that I took about 3000 steps a day, every day. It never changed, and it didn’t count my Pilates exercises well, so I took it off.

Maybe my doctor should have texted me
A Johns Hopkins study showed that 81% of 48 men and women with risk factors for heart disease receiving an automated, “personalized” text message “from their doctor” successfully reached their 10,000 steps a day goal. Only 44% of those in the control group who received no messages met that goal. Sample message: “Jon, you are on track to have a VERY ACTIVE day! OUTSTANDING! We might as well call you LeBron James!” (I kid you not. You can’t make this stuff up.)

First to market telemedicine for profit- aka “Uber for Doctors”
FIRST OPINION – For $9 a month a patient can text health questions to a pre-matched physician any time of day and expect a response in 5 minutes.

TELADOC – Your insurance company offers you a video or phone consult with a physician 24/7.

DOCTOR ON DEMAND  – An app that connects doctors with patients who are sick to help them decide if they have to be seen by a health professional or just need to take an Advil. Medical histories are stored in an encrypted database.

FIRST LINE – For $25 up front and $15 a month you get unlimited consultations by video chat or messaging. New participants get 24 hours (total) of free texting with a doctor anytime between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. A house call is available for $199. No insurance coverage…yet.

PCP iPhone cartoon

“There’s an app for it” – before you contact a doctor
ResApp – Determines the cause of a cough by listening to you cough into the phone. Has 90% accuracy in diagnosing pneumonia or asthma. (Ed. note: pediatricians have been making these diagnoses over the phone for years; plus croup of course)

Priori – Predicts bipolar episodes before they happen. It is always “on” and monitoring the speed and patterns of the patient’s speech when he/she is using the phone normally. Doctors will receive an alert based on the speech patterns when intervention is needed. In Beta testing this year.

ApneaApp – Diagnoses when the sleeping patient periodically stops breathing by bouncing inaudible sonar waves off the patient’s body back to the phone. The reflected waves are analyzed to determine if sleep apnea is occurring. It was correct in 32 out of 37 tests in a sleep lab, and is about to be tested in the home setting.

In honor of Valentine’s Day – a few random facts about sex (some from the Framingham Study)
Sexual intercourse burns only about 85-150 calories, though it can get your heart rate up there in the “aerobic” range.
Heart rate and blood pressure peak very early in the act.
Having sex is about the equivalent of walking up two flights of stairs.
Men who had intercourse twice a week had a lower risk of cardiovascular events then those who had less frequency.
Having a heart attack during sex is about a million to one risk if you are a non-smoker and non-diabetic.

I probably should have written about a few Presidential medical fun facts … like Garfield’s death resulting from medical malpractice, etc. … Maybe next year.

One Response to Vol. 142 February 15, 2016 Tech Update

  1. Jason Bacon says:


    Greetings from the Keys. You should know that there are serious problems with the Theranos system and Walgreen is pulling out if they are not resolved very soon.


    Sent from my iPad

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