Apple patent suggests AirPod health features, J&J updates diabetes management app, and more digital health news briefs

Also: Group K Diagnostics raises $2 million; Online depression intervention benefits high-risk teens.
By Dave Muoio
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Apple’s healthcare patent update. A new Hong Kong and European trademark updates the classification of Apple’s AirPods to include health, fitness, exercise and wellness sensors (kudos to , which spotted the update). The updated classification also includes language concerning the transmission of biometric data, heart rate, body movement and burned calories.

Despite this and other recent health-focused announcements, the consumer electronics giant played mum to the specifics of its future plans during its most recent earnings call.

"I think Apple has a huge opportunity in health. And you can see from our past several years that we have an intense interest in the space and are adding products and services, non-monetized services, so far to that,” CEO Tim Cook told investors. “I don't want to talk about the future because I don't want to give away what we're doing, but this is an area of major interest to us.”

Diagnostic startup raises $2M. Point-of-care diagnostic maker Group K Diagnostics has raised $2 million in Series A funding, the company announced yesterday. The new backing will mainly be used to expand the company’s lab infrastructure through new lab technician hires.

"The operations efficiencies our team has been able to achieve will ensure that every penny of this funding will be used in a meaningful, productive manner that helps to bring our technology closer to fruition," Group K Diagnostics CEO Joe Geromini said in a statement. "We believe the diagnostics tool we intend to bring to market will help to shift the healthcare system from a largely responsive care model to preventative – and we're grateful to the investors who are helping to make that a reality.”

The company’s primary product is the MultiDiagnostic, a platform that uses paper microfluidic technology that generates a visual result after with a liquid sample. Users can take a photo of this result and upload it to an app to receive their results.

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Online depression intervention helps high-risk teens. A study recently published in JAMA Network Open details the implementation of a web-based teen depression intervention randomly assigned alongside standard health education to more than 350 adolescents over a two-year period. In doing so, the researchers found a reduction in depressive symptoms across both groups, although the web-based intervention was significantly more beneficial among those who were at higher risk at baseline. The intervention itself consisted of online learning modules, motivational interviews and coaching, all specific to depression.

"This study tells us that the online intervention works best for teens who are experiencing worse symptoms," Dr. Benjamin Van Voorhees, a researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago who served as the study’s principal investigator, said in a statement. "We hypothesized that there would be a benefit across all participants, but it is perhaps even more telling to see such a significant risk reduction among a smaller group of high-risk adolescents."

Diabetes management app sees updates. Johnson & Johnson has updated its OneTouch Reveal mobile app for diabetes patients to manage and share their blood glucose levels. With the update, the app now includes notifications when it observes recurring high or low patterns, goal setting and tracking, and a 90-day A1c comparison tool.

Since launch, J&J’s app has been downloaded 1.3 million times with users logging more than 107 million blood glucose results, according to the company.

Data suggest Parkinson's smartwatch delivers benefits. Poster data presented at the International Congress of Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders is Hong Kong suggests that Global Kinetics Corporation’s Personal KinetiGraph smartwatch provides “clinically meaningful improvement” in symptom assessment, management, and medication optimization, according to a release from the company. The investigations, which consisted of tens of thousands of users over the course of several years, also suggest annual cost savings ranging from $962 per patient annually to $1,719 per patient annually.

“In order for the Parkinson’s disease community to continue to work toward optimizing clinical care for this degenerative disease, we need to combine our efforts and collaborate on as many research initiatives as possible,” CEO John Schellhorn said in a statement. “We are pleased to share this data, as well as having our PKG device be used as an objective measurement tool in the clinical care setting. We are also excited that our PKG smartwatch is being used in multiple clinical studies conducted by pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to evaluate potential new therapies.”