Digital health news briefs for 6/7/2018

By Dave Muoio
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Deep breaths. Henry Schein Medical announced today the launch of its EasyOne Air Spirometer, a device designed to measure lung function and improve diagnosis of COPD. Connected via Bluetooth, the spirometer includes a touch screen interface, EHR connectivity, and proprietary technology to improve device calibration and accuracy.

"We are excited to work with ndd [the device’s designer] to provide this technology solution that our customers can rely on to diagnose health issues among patients," Brad Connett, president of Henry Schein’s US Medical Group, said in a statement. "With tens of thousands of people being diagnosed with COPD each year, pulmonary function testing has never been more important. This simple device helps medical professionals make a more precise diagnosis, which allows patients to focus on improving their lung health and reducing symptoms before the need for expensive treatments.”

Parlez-vous Français? Mental health and wellness platform maker Happify Health announced that its tools are now available in seven different languages. Outside of English, these include: Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, Chinese, and Japanese. In addition, the company has also added a new “mindfulness and compassion” meditation track to its offering and said that it plans to launch a French-Canadian version of its platform later this summer.

“Stress is a global issue, and language shouldn't be a barrier to getting access to tools that can help improve mental health and wellness," Tomer Ben-Kiki, co-founder and CEO of Happify Health, said in a statement. "This is the first, comprehensive mental health and wellness solution that’s been linguistically and culturally adapted, while also staying true to the science, for a diverse population.”

Connected inhalers well received.  published in JMIR Mhealth and Uhealth is the latest backing for Propeller Health’s digital asthma medicines. Among 89 survey responses collected from patients provided an electronic inhaler, 79 percent reported that they were “very satisfied” with the device with an additional 20 percent reporting that they were “somewhat satisfied.” Further, 72 percent said that they were interested in continuing their use of the device.

"The study adds valuable insights into how patients experience and perceive digital health interventions for asthma," Meredith Barrett, VP of research at Propeller Health and a co-author on the study, said in a statement. "It also demonstrates the value of listening to user feedback, continuing to improve digital health interventions and ensuring the meaningful and enduring impact on patient outcomes.”

A healthy conversation. This week saw the launch of Sober.ly, an addiction recovery mobile app that offers anonymous, stigma-free peer support. Users of the app are encouraged to create a virtual avatar to represent themselves, as opposed to using their real appearance or identity, and can participate in group or one-on-one discussions through an augmented reality option enabled by the phone’s camera.

“I used my own experiences as a person in long-term recovery to create Sober.ly with the goal of forming the most beneficial forum for peer support available,” Nathan Perkins, founder and CEO of Sober.ly, said in a statement. “I found many people don’t like sharing personal information on social apps. They especially don’t feel comfortable revealing who they are when discussing their addiction or substance abuse on social media. The majority of people using social media or apps create fake profiles because they fear social or career backlash. Even worse, they never get help. Sober.ly flipped the script by encouraging people to use the avatar model. You can become whomever you want. As a result, people are more apt to join Sober.ly and be active in our engaging community,”

Strong Fitbit launches. In a recent release, Fitbit announced that it has shipped more than a million Versa devices since the wearable was launched in mid-April. These numbers, according to the company, indicate strong demand from consumers for health and fitness-focused smartwatch at the $199 price point.

“With Fitbit Versa, we are delivering on our promise to offer a true mass appeal smartwatch with engaging new features,” cofounder and CEO James Park said in a statement. “The positive response to Versa shows that we are filling this void and well positions us to gain share of the fast-growing smartwatch market.”

The company also announced that over 2.4 million Fitbit owners have tried out the company’s new female health tracking features, with roughly 1.8 million having added at least one period to their calendar and nearly 700,000 logging one or more symptoms.

“The engagement we’ve seen with our new female health tracking feature further demonstrates the value our users see in being able to get a more comprehensive look at their overall health and wellness, in a single place, in a way that other available cycle tracking tools cannot,” Park said.

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Telemedicine for all. The Times of India reported this week the unique case of a five-month-old leopard cub receiving treatment via telemedicine. Found dehydrated in a forest village, the cub was dehydrated and experiencing fits.

After initial treatments were ineffective, local veterinarians ed animal specialists at a national park who recommended forensic blood testing. Tests showed that the cub was infected with parvovirus, leading local vets to again teleconsult with specialists to determine the correct dose of medication.

“After the cub was brought to Barwani, we were in dilemma as we had never treated such case but [veterinary specialist] Dr. Atul Gupta’s help through telemedicine paid off and we were able to treat the cub,” Dr. Mahendra Baghel, a local vet, told the Times of India.

The cub has since been transferred to the national park, and according to Baghel is now back to eating twice a day and drinking “plenty” of water.

Early indications. An investigation of a ResearchKit iPhone app designed to screen young children for autism found that the tool was reliable and easy to use. , the study reviewed 5,618 surveys and 4,441 videos uploaded by 1,756 families with children aged one to six years. The app was able to analyze the videos to measure children’s expressions of joy in response to stimuli, according to the researchers, and was very well received by caregivers.

"This demonstrates the feasibility of this approach," Geraldine Dawson, director of the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development and co-leader of the study, said in a statement. "Many caregivers were willing to participate, the data were high quality and the video analysis algorithms produced results consistent with the scoring we produce in our autism program here at Duke.”

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A virtual nurse hangout. A new social app specifically designed as a digital community for wound care nurses launched in the US earlier this week. Called Nurse2Nurse, the app offers nurses a forum to confide with colleagues and ask specific questions about providing wound care. The platform is led by nurses who post regularly post relevant questions and discussions, with more than 500 clinicians participating in the app’s pilot phase over the last six months.

“At KCI, we have a long-standing history of collaboration with clinicians to provide solutions that resolve some of their most pressing unmet needs,” Dr. Ron Silverman, chief medical officer at KCI, said in a statement. “Feedback and interaction from nursing leaders helped us identify a need for a digital community where wound care nurses can compliantly share information, best practices and instantly connect with fellow clinicians. Our goal is to leverage digital technology and connectivity in order to drive improvement in patient care and outcomes on behalf of these wound care nurses who serve on the front lines.”

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