Medical delivery drones for the NHS, Nike's workout app comes to Apple, and more digital health briefs

By Dave Muoio
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NHS drones

Look to the skies. A recent report by Nesta, a global innovation foundation, conducted in collaboration with five UK cities suggests that stand in the way of medical drone deliveries in the country. While the technology could increase the testing speed and decrease costs for the UK’s National Health Service, the country would need to update its air traffic control systems, policies, and regulations to realize a benefit.

“Some are technical challenges of drone technology — in particular around control beyond the vision line of sight of the operator, precision flight and autonomy. But most are not,” the researchers . “Just as the challenges of integrating cars into cities were largely around the infrastructure, laws and management of vehicles, so it is with drones.”

Longer glucose monitoring. Abbott has received FDA approval of a 14-day version of its Freestyle Libre continuous glucose monitoring system. The disposable, fingerstick-free system is comprised of a tiny insertable sensor and a patch roughly the size of a quarter that is worn on the arm. It was first approved by the agency in September 2017, for up to 10 days.

"At Abbott, we are continuously pushing for new innovations that minimize the daily burden of managing diabetes," Jared Watkin, SVP of diabetes care at Abbott, said in a statement. "With the new FreeStyle Libre 14 day system, people with diabetes will now have extended access to their glucose data with a high degree of accuracy, which will improve their experience and help empower them to better manage their condition."

Just Watch It. Nike announced last week that its Training Club fitness app is now available on Apple Watches. The app contains more than 180 free workouts, all of which will be available on the Apple Watch version, and allows users to monitor their heart rate, approximate calories, and set exercise goals.

“The resounding feedback from athletes worldwide was that they wanted us to put the best training app onto Apple Watch, and I think we’ve done it in a way that will make it an intuitive and invaluable training tool,” Mike McCabe, VP of category digital product innovation at Nike, said in a statement.

Investigating telehealth-enabled abortion safety. Gynuity Health Projects, a nonprofit abortion rights advocate group, is conducting a trial in five states to determine whether telehealth-enabled abortions are safe for women, . Should this be the case, the group hopes to petition the FDA to loosen regulations, which currently requires women to take their first abortion pill under video or live observation by a provider.

Doing so could increase access to the procedure in certain states, Politico noted, but also drag telehealth technologies into the growing political discourse on Roe v. Wade.

“[Telemedicine] will become much more of a flashpoint because medication abortion is a method so many patients [are] looking to use,” Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute, a abortion rights research group, told Politico.

Surgery patient support. Sharp HealthCare’s Health Companion app, a tool to help surgery patients navigate pre-surgry care, interventions, and post-surgery care, is now live on the App Store. Previously, the group was piloting the Apple CareKit-powered app among 32 cataract surgery patients aged 25 to 85 years. Among these, the group reported an average medication adherence rate of 78.2 percent, as well as no surgery cancellations, post-surgery complications, and readmissions.

“The genesis of our app came from years of feedback from patients and care team members from the frontline who simply did not want to continue with the status quo of our current process,” Dr. Tommy Korn, an ophthalmologist with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, said in a statement in January. “Our team approached the project from the perspective of the patient. What would we want if our own beloved parent was about to undergo cataract surgery?”

New AI diagnostic center launches. The UCI Health System in Orange County, California and the University of California, Irvine have launched a new center that will investigate how best to apply artificial intelligence for improved diagnostics, disease prediction, and therapy planning. The cross-specialty center will be headed by Dr. Peter D. Chang and Dr. Daniel S. Chows, both radiologists at the UCI School of Medicine.

"Our goal is to empower health care providers, researchers and patients through the use of artificial intelligence in healthcare," Chang said in a statement.