DIGITAL HEALTH BRIEFING: Apple Watch adding EKG monitoring feature --  Theranos gets $100 million in financing --  Accenture and Roche partner to improve tumour board solution

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WHY APPLE IS LOOKING TO BUILD EKG MONITORING INTO WATCH:Apple is developing advanced heart monitoring features that it’s looking to include in future versions of its Apple Watch, reportsBloomberg. The smartwatch already boasts basic heart rate monitoring, but this new feature would allow the device to play a much larger role in medical care and to provide healthcare professionals with data they can use to diagnose and monitor medical conditions.

Apple is looking to allow consumers to use the watch to perform electrocardiogram (EKG) tests.The feature, currently being tested, sends a small electrical current through the user’s body when it’s touched with the other hand. This action allows the watch to measure the way the body conducts electricity. Doctors use EKGs to monitor and diagnose a number of medical conditions, but typically they must be performed in offices or require unwieldy holter monitors.

Apple’s new watch won’t be the first mobile EKG solution.TheHELO wristband, for example, can perform an EKG and monitor a number of other important health markers. Similarly, the Cronovo Smartwatch offers EKG monitoring in an Android-based watch. And there’s evenAliveCor’s Kardiaband, which can attach to the Apple Watch and perform an EKG that’s recorded by the device.

But none of these competing devices offer the same reach as Apple’s flagship wearable. Apple has sold over 33 million devices so far, according to Asymco analyst estimates. Expanding the clinical monitoring capabilities of the device to allow it to track irregular heartbeats – which impact more than 25% of Americans over 40 – could bolster sales of the device while also giving healthcare providers a new means of getting critical information to improve patient care.

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THERANOS GETS $US100 MILLION IN FINANCING AS IT AIMS TO TRANSFORM BLOOD TESTING: Biotech start-up Theranos has secured $US100 million in debt financing from Fortress Investment Group LLC. The funding is contingent upon the company hitting product and operational goals, according to the Wall Street Journal. Theranos was once one of the most well-funded digital health startups in the US, but fell into financial trouble after being hit with allegations that its blood testing technology didn’t work and that the company misled investors. However, this new funding could be the lifeline the company needs to continue its goal of disrupting a massive industry – the global blood testing market is expected to exceed $US62 billion by 2024, according to Grand View Research.

ACCENTURE AND ROCHE PARTNER TO IMPROVE TUMOUR BOARD SOLUTION: Accenture is teaming up with Roche, the pharmaceuticals and diagnostics company, to better support tumour boards in treating cancer patients. Tumour boards are meetings that bring together multi-disciplinary healthcare teams to discuss and manage complex cancer cases. Roche has developed its own solution, called NAVIFY Tumour Board, which aggregates patient data from disparate IT systems to give oncology teams better visibility into a patient’s condition.Under this multi-year agreement, Accenture will provide digital data integration services to Roche, enabling the firm to collect and pass vital patient data between hospitals and the NAVIFY Tumour Board solution. By giving healthcare teams greater visibility into a patient’s condition and history, Roche’s solution could help tumour boards become even more effective – 68% of physicians found tumour boards to frequently or always assist with diagnostic or treatment decisions, according to Journal of Global Oncology data cited by Roche.

WEARABLE DEVICES COULD SAVE AUSTRALIA’S HEALTHCARE SYSTEM BILLIONS: Researchers at Griffith University in Australia are collaborating with Huawei and Tonwo Health Clinic Technology to help patients and doctors remotely manage chronic conditions via wearable devices. The devices, which include a blood pressure monitor table, blood pressure on arm, handheld pulse oximeter, blood glucose meter, and body fat scale, use narrowband internet (NB-IoT) chip technology to feed live data to a compatible platform. Physicians can use this live data to diagnose conditions, remotely check on patients, and guide users on how to monitor their own health. The addition of wearable devices for care management and monitoring is projected to save the Australian healthcare system billions of dollars.

Bii wearables forecast 2BI Intelligence

In other news…

  • Diabetes management device maker Bigfoot Biomedicalraised $US37 million in a new round of funding, bringing its total funding to $US72.5 million. This new round of funding will be used to support product development and clinical trials for Bigfoot’s medical device systems.

  • Epic Systems, a healthcare software company, is making its new electronic health record system (EHR) available in March 2018, according to HealthcareITNews. The EHR, dubbed sonnet, will be a slimmed down EHR with fewer modules and a lower price point.

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