Archive for February, 2012



Making Telehealth Work in the Clinic

February 21st, 2012
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In a previous blog post for Popper and Co, I discussed how telehealth can be a life-saving tool in rural and urban settings. As devices get more versatile and affordable, we will start seeing additional efficiencies in health care delivery. Moreover, patients will (if they aren’t already) start demanding it. But does telehealth work in every situation? And how should telehealth systems developers adapt to an individual practice’s needs?
 
The Center for Telehealth and Cybermedicine Research found that while enthusiasm for telehealth was high among patients and (some) caregivers, not every clinic could perceive a benefit. It is very easy, for example, to lose the advantages of this technology without first doing some preliminary research on your particular center and patients. Telehealth must be needs-driven, filling gaps in health services that are not effectively met.
 
In some cases, demand for telehealth may not be very high. If patients can find care at other facilities or may be reluctant to seek care for certain diseases, then telehealth may not be helpful. Similarly, if practitioners are reluctant to use telehealth tools, this reluctance may place such a system in jeopardy.
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Matchmaking: Digital Technology and Health Care?

February 16th, 2012
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In a recent Forbes article on the last FutureMed meeting in California, writer David Shaywitz expressed his concern that technology developers are more focused on their technology than with how it may be accepted by health care practitioners. But he also expressed hope that, soon, technology and the practice of health care might experience a meeting of minds (and possibly even hearts).
 
At Popper and Co., we make an effort to search for technology solutions that can truly make a difference in health care, and often we’ve been skeptical of the “latest shiny new thing.” While I believe that sometimes technology apps appear to be solutions in search of a problem, we are arriving at a point in time when a happy merger between health care and health technology may be feasible. Why?

     

  • Because we (the scientific and technology community) now understand enough about biology to adapt technology to address real clinical problems. Our knowledge of genetics alone allows us to design targeted (i.e., “personalized”) therapeutic solutions.
  • Because cost and resource constraints have led to patients being more engaged in the price and quality of their health care.
  • Because consumer power has forced many practitioners (and technologists) to consider the “might” of this market.
  • Because new technologies facilitate fundamental health service innovation for providers as well as patients.

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Telehealth Saves Lives, Reduces Costs: A Physician’s Perspective

February 9th, 2012
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Wireless technology is evolving in positive ways. It’s now more affordable, more accessible (thanks to broadband capacity), and more portable (via devices such as tablets and smartphones). And it is no exaggeration to say that this technology has made a life-saving difference for many patients who otherwise would not get care.
 
At the Center for Telehealth and Cybermedicine Research at the University of New Mexico, we studied the ability of telehealth tools (e.g., video connections, conference calling, electronic record sharing) to improve access and outcomes of rural New Mexicans suffering from a variety of health problems. In that role, we have been the incubator for several applications of telehealth designed to integrate the technologies that address important healthcare needs and gaps in access. One example was hepatitis C. While this disease is curable, multiple treatments are required and patients must be monitored for adverse effects. Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) was initially incubated in our Center under the leadership of Dr. Sanjeev Arora. That project was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrating how the program provided community healthcare providers with the expertise and tools they needed to treat hundreds, if not thousands, of people who previously were receiving no care for hepatitis C. In addition, outcomes of these remote patients were as good as outcomes of patients who traveled (often hundreds of miles) to the University’s medical center in Albuquerque.
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Telomeres Point to New Osteoarthritis Therapies

February 7th, 2012
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Osteoarthritis is a devastating and extremely common disease.  It can be caused by aging, heredity and injury from trauma or disease.  About 46 million people in the U.S. (and more than half of all people older than 75) have some form of arthritis, which costs this country about $128 billion a year in treatments, rehabilitation, and lost productivity, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
 
There is no successful treatment for osteoarthritis, but an intriguing talk we saw at TedMed 2011 made a connection between this disease and telomeres, the “caps” on the end of chromosomes that play a strong role in aging.
 
As part of Popper and Co.’s efforts to bring you the latest in health care innovation, strategy and business development, we are highlighting new research that shows that telomere shortening associated with aging can not only be influenced by stress and psychological states of mind, but also may accelerate the development of osteoarthritis.
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Roche’s Proposed Takeover of Illumina—Game On for Universal DNA Sequencing?

February 3rd, 2012
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There appears to be a full-scale race underway to bring affordable next-gen DNA sequencing into diagnostics and clinical medicine, as demonstrated over the past week or so by Roche’s hostile $5.7 billion-dollar bid for Illumina.  Roche’s move should come as no shock. The multi-national healthcare giant has been a leader in diagnostics by virtue of several earlier acquisitions. But this action signifies a formal acknowledgment that next-gen sequencing will be part of the diagnostic and clinical toolbox—perhaps sooner than we thought.
 
Roche’s aggressive move may be motivated by an optimism that arose from whole genome-sequencing on the individual level. We noted this rising tide of optimism early last year, and many advances have been reported since then. We’re certainly seeing many examples of the application of next-gen sequencing to diagnose disease and to help match the right drugs to the right patients. Examples of companies that are staking claims over the early application of targeted sequencing of specific panels of genes for diagnostics include our client Multiplicom, which develops CE-marked, multiplexed PCR kits to generate templates for next-gen sequencing, and Foundation Medicine, which is using targeted sequencing to help diagnose certain cancers and to guide the treatment of cancer patients.
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