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Silicon Valley's digital healthCare solutions are booming

Change management has gained significant momentum during COVID-19. Gin and whiskey distilleries now produce hand sanitizers, car companies produce face shields, rocket companies supply ventilators to hospitals, and the police deploys drones to control public behavior. Willingness to change has become essential.

*This article was first brought in Altinget Digital on June 3rd 2020.*

 

Not surprisingly, one of many areas that has gained significant traction during the crisis is teleconsultation in healthcare. The suppliers of services that support online consultations have experienced significant growth in Silicon Valley, where companies like Teledoc, reported a doubling of online visitors in March alone.

 

The growth is supported by the US congress’ decision early on during the COVID-19 crisis to change the incentive structures and give Medicare and Medicaid covered patients easier access to online healthcare consultation.

 

The technology of tele-healthcare-consultation has its obvious benefits. Patients can get in touch with their doctors without the risk of infecting. This means that patients do not postpone necessary check-ups and risk worsening their condition.

 

One example of a virtual patient-centered model that has experienced strong growth during the crisis is One Medical.

 

The company has reinvented the way one goes to the doctor by integrating technology from the beginning. Their app is central to the patient’s experience. In many respects, it does not differ substantially if you are doing a virtual check-up, video consultation or if you visit one of the modern and smart designed clinics. 

 

One Medical employs a so-called bricks and clicks-model, where the patients are consulted through a mix of online guidance [clicks] and a physical clinic [bricks].

 

The patient consultation revolves around One Medicals’ app, where the patients can consult their doctors around the clock through either video, speech, chat, or messages. However, everything cannot be done over the phone, which is why it is also possible to arrange a visit to a real physical medical clinic.

 

In Denmark, where the implementation of telemedicine has been a long and challenging process, there is good reason to look to Silicon Valley for new innovative and technologically advanced solutions.

 

During the first quarter of 2020 in Silicon Valley, a total of 788 million USD were invested in companies that supply telemedicine. That is three times more compared to the same quarter last year. And the trend is also visible in other areas of healthcare.

 

Clinical studies – from a distance

 

Virtual clinical trials, in which symptoms and results are collected digitally, have also accelerated during the crisis. This contributes to faster, more efficient and patient involved processes, which can reduce both the time and cost it requires to collect the data needed for drug development. Once again, the patients’ smartphones act as the focal point.

 

Even though the technology is limited to disease areas that primarily depends on feedback from the patient (migraine, skin conditions, etc.), it has gained a renewed interest.

 

Like telehealth, virtual studies have clear advantages, due to the minimized contact with hospitals and clinics, where data reporting and monitoring are facilitated via the internet and smartphone apps.

 

One prominent actor on the market is Science 37, who has developed an online platform that utilizes smartphones, using the video chat for example. Researchers can use this platform to remotely recruit new patients, schedule visits by travelling nurses and so on.

 

Data will predict risk of contamination  

 

There is also a strong focus on preventive tools during the current crisis. Millions of dollars are continuously invested in the development of portable sensors that monitor heart rate, activity, skin temperature and other variables that can clarify what is happening inside a person, including the onset of infection, inflammation, and even insulin resistance.

 

In addition to more than a hundred start-up companies, we also see that the major players are entering the field. Google's 2.1 billion USD acquisition of Fitbit is a great example.

In general, portable devices such as watches, rings, and patches are expected to experience significant growth in the coming years.

 

Portable devices are not groundbreaking new technologies, but in the future, data from these devices will be utilized for far more than just measuring your steps.

 

In a large-scale project, researchers from Stanford University and their collaborators aim to predict virus-related infections through data provided by portable technologies. The team hopes that they can help to limit the spread of viral infections such as covid-19, while being able to help people monitor their overall health.

 

Devices using artificial intelligence can alert users when their heart rate, skin temperature or any other parts of their physiology indicate that their body is struggling with an infection, often days before people would otherwise become aware of the potential illnesses.

 

As covid-19 has shown, infections can spread through people without symptoms. If this can be traced through so-called predictive modeling, it will be able to moderate the transmission of the disease.

 

Lab-on-a-chip

 

One of the major focus areas during the corona crisis has been to boost test capacity for covid-19. Also regarding to that Silicon Valley may have a future solution - the so-called lab-on-a-chip technology, which we already know from the likes of blood sugar measuring.

 

The idea of performing blood tests and analysis easy, quickly, and cheap on a large scale was seriously compromised, when it turned out in 2015 that the company Theranos and their charismatic young founder Elizabeth Holmes were not able to live up to the large-scale plan of revolutionizing the market of blood tests.

 

The Theranos scandal has not been forgotten, but there has been a dramatic development of the technology in recent years, which now enables even more advanced tests that can be performed at home, such as the detection of various infectious diseases or early cancer.

 

In March 2020, Abbott announced the launch of a molecular diagnostic test that could detect covid-19 in as little as five minutes.

 

Alveo Technologies' diagnostic unit also uses nucleic acid detection to test for various infectious diseases. The device is cloud-connected, which provides users with access to data that tracks global disease outbreaks and connects the user with treatments.

 

Technology can improve your hygiene habits

 

A different use of new technology is applied by Immutouch, which is one of several companies working to change our hygiene behavior.

 

Good hygiene habits are always important - the average person touches their face 23 times an hour and is therefore exposed to potential risk of infection 276 times a day. Immutouch's smart bracelet vibrates every time the user raises their hand to their face.

 

Oura Health, the company behind Oura-smartring, recently launched TemPredict. TemPredict is a research collaboration with scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, initially targeting 2,000 health workers.

 

The scientists want to combine the biometric data such as body temperature, respiratory rate, and heart rate - which is constantly captured by the finger ring - with daily studies of symptoms in order to identify patterns that can help predict covid-19 onset, progression, and recovery.

 

The corona crisis has emphasized the importance of new technologies in healthcare services.

 

This development is highly visible in Silicon Valley, where health, science and technology are evolving rapidly. At the Innovation Center, we are speaking with many important participants in the industry who are on the verge of expanding their cooperation with Denmark. There is plenty of inspiration to be found for Danish healthcare companies that have ambitions to deliver global solutions, also postcorona.

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