Stories about: Diagnostics

Pediatric innovators showcase highlights inventions

Innovators Showcase Boston Children's HospitalSome great inventions were on view this week at the second annual Boston Children’s Hospital Innovators Showcase. Hosted by the hospital’s Innovation Acceleration Program and Technology & Innovation Development Office, the event featured everything from virtual reality goggles with gesture control to biomedical technologies. Below are a few new projects that caught Vector’s eye (expect to hear more about them in the coming months), a kid-friendly interview about the SimLab and list of inventions kids themselves would like to see. (Photos by Katherine Cohen except as noted)

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What we’ve been reading: Week of April 6, 2015

What we've been readingExome sequencing comes to the clinic (JAMA)
An approachable and thorough summary of the growing trend, describing the ways in which sequencing can help provide a diagnosis, the diagnostic yield (as high as 40 percent or more, depending on the population), how often the results have changed treatment decisions and the question of who pays.

Who Owns CRISPR? (The Scientist)
Excellent coverage of the escalating patent scramble for genome editing.

Doctors Make House Calls On Tablets Carried By Houston Firefighters (NPR)
Interesting use of telemedicine in Houston, where many people call 911 in non-emergency situations. EMTs carry tablets, and can have callers chat with a physician on a video app, avoiding the need to take them to the ED.

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Boston Children’s to host second annual Innovators’ Showcase

Ten or more monitors keep track of every child in the ICU. How can clinicians manage all the data they provide?  Surgical Sam beating heart pediatric trainer mannequin simulation Simulator Program The Chamberlain GroupA prototype of the warming pad. The white color indicates that the pad's "phase-change" material is in its solid state. (Courtesy of Anne Hansen)Silk worms could create tissues needed for urinary tract reconstruction.

 

(Clockwise from top: T3, Surgical Sam, non-electric baby warmer, silk-based organ reconstruction)

Next week—on April 15—Boston-area visitors can sample inventions and technologies from around Boston Children’s Hospital, some in development and some already in use. More than 20 medical innovations will be on display in an interactive “science fair” format. We’ll be demonstrating a variety of medical devices, mobile applications, software IT innovations, wearables and bioengineering innovations. It’s free and open to the public.

The event is hosted by Boston Children’s Innovation Acceleration Program and Technology & Innovation Development Office, from 2 to 4 p.m., followed by networking time (4 to 5 p.m.).

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SXSW Interactive 2015: Our future selves, a maturing health tech industry and why failing is productive

SXSW Impact Pediatric HealthJudy Wang, MS, is a program manager in the Telehealth Program at Boston Children’s Hospital.

In 2012, when I attended the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive conference for the first time, health tech was still an emerging field. It was the first year the world’s leading conference for emerging technology and digital creativity made any effort to include health tech programming, and the first time its Accelerator pitch event included a category for health tech startups.

Only three years later, SXSW Interactive (March 13­–17, 2015) has grown to include almost 50 events related to health and medical technologies. Martine Rothblatt, CEO of the biotech company United Therapeutics, gave a keynote titled “AI, Immortality and the Future of Selves” that was both inspiring and provocative. She spoke to a world in which our 24/7 selves are increasingly being captured digitally. Audience questions captured by Twitter pondered the ethical implications of what Rothblatt called “mind clones”: future mechanical beings digitally programmed with our mannerisms, habits and memories.

This year also featured the Impact Pediatric Health pitch competition, captured in this Storify.

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Web offerings talk up the promise of genetic testing, but skip the limitations

Using a computer personalized cancer medicine direct to consumer genetic testing

We all remember how the genetic testing firm 23andMe roused the FDA’s ire in 2013, earning itself a warning letter to stop marketing its direct-to-consumer Personal Genome Service. The kerfuffle, though partially resolved, remains at the center of an ongoing debate in diagnostic and regulatory circles over laboratory-developed tests (LDTs) offered directly to the public, and the agency’s role in regulating those tests.

But like nature, business abhors a vacuum, and longs to fill it. Many companies and institutions have already jumped into the LDT ring, offering up genomic or pharmacologic services that they say would help guide patients’ and doctors’ treatment decisions and improve outcomes. Especially for patients with cancer.

How solid is the science behind these claims? And do vendors do a good job disclosing the strengths and weaknesses of personalized medicine? Those questions form the core of a study published this week in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

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The changing nature of what it means to be “diagnosed”

one_red_apple_among_green_rare_disease_shutterstock_254533486

One of a series of posts honoring #RareDiseaseDay (Feb 28, 2015).

Historically, the starting point for making a rare disease diagnosis is the patient’s clinical profile: the set of symptoms and features that together define Diamond Blackfan anemia (DBA), Niemann-Pick disease or any of a thousand other conditions.

For example, anemia and problems absorbing nutrients are features of Pearson marrow pancreas syndrome (PS), whereas oddly shaped fingernails, lacy patterns on the skin and a proneness to cancer point to dyskeratosis congenita (DC).

The resulting diagnoses give the child and family an entry point into a disease community, and is their anchor for understanding what’s happening to them and others: “Yes, my child has that and here’s how it affects her. Does it affect your child this way too?”

But as researchers probe the relationships between genes and their outward expression—between genotype and phenotype—some families are losing that anchor. They may discover that their child doesn’t actually have condition A; rather, genetically they actually have condition B. Or it may be that no diagnosis matches their genetic findings.

What does that mean for patients’ care, and for their sense of who they are? 

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AudioHub app: Bringing hearing tests into the 21st century

sound wave AudioHub audiologyThere are 36 million Americans with hearing loss. Nearly 15 percent of children ages 6 to 19 have some level of hearing problems, according to the CDC, and the elderly population’s need for audiologic services is growing. Yet the number of audiologists is predicted to decrease in the coming years, increasing the need to make audiology practices more efficient.

For the past seven years, audiologists at Boston Children’s Hospital’s Department of Otolaryngology and Communication Enhancement have recorded hearing test results using an audiogram software application called Mi-Forms. The software was developed in 2007 to help with documentation. At the time, most audiology clinics used (and most still use) pen and paper, so Mi-Forms was a big advance. It’s been used by more than 90,000 Boston Children’s patients, reducing the clinic’s administrative burden by an estimated 11 percent.

However, over time, limitations became apparent.

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HD1829: Advancing telemedicine in Massachusetts

Massachusetts telehealth legislationJudy Wang, MS, is a program manager in the Telehealth Program at Boston Children’s Hospital.

This post is a frank call to action. Massachusetts is one of the few remaining states in the country that does not provide coverage for telemedicine services through its Medicaid program, and credentialing and reimbursement issues have helped limit the expansion of telehealth programs at Boston Children’s Hospital and beyond.

That could change. Legislation supported by Boston Children’s Office of Government Relations, filed on January 16, includes a bill that would advance and expand access to telemedicine services across the Commonwealth.

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Pitching pediatric innovation at SXSW Interactive

Pitching pediatric digital health innovationsJudy Wang, MS, is a program manager in the Telehealth Program at Boston Children’s Hospital.

A major theme at Taking on Tomorrow 2014 was the difficulty in making the business case for innovation in pediatrics, since the market size is small relative to the adult market. Muna AbdulRaqqaq Tahlak, MD, CEO of Latifa Hospital in Dubai, was among many who urged innovators to collaborate and aggregate their data to make the most impact.

It’s in that spirit that the upcoming Impact Pediatric Health Startup Pitch Competition (March 16) was born. Hosted by organizers of the South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) conference in Austin and the four top pediatric hospitals in the country—Boston Children’s, Cincinnati Children’s, Texas Children’s and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia—the event will identify the most promising digital health and medical device innovations for pediatrics.

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Consumerizing medicine: Are patient-initiated blood tests the future?

pink blood

The traditional model of health care has always been pretty linear: 1) observe your symptoms; 2) schedule a visit with your doctor; 3) meet with your doctor, answer questions, possibly have bloodwork or other testing; 4) follow your doctor’s advice.

But what if by the time you see the doctor, it’s too late to head off a serious medical problem? What if your doctor orders a blood test, but the closest lab is a 45-minute bus ride away, will charge a significant co-pay and closes at 5 p.m.?

The biomedical technology company Theranos has set out to upend this traditional model, simplifying the blood-testing process and giving individuals more control. The company’s goal is to establish wellness centers within five miles of every American, where anyone can order from a menu of blood tests with or without a doctor’s order. Walgreens already has 21 operating centers.

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