Stories about: Information technology

What we’ve been reading: Week of March 9, 2015

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Protection Without a Vaccine (The New York Times)
Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute have successfully used a type of gene therapy to make monkeys resistant to HIV. Could this be applied to other diseases for diseases for which there is no vaccine?

More about that doctor shortage, er, poor distribution of physicians (The Washington Post)
On Tuesday, the American Association of Medical Colleges released a report predicting a national physician shortage of 90,000 doctors by 2025. But it may be that we have more of a distribution problem than a volume problem; we need more incentives for doctors to practice in medically underserved areas.

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What we’ve been reading: Week of March 2, 2015

What Vector has been readingVector’s picks of recent pediatric healthcare, science and innovation news.

23andMe and the Promise of Anonymous Genetic Testing (New York Times)
Four debators weigh in on direct-to-consumer genetic testing, asking: Is it good for consumers? Is it good for science? And what about privacy? Worth a read.

Internet of DNA (MIT Technology Review)
Emerging projects in Toronta, Santa Cruz and elsewhere are working toward being able compare DNA from sick people around the world via the Internet to identify hard-to-spot causes of disease—analogous to using the “Compare documents” function in Word.

Engineering the perfect baby (MIT Technology Review)
Since the birth of genetic engineering, people have worried about designer babies. Now, with gene editing and CRISPR, they might really be possible. Bioethicists and scientists weigh in on what “germ line engineering” would mean.

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What we’ve been reading: Week of February 2, 2015

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Vector’s pick of recent pediatric healthcare, science and innovation news.

The problem with precision medicine (The New Yorker)
President Obama’s recently announced plan to invest $215 million in precision medicine – which uses DNA testing to personalize medical care- has many in the medical community cheering. Others, however, are concerned that DNA sequencing is still far from optimized and many of the best doctors remain unfamiliar with how to appropriately integrate genetic results into their care plans.

Schools may solve the anti-vaccine parenting deadlock (The Atlantic)
The recent outbreak of measles in the U.S. shed light on the growing number of parents “opting out” of vaccinating their kids.  Public schools are fighting anti-vaxxers in the courts- and precedent is on their side.

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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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CES offers a glimpse into the connected health future

Bluetooth pacifier thermometer CES Consumer Electronics Show health gadgets wearables
A Bluetooth pacifier/thermometer? (Photo: Bluemaestro

A Bluetooth pacifier that takes a baby’s temperature. An iPhone otoscope. A smart yoga mat. And health & fitness trackers out the wazoo. That’s just a small sampling of the health-related technologies showcased at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show (or CES).

The Las Vegas-based annual trade fair, a weeklong playdate for gadgetphiles, largely focuses on TVs, computers, cameras, entertainment and mobile gear. This year it also had a robust health and biotech presence, with more than 300 health and biotech exhibitors.

“I witnessed literally hundreds of companies all vying for the wrists and attention of users,” Michael Docktor, MD, Boston Children’s Hospital’s clinical director of innovation and director of clinical mobile solutions, wrote on BetaBoston. “For me, it was a chance to see where medicine and health care are headed.”

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Mapping mosaicism: Tracing subtle mutations in our brains

brain genetic mosaicism
(Erik Jacobsen, Threestory Studio. Used with permission.)
DNA sequences were once thought to be the same in every cell, but the story is now known to be more complicated than that. The brain is a case in point: Mutations can arise at different times in brain development and affect only a percentage of neurons, forming a mosaic pattern.

Now, thanks to new technology described last week in Neuron, these subtle “somatic” brain mutations can be mapped spatially across the brain and even have their ancestry traced.

Like my family, who lived in Eastern Europe, migrated to lower Manhattan and branched off to Boston, California and elsewhere, brain mutations can be followed from the original mutant cells as they divide and migrate to their various brain destinations, carrying their altered DNA with them.

“Some mutations may occur on one side of the brain and not the other,” says Christopher Walsh, MD, PhD, chief of Genetics and Genomics at Boston Children’s Hospital and co-senior author on the paper. “Some may be ‘clumped,’ affecting just one gyrus [fold] of the brain, disrupting just a little part of the cortex at a time.”

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Intelligent ICU monitoring for patients in status epilepticus: BurSIn

The BurSIn system, in development, interprets EEG data along several key parameters and accurately identifies burst and suppression patterns.
The BurSIn system, in development, interprets EEG data along several key parameters and accurately identifies burst and suppression patterns.

Status epilepticus, a life-threatening form of persistent seizure activity in the brain, is challenging to treat. It requires hospitalization in an intensive care unit, constant monitoring and meticulous medication adjustment. An automated, intelligent monitoring system developed by clinicians and engineers at Boston Children’s Hospital could transform ICU care for this neurological emergency.

Typically, children in status epilepticus are first given powerful, short-acting seizure medications. If their seizures continue, they may need to be placed in a medically induced coma, using long-acting sedatives or general anesthetics. “The goal,” explains biomedical engineer Christos Papadelis, PhD, “is to supply enough sedating medication to suppress brain activity and protect the brain from damage, while at the same time avoiding over-sedation.”

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15 health care predictions for 2015

Crystal ball fortuneteller-Shutterstock-cropped
2014 continued to see massive evolution in health care—from digital health innovations to the maturation of technologies in genomics, genome editing and regenerative medicine to the configuration of the health care system itself. We asked leaders from the clinical, research and business corners of Boston Children’s Hospital to weigh in with their forecasts for 2015. Click “Full story” for them all, or jump to:
The consumer movement in health care
Evolving care models
Genomics in medicine
Stem cell therapeutics
Therapeutic development
New technology
Biomedical research

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