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August 18, 2018
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Healthcare

Femtech hardware startup Elvie inks strategic partnership with UK’s NHS

in Apps/biofeedback/Delhi/Elvie/Europe/Gadgets/Hardware/Health/Healthcare/India/National Health Service/NHS/pelvic floor/Politics/sexual health/smart technology/Tania Boler/United Kingdom/Wearables/women's health by

Elvie, a femtech hardware startup whose first product is a sleek smart pelvic floor exerciser, has inked a strategic partnership with the UK’s National Health Service that will make the device available nationwide through the country’s free-at-the-point-of-use healthcare service so at no direct cost to the patient.

It’s a major win for the startup that was co-founded in 2013 by CEO Tania Boler and Jawbone founder, Alexander Asseily, with the aim of building smart technology that focuses on women’s issues — an overlooked and underserved category in the gadget space.

Boler’s background before starting Elvie (née Chiaro) including working for the U.N. on global sex education curriculums. But her interest in pelvic floor health, and the inspiration for starting Elvie, began after she had a baby herself and found there was more support for women in France than the U.K. when it came to taking care of their bodies after giving birth.

With the NHS partnership, which is the startup’s first national reimbursement partnership (and therefore, as a spokeswoman puts it, has “the potential to be transformative” for the still young company), Elvie is emphasizing the opportunity for its connected tech to help reduce symptoms of urinary incontinence, including those suffered by new mums or in cases of stress-related urinary incontinence.

The Elvie kegel trainer is designed to make pelvic floor exercising fun and easy for women, with real-time feedback delivered via an app that also gamifies the activity, guiding users through exercises intended to strengthen their pelvic floor and thus help reduce urinary incontinence symptoms. The device can also alert users when they are contracting incorrectly.

Elvie cites research suggesting the NHS spends £233M annually on incontinence, claiming also that around a third of women and up to 70% of expectant and new mums currently suffer from urinary incontinence. In 70 per cent of stress urinary incontinence cases it suggests symptoms can be reduced or eliminated via pelvic floor muscle training.

And while there’s no absolute need for any device to perform the necessary muscle contractions to strengthen the pelvic floor, the challenge the Elvie Trainer is intended to help with is it can be difficult for women to know they are performing the exercises correctly or effectively.

Elvie cites a 2004 study that suggests around a third of women can’t exercise their pelvic floor correctly with written or verbal instruction alone. Whereas it says that biofeedback devices (generally, rather than the Elvie Trainer specifically) have been proven to increase success rates of pelvic floor training programmes by 10% — which it says other studies have suggested can lower surgery rates by 50% and reduce treatment costs by £424 per patient head within the first year.

“Until now, biofeedback pelvic floor training devices have only been available through the NHS for at-home use on loan from the patient’s hospital, with patient allocation dependent upon demand. Elvie Trainer will be the first at-home biofeedback device available on the NHS for patients to keep, which will support long-term motivation,” it adds.

Commenting in a statement, Clare Pacey, a specialist women’s health physiotherapist at Kings College Hospital, said: “I am delighted that Elvie Trainer is now available via the NHS. Apart from the fact that it is a sleek, discreet and beautiful product, the app is simple to use and immediate visual feedback directly to your phone screen can be extremely rewarding and motivating. It helps to make pelvic floor rehabilitation fun, which is essential in order to be maintained.”

Elvie is not disclosing commercial details of the NHS partnership but a spokeswoman told us the main objective for this strategic partnership is to broaden access to Elvie Trainer, adding: “The wholesale pricing reflects that.”

Discussing the structure of the supply arrangement, she said Elvie is working with Eurosurgical as its delivery partner — a distributor she said has “decades of experience supplying products to the NHS”.

“The approach will vary by Trust, regarding whether a unit is ordered for a particular patient or whether a small stock will be held so a unit may be provided to a patient within the session in which the need is established. This process will be monitored and reviewed to determine the most efficient and economic distribution method for the NHS Supply Chain,” she added.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Square now lets developers use its Reader to build custom checkout experiences

in Business/business software/checkout/CRM/Delhi/e-commerce/Economy/embedded systems/financial services/Healthcare/India/New York/point-of-sale/Politics/shake shack/TC/Washington DC by

Square, the company you know from your favorite coffee shop’s checkout counter, is opening up its Reader hardware to developers. Using the new Square Reader SDK, developer swill be able to build their own custom checkout and point of sale experiences, no matter wether that’s a self-ordering kiosk, a mobile app for waiters or any other similar service.

“While we’ve built some of the best point of sale software on the market, we know that many industries have niche needs and businesses may crave unique experiences that aren’t served by our existing products,” Square’s developer platform lead Carl Perry writes today. “That’s why we’re opening up our platform and providing developers direct access to Square hardware for the very first time.”

The overall idea here, it seems, is to ensure that Square’s service doesn’t just work well in industries where it is already strong (retail, restaurants, etc.) but also in niches where it currently doesn’t have a presence. And this new SDK will allow iOS and Android developers that want to support Square’s payment system to bring their solutions to verticals like transportation and healthcare, for example. It’ll also make it easy for them to integrate their payment system with other business software like customer relationship management solutions and more complex enterprise resource planning systems.

Among those who have already trialed the SDK is Shake Shack, which is testing a Square Reader SDK-powered self-service kiosk at its “Shack of the Future” in New York and a number of pop-up locations. Similarly, Infinite Peripherals is building a digital taxi meter that’s currently in use in Washington, DC. Other early users include Joe and the Juice, a juice chain with an Instagram account, and  QuiqMeds, which helps healthcare providers dispense medication at the point-of-care (instead of the pharmacy).

News Source = techcrunch.com

The quantum meltdown of encryption

in Bitcoin/blockchains/Column/computing/cryptocurrencies/cryptography/decentralization/Delhi/encryption/ethereum/Google/Healthcare/India/Information technology/machine learning/peer to peer/Politics/Public Key Infrastructure/Quantum/satoshi nakamoto/vitalik buterin by

The world stands at the cusp of one of the greatest breakthroughs in information technology. Huge leaps forward in all fields of computer science, from data analysis to machine learning, will result from this breakthrough. But like all of man’s technological achievements, from the combustion engine to nuclear power, harnessing quantum comes with potential dangers as well. Quantum computers have created a slew of unforeseen vulnerabilities in the very infrastructure that keeps the digital sphere safe.

The underlying assumption behind nearly all encryption ciphers used today is that their complexity precludes any attempt by hackers to break them, as it would take years for even our most advanced conventional computers to do so. But quantum computing will change all of that.

Quantum computers promise to bring computational power leaps and bounds ahead of our most advanced machines. Recently, scientists at Google began testing their cutting edge 72 qubit quantum computer. The researchers expect to demonstrate with this machine quantum supremacy, or the ability to perform a calculation impossible with traditional computers.

Chink in the Armor

Today’s standard encryption techniques are based on what’s called Public Key Infrastructure or PKI, a set of protocols brought to the world of information technology in the 1970’s. PKI works by generating a complex cipher through random numbers that only the intended recipient of a given message, the one in possession of the private key, can decode.

As a system of encoding data, PKI was sound and reliable. But in order to implement it as a method to be used in the real world, there was still one question that needed to be answered: how could individuals confirm the identity of a party reaching out and making a request to communicate? This vulnerability left the door open for cybercriminals to impersonate legitimate servers, or worse, insert themselves into a conversation between users and intercept communications between them, in what’s known as a Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attack.

The industry produced a solution to this authentication problem in the form of digital certificates, electronic documents the contents of which can prove senders are actually who they claim to be. The submission of certificates at the initiation of a session allows the parties to know who it is they are about to communicate with. Today, trusted third party companies called Certificate Authorities, or CAs, create and provide these documents that are relied upon by everyone from private users to the biggest names in tech.

The problem is that certificates themselves rely on public-key cryptographic functions for their reliability, which, in the not too distant future, will be vulnerable to attack by quantum machines. Altered certificates could then be used by cyber criminals to fake their identities, completely undermining certificates as a method of authentication.

Intel’s 17-qubit superconducting test chip for quantum computing has unique features for improved connectivity and better electrical and thermo-mechanical performance. (Credit: Intel Corporation)

 

Decentralizing the Threat

This isn’t the first time we’ve had to get creative when it comes to encryption.

When Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto, whose true identity is still unknown, revealed his revolutionary idea in a 2008 white paper, he also introduced the beginnings of a unique peer-to-peer authentication system that today we call blockchain. The brilliantly innovative blockchain system at its core is an open ledger that records transactions between two parties in a permanent way without needing third-party authentication. Blockchain provided the global record-keeping network that has kept Nakamoto’s digital currency safe from fraudsters. Blockchain is based on the concept of decentralization, spreading the authentication process across a large body of users. No single piece of data can be altered without the alteration of all other blocks, which would require the collusion of the majority of the entire network.

For years, blockchain and Bitcoin remained one and the same. About five years ago, innovators in the industry began to realize that blockchain could be used for more than just securing cryptocurrency. Altering the original system designed for Bitcoin could produce programs to be applied in a wide range of industries, from healthcare, to insurance, to political elections. Gradually, new decentralized systems began to emerge such as those of Ripple and Litecoin. In 2015, one of the original contributors to the Bitcoin codebase Vitalik Buterin released his Ethereum project also based on blockchain. What these new platforms added to the picture was the ability to record new types of data in addition to currency exchanges, such as loans and contractual agreements.

The advantages of the blockchain concept quickly became apparent. By 2017, nearly fifteen percent of all financial institutions in the world were using blockchain to secure aspects of their operations. The number of industries incorporating decentralized systems continues to grow.

Digital security key concept background with binary data code

Saving PKI

The best solution for protecting encryption from our ever-growing processing power is integrating decentralization into Public Key Infrastructure.

What this means essentially, is that instead of keeping digital certificates in one centralized location, which makes them vulnerable to being hacked and tampered with, they would be spread out in a world-wide ledger, one fundamentally impervious to alteration. A hacker attempting to modify certificates would be unable to pull off such a fraud, as it would mean changing data stored on enumerable diversified blocks spread out across the cyber sphere.

Decentralization has already been proven as a highly effective way of protecting recorded data from tampering. Similarly, using a blockchain-type system to replace the single entity Certificate Authority, can keep our digital certificates much safer. It is in fact one of the only foreseeable solutions to keep the quantum revolution from undermining the foundation of PKI.

 

News Source = techcrunch.com

Technology in healthcare is moving from mainframes to iPhones

in blood test/Column/Delhi/Health/Healthcare/HealthTech/India/Politics by

New technologies are often first manifested in behemoth machines that may take up entire rooms, only to be miniaturized as the technology matures. We have witnessed this shift over the last 70 years in computers, and an analogous trend is now underway in healthcare.

Startups across the world are transforming capabilities that were once relegated to specialty labs with large, expensive capital equipment and highly trained technicians. For example, in the early 2000s, Celera Genomics used nearly 300 DNA sequencers and 7,000 processors, and cost nearly $100 million to complete the sequence of one human genome. Today, an entire human genome can be run on a desktop machine for less than $1,000. Beyond DNA sequencing, new companies focusing on everything from flu to strokes are moving the technology, revenue and data from a few centralized companies to the doctors and patients that need it the most.

The benefits of these technologies are numerous. Disaggregating testing from large centralized labs to the clinic or the home will broadly lower costs, enhance patient outcomes and provide better overall access to care. Historically, the capital and operational costs of this large equipment have required centralized facilities to be amortized over many samples.

This industry can now benefit from the cost reductions enabled by the mass manufacturing of consumer electronics. Optics, microfluidics and electronics are nearly an order of magnitude less expensive than just a decade ago. Combined with novel chemistry and smarter software, these tests are at cost parity or better than their centralized counterparts.

PreDxion Bio believes that it has a blood test that could cut down on deaths in emergency rooms. The team says that previous blood tests often took over three days to get back and that about half a million people die per year because of the delays. They’ve built a test that can help doctors gain insight into inflammatory biomarkers, making it easier to treat things like trauma and burns. The startup is starting clinical trials this fall at UCSF, Mayo Clinic and Mount Sinai hospitals.

Beyond the costs of the tests themselves, the fees associated with hospital-based diagnostics have grown exponentially, and many labs are overloaded with patient samples. Additional costs due to factors such as hospital administration and insurance can quickly overtake the cost of a test itself.  In-clinic and in-home tests remove the overhead attributed to hospital operation, significantly reducing the overall cost of diagnostics.  These tests also improve the availability, as they remove the time waiting for equipment or staff.

It is well documented that a fast and accurate diagnosis are critical for ensuring patient outcomes across a wide variety of diseases. Quicker diagnosis enables the correct rapid treatment, minimizes hospitalization rates and reduces the over-prescription of antibiotics. By bringing these tools to the bedside and reducing time to diagnosis from days to minutes, the quality of patient outcomes will increase.

In-clinic and at home tests deliver a large amount of data for both providers and patients. Traditional diagnostics produce a single data point, while distributed tests enable time series data that can help to monitor trends. This type of data is necessary to catch conditions at their earliest stages, when they are most likely to be treated and cured properly. Leveraging this data to track behaviors, treatments and outcomes can have significant impact on how healthcare is delivered. There are also additional startup opportunities to collect, analyze and act upon this data.

These tests, however, are not without their challenges. They can be expensive to develop and certify, they may require changes to clinical workflows and there is strong competition from market incumbents. Also, although these tests may be smaller and less expensive, they are still held to same rigorous standards by the FDA and other regulatory agencies. The  510(k) pathway provides a less cumbersome  to pass regulatory scrutiny than a new therapeutic, but still require significant resources.

The fundamental driver of the adoption of these technologies, however, will be an optimization of economics for providers. By offering an in-clinic diagnostic test, the provider can bill the full cost of that test, rather than having to outsource it to a centralized lab. Telemedicine has been impaired by the lack of definitive tests available to patients at home. However, an over the counter flu test can enable a telemedicine company to charge for a diagnostic and therapeutic visit while the provider is still 1,000s of miles away. Each of these attributes provide increase economic benefit to both the patient and the provider.

The shift from large, centralized testing facilities, to in-clinic and at-home tests has begun. These tests provide an increased quality of care, while decreasing the costs incurred across the value-chain. Their adoption is inevitable. Significant investment is still required to develop these tests to a cost and performance acceptable to the healthcare system, and there are many sources of funding currently supporting these innovations. Many entrepreneurs have identified opportunities to make meaningful impacts across society, and entire generations to come will live longer, healthier lives because of it.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Fuzzy Pet Health launches a $10-per-month telemedicine vet care plan

in Cats/Delhi/dogs/fuzzy pet health/Health/Healthcare/India/pet owners/Pets/Politics/telemedicine/Veterinarian/veterinary medicine/vets by

A new subscription service will now let you chat with a vet from your smartphone for $10 per month. This telemedicine vet care plan is the latest from Fuzzy Pet Health, a subscription vet care service providing in-home vet visits to subscribers in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. But while in-home pet care may take time to properly scale, on-demand vet Q&A is something that can be offered nationwide.

Fuzzy Pet Health Connect, as the new telemedicine service is called, works over the Fuzzy Pet Health mobile app, allowing customers to send text, pictures and videos to a vet at any time, then receive real-time medical help.

The vets can help with behavioral advice, training tools, new pet questions, or other concerns that may have normally required a vet visit to diagnose – like a cat that just vomited, or a dog with runny stool.

As Fuzzy Pet Health co-founder Eric Palm explains, the new service can serve as the initial triage that may actually save pet owners a visit to the vet, at times.

“It turns out that 80 percent of the time when people think there’s an emergency issue, it’s not actually critical,” he says. “We can triage – we can share pictures and videos, and that’s really helpful.”

If the issue requires an in-person visit, the vet will recommend it.

Unfortunately, laws in most states won’t allow for diagnosis and medications to be subscribed over telehealth services when it comes to pets – a bit unusual, given that people now have access to a variety of video chat doctors-on-demand offerings. But Palm says laws are starting to change.

“Each state has its own Veterinary Medical Board, and there are active discussions on most of these boards on how to relax the rules around telemedicine,” Palm notes. “Our lead veterinarian and co-founder [Dr.] Robert Trimble is part of the conversation with the state boards, and how to best shape the laws to enable better care for pets.”

Today, there are only three places in the U.S. that permit this – Washington D.C., Alaska, and Connecticut. The U.S.’s neighbor to the north, Canada, also allows vets to diagnose and prescribe digitally.

In the meantime, vet chat is the best most U.S. pet owners can hope for. But at $10 per month, it’s not too expensive to gain access to that additional level of vet care.

“The average pet parent goes to the vet only 1.6 times a year, while our members get in touch with us roughly once a month. We’re excited to expand telemedicine across the country, and provide pet parents the peace of mind and education that come with easy and unlimited access to high quality care,” said Dr. Trimble, in a statement.

Fuzzy Pet Health is one of several startups capitalizing on advances in technology to offer more affordable care to pet owners. A Swedish startup, FirstVet, also announced its funding today to expand its own local operations. There’s also Seattle-based Petriage, UK’s Pawsquad, as well as providers of telehealth tools to existing vet clinics, like TeleVet, to name a few.

But many vet-on-demand services have already failed.

“We’ve learned a lot from those that have come before us in this space. On-demand vet care is super hard – just like any sort of on-demand business,” says Palm. “The amount of staffing you need to do that is sort of prohibitive from a unit economics or margin standpoint,” he continues. “So our on-demand product is telemedicine. That allows us to be much more efficient with scheduling and staffing.”

Longer term, however, Fuzzy Pet Health plans to scale its housecall subscription service, albeit fairly slowly. (Its head of operations, Alex Aguilera, comes from Lyft and Wash.io, and understands market expansions like this.)

“We know if we go to six markets tomorrow, we’ll fail…we have to build demand and awareness ahead of launch, and we have to have on board a veterinarian team to service that market,” adds Palm.

That said, the company is already talking to vets in larger cities like L.A., New York and Chicago to see where it might go next.

To date, Fuzzy Pet Health has raised $4.5 million in funding from Eniac Ventures, Precursor Ventures, Crosscut Ventures, SV Angel Accelerator Ventures, and FJ Labs.

 

 

News Source = techcrunch.com

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