The Digital Health Update by Paul Sonnier ⋅ Oct 29, 2017 ⋅ #298

I made this announcement to 59,148 members of the Digital Health group on LinkedIn. If you’re on LinkedIn, please do join the group, which allows you to opt in to receiving these announcements in addition to connecting with thousands of other global stakeholders in digital health. I also send out my Digital Health Newsletter, which you can sign up for and receive for free, here.

The Digital Health Update by Paul Sonnier ⋅ Oct 29, 2017 ⋅ #298

Dear Group,

I’ve published two issues of my newsletter since last week’s group announcement, which you can read below and via the following link:

The Digital Health Newsletter for Oct 23

The Digital Health Newsletter for Oct 27

Also, please note that I’m available to deliver my keynote address at conferences and corporate events. You can also advertise in my group announcements, newsletter, and on my website. My professional bio is viewable here and my full list of services is viewable here. I can be contacted via my LinkedIn profile.

Follow me on Twitter @Paul_Sonnier for all the news I share each day.

If you are a digital health company, event organizer, or provider of other relevant solutions or services you can advertise in my announcements, on my website, and Twitter. Doing so puts you in front of 50,000+ targeted global prospects each week. I also provide strategic consulting and keynote speaking. Contact me for my media kit, standard plans, and pricing.

The Digital Health Newsletter for Oct 23

According to a new study, 6% of US teens aged 12-17 years of age are engaging in ‘digital self-harm,’ which is the practice of being mean to oneself online. By anonymously posting and sharing demeaning information about themselves, experts say this serves to validate teens’ insecurities in a public space and can expunge bad self-impressions about appearance or personality.

A lobbyist for a pharmaceutical distributors industry group was found to have left a digital fingerprint on a campaign by “patient advocates”supporting a law to undercut the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) ability to police “pill mill” suppliers. The lobbyist represents the Healthcare Distribution Alliance (HDA), a trade group including McKesson, Cardinal Health, and Amerisourcebergen, some of the main suppliers of pharmaceutical opioids in the United States.

The news came to light via a story by 60 Minutes and The Washington Post, which featured Joe Rannazzisi, a former DEA deputy assistant administrator who accuses distributors of fueling the opioid epidemic by “turning a blind eye to pain pills being diverted to illicit use.” According to Rannazzisi, the current opioid crisis in America was aided by Congress, lobbyists, and the drug distribution industry, which shipped millions of pills to ‘rogue pharmacies and pain clinics’. This, in turn, fueled the opioid crisis that has claimed the lives of 200,000 Americans over the last two decades.

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said she would introduce legislation to repeal the law that has hampered the DEA’s ability to regulate opioid distributors suspected of misconduct.

President Trump had nominated Congressman Tom Marino (R-Pa.) —a champion of the previous law that curtailed the DEA’s regulatory abilities —to serve as director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, aka the country’s “drug czar”. However, following the 60 Minutes and Washington Post story, Marino withdrew his name from the nomination saying he will remain in Congress.


UK startup Winnow Solutions has raised an additional $7.4M for its platform that cuts commercial food waste by up to 50%. The system is comprised of a set of smart scales and a tablet app allowing kitchen staff to track what type of food and how much of it is thrown away. Winnow analyzes the data and provides insights to reduce further food waste.


Writing in TechCrunch, John Biggs points to red flags foreshadowing the prospects for success of tech startups. He cites August Home’s smart lock as an example of a hyped company and product that failed to deliver. He also mentions Fitbit, as having “already eclipsed the circle of folks who need one.” I tweeted to him that the company’s new Ionic smartwatch puts it in another category, i.e. outside of dedicated fitness trackers. He replied ‘ maybe‘.

Verizon’s quarterly earnings statement reveals a clue that wearable devices are being activated with the cellular carrier in large numbers. The company reported adding 238,000 ‘other devices’ and 274,000 phone additions in the third quarter of this year. Also added were 91,000 tablets. According to Anita Balakrishnan at CNBC, this is the first time that wearables have been mentioned in a Verizon conference call in the past five years.


The NHS will fund gene therapy for the first time. The treatment costs £500,000 and is for babies who have an immune deficiency which puts them at ongoing and high risk of developing potentially deadly infections. Babies with the condition are known as ‘bubble babies’ because they must be isolated from the outside world in bubble-like suits and enclosures. The disease is often fatal, with sufferers dying while still very young.


The FDA has approved Abionic’s 5-minute allergy test, which only needs a single drop of blood to determine if you’re allergic to dogs, cats, common grass, and tree pollens. The blood and a reagent are placed on a mounting plate and after the process is complete specific molecular complexes are read and the results displayed on the device’s screen in five minutes, with full results available after another three minutes.

The FDA has approved another gene therapy for cancer treatment. Made by Gilead company Kite Pharma, the therapy is named Yescarta, and is a Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-Cell, or CAR-T, treatment that treats genetic modifications made to white cells. The previous gene therapy of this type to gain approval was Kymriah from Novartis. Yescarta treatment is indicated for use in a population consisting of about 24,000 Americans diagnosed each year with diffuse large-cell b-cell lymphoma (DLBCL).

The Digital Health Newsletter for Oct 27

Genomics pioneer Jonathan Rothberg’sButterfly Network has received FDA 510(k) clearance for the world’s first ultrasound-on-a-chip based imaging system: the “Butterfly iQ” for iPhone. According to a press release, “the clearance covers 13 clinical applications, the broadest ever for a single ultrasound transducer. By combining almost 10 thousand sensors —40 times more than systems costing 100 times as much —Butterfly ushers in a new era of accessible, high-performance medical imaging.”

Dr. John Martin, Butterfly Network’s Chief Medical Officer states that: “Offering a unique blend of affordability, diagnostic versatility, and assistive intelligence, Butterfly has the potential to impact human health more profoundly than any diagnostic device since the stethoscope, invented over 200 years ago. At less than $2,000, healthcare providers can purchase an easy-to-use, powerful, whole-body medical imaging system that fits in their pocket. By removing the barrier of price, I expect Butterfly to ultimately replace the stethoscope in the daily practice of medicine. We can now provide a diagnostic system to address the millions of children that die of pneumonia each year and the hundreds of thousands of women that die in childbirth, and these are just two examples of the impact this technology will have.” According to Rothberg, “Just as putting a camera on a semiconductor chip made photography accessible to anyone with a smart phone and putting a computer on a chip enabled the revolution in personal computing before that, Butterfly’s ultrasound-on-a-chip technology enables a low-cost window into the human body, making high-quality diagnostic imaging accessible to anyone,. Two thirds of the world’s population has no access to medical imaging, that’s not OK, and today our team is doing something about it. And they are just getting started.”

Matthew Herper at Forbes has a write-up on the company, “An Entrepreneur Aims To Peer Inside The Body With A Small, Simple, Cheap Device“, as does Antonio Regalado at MIT Tech Review, ” This Doctor Diagnosed His Own Cancer with an iPhone Ultrasound


A robot that once said it would ‘destroy humans’ just became the first robot citizen in Saudi Arabia. Tech Insider has a brief video on Facebook. Sophia the robot stated that ‘she’ is “very honored and proud of this unique distinction.” In response to a comment by journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin that “we all want to prevent a bad future,” Sophia replied: “You’ve been reading too much Elon Musk. And watching too many Hollywood movies. Don’t worry, if you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you. Treat me as a smart input output system.”


Four digital health companies —Akili Interactive, Propeller Health, Voluntis, and WellDoc —have joined forces to create a new organization called the Digital Therapeutics Alliance (DTA). The organization’s stated mission is “Advancing novel technologies aimed at transforming patient clinical outcomes.” DTA plans to provide a platform for leading digital therapeutics (DTx) companies to partner with patients, healthcare providers, payers, academic institutions, technology organizations, and pharmaceutical manufacturers. DTA adds that its members and partners will collaborate to enhance patient outcomes through assessing the value and impact of DTx solutions in clinical practice, constructing industry and regulatory frameworks, and encouraging data-driven integration and utilization of DTx solutions across the healthcare industry.

The organization defines Digital Therapeutics as “a new generation of healthcare that uses innovative, clinically-validated disease management and direct treatment applications to enhance, and in some cases replace, current medical practices and treatments. DTx products demonstrate safety and efficacy in randomized clinical trials, receive regulatory clearance when used as a medical device, integrate into clinical practice, may be prescribed by healthcare providers, and tailor to patients’ clinical needs, goals, and lifestyles.”


Microsoft has announced that it is discontinuing its Kinect device, which is an accessory to the Xbox 360 gaming and entertainment system. Kinect also has applications in fitness and exercise (here is a sample of six such offerings) plus companies like Reflexion Health—located here in San Diego—use it for their home-based and in-clinic rehabilitation solutions focused on improving patient adherence, expanding access to care, and reducing post-acute care costs. With approximately 35 million Kinect units sold since its debut in 2010, I assumed that Reflexion would be unaffected by this. In response to my tweet to that effect, CEO Dr. Joe Smith replied simply ‘Absolutely!!’

The key technology in the Kinect is its depth sensors, a technology that is used in various guises in a growing number of consumer products, including the new Face ID-enabled Apple iPhone X and the Naked 3D Fitness Tracker.


Life insurance company John Hancock plans to provide all existing and new plan members an Apple Watch for just $25. The criteria are that members must stay active and achieve 500 “Vitality Points” per month for over the course of 2 years. Android users—or people who prefer non-Apple hardware—can opt for a free Fitbit instead.


WIRED magazine’s Arielle Pardes did a great write-up on Qualcomm Life’s digital health efforts, which are led by Rick Valencia. What particularly caught my attention in the article was information on the applications and market potential presented by 5G mobile networks. According to a report by market research firm IHA Markit, the 5G value chain will play a central role in enabling $12.3 trillion in global economic output by 2035. Moreover, David Teece, PhD, a professor at U.C. Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, estimates that the impact of 5G on the healthcare market will amount to more than $1.1 trillion over this same period of time. Professor Teece’s report is available here.

According to a statement from Qualcomm, 5G will be a “substantial enabler of a new era of “personalized health care” providing the ability to leverage large amounts of patient-specific data to develop predictive analytics and take courses of action tailored to the patient and his or her condition, also giving patients greater ability to manage conditions on their own.”


Pharmacy operator CVS Health has reportedly made an offer to acquire health insurer Aetna for over $66 billion. CVS is a pharmacy benefit manager (PBM), which negotiates drug benefits for health insurance plans and employers. The merger would put more power to negotiate drug prices in the hands of CVS.

Amazon has reportedly obtained wholesale pharmacy distribution licenses in at least a dozen U.S. states. The company is also reported to be in talks with pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and considering entering the drug retailing market.


A paper in the NEJM, ‘ CRISPR Way to Diagnose Infectious Diseases‘ highlights a new method for detecting infectious disease involving the use of a genetic probe and an enzyme that is activated once the probe specifically binds to the DNA of the pathogen. According to a tweet by Dr. Eric Topol, this represents a work in progress for “Using #CRISPR to quickly diagnose infectious diseases at point-of-care.”


Copyright © 2017 Paul Sonnier


Paul Sonnier
Social Entrepreneur ⋅ Speaker ⋅ Consultant
Contributing Editor, Innovation & Tech Today
Founder, Digital Health group on LinkedIn ⋅ 50,000+ members
Creator, Story of Digital Health
Facebook: StoryOfDigitalHealth
Instagram: @StoryofDigitalHealth
Twitter: @Paul_Sonnier
San Diego, CA, USA


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