Real Deal: No More Needles for Blood Draws

v12Velano Vascular is on a mission to bring compassion to healthcare and make painful blood draws more pleasant for patients.  So far, they’re succeeding. They’ve received their 3rd FDA-clearance to help children and adults who cringe at the sight of needles.

Needlephobia affects 24% of adults and 63% of children.

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The Boy Who Cried Wolf may come to mind when we talk about no more needles for blood draws because of ill-fated Theranos.  They’re the overly-hyped biotech start-up currently under federal investigation by the S.E.C. and U.S. Attorney’s office. Patients initially thrilled about no more needles got hoodwinked by fake news.

Meet the Real Deal.

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Velano Vascular creates a single-use, disposable device called PIVO.

 

It attaches to a peripheral IV line, in hospital inpatients, allowing for lab quality blood samples to be drawn back through the IV –without requiring venipuncture (needle sticks or drawing blood from central lines) .

 

Many of the questions Therano’s CEO never answered, avoided or even got asked by reporters is welcomed by Velano Vascular’s CEO, Eric Stone, who I interviewed.

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WHAT IS PIVO AN ACRONYM FOR?

ERIC STONE, CEO, VELANO VASCULAR:  PIVO derives from “peripheral intravenous catheter,” or PIV, which is a medical term for the standard IV most hospital patients are hooked up to in order to receive intravenous fluids..

WHAT IS PIVO?

STONE: PIVO is a single-use, disposable device that attaches temporarily to an IV line, allowing for needle-free blood draws from this existing line.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

STONE: It enables blood draws to be taken by clinicians from the same intravenous (IV) catheter most hospital patients already have inserted in their arms, instead of poking them again each time they need their blood drawn and instead of accessing larger catheters (Central Venous Catheters) which raise different challenges associated with each time they are accessed.

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WHO DOES THIS DEVICE HELP PEOPLE?

STONE:  The device works for any patient with an IV catheter. Of course, children tend to more commonly have an acute fear of needles, so it can make pediatric care less invasive and painful.

There are also an estimated 30% of our hospital inpatients that are classified as DVA (Difficult Venous Access) because of aging, obesity, disease and more.

PIVO helps practitioners capture critical labs from these growing populations of patients who otherwise may take significant time and expense.

STONE: Also, those in hospitals or other inpatient settings, where the average length of stay is almost 5 days in the U.S. require daily or more frequent blood draws. Many of these patients have problematic veins or skin, which requires a lot of poking and prodding to draw blood. PIVO tackles these issues head on.

According to the CDC, an estimated 35M inpatient stays occur in the U.S. alone each year.  So, PIVO is set to  help many millions of Americans, not to mention those inpatients around the world.

HOW IS PIVO MORE COMFORTABLE & LESS DANGEROUS FOR PATIENT?

STONE:  For patients who have their blood drawn for a check-up once a year in an outpatient setting, blood draws are not that disruptive.  For a “frequent flyer” in the hospital, or a DVA (difficult venous access) patient –noted as such upon admission or who has become DVA after 10 or 20 days in the hospital feeling like a pin cushion –removing the needle from the procedure can have a lifelong impact.

Enabling practitioners to avoid accessing central lines (large, surgically-placed catheters) for blood draws aims to reduce the risks of Central Line Associated Blood Stream Infection.

Further, removing the needle from blood draws helps avoid risk of injury and infection for our phlebotomists, nurses and physicians. Hospital leadership is recognizing that an important alternative to a prevalent practice is now available.

IF I GET BLOOD WORK FROM AN ANNUAL PHYSICAL WILL THEY USE PIVO?

STONE:  PIVO requires a Peripheral IV catheter in order to access the vein. The IV line serves as a temporary conduit to the vein, so without the IV line PIVO cannot access the vein.

The IV line serves as a temporary conduit to the vein, so without the IV line, PIVO cannot access a patient’s blood.  As such, this procedure is most appropriate for the hospital inpatient setting.

I do envision PIVO will adopted in other care settings, where patients possess an IV line and require frequent blood draws, but the annual physical unfortunately is not one of these.

WHY AREN’T IV’S GOOD FOR DRAWING BLOOD WITHOUT PIVO?

STONE:  IV’s are essentially plastic  tubes which overtime become soft, like a noodle. While a noodle is fine for injecting fluids and medications into a patient, its soft walls collapse under the negative pressure of suction when you try to take fluids out.

There are other reasons why IV’s are less-than-optimal for drawing blood back, but these are quite complex in nature and we’re only just now uncovering some of the novel reasons through our research with leading clinical collaborators.

PIVO simply inserts a small, stiffer tube inside the existing IV tube for the purpose of drawing blood.

It works by propping open and unkinking the IV tube temporarily while enabling lab quality blood be collected.

HOW WAS THE IDEA FOR PIVO ORIGINALLY DEVELOPED?

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STONE:   Velano’s co-founder and physician, Pitamber Devgon had an elderly patient with bruises up and down her arms from repeated needle sticks.  That patient asked him why he was continually sticking her with needles when she already had an IV catheter in her vein. He didn’t know, but began exploring if it was possible to draw lab quality samples out of the IV line using a separate device.

Stone, a Wharton MBA shares, “Most of my career has been in healthcare, plus I am a needle phobic following my childhood diagnosis with Crohn’s disease as a teenager. So, when I was looking for a company start and a product to bring to market and my former graduate school classmates introduced us, I was instantly engaged following years as a serial healthcare entrepreneur and patient advocate.  From that connection,  Velano was born. “

Velano first won FDA approval for PIVO in 2015, and has also obtained multiple U.S. and international patents for it, with additional applications outstanding in the U.S. & abroad.

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STONE: “Five years from now,” asserts Stone, “I believe, without a doubt that PIVO will be the standard of care for inpatient blood draws and vascular access.”

Thanks for a great interview and innovation for healthcare consumers! -Maria Dorfner

http://velanovascular.com

 

MEDIA:   Contact: Michael Azzano at 415-596-1978 to set up telephone or on-camera interviews with patients or Eric Stone, CEO, Velano Vascular.

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RELATED NEWS:

 

A year ago, Forbes contributor Robert Reiss called Eric Stone “The Steve Jobs of Drawing Blood” and tested PIVO himself.  Reprint of article below courtesy of Reiss.

The Steve Jobs Of Drawing Blood

by Robert Reiss , FORBES CONTRIBUTOR (specializing in writing about CEOs)

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

I was recently at a board meeting at Griffin Hospital and our CEO was telling us about a new product that could transform perhaps the most ubiquitous healthcare practice – drawing blood.

The concept from a company called Velano Vascular repurposes the IV most hospital patients already have in their arms so blood can be drawn without having their veins repeatedly stuck by needles.

It aims to eliminate the associated negatives of traditional blood drawing: the pain and anxiety, injuries, excessive time and cost.

It seemed like such a revolutionary solution to a broad issue – sort of like in 1892 when Keds invented sneakers – and I was curious to understand if this was truly an historic moment where the age old process of drawing blood could once and for all be revolutionized.

It reminded me of one of my first CEO interviews back in 2007 with Jay Walker, the founder of Priceline when he described the driving force behind one of his over 700 patents, “The key to successful innovation is having a better solution for something that’s used everywhere and every day.”

So I decided to experience this innovation firsthand and a few weeks later I intentionally became a patient and experienced this new needleless way to draw numerous samples of blood.

I was amazed, the nurses were able to draw blood easily, and to do so as many times as they wanted without ever having to stick a needle in me again.

I was next introduced to the founder of Velano Vascular, Eric Stone, who I now admiringly call the Steve Jobs of drawing blood, and below are a few insights from our conversation:

Robert Reiss: How much blood is currently being drawn and what are the problems with the current system?

Eric Stone: Blood draws are not fun – and they are overlooked and underappreciated…except by patients. They are likely the most common invasive medical procedure, with an estimated half a billion in U.S. hospitals alone conducted every year, and two to three times this number across all hospitals worldwide annually.

Recognizing that the U.S. represents nearly 40 million inpatient admissions annually, with an average length of stay of five days, and a conservative estimate of two blood draws per patient per day, we are easily conducting hundreds of millions of inpatient draws each year quite readily.

This does not even take into account other non-hospital settings where patients require regular blood draws, such as long-term care facilities, skilled nursing homes and more – all locations where patients may have a peripheral IV (PIV) catheter indwelling (a requirement for our innovation to be relevant).

For a procedure that informs nearly 70% of all clinical decisions, it is remarkable that the last major innovation was the abandonment of bloodletting centuries ago.

Whether you’re the parent of a sick child or the son or daughter of an elderly parent, repeat hospitalizations and frequent blood draws hit home for just about everyone. It’s scary, it hurts, and it’s critical that we begin to pay attention and stop taking the steely reserve of our patients for granted.

Herein lies the rub. People scared of needles (trypanophobia) avoid necessary tests and treatment, needles injure healthcare workers more than 2 million times a year in accidents that can lead to serious infection, and the list of dysfunction goes on.

The way we draw blood today has real emotional, clinical and financial consequences. We can, and we must, do better. We can start by paying attention.

Reiss: What specifically is different about the Velano Vascular product?

Stone: Velano’s FDA-approved PIVO™ is a disposable, needle free device that connects to a patient’s existing IV catheter, enabling blood draws during their entire hospital stay without requiring subsequent needle sticks.

It turns out that IVs are great at putting fluids into the body but unreliable at pulling them out – that’s why patients receive so many needle sticks while in the hospital.

PIVO turns the routine IV into a reliable conduit for drawing high quality blood samples. This is an elegant solution to a centuries-old problem.

Now, patients no longer need to feel like a “pin cushions” or experience abrupt awakenings between 2:00 am and 6:00 am for the nighttime needle stick – when 40% of blood draws occur.

The company was founded based on a simple idea back in 2012, and subsequently PIVO has been used in clinical pilots and trials at a number of leading U.S. hospitals since receiving regulatory clearance in early 2015.

It has won a number of awards, including the Frost & Sullivan New Product Innovation Award for Vascular Access in 2016 and the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation competition at Children’s National Health in Washington, DC.

Reiss: What are the strengths and weaknesses of your methodology on quality outcomes?

Stone: Velano is most often measured by the clinical quality of blood samples drawn and its impact on both practitioner and patient experience.

In thousands of patients, the quality of our blood samples has been definitive and easy to measure, both through clinical studies and “real world,” commercial use.

Blood drawn from PIVO has similarly low hemolysis rates (blood cell shearing or tearing that can relegate a patient to a re-draw and delays in essential care) to needle draws.

Clinical study efforts and pilots with some of the country’s leading healthcare institutions such as University Hospitals Cleveland, Intermountain Healthcare, The University of Pennsylvania Hospital and Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital reflect clinically appropriate laboratory results – confirming that blood drawn with our compassionate technology can become a standard of care for clinical decision-making.

Practitioner and patient experience is harder to quantify, but our surveys and testimonials to-date are resoundingly positive. In fact, patients who receive PIVO draws are requesting PIVO when transferred to floors in the hospital that are not participating in our pilots or upon readmission to the hospital. They are actually asking for the product – it is remarkable.

The onus is on Velano to continue improving our quality measurements to undeniably prove this innovation is truly a win-win-win, as we seek to elevate the quality of care and outcomes for patients, practitioners and hospitals alike.

Reiss: What is the financial model for a user and what is the economic impact nationally?

Stone: The cost of a blood draw is not just the $1 or less spent for a needle. Instead, it is the many billions of dollars a year spent on wasted materials, rejected blood samples, patient and practitioner risks, delayed results, labor costs, central line escalations, and more resulting from this less-than-desirable and madly inefficient procedure.

Some of the financial downsides of traditional blood draw standards are somewhat obscure, however we’ve helped our hospital partners understand the current impact by simply asking sincere questions, seeking to learn, and paying a modicum of attention to the topic.

Think about the blood draw on an elderly or obese or diabetic patient that can take as long as an hour of a nurse’s time and 2-3 needles to find a vein and collect an adequate sample.

Consider that even one single case of an employee blood borne pathogen transmission from a needle stick can cost millions of dollars in exposure for a hospital.

For PIVO, we understand that in an environment of increasing health industry price transparency and pressures, when our entire healthcare system is experiencing economic upheaval, and cost neutrality is required for rolling out true innovation in hospitals.

 

Reiss: Why did you start Velano Vascular and what’s your vision?

Stone: The reason why is very simple – because I am first and foremost a patient, and I am a parent.   25 years ago I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, launching me on a lifelong journey as a healthcare entrepreneur, patient advocate, and National Trustee of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. Since a young age, I’ve been motivated by IMPACT.

I started Velano in partnership with an intellectually curious physician inventor intrigued by a seemingly simple question posed by his patient – “why are you repeatedly sticking me with needles [when I already have an IV line in my arm]?”

This simple, yet elegant idea resonated strongly with me, for I am needle-phobic myself, and I have been that “tough stick” patient during my hospital stays. Today, this brilliant idea has become reality.

My vision for Velano is to touch every human being on the planet; for we will all spend time in a hospital at some point in life, and we will certainly need our blood drawn when we do.

 

http://velanovascular.com

 

MEDIA:   Contact: Michael Azzano at 415-596-1978 to set up telephone or on-camera interviews with patients or Eric Stone, CEO of Velano Vascular

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Maria Dorfner founder of NewsMD: What’s Hot in Health

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NewsMD Communications was founded in 1998 to educate healthcare consumers by connecting medical + media to inspire and empower millions to want to live healthy.

In 1993, Maria created Healthcare Consumers, Healthy Living, Lifestyles & Longevity and Healthcare Practitioners. The shows aired on CNBC, which she helped launch in 1989.  She is the founder of Cleveland Clinic News Service, helped launch MedPage Today (sold to CNN) and wrote & produced 21st Century Medicine for Discovery Health.  Her awards include Freddie for Excellence in Medical Reporting, Outstanding Leadership Abilities, Media Recognition, Who’s Who, Medical Reporting Scholarship. She produced for Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Report, talk shows & reality programming.

She began as an intern at NBC todaylogo SHOW in NYC in 1983.

This is her blog.

Have an innovative solution healthcare consumers|media should know about?

Contact: maria.dorfner@yahoo.com  

Response only if it’s a story of interest. Thank you.

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Breakthrough: Mi-Eye2 Diagnoses Joint Injuries With Tiny Camera

TRICE MEDICAL closes $19.3M in Series C financing for their tiny needle-based camera to analyze joint injuries and expedite orthopedic diagnosis without the need for an MRI.

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Mi-Eye2 is a hand-held imaging scope which received FDA-clearance.  It enables doctors to diagnose a sports-related injury in the office, without an MRI.

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It consists of a hypodermic needle with a small camera tethered to a Microsoft surface tablet that shows high-definition pictures.

 

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Jeffrey O’Donnell, Sr. who is President and CEO of Trice Medical says this latest round of financing is a “significant milestone” and will help expand the company’s U.S. market.

Check out CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez report:

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CBS 2’s DR. MAX GOMEZ: If you’ve ever injured your knee it can be hard to tell exactly what’s causing the pain, so the doctor usually sends you for an expensive MRI and maybe an arthroscopy in the O.R. to take a look inside. But what if you could do a scope in the doctor’s office cheaper and safer.

Lemouchi Soufinae injured his knee in a car accident two years ago. Since then he hasn’t been able to play his beloved soccer, because of the pain in his knee.

“I can’t walk more than three blocks, have to lay down, have trouble sleeping at night, lot of strong pain,” he said.

DR. MAX GOMEZ: Two MRIs later, it still wasn’t completely clear what was causing his knee pain.

Lemouchi, Liz Meris has been having severe knee pain. “I couldn’t kneel or straighten without pain, can’t get out of car, swelling in back of knee, hurts to walk, feels unstable,” she said.

DR. MAX GOMEZ: Worse yet, Liz is claustrophobic in an MRI.

“I hate em, I’m claustrophobic. I’m out, I’m in, I’m out again,” she said.

DR. MAX GOMEZ:  The next is usually a trip into the operation room to look around by sticking a scope in the knee. It’s expensive and requires anesthesia. Why not do that in the office, under a local anesthesia?

Thanks to a tiny scope with a hi-def camera on the tip, doctors can do in the office what once took a trip to the O.R.

“It’s a huge game changer, been trying to do for 10 to 15 years, clarity and resolution are now tremendous,” Dr. James Gladstone, Mt. Sinai Health System said.

DR. MAX GOMEZ:  Using only a local anesthesia, Dr. Gladstone inserts the MI-Eye-2™ into Liz’s knee. She was actually watching the same thing Dr. Gladstone was seeing.

It allows him to check and see what and where there’s damage inside the knee.

“Almost as good as O.R. scope, and in many ways better than MRI because it can give you direct visualization,” Dr. Gladstone said.

DR. MAX GOMEZ:  Better yet, if the damage is minimal it saves the patient a trip to the O.R. for a conventional scope, and here’s the best part; it costs under $500 to do this in the doctor’s office as opposed to the $1,500 or $2,000 for an MRI and thousands more for an O.R. scope.

Almost any joint that you can scope can be done with the MI-Eye™: shoulder, wrist, ankle, elbow.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION on THE INNOVATIVE MI-EYE2 VISIT:

http://www.tricemedical.com

 

Also, check out Dr. Max Gomez’s new book available for preorder on Amazon:

“Cells Are the New Cure”

by Robin Smith, MD + Max Gomez, Ph,D; Foreword by Sanjay Gupta, MD of CNN

https://www.amazon.com/Cells-Are-New-Drugs-Bre…/…/1944648801

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Maria Dorfner, a 33 year veteran of broadcast news is the founder of this blog.

Contact:  maria.dorfner@yahoo.com

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Future Health: New Device To Detect Early-Stage Colon Cancer

DANIELA SEMEDO reports on a European project, which aims to develop an innovative endoscope device that can detect and diagnose colorectal cancer in its early stages.

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Called PICCOLO, the project is funded under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program. It’s tackling one of the world’s predominant cancers by using new optical technologies that identify precancerous polyps and early colon cancers.

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Colorectal cancer represents around one-tenth of all cancers worldwide, and nearly 95 percent of these cases are adenocarcinomas, which typically start as a tissue growth called a polyp.

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Early and accurate diagnosis and precise intervention can increase cure rates to up to 90 percent.

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A colonoscopy is currently the method used to screen for colon cancer. But while up to 40 percent of patients who undergo colonoscopy present one or more polyps, almost 30 percent of these polyps are not detected.

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Of the polyps detected by colonoscopy, 29 to 42 percent are generally hyperplastic and will not develop into cancer. The remainder are neoplastic polyps, representing colorectal cancer in its earliest stages.

There is an urgent need for new diagnostic techniques that are equipped with enough sensitivity and specificity to allow in situ assessment, safe characterization, and resection of lesions during clinical practice interventions.

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The multidisciplinary PICCOLO team proposes a new compact, hybrid, and multimodal photonics endoscope based on Optical C, a medical imaging technique that uses light to capture micrometer-resolution, three-dimensional images from within optical scattering media.

Artzai Picon of Tecnalia Research & Innovation says, “We hope that PICCOLO will provide major benefits over traditional colonoscopy. Firstly, by developing an advanced endoscope, using both optical coherence tomography (OCT) and multi-photon tomography (MPT), we will provide high-resolution structural and functional imaging, giving details of the changes occurring at the cellular level comparable to those obtained using traditional histological techniques.”

“Furthermore, when multiple polyps are detected in a patient, the current gold standard procedure is to remove all of them, followed by microscopic tissue analysis,” he said. “Removal of hyperplastic polyps, which carry no malignant potential, and the subsequent costly histopathological analysis, might be avoided through the use of the PICCOLO endoscope probe, which could allow image-based diagnosis without the need for tissue biopsies.”

Researchers behind the project believe the new device may not only add to colon cancer detection, but could also be applied to diseases in other organs of the body.

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Investigators expect their first prototype to be fully developed by the end of 2018 and plan to start testing the device in clinical studies in 2020.

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DANIELA SEMEDO, Colon Cancer News
https://coloncancernewstoday.com/2017/06/08/bristol-myers-squibb-novartis-to-test-mekinist-opdivo-combination-in-advanced-colorectal-cancer/

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http://www.fightcolorectalcancer.org

 

Maria Dorfner is the founder of NewsMD: What’s Hot in Health, a division of Healthy Within Network.  Have a story to share with healthcare consumers and media?

Contact: maria.dorfner@yahoo.com

 

GAME CHANGER: NEW SMART HEART MONITOR

 

Super excited to tell you about a new smart heart monitor you can use at home. It will help 28 million heart disease patients in the U.S. keep track of their heart.

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Keep track from the comfort of their home at any time. And it’s just been FDA approved.

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Meet Eko DUO.  The first handheld mobile, wireless, EHR-connected stethoscope, which connects to your smart phone.

It allows you to amplify, visualize and record crystal clear heart and lung sounds.

Imagine not needing to wait for your next followup appointment to transmit a concern to your physician. It works under the supervision or prescription from a physician.

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Eko Duo is set to help millions of heart disease patients who are often discharged with little more than an info packet and instructions to monitor their weight.

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Now patients can be sent home from the hospital with a direct link back to their physician, helping reduce readmissions and false alarms.

“The goal is to bring hospital-quality care to the home.”
Connor Landgraf, CEO and co-founder, Eko DUO

The device wirelessly pairs with Eko’s secure, HIPAA-compliant app, enabling remote monitoring and diagnosis by a clinician or specialist.

It works with the Eko app on any iPhone, iPad, Windows PC or Android device.

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Eko DUO can also be used by clinicians as an enhanced stethoscope for in-clinic cardiac screenings, enabling physicians to quickly diagnose and monitor patients.

Clinicians can use it bedside or remotely to quickly spot heart abnormalities including arrhythmias, heart murmurs, and valvular heart diseases.

I interviewed Ami Bhatt, M.D., a Cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Director of Outpatient Cardiology and the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and she believes Eko DUO will improve outcomes through early intervention.

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Dr. Bhatt says, “Cardiology programs are looking for ways to deliver hospital-quality healthcare at home.  The ability to capture digital heart sounds and an ECG expands our portfolio of mechanisms to remotely monitor the heart – and brings diagnosis and opportunities for early intervention even further upstream.” 

Heart disease can strike people of all ages.

I spoke with Stacy Bingham, a registered nurse from Oregon with 5 children, who knows this firsthand. She and her husband have no prior history of heart disease in their family, yet 3 of her 5 children end up needing heart transplants.

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When Stacy noticed her oldest child, Sierra acting tired with a loss of appetite for a few weeks, she never suspected the cause was an underlying heart condition.

“I noticed her face and eyes were swollen. She complained her stomach hurt.”

That’s when Stacy and her husband took her to a family practitioner.

“The doctor told us it’s probably a flu bug and sent us home. When her condition worsened she had an x-ray.”

X-ray results revealed Sierra’s heart was enlarged.  Dilated cardio myopathy. She later learned two of her other children also had heart problems.

“If they had not finally found Sierra’s heart condition, she may not have survived. We live in a really rural part of Eastern Oregon and we now have three kids with heart transplants that need to be monitored for life.”

Today, Stacy’s family takes nothing for granted, especially innovations that help.

“If this device can be used at home and we can rule out scary things and know when it’s not something we need to rush to a hospital for that would be wonderful.” –Stacy Bingham

James Young also knows how life can change in a heartbeat.

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Young was just 40-years-old when he first experienced symptoms of heart failure. Symptoms he ignored until they were severe and his sister insisted on it.

“I was coughing in mornings and throughout the day. I thought it was simply allergies. I vomited phlegm some mornings and still didn’t see a doctor.”

But the coughing became more painful. While shoveling, it stopped him in his tracks.

“I was outside shoveling snow when I turn behind me and  see a trail of blood.”

His sister noticed he didn’t look well and insisted he go see a physician.

“That’s when I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. I was shocked.”

James felt anxiety, depression and uncertainty about his future at this time. Young believes Eko DUO will not only help alleviate false alarms and unnecessary hospital readmissions, but needless worrying as well.

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“Eko DUO would have given me assurance the doctor knew where I stood daily. If there were any issues outstanding needing to be addressed immediately. It gives the doctor an opportunity to respond expeditiously to those concerns.”

Today, James is doing great and is a national spokesperson and heart failure Ambassador for the American Heart Association.

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“I went from a 25% functioning heart to being an avid runner and cycler. I’ve taken on a new lease in life. As a community advocate I can help inspire others and give them hope.”

Ami Bhatt, M.D says that hope also translates to much needed continuous care rather than outpatient care.

“Robust toolkits for caring for patients in the community will hopefully lead to more appropriate healthcare utilization through continuous rather than episodic outpatient care.”

HERE’S HOW EKO WAS DEVELOPED:

Eko’s co-founder & CEO, Connor Landgraf, is also a heart disease patient.

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Connor navigated countless cardiology visits, screenings and referrals.

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In 2013, during his senior year as at the University of California at Berkeley, Connor attended a panel discussion at UC San Francisco on technological shortcomings facing modern medical practices.

One technical gap cardiologists claimed stood out beyond the rest: the stethoscope.

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So Conner and his co-founders welcomed the stethoscope, a two-century old tool, into the 21st-century.

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Photo: Connor and his co-founders, Jason Bellet and Tyler Crouch

 

The newly FDA approved Eko DUO brings that to the next level.
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To learn more about this remarkable 21st Century technology we love visit:  http://www.ekodevices.com

 

 

Factoids:

  • According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.
    The American Heart Associations says the U.S. currently spends over $26 billion annually on heart failure hospitalization. 25% of heart failure patients are readmitted within 30 days — 50% are readmitted in 6 months with hospitals now being penalized for high readmission rates.
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  • Fact: 83% of parents experience anxiety surrounding their child’s referral to a pediatric cardiologist for an innocent murmur.
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  • Fact: Average cash price for an echocardiogram is $2,275 and even with insurance, patients can expect to pay 10 to 30% of this cost.
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  • Fact: For a pediatric subspecialist such as a pediatric cardiologist, patients must wait between 5 weeks and 3 months to get an appointment.
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  • Fact: Internal medicine residents misdiagnose more than 75% of cardiac events.
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  • Fact: 70% of all pediatric cardiac referrals for murmurs are unnecessary.
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  • Fact: Average PCP needs to coordinate care with 99 other physicians working across 53 practices.
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  • Fact: Only 50% of initial referrals are accompanied by information from the PCP.
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  • Fact: Patients in rural communities must travel an average of 56 miles to see a specialist.
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  • Fact: About 46.2 million people, or 15% of the U.S. population, reside in rural counties.

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Eko DUO.  A real game changer for heart patients worldwide.

http://www.ekodevices.com

 

 

Expert Newborn Screenings A Heartbeat Away!

jimmy-kimmel-baby-billy2-1This week, Jimmy Kimmel shared the emotional story of his beautiful newborn son’s heart surgery.  He and his wife Molly welcomed their second child, William “Billy” Kimmel.

At three days old, Billy had successful open heart surgery at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and is now home with his family.  On his show, Jimmy opened up about his son’s birth and health complications. He also underscored the need for the accurate and timely screening of congenital heart disease (CHD).

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Essential to early CHD diagnosis is the detection of a murmur using a stethoscope during a newborn’s first physical exam.

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But routine neonatal examination without specialist consults fail to detect more than half of babies with heart disease.

Approximately 160 infants pass away from undetected Congenital Heart Defects each year in the United States.

William “Billy” Kimmel, who is absolutely adorable below is one of the lucky ones; looks like he’s already laughing at Dad’s jokes too.

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Billy thankfully had the condition detected early, but many children with CHD get discharged with undetected or misdiagnosed conditions.

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After the events of this week, expecting parents have every right to question if their child is being screened appropriately or if clinicians known to misinterpret heart sounds are interpreting their child’s heart sounds accurately.

Kimmel’s story is really a wake-up call that we need more nurses like the wonderful ones who treated his baby boy.

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Now, there’s a device that will make sure congenital heart screenings more effective for infants.

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And it’s not just infants. Over 1.3 million adults live with congenital heart disease in the U.S, which now surpasses the number of children with congenital heart disease.

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Three entrepreneurs are well on their way to making sure accurate screenings are a heartbeat away. Their innovation paves the way for a new era of cardiac screenings.

They want to do what Shazam did for music, only for heartbeats.

Their new device called Eko [pronounced like Echo, as in a heart echo] offers the potential to dramatically improve the efficacy of newborn screenings, especially for newborns far from a pediatric cardiology center.

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The San Francisco based digital medical device company, launched Eko, an FDA-cleared digital stethoscope that enables ANY clinician, regardless of their training level, to secure a virtual pediatric cardiology opinion on heart sounds recorded with their FDA-cleared digital stethoscope.

It was a pleasure interviewing one of the founders, Jason Bellet.

Bellet says, “The silver lining in Jimmy Kimmel’s story is that the congenital heart failure was detected early through a murmur using a stethoscope and could be treated, but very often these murmurs go undiagnosed and undetected and infants leave the hospital with potentially life threatening situations.” [:27]

“Eko Devices would enable nurses and clinicians to get Cardiologist’s second opinion to immediately decrease the number of missed cases.” [:12]

Bellet is the co-founder and a brilliant former student from the University of Berkley.  He graduated in 2014 and founded Eko Devices with two fellow students, Connor Landgraf and Tyler Crouch out of the Start-up accelerator at Berkley.

The three founders successfully pitched their idea and raised $5M to bring it to market quickly and bring it to as many clinicians as they can.  It received FDA approval in September of 2015.

QUESTION: WHAT IS EKO?

ANSWER:  It’s basically a Smart Stethoscope that can bring the sounds to a trained ear immediately.

The vision is to bring machine learning and physician support tools to every clinicians stethoscope to make their screening process as easy as Shazaming a song.

QUESTION:  HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA FOR EKO?

ANSWER:  The idea stemmed from the fact that we realized the stethoscope is used as the primary screening tool for cardiac health, including for newborn babies.

But, it’s extremely outdated and ultimately leading to misdiagnosis and lack of cardiac conditions because you hear the heart sounds, but don’t understand what you’re hearing.

Cardiologists are the ones who can differentiate what is normal and what is not.

So, what we wanted to do was make it easy for clinicians to modernize their own stethoscopes to bring it into the modern era and send concerning or confusing heart sounds immediately to cardiologists in real time using this platform or capture it to send it to a specialist.

QUESTION:  There are other digital stethoscopes out there. Why is this one unique?

Bellet says, “Our digital stethoscope is the first to allow clinicians to stream sounds wirelessly from the stethoscope to a smartphone and to a cardiologist anywhere in the world.”  [:15]

QUESTION: Is it HIPPA compliant?

ANSWER:  It’s the ONLY digital stethoscope on the market that has built a HIPPA compliant software platform to stream heart sounds from any clinician to any specialist anywhere in the world.

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QUESTION: THAT’S GROUNDBREAKING. WHERE IS IT CURRENTLY BEING USED?

ANSWER:  Eko is now used at over 700 institutions across the country and has been adopted by pediatric cardiology programs.

QUESTION: WHO NEEDS EKO?

The technology is applicable in many aspects of patient care, but especially in newborns.

QUESTION:  WHAT IS YOUR ULTIMATE GOAL WITH EKO?

ANSWER: The ultimate goal is bringing it even one step further.  Our idea is have machine learning tied directly into the stethoscope itself, so one day clinicians can be as accurate as cardiologists in their initial interpretation of what they hear.

______________________________________________________________________________________

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Next, I spoke with renown adult congenital heart disease specialist Ami Bhatt, M.D. F.A.C.C. who says identifying congenital heart disease in the community can be challenging at any age whether we are trying to identify a high risk newborn like Jimmy Kimmel’s or catching congenital heart disease in a school age student or adulthood.

Ami Bhatt, M.D. F.A.C.C.  is director of outpatient cardiology at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston as well as a renown adult congenital heart disease specialist.  She innovates with the Healthcare Transformation Lab, serves as a scientific advisor for Eko Devises and runs a telemedicine practice.  She can be reached at mghachd@partners.org

Bhatt says,  “Because congenital heart disease is relatively rare it’s difficult for clinicians to identify it. The use of digital stethoscopes and other telemedicine technology which can connect the patient and caregiver in the community with experts at academic centers can improve initial diagnosis AND longterm followup.”

QUESTION:  WHAT HAPPENS WHEN KIDS WITH CONGENITAL HEART DISEASE AGE?

ANSWER:   Two things. One, as kids with congenital heart disease age, we know there are complications that may arise. Technologies like digital stethoscopes and the use of algorithms can help monitor their progression and track changes in disease BEFORE they progress too far.

And two, lack of follow-up is a persistent problem with children with congenital heart disease become adults. One of the main drivers is the challenge of access to subspecialty care.

Additionally, distance from medical centers, along with the time it takes and sometimes the cost of being away from work and family drives young adults to ignore their own healthcare needs.

The advent of digital health in congenital heart disease care empowers the patient to engage in a partnership to their health without taking away from their ability to live a full and active life.

QUESTION:  DO YOU THINK TECHNOLOGY HELPS OR HINDERS DOCTOR-PATIENT RELATIONS?

ANSWER: As the delivery of healthcare changes, caregivers are desperate to return to the ideal  doctor patient relationship, which is based on a human connection. As we build digital technology, and use machine learning to support our physicians at at time when there are so many diagnosis to be made, it allows us to concentrate on a shared patient and provider centered experience.

QUESTION:  HOW DOES AN ADULT KNOW WHEN TO GET THEIR HEART CHECKED?

ANSWER: If they had heart disease or heart surgery as a child, they should check in with their cardiologist to find out if they need any longterm care.

QUESTION: HOW DO THEY FIND A SPECIALIST?

There are advocacy websites, such http://www.ACHAheart.org which report self-identified Specialists in congenital heart disease or they can call a major center like Massachusetts General who can find a local center that can partner in their care.

QUESTION: HOW CAN THEY FIND OUT WHO USES THE EKO DEVICE?

ANSWER: If they want to find a specialist using the Eko Device people can contact Massachusetts General http://www.massgeneral.org\adultcongenitalheart for more information and ask about centers near them. They can also contact any hospital and ask for their telemedicine department and inquire if they use Eko.

QUESTION: HOW DO CLINICANS FIND EKO IF THEY’RE INTERESTED IN USING IT?

ANSWER:  Clinicians are able to access the device by going to the Eko Devices website at http://www.ekodevices.com and then if they’re interested in testing it they can purchase a unit directly from the website and send it back if they don’t like it. But that’s a rarity as the success rate has been high with over 5,000 clinicians across the country using it.

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This truly is a hot technology that will save kids like Jimmy’s, as well as those who aren’t at top hospitals in the country.

Billy will have another open-heart surgery within six months to repair the hole, and Our thoughts, well wishes and prayers are with him and his family.

“As a cardiologist, we sometimes worry about technology interfering with the doctor patient relationship. However, in these cases, it is technology that brings us to meet the patient where they live. Technology is finally bringing us home.” 

-Ami Bhatt, M.D. F.A.C.C.

If you haven’t seen Jimmy Kimmel’s story see it on Emmy-award-winning @GMA:

WATCH: @jimmykimmel shares emotional news about newborn son’s emergency heart surgery; son now at home recovering. http://abcn.ws/2pSPakE

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QUICK FACTS:

According to the CDC, 40,000 babies in the U.S. are born each year with congenital heart disease.

Recent studies estimate approximately 160 infants or 1 in 25,000 live births die per year from unrecognized CHD.

The reported sensitivity for detection of a pathologic heart murmur in newborns ranges from 80.5 to 94.9 percent among pediatric cardiologists, with specificity ranging from 25 to 92 percent.

A study in the American Journal of Medicine discovered internal medicine residents misdiagnose as many as 75% of murmurs with a stethoscope.

Routine neonatal examination fails to detect more than half of babies with heart disease; examination at 6 weeks misses one third.

A normal examination does not exclude heart disease.

Babies with murmurs at neonatal or 6 week examinations should be referred for early pediatric cardiological evaluation which will result either in a definitive diagnosis of congenital heart disease or in authoritative reassurance of normal cardiac anatomy and function.

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Take care of your heart everyone!

 

For more on Eko visit: http://www.ekodevices.com

UPDATES:

Good Morning America
ABC NEWS
May 9, 2017
Jimmy Kimmel returns to TV with update on his son’s health, defends his call for children’s health care coverage

One week after Jimmy Kimmel revealed that his son, Billy, had been born with a heart defect, the comedian returned to host his late night show with an emotional update on his son’s health and a defense of his foray into the country’s heated debate on health care.

The “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” also thanked his fans for their “humbling outpouring of support” and said that he and his wire “very grateful” for the multitude of donations made to the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, where his son was treated.

“First I want to tell you because so many people have asked: Our son Billy is doing very well,” Kimmel said. “He’s eating. He is getting bigger. He is sleeping well. He can read now — which they say is unusual [for a child his age].”

Kimmel, 49, revealed last Monday that his son underwent surgery on his heart three days after he was born, and will require another procedure when he’s a little bigger in three to six months.

During his monologue, Kimmel asked all politicians to come together to ensure healthcare for all Americans, especially those who have pre-existing health conditions.

Though there were many who supported Kimmel’s point of view, he noted that there were many others who called him an “out of touch Hollywood elitist.” To those critics, the late night host offered a sarcastic apology.

“I’d like to apologize for saying that children in America should have health care,” he joked. “It was insensitive – it was offensive – and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.”

To further the conversation, he interviewed Bill Cassidy, a Republican senator from Louisiana who last week tweeted that there should be a “Kimmel Test” for any healthcare bill passed.

The Jimmy Kimmel Test, he noted, would be in place to ensure that any healthcare plan would adequately cover pre-existing conditions “but in a fiscally conservative way that lowers cost.”

“I happen to like [it] a lot,” Kimmel said. “He is a doctor – a gastroenterologist. He is married to a retired doctor — his wife Laura, was a surgeon. And he co-founded the Greater Baton Rouge Community Clinic, which provides free dental care and health care to the working uninsured. So obviously – this is someone who cares about people’s health.”

 

 

Startup Reduces Needles for Blood Draws

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FDA-cleared to improve patient and practitioner experience in healthcare settings.

Full Story:  http://fortune.com/2016/05/20/startup-blood-draws/

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Or visit:  http://velanovascular.com/in-the-news/velano-vascular-needleless-blood-draw-technology-relieves-anxiety-for-patients-practitioners-and-hospitals/

 

Humor Helps Cancer Patients Heal

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When 28-year-old Oncology Nurse, Lexi Timmons works with cancer patients, which she’s done for two years, she notices what helps most is humor to brighten their spirits.

She also observes they receive a lot of greeting cards from well-meaning loved ones, but most are downright depressing instead of what they need most during this time, which is cheer.  She realizes it’s not their fault  because the majority of Greeting cards for illness in major retailers are typically glum offering sympathy, along with a Get Well Soon salutation.  She could see her patients get sad as they open and read them.

That’s how Lexi got the idea to create a line of Greeting cards that make cancer patients smile, laugh and feel good.  She calls them LUMPY CARDS.   Everyone knows stress has a negative impact on your mind and body. When people have cancer, they need their immune systems to stay strong and humor helps diffuse stress.  When someone is laughing they’re not thinking of being sick, even if it’s only for a little while.  It’s a step in the right direction.  Laughter is always positive, which is why we love Lexi’s idea and spirit. Sometimes, her patients inspire the cards.

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Lexi says, “I love to crack jokes and so do my patients. I realized that when people are going through the roughest of times, it actually brings out the best comedian in them.  It helps them cope and it also releases feel good endorphins in them, which are healing.”

Another inspiration was unexpected.  In 2012, cancer hit home when her Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.

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Lexi Timmons with a cancer patient she didn’t expect – her own Mom

“My Mom is at her best when she is laughing and not thinking about her cancer. I knew this would help her too.”

LUMPY CARDS sure did make her Mom smile.

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Now, Lexi’s Mom inspires some of the Greeting cards. Together, they share great laughs and beautiful smiles.

Laughter really is the best medicine

 Her Mom Sherry says, “I just love Lexi’s cards! She has a knack for finding just the right line to make people feel better. When I was going through cancer treatment, and I would read one of her cards, they would make me laugh or feel loved. Her cards captured what I needed to hear at each stage of my treatment, and were neither too sympathetic or mushy. So many of the cards out there make you feel like your life is over now that you have cancer or you’re dying.”

Lexi writes the humorous cards herself, but would love to partner with some professional comedians, who would like to volunteer for a good cause and get credit on them.

There are a range of cards uniquely tailored for men, women, friends, family and spouses dealing with cancer and they’re reasonably priced at $3.99 a card.

Healthy Within Network and NewsMD give these cards two healthy thumbs up. 

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And so does the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation, who has this to say:

“Now THIS is interesting!  A company that makes unique and provocative greeting cards for cancer patients. Lumpy Cards certainly doesn’t tiptoe around the topic of cancer.  The animal selection is particularly cute.”

 

 Way to go, Lexi.  An absolutely beautiful person inside and out, like her Mom.

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Lexi with her biggest fan, Mom

 

 

Here’s a link to Lexi on-camera talking about her inspiration for Lumpy Cards:

 

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  You can contact Lexi for an interview (Contact Us page on link) or order cards here:  http://www.lumpycards.com

Maria Dorfner is an  award-winning health journalist, and the the founding CEO of Healthy Within Network and NewsMD Communications.  This is her blog. She has been working in Media since 1983 and began specializing in Health in 1993, creating and sharing original and trusted health content for healthcare consumers. Her award-winning health series and segments have been seen on NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, DISCOVERY HEALTH and more.

“Today, the floodgates are open to anyone reporting on health. Consumers are now well aware that physicians may have ties to pharmaceutical companies, health devices or hospitals, so they question everything. They are also now aware that food and beverage companies promoting products may not have their best interests in mind. When your Mom, Dad, sister, brother or loved one has a health issue, you want to know you’re getting trusted unbiased information. We maintain the experts need to be questioned to ensure not only transparency, but that profits aren’t placed before people.  Additionally, we focus on prevention and maintaining good health.  Virgil said it best when he said, “Health is your greatest wealth. Invest wisely.” ~Maria Dorfner

Digital Strategy & Value-Based Care

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Digital Strategy and the Shift to Value-Based Care
by Guest Author, Terence Maytin

The U.S. healthcare system is rapidly transitioning from fee-for-service to value- based care as part of massive and ongoing industry-wide transformation. Digital strategy is evolving to meet new challenges, help drive disruptive innovation, and better engage a large, growing audience of connected health consumers.

Already complex and fragmented, the healthcare sector will look very different over the coming years. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has spurred rapid innovation and disruptive change across the entire ecosystem in the quest for better quality care across the entire population at lower per capita cost. Payers are accelerating rollout of value- based payment models with providers, and the shift to pay for performance arrangements with Pharma companies is increasing as well.

Moving an entire industry from volume-oriented reimbursement requires aggressive, innovative approaches to move from traditional siloed care to collaborative models, with system-wide provider coordination, patient engagement and proactive interventions. Technology will continue to act as a critical change agent, enabling large- scale improvements in process efficiency, automation, connectivity, collaboration, interoperability and advanced analytics.

With the convergence of healthcare and digital technology, industry stakeholders are reassessing their digital strategies to help tackle new business opportunities and challenges. Just a few years ago, digital health efforts largely focused either on acquisition marketing, community aggregation, or customer service portals designed to redirect volume from higher cost channels. However amid the current environment, digital offers much greater and far-reaching impact potential than ever before.

Digital investments are ramping up to support the shift from volume to value, particularly in the areas of care coordination, patient engagement, post-discharge monitoring, measurement, and behavior change. Since 2014, venture capital has provided $10B in new funding for clinical tools, analytics, consumer engagement, mHealth, telemedicine, wearables, and business services. In 2016, firms have raised a record $1.8B.

Two important trends drive home the relevance and importance of having a comprehensive, well articulated digital strategy: the rise of consumerism and nearly ubiquitous web/mobile adoption. Across all age groups, large audiences not only already consume digital services but also expect high quality, omni-channel experiences. In order to deliver on this promise, companies must design optimized, journey-based experiences that balance customer needs, preferences, and behaviors against desired business objectives and outcomes. Companies must embrace the concept of “putting the customer first” throughout the organization and across functions (e.g. strategy, product development, marketing, operations and technology). This also must be accompanied by an insights-driven, decision-making approach.

Essentially, digital strategy will be most effective if viewed as an organizational imperative. Armed with a holistic vision and comprehensive strategy, stakeholders will be better able to leverage and capitalize on digital’s full disruptive potential to help solve some of the most pressing challenges facing healthcare today.

Healthcare Industry Transformation

The transformation of healthcare is multidimensional and complicated. Disruptive innovation, technology and consumer trends are upending traditional business models. The competitive landscape is getting ever more crowded with new entrants while at the same time, insurer and provider consolidation is accelerating.

Consumers are motivated with more skin in the game and greater information access than ever before. Payment models are shifting from volume to value, and payers, providers, pharma, and medtech will need to collaborate and coordinate to a much larger degree within a more integrated care delivery system. These factors along with intense focus on quality improvement and evidence-based outcomes have big implications for the entire care delivery continuum…

Click here to read full article

TerenceMartin  Guest Author, Terence Maytin is VP/Director | Head of Digital Strategy and Delivery | Digital Health Business Analytics and Technology  and  Strategic Advisor for First Growth VC.

Stay healthy!

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Maria Dorfner is the founder of NewsMD and Healthy  Within Network. This is her blog.
She can be reached at maria.dorfner@yahoo.com
Be sure to click red FOLLOW on upper right of this blog to be notified of new posts.
On Twitter:  Maria_Dorfner

 

 

 

 

New 30-Min. Tech for Weight Loss

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There is now a non-surgical alternative to gastric bypass.

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It’s for people with a BMI of at least 30-40 who despite changing habits can’t lose weight.

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It’s called ORBERA and it involves inflatable balloons that help you shed 20 to 80 pounds.

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ORBERA balloon is inserted down throat and into stomach using an endoscope in less than 30 min.

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The balloons are then filled with saline, filling up space in the stomach.

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The Food and Drug Administration recently approved the dual balloon technology and NYC Gastroenterologist Dr. Prem Chattoo of Hudson River Gastroenterology is one of the first doctors to offer the procedure.  His office is located in lower Manhattan.

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“It’s not a long term solution like bariatric surgery. The procedure is used for a quick, six-month weight loss to get rid of 10 percent of your body weight. After six months, the balloon is removed and you should see a pretty noticeable weight loss,” Dr. Chattoo says.

 

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The end result is weight loss and reduced hunger.

After the procedure, ORBERA has a 12-month diet and exercise program to follow.

The biggest benefits about ORBERA, according to Dr. Chattoo, are that no abdominal surgery is needed and that the procedure is completed in the same day.

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The procedure is recommended to those with a body mass index (BMI) of 30-40 or those who have other risk factors for heart disease such as diabetes or high blood pressure. A BMI or 30 or higher is defined as obese. More than a third of U.S. adults fit that range.

The procedure costs 6-8K and is not covered by insurance.

One procedure will be donated for free to one person in need who meets requirements. Contact: maria.dorfner@yahoo.com   Write:  Orbera in Subject, include your contact information.

Additional Images for Media:  https://apolloendo.box.com/s/t7ukrrujfjk4mrgjwo5l5w5obd3djmbt

For more information contact Dr. Prem Chattoo at http://www.hudsonrivergi.com

For more information about the Orbera procedure visit: http://www.orbera.com

Stay healthy!
MD

####

 

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“Always remember the benefits of daily exercise for your mind, body and spirit. If you hate or dread exercise start with walking. Break it up into 15 minutes at a time until you reach 30 minutes. Then, increase it to 45 or 60 minutes. You don’t even need a gym to do that.

Remove  all junk food from your home. Load up on healthy snacks. Remove all processed foods and soda. Drink lots of water. You’ll begin to notice a difference in 6 months. In one year, it will all be a habit.

No matter what help you get surgically or non-surgically, you always want to strive to develop lifelong healthy habits. Address the underlying of ‘why’ you select unhealthy foods. Stressed?  Find someone to talk to. There are lots of free counselling services where you can call and talk to someone confidentially.

Rushed?  Fix meals the night before.  Hate your job? Start looking for a new one.  Sit at a computer all day?  Get up every 15 minutes and walk around office. Take stairs. Depressed?  Again, find someone to talk to and exercise daily. Make an appointment with a professional psychologist if it’s really bad. When exercising,  don’t focus on the physical. Focus on the mental benefits when you start. Physical has a way of catching up when you fix your mind and thoughts first. Stay positive.

Good things take commitment, dedication and time.

Your goal should never be a quick fix, but to change habits that got you to the place where you feel tired, sluggish and unhealthy and replace them with new, better, healthy ones. You can do it.  One day at a time. ”  -Maria Dorfner

Interesting research shared by Melissa Robinson:

Brown Fat, Triggered by Cold or Exercise, May Yield a Key to Weight Control

Fat people have less than thin people. Older people have less than younger people. Men have less than younger women.

It is brown fat, actually brown in color, and its great appeal is that it burns calories like a furnace. A new study finds that one form of it, which is turned on when people get cold, sucks fat out of the rest of the body to fuel itself. Another new study finds that a second form of brown fat can be created from ordinary white fat by exercise.

Of course, researchers say, they are not blind to the implications of their work. If they could turn on brown fat in people without putting them in cold rooms or making them exercise night and day, they might have a terrific weight loss treatment. And companies are getting to work.

But Dr. André Carpentier, an endocrinologist at the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec and lead author of one of the new papers, notes that much work lies ahead. It is entirely possible, for example, that people would be hungrier and eat more to make up for the calories their brown fat burns.

“We have proof that this tissue burns calories — yes, indeed it does,” Dr. Carpentier said. “But what happens over the long term is unknown.”

Until about three years ago, researchers thought brown fat was something found in rodents, which cannot shiver and use heat-generating brown fat as an alternate way to keep warm. Human infants also have it, for the same reason. But researchers expected that adults, who shiver, had no need for it and did not have it.

Then three groups, independently, reported that they had found brown fat in adults. They could see it in scans when subjects were kept in cold rooms, wearing light clothes like hospital gowns. The scans detected the fat by showing that it absorbed glucose.

There was not much brown fat, just a few ounces in the upper back, on the side of the neck, in the dip between the collarbone and the shoulder, and along the spine. Although mice and human babies have a lot more, and in different places, it seemed to be the same thing. So, generalizing from what they knew about mice, many researchers assumed the fat was burning calories.

But, notes Barbara Cannon, a researcher at Stockholm University, just because the brown fat in adults takes up glucose does not necessarily mean it burns calories.

“We did not know what the glucose actually did,” she said. “Glucose can be stored in our cells, but that does not mean that it can be combusted.”

A new paper in The Journal of Clinical Investigation by Dr. Carpentier and his colleagues answers that question and more. By doing a different type of scan, which shows the metabolism of fat, the group reports that brown fat can burn ordinary fat and that glucose is not a major source of fuel for these cells. When the cells run out of their own small repositories of fat, they suck fat out of the rest of the body.

In the study, the subjects — all men — were kept chilled, but not to the point of shivering, which itself burns calories. Their metabolic rates increased by 80 percent, all from the actions of a few ounces of cells. The brown fat also kept its subjects warm. The more brown fat a man had, the colder he could get before he started to shiver.

Brown fat, Dr. Carpentier and Jan Nedergaard, Dr. Cannon’s husband, wrote in an accompanying editorial, “is on fire.”

On average, Dr. Carpentier said, the brown fat burned about 250 calories over three hours.

But there is another type of brown fat. It has been harder to study because it often is interspersed in the white fat and does not occur in large masses. Investigators discovered it in mice years ago. Now, in a recent article, Bruce Spiegelman, professor of cell biology and medicine at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and his colleagues report that, in mice at least, exercise can make it appear, by turning ordinary white fat brown.

When mice exercise, their muscle cells release a newly discovered hormone that the researchers named irisin. Irisin, in turn, converts white fat cells into brown ones. Those brown fat cells burn extra calories.

Dr. Spiegelman said the brown fat he studies is different from the type that appears in large, distinct masses in rodents, the type Dr. Carpentier was examining in his subjects. That brown fat is derived from musclelike cells and not from white fat.

Dr. Spiegelman suspects that humans, like mice, make brown fat from white fat when they exercise, because humans also have irisin in their blood. And human irisin is identical to mouse irisin.

“What I would guess is that this is likely to be the explanation for some of the effects of exercise,” Dr. Spiegelman says. The calories burned during exercise exceed the number actually used to do the work of exercising. That may be an effect of some white fat cells turning brown.

Many questions remain. The only brown fat that can be easily seen in people is the muscle-derived fat that shows up in scans. And that brown fat, notes Dr. C. Ronald Kahn, chief academic officer at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, is visible in people only when it is turned on by making them cold.

Almost everyone of normal weight or below shows this brown fat if they are chilled, although individuals vary greatly in how much they have. But this brown fat almost never shows up in obese people. Is that one reason they are obese, or is their extra body fat keeping them so warm that there is no reason to turn on their brown fat?

There is also an intriguing relationship between the brown fat that emerges under the skin and the density of bone. Dr. Clifford Rosen, a professor of medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, is studying mice that cannot make brown fat and was astonished by the state of their bones.

“The animals have the worst bone density we have ever seen,” Dr. Rosen said. “I see osteoporotic bones all the time,” he added, “but, oh my God, these are the extreme.”

And while exercise may induce brown fat in humans, it remains to be seen how important a source of calorie burning it is, researchers say.

As for deliberately making yourself cold if you want to lose weight, Dr. Carpentier said, “there is still a lot of research to do before this strategy can be exploited clinically and safely.”

 

Brown Fat Burns Ordinary Fat, Study Finds – NYTimes.com

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ABOUT THIS BLOG:

 

newsmd1    MARIA DORFNER is the founder of NewsMD Communications and Healthy Within Network.  This blog is a part of that.  She began her career in 1983 at NBC News in NYC where she continued to work behind-the-scenes on TODAY SHOW, NIGHTLY NEWS and all programs until 1989 when she helped launch CNBC.

As a producer, she has produced talk shows, segments and series and travelled extensively. In 1993, she developed and senior produced 7 health series: Healthy Living, Healthcare Consumers, Healthcare Practitioners, Lifestyles and Longevity and Green Magazine.

She co-anchored Healthy Living and Healthcare Consumers airing on CNBC for three years before launching NewsMD Communications. Her clients include a Who’s Who in Medical/Health, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) which she shot, wrote and produced weekly segments for  NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN and Fox. Discovery Health Channel, where she wrote, produced and directed the documentary series, 21st Century Medicine. She has helped raise multi-millions of dollars for hospitals in need and has been a part of several successful health startups.  She has worked as Director of Research for Roger Ailes at Ailes Communications, his consulting and production company and again as a producer. Her articles have been published in Broadcasting & Cable Magazine and she has hosted The Secret to Success.

She has continued to be a go-to person for network heath shows, stories and content. She was awarded a health reporting scholarship from The American Medical Association (AMA), a Freddie Award for Excellence in Medical Reporting, an Outstanding Achievement Award from the March of Dimes, an Angel of a Sponsor Award from Make A Wish Foundation and an Outstanding Leadership Abilities from her alma mater, Pace University and Commitment to the Advancement of Women in Media Award.

In 2014, she published 3 books. She was also awarded a scholarship to Columbia University by NBC News. She also received  Media Recognition Award from the American Heart Association for her series Heart Smart. She has been specializing in Medical/Health for 23 years, and has worked in Media for 33 years after starting as an intern during college.  In her spare time, she enjoys reading, learning, writing, nature, hiking, swimming, bike riding, working out, cooking, exploring museums and travel. She is a certified scuba diver and aerobics swim instructor.

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“Health has been a passion of mine since I was a kid.  What I do and who I am are seamless.  I come from a large Italian family. If someone is sick I’m the one they call for research. My best friend growing up in Brooklyn was my cousin Josephine, and we’re still close. We were little health nerds. She became a pediatric nurse.  We loved researching everything to death and still do.  Two things I love and know well. Media and Medical.  Yet, I think in both, they’ve forgotten the most important person –the patient. So, I want to help put the ME back in MEdia and MEdical.  Today, it’s SO hard to know who to trust in both.  Fortunately, people are smart and they are now well aware of the various financial ties “experts” and physicians and media have to promoting certain medications or other large companies, products or services that absolutely do not serve our health or our best interests. The worst part is when we learn they knew and do not reveal it to consumers for decades, which contradicts the oath, “First do no harm.”  So  much damage has been done and no one is accountable. How do you like that. Well, ethics matter. People matter. And people want and will choose what is best for their health. People are empowered and will use their money to denounce those companies aligned with making them sick.  I created this blog to be a trusted resource for people. I do it for free because I believe Virgil is right. There is no greater wealth than health and you absolutely have to trust who is telling you information and why more than any other time in your life.  It’s even worse if you’re rich because then people try to sell you even more things. That may be fine when it’s a handbag, but your health is too precious and there are no returns or refunds if you end up paying a price for trusting the wrong advice. Remember, “expert” doesn’t always mean that.   I feel extremely blessed to be healthy.  I’ve been healthy all my life. I’ve never even had stitches.  I love to help people and my career became a vocation when I was able to utilize my communication and journalism skills to do that.” 

-Maria Dorfner

Thanks for following my health blog.

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Future Health: Lung Cancer Vaccine 5 to 10 Years Away

by Seth Augenstein, Digital Reporter

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  President Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba this month will be the first by an American president in nearly a century. The thawing relations between the two countries are expected to bring a bumper crop of famed Cuban among other imports.

Strangely enough, another eagerly anticipated product is a lung cancer vaccine some say could be a breakthrough in oncology.

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CimaVax has reportedly been in development in Cuba for 25 years, partly because lung cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the Caribbean nation.

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Health reporter, Maria Dorfner spoke with Dr. Kelvin Lee from Roswell Park Cancer Institute, located in Buffalo, New York.  He says Roswell Park is finalizing an application to the FDA seeking permission to conduct a U.S. clinical trial of  the cancer vaccine and that , depending on the results from that and any subsequent studies, it would likely be 5 or more years before the drug could be widely available for patients in the U.S.   CimaVax is already an approved cancer therapy in Cuba and Peru.

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HOW IT WORKS

The injection is not like the other cancer-fighting immunotherapies being developed in hundreds of American labs, said Kelvin Lee, the chair of immunology at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y.

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Lee and other doctors have visited the island nation several times to meet with its Cuban developers and hear updates on their progress –and they found that the vaccine was a promising potential breakthrough.  He wrote in a post on Roswell Park’s Cancer Talk blog:

“Unlike other immunotherapies, CimaVax does not target cancer directly and it is not personalized. Rather, the vaccine targets a growth factor (EGF) necessary for the cancer to survive,” Lee said. “By targeting and effectively depleting this growth factor, the cancer starves and its progress slows, prolonging patients’ lives.”

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The results so far show that patients’ lives were extended from six to an average of 18 months with the vaccine treatment,  but there are reports of patients treated with the vaccine living five years or more.

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Lee and the other doctors see the possibility that the vaccine’s efficacy may translate to colon, head and neck, prostrate, breast and pancreatic cancers as well, and that CimaVax may prove effective in preventing some cancers from developing or recurring.

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Some studies have shown promise in CimaVax, as it has cut back the EGF needed for the cancer to progress.

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It has done this with minimal side effects, including nausea, fever and vomiting.  Survival dramatically improved in those patients with advanced Stage 3 and Stage 4 tumors, according to a Cuban study conducted in 2007.

 

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However, the vaccine has only been administered to a few thousand people worldwide –and it is still far from FDA approval, the doctor said.

A possibility of skipping Phase I testing exists, Lee added. The FDA inspection period should end sometime this year, allowing testing to begin. Lee and the other doctors envision the vaccine’s efficacy translating over to other head and neck cancers, as well.

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Cancer Research UK urged patience in looking to CimaCax, in a statement released last year.

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“This research is promising but this is a small trial and we will need more trial results before we know exactly how well the vaccine works for people with lung cancer. A phase 3 trial is currently in progress in Cuba,” they said in a statement.

Obama announced the U.S. was “extending a hand of friendship” to Cuba – just 90 miles from Florida – in December 2014. The cooperation between Cuban and American doctors began in 2011 and gained momentum with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s trade mission to Cuba in  April 2015. Since then, the U.S. has restored up to 110 daily flights to Havana.

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Among the critics of Obama’s March 21 visit to the island nations are Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, both presidential hopefuls who are of Cuban descent.

 

Scientists ‘find cancer’s Achilles heel’

  • Lung cancerImage copyright SPL

Scientists believe they have discovered a way to “steer” the immune system to kill cancers.

Researchers at University College, London have developed a way of finding unique markings within a tumour – its “Achilles heel” – allowing the body to target the disease.

But the personalised method, reported in Science journal, would be expensive and has not yet been tried in patients.

Experts said the idea made sense but could be more complicated in reality.

However, the researchers, whose work was funded by Cancer Research UK, believe their discovery could form the backbone of new treatments and hope to test it in patients within two years.

They believe by analysing the DNA, they’ll be able to develop bespoke treatment.

People have tried to steer the immune system to kill tumours before, but cancer vaccines have largely flopped.

One explanation is that they are training the body’s own defences to go after the wrong target.

The problem is cancers are not made up of identical cells – they are a heavily mutated, genetic mess and samples at different sites within a tumour can look and behave very differently.

‘Exciting’

They grow a bit like a tree with core “trunk” mutations, but then mutations that branch off in all directions. It is known as cancer heterogeneity.

The international study developed a way of discovering the “trunk” mutations that change antigens – the proteins that stick out from the surface of cancer cells.

Professor Charles Swanton, from the UCL Cancer Institute, added: “This is exciting. Now we can prioritise and target tumour antigens that are present in every cell – the Achilles heel of these highly complex cancers.

“This is really fascinating and takes personalised medicine to its absolute limit, where each patient would have a unique, bespoke treatment.”

There are two approaches being suggested for targeting the trunk mutations.

The first is to develop cancer vaccines for each patient that train the immune system to spot them.

The second is to “fish” for immune cells that already target those mutations and swell their numbers in the lab, and then put them back into the body.

‘Early days’

Dr Marco Gerlinger, from the Institute of Cancer Research, said: “This is a very important step and makes us think about heterogeneity as a problem and why this gives cancer this big advantage.

“Targeting trunk mutations makes sense from many points of view, but it is early days and whether it’s that simple, I’m not entirely sure.

“Many cancers are not standing still but they keep evolving constantly. These are moving targets which makes it difficult to get them under control.

“Cancers that can change and evolve could lose the initial antigen or maybe come up with smokescreens of other good antigens so that the immune system gets confused.”


Analysis

James Gallagher, health editor, BBC News website

Harnessing the power of the immune system – what’s known as immunotherapy – is the most exciting field in cancer and probably in all of medicine right now.

But while that excitement is justified, claims that a cure for cancer is around the corner are not.

Medical research is littered with the graves of hyped treatments that just never worked.

Two decades ago, gene therapy was “hype-central” and we’re still waiting for it to transform medicine.

This study demonstrates some spectacular science that furthers understanding of how the immune system and cancer interact.

But this new knowledge has not been used to treat a single patient. There have not even been animal studies. So there is a real risk it will not work.

Even if it does, this is an hugely expensive approach that would need to be customised to every patient in a process that takes more than a year from start to finish.


Some immunotherapy treatments work spectacularly with some patients’ cancer disappearing entirely.

They take the brakes off the immune system, freeing it up to fight cancer.

The researchers hope the combination of removing the immune system’s brakes and then taking over the steering wheel, will save lives.

Professor Peter Johnson, from Cancer Research UK, said the research had shown “impressive results in the clinic” and although “the technology is complicated and quite recent… once you start doing it the cost will come down”.

‘Elegant study’

Dr Stefan Symeonides, clinician scientist in experimental cancer medicine at the University of Edinburgh, said designing a personalised vaccine was currently impractical, especially when a patient needed treatment straight away.

But he added that the “very elegant” study did provide a ground-breaking insight into current immunotherapy drugs, which do not yet work for most people.

“It’s not just the number of antigens, it’s how many of the cancer cells have them,” he said.

“This data will be quoted in discussions for years, as we try to understand which patients benefit from immunotherapy drugs, which ones don’t, and why, so we can improve those therapies.”

Follow James on Twitter.

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