Category: News (page 1 of 2)

Quarter 3 of 2018 Shown to be the Biggest Funding Quarter yet for Digital Health

The third quarter of 2018 was the biggest funding quarter for digital health ever, according to StartUp Health Insights. The research group attached to healthcare startup alliance StartUp Health reported $4.5 billion in digital health funding.

With $11.1 billion invested so far, investment is only $600 million short of last year’s overall total, even including the fourth quarter.

The top five deals of the quarter were Peloton’s $550 million round, Oscar Health’s $375 million, Grail’s $300 million, 23andMe’s $300 million and American Well’s $290 million. The most active investors were Khosla Ventures with 13 deals, while Founders Fund, NEA and F Prime had 10 each.

Why it matters

In addition to the broad takeaway of more funding than ever, StartUp’s report also showcases some other interesting investment trends.

International digital health companies are raising more money, especially those based around Beijing, China, which saw $863 million raised and fostered five of the top 10 international deals. Three other Chinese cities, Zhenjiang, Shanghai and Hangzhou, did $100M or more in deals.

While there is still plenty of seed and early funding, late-stage funding is making up a larger part of the pie every year. Forty-three percent of deals were series B through F, the highest percentage since 2010.

Patient empowerment was the biggest category with 149 deals, followed by wellness with 64 deals and biometric data acquisition with 50 deals.

Digital health is certainly not mobile health anymore. Web app-oriented companies raised $4.4 billion, most of the total, while mobile app companies raised $2.9 billion.

What’s the trend

StartUp Health is one of a handful of companies that tracks digital health funding on a quarterly basis. The numbers tend to fluctuate because different groups define the category differently.

Rock Health’s recent report put funding for the quarter at a more modest $3.3 billion, but its analysis of the trends — the biggest quarter ever, fueled by larger-sized deals, lined up.

On the record

“Q3 was the largest digital health funding quarter in the history of our industry. We’re building toward another record year, definitely on track to be the largest year as well,” Katya Hancock, StartUp’s director of strategic partnerships, said at the Digital Health Innovation Summit today in Boston. “We’re seeing more follow-on investments and later stage deals and a steady increase of unique investors — so more people coming into the space and an increase in deal sizes.”


ENABLE Summer Boot Camp Student, Dara Bradley Recently Published at ABRCMS Abstract

In 2017, North Carolina experienced one of the worst influenza seasons on record, with 12,396 citizens testing positive for the disease and 389 flu-related deaths. We predict that socioeconomic factors have a considerable effect on flu contraction and death rates in North Carolina. Understanding which areas are affected most by these societal factors would help with targeted and more effective drug delivery to prevent similarly devastating flu seasons.

With population data for the 100 North Carolina counties from the 2012 to 2016 American Community Survey 5 year estimates, certain socioeconomic attributes were selected: population, education level, age, gender, poverty level, race, flu caused deaths and health insurance coverage. Linear and logistic regression models were then yielded with the support vector neural network, Weka 3-8. Using the regression models, an analysis was conducted to fit and normalize flu death to find rate. A cross validation of 10 folds ultimately output statistical analysis measures within a linear regression, logistic regression and F-measure. Based on analysis of the data, the selected socioeconomic attributes can help predict influenza deaths. Poverty and unemployment rates of counties were the greatest factors, and persons under the age of 5 and those over 65 showed higher flu death rates. A heat map analysis utilizing ArcGIS was also conducted to visualize these socioeconomic factors with respect to distance from local hospitals. This map would be beneficial for targeted vaccinations and prevention of a future flu outbreak.

Public-Private Partnerships Will Accelerate Data-Driven Discovery

Big news came from NIH in July 2018 when they announced their new initiative to develop and test new ways to best implement cloud services in support of biomedical research. Called STRIDES for “Science and Technology Research Infrastructure for Discovery, Experimentation and Sustainability,” the initiative will allow NIH to explore the use of cloud environments to streamline NIH data use. By partnering with commercial cloud service providers, NIH expects to improve access to biomedical data and provide cost-effective cloud infrastructure, data storage, computation, and machine learning services for NIH and NIH-supported investigators. The full NIH press release follows:

NIH makes STRIDES to accelerate discoveries in the cloud

The National Institutes of Health has launched a new initiative to harness the power of commercial cloud computing and provide NIH biomedical researchers access to the most advanced, cost-effective computational infrastructure, tools and services available. The STRIDES (Science and Technology Research Infrastructure for Discovery, Experimentation, and Sustainability) Initiative launches with Google Cloud as its first industry partner and aims to reduce economic and technological barriers to accessing and computing on large biomedical data sets to accelerate biomedical advances.

“NIH is in a unique position to bring together academic and innovation industry partners to create a biomedical data ecosystem that maximizes the use of NIH-supported biomedical research data for the greatest benefit to human health,” said NIH Principal Deputy Director Lawrence A. Tabak, DDS, PhD, who also serves as NIH’s interim Associate Director for Data Science. “The STRIDES Initiative aims to maximize the number of researchers working to provide the greatest number of solutions to advancing health and reducing the burden of disease.”

In line with NIH’s first-ever Data Science Strategic Plan released in June, STRIDES will establish additional innovative partnerships to broaden access to services and tools, including training for researchers to learn about the latest cloud tools and technologies. Services are expected to become available to the NIH-supported community after a series of pilot activities to refine policies and test and assess implementation approaches.

The initial agreement with Google Cloud creates a cost-efficient framework for NIH researchers, as well as researchers at more than 2,500 academic institutions across the nation receiving NIH support, to make use of Google Cloud’s storage, computing, and machine learning technologies. In addition, the partnership will involve collaborations with NIH’s Data Commons Pilot—a group of innovative projects testing new tools and methods for working with and sharing data in the cloud—and enable the establishment of training programs for researchers at NIH-funded institutions on how to use Google Cloud Platform.

“The volume of data generated in biomedical research labs across the world is growing exponentially,” said Gregory Moore, MD, PhD, Vice President, Healthcare, Google Cloud. “Through our partnership with NIH, we are bringing the power of data and the cloud to the biomedical research community globally. Together, we are making it easier for scientists and physicians to access and garner insights from NIH-funded data sets with appropriate privacy protections, which will ultimately accelerate biomedical research progress toward finding treatments and cures for the most devastating diseases of our time.”

A central tenet of STRIDES is that data made available through these partnerships will incorporate standards endorsed by the biomedical research community to make data Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR). NIH’s initial efforts will focus on making NIH high-value data sets more accessible through the cloud, leveraging partnerships to take advantage of data-related innovations such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, and experimenting with new ways to optimize technology-intensive research.

“By launching STRIDES, we clearly show our strong commitment to putting the most advanced cloud computing tools in the hands of scientists,” said Andrea T. Norris, NIH Chief Information Officer and director of NIH’s Center for Information Technology. “Beyond our partnership with Google Cloud, we will seek to add more industry partners to assure that NIH continues to be well poised to support the future of biomedical research.”

For more information, please visit the NIH New Releases page.

HiDAV Boot Camp Students Present on their Summer Projects

The Health Informatics, Data Analytics, and Visualization (HiDAV) summer boot camp is a seven week program hosted by ENABLE, an extension of the Carolina Health Informatics Program (CHIP) at UNC Chapel Hill. The boot camp seeks to expose underrepresented minority undergraduate students to principles of biomedical health informatics (BMHI), and encourage them to explore advanced training and careers in this field.

Over the course of the boot camp, students were introduced to a wide range of concepts such as predictive analysis using text mining, analytic model development related to machine learning, and data visualization. To help reinforce engagement and learning of these concepts, our boot camp students were tasked with working together to develop a research project using what they learned from the program, and applying it to an area of interest in healthcare and/or public health. At the end of boot camp, the students gave presentations on their projects and reflected on their experience in gaining critical BMHI skills:

Miguel Anderson and Joseph Fonseca presented their project, titled 'Sub-Topic Classification of HIV-related Opportunistic Infections,' which was established upon three core objectives of creating a predictive text analysis model that could: (1) identify opportunistic infections derived from exploratory analysis; (2) classify common opportunistic infections of immunocompromised patients; and (3) associate features of opportunistic infections to HIV patients. To achieve these objectives, they implemented a hybrid text model that used text mining to identify words related to opportunistic infections associated with HIV. Their model served as a precursory look into the possibilities of using text mining to improve surveillance of disease in target populations.

Kashley Rishforth and Paris Parsons presented on 'Opioid Treatments and the Adverse Effects,' which highlighted the need for provider and patient education in current opioid associated adverse effects. Their project involved the use of text mining software to fetch PubMed Abstracts for opioid and non-opioid related papers on pain management in the clinical setting. The project was done with the goal to provide an early recommendation on opioid-relevant documents to physicians to optimize patient outcomes.

Lastly, Dara Bradley, Kerani Davidson, and La’Presha Whitfield presented their project on 'Socioeconomic and Societal Effects on Influenza Rates in North Carolina.' Their project sought to understand the surveillance of influenza rates in the context of socioeconomic and behavioral characteristics, which are often left out of most traditional disease surveillance measures and reporting. Their hypothesis that diversity in socioeconomic status factors between North Carolina counties had a role in the diversity in rates of influenza reported in these counties was tested using analytic models to compare rates of influenza related to selected population attributes such as health insurance coverage, employment status and poverty level.

Overall, each project spoke as a testament to the diversity of our students in their interests and knowledge gained in biomedical health informatics and public health topics this summer. We hope to continue our success in teaching successive students through our next boot camp, which will begin next May of 2019. Interested students are encouraged to apply.

For more information about the ENABLE HiDAV boot camp, please contact Shikha Yadav, ENABLE Program Coordinator, by email ( or phone (919.962.2208).


Handling the Opioid Crisis

The opioid crisis has been ongoing epidemic with no end in sight - but there are new technologies that will be of great help. These technologies include ways to manage pain without opiates, track certain chemicals in the body, and connect pharmacies and providers to provide more data on patients.

A new way to manage pain through technology introduces a drug-free wearable device that is inserted underneath the skin near the nerve closes to wear the pain occurs and an external stimulator worn on a pad on the outer skin surface that alleviates pain; the goal is to treat chronic pain. Neurostimulators currently used are surgically inserted in epidural space and send electrical pulse to the spine. Although it is very effective in dealing pain management, the larger size of the device and the cost makes it a difficult option to offer.

Another new device is a swallowable pill developed to better understand opioid adherence and improve dosages and use of opiates. The capsule consists of a an embedded wireless ingestible sensor that is triggered by chemicals in the stomach that emits a radio frequency that is sent to a readable device.

Superscripts, a network that connects providers and pharmacies, helps to digitize the prescribing process. When a prescription is requested, the patient’s history is sent by the software to the provider in order to weed out patients who are seeking to abuse painkillers. E-prescribing is not commonly used because many providers don’t know that it’s a legal form of prescribing medications.

A multi-institutional, PCORI-funded study aims to understand how cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interview can reduce the use of opioids for patients with chronic pain. The study is a partnership between RTI International and three Mid-South Clinical Data Research Network (CDRN) institutions: Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), Duke University, and UNC Chapel Hill. The Mid-South CDRN seeks to support multi-site research using electronic health record data by reducing technical and regulatory barriers. It is a collaborative effort between VUMC, Meharry Medical College; Vanderbilt Healthcare Affiliated Network; Greenway Health; Health Sciences South Carolina (including Medical University of South Carolina); UNC; and Duke. The Mid-South CDRN is one of 13 CDRNs in PCORnet, the National Patient Centered Clinical Research Network.

Data Management

Now that data is becoming bigger, where do we store and maintain it? Cloud-computing, the practice of using remote servers hosted on the internet to process data rather than on a local server, is becoming a more widely used method.

The San Diego Supercomputer Center has created a healthcare hybrid cloud environment, which is an interconnected infrastructure that uses local and public cloud computing such as third-party vendors such as Amazon Web Services or Azure. The main difference is the physical control; local cloud computing is managed by on-site staff while public cloud computing is managed by the third-party vendors. The benefits to having a hybrid method of managing data is having a larger scalability and more automation while also being able to provide for specific needs of the consumer.

Many EHR systems are moving their services to cloud-computing infrastructures. Microsoft Azure is being used to store genomic data, which can take up to 200 gigabytes of space. This data has been anonymized for sharing purposes in public data repositories. In addiction to increased storage, there is also an increased need for transparency. Amazon Web Services has introduced blockchain technology targeted towards the healthcare industry. They plan on debuting new templates that will make it easier for users to optimize blockchain technology for projects and networks via open source frameworks.

Dr. Stanley Ahalt, CHiP associated faculty and also director of RENCI, is working on Water Science Software Institute project that aims to provide a cyberinfrastructure for managing and sharing data from the institute. He is also a co-Principle Investigator with DataNet Federation Consortium, an NSF project, that aims to provide a platform for sharing, using, and managing data across science fields.

The Growing Need for Security

With patient data becoming digitized, the need for Health IT security is growing. Several electronic health record systems have gone through breaches in security, compromising patient data. Some of these breaches are due to misconfigured servers, ransomware, or using unencrypted laptops when dealing with patient information.

Two acts our government has put into place to penalize health organizations for breaches in security are the Health Information and Technology for Economic and Clinical Health and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. While data sharing across hospitals and providers is important, making sure that data is secure is higher priority.

Symantec has come out with new technology dealing with analytics that will help with security - in combination with Fortinet’s new product, health systems will be able to detect targeted attack and help manage network operations and security operations centers. Symantec has technology called Targeted Attack Analytic tech that allows automation from machine learning to detect targeted attacks.

Fortinet’s new information security technology deals with automate security response. These responses are based on predefined triggers - the need for this type of security is due to the decrease in the IT workforce. Implementation across security disciplines will garner better visibility and control over security threats.

With numerous technological advances in medical devices, there is also a call for security and regulation. The FDA has created a five point plan called the Medical Device Safety Action Plan: Protecting Patients, Promoting Public Health that focuses on establishing a robust safety net for medical devices, exploring regulatory options to implement post-market mitigations, encouraging creation of safer medical devices, advancing cybersecurity, and implementing total product life cycle approach towards medical device safety.

The FDA enforce that medical devices will have the capability to be updated and have security patches, and is contemplating having companies disclose cybersecurity issues to consumers.

Recent Trends in EHRs

New strides in optimizing Electronic Health Records have to lead to major tech companies offering their services in healthcare. The transition from paper charting to digital records will be made easier with these recent trends.  

Electronic Health Records are a system that maintains and gathers a patient’s comprehensive health report. Apple is working with a number of hospitals, UNC Hospitals included, to create an mobile app that will give patients more access to their health records pertaining to allergies, medications, conditions, immunizations, and lab results. Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources specification will be used to integrate data from EHRs to mobile devices.

Epic, a healthcare software company that deals with EHR, has set up an initiative called One Virtual System Worldwide that will enable its customers to exchange health data with other vendors’ health records platforms. The initiative is broken into 3 parts; Come Together, Happy Together, and Working Together. In the first stage, Come Together, data is gathered; the second stage, Happy Together, data is shared to the consumer-level in easily understood formats; the third stage, Working Together, data-driven decisions are made by other organizations. Data sharing is important because this ensures that patients get the best treatment more efficiently.

Another trend in electronic health records is combining precision medicine, genomics, and EHR systems. By incorporating genomic functionality in EHR systems, clinicians are able to navigate directly in the EHR system in order to recommend therapies. The eMERGE network is helping to prepare precision medicine in EMRs. eMERGE is a network funded by the NHGRI (National Human Genome Research Institute) that combines DNA repositories with EMR systems so there is an integration of genomic research and implementing it in genomic medicine.

ClinGen is another NHGRI project that centralizes resources pertaining to clinical relevance of genes and variants that can be used in precision medicine. With these added functionalities in EMR/EHR systems, medical professionals are able to treat their patients more individualistically.


Careers in Health Informatics

Health Informatics is a field that is gaining momentum quickly. What does Health Informatics mean exactly and why should people be interested?

Health Informatics is the intersection between technology and healthcare: it seeks to improve patient health, health care, public health, and health or biomedical related research. Adjacent fields include digital health, mobile health, telemedicine, telehealth, and health IT. While Health Informatics spans a variety of topics, relevant courses comprise of machine learning, data/text mining, natural language processing, human-computing and user interfaces, data management, and statistical or genetics courses, among others.

Health Informatics is playing a huge role in helping to improve medicine by reducing costs and bettering processes in healthcare to increase efficiency. Health Informatics also aims to make health-related information more accessible to patients and providers.

What does getting a degree in Health Informatics have to offer? Due to the expanse of topics that encompasses Health Informatics, it offers a plethora of paths and careers such as data analytics and management, research and development, consulting, data mining, health policy and management, and much more. Research topics for health informatics combine interdisciplinary subjects; students could take a route focused on policy or the entrepreneurial aspects of healthcare, or some may have interest in the human behavioral side of healthcare. Although Health Informatics is still a burgeoning field, there are many options for students to create groundbreaking roles.

RTP area offers a lot of career opportunities with companies such as RTI, Optum, SAS, RENCI, IBM, Epic, NC AHEC, and Cerner. For more career opportunities, please access the CHiP website.

Collaboration between NC A&T and Bennett College

Dr. Mostafa, Director of Carolina Health Informatics Program, met with Dr. Dukka KC, Assistant Professor and Graduate Coordinator in the Department of Computational Science and Engineering at NC A&T, and Dr. Michael Cotton, Associate Professor and Department Chair of the Biological and Chemical Sciences Department at Bennett College.

The goal of this meeting was to establish a collaboration between NC A&T and Bennett College, and Carolina Health Informatics Program. Through ENABLE, students are able to apply to the HiDAV, Health informatics Data Analytics and Visualization bootcamp. The HiDAV bootcamp provides students with lectures, guest lectures, hands-on learning in data analytics and data visualization software and be able to visit different research facilities and labs that are involved in healthcare data.

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