Tag Archives: American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology

5 Apps That May Transform Healthcare

The third annual HITLAB Innovators Summit and World Cup Competition will be held at Columbia University in New York on Nov. 29 to Dec. 1. This outstanding summit brings together the best and the brightest from the emerging healthcare technology industry, academia, medicine, public health and healthcare business leaders. This year’s summit is titled; “Opportunities and Obstacles in Digital Health Diffusion,” and it will include a panel of experts who will also serve as judges when the summit culminates in the HITLAB World Cup global health innovation competition.

Five finalists will be named, and they will present their vision for an emerging technology innovation to help address global public health issues. An overall winner will be named at the close of the summit.

As we wait to see what this year presents, let’s look at how last year’s five finalists are doing. In a word, they are thriving.


Last year’s HITLAB World Cup winner, Ceeable, has developed a digital vision care mobile app designed to help prevent blindness and other eye diseases. Since last year’s competition, Ceeable has had an incredible year, including winning multiple national awards. New patents for this automated detection and analysis of visual field test results for optic nerve and retinal disease have just been issued in the past few weeks to Caltech. Ceeable now has an exclusive license to this technology from Caltech.

“These patents are a powerful application of machine learning and offer an ability to aid in the automated detection of eye disease on a digital platform,” says Dr. Wolfgang Fink, chief technology officer and inventor of the Ceeable technology. Ceeable was among the top-3 finalists at this year’s American Medical Association’s Healthier Nation Innovation Challenge as one of the “Best New Ideas for Creating a Healthier Nation” and has been profiled in Ophthalmology Times.

There are more than 300 million people worldwide who suffer from retinal disease. This technology platform — known as the Ceeable Visual Field Analyzer (CVFA) — has the potential to reach more people in need than ever before. All you need is a laptop, or tablet and connection to the internet.

See also: Virtual Reality: A Role in Insurance?  

This technology is now in use in some of the leading medical centers in the U.St. Ceeable is now actively establishing sales and marketing channels for the commercial launch this quarter.


Rubitection, based in Pittsburgh, has won many healthcare technology awards and placed second in last year’s competition. Sanna Gaspard, PhD and CEO/founder, has developed the technology to modernize early bedsore detection and management to help reduce the risks and improve patient care through a reliable, low-cost handheld diagnostic tool.

Bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers or pressure sores, have been a patient safety issue dating back at least to Florence Nightingale in the 19th century. In the U.S. alone, bedsores affect approximately 2.5 to three million adults each year, with related complications and infections leading to 60,000 deaths and a cost of $11 billion. One alarming study found that 60% of elderly patients with a diagnosis of bedsores die within one year of discharge from the hospital.

At that rate, an estimated 160 people a day in the U.S. will die from complications caused by infections because of bedsores, making these pressure ulcers one of the most prolific dangers facing an elderly patient today. Many medical researchers believe the problem is actually getting worse because of the aging population and a nursing shortage, along with our continued fragmented healthcare system. Many nursing professionals believe that bedsores developed after patient admission are a sign of negligent nursing care, or, as Florence Nightingale said in 1859, “If the patient has a bedsore, it’s generally not the fault of the disease, but of nursing.” Modern nursing professionals call the development of bedsores post-admission to a hospital or nursing home “inexcusable.”

Rubitection is supported by Carnegie Mellon University through the Project Olympus incubator program. The current goal of Sanna Gaspard and Rubitection is to help raise awareness and to continue to build relationships with nursing homes, hospitals and insurance companies looking for solutions to prevent bedsores from occurring in the first place and early detection to prevent infections and complications that can have devastating results.


Ristcall is another 2015 HITLAB finalist that is supported by Carnegie Mellon University through the Project Olympus incubator program. Srinath Vaddepally from Ristcall has created what I refer to as a “mobile smartwatch nursing station.” Ristcall has now upgraded and tested both the hardware and software involved with this very promising wireless wearable technology. It is designed to help nurses more effectively handle the multiple tasks of providing quality patient care and to better prioritizing their precious time. Vaddepally came up with idea when, as a hospital patient, he fell and could not reach his call button to get help.

See also: 5 Apps That May Transform Healthcare  

Slips and falls in hospitals and nursing homes are a major patient safety issue and major liability issue. It is estimated that 700,000 to 1 million falls occur every year among patients, visitors, nurses and facility support staff. These facilities face both liability issues and reduced payment from Medicare as a result.

The Ristcall smartwatch allows nurses to respond and prioritize patient care in real time. As I have said before, nurses rock! They are the heart, soul and backbone of our healthcare system. And I think nurses are going to love this technology. The Ristcall technology is now being used by patients and nurses in both a nursing home and an acute-care hospital in Pittsburgh.


Noninvasix, another 2015 HITLAB World Cup finalist, is pursuing simply remarkable technology with the potential to reduce brain injuries in premature newborns by 90%. Graham Randall, PhD, the CEO of Noninvasix, and his medical research team have made a major pivot this year to focus this technology solely on monitoring oxygen levels in premature babies in neonatal intensive care units. Noninvasix is now developing a final version of this technology that will undergo a FDA 510k clearance review within three years.

Noninvasix commissioned a third-party value analysis, which estimated health insurers could save between $2.4 million and $6.2 million in annual costs to care for children with cerebral palsy resulting from the lack of sufficient oxygen in the brain by using this technology. More importantly, Randall states the entire key to preventing birth defects such as cerebral palsy is being able to monitor premature baby oxygen levels in the brain in real time to allow prompt intervention to dramatically reduce the risk and number of brain injuries caused by the lack of oxygen.

Gary Hankins, MD, the vice chair of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology Task Force on Neonatal Encephalopathy and Cerebral Palsy, stated: “This technology has the potential to eliminate 90% of the cases of hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy and subsequent permanent injuries such as cerebral palsy.”

This new technology will, I hope, replace current technologies such as fetal heart monitors that obviously monitor heart rates but do not accurately measure the levels of oxygen in the brain and produce results that are indeterminate or unknown 80% of the time. The lack of oxygen, or hypoxia, is thought to be responsible for nearly 25% of neonatal mortality in the world.

Now all the extraordinary work from these 2015 finalists is exactly the type of technological innovation the HITLAB World Cup is all about.


Wellopp has had a remarkable year. Wellopp is focused on the major problem of hospital re-admissions and ineffective discharge planning. It is estimated that $26 billion is spent annually in the U.S. because of hospital readmissions. The reduction of readmission rates is a major initiative both within HHS and Obamacare and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals.

Wellopp has designed interactive software for hospital patients, health plan payers and hospital discharge planners. Joe Gough, the CEO and founder, mentioned last year that most hospital discharge plans are thrown in the wastebasket. This digital discharge technology requires the patient to take ownership and help design his or her own shared post-discharge recovery goals through a patient dashboard that provides a daily care path in a real-time, three-way interactive process. In addition, this patient-centric program includes the Wellopp rewards program, where patients get points toward a tangible prize (such as a smart phone) depending on their risk level and adherence to medication and other recommended post-discharge recovery regiments. This three-way, interactive digital approach, which sends patient care messages regarding achieving and rewarding goals, has already achieved incredible results.

Wellopp is working with the largest health system in Michigan and has reduced readmissions 48% for pneumonia patients covered under the health plan. Next, in the first quarter of 2017, Wellopp will be working with a large regional health insurance plan in Ohio and will be conducting a pilot and joint venture with an Ohio Accountable Care Organization (ACO).

(Note: Gough rebranded the original company, “Homeward Healthcare,” after a major launch this year for this consumer-directed brand.)

I have spent the past 35 years attending and speaking at conferences around the country and have enjoyed virtually every one of them — but there is nothing like the HITLAB summit. Most conferences discuss current events and vendors/sponsors showcase their current capabilities. At HITLAB, you will have the opportunity to see where healthcare is going to be 10-20 years from now and how emerging technologies can help address global public health issues like never before.

See also: Not Your Mama’s Recipe for Healthcare

Lauren Alviti McGlade, the director of the HITLAB summit, stated, “We are searching for original ideas to improve healthcare access, delivery and outcomes through technology.” HITLAB will be accepting applications for the World Cup competition through Nov. 11. For more information, contact worldcup@hitlab.org.

My goal is to continue to try to help promote this amazing collaboration surrounding the HITLAB Summit, the sponsors, medical researchers, emerging technologies and the startup companies presenting. Some technologies may be 10 to 20 years down the road, but others, like last year’s finalists, are available now or in the very near future. Why wait?

5 Apps That May Transform Healthcare

Talk about being in a room with a lot of smart people! Wow!

HITLAB, a healthcare innovation technology and teaching lab based in New York, just sponsored its second annual World Cup event at Columbia University for aspiring healthcare technology entrepreneurs and start-ups. The HITLAB staff, who blew me away with their creative energy, brought together the best and the brightest in academia, the business world, the insurance industry and the healthcare technology sector for this two-day event.

Out of 192 applicants, five finalists were selected to present potentially revolutionary technology and ideas on a wide range of global public health problems that have been around since the time Moses wore short pants and that someday soon may have the kind of impact Louis Pasteur and Steve Jobs did.

The beauty of these five finalists is that their solutions are so simple that even someone from Jersey City like me can easily understand. The health insurance industry and the malpractice insurance industry should stand up and take notice.

Noninvasix — Keeping Babies Safe

For starters, what if we could reduce brain injuries in newborns by 90%? That is what the CEO of Noninvasix (www.noninvasix.com ), Graham Randall, PhD, MBA, based in Houston, is working on.  The technology is designed to monitor the levels of oxygen molecules in the brains of infants; lack of oxygen causes many permanent brain injuries. This technology was originally funded by the Department of Defense and the NIH, among others, to address traumatic brain injuries in wounded veterans and other adults. Randall’s colleagues discovered a way to use this technology, known as an optoacoustic oxygenation monitor, to detect brain oxygenation levels in babies during active labor.

Gary Hankins, MD, who is the vice chair of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology Task Force on Neonatal Encephalopathy and Cerebral Palsy, said, “This technology has the potential to eliminate up to 90% of cases of hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy and subsequent permanent injuries such as cerebral palsy.” The problem with simply using current technology such as a fetal heart monitor-which dates back 40 years-is that it does not accurately measure the levels of oxygen in the brain. In fact, 80% of results are indeterminate or unknown. The new technology can help prevent brain hypoxia (or lack of sufficient oxygen) at birth, which is responsible for 23% of neonatal mortality in the world.

This technology may also help revolutionize obstetrics. OB-GYN physicians have the highest rate of malpractice insurance, with reported annual premiums as high as $200,000 in some states. More than 75% of OB/GYN physicians have been sued for malpractice, with an average of 2.7 lawsuits per physician. Most lawsuits relate to neurologically impaired infants, whose issues get blamed on the doctor during delivery. It has been reported that as many as 50% of OB-GYN physicians have cut back on their practice because of the fear of malpractice claims. Many have moved their practices to states that have less expensive premiums because of legislative caps on liability.

Hospitals, healthcare systems and health insurers should also take notice because the rate of unnecessary surgery has been widely believed to be too high since I walked the hallowed halls of Columbia University 34 years ago. C-section rates have, in fact, nearly doubled over the past 10 years from 17% to 34% of all births in the U.S. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends C-section rates in the range of 10-15%. The Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Hospitals now requires hospitals to report C-section rates, and many health insurers now pay a bundled rate for deliveries and not a separate, higher rate for C-sections. Many health researchers believe the high rate of unnecessary C-sections is because of the fear of malpractice lawsuits, and Graham Randall believes that false positives from fetal heart monitors also play a huge role. C-sections are the most common surgery in the U.S., with 1.2 million performed each year, and they carry risks such as blood clots and surgical infections to both mother and baby.

Ceeable — Preventing Blindness

Chris Adams, the CEO of Ceeable, based in Somerville, Mass. (www.ceeable.com), won this year’s World Cup competition. “I am here to prevent blindness,” he said. Ceeable was formed in 2014 to commercialize a mobile digital eye exam platform that was co-invented with Dr. Wolfgang Fink at Caltech with assistance from scientists at NASA, the University of Arizona, the Doheny Eye Institute at UCLA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

This mobile field test is a perfect example of the potential for telemedicine. Current technology, used by ophthalmologists, optometrists and eye care clinics in strip malls across America and around the world are expensive, and not very mobile. Today’s eye exams are tedious. (Bats have much better eyesight than I do, so I have experience with tests.) The equipment typically costs $35,000 and weighs roughly 100 pounds.  By contrast, Ceeable only needs a tablet with a touch screen and the Internet to perform a 3-D early detection for glaucoma, muscular degeneration disease, other causes of vision problems and the actual onset of blindness.

The test is user-friendly and can be performed anywhere in the world. The test can even be performed at home, which is brilliant. Although health insurers pay for eye exams at no cost under the ACA, patients are typically limited to two visits per year. With this inexpensive mobile device, people at risk can perform tests as often as they like.

More than 285 million people worldwide suffer from diseases that cause blindness, such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. The Ceeable technology is now deployed in vision clinics in the U.S., Mexico and Russia and will soon be available in developing countries.

Rubitection — Managing Bedsores

Sanna Gaspard, the CEO and founder of Rubitection, based in Pittsburgh, received her PhD from Carnegie Mellon University, and her start-up has developed a handheld diagnostic device and software system to modernize the detection and management of bedsores. Rubitection has been part of Project Olympus at the Carnegie Mellon incubator program.

When I met her, I interrupted her within 60 seconds and said, “I get it.” My mother ended up in a nursing home when she was overcome with organic dementia. She became so fragile from old age that the nurses could hardly touch her skin without it turning black and blue. They also had to check her frequently for bedsores. 

Turns out I didn’t get it about bedsores at all. What I didn’t know, until Gaspard told me, is that bedsores can be life-threatening. Complications from bedsores, such as infections, kill 60,000 people every year in the U.S. The average cost to treat bedsores in acute cases is $43,000 each and may reach $70,000; there are more than 2.3 million bedsore cases a year in the U.S., costing $11 billion in total.

Medical expenses resulting from bedsores are not reimbursable under Medicare if they developed after someone was admitted to a facility. The facility has to eat the costs.

Current technology that monitors for bedsores is very expensive and difficult to use. The current standard of care is typically a manual skin palpitation and visual inspection. The Rubitech Assessment System (RAS) provides a reliable early detection handheld device for patients at risk with bedsores, helping to address a global public health problem that I didn’t even know existed beyond discomfort and pain for the patient. Rubitection www.rubitection.com came in a well-deserved second place.

Now I get it.

Homeward — Getting the Medication Right

Joe Gough, president and CEO of Homeward Healthcare in Toledo, Ohio www.homewardhc.com, told how his six-year-old son was misdiagnosed at a hospital emergency room and was sent home with the wrong medication. All his vital signs crashed. Luckily, his life was saved upon readmission, and today he is a healthy young man. Many others are not so fortunate.

Again, I immediately could relate to misdiagnosis and incorrect medications. My dad was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and his cardiologist told me he had two months to two years to live. Several months later, I got a call: “You have to come home because your father is in the hospital, and we need to amputate both his legs because he is not getting enough blood circulation down there. We need you to tell him.”

I hopped on the next flight. When I told my dad the situation, he had the perfect answer: “Throw me out the window now.”

Turns out he was on all the wrong medications, and the poor circulation in his legs was actually more because of blockage in his carotid artery. The plan to amputate his legs would have done nothing to save his life. I got him admitted to a new hospital with a new cardiologist. My dad got to live a couple more years before he finally took his first day off from work, at his funeral. We buried him with both his legs.

So, I get misdiagnosis, wrong medications and poor discharge planning.

Gough and the researchers at Homeward Healthcare have created interactive software for hospitals, patients and payers that the patient can control on a touchscreen tablet from her bedside. Multimedia, real-time discharge planning that includes a patient dashboard will produce better outcomes, free staff time and resources and vastly improve communications.

Gough had begun his presentation by telling us that most people toss their discharge instructions as they walk out the hospital door — but no more. His technology has great potential to reduce hospital readmissions. A key component is a psychosocial assessment to determine who is at risk of not following the discharge plan.

There are also reminders about the correct use of proper medications, and I get the need for that, too. Patients must own their care plan. My oldest brother, upon release from a hospital a few years ago, was told he needed to lose weight and stop smoking. The first thing he did when he got home was have a large bowl of ice cream and a cigarette. I threw his discharge plan in the waste basket.

It is estimated that $26 billion is spent annually from readmissions. The reduction of readmission rates is now a major initiative under both Obamacare and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals. The Homeward Healthcare technology is now being used in 23 hospitals, and I am told nurses doing discharge planning just love it.

Ristcall — a Mobile, Smart Watch Nursing Station

Srinath Vaddepally, the CEO and founder of Ristcall, with offices in both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, has designed a wireless, wearable smart device for both hospital patients and nurses. I like to think of it as a mobile smart watch nursing station.

The idea for this technology, designed with researchers from Carnegie Mellon, came about when, as a hospital patient, Vaddepally fell in his hospital room and could not reach the call button on the bed. Turns out 70% of all patient falls in a hospital occur in the patient’s room, with 40% occurring while walking to the bathroom. The average cost to a hospital for a patient fall is $20,000 per case, and the annual reduction in Medicare reimbursements can reach $200,000.

Ristcall (www.ristcall.com) has a great point. How do you call a nursing station if you are lying on a floor and can’t reach the call button? In addition, how can you reach a nurse who is busy caring for multiple patients and is not at the nursing station?  Even when you ring the traditional call button, the nurse has no idea why you are calling; he has to walk to your room to find out.

As I told Dr. Michelle Odlum, a postdoctoral research scientist at the Columbia School of Nursing, nurses rock! They are the heart and soul of our healthcare system, but they are often overworked, and they don’t have eyes in the back of their heads.

Now, with the help of Project Olympus-which provided incubator space at Carnegie Mellon-nurses can soon have a real-time alert for all traditional patient requests. Nurses will be able to rock even more.

If you are a healthcare technology entrepreneur, I highly recommend applying for this award or sponsoring next year’s HITLAB World Cup Summit. It will be held once again at Lehner Hall at Columbia University in New York, from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2, 2016.

For more information, visit www.hitlab.org.

It was a real pleasure to meet these outstanding World Cup finalists and the HITLAB staff. I learned a great deal and made friends I feel I will now have for a lifetime.