Friday Five: The week’s top digital health news and views (12 March 2021)

Abbott moves neuromodulation into the virtual care realm; new app for vagus nerve health could soup up ECG smartwatches; Cognito touts positive data for Alzheimer’s digital therapy; Hertility’s at-home testing service puts women in charge; KOL discusses opportunities in digital rheumatology.

Abbott brings telehealth to neuromodulation

Abbott continues to advance the digitisation of its neuromodulation offering, this time with the launch of the NeuroSphere virtual clinic, a telemedicine platform to allow physicians to interact with patients and check and adjust their device settings if required, remotely and in real-time. The company had announced in January the upcoming launch of the NeuroSphere myPath app which tracks and reports on patient perceived pain relief and general well being associated with SCS or DRG therapy. The virtual clinic platform has broader implications in enabling patients to overcome barriers to treatment access, such as proximity to their carer or movement restrictions due to the pandemic. 

New vagus nerve health app to power up ECG smartwatches

Smartwatches with ECG functions are now becoming increasingly ubiquitous, and makers of these wearables - Apple, Samsung, Fitbit and more - are racing to add more health-tracking functions to their devices to differentiate themselves from the competition. This week saw the launch of a new app from bioelectronics specialist Vagus Health which promises to provide insight into one of the most important nerves in the body and help with stress management, anxiety and general wellbeing. The Vagus ECG app is now available to download on the Apple Watch and the app leverages the existing ECG sensors in the smartwatch to record the heart signals and applying this data to its algorithms and correlating it with the user’s breathing patterns. The app gives users a score to indicate the health of their vagus nerve, which plays a role in modulating inflammatory responses in various organ systems and has a significant impact on health outcomes. Vagus Health CEO Gustaf Kranck says the firm intends to make the Vagus ECG app available to other ECG-enabled smartwatches and fitness trackers. To find out more, see Wider View: Can Vagus Health app breathe new life into ECG watch market?

Cognito’s digital therapy for Alzheimer’s stands out in PhII study

Good news for Cognito Therapeutics, with its neuromodulation-based digital therapy for Alzheimer’s disease proving its mettle in a Phase II proof of concept study. The company announced results from the 76-patient OVERTURE study which showed that participants who received auditory and visual sensory stimulation with Cognito's GammaSense device for six months exhibited a significant 84% slowing of functional decline an 83% slowing in memory and cognitive decline, compared to the placebo group. Worth noting that these outcomes were the secondary endpoints, and the firm will be discussing the results of the study in more detail at the AD/PD conference on March 12. GammaSense was designated as a breakthrough device by the FDA in January.  

Hertility on mission to bring fertility awareness to women earlier   

Fertility health is the biggest segment of the femtech market and companies targeting this field are coming from all sides of the globe. One of the most recent arrivals on the scene is UK-based Hertility Health, which launched its at-home fertility and hormone testing service in January with the mission to get women more engaged in learning and understanding their hormonal health. Hertility’s service encompasses a comprehensive online questionnaire and a blood test, where the customer takes their blood sample at home and sends it to an accredited lab for analysis. The panel of hormones that are tested is personalised to the customer, based on their responses to the questionnaire and their biometrics. A digital report with the results is sent back to the customer and Hertility also offers follow-on care, putting customers in touch with their network of reproductive health specialists and medical experts. 

To read more about Hertility, and also find out which other femtech companies have caught investors’ attention so far this year, see our International Women’s Day edition of One To Watch - IWD2021 One To Watch: Hertility aims to put women in charge of their hormonal health.

Big opportunities abound for digital technologies in rheumatology

“Digital therapies are ideal for patients with chronic rheumatic diseases, who spend a significant part of their time alone trying to understand and improve their condition.” This was one of the key takeaways from our one-on-one with Johannes Knitza, a rheumatologist at the University Hospital Erlangen with a well-established body of published research in digital rheumatology. And as more digital solutions targeting rheumatic and inflammatory conditions flood into the market, such as Joint Academy’s digital musculoskeletal therapy which recently demonstrated superiority over traditional treatments in treating osteoarthritis in a randomised controlled study, this positive clinical evidence will help to convince rheumatologists to adopt these products and recommend them to their patients, Knitza indicated. The KOL added that there remains substantial untapped opportunities for digital health technologies to make an impact within rheumatology, such as improving earlier diagnosis. To get more of these insights, see KOL Views Q&A: Rheumatology ripe for more digitisation in patient management.

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