Early pregnancy detection, wearables for Parkinson’s, and health in the cloud

You’re reading the web edition of STAT Health Tech, our guide to how tech is transforming the life sciences. Sign up to get this newsletter delivered in your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday.

Can wearables detect pregnancy earlier than tests?

Wearables that take users’ temperatures could detect pregnancies even before traditional tests, new research from the University of California, San Diego suggests. The small study examined data from 30 women who became pregnant while wearing Oura rings, consumer wearables designed to track temperature and other biometrics. Researchers found that temperature shifts can serve as a passive pregnancy notification that can signal pregnancy about nine days before a positive test.

“If women know that they’re pregnant sooner, they can make choices about their life that they might not know to make otherwise,” co-author Benjamin Smarr, a professor in UCSD’s bioengineering and data science departments, told STAT. Earlier detection could become all the more critical if Roe v. Wade is overturned, experts said. Katie has the full story. 


Verily’s latest Parkinson’s work

Wearables could also be a boon for researchers and clinicians working with patients with Parkinson’s disease. If they can accurately detect symptoms, wearables could enable more precise drug dosing, bolster monitoring, and  help enroll a broader subset of people in clinical trials for novel treatments. Building on previous research showing sensors can be used to quantify symptoms, Verily published a paper evaluating a new smartwatch-based virtual exam for Parkinson’s patients.


In the study, 370 participants were guided through weekly exams consisting of various motor tasks carried out while wearing the Verily Study Watch, which also let users input when they took their medication. The researchers say the results across more than 22,600 exams point to impressive engagement: In the first week, 80% of participants had completed at least one exam. In week 52, 40% did at least one exam. Moreover, the researchers were able to develop reliable digital measures for symptoms like upper-extremity bradykinesia and rest tremor. In short: People will use the exam and it can yield useful data, but as with much early work, more study is necessary before it’s widely deployed.

Avoiding Amazon?

Between its forays into providing primary care and delivering prescriptionsAmazon‘s designs on health care are well established. But some large health care organizations may balk at handing over their data to Amazon’s cloud arm, AWS. 

A new Forrester report highlighting best practices for health care in the cloud notes that while Amazon is unlikely to be the kind of disruptor in health care that it was in retail, decision makers still ought to to carefully assess whether Amazon is a friend or a foe: “Choose the path you’ll take: avoiding AWS or partnering with it,” the authors write. “Smaller [health care organizations] choose AWS for its convenience and presence in the healthcare space. Larger HCO networks may choose to avoid AWS completely and use Azure or Google Cloud Platform or even build a private cloud platform.”

Deals and news

  • Homeward, the rural health care startup launched in March by Livongo veteran Jennifer Schneider, inked a deal to put its “mobile care units” at Rite Aid locations, beginning with select stores in Michigan. The hope is that pharmacists will help point Medicare-eligible customers to Homeward for wellness visits and certain screenings.
  • Cognoa announced it’s partnering with University of Missouri ECHO Autism Communities Research Team on a real-world evidence study of its FDA-cleared software that aids the diagnosis of autism. The goal is to evaluate the effectiveness of the tool as part of a primary care diagnostic path. Many children with autism face significant delays in diagnosis, hindering early interventions that improve long-term outcomes.
  • Blue Note Therapeutics will make attune, its software that treats cancer-related anxiety and depression, available through OncoHealth’s virtual cancer care platform. Attune has not been cleared by FDA and is currently available under a pandemic policy.

Personnel file

  • Woebot Health, which develops chatbots for treating mental health conditions, appointed Moses Ike as chief financial officer. Ike previously served as VP and head of M&A and corporate development at Paradigm Corporation and director of venture investments and corporate development for Blue Shield of California. With the new M&A expertise, one could ask what Woebot might be getting ready to buy…
  • Care collaboration tech company Bamboo Health — the new entity combining Appriss and Patient Ping —  named Guy Mansueto its chief marketing officer. Mansueto was most recently chief marketing officer at medical equipment supplier PartsSource.

What we’re reading

  • How the health and human services department is staving off hackers, Politico
  • Telehealth, primary care and urgent care centers still plague hospital margins, Healthcare Finance
  • Companies can’t make CAR-T cells for cancer treatment quickly enough. Here’s what they’re doing about it, STAT
  • A study finds that telemedicine and in-person evaluation had similar diagnosis rates for genetic conditions among pediatric patients, Pediatrics
Source: STAT