Google’s latest cloud deal, the FTC’s privacy fight, and the future of brain-computer interfaces

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Shaping the future of brain-computer interfaces

How do you live with something implanted in your brain? Can you shower the same as before? What happens to data the device generates? For many people who receive a brain-computer interface, they don’t know the answers to these and other questions until after the surgery. And their doctors don’t always know the ins and outs of living with these devices. Ian Burkhart, who received a brain-computer interface in 2014 to treat a spinal cord injury, is creating a community of people like him to answer these pressing questions and advocate for people in his community. “Being able to share” my experience, says Burkhart, “is only going to help people learn.” STAT’s Elissa Welle has the full story.


One hospital’s struggle to track social needs data

It’s clear that social drivers of health play a huge role in how patients fare — but getting health systems set up to track that information and turn it into useful actions has been a major challenge. At Hackensack Meridian Health, a 17-hospital system in New Jersey, it’s taken six years and two separate systems to get social needs screening off the ground. It’s a technical problem: Getting a whole new class of patient data standardized for collection with electronic health records isn’t easy, especially when health systems have to build their own integrations. But it’s also a human problem, as providers struggle to find the time to deliver traditional care and create a holistic view of their patients. Read more about Hackensack’s approach in Katie’s story.


FTC pledges to crack down on illegal data sharing

The Federal Trade Commission is promising to step up enforcement of laws prohibiting the illegal use and sharing of highly sensitive health and location data. In a blog post, the agency warned of the “unprecedented intrusion” that arises from the aggregation and sale of data from devices tracking everything from a person’s menstrual cycles to their physical location, including the offices of health providers they visit. While sharing real-time data may offer conveniences, like the fastest route home, consumers “think differently about having their thinly disguised online identity associated with the frequency of their visits to a therapist or cancer doctor,” the FTC’s authors wrote. The agency said it intends to crack down on privacy violations associated with the misuse of that information, including by organizations seeking reproductive health data in the wake of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

A new tool for predicting drug interactions

A team of researchers from the Republic of Korea built a machine-learning based pharmacokinetic drug-drug interaction prediction model that appears to be reliable in predicting drug concentrations over time. Drug-drug interactions are important to study because they can lead to severe adverse reactions and necessitate withdrawing drugs from the market. The scientists, who tested their model on more than 3,500 drugs, say it can be used to predict drug-drug interactions before embarking on clinical trials, potentially saving time and money. The model may also help detect previously unknown drug interactions. More studies of this and other models are expected that may shed more light on the effectiveness of these tools, the team wrote in npj Digital Medicine.

Google lands a big cloud deal

  • Google scored a cloud deal with Northwell Health, the largest provider in New York state. The health system said it hopes to use the tech giant’s platform to improve data sharing and make better use of machine learning for scheduling and early prediction of illnesses.
  • Particle Health, a developer of technology to advance the exchange of health data, raised $25 million in a funding round led by Canvas Ventures. The company says its platform collects data on more than 270 million patients by unifying records from thousands of sources.
  • Wysa, a digital mental health provider, raised $20 million from a group of investors including HealthQuadBritish International Investment, and W Health Ventures. The company said it will use the money to scale its services in the U.S., U.K., and India.
  • has received FDA clearance to sell a smartphone-powered home test to detect kidney damage. The test is designed to flag an increase of albumin in urine, which can be an early sign of chronic kidney disease.

Tapping new talent

  • Sharecare, a maker of digital tools to manage health services, tapped Harsha Panyadahundi to be its chief technology officer. Panyadahundi previously managed tech for Wolters Kluwer.
  • Xealth, which makes software to help physicians manage and prescribe digital health tools, hired Joe Sedlak to be its SVP of sales and Laurance Stultz to manage customer satisfaction. Sedlak previously worked for Health Technology Solutions, while Stultz is joining from the MassTech Collaborative.

What we’re reading

Source: STAT