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From Code to Cell: How Digital Innovations Are Transforming Healthcare

Artificial Intelligence in healthcare and medical communications
Jul 6 th 2022 Katherine Vik - Digital Project Director

Creating a brand new digital you  

Imagine a digital version of yourself, living in a virtual space, growing and developing autonomously in parallel to your own existence. In a concept born from science fiction and brought to reality by NASA, virtual replicas of human beings are now being created. While NASA have virtual replicas of their spacecrafts which allow engineers to model and solve technical problems that emerge up in space, healthcare vendors are working towards creating virtual patients, allowing medical professionals to try out different treatments on patients without consequences in reality. This approach is set to become important in the world of personalized medicine.  

Unreal Engine (a 3D computer graphics game engine) is also advancing virtual human technology by creating weirdly realistic digital people such as Ana, their hyper-realistic virtual human capable of deep learning. This is an advance of their work in metaverse development, and it could also be used to create a digital twin that looks spookily like you.  

Robotic technology continues to make us question what it is to be human  

The University of Oxford and robotics company, Devanthro, have recently used robot technology to grow human tendon tissue.  

Doctors also successfully transplanted a 3D-printed ear made from human cells onto a woman born with a rare ear deformity. 3DBio. Therapeutics launched the first clinical trial of this technology, heralding the success as a major step forward in tissue engineering. 

Meanwhile, researchers in Spain are using nanobots to kill off bacterial infections. A new study shows that self-powered nanobots could be very useful for delivering targeted antibiotics to fight infections, as well as getting drugs to exactly where they need to be in the body to be maximally effective. 

Highlights from WWDC 2022 (Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference) 

Apple held its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in June and presented their new “Medications” feature. Available on Apple Watch and iPhone, the feature allows users to manage their medications and supplements, as well as receive reminders. Apple also announced a new atrial fibrillation history feature which was recently cleared by the FDA and plans to integrate this into the upcoming watchOS 9. 

The FDA has also recently approved the Apple Watch to track Parkinson’s symptoms. Neurology start-up Rune Labs’ Parkinson’s tracking app “StrivePD” collects motion data from the watch and along with self-reported experiences, brain imaging and other clinical information, will help improve care management. 

Apple also announced the Passkey feature to eliminate passwords across platforms, allowing users to log in to all of their Apple devices without a password. Developers are to start implementing Passkey later in 2022. 

Interesting developments in healthcare AI 

Sanofi are partnering with AI firm, Yseop, to use AI to automate parts of clinical trial report writing. The aim is to speed up the clinical study submission processes by using Yseop’s natural language processing system to analyze data and automate the production of key documentation. 

Eli Lilly has partnered with Sidekick Health to offer personalized management apps for breast cancer patients. Alongside access to educational content developed with advocacy groups and clinicians, the program will promote tasks focused on physical activity, diet, sleep and stress management, as well as adherence. The app uses gamification to reward healthy habits among people participating in clinical trials and is set to launch in Germany in July.  

In 2019, a kidney disease screening tool called RetiKid was developed by SERI and the National University of Singapore's School of Computing. The tool was trained with over 23,000 retinal images from nearly 12,000 participants in Singapore and China. In a recent internal test, the AI was shown to have an accuracy of 91%. The team intend to use RetiKid as a preliminary screening test for CKD, especially in high-risk groups such as patients with diabetes.  

Retinal scans are also being used by an AI firm in New Zealand to assess heart risk. Their tool, “ORAiCLE”, uses an AI platform to pick up subtle changes in blood vessels and pigmentation to identify cardiovascular threats more accurately and assess a person’s risk of stroke or heart attack.  

And there are more crazy, interesting ideas out there in Digitaland 

According to a recent study published in JAMA, regular electronic symptom-tracking surveys improved the health-related quality of life among cancer patients. In a randomized trial that included 52 practices and 1191 patients, researchers found statistically significant improvements in quality of life after three months.  

In the UK’s Lake District, the Great North Air Ambulance Service is sending paramedics to save lives using jetsuits. Wearing the suit, a paramedic can get to a stranded patient at the top of a mountain in just 3 minutes and 30 seconds, versus around 1 hour 20 minutes on foot.  

Medtronic has partnered with DaVita to launch new kidney tech company. They aim to develop a range of new kidney care tech, focusing on at-home treatments to make dialysis more easily accessible.  

Big Health’s Sleepio app has been given backing by NICE for use in England. This app is designed to help the 800,000 individuals suffering from insomnia and provides an alternative to prescribed, potentially habit-forming sleeping pills. The app is a six-week digital cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) course that includes a sleep test and weekly interactive CBT sessions, alongside a diary of users’ sleep patterns. 

June 15th was a momentous day for developers worldwide as Microsoft finally killed off its legacy web browser Internet Explorer after 27 years. 

Stay tuned for next month’s dose of all things digital!  


At AS&K, one of our key values is Being Curious ‒ asking what if, why not, could we? The Word From the Web blog series is one example of how we are horizon scanning and infusing the latest innovations within our medical communication services. Want to learn more about how AS&K can help you stay in front of the latest trends? Contact our Business Development Director, Alana Zdinak at today!

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