Issue 15: Gun Injuries, Uber Health, and more

Gun Injury Decreases During NRA Conference 
Ted Nugent with guns
The NEJM recently released a paper describing how gun related injuries and deaths in the US dropped precipitously during NRA conventions. Medical scientists from Harvard and Columbia looked at gunshot injury data from 2007 to 2015 during NRA conventions, 3 weeks prior to the conventions, and 3 weeks after the conventions. They found a 63% decline in accidents among gun users in the states hosting NRA conventions during the time of the pro-gun gatherings. The scientists explained that this was due to so many gun advocates attending the gatherings and being unable to use their weapons during that time. More interestingly it wasn't just the states that have a hard-on for the NRA. Nationally there was a 20% decline in gun accidents during the NRA gatherings. And speaking of hard-ons we should mention that these trends were almost exclusively seen in men since NRA attendance is well... mostly a sausage-fest.

New Cas9 Enzyme
For the last several years scientists have been all hot and bothered about gene editing technology Crispr-Cas9. Crispr-Cas9 holds so much promise to cure genetically inherited disease, however, the tech is far from perfect. Currently the most commonly used form of Cas9 is the spCas9 which only works at 1/16 of sites in the human genome and has a rep for sometimes veering off course and cutting up DNA in the wrong area. Recently scientists at Harvard have created a new and improved version of the Cas9 enzyme that they call xCas9. xCas9 can recognize 1/4 of sites in the genome and is also less likely to make off site cuts. A huge win-win for scientists going forward.

Uber Health 
Uber recently announced that they have created a B2B program that will drive patients to and from their hospital/clinic visit without the need of the Uber app. The program which they call Uber Health can be used to schedule transport instantly, in a couple of days, or up to a month in advance. Instead of using the app, patients will get a text message or a phone call telling them that they are about to get picked up. The drivers on the other hand will still use the app, but won't know the patient's medical info to be HIPPA compliant. Basically Uber is doing this to get into the medical transportation business and to help people who may not have the financial means to afford private transport let alone a fancy smartphone. It's estimated that close to 3.6 million Americans miss their doctor's appointments a year because of a lack of access to reliable transportation. Uber thinks that they can help since they're well...more reliable. Already more than a hundred various healthcare organizations in the USA have used the pilot program.

Read My Mind with EEG
Late last month scientists at the University of Toronto announced that they have developed a technology using EEG that allows us to reconstruct facial images based on what we have seen. In the lab subjects were hooked up to EEG and shown images of faces. The EEG data was then transformed into a digital image using machine leaning algorithms. Wait...I thought this already existed? Good point. The technology previously existed for scientists to recreate images based on what we have seen using functional magnetic resonance imaging, but this is the first time it has been done for EEG. This is a huge improvement given that EEG is much easier to use and readily available than MRI. The EEG method is less detailed than using fMRI, however, it is much more temporally sensitive and can capture activity at the millisecond scale. The possibilities with this technology are endless but sketch artists are sweating bullets right now that AI is going to steal their job.   

Don’t forget about me!
Not to be outdone by Amazon’s recent announcement of a healthcare company formation and Apple’s subsequent statement of a new onsite wellness and health clinic, Google wants a part of the healthcare pie as well. The life sciences subsidiary of Google, Verily has been reported trying to enter the health insurance industry. The basic premise of this venture is to obtain contracts from governments, employers, or insurance companies and execute a plan to lower healthcare costs through alternative modes of delivering cheaper care. Any money that would be saved would be shared between Verily and the payor. The more they save, the more money is made. This is part of a future wave of “outcome-based contracts”. A technology giant is well positioned to tap into this particular market because it has the data analytic ability to risk stratify a large population and deliver the best targeted care that provides the best value. In the past few weeks we have seen large tech conglomerates attack healthcare from every direction imaginable. It will be fascinating to see who can make the largest impact in the short and long term.