Digital health round-up: Market worth $379bn and still growing

Views & Analysis
AI in pharma and healthcare

The digital health market is set to exceed $379 billion by 2024, according to a new report by Global Market Insights.

The report identifies several factors driving this growth, including increasing demand for remote monitoring services owing to rising incidences of chronic diseases worldwide, as well as favourable government initiatives and funding in various countries for adoption of digitalised systems – such as the US Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which is providing $20 billion to hospitals and doctors to support their installation of electronic health records.

In addition, tremendous rises in the penetration of smartphones, tablets and other mobile apps among physicians to track and access medical information will further favour industry expansion – while growing adoption of various healthcare IT solutions by healthcare providers will augment digital health industry growth.

But the report notes that prohibitive costs associated with installations of technologically advanced systems coupled with a high threat of data security concerns could still hamper digital health business growth.

The telehealthcare segment is expected to witness 27.7% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the coming years thanks to a rising geriatric population base, increasing demand for home-based remote monitoring systems, rising incidences of chronic disorders and government initiatives.

Telehealth systems will grow at 33.8% CAGR owing to rapid adoption of LTC monitoring systems, which can reduce hospitalisations and emergency department (ED) visits, decrease health care costs, and improve patient care and satisfaction.

Such factors will propel overall digital health market size in the forecast timeframe, the report says.

The UK digital health market was valued at $4.0 billion in 2017, and the report says that early adoption of telecare services, large central government programmes for telecare and a strong existing base of hardware – as well as increasing prevalence of smartphones and apps – will escalate the UK digital health market size in coming years.

AI can outperform humans in medical imaging

Tech firm Cambridge Consultants has announced a new artificial intelligence (AI) technology that can produce more accurate medical imaging by creating clear, undistorted views of the real-world from damaged or obscured moving images.

DeepRay is based on recent advances in deep learning, and its power to see clearly in difficult, unpredictable situations could transform numerous other machine vision and imaging applications, such as autonomous driving.

Machine vision systems have progressed rapidly in recent years, but performance can quickly deteriorate if a view is obscured by rain, smoke, dirt or other obstructions. This has serious implications for real-world applications where image quality can be degraded by environmental factors or damage to camera-based systems.

DeepRay learns what real-world scenes and objects look like and also how they appear with various image distortions applied.

When presented with a distorted image it has never seen before, the technology can then form a real-time judgement of the ‘true’ scene behind the distortion. Cambridge Consultants say that having this “mind’s eye” ability means that DeepRay will outperform humans and existing machine vision approaches in reconstructing clear images under difficult conditions.

DeepRay uses unique extensions of the Generative Adversarial Network (GAN) architecture. Training requires six neural networks to compete against each in teams, inventing difficult scenes and attempting to remove distortion.

Cambridge Consultants says that effective end-to-end training of so many networks together has only been possible in the last two years but is yielding radical new capabilities.

BenevolentAI and AMRC continue AI-based drug R&D award

UK health technology firm BenevolentAI and the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) are continuing an award encouraging use of artificial intelligence (AI) to develop new therapies for a second year.

The decision builds on the success of the previous winners, Parkinson’s UK and Cure Parkinson’s Trust.

Through the BenevolentAI Award, charities could accelerate their medical research using AI, which is increasingly being used to make pharma and life sciences R&D more efficient and effective.

Awarded to a single applicant, BenevolentAI will offer access to its artificial intelligence platform to help solve critical research challenges the selected charity is facing.

The tech could be used to carry out deep investigation in a specific disease, create a better understanding of the disease, or even identify new areas and approaches in R&D to speed up progress towards new treatments.

Parkinson’s UK and the Cure Parkinson’s Trust won the first such award this year, which allowed them access to BenevolentAI’s platform to find entirely new treatments for the disease.

They have set themselves the target of identifying at least three currently available drugs that could be repurposed to treat Parkinson’s and two novel ways to treat the disease with novel drug targets.

Founded in 2013, BenevolentAI combines the power of computational medicine and advanced AI with the principles of open systems and cloud computing to transform the way drugs are designed, developed, tested and brought to market.

Bayer and Merck & Co’s hypertension tool wins FDA breakthrough award

Bayer and Merck & Co have won a breakthrough device designation from the US regulator FDA for artificial intelligence software they are jointly developing.

The CTEPH Pattern Recognition Artificial Intelligence Software aims to support clinical decision-making of chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH).

The rare form of pulmonary hypertension is thought to affect around five people per million, per year around the world and the similarity of its symptoms to conditions like asthma and COPD can hinder diagnosis.

Bayer and Merck & Co’s software looks to support radiologists, who are often on the frontline for identifying CTEPH patients, by analysing image findings from cardiac, lung perfusion and pulmonary vessels in combination with a patient’s clinical history.

The pharmaceutical companies said their software could ultimately be deployed via Bayer’s Radimetrics informatics technology platform, which connects contrast medium, injector and scan information.