We bring you this week’s healthcare and medtech trends, in Boston and beyond:
1. Ebola-noia Continues
This week, the CDC announced that they’ll be monitoring travelers from Ebola-stricken countries more heavily, but Americans’ fear of the virus continues to grow. According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, 41% of Americans now fear that they or their families will be exposed to Ebola — and that’s up from 32% two weeks ago. Basically, it’s almost impossible to avoid the alternating Ebola-is-everywhere-we’re-doomed and stop-worrying-we’re-fine coverage.
But at MedTech Boston, we’re more interested in the medical research that’s come out of the Ebola hype. The pharmaceutical branch of Johnson and Johnson announced this week that they’re commiting $200 million to speed up their Ebola vaccine program. Developed by the Janssen Pharmaceuticals Company, the vaccine is scheduled to be tested on at least 20,000 health care workers in January (pending current clinical trials, of course). “When we have the safety data, we will immediately have the product available,” CEO Paul Stoffels told the Wall Street Journal. Speaking of vaccines…
2. UberHEALTH Comes to Boston
As if the ridesharing service wasn’t popular enough already, Uber launched a new service Thursday called UberHEALTH. We think the telehealth revolution is here, and Uber wants in. The program was available for the first time from 10 am to 3 pm yesterday in Boston, New York, and D.C., and it lets users request a registered nurse. Once a nurse arrives at the specified location, users receive a flu prevention pack and a chance to request a flu shot for up to 10 people. For every flu shot that’s given, Uber has pledged to donate $5 to the Red Cross to support vaccinations for children. And it gets even better: every component of UberHEALTH is supplied to users free of charge. Completely free.
How? Uber has a partnership with HealthMap, an online information system that, in addition to compiling data on various infectious diseases worldwide, has a feature called Vaccine Finder that allows users to find nearby vaccines via Google Maps. Uber has yet to announce if it’s expanding UberHEALTH beyond yesterday’s one-day pilot program.
3. Nurses Accuse Brigham and Women’s Hospital of Violating State Law
On Wednesday, the registered nurses of Brigham & Women’s Hospital, represented by the Massachusetts Nurses Association/National Nurses United, held a press conference to discuss what they described as “substandard care” and “dangerous practices” in the ICU and emergency care unit. This month, a new state law went into effect, requiring ICU nurses to see one patient at a time unless the other nurses on the unit agree that it’s safe to see more patients. But according to the nurses, BWH managers have allegedly forced nurses to take on two or three ICU patients at a time because of staff cuts in the ICU.
According to the nurses, management openly refused to comply with the new state law when the nurses brought their concerns to the board. The regulations regarding compliance with the new law are still under development and the penalties remain unclear, so the press conference was organized largely to gain public support. “We want patients and families to know that they have a legal right to a safe standard of care at this hospital,” said Patricia Powers, an operating nurse at BWH, “and that they should not accept substandard care.”
4. A Microscopy Advance Gives Us a New Look at Living Cells
In a study published in Science today, researchers used a cutting edge technology known as “lattice light-sheet microscopy” to observe cellular activity in 3D at high speed. The technology enabled researchers to observe twenty different cellular processes, which is a pretty big deal – among these were the binding of Sox2 transcription factor molecules, dynamic organelle rearrangements, and the movement of white blood cells. This process is non-invasive and has low phototoxicity, so scientists can observe specimens for long periods of time without harming them. Researchers are hoping to use this technology to image human embryos in the future.
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