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New Technology Boosts Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment


In a world where a growing number of people are diagnosed with some form of cancer each day, the hope for a cure also grows. Recent statistics from the American Cancer Society show that:

Every MINUTE three new cases of cancer are diagnosed in the United States.

This is an astonishing number since, in a year's time, that will equal roughly 1.6 million new cases and there seems to be little we are able to do about it...yet. Though the hope of finding one magical cure for cancer still seems to be far off, there are a few companies that have decided to take an innovative approach against this deadly disease.

Targeting early detection of cancer, DermaSensor is a Miami-based startup. A device resembling the shape of an oversized digital thermometer can quickly and easily detect possible skin cancers by pressing the sensor against suspected cancerous skin tissue, which will display the results on the device's screen in seconds. The device, which actually started out as desktop device resembling an old school computer, works by using 'Elastic Scattering Spectroscopy technology' along with learning algorithms to effectively differentiate cancerous skin tissue from healthy tissue. Though it is still going through testing in clinical trials, the company aims to first sell their device to physicians and retail clinicians, but ultimately the real goal is to source it to the average consumer at an affordable price. If successful in their mission, DermaSensor could make screening for skin cancer as easy as taking your temperature.

Another company taking an innovative approach in oncology is a University of Central Florida sponsored company, SegAna. They are employing a clever solution to solve the problem of complications that occur during radiation of the lungs or when surgery is necessary. They have developed a unique 3-D printer that can produce an exact structural duplicate of a patient's lung. This will then allow the surgeon to practice their radiation or surgery on this 'Phantom' lung, as SegAna calls it, which greatly reduces the risk of error and generally improves the patient's outcome. Currently, the prototype is ready, and they are producing a demonstration to show the advantage and practicality of the technology for surgeons and oncologists.

The definition of an innovator is, "to do something in a new way" and that is exactly what the Tampa-based company, Cverngenx is doing. Cverngenx is focused on radiation therapy, which is anything but new in cancer treatment, except they have taken the current treatment style and revolutionized it by using a patient's genome to develop personalized radiation treatment. This seems like a pretty simple idea realizing that every person is different and will require a different treatment plan, but currently most cancer patients are being treated with the same radiation treatment across the board. They have developed a 'Precision Genomic Radiation Therapy platform' or 'pGRT™', which is able to mathematically suggest radiation parameters that would best fit that particular patient. Being able to effectively predict how each patient will react to his or her radiation will not only save time and money but could improve or save that person's life.

Cancer cases are only continuing to grow over the years and until we develop a cure, the best we can do is develop new ways to detect it early on or find more effective ways to treat it once it develops.

Payer-Tech: Does it Really Exist?
By JOSHUA BOWMAN, Intern, MedSpeaks

Change. It's the inevitable force that transpires throughout life. Change happens in several ways. We are all familiar with it. When we observe change on a macro scale, such as government policies and regulations, we can see the impact it has on entire industries, and the trickle-down effect it has on businesses. In this case - health insurance.

Here are the facts: payers are pouring more money into investing and acquiring businesses than ever before. This is true for all types of companies, especially tech companies. Investing in or acquiring tech companies has a multitude of benefits for payers, but what was the cause of this investment boom? What changed? It's true that big health insurance companies aren't only investing in tech companies.

Payer/provider relationships are an example of this, focusing instead on evolving care models and cutting costs. Payers have interests in investing in technology for obvious reasons. Whether it's for data management or information security, it just makes sense. But where things get really interesting is when you consider how tech investments have exploded in recent years.

A study done by CB Insights shows that between Q1'12 and Q1'17, 141 transactions (investments and acquisitions) took place.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Ventures had the most activity with 42 deals. Sixty-three of the 141 transactions were in digital health. Again, BlueCross Blue Shield led the way with investments in 19 unique digital health companies during this time (CB Insights). Clearly health insurance companies are investing more than ever before, so let's examine the catalyst for this change.

When the Affordable Care Act passed, specific mandates were put into place to motivate health insurance companies to invest. One of those mandates, which is probably the biggest driver of the investment boom, is known as the medical loss ratio rule.

According to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, The Affordable Care Act requires health insurance issuers to submit data on the proportion of premium revenues spent on clinical services and quality improvement, also known as the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR). It also requires them to issue rebates to enrollees if this percentage does not meet minimum standards.

The Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent or 85 percent of premium dollars on medical care, with the rate review provisions imposing tighter limits on health insurance rate increases. If an issuer fails to meet the applicable MLR standard in any given year, as of 2012, the issuer is required to provide a rebate to its customers (CMS).

Since health insurance issuers are required to spend premium revenue on quality improvement, they have chosen to spend revenue in a way that offers return on investment. At the same time, they can meet ACA requirements and strategically invest. It's good business and it makes sense. This trend has payers investing not in technology giants, but instead in smaller startups. According to Fortune, in 2014 Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida (Florida Blue) started an accelerator for healthcare startups. As stated earlier, Blue Cross Blue Shield is among the most active investors.

The accelerator, which is run by Healthbox, has invested in 47 healthcare startups. Why tech startups? Prevention is a major emphasis of Affordable Care Act. A healthier person means less spent overall on healthcare and can drive costs and spending down.

Prior to the Affordable Care Act, the focus on prevention wasn't what it needed to be. So now we have the focus on prevention. A wonderful example of the added focus on prevention is no cost preventive care. Add in the medical loss ratio rule to this equation and you get the answer.

With so much thought being put into health and wellness, the number of startups with this focus is astounding. Payers have taken notice and jumped at the many opportunities to invest. For example, Florida Blue has invested in a company by the name of ROSTR. ROSTR offers scouting and talent evaluation services to high school athletes who seek college scholarships for their potential sport.

Through mobile technology, student athletes can track and view performance statistics and vital statistics. Potential scouts can view the data on what is known as a Rostrcard.

This investment by Florida Blue is interesting because it is a good example of how payers are investing in tech startups that are outside the realm of direct healthcare, but is still a medium for people to focus on health and wellness through technology.

Ultimately, since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, there has been a huge emphasis on cutting healthcare costs. Through mandates such as the medical loss ratio rule, payers have started investing in tech companies that can at the same time help keep their members healthy and offer a return on investment.

As technology advances and payers put a higher emphasis on health and wellness, investments in tech companies will continue to rise. Healthcare is early in its ever-changing journey and with the potential repeal of Obamacare, new trends and forces may arise.

If repealed, many of the mandates currently in effect could no longer exist, which would lead payers to re-think business strategy. It remains to be seen what effect this could have on the current investment trend.

Featured Innovators

HealthCure is a unique environmental-tech company with a novel approach to thwart healthcare associated infections (HAIs). The solution, Goldshield, uses a proprietary water-based technology to provide safe, non-toxic prophylactic protection on fabrics and hard surfaces against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, as well as mold and mildew for 30 days. The company offers Goldshield - at cost - for healthcare institutions, LTC facilities, schools and other public and private facilities in hurricane crisis areas, such as Florida and Puerto Rico.

Auxadyne, based in Key Stone Heights, Florida designs and manufactures a patented auxetic polyurethane foam padding. Initially used for sports helmets and padding, the company is expanding its application to innovate prosthetic socks, medical braces, and military and first responder protective equipment. Unlike traditional foams, Auxadyne increases impact absorption by 600x and reduces pressure point stress by 50 percent. Investment Opportunity Available

Violet Defense Technology, based in Celebration, Florida recently launched a new anti-microbial product line that combines broad spectrum UV and violet-blue light with artificial intelligence (AI) to kill MRSA, E. coli, Salmonella and Norovirus, from as far as three meters away. The 'whole room' unit disinfects a standard size room with various automatic cleaning modes that activate when the room is unoccupied and can be preprogrammed based on a facility's specific operational needs.

Featured Events:

TechStars Startup Weekend |
November 17 from 6:30p until November 19 at 9p

Health Innovators: New Models in Medical Training & Simulation |
November 28 | 6:30pm | Orlando, FL |

IHI's Institute for Healthcare Quality Improvement |
December 10-13, 2017 | Orlando, FL |

Put Gamers to the Test! Put gamers, geeks, and artists to the ultimate "test" by submitting challenges and/or ideas to engage patients. The best ideas will be pitched at Florida's first MeGa Jam event which will converge medicine with video gaming technologies to create MEDICAL GAMES!

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