Accessibility, Technology

Five Innovators to Keep Your Eye On In 2018

 January 29, 2018

By  Deborah L Weiner Katz, OTR/L, CCM, CLCP

We are old enough to remember seeing the year 2018 appear at the beginning of a movie and picturing a far-flung future where technology has either solved all of humanity’s problems or wiped us off the map completely. It is safe to say we have firmly arrived somewhere in a vast middle ground.

So, we felt like taking our first step into the New Year with a quick glance at the health care industry’s impending influx of new technologies. For health care professionals like us, these are the solutions by which we measure progress. These five companies are worth taking a look at for their innovation and creative approaches to the sector’s most pressing problems:



Kardia is the first smart-phone connected electrocardiogram, or EKG. Alivecor developed it so that abnormal heart rhythms could be detected on a phone, just as an EKG records the heart’s electrical activity in a hospital. Wearing this, a patient can find out within 30 seconds of checking their heart whether the results are normal or require medical attention. A perfect application would be arrhythmias, which show no symptoms but can result in heart failure or stroke. Americans at risk for arrhythmias could rely on alerts from Kardia in lieu of physical symptoms.


A new version is now available for the Apple Watch. Kardia Band has an FDA-cleared blood pressure monitor and EKG. EKGS are being recorded in the tens of millions and the data is now being used in collaboration with Mayo Clinic in an effort to better understand some of the hidden health indicators in all of the readings being collected.


  1. APPLE

It is hard to mention Apple in this context and just move on. The company’s approach to the hardware and software engineering that creates its experiences is more ambitious than ever. Yet, Apple will always be seen as a creative force, an engine for re-thinking. Apple creates platforms from which other apps are still being created.


Carekit is an open-source platform Apple introduced in March 2016. Its purpose was to make it easier for developers to aggregate and, with consent, share patients’ medical information with their caregivers. So far, the platform has spawned apps such as One Drop, which helps patients manage diabetes; Iodine, which helps monitor depression; Glow, which tracks reproductive health; and Cleveland Clinic, which records asthma symptoms. Meanwhile, Apple operates behind the scenes by helping researchers, patients and developers to make use of the gathered health data.



Asthma always sounds bad enough but we are almost grateful to hear the seemingly harmless umbrella term that is COPD. Those four letters are short for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary  Disease, which can be used to describe emphysema, chronic bronchitis, refractory (non-reversible) asthma, and some forms of bronchiectasis. When put like that, we are no longer grateful. Instead, we are hopeful and grateful for the efforts of a company like Propeller Health. Their technologies are now used in more than 45 programs across the U.S. After an analysis of 330 patients, a 100% reduction in asthma-related hospitalizations was reported, along with a 60% reduction in asthma-related ER visits over the span of a year. Just what are these technologies?


The Propeller Health System is FDA-approved as a medical device. It includes a sensor that attaches to inhaler rescue or controller medications. There is an app called Cards that helps patients manage their conditions.  Providers can access tools that allow them to proactively manage large groups of patients.



Omada Health’s online diabetes prevention program has more than 85,000 users, making it the largest of its kind in the United States. Omada’s most significant achievement so far has been receiving reimbursement from the U.S. federal government for its online diabetes prevention program. It is one of the first digital health companies to receive this recognition. It was already targeting roughly 86 million Americans with prediabetes. Reimbursement for screening diabetes was already common.  Omada’s achievement is significant because The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services never reimbursed companies and providers that help prevent the progression of the disease all together. Other digital therapeutic startups will now be free to take established offline programs and bring them online, making them accessible for more patients.


Omada Health is among the first digital health companies to receive reimbursement from the U.S. federal government for its online diabetes prevention program. Omada is aimed at the roughly 86 million Americans with prediabetes. The government support is a big step forward for chronic disease prevention: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has always reimbursed for screening diabetes, but not for companies and providers that help prevent the progression of the disease altogether. CMS’s decision is also a big deal for other digital therapeutic startups, which essentially take established offline programs and bring them online to make them accessible for more patients.



The word ‘kinetics’ brings movement to mind. It should come as no surprise that movement is the focus of a company with that word in the middle of its title. The Personal Kinetigraph is the brainchild of Global Kinetics Corporation, an FDA-approved device currently worn by 14,500 patients in more than 200 clinics around the world. Patients with Parkinson’s wear them for seven days, during which they receive reminders of when to take their medication and their doctors receive data that will help them make an accurate diagnosis and identify important changes and trends. This ‘wearable’ will likely be applied to other diseases such as Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy in the near future.


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