TeleMed Texts: Google Assistant Remains Voice Tech Champ for Medical Info

During the pandemic, consumers relied heavily on voice technology, especially for information about their medications. A Klick Applied Sciences study found that Google Assistant provides the most accurate information about medicine over Siri and Alexa. Since the company’s first study in 2019, which compared comprehension of the 50 most dispensed brand and generic medication names in the U.S. by Google Assistant, Siri, and Alexa, the two competitors have dramatically improved their comprehension. However, Google Assistant still holds the crown with accuracy rates of 86% for brand names and 84.3% for generics.

Since these results are almost the same as Google’s result from 2019, this indicates a possible “ceiling effect” in performance to researchers as the software has already achieved peak accuracy, and the small percentage of issues it encountered were likely due to human error. Siri improved its rates from 58.5% brand-name accuracy and 51.2% generic accuracy to 78.4% and 75% respectively. Alexa improved from 54.6% to 64.2% accuracy on brand names and from 45.5% to 66.7% for generics.

Despite the differences, researchers found there was no impact on accuracy based on people’s accents, even though there definitely was in the 2019 study. Adam Palanica, PhD, a Klick Scientist and co-author of both studies, said, “Not only does this show that the AI systems have made tremendous progress in better detecting and understanding accents, but it tells us that the latest voice assistant technology is more usable for consumers from a wider range of demographic groups, which is extremely important and good news given the diverse population.”

There’s no doubt the U.S. is using voice technology to help fulfill their healthcare needs, with usage increasing tremendously over the past year when it comes to inquiring about medication information, specifically.

Patient Pages: Novartis Addresses Racial Disparity in Breast Cancer Screening

In a recent survey, Novartis gathered data on issues facing Black women in breast cancer. Their major finding? Compared to white women (13%), more than twice as many Black women (32%) believe that their healthcare concerns will be dismissed or not believed by healthcare professionals because of their race. Knowing that data shows Black women are approximately 40% more likely to die of breast cancer, Novartis needed to act quickly to address these issues so they launched “More Than Just Words,” an initiative to promote health equity in breast cancer care, where there is a significant unmet need.

Novartis’ survey went on to reveal that almost a quarter of Black women believe they have experienced prejudice or discrimination within the medical/healthcare system and among those who have, 53% report that it’s difficult to find an HCP who makes them feel heard and seen, and even more (62%) say they worry their health concerns will be dismissed or not believed by providers because of their race. A third of Black women believe that women of their race do not have equal access to new types of breast cancer testing, versus just 9% of white women. Finally, more than four out of five Black women believe that more Black doctors are needed to make our healthcare system more equitable.

The “More Than Just Words” initiative plans to combat these inequities by collaborating with leading multidisciplinary experts to raise awareness and create solutions that drive health equity across the continuum of breast cancer care and urge women to get the screening or care they need as soon as possible. The company expressed its commitment to creating solutions and funding programs to improve breast cancer care for Black women.

Discoveries/Innovations: Skull-Based Immune Cells Prevent Disease

Humans have groups of immune cells that originated in our skull and protect the brain from disease, but new research finds that some of these immune cells can actually cause disease. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are identifying differences between the protector immune cells and those that cause inflammation and other problems that can actually lead to disease.

Some of our immune cells originate in the skull so they can migrate to the tissues that line the brain and spinal cord without passing through the bloodstream. We now know that their sole function is to shield the brain. “There has been this gap in our knowledge that applies to almost every neurological disease: neuro-COVID, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, brain injury, you name it,” said author Jonathan Kipnis, PhD, at Washington University, in a statement. “We knew immune cells were involved in neurological conditions, but where were they coming from? What we’ve found is that there’s a new source that hasn’t been described before for these cells.”

Kipnis and his colleagues began studying “innate” immune cells, which cause inflammation that can heal injuries and defend against disease, while also causing damage that contributes to diseases like Alzheimer’s. A second Washington University team focused on “adaptive” immune cells originating in skull bone marrow, which can destroy viruses and cancer but sometimes mistakenly attack healthy tissues, causing diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Knowing this opens the door for more intense research as well as future therapy opportunities, specifically for inflammatory brain disorders. “The location of these cells in the skull makes them relatively accessible, and opens up the possibility of designing therapies to alter the behavior of these cells and treat neuro-immune conditions,” Kipnis said.

FDA Update

Drug Approvals

In a landmark decision, the FDA granted an accelerated approval to Biogen’s Aduhelm (aducanumab) as the first medication cleared in the U.S. to slow cognitive decline in people living with Alzheimer’s and the first new medicine for the disease in nearly two decades. Since it is an accelerated approval, the company will have to conduct additional Phase 4 studies to confirm Aduhelm’s effectiveness or it could be removed from the market.

QED Therapeutics received accelerated approval from the FDA for Truseltiq (infigratinib), a kinase inhibitor for previously treated, unresectable locally advanced or metastatic cholangiocarcinoma. The FDA approved FoundationOne CDx from Foundation Medicine, as a companion diagnostic device for treatment with infigratinib as it detects patients with a fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 (FGFR2) fusion, making them eligible for treatment.

The FDA approved the first targeted therapy for the lung cancer genetic mutation called KRAS G12C, which has been resistant to drug therapies up until now. Amgen’s Lumakras (sotorasib) targets KRAS G12C, a type of mutation in a group of genes that help regulate cell growth and division present in 13% of mutations in non-small cell lung cancers. Overall, 84% of the 2.2 million new lung cancer diagnoses each year are for NSCLC.

The FDA approved Farxiga (dapagliflozin), AstraZeneca’s oral tablets to reduce the risk of kidney function decline, kidney failure, cardiovascular death, and hospitalization for heart failure in adults with chronic kidney disease. The drug answers a significant unmet need for therapies that slow kidney disease progression and improve outcomes.

Med Device Approvals

Ventana Medical Systems, Inc. received FDA approval for the VENTANA MMR RxDx Panel, a laboratory test designed to detect mismatch repair (MMR) proteins (MSH6, PMS2, MSH2 and MLH1) in patients diagnosed with endometrial cancer via a sample from the womb. If the MMR proteins are not present, it indicates a patient with endometrial cancer is eligible for treatment with GSK’s Jemperli (dostarlimab).

The FDA approved a new device to help diagnose autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The Cognoa ASD Diagnosis Aid, developed by Cognoa Inc., is a machine learning-based software intended to help healthcare providers diagnose ASD in children 18 months through 5 years of age who exhibit potential symptoms of the disorder.


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