Pharmaceutical Technology lists the top five terms tweeted on digital pharma in Q3 2021, based on data from GlobalData’s Influencer Platform.

1. Digital Health – 2,104 mentions

A new survey finding that Americans want to share and access digital health data, a framework provided by the American Medical Association (AMA) to improve the telehealth landscape, and a surge in the availability of digital health applications (apps) were some of the major discussions on Twitter around digital health in Q3 2021.

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Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, a health economist at Health Populi, a blog dedicated to health, environment, and people, shared a survey, which revealed that Americans want to access their digital health data. Conducted by The Pew Charitable Trust, a non-profit organisation, the survey found that 61% of the people want to access information on their lab tests, vital signs, treatment plans and radiology images through electronic health records (EHRs) or mobile device apps. Further, four out of ten respondents of the survey supported data sharing among providers amid the pandemic.

Digital health was also discussed in a tweet by Jamey Edwards, president of digital health platform UpHealth, about an article on the AMA providing a framework on improving virtual care and telehealth services. The framework explains how healthcare organisations, policymakers, payers, and physicians can assess the true value of digital healthcare in the post-pandemic world. The framework focuses on six areas including clinical outcomes, access to care, patient and family experience, clinical experience, financial and operational impact, and health equity.

Digital health was also discussed by Berci Meskó, director of The Medical Futurist Institute, a digital health research centre, in a tweet about a report that assessed the status of digital health apps in the market. Prepared by data science company IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, the report stated that more than 90,000 digital health apps were released in 2020 bringing the total number of such apps to more than 3.5 million in the market. The report also found an increase in digital care and digital therapeutics products, 40% of which are being used to treat neurologic and psychiatric conditions.

2. Artificial Intelligence (AI) – 515 mentions

The possibility of AI replacing physicians, the importance of AI in transforming healthcare, and healthcare automation company Olive raising funds were some of the popular discussions on AI in the third quarter.

John Nosta, president of Nosta Lab, a health innovation think tank, shared an article on the growing reliability of AI and whether it will replace physicians in the future. AI-powered robots are expected to gain more popularity in the future and even learn to behave compassionately with patients. Further, technologies such as cloud computing, AI, machine learning and data genomics can enable robots to access and configure data quickly.

Rafael Grossmann, a surgeon, discussed about AI in an article on the future of the technology in healthcare and how clinicians can benefit from AI. AI and machine learning-powered algorithms can access data and unveil previously unknown information about certain diseases. The technologies can enable physicians to access data and improve the diagnosis and treatment of various diseases, according to the article. AI can also help physicians in deciding about the treatment plan, provided the chosen software or hardware is future-proof and capable of adapting to the latest innovations.

Another tweet related to AI was made by Donna K. Lencki, a digital health transformation and marketing executive, on $400m in fresh capital raised by Olive to develop enterprise AI for hospitals. The start-up has raised $382m in financing since March 2020 and plans to use the capital to expand its AI capabilities. The company’s enterprise AI is aimed at addressing repetitive and high-volume tasks performed by healthcare workers. Olive’s enterprise AI is currently being used in more than 900 hospitals across the US.

3. Covid-19 – 212 mentions

Covid-19 leading to increased clinician burnout, Indonesia offering free telemedicine services to Covid-19 patients, and a smartphone-based Covid-19 test approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were among the popularly discussed topics in Q3.

Ken Congdon, director of content marketing at Prognos Health, a health-based analytics platform, shared an article on the increased clinician burnout from usage of health-related information technology (IT) during the Covid-19 pandemic. The findings were revealed by a survey conducted by the Physicians Foundation, a non-profit organisation, which found that 61% of physicians experienced feelings of excessive burnout during the pandemic, while 14% of them sought medical help for their issues. Burnout, if left untreated, can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and substance use, the article highlighted.

In another tweet, Berci Meskó shared an article on Indonesia announcing its plans to offer free telehealth services to Covid-19 patients having mild symptoms. The move is aimed at reducing the burden on hospitals as Covid-19 cases reach record high levels in the country. Digital health service providers Alodokter and Halodoc will offer the services under a partnership with the government. The start-ups will provide free telehealth consultations apart from delivery of medications, the article stated.

Covid-19 was also discussed by Heather Staples Lavoie, president and CEO of data science and healthcare analytics company Geneia, in an article on the FDA granting emergency authorisation to a smartphone-based at-home Covid-19 diagnostic test named Veritor. The rapid antigen test was developed jointly by medical device company BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company) and digital testing company Scanwell Health. The kit includes a nasal swab and a testing strip containing coloured lines. A smartphone with camera is used to analyse the results from the testing strip. The test will be available to employers, schools and public health organisations and does not require a prescription.

4. Machine Learning – 181 mentions

Machine learning (ML) being used to predict response to immunotherapy, a machine learning-powered inflammation clock that can reveal the body’s biological age, and Apple Airpods being explored to be used for estimating respiratory rate during exercise were some of the major discussions around ML in Q3 2021.

Gary Monk shared an article on machine learning being used to predict the body’s response to immunotherapy. The human body’s immune system has the capability to detect foreign and unnatural cells and kill them before they harm the body. Tumour cells, however, can trick the system into believing they are harmless and can, thus, escape from the immune system. Researchers at the Eindhoven University of Technology used a combination of machine learning and immunotherapy to detect such hidden tumour cells in the human body. ML identifies associations between the system-based features and the immune response using 14 pre-decided predictors. The ML model was found to be better than the existing biomarkers used in the immune checkpoint blockers (ICB) treatments.

In another tweet, Daniel Kraft, a physician and scientist, shared an article on a machine learning-powered tool named inflammation clock iAge that can analyse the body’s biological clock. The clock can assess the presence of chronic inflammation in a person’s body to predict the risk of developing age-related disorders such as neurodegenerative or cardiovascular diseases. A person’s biological age is considered according to their health and can be higher or lower than the chronological age, the article stated. iAge was developed by a team of biologists including David Furman and Nazish Sayed from Stanford University, California.

Another tweet on machine learning was made by Maneesh Juneja, an independent consultant, on technology company Apple working on developing Airpods that can estimate respiratory rates during exercise using audio receptors of the microphones. The company performed a trial for which data was collected from 21 individuals using microphone-enabled headphones before, during, and after exercise, according to the article. The respiratory rate (RR) was first annotated manually by counting the audible inhalations and exhalations. A multi-task Long-Short Term Memory (LSTM) network was used to estimate the RR in different noise backgrounds. The study found that the RR can be estimated with a concordance correlation coefficient (CCC) of 0.76 and that audio can used to passively estimate RR.

5. Wearables – 147 mentions

Rockley Photonics launching non-invasive glucose monitoring, a conductive shirt that can gather health data, and Fitbit’s deal with LifeScan were some of the discussions around wearables in Q3.

Rafael Grossmann shared an article on the launch of a non-invasive glucose monitor by Rockley Photonics, a developer of photonics chipset and a key supplier to Apple. The monitor uses infrared spectrophotometers to measure blood glucose apart from other biomarkers such as body temperature, blood pressure, and hydration. It is planned to be tested in a series of human studies. The development of the monitor has raised expectations that a future version of the Apple Watch may include non-invasive glucose monitoring.

David Harlow, chief compliance and privacy officer at medical device company Insulet Corporation, shared a video of a conductive shirt developed by researchers at the Rice University in Texas, US, that can measure health data. The shirt features billions of nanotubes sewn into the shirt that act as conductive materials to monitor the heart rate of the wearer. The shirt was able to measure accurate data compared to chest-strap monitors used by athletes.

Wearables was also discussed by Heather Staples Lavoie on smartwatch maker Fitbit signing an agreement with medical device company LifeScan to integrate its health tracking apps in the latter’s glucose monitoring devices. The agreement is aimed at providing Fitbit users with a holistic view of their health and help them make healthy lifestyle choices. Fitbit users living with diabetes will be able to access LifeScan’s OneTouch Reveal app to monitor glucose levels, manage stress levels and sleep better.