Health IT Roundup—Senate confirms James Gfrerer as VA CIO; Mayo Clinic uses AI for new heart screening test

Veterans affairs sign
James Paul Gfrerer was confirmed by the Senate in the role as the VA's chief information officer. He was formerly an executive director with Ernst & Young’s cybersecurity practice. (JeffOnWire/CC BY 2.0)

Senate confirms James Gfrerer as VA CIO

James Paul Gfrerer, who's is President Donald Trump's nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs EHR implementation, was confirmed by the Senate in the role as the VA's chief information officer.

Gfrerer was formerly an executive director with Ernst & Young’s cybersecurity practice. He also previously served for 20 years in the Marine Corps and was a Department of Defense Detailee to the Department of State leading interagency portfolios in counterterrorism and cybersecurity, officials said.

He will also serve as assistant secretary for information and technology the VA.

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His confirmation follows former top IT official Scott Blackburn's resignation, which raised more uncertainty about the fate of a long-delayed deal with Cerner to modernize the system’s EHR. Some Democratic lawmakers raised concerns with Blackburn's replacement Camilo Sandoval. Gfrerer was nominated by Trump for the role in July. (Release)

Mayo Clinic uses AI for heart monitor

Applying artificial intelligence to widely available heart monitors can result in an early indicator of an asymptomatic precursor to heart failure, according to a study published in the journal Nature Medicine.

The researchers from Mayo Clinic said the technology, which relies on an electrocardiogram (EKG) could detect asymptomatic left ventricular dysfunction which affects 7 million Americans. Researchers said the technology could be used as a screening test comparable to other common screening tests such as mammography for the condition which is treatable when identified. They said there is no inexpensive, noninvasive painless screening tool for diagnostic use.

“Congestive heart failure afflicts more than 5 million people and consumes more than $30 billion in health care expenditures in the U.S. alone,” said Paul Friedman, M.D., senior author and chair of the Midwest Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Mayo Clinic in a statement. "The ability to acquire a ubiquitous, easily accessible, inexpensive recording in 10 seconds—the EKG—and to digitally process it with AI to extract new information about previously hidden heart disease holds great promise for saving lives and improving health," he says. (Release)

Health data firm Sophia Genetics raises $77M to support U.S. expansion

Swiss big data startup Sophia Genetics raised $77 million in new venture capital to help fund its expansion to its new U.S. location and bring on more staff.

The series E round was led by Generation Investment Management, a sustainable investment management firm co-founded and chaired by former Vice President Al Gore, with participation from Idinvest Partners and Sophia’s previous backers Balderton Capital and Alychlo.

The new money, which brings the Lausanne, Switzerland-based company’s fundraising total up to $140 million, will also be used to help push its artificial intelligence-based platform into new hospital systems. (FierceMedTech)

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