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The Biggest Innovations in Health Care Technology.

The Biggest Innovations in Health Care Technology. | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

A new technology has jump-started the technique in neuroscience known as optogenetics where neuroscientists target a single neuron in the brain of a mouse merely by turning on a light. This is done by using a light activated gene and inserting it into the genome of a mouse to be able to easily identify when the particular neuron is firing in the brain.
Optogenetics is a hot topic amongst the medical community today, surrounded by both praise and criticism. Its purpose is to control a brain's activity with light. This could have far reaching benefits with humans to help better understand the complex network of neurons that make up the brain. A stronger understanding could help humans better grasp how we create thoughts, emotions and behaviour. Identifying these neurons may sometime help people detect flaws or deformities in the various neurons in the brain that cause devastating mental disorders like schizophrenia, Parkinson's and depression. By controlling the activity of specific neurons, neuroscientists will begin to learn how each type of neuron contributes to the overall functions of the brain. The firing of a neuron through lighting may someday be a technique to finding the answers to some of the many open questions mankind has wondered about themselves both medically and physiologically since the dawn of time or this technique may not be able to work with humans due to its invasive nature in its current applications with rats. Time will tell as to whether this approach is effective, but nevertheless, the study of the human brain using light will help neuroscientists on the path to better understanding the neurons and how they work across this complex organ.

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CONTOUR NEXT ONE Bluetooth Connected Glucose Meter Cleared by FDA 

CONTOUR NEXT ONE Bluetooth Connected Glucose Meter Cleared by FDA  | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Ascensia Diabetes Care, a company based in Basel, Switzerland, won FDA clearance to bring to the U.S. market its CONTOUR NEXT ONE blood glucometer. The device has Bluetooth wireless connectivity that allows diabetics to upload their readings to a paired app on their iOS or Android smartphones.

The CONTOUR DIABETES app provides historical charts of blood sugar levels and lets patients understand how their diet and physical activity impacts those. This works best if the patient religiously enters the details of his/or her food intake and all the activities that take place throughout the day. All the readings and entered information can be uploaded to the “cloud” and reviewed on a computer. Reports can be emailed to one’s physician or family members to make sure everyone is on the same page and helping to keep the symptoms of diabetes in check.

The device works just fine on its own without the app, displaying readings on a built-in screen. An indicator on the left side of the device turns green, yellow, or red depending on how out of normal range the last reading was. Ascensia claims this is one of the most accurate blood glucose meters on the market, achieving ±8.4% accuracy on 95% of readings when it was compared against laboratory equipment in a small trial with human subjects.

The CONTOUR NEXT ONE will be available for purchase in the U.S. early next year and the app will show up on Apple App Store and Google Play for downloading.

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5 Ways Technology Is Transforming Health Care

5 Ways Technology Is Transforming Health Care | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

 

How are tech nerds getting involved in health care? Here are five ways:

 

 

1. Crunching data to offer a better diagnosis and treatment:

         

             Just call the computer “Dr. Watson.” Researchers at IBM have been developing the supercomputer known as Watson (which, in February 2011, beat out "Jeopardy" champs Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter to win $1 million, which was donated to charity) to help physicians make better diagnoses and recommend treatments. Doctors could potentially rely on Watson to keep track of patient history, stay up-to-date on medical research and analyse treatment options. Doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York are expected to begin testing Dr. Watson later this year.

Recommended by BMO Harris Bank
 
 
 

2. Helping doctors communicate with patients:

 

                    Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) has developed Omnifluent Health, a translation program for doctors and others in the medical field. The suite of products includes a mobile app that lets doctors speak into the app — asking, for example, if a patient is allergic to penicillin — and translate the message instantly into another language. Given that there are 47 million U.S. residents who don't speak English fluently, the program could be a boon for doctors who would otherwise need to rely on translators and medical assistants to communicate with their patients.

 

3. Linking doctors with other doctors:

 

                  Could social networking help doctors work better together to take care of their patients? That’s the premise behind Doximity, a social network exclusive to physicians. Through Doximity, doctors throughout the United States can collaborate online on difficult cases. It’s received $27 million in funding and counts among its board members Konstantin Guericke, a co-founder of LinkedIn.

 

4. Connecting doctors and patients:

         

                 New York City startup Sherpa offers patients medical consultations online and over the phone, potentially saving a trip to the ER. The medical advice doesn’t come from just anyone, but from some of the city’s top medical specialists. Employers such as Tumbler have signed onto the service.

 

 

5. Helping patients stay healthy:

 

           A growing number of mobile apps and gadgets aim to help people stay active, sleep well and eat healthy. Among them are Fit-bit, a pedometer that tracks daily sleep and activity and uses social networking and gaming to motivate its users. Lark is a silent alarm clock and sleep monitor that tracks and analyses a person’s quality of sleep over time, offering suggestions to help the person get better rest (it has since expanded to track daily activity, too). And there are dozens upon dozens of calorie-counting, food-monitoring and menu-tracking apps to aid the diet-conscious.

It's clear that technology is giving the health care industry a much-needed upgrade, from medical translation tools to mobile apps that help patients live healthier lives. Though much is still in the early and experimental stages, the advances in technology could help save money in health care costs and improve patient treatment.

Patients who can connect with their doctors more easily, for instance, won't need to make expensive and perhaps unnecessary trips to the ER or specialists. Doctors will be able to collaborate with other physicians and experts in new ways and use computers to analyse patient and medical data, allowing them to provide better and more efficient treatment for their patients. As technology continues to expand the horizons of medicine and medical interaction, it's becoming clear that we're entering a new era of health care — or as some people are beginning to call it, Health 2.0.

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Do no harm: an oath for health IT developers

Do no harm: an oath for health IT developers | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

As health professionals, nurses, doctors, and even pharmacists are held to a high standard of making sure everything they do is above board. They can lose license for failing to comply with ethical guidelines. Even though software engineers in health IT have a far greater reaching impact on patients, no equivalent code of conduct exists for developers.The National Institute of Health (NIH) recently granted the Mayo Clinic $142-million to create a bio-bank as part of the Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program. Aiming to enroll at least a million volunteers willing to share their health data in order to advance precision medicine, the program serves as a reminder of the security risks is health IT yet security in the health care sector continues to lag behind.

Collecting health data is moving fast, which begs the question should health IT programmers working on similar projects be held to the same ethical standards as doctors and other medical professionals? 

In order to prioritise security in health IT, programmers  should be required to take the Hippocratic oath just as health professionals do, especially as more bio-banks are created.

 

"Software engineers and physicians need to work together to ensure the health and safety of patients first and the ingenuity of efficient health technology second," said Dr. Andrew Boyd, assistant professor in the department of Biomedical and Health Information Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago. 

"Algorithms are literally impacting millions of lives, and there needs to be a better way to empower developers to say this might be legal but this isn't doing right by the patient," said Boyd. A strong advocate for developers being held to the same professional standards of ethics as health care providers, Boyd said that security in health IT is a huge concern.

 
Harrington, executive partner, ISE said, "When I think about what our research demonstrated, it is that the fundamental business function in health care isn't consistent with the Hippocratic oath."

In all of the hallways of every hospital Harrington visited, it was clear that those who deliver the care follow this ethical practice in terms of interaction with patients, protocols, and sensitisation to ensure that patients don't leave more sick than when they arrived.

"In a cyber context, there are so many ways in which a patient could suffer harm or fatality," Harrington said, which is why key parallels pertaining to threat modelling can be drawn between hospitals and bio-banks. 

"The primary assets that I would envision are protected by bio-banks--repositories for human samples for use in medical research--could be compromised," Harrington said.

Requiring software engineers to take the developers' equivalent of the Hippocratic oath, said Harrington, "Would realign their priorities to patient health. On time delivery, hitting 'go to market' timelines, cost considerations. These are all business decisions related to the development of that solution."

Developers need to be cognizant of those things, but the development practices should be considered with an awareness that what they are building could impact patient health.

The risks to patient health, explained Michael Borohovski, CEO and co-founder, Tinfoil Security, extent beyond actually causing the patient harm or pain.

 
"Imagine for a moment that there was a test for pancreatic cancer, wasn’t well test and the false negative rate was pretty high. 50/50 right/wrong. If that were the case and patients rely on it, now they go for another year potentially living with cancer not knowing that they have it. Not actively harming a patient by being mistaken on diagnosis or testing.

Mistakes that are made due to speed with a primary focus on rushing to market, particularly with the study of human genomes, can have serious damages to patients, but the business goal for developers is make a profit in addition to helping people.

"The Hippocratic oath might be a bit of a stretch. . It’s a little different in that doctors are exclusively there to help patients. They don’t have a duty to share holders. Their duty is to shareholders not to the patients or to the people whose data they store. Implicit in that duty to shareholders there is the responsibility to find and patch vulnerabilities," Borohovski said.

What needs to change, then, is the culture around security. Given that no software can ever have 100% security, "Companies need to adopt a culture of responding to security vulnerabilities quickly and with vengeance," he continued. 

The current culture and restrictions on security researchers, Borohovski said, "Don't incentivize researchers to be ethical. Reporting a vulnerability could get you thrown in jail." 

For developers that are working with sensitive data or storing sensitive data, it be-hooves them to do everything they can to find vulnerabilities. "Redefining the culture to make it easier to report will allow researchers to make more concerted efforts to find vulnerabilities," Borohovski said.

 
Calling for a change in culture as opposed to holding developers to a higher ethical standard might be an easy scapegoat, though. 

Grant Elliott, founder and CEO of Ostendio said, "We would simply be happy for them to meet general industry standards. Healthcare as an industry is significantly behind. The imperative or incentive to try and meet these basic security requirements doesn’t seem to be as urgent for many reasons."

 In the health care industry, the correlation of security risks are not as clear as they are in other sectors, like retail or banking. People know of the Target breach, so they can avoid shopping at Target, there is an obvious bottom line impact, said Elliott.

"That association isn't as clear in health care," said Elliott. "There are a lot of things that are done in the name of good medicine and in the name of the patient. For doctors, nurses, physicians, their first priority is patient wellness, and they need ready access to data. Any security controls can possible get in the way and hinder their core purpose."

How do developers go about fixing the issue when there really is no incentive for them to do so? Elliott said, "What is the incentive to impact change? Who is enforcing them to do this well? There is obviously some regulatory component, but who is making sure that when they build product they are building in security from day one?"

Unfortunately, there are many developers right now that won’t do anything unless they are forced to do it, said Elliott. "Many will do the minimum they have to do. Fundamentally the smaller companies need to try to get larger organisations to have a much more aggressive process that will trickle down," he continued.

While vendors continue to profit from rushing products to market, patients--whether it is their data, health, or cells--will remain at risk. 

 
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Dust-size sensors could heal you from the inside

Dust-size sensors could heal you from the inside | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Want to skip wearing your Fit-bit or Jawbone when you’re out for a run or hitting spin class?

More importantly, think one day that people with epilepsy could live symptom free or a paraplegic could walk again? Or a soldier who’s lost a leg could control a robotic limb with his thoughts?All of those cases could happen because scientists are developing sensors the size of dust particles that would work inside the body to keep track of how much we’re exercising, to stimulate the brain or muscles, or to monitor how certain organs are working.

Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley, have built dust-sized, wireless sensors that could be implanted in the human body, monitoring everything from muscles to nerves and organs.

 

The sensors, which have been dubbed "neural dust," have been implanted in the muscles and peripheral nerves of rats, but scientists already believe they could be used to stimulate muscles and nerves, possibly treating inflammation or epilepsy.

“I think the long-term prospects for neural dust are not only within nerves and the brain, but much broader,“ said Michel Maharbiz, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences at UC Berkeley, in a statement. “Having access to in-body telemetry has never been possible because there has been no way to put something super tiny super deep. But now I can take a speck of nothing and park it next to a nerve or organ, your GI tract or a muscle, and read out the data.“

According to the university, the sensors fit into a 1 millimetre cube, which is about the size of a grain of sand.

However, researchers are working to shrink them down even smaller, down to a cube of 50 microns per side. That’s about 2 thousandths of an inch, or half the width of a human hair.

Once the sensors are that small, researchers say they could be implanted inside the brain, as well as in muscles or nerves.

The sensors would be powered by a piezoelectric crystal, which can convert ultrasound vibrations outside the body into electricity that is used to run the sensor’s on board transistor.

Piezoelectricity is the charge that builds up in certain solid materials, such as bone, DNA and crystals, because of applied mechanical stress.

 

In lab tests, so far, the sensors have been covered in surgical-grade epoxy. However, scientists are working on what they call "bio-compatible thin films," which could one day cover the sensors and last as long as a decade inside the body.

“The original goal of the neural dust project was to imagine the next generation of brain-machine interfaces, and to make it a viable clinical technology,” said UC Berkeley neuroscience graduate student Ryan Neely, in a statement. “If a paraplegic wants to control a computer or a robotic arm, you would just implant this electrode in the brain and it would last essentially a lifetime.”

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Human error biggest risk to health IT

Human error biggest risk to health IT | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

In the race to digitise the healthcare industry, providers, insurers and others in the multi-layered ecosystem have failed to take some of the most basic steps to protect consumers' sensitive health information, a senior government official is warning.

Servio Medina, acting COO at the Defence Health Agency's policy branch, cautioned during a recent presentation that too many healthcare breaches are the product of basic mistakes, ignorance or employee negligence.

 

"These are things that could be prevented," Medina said. "Today's training and awareness efforts that we provide currently are simply not effective. They are not enough. We have to do something radically more and different."

 

Human element puts healthcare data at risk

Medina is arguing for a more concerted effort to address what he refers to as "the human element" of the healthcare data breach, citing a Defence Department memo issued last September that called attention to the need to improve what it called the "cyber-security culture" at the Pentagon.

 

"Nearly all past successful network penetrations can be traced to one or more human errors that allowed the adversary to gain access to and, in some cases, exploit mission-critical information," Defence Secretary Ash Carter and Martin Dempsey, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote in the memo. "Raising the level of individual human performance in cyber-security provides tremendous leverage in defending the [DoD's networks]."

Medina's agency, which sits at the intersection of the military and healthcare and arenas, presents a target-rich environment for cyber criminals and other groups of digital adversaries. But the health sector in general has become a favourite target of hackers for a rather logical reason.

"The healthcare record is an incredibly valuable source of information," Medina said. "There's so much information in the healthcare record. It's not just a Social Security number. It's not just a bank account. It's not just PII like your home address or PHI like your diagnosis. It's all of it rolled together."

Medina cited a recent study by the Ponemon Institute that noted an alarming spike in attacks on healthcare organisations, finding that, for the first time, criminal activity accounted for more health-data breaches than any other cause.

Since 2010, the volume of criminal attacks on healthcare outfits has jumped by 125 percent, according to Ponemon, which also reported that 91 percent of all healthcare organisations have been hit by at least one data breach.

 

While criminal activity is now the leading cause of those attacks, "employee negligence and lost/stolen devices continue to be primary causes of data breaches," Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the institute, said in a statement.

 

Better cyber hygiene

In his call for better cyber hygiene, Medina draws a very analog parallel. In 2007, Johns Hopkins Hospital launched an awareness campaign aimed at encouraging employees to regularly wash their hands, highlighting the degree to which proper hand hygiene can reduce infection rates and the spread of diseases.

Medina would like to see a similar campaign in cyber, one that would call attention to the risks of clicking on unfamiliar links or opening attachments, leaving physical devices lying around or accessing work documents through a personal email account.

"These are examples of things that are so simple not to do," Medina said. "I'm certainly not saying that if we wash our hands we will prevent the spread of infection, nor am I saying that we can eliminate risk, but we certainly have the responsibility to reduce how much we contribute to the risk of information."

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3 best practices in healthcare IT security

3 best practices in healthcare IT security | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

The one thing we learned for sure in 2015 was that healthcare has become a target for hackers across the globe. Over 100 million healthcare records were compromised in data breaches in 2015 and research firm IDC predicts that 1 in 3 individuals will have their healthcare records compromised in 2016. According to John Halamka, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston, 2015 has been filled with denial of service attacks, hard-to-detect malware, and a skyrocketing number of personal internet connected devices at the same time that HIPAA enforcement has expanded. 

An important feature of these attacks on healthcare is the apparent involvement of overseas actors, including nation-states. Nigeria and the Baltic States are  well-known sources of phishing attacks for profit. State-sponsored actors from the far-east are now said to be targeting healthcare records. A recent episode on the 60 Minutes TV show reported on industrial espionage on a staggering scale involving the Chinese government. If the report is to be believed, the Chinese are stealing valuable intellectual property, spying on competitors, and hacking into government servers.

 

Why healthcare? Why now?

One reason for the increase in attacks on healthcare is that as other sectors such as retail and financial services have become more sophisticated with IT security processes and tools as well as the value of credit card data going down.  As a result, the hackers have turned their attention to “softer” targets with more valuable data such as healthcare as the logical next step. Within healthcare, payers have been hit more than providers. As opposed to gathering fragmented data from individual hospitals, hackers choose to target Payers because of the opportunity to gain access to state-level population medical records, or even more. In other words, a better return on risks and effort involved.

First, the good news – IT security budgets are increasing across the board. With most of the Meaningful Use (MU) work and ICD 10 preparedness out of the way, this one big CEO-level issue is getting more funding. And when there is funding available, there is a tendency to throw money at technology and tools. However, the question is whether additional funding will by itself solve the fundamental issues of information security in healthcare.

Chris Grant, Chief Information Security Officer at Seattle-based Group Health Cooperative (GHC), a non-profit health system that serves nearly 600,000 members, believes that “It’s not just about technology tools. You can’t buy your way out of trouble on this.”

 

Best practices from GHC

Grant has taken an approach to combat IT security threats that provide insights into best practices that are emerging in healthcare IT security practices.

Process vs. Tools: At GHC, Grant constantly priorities between process and tools – in layman’s terms, between firefighting and “building code” upgrades. His team focuses on understanding incidents, early containment, and automation at the incident response level. Using a number of detection and monitoring tools, the GHC team identifies risks and focuses on remediation areas. Vulnerability scans combined with penetration tests designed to identify specific sets of vulnerabilities, and tools such as Splunk, a technology that records and analyses system logs, enable reuse of the data for improved security results.

Analytics: Another best practice is the use of analytics for correlations and Geo-localisation hot spotting. We have all experienced alerts from Google whenever we try to log into Gmail from an overseas location. At GHC, they have taken it a step further to develop correlations between log-ins from multiple locations and have created a scoring system that manages validations and exclusions based on the location disparities for the user at the time, answering potential questions like, “How can Scott be accessing his account from Florida and England at the same time?”

Data Privacy: This is an issue that is closely related to IT security, especially in healthcare. Health systems are required to monitor access to EMR data as a part of MU requirements. Grant and his team have built a production application and framework on the Splunk platform that uses a set of medical record access scenarios to identify potential privacy violations and triage them using a weighted score model for GHC’s privacy team to take further action.

 

Existing and new challenges

IT environments in healthcare tend to be outdated and the top priority for most CISO’s is the protection of the legacy environment. Organisations need to be really good at firefighting, quickly, and can take time to towards upgrading the “building codes” – identifying and re-mediating system vulnerabilities and configuration issues. Penetration tests, according to Grant, and other traditional IT security practices tend to be reactive to security incidents with limited ability to identify key aspects of an attack by hackers. The focus of healthcare IT security functions, like other verticals with critical data to protect, should be the lateral movement, or system to system movement, of a would be cyber-criminal set on finding and ex-filtrating data.

The governance model in health systems is also changing, with IT security increasingly considered a risk function and not a technology function – albeit with a strong appreciation of technology and an ability to work in tandem with CIO organisations. The talent shortage for IT security pros will make such collaborations – with internal as well as external partners – key to success.

At the same time, as enterprise IT interacts more with external systems, including the proliferation of connected medical devices and the Internet of Things (IoT), the mandate for IT security will expand to address new vulnerabilities. The Med-tech industry, in particular, seems unaware of the enormity of the risks that their devices can cause for the rest of the healthcare system. In some ways, healthcare IT security may soon need to be called IoT security.

IT security is now a national security issue, in many ways. With the heightened focus on Healthcare data, best practices are emerging that will ensure that our data and our healthcare system is well protected.

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More hospitals using fingerprint scans for patient ID

More hospitals using fingerprint scans for patient ID | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

To identify patients, some hospitals are exploring the use of bio-metric technology – specifically fingerprint recognition. The approach has both benefits and drawbacks. 

Bio-metric technology is growing in popularity. At first, it was only seen in sci-fi movies. But now, this technology is common in several aspects of modern life.

For example, many companies use bio-metric timekeeping systems for payroll purposes. And some of the newest smartphones come equipped with the ability to identify users based on their fingerprints.

Now hospitals are jumping on the bandwagon, too.

 

Reasons for trend

Healthcare blog Future of You, published by KQED Science, discussed the trend in a recent post.

In the absence of a national healthcare identifier, which is used in many other countries to distinguish patients from each other, hospitals are scrambling to find an easier way to identify their patients.

It’s especially confusing to keep track of patients when they have multiple last names or change residences frequently.

To make identifying patients easier, facilities have started partnering with companies specialising in bio-metric fingerprint identity recognition. Specifically, the blog post mentions hospitals working with SafeChx, a system designed for the healthcare industry.

SafeChx links patients’ fingerprints to the personal information a hospital has on file for them, including their health records. The system is free of charge for hospitals to use. CrossChx, the company that created SafeChx, also sells various healthcare apps facilities can integrate with the system to enhance it.

Right now, 178 hospitals are using the SafeChx system, and most are small and medium-sized facilities. CrossChx plans to start marketing its system to larger, teaching hospitals soon.

 

Both sides of systems

Because bio-metrics are becoming more common, other systems besides SafeChx are sure to spring up soon.

Not only do they make it easier for hospitals to identify patients, supporters say bio-metric fingerprint identification is also an excellent way to guard against patient identity theft, as well as the “doctor shopping” that often happens with prescription pill addicts.

However, critics think bio-metric fingerprint identification systems can create more problems than they solve. Here’s why: Although it’s true that fingerprints are unique to each person, there’s still a possibility the system can be compromised.

If hackers figure out how to simulate a patient’s fingerprint, they’d have access to all the person’s protected health information. In that regard, it’s just like any method where a single factor is used for identification, such as password protection.

But unlike a password, which can be quickly changed if it’s stolen, a person’s fingerprint can’t be altered.

 

Protecting data

With that in mind, hospitals would need to make sure the information stored in their systems is effectively protected with methods such as encryption in case a data breach occurs. And facilities would need to have a different protocol in place to identify patients should their bio-metric identifying data be stolen.

There are alternatives to identifying patients via bio-metrics or through standard demographic information if this need arises. One example from the Future of You post: Kaiser Permanent is starting to keep a photograph of each patient on file in the medical record.

Whatever strategy your hospital uses to identify patients, internal security is still of utmost importance. Bio-metric fingerprint scanning technology means nothing if your network and IT infrastructure aren’t secure from outside threats.

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Embracing Healthcare Information Technology in the Information Age

Embracing Healthcare Information Technology in the Information Age | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Today, we find ourselves in the midst of the Information Age. If you’re paying for your morning coffee with your cellphone or Sky ping with a friend on another continent, you are contributing to a digital revolution that shows no sign of slowing down. Emerging technologies fundamentally shape our everyday lives, and this has proven no less true in healthcare. From patient care to file management, healthcare information technology (HIT) has revolutionised the medical industry over the past two decades by helping doctors provide better, more accessible healthcare.

 

Despite these advancements, doctors have expressed some frustrations about the technological revolution occurring in their workplace. As recently as 2014, a study reported that doctors wasted on average four hours per week on solely managing HIT. The struggle to adapt to HIT, known as technological iatrogenesis, has en-flamed aggravation for doctors and patients alike. Thus, it remains essential that hospitals adopt the best technology available, so that technology can facilitate, not impede, patient care. HIT should work for doctors—not the other way around.

 

Indeed, many facets of HIT can actually progress the healthcare industry when properly embraced, thereby avoiding technological iatrogenesis. Electronic health records (EHRs) exemplify HIT’s successes; they demonstrate how HIT can help streamline patient care by expediting the transfer of patient information. Whereas handwritten paper medical records caused misplaced filings and sloppy handwriting that resulted in medical errors, the evolution of EHRs has cut down on such mistakes. The VA, for example, reports that EHRs have helped doctors increase their productivity by six percent per year. So confident is the government in HIT that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 invested $22 billion in modernising the healthcare industry, including increasing hospitals’ use of EHRs.

 

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Most Patients Interested in Telemedicine Over In-Person Visits

Most Patients Interested in Telemedicine Over In-Person Visits | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

For minor ailments such as strep throat or pink eye, most patients would prefer to use telemedicine, according to a new study from Software Advice.

 

Even though most surveyed (73%) have never participated in a telemedical visit, 76% of patients are at least “moderately interested” in virtually visiting the doctor instead of in a doctor’s office for a minor health condition.

The most cited reasons for wanting to use telemedicine include, in this order:

  • High quality of care (21%)
  • Not having to travel (21%)
  • The ability to enjoy the comforts of home (20%)
  • Quick access to care (11%)
  • A shorter wait time (10%)

Patients living in rural areas or without access to transportation are particularly interested in telemedicine, as they may have trouble getting to and from doctor’s appointments. In fact, telehealth adoption numbers are significantly higher at hospitals located in more rural areas compared to urban areas, said a 2014 report from the Centre for Connected Health.

 

“If the obstacles to creating and offering a reliable video appointment service can be overcome, for patients who have the interest, aptitude, and confidence, there exists an opportunity to co-create the broader experience and availability of video appointments,” said Matthew Gardner, a Mayo Clinic research designer, in a study on video-based doctor’s appointments.

Those obstacles include the lack of in-person interaction and technical issues, among other things, and half of patients (56%) in the Software Advice survey were not sure if their insurance covers telemedicine. As of January 2014, 22 U.S. states require insurers to reimburse for telemedicine visits and in-office visits by certain providers equally, with new legislation currently proposed in multiple states.

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Karen Finnin's curator insight, December 7, 2016 10:29 PM
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Remote patient monitoring market booming amid readmission fines, doctor shortages, report says

Remote patient monitoring market booming amid readmission fines, doctor shortages, report says | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Fear of readmissions penalties, an increase of chronic health conditions, looming physician shortages and mobile technology advancements are driving adoption of remote patient monitoring tools, according to a new report from Frost & Sullivan that forecasts the market will grow 13.2 percent over the next five years.

"We appear to be at an opportune time for RPM systems to thrive," said Victor Camlek, health industry principal for Frost & Sullivan, said in a statement.

As a key component of telehealth, RPM tools such as clinical-grade monitors, peripherals and other software will be essential to keeping tabs on chronic conditions in a cost-effective way.

"The convergence of biometric monitoring and sensors, along with a wider end-user base of technology-comfortable patients will create an environment where clinicalgrade RPM will expand incrementally," said Camlek.

 

Driving RPM market growth, according to Frost & Sullivan, is the need to manage elderly and chronic condition patients, enabling post-acute care at-home and reducing readmissions and other adverse events.

"A move from an episodic model towards a dynamic continuous care model will enable the possibility of early detection and response of healthcare stakeholders to preventable crisis events," Camlek said.

For RPM developers to gain the advantage and add value, big data and analytics will need to be at the forefront, according to the report. Furthermore, the ability to transform the mass volumes of raw data into actionable methods will be the most valuable piece of the puzzle.

 

"Despite many successful trials, the U.S. market is currently challenged by the lack of a gold standard trial all stakeholders endorse as proof of concept," he said.

Cost concerns and a lack of a standard reimbursement models are the largest restraints of RPM implementation, according to Frost & Sullivan. However, of those physicians surveyed, more than 75 percent found RPM to have high value.

Currently there's a limited clinical need for RPMs, but the report finds new opportunities will likely emerge.

"If trials and deployments of RPM systems continue to indicate successful results, perhaps it will finally prove to all stakeholders these products are of significant value and increased uptake should follow," said Kamlek.

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How can Artificial Intelligence in healthcare help patient engagement?

How can Artificial Intelligence in healthcare help patient engagement? | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

This guest post is part of the Festschrift of the Blogosphere celebrating HealthBlawg’s Tenth Blogiversary. Festschrift posts are appearing throughout the month of June 2016.

A recent article in The Commonwealth Fund blog, “Envisioning a Digital Health Adviser,” raises the question of being able to use smartphone apps to get real-time, accurate and personalised guidance for health concerns. While one can envision the convenience, affordability and peace of mind that would result from their use, such services face a number of hurdles before they become reality. As a result, the “digital revolution” has not yet greatly affected most people’s interactions with the health care system.

These challenges fall into two main categories: fiscal/policy and technology.

 

Fiscal and policy issues

In a fee-for-service environment, the only way that healthcare practitioners get paid is to have face-to-face encounters with patients. This creates heavy bias against promoting technologies that streamline non-face-to-face interactions. However, as we move away from that model and more towards value-based care, where global risk-based payments are made to delivery organisations (hospitals, patient centred medical homes, accountable care organisations, etc.), then there is more incentive to use new technologies that reduce unnecessary in-office encounters. In such an environment, face-to-face encounters are actually a cost centre, not a profit centre, and positive health outcomes of populations are rewarded.

We are not yet in a fully value-based environment. Fee-for-service remains dominant, though this will be changing over the next few years, hurried along by the seismic shifts in physician reimbursement policy announced by the Federal government in its draft MACRA rule. Aligning the way that healthcare is paid for with technologies that facilitate self-care and improved care – that is what is needed from a fiscal and policy perspective in order for Digital Health Adviser-style technologies to flourish.

 

Technology issues

The biggest technical barrier to achieving this vision is the state of health data. Created by legacy Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems, health data is largely fragmented into institution-centred silos. Sometimes those silos are large, but they are still silos. Exchanging individual records between silos, using increasingly standardised vocabularies (code sets) and message formats (ADT messages, C-CDAs, even FHIR objects), is where much current effort is being spent. But that does not solve the problem of data fragmentation.

More and more people in the health information exchange arena are seeing that the next generation of health technology is around aggregating data, not simply exchanging copies of individual records (the traditional query-response approach). Only by collecting the data from all different sources, normalising that data into a consistent structure, resolving the data around unique patient identifiers as well as unique provider identifiers – only then can the data become truly useful.

Aggregated data has two additional advantages. (1) It solves the interoperability problem. Systems and institutions no longer need to build data bridges, and translate how the data is structured between two proprietary systems; everyone instead simply connects to a central standard API “plug.” (2) If built right, the aggregated data can be the basis for very effective Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Large-scale data in many other domains (that is, other than healthcare) has moved away from traditional relational databases, made up of a collection of tables, with records and fields (rows and columns) in each table, and structured relations that connect a field in one table to some other field in another table in order to carry out queries. What is replacing this way of working with data is a more flexible graphical data structure commonly used in “big data.” Such technology is very fast (consider Google suggestions as-you-type in a search bar, retrieving suggestions from billions of record options). It is also sufficiently flexible to allow machine learning and AI to function in a real-time fashion.

 

A new generation of apps

When one has built a data store from all different sources – EHR data, payer data, device and IoT data, patient survey responses, consumer health data – and integrate it into a unified data structure, then AI can yield meaningful insights. AI, after all, is about pattern recognition, and comparing a particular pattern of data around a given individual with similar (not necessarily identical) patterns found elsewhere, and making predictive recommendations based on what happened in those other situations. This is very much what clinicians do when exercising “clinical judgement” – identifying a pattern, taking into account medical problems, medications, labs values, personal and family history, and comparing it to similar patterns from the clinician’s experience.

A new generation of apps can be built to make these AI-derived recommendations useful. They need to be easy-to-use, consumer-grade apps that can connect to the aggregated data store and the AI analytics engines that sit on top of that. They can empower consumers / patients, and reduce the demand burden on clinicians. Will they replace clinicians? No, of course not. But they will help filter the demand to those who truly need to be seen, while empowering patients with real-time, believable and personalised guidance for the more common things in day-to-day life.

 

So what stands in the way of Digital Health Advisers? Policy (how we pay for healthcare) needs to encourage self-care and facilitate healthy behaviours, rather than encourage in-office doctor visits. And, simultaneously, health data needs to become reorganised in order to empower AI and drive the emergence of new apps and related technologies. It will be a while before we get there, but we can see the path to that new generation of healthcare technology.

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Jose Andrade's curator insight, November 2, 2016 10:42 AM
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Austin Dodd's curator insight, November 12, 2016 2:42 PM
This article is about including the use of AI as a way of health care. This AI would use aggregated data from all relevant sources on what a person is experiencing and give out correct help. I believe that getting used to dealing with AI when going to the doctor would take some time, but if the help it gives is correct, I would have no problem using it.
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How Tech Is Changing The Space In Modern Medical Facilities

How Tech Is Changing The Space In Modern Medical Facilities | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Two organisations are revolutionising environments of medical facilities.

Healthcare is morphing every day as it adopts and adapts through new innovations in technology that can help improve care, protect privacy, and boost outcomes and bottom lines. Two organisations that are contributing to the revolutionist of medical facility environments are DIRTT and Cambridge Sound Management.

One constant in the healthcare game is the need for upgrades, remodels, and additions to physical space. But that requires construction work, which is often dirty, messy, and can introduce contaminants and irritants into the sterile hospital environment. They can also result is costly shutdowns or stoppages of care.

Enter DIRTT, a technology-driven interior construction company that offers clean installations relying on materials manufactured offsite so there’s no construction dust or debris, meaning no facility shut downs. This efficient means of construction can be upwards of 40 percent faster than traditional builds.

Another way technology is helping improve the overall healthcare experience is by protecting patient privacy. HIPAA requirements are strict regarding the dissemination of patient information, and many healthcare practices and institutions have had to engage in costly remodels to help protect that privacy with new alcoves and other structures that prevent sound from carrying during patient exchanges. And yet, acoustics and sound privacy are often overlooked by architects in planning open waiting areas or patients rooms, where sound travels easily through glass and over walls or partitions.

 

Now, Cambridge Sound Management is working inside the walls of medical facilities to improve speech privacy for patients. Their Qt Patient Privacy System is a speech protection system designed specifically for medical office reception areas, exam rooms, and pharmacies. It is a sound masking solution that protects conversations between patients and staff in all types of medical facilities. Using emitters installed in the ceiling, the system adds a low level of background sound into the space, making human talk unintelligible from a distance.

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The New Wave of Health Care Technology 

The New Wave of Health Care Technology  | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

While medical science has always benefited from technological advances, the past few years have witnessed a complete transformation. From monitoring patients via wearables, to the availability of high-technology diagnostic and therapeutic equipment—technology has revolutionised the way healthcare is delivered.

Healthcare technology is the cornerstone of an industry that is pushing its digital boundaries to ensure high-quality care and reduced patient safety concerns.

It can no longer be defined as the simple amalgamation of technologies to store, share, and analyse health information. We are transitioning to an age where healthcare IT systems are no longer siloed by the department, location, service type, or data type. In a bid to keep up with rising patient expectations, the focus is on ensuring that a company’s IT mechanism supports and streamlines the delivery of integrated, multidisciplinary care.

In 2016, the year of the digitally-empowered patient, healthcare IT is poised to permeate our lives deeply—beginning with the widespread shift towards value-based care.

An Industry in Transition

The increasing consumerization of healthcare, coupled with technological advances in the field, has shifted the burden of decision making to the consumers. Consider the switch to a value-based pricing model which is completely refashioning established business models. Undoubtedly, the mandate for the industry, globally, is now to deliver better care at lowered costs—shrinking business margins further.

Providers are now looking for innovative ways to reduce the cost of care while improving patient outcomes. Moreover, factors such as meaningful use compliance requirements are driving more providers to adopt electronic health record (EHR)/electronic medical record (EMR) technologies. The emergence of advanced analytical models is influencing payers and providers to adopt population health management (PHM) and care management technology, which in turn arrest revenue leakage.

Established players have started investing in care delivery assets, and are looking at advanced products and new pricing structures. The focus is on developing new distribution and digital channels, and leveraging disruptive technologies—spanning the Internet of Things (IoT), social, mobile, Big Data analytics, and Cloud—to architect an environment of seamless, connected healthcare. Technology is helping companies adapt quickly to changing market realities, and is enabling customer self-service in areas spanning price transparency, benefits, billing, premium, and claims.

Industry leaders are crafting unparalleled customer service experiences through a comprehensive care continuum—ensuring healthcare providers and payers are able to realize tangible cost and efficiency benefits.

Adopting the Right Technology

To deliver real-time, analytically-charged care insights to the patient and the caregiver, the healthcare industry is currently focusing on:

An IoT architecture and platform, bolstered by the Cloud computing and Big Data analytics

According to a new report, the healthcare IoT market segment is slated to hit $117 billion by 2020. Listed as one of the top trends in 2016 by Gartner, an IoT-enabled ecosystem would ensure remote monitoring for continuous patient care, and help deliver value-based care—focusing largely on prevention rather than ‘fixing’. With sensors collecting comprehensive physiological information and using the Cloud and analytical capabilities to store and analyse the information, caregivers would benefit from acute insights. They would be able to provide the most cost-effective treatments, proactively identify individuals who would benefit from preventative care, and identify predictive events through wide-ranging disease profiling. By embedding sensors in devices, and ensuring remote monitoring and support, organisation can also reduce their equipment downtime.

The mounting importance of mobility, social media, and customer-centric solutions

Millenials, the most sought after demographic today, are constantly gathering data about their health—via wearables and their smartphones. In 2016, there has been a record 25.4% increase in the shipment of Fitbit. The modern-day wearable, and by default the digital customer, is not limited to only ingesting or gathering data—the emphasis has shifted to evaluating health parameters, and leveraging mined insights, to enable better healthcare.

A digital patient is always connected, always informed, and therefore—empowered. He is accustomed to screening doctors’ profiles prior to a visit, with 86% patients in a recent survey responding that they research symptoms online before scheduling visits. The same survey revealed that 84% believe they should have access to their medical e-records. Supporting this claim, a recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) states that in 2016 care will irrevocably shift into the consumers’ hands—driving down costs, and facilitating ‘anywhere, anytime’ monitoring, diagnosis and treatment. The study shows that health apps have some of the highest numbers of downloads.

Leading healthcare players such as pharmaceutical companies are already launching mobile apps that disseminate relevant content, and educate consumers on their health-related queries. Linked to this phenomenon is the sudden insistence on social media presence. Hospitals are using social media to create awareness, introduce new products/services, and accumulate customer feedback.

The Way Forward

It is clear that technology is changing the way patients are interacting with healthcare providers and how the latter is transforming: there are widespread implications in terms of diagnostics, treatments, and delivery of care. The patient is now engaged with the rise of e-health data, advanced computing power, pervasive smartphone adoption, and a digitised, integrated workflow. While digital is reducing human involvement at various stages, it is also paving the way and freeing up bandwidth for more substantial value adds in the healthcare sector. However, as touch points proliferate, the industry must be geared towards safeguarding sensitive health information and other risks. A structured approach, balanced by the right technology insight, can pave the way for innovative, brighter, and exciting business opportunities.

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New Efficient Techniques for Health Monitoring Using Multiple Wearables 

New Efficient Techniques for Health Monitoring Using Multiple Wearables  | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

As body-worn sensors are becoming cheaper and easier to use, there arises the possibility of complex continuous health tracking using numerous devices all at once. Because they can use quite a bit of power as well as computing resources, to really make them practical one has to limit their energy and resource expenditure. Researchers at North Carolina State University have been working on making sure that such sensors only transmit important readings and organise these readings within data structures that will provide the most utility to clinicians.

Their approach is to continuously classify different states that the wearer is in, whether it be walking, running, or sitting, and to then transmit only data that doesn’t seem to fit what the person seems to be doing. So an increase in one’s heartbeat while sitting may be a sign of arrhythmic tachycardia, but if the same thing happens as a person starts running then the same heart readings can be ignored.

The researchers had grad students wear suits full of sensors and tested different data capture schemes to minimize power and data consumption while gathering interesting readings. For example, they identified that six seconds is enough time to classify what the person is doing at any one time. This means that every six seconds the system should update its readings and focus on spotting changes relevant to the new state.

The team will be presenting their research titled “Hierarchical Activity Clustering Analysis for Robust Graphical Structure Recovery,” at the 2016 IEEE Global Conference on Signal and Information Processing, Dec. 7-9 in Washington, D.C.

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5 Amazing Healthcare Technology Innovation

5 Amazing Healthcare Technology Innovation | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

1.   Interoperability between Health Systems

Interoperability solutions for exchanging patient information across care settings is one particular technological development that will shape the future of healthcare organisations.

 

Value-based care and health information exchanges are an increasingly important part of the overall healthcare landscape, and the ability for all providers – from general practitioners and specialists to post-acute care organisations, etc. – will only grow as a critical component of care delivery in the future.

These types of solutions have only started being developed in the past few years by companies such as referral-MD, that are changing how healthcare companies communicate by including post-acute care providers in critical interoperability workflows, as these providers are expected to be a big part of health care cost containment.

 

By including post-acute care in interoperability strategies, healthcare organisations can ensure that critical patient information across all care settings will be connected, providing a more detailed patient picture for more specific treatment plans and improved patient care.

The statistics are damning, hospitals lose $75+ million per year per 100 affiliated physicians due to referral leakage, a burden that can be reduced by proper referral network management that companies such as referral-MD can help monitor.  Hospitals are just starting to get make changes in their budgets to include programs that can truly help patients receive better care, and save their staff’s time in the process.

Not only are hospitals affected but so are small-to-mid sized practices, with many having to juggle 100's of speciality offices with different workflow requirements, without an electronic way to exchange information, the process breaks down, information is not accurate, and time is wasted.

2. Robotic Nurse Assistant

I have many of friends that are nurses that are injured every year from having to move or lift patients in bed or after an emergency from a fall.  The problem is very common and many of times there is not someone around that is strong enough to lift a patient immediately after one of these occurrences.

There are many variations from a full robot such as RIBA (Robot for Interactive Body Assistance) developed by RIKEN and Tokai Rubber Industries and assisted hardware such as HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb) robot suits delivered by Cyberdyne.

 

 

RIBA is the first robot that can lift up or set down a real human from or to a bed or wheelchair. RIBA does this using its very strong human-like arms and by novel tactile guidance methods using high-accuracy tactile sensors. RIBA was developed by integrating RIKEN's control, sensor, and information processing and TRI's material and structural design technologies.

A company by the name of HAL is a robotics device that allows a care worker to life a patient with more stability and strength and helps prevent injuries to our nurses.

 

 

3. Artificial Retinas

The United States typically defines someone as legally blind when the person’s central vision has degraded to 20/200, or the person has lost peripheral vision so that he sees less than 20 degrees outside of central vision. Normal vision is 20/20, and people can usually see up to 90 degrees with their peripheral vision. An estimated 1.1 million people in the United States are considered legally blind.

This has led to companies like Nano-Retina to develop a sophisticated and elegant solution intended to restore the sight of people who lost their vision due to retinal degenerative diseases. The miniature Nano Retina device, the NR600 Implant, replaces the functionality of the damaged photo-receptor cells and creates the electrical stimulation required to activate the remaining healthy retinal cells. NR600 consists of two components; a miniature implantable chip and a set of eyeglasses worn by the patient.

 

 

Very interesting technology for those that are always sitting in front of the computer like myself, hopefully it will not be needed by me, but it's great that companies are advancing for those that suffer this debilitating illness.

4. Tooth Regeneration

Hey Kids, here is some candy!  All kidding aside, this could be an amazing advancement if the technology holds true in the coming years.

Colourful fish found in Africa may hold the secret to growing lost teeth. In a collaborative study between the Georgia Institute of Technology and King’s College London, researchers looked at the cichlid fishes of Lake Malawi in Africa, who lose teeth just to have a new one slide into place. Their study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, identifies the genes responsible for growing new teeth and may lead to the secret to "tooth regeneration" in humans.

"The exciting aspect of this research for understanding human tooth development and regeneration is being able to identify genes and genetic pathways that naturally direct continuous tooth and taste bud development in fish, and study these in mammals," said the study’s co-author Paul Sharpe, a research professor from King's College, in apress release. "The more we understand the basic biology of natural processes, the more we can utilise this for developing the next generation of clinical therapeutics: in this case how to generate biological replacement teeth."

Another study from a Harvard team successfully used low-powered lasers to activate stem cells and stimulate the growth of teeth in rats and human dental tissue in a lab. The results were published today in the journal Science Transnational Medicine.  Stem cells are no ordinary cells. They have the extraordinary ability to multiply and transform into many different types of cells in the body. They repair tissues by dividing continually either as a new stem cell or as a cell with a more specialised job, such as a red blood cell, a skin cell, or a muscle cell.

alt="tooth regrowth">Dentures and dental implants may soon become a thing of the past. Stem cell research is making it possible to regrow your missing teeth! This is a much-needed medical advancement, especially considering that by age 74—26% of adults have lost all of their permanent teeth.

 

5. Light-bulbs that Disinfect and Kill Bacteria

Hospitals are known to be potentially dangerous place with lot's of people with different elements and diseases.  One company, Indigo-Clean has developed a technology using visible light that continuously disinfect the environment and bolsters your current infection prevention efforts.

How it works

  1. The 405 nm emitted from Indigo-Clean reflects off of walls and surfaces, penetrating harmful micro-organisms
  2. The light targets naturally occurring molecules called porphyrins that exist inside bacteria. The light is absorbed and the excited molecules produce Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) inside the cell
  3. 405 nm creates a chemical reaction inside the cell, similar to the effects of bleach
  4. The Reactive Oxygen Species inactivates the bacteria, preventing it from re-populating the space

 

 

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A robot will likely assist in your future surgery

A robot will likely assist in your future surgery | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Dr. Umamaheswar Duvvuri has used a snake-like robot to perform more than a half dozen throat surgeries over the past month. Simply put, the robot is more accurate than Duvvuri could hope to be. Duvvuri, director of head and neck surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), said the Flex Robotic System surgical robot he's been using has sub-millimetre accuracy; it can "snake" its way to any place in the body and it causes less damage to soft tissue.

As far back as 2008, studies showed that patients undergoing minimally invasive heart-bypass surgery using a robot had a shorter hospital stay, faster recovery, fewer complications and a better chance that the bypassed vessels would remain open.

Last year, a Florida hospital proved robots could enable surgeons to remotely operate on patients. The Florida Hospital Nicholson Center in Celebration successfully tested lag-time created by the Internet for a simulated robotic surgery in Ft. Worth, Texas, more than 1,200 miles away from the surgeon at the virtual controls. Being able to perform remote surgeries would allow specialists to attend to any patient, anywhere in the world.

The Nicholson Centre's simulator mimics procedures performed by a da Vinci robotic surgical system, the most common robotic equipment in use today; it's involved in  hundreds of thousands of surgeries every year worldwide.

 
The Food and Drug Administration approved the da Vinci Surgical System from Intuitive Surgical in Sunnyvale, Calif. in 2000. Since that time, the da Vinci has been adopted by hospitals in the United States and Europe to treat a range of conditions. The system's console gives the surgeon a high-definition, magnified 3-D view of the surgical site.

Robots can also be used to deliver high doses of radiation with sub-millimetre accuracy anywhere in the body. The Accuray CyberKnife Robotic Radiosurgery System is one such system developed in 1990 by a professor of neurosurgery and radiation oncology at Stanford University. Approved by the FDA in 2001, the CyberKnife system can treat tumors anywhere in the body and has been used on 40,000 patients worldwide, according to the company.

While still needing skilled medical personnel to oversee them, surgical robots are increasingly showing up table-side in operating rooms, and they may some day allow people with only basic medical knowledge to perform operations outside of a hospital setting.

By 2020, surgical robotics sales are expected to almost double to $6.4 billion, according to a recent report by Allied Market Research. That would represent a 10.2% annual growth rate between 2014 and 2020.

In 2014, the gynecological application segment accounted for 28% of the surgical robotic systems market share; it is expected to maintain its dominance throughout the next four years.

 

The increasing need for automation in healthcare and growing demand for minimally invasive surgeries are driving the surgical robotic systems and procedures market, according to Allied. In addition, a rise in cases of colorectal cancer, neurological disorders and gynecological diseases, among others, would boost the adoption of robotic surgical systems well adapted for minimally invasive procedures.

"Surgical robotic systems offer less post-surgical complications and reduce labour cost," the study said. "Due to this, large-scale hospitals based in developed and developing economies are now favouring automated surgical/hospital services, which ultimately drives the market growth."

 

Roto-Rooter to the rescue

The Flex System is the first robot-assisted flexible endoscopic platform of its kind and the first to receive FDA approval with the word "robot" in its name, according Howie Choset, a professor of robotics at Carnegie Mellon University's (CMU) Robotics Institute, where it was invented.

The Flex System lets surgeons operate through non-linear winding paths, and through a single-site access into the body. The endoscope maneuverability comes from numerous mechanical links with concentric mechanisms. Each mechanism can be placed into a rigid or a limp state. By employing "follow-the-leader" movement with alternating rigid or limp states, the endoscope can be directed into any shape through the relative orientations of its linkages.The Flex Arm robot is so easy to use, even a non-surgeon can learn it in 20 minutes, according Choset. As a result, the Flex System could some day allow military medics in the field to perform minimally invasive surgery on wounded soldiers, Choset said. CMU has conducted studies with medical residents where the students used the Flex Arm system once a day for five days. "While everyone started off at different levels of skill, they pretty much came to same benchmark within three tries," Duvvuri said.

"What this told us is that anyone can learn to use this and it takes about three tries to learn how to use it in a surgically meaningful way," he added.

Once the Flex Arm robot maneuvers its way to a site within the body, surgeons can then deploy articulating instruments three millimetre in diameter, which further extends their reach to perform procedures.

"We've used it to tackle patients with tumors on the back of the tongue or oral pharynx region," Duvvuri said. "The typical [endoscopic] devices tend to be straight stick linear devices. When have to operate on the back of tongue, because it's curved, they tend to be more limited in what they can do."

Duvvuri also recognises that surgical robots have their limitations. For example, a 5-in. tumor wouldn't be a good candidate for robotic surgery as it would require a much larger hole in a patient's body to be removed.

"I see these robots as tools," Choset said. "As those tools get better and better, you don't need as much specialisation to do a task. Some procedures today [such as colonoscopies] we might call routine procedures and they are being done by non-surgeons, so surgeons are freed up to do more complicated tasks.

"I also do see robots being able to provide more feedback and visualisation so physicians can make more informed decisions," Choset added.

While Choset doesn't see robots making medical decisions, he does expect them to  improve accuracy during minimally invasive operations, damage less tissue and reduce the possibility of infection. As a result, they also hold the promise of decreasing costs from patient readmission.

For example, heart bypass surgery traditionally requires that a patient's chest be opened by way of a one-foot long incision. A da Vinci robotic surgical system can perform the same operation by using three or four one centimetre incisions in the chest. Smaller incisions mean less tissue damage and a faster recovery.

Since the Affordable Care Act of 2010 created both the Hospital Re-admissions Reduction Program and a new pay-for-performance system based on quality of care --  not the number of procedures -- robots could end up paying for themselves.

Snehal Chougule, a marketing executive with market research firm Allied Research, said a hospital that spends from $1 million to $2 million on a da Vinci robotic system, not including a $150,000 maintenance contract, could recoup its costs within two years.

"Hospitals consider many factors while offering robotic surgery, such as patient benefit, hospital competition and hospital costs. The trend toward robotic surgery also brings up such issues as overall healthcare spending, the comparative effectiveness of treatment options and the pace of technology adoption. Thus, it is worth to invest in surgical robots, despite of its high cost and comparative scant research," said Chougule said.

For example, Chougule said, one hospital with around 300 beds bought a surgical robotic system for $1.8 million and then used it to perform 650 surgeries last year. The number of surgeries is likely to reach 750 patients this year, as more prospective patients learn the technology exists. 

While the particular hospital was last in its market to buy a surgical robot, it became a leader by performing twice as many robotic surgeries as other area hospitals and boasted the second-highest volume in the state, Chougule said.

"Many physicians say capturing the market share can be the biggest advantage of investing in the robot. So, if some hospitals can market this and can be first in their area to do so, then it will be easy to get money back in couple of years because they are getting patients and recognition for being advanced hospitals as well," he said.

As robot-assisted surgery achieves greater adoption, UPMC's Duvvuri sees the next step as semi-autonomous or robotic-guided surgery. For example, a CT scan could provide a robotic system with an overview of a patient's vasculature.

"So perhaps you overlay that image on a tumor and a robot guides the surgeon to stay away from no fly zones," Duvvuri said. "So while I see a greater role for robotics, I don't know that they will ever replace human surgeons."

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How your contact lenses could talk to your phone

How your contact lenses could talk to your phone | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Your contact lenses or a sensor implanted in your brain could some day send health updates to your smartphone and even your doctor.

 

A new technology called inter-scatter communication that's being developed at the University of Washington would allow small devices, such as contact lenses, implantable sensors and credit cards, to communicate with everyday devices, like smartphones and smart watches.

"Wireless connectivity for implanted devices can transform how we manage chronic diseases," said UW researcher Vikram Iyer, in a statement. "For example, a contact lens could monitor a diabetics blood sugar level in tears and send notifications to the phone when the blood sugar level goes down."

Researchers at the Seattle university built a few proof-of-concept demos for applications that previously had been impractical or impossible to create. One demonstration was for a smart contact lens and another was for an implantable neural recording device that could communicate directly with a smartphone or watch.

 

The research is funded by the National Science Foundation and Google Faculty Research Awards. Google has shown particular interest in the technology and was conducting its own research into smart contact lenses that can test diabetics' blood glucose levels two years ago.

Using wireless chips and miniaturised glucose sensors embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material, the smart lenses were being designed to test blood sugar levels in the user's tears.

When it announced the research in 2014, Google said its scientists were experimenting with using LED lights in the lenses to alert users if their glucose levels were off.

The UW research could solve the communications problem for many devices, including sensors and credit card, as well as contact lenses.

 

The inter-scatter communication works by converting Bluetooth signals into Wi-Fi transmissions over the air that can be picked up by a smartphone or smart watch. That enables these devices, which have very little power, to communicate with other devices without any extra equipment.

UW's research team, which is made up of computer scientists and electric engineers, said that by using common mobile devices to generate Wi-Fi signals, they can use 10,000 times less energy than they would using other communication methods.

"That means that we can use just as much bandwidth as a Wi-Fi network and you can still have other Wi-Fi networks operate without interference," said electrical engineering doctoral student and researcher Bryce Kellogg, in a statement.

Aside from the medical applications, the UW researchers said that inter-scatter communications also could be used to enable smart credit cards to communicate with each other.

For instance, if two people want to split a restaurant bill, they might simply tap their cards together to share the information.

"Providing the ability for these everyday objects like credit cards – in addition to implanted devices – to communicate with mobile devices can unleash the power of ubiquitous connectivity," said Shyam Gollakota, assistant professor of computer science and engineering at UW.

 
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PR-GLNT and UCB Collaborate on Parkinsons Wearables

PR-GLNT and UCB Collaborate on Parkinsons Wearables | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Great Lakes NeuroTech (GLNT) has announced plans to collaborate with the pharmaceutical company UCB to provide individuals with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and their clinicians with improved quantitative tools for assessing the impact of their current treatment with the aim of providing better individual patient experiences and, ultimately, improving quality of life.

Parkinson’s causes motor symptoms of tremor, slowed movements, and impaired mobility, with side effects of medication including involuntary movements.  These symptoms can vary significantly, both in when during the day they occur and in their severity, which can be challenging for individuals managing their condition. The ability to provide detailed feedback about how a patient is responding to treatment could allow clinicians to better tailor care programs and adapt medicine doses to suit individual patient circumstances.

To tackle this challenge, UCB and GLNT will jointly explore ways to combine data from objective wearable diagnostics (sensors and apps) and therapy dosage into visualisation feedback tools for clinicians and patients.  These visual tools have the potential to help clinicians adjust medication dosage to optimal settings and direct patient feedback to confirm the therapy is working.

 
The first step in this collaboration is a pilot study, where both partners will bring their respective expertise:

• GLNT’s Kinesia system for objective, wearable assessment of Parkinson’s motor symptoms will provide the technology foundation of sensors and apps for remote symptom monitoring.
• UCB’s NEUPRO® therapy, the first Parkinson’s trans-dermal solution administered as a patch applied directly on the skin, releases rotigotine, a dopamine agonist medicine, providing continuous stable delivery of the drug over a 24 hour period.

“UCB is committed to identifying and addressing the unmet needs of people living with Parkinson’s Disease to enable them to have a more engaged life every day”, said Ana Infante, Head of UCB’s Free Motion Mission. “We are excited to be collaborating with GLNT to progress and explore value creating opportunities in movement disorders and other neurological diseases of high unmet need. This partnership supports our vision of ensuring all patients with movement disorders experience an optimum treatment experience.”

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Advanced Sweat Sensors For Medicine

Advanced Sweat Sensors For Medicine | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Eccrine Systems, a Cincinnati-based company developing advanced, wearable, sweat-sensing systems, has raised $5.5 million in Series A funding with participation and support from CincyTech Fund IV and other sources within the CincyTech local, regional and national investor community. The company plans to utilise the funding to accelerate the development of non-invasive, sweat-sensing systems for use in medicine, industry and sport. 

Founded in 2013 based on innovative research and intellectual property that originated from the University of Cincinnati and the Air Force Research Labs at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Eccrine Systems’ non-invasive, electronic wearable systems measures and transmits real-time data about human sweat. The company’s technology platform addresses a spectrum of monitoring applications including industrial toxicity, fitness-for-duty, stress management, treatment effectiveness and various medical conditions.

 

“Sweat holds great promise as the best non-invasive source for acquiring the type of molecular data and physiological insights that the medical community has historically collected and analysed from blood,” said Robert Beech, CEO and co-founder of Eccrine Systems. “However, the use of sweat has been limited by the lack of means to accurately capture and report its real-time contents in the context of daily life, whether during work, sleep or play. Advances in microfluidics, nanotechnology, miniaturised electronics and power management are now making it possible to engineer wearable sweat-sensing systems to monitor a wide array of sweat molecules in real time.”

 

The company was recently awarded a $3.96 M contract by the United States Air Force Research Laboratory to focus on the development of a next generation, non-invasive sensing system for the monitoring of specific molecular bio-markers in human sweat. The science of real-time sweat analysis is in its early stages, but recognition of its importance is rising rapidly within the world of wearables applications.

Beech states, “The state of non-invasive wearables today is about where medicine was prior to the use of invasive blood tests. Heart and respiration rates, skin temperature, blood pressure, range of motion and similar biophysical measurements were all possible back in the early 1900’s. It wasn’t until blood molecular levels could be measured accurately that the medical community was able to rapidly assess and confirm someone’s health or treatment status with a high degree of confidence.”

 

“Sweat has to assume the role of blood to realise an acceptable level of confidence about data and insights derived from non-invasive applications, otherwise much of the hype about the actionable value of wearables data will remain in serious question.”

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How to Incorporate Real-Time Technology Into Your Health Organization

How to Incorporate Real-Time Technology Into Your Health Organization | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Today, doctor-patient communication is infrequent and asynchronous. Most people have one conversation with their doctors per year, and the average Millennial consults even less frequently. To provide quality care, doctors need better and more frequent patient medical data. In this guest post, Derek Frome, director of product marketing and content at a HIPAA-compliant data stream network, offers new ways to connect with patients. 

When I suffered from asthma this summer, my doctor tested my lung function, prescribed a few medications, gave me a follow-up appointment for three months down the road and sent me home.

Since then, it’s been radio silence.

That made me wonder: How does my doctor know I’m OK or that my medications are doing the trick? And, in the age of connectivity, why would I wait three months to tell my doctor whether the treatment worked?

 

Better patient experience

Now, patients are turning to online resources for medical advice rather than consulting actual physicians. And many consumers are utilising fitness-tracking devices and programs to improve their health instead of reaching out to their doctors.

So what do healthcare organisations need to do to get the doctor-patient relationship back on track?

The key is reaching patients where they are and communicating with them in the ways they prefer, which is why mobile healthcare apps are just what the doctor ordered.

Mobile apps allow patients to communicate with physicians whenever and wherever it’s necessary. Instead of playing phone tag or ignoring health concerns because they can’t make time for an appointment, patients can simply chat with a doctor through a mobile messaging app. For their part, physicians can use an app to send patients reminders about tests, appointments and medications that could significantly increase treatment compliance.

Mobile apps enable doctors to gather more data about patients’ health than ever before. With real-time technologies, doctors can monitor patients on an ongoing basis, share health metrics and even prevent health emergencies.

The technology has quickly become popular among patients and healthcare providers and health insurance professionals. Ginger.io, for instance, allows patients to connect with therapists for live video chats, while Glooko helps diabetes patients log metrics to keep their family and care teams updated. Jiff aggregates information from many of these apps into a single platform to connect employees with their health benefits.

 

Integrate into your facility

To integrate real-time healthcare apps into your organisation's communication infrastructure:

  1. Decide which benefits to focus on.Evaluate where apps could be used to strengthen your organization. Do you want to improve communication between doctors and patients? Would your patients benefit from regularly monitoring health stats? Or is drug compliance your organisation's focal point?
    Wake Forest Baptist Health chose the Mobile Smith customisation app for its Comprehensive Cancer Centre. The app provides patients with the tools they need to navigate the facility, connect with other cancer patients, try on virtual wigs and more.
  2. Find HIPAA-compliant solutions.Any app, program or technology your organisation employs must comply with HIPAA rules on data security. Selecting an application that doesn’t protect your patients’ information creates unnecessary liabilities. So if it doesn’t meet HIPAA standards, don’t waste your time and money.
  3. Prioritise ease of implementation, but beware of all-in-one solutions.The intersection of healthcare and technology is changing rapidly. Today’s top apps might not even be contenders three years from now. To avoid going all in on a short-lived system, make sure the solution you choose is easy to use and works across popular operating systems like iOS and Android.

 

And watch out for companies that over-hype their products’ capabilities. In the past year, a number of app developers – like UltimEyes, Mole Detective and MelApp – have been reprimanded by the Federal Trade Commission for misleading consumers.

With more and more patients skipping regular check-ups, it’s time to connect with patients in new ways. So if you want to rebuild your organisation's doctor-patient relationships, just remember – there’s an app for that.

Derek Frome is director of product marketing and content at PubNub, a HIPAA-compliant data stream network for real-time applications. PubNub enables customers to build, scale and manage real-time functionality for web and mobile applications and IoT devices.

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How Millennials Are Impacting Healthcare IT

How Millennials Are Impacting Healthcare IT | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Stay tuned for a series of blog posts this week and next filled with #HIMSS16 Hashtags. We’ll be covering several Health IT topics and would love for you to join in on the conversation!

Millennials between the ages of 18 and 24 have been changing the norms as consumers. Nearly all business sectors have been affected by millennials because they are not sticking to traditional consumer trends. Below I highlighted 5 ways in which millennials are changing the world of healthcare:

 

1) Millennials are more likely to use telehealth

According to a Harris Poll survey, Millennials between the ages of 18 and 34 are most likely (74%) to be interested in telehealth compared to only 41% of individuals age 65 and above. A separate joint survey between Sales force and Harris Poll found 61% of millennials would support the use of telehealth to eliminate in-person visits.

 

2) Millennials are more likely to get the better bang for their buck

Millennials are the most likely age group to price check medical and dental care (FAIR Health Survey). They are also more likely to ask for a discount, request a price check and ask for cheaper treatment options. Unfortunately, millennials are also more likely to forgo care when compared to baby boomers because they feel it is too expensive.

 

3) Millennials prefer to use mHealth

According to the ‘State of the Connected Patient’ report, 71% of millennials said that they would like to schedule appointments, share health data and manage preemptive care from their mobile device. 40% of patients also said they do not currently receive preventive care from providers.

 

4) Millennials check online reviews 

Half of Millennials and Gen Xers use online reviews to select their healthcare provider compared to only 28% of seniors. 50% of millennials and Gen Xers also compare insurance options online, meanwhile only 25% of seniors use online options.

 

5) Millennials want to work for healthcare companies

According to a survey conducted by the National Society of High School Scholars (NHSS), 8 health-related companies have been listed as top 25 specific companies for which millennials want to work. They are listed below:

  • St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (Memphis, Tenn.) — ranked No. 3 overall
  • A “local hospital” — No. 6
  • Health Care Service Corporation (Chicago) — No. 9
  • Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta — No. 10
  • Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minn.) — No. 14
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield (Chantilly, Va.) — No. 22
  • UnitedHealth Group (Minneapolis) — No. 23
  • Atlantic Health Service — No. 25
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Board Challenges in Managing Digitization and Innovation in Hospitals

Board Challenges in Managing Digitization and Innovation in Hospitals | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Dandolo Partners has just released a new report looking at the contribution of information technology to innovation and digitisation in Australian hospitals. The report is a result of discussions with a range of key hospital stakeholders (hospital executives and board members, government representatives, technology experts) and secondary research. The work focused on three questions:

 

The report addresses the role of the hospital board and senior executives in capturing the benefits associated with this digital transformation. It looks to make the distinction between the enormous innovations that have driven the clinical procedures and device areas and the relatively slow rate of transformation in the information technology sector in Australia. It identifies the major information technology based issues that have prevented hospitals from capturing value from innovation and digitisation in terms of three specific challenges:

 

Innovation is the engine that drives digitisation in our hospitals. It creates the ability for hospitals to use information technology to capture the needed improvements in care quality and cost that will enable our communities to address its pressing challenges. Hospitals need to foster their capabilities in both areas to enable success. This process needs to be driven from the most senior leadership positions within hospitals. The aim of this report is to encourage the issue of digital transformation becoming a key responsibility of the board.

The report concludes with a final discussion about risk and highlights the implications of doing nothing or not enough as being “potentially devastating.” The possible outcomes of inaction encompass leaving poor performance undetected, systems inoperable, patient and organisation data exposed and the institution deemed culpable.

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Innovative technologies could save millions of lives in the developing world

Innovative technologies could save millions of lives in the developing world | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Imagine two babies being born at the exact same time: a little girl in Sweden and a baby boy in Mozambique. What are their chances for a long, healthy life?

In the Scandinavian country of the easily assemblable IKEA furniture and the most secure car in the world, life expectancy in 2015 reached 81.98 years, while in the South African Mozambique with 11.64 billion dollar in public debt and deep political insecurity, life expectancy in 2015 was only 52.94 years.

In case one of the babies falls ill, the differences in their chances for getting to the doctor in time and receiving adequate treatment is also striking. In Sweden, 328 doctors are available for 100,000 people while in Mozambique there are only 3 doctors for the same amount of people in need.

 Certainly, there are significant differences in the general social, economic or political background within both the developed and developing country-groups, but unfortunately it could be considered as a fact that the population of developing countries have to face much worse health conditions, their life expectancy is much lower, and they are in dire need for creative and innovative medical solutions.

 

So who and how can help the baby boy in Mozambique? 

In 2013, the WHO released a report about how innovative and still affordable medical technologies should reach underdeveloped regions. Unfortunately, the conclusion was that there are still too many barriers for which developers have not yet found the solutions. The greatest impediments are the lack of conditions for on-site manufacturing, administrative hindrances such as receiving regulatory clearance or certainly the biggest issue: financing.

And of course, it does not need any more explanation that modern technologies which could solve some of the biggest medical challenges in the developing world are expensive. Besides, according to a 2016 study, medical technology development and sales are concentrated in high income countries. In 2009, approximately 75 percent of the sales of medical devices concentrated in the U.S., Japan, and Europe. Currently, only 13 percent of manufacturers are located in low and middle-income countries. This further widens the inequality gap and draws the attention of developers to regions with huge sales potential instead of regions in need of medical innovation.

Thus, only a handful of entrepreneurs think that it is rational enough to bring disruptive — smart, cheap and better — (medical) products to the developing world. In spite of the fact that disruption is often not about overtly expensive, state-of-the-art, sci-fi solutions, but really smart, cheap ways of solving problems that bring the cost of care significantly down. In any case, according to Clay Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor, a disruptive product addresses a market that previously could not be served or it offers a simpler, cheaper or more convenient alternative to an existing product.

In the developing world, where resources are scarce, ideas truly matter. Thus, as in the age of discoveries where only the most courageous knights were able to cross the “seven seas,” only those with the most disruptive ideas have a chance to really make a change. This approach often allows technology in poorer regions to leapfrog developed one. As an example, mobile banking in Africa is with quantum leaps ahead of Western standards, because it provides a uniquely good fit for the problems of the continent.

 

Small organizations with big ideas

There are already inspiring projects and startups which in spite of the administrative difficulties, financial burdens or other problems, improve medical technology by making it affordable in the developed world.

Globally, over 30 million people need mobility devices such as prosthetics, while 80 percent of the world’s amputees do not have access to modern prosthetics. One of the solutions comes from the awesome idea behind the e-NABLING the Future project. As Jennifer Owen, the owner of the website describes its essence, it is basically a global network of passionate volunteers who by sharing 3-D printing designs, video tutorials and other information about building prosthetic hands enable volunteers, doctors or anyone on the field to make a difference by literally “giving a helping hand” to those in need. Success stories come from all over the world: there are now children and adults with super-hero style or more traditionally shaped prosthetic hands in Chile, Ghana, Indonesia and many more countries.

The potential in 3-D printing mesmerized also NGOs working in the field of medicine. Médecins Sans Frontières, aka Doctors Without Borders, is investigating how 3-D printing and virtual reality technologies can help the organization set up field hospitals that are well suited to their environment and the situation being addressed. In addition to their traditional 2-D plan drawings, the team also created 3-D models and a virtual reality reproduction of a recently designed facility in the Philippines that was built to help people after a 2013 typhoon. In Haiti, the organization Field Ready is working on 3-D printing on-demand birthing kits, including umbilical clamps, simple little things such as oxygen splitters for oxygen tanks, and they also encourage small scale manufacturing of agricultural tools via 3-D printing. Another startup, re3D under its Give-a-Bot program offers its Gigabot — an affordable desktop printer — to local communities or organizations with “big ideas.”

To address the poor patient-doctor ratio in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa and to avoid the need for patients to travel long distances to gain access to treatment, for example Himore Medical in Cameroon has designed CardioPad, which is a wireless solution enabling the efficient monitoring of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) from a long distance throught Bluetooth and a mobile network. Botswana-based Deaftronics attempts to tackle a similar problem. It has manufactured the first solar-powered hearing aid unit, Solar Ear. This technology is game-changing in a country where there are only 12 audiologists and five audiology centers for a population of over two million.

In India, Saathi developed a fully biodegradable sanitary pad with the core made from waste banana tree fiber. Through such a groundbreaking innovation local farmers are supported as their work is needed to the production of pads while the biodegradable waste does not harm the environment. With the spread of Saathi pads around India, it becomes feasible to make annually 108,000 tons of such waste environmentally friendly.

 

What can we do for him?

As patients and doctors, we can always support innovation which goes beyond the hype (e.g., Theranos).

Beyond the financial and general support, we need more courses as the one provided by D-Lab Health teaching medical technologies for the developing world and thus broadening the horizons of innovators, educators, and other experts.

And of course, we need to sew the following words on the flag of 21st-century knights who want to change medicine and medical treatment in the developing world: disruptive ideas, curiosity, and courage.

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Is Data from Wearable Tech Helpful or Just Adding to the Clutter?

Is Data from Wearable Tech Helpful or Just Adding to the Clutter? | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

Wearables are getting some major hype recently, especially since the release of Apple’s Health Kit and with the growing popularity of Fit bit. Eventually, the technology will be widely used by providers to receive medical data from patients, helping to promote disease prevention and to improve treatment compliance. Wearables will allow for more frequent collection — and organisation — of accurate and objective medical information. The conventional approach of keeping a health journal or reviewing personal medical data solely at office visits will surely fade when patients are able to effortlessly transmit a food log, blood pressure reading, or symptom summary directly to their physician’s electronic health record. However, notice that the above sentences are written in future-tense. In reality, we are many steps away from the successful implementation of wearable devices in healthcare.

Compared to myself, possessing a “realist” skepticism, Sumit Mehra, CTO of Y Media Labs, a company into mobile application development, is much more enthusiastic about the future of mobile data and its promising use in healthcare. He zealously states that “preventing disease is the Holy Grail of modern medicine.” This is very true, but we in medicine are aware that making such statements is akin to announcing that not smoking is a great way to avoid COPD and lung cancer. For a patient, developing motivation and maintaining compliance are the true barriers to living a disease-prevention lifestyle. Will wearables help that aspect of care?

 

Mehta goes on to say, “Applications, devices and technologies behind the 'quantified-self' movement are exploding in number, precisely because of their power to collect, interpret and communicate the personal health data that professionals so desperately need.” The issue with this statement is the assumption that more data will lead to better outcomes. That might absolutely be true, but as I’ve written in the past, we in healthcare already have a vast amount of data. The problem is organising it and presenting it to providers in a simple, interpret able fashion, while avoiding the tendency to add more clutter to the EHR screen. That is the true challenge of this upcoming “big data” movement.

Needless to say, there are a few challenges to overcome before wearable technology can be commonplace in the medical field. First, I’m guessing that most of the pioneers of these devices aren’t quite the demographic that would benefit most from their usage. Physically fit young people and those participating in the “quantified-self movement” are essentially the exact opposite of a person with chronic medical conditions. Generally, the patients who need the most help from these devices are mostly older in age and not tech-savvy. Therefore, for such patients to use wearable technology, developers need to make them as simple-to-use as humanly possible. Unfortunately that isn’t the case for the current devices. Accenture conducted a survey which showed that 83% of consumers who purchased smart devices — including wearables — had difficulty using them. This certainly creates some work for user interface (UX) designers. Best of luck to you all. Offering a solution, Terence Eden suggests testing your UX designs on drunk people.

 

Another challenge for wearable technology is the fact that patients aren’t interested yet. Maybe the devices aren’t fashionable. Alternatively, it is quite possible that wearables may simply be another distraction that prevents the bearer of the device from getting anything done (see Facebook and Twitter). Regardless of the reason, only 15% of patients asked their doctor about integrating health information into their medical care according to Zina Moukheiber of Forbes. The demand just isn’t there yet.

Additionally, there will be major concerns for privacy, access to data, and clinical usefulness, but those topics can be addressed at another time. Despite the set-backs, I do see a promising future for wearable technology, but let’s not get lost in the excitement of having neat, new things. Healthcare is about curing disease and we measure that by observing outcomes after interventions. Wearables have not yet passed such scrutiny. Maybe with time…

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