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healthcare technology
The ways in which technology benefits healthcare
Curated by nrip
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The pacemaker of the future might be made of heart cells

The pacemaker of the future might be made of heart cells | healthcare technology |

Cardiologists in Los Angeles have developed a gene-therapy technique that allows them to transform working heart-muscle cells into cells that regulate a pigs’ heartbeat. This procedure, described today in the Science Translational Medicine, restored normal heart rates for two weeks in pigs that usually rely on mechanical pacemakers. The experiment, researchers say, could lead to lifesaving therapies for people who suffer infections following the implantation of a mechanical pacemaker.

"We have been able for the first time to create a biological pacemaker using minimally invasive methods and to show that the new pacemaker suffices to support the demands of daily life," Eduardo Marbán, a cardiologist at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute and lead author of the study, told the press yesterday. The approach is practical, added Eugenio Cingolani, a cardiogeneticist also at Cedars-Sinai and a co-author of the study, because "no open-heart surgery is required to inject this gene."

In the study, researchers injected a gene called Tbx18 into the pigs’ hearts. This gene, which is also found in humans, reprogrammed a small number of heart-muscle cells into cells that emit electrical impulses and drive the beating of the heart. The area in which this change occurred — about the size of a peppercorn — doesn't normally initiate heartbeats.

"We were able to get the biological pacemaker to turn on within 48 hours," Marbán said. To get the gene to the heart, the researchers sent a modified virus into the right ventricle through a catheter. The viral vector isn’t harmful, the researchers said, because the virus they employed was engineered to be "replication deficient" — meaning that it will not reproduce and spread beyond the heart.

Overall, the results of the study demonstrate that the pigs who received the gene therapy experienced an increase in heart rate that allowed them to be much less dependent on backup pacemakers. In contrast, the backup pacemakers were responsible for more than 40 percent of the beats in pigs who didn’t receive the gene therapy, but still underwent surgery.

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How to Boost Patient Portal Usage

How to Boost Patient Portal Usage | healthcare technology |

While portal technology has been available in other industries for some years, access to health information and records via a secure login is only now becoming common place in healthcare by the end of the year.

Patient portal are excellent opportunities for providers to expand the way they engage with their patients. Here are a some best practices for using portals in your practice.

Increase Availability

Patients with full-time jobs don’t always have the flexibility to communicate or interact with you during your traditional office hours. By offering a robust patient portal system, ideally tied into your cloud-based EHR, you provide patients with the opportunity to learn more about your practice and their health at their convenience, whether that’s late in the evening or on a weekend. This type of access provides patients a sense of comfort because they know their records are always within reach, even when your office isn’t open or you’re not on call. Including some personally written content or material for patients to view and reference online will go a long way towards creating a helpful presence, while also reducing the amount of time you have to spend explaining that information.

Improve Communication

Similarly, many portals offer secure communication channels so patients can ask questions of you or your team. Have a plan in place to respond to these questions. Try to be as prompt as possible – within reason of course.

Some patient portals also allow for the ability to schedule – or at minimum request – appointments. By taking advantage of this feature, you can help eliminate lengthy wait times on the phone, which helps both your patients and your staff.

In return, you also have the ability to easily send patients appointment reminders or contact information when a patient needs their information for a referral.

Maintain Records

Allowing the patient to fill out forms in advance of appointments or update their own address and billing information and emergency contact list not only helps the patient get through the intake process more quickly, it helps your team become more efficient. In addition, many portals also offer patients the ability to pay outstanding balances through a secure payment system. In more complex patient portals, patients can update their prescription information and problem list to help physicians reduce the likelihood of adverse events.


Explaining esoteric health information like lab results over the phone, or even in person, can be an inefficient method for educating patients. Since the information is often unfamiliar, the chance they’ll forget the information or misplace their printed instructions can be high.

Through a patient portal, you can not only deliver test results that can be read at any time, you also have the opportunity to educate the patient and his family about what those results mean. Having a library of fact-based information regarding specific conditions or upcoming tests can help alleviate stress or confusion – and maybe even prevent the patient from conducting random searches online, finding inaccurate information, and arriving at ill-founded conclusions.

It’s also a great way to educate a patient about specialists or other doctors that you may be referring him to. While the patient portal system can be very disparate – different offices may or may not be using the same portal – you still have the ability to give a patient a basic fact sheet and office contact information for the referred doctor. This is yet another way to put a patient’s mind at ease.

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nrip's insight:

PHRs/Patient portals must look beyond MU. Patient Portals should go beyond being enterprise portals and become mediums for patient engagement, health tracking and a tool towards personalized health.  They must include inputs from the patient and as such should be a bidirectional application rather than being a customized gorgeous front end to an EHR database.

I believe if done right PHR's will be a very useful tool to improving diagnostics, lowering care costs and also in prevention. 

If you'd like to take a look at an inclusive bi-directional PHR system which goes beyond MU and is always evolving, contact me on twitter at @nrip or use the form on the right to setup a call.

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New tool allows researchers to stimulate neurons and observe their signals in real time

New tool allows researchers to stimulate neurons and observe their signals in real time | healthcare technology |

In oncology, the notion of personalized medicine—in which genetic tools can be used precisely to characterize a patient's cancer and tailor treatment to a genetic profile—is now all but standard practice.

Though personalized treatments for diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), epilepsy, and bipolar disorders have remained frustratingly out of reach for neurologists, Harvard scientists say that could soon change.

A new technique for observing neural activity, developed by Adam Cohen, professor of chemistry and chemical biology and of physics, and colleagues including Venkatesh Murthy, professor of molecular and cellular biology, and Bernardo Sabatini, the Takeda Professor of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, will allow scientists to stimulate neurons and observe their firing pattern in real time.

Tracing those neural pathways can help researchers answer questions about how neural signals propagate, and could one day allow doctors to design individualized treatments for a host of disorders. The study is described in a paper in Nature Methods.

"This is a tool for looking in great detail at how signals flow through neurons, and how the signal flows through circuits of neurons," Cohen said. "You can think of this as a complete neuro-electronic interface, where you can stimulate any piece of the circuit, or any subcellular region, in any pattern of space and time you can dream of. And you can then record absolutely everything that's going on in that circuit."

In addition to offering invaluable insight into how healthy neural circuits work, the system can be used to probe how disease might cause those circuits to go awry.

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Apple, IBM team to work on mHealth apps

Apple, IBM team to work on mHealth apps | healthcare technology |

It’s one of those thoughts many mHealth insiders and observers have at some point had: What if one could put the power of Watson analytics into a smartphone and interact with it like Apple’s Siri at the point of care?

Well, that specific dream moved closer to reality on Tuesday when Apple and IBM joined forces to create a mobile platform christened IBM Mobile First for iOS.

“For the first time ever we’re putting IBM’s renowned big data analytics at iOS users’ fingertips,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a prepared statement. “This is a radical step for enterprise and something that only Apple and IBM can deliver.”

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty added that the intention is to bring the same “innovations [that] have transformed our lives,” into the ways that people work, thereby “allowing people to re-imagine work, industries, and professions.”

To that end, the companies hope that IBM Mobile First for iOS will “transform enterprise mobility through a new class of business apps,” they explained.

It’s not all that often technology giants align and rattle off healthcare as one of their target verticals, much less that Apple joins forces with any of the IT old guard — which gives the partnership a booster shot of luster. And in an mHealth industry currently going like gangbusters with too many startups to count, the sheer scale that Apple and IBM bring at the very least has the potential for significant market-shaping.

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An Apple a Day: Cues From Human Centered Design For Healthcare

An Apple a Day: Cues From Human Centered Design For Healthcare | healthcare technology |
What would a medical device suite from Apple look like? More importantly, how would it feel?

When we think about the “why” of how we design products and services, our best work usually makes this planet a better place for all of us to live. Of course, not every product can make that claim, but with the design of medical products it’s almost built in. That said, especially with the constraints imposed by regulations, it’s to claim that our hands are tied and settle for a design compromise instead of looking for the best possible and most poetic answer. One day a hospital room will need to have the equivalently delightful experience of shopping in an Apple store.

It’s coming soon.

Hard to picture? Maybe so in the short term, but as we progress, patients no longer will be willing to accept a care system or the products within it that view them as passive recipients of treatment. Patient loyalty can mean the difference between success and failure for healthcare organizations. Gaining patient loyalty comes down to one core factor: the ability of healthcare organizations to consistently deliver positive patient experiences. Organizations that can do so will own the future of healthcare.

The adoption of a patient-centered care model is becoming the main focus of innovative healthcare organizations as accountability for clinical patient satisfaction continues to grow. Positive patient experiences are no longer a nicety for healthcare systems; they are an absolute necessity. We are seeing an industry wide consciousness shift of this understanding with the steady increase of CXOs (customer experience officers) being appointed to C-suite positions across major healthcare organizations.

The future of healthcare will be won by those who put patients first, who think about patients as customers of healthcare. Again, this core value— always put your users first—is long understood in the design community.

A good way to think about it is to design these experiences looking through three lenses: beauty, ingenuity and charisma.

While we may not often think of medical products as beautiful, there is no reason not to; their expression in form and detail have the power to inspire and comfort.Ingenuity solves for problems of use and manufacture, and charisma draws people to a product because of a true understanding of need.

The trick is an uncompromising commitment to all three lenses in every solution and product designed.

With the widespread consciousness shift seen in healthcare organizations toward understanding the importance of focusing on positive patient experience, I believe that this is incredibly exciting time for design leadership to be brought to the table.

Let me pose a final question, hinted at in the first paragraph: Suppose instead of computers, Apple decided to make medical devices. What would a medical device suite from Apple look like?

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Google Smart Contact Lens Focuses On Healthcare Billions

Google Smart Contact Lens Focuses On Healthcare Billions | healthcare technology |

Google is developing a smart contact lens, with pharmaceutical giant Novartis, to help patients manage diabetes – in one of a number of moves focused squarely on billions of dollars of  potential revenue available across the total digital healthcare market.

As technology moves further into treatment with remote consultations, monitoring and operations, robotic treatments, and advanced digital diagnosis, Google has seen the opportunity to apply its own eyewear technology (up until now limited as glasses called Google Glass) to the healthcare field.

Google’s 3D mobile technology and its offering around health record digitization form potential other strands of its expansion in the health market. Last month, it released the Google Fit platform to track exercise and sleep, among other health factors – but it is far from alone, as Apple and Samsung offer similar systems in that area.

Today, under a new development and licensing deal between Google and the Alcon eyewear division at Novartis, the two companies said they will create a smart contact lens that contains a low power microchip and an almost invisible, hair-thin electronic circuit. The lens can measure diabetics’ blood sugar levels directly from tear fluid on the surface of the eyeball. The system sends data to a mobile device to keep the individual informed.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin said  the company wanted to use “the latest technology in ‘minituarisation’ of electronics” in order to improve people’s “quality of life”.

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Jay Ostrowski's curator insight, July 16, 2014 7:52 AM

This is not directly related to mental health-yet, but shows how health technology is rapidly expanding.

jenii brain's curator insight, July 16, 2014 9:11 AM


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How machine learning is saving lives while saving hospitals money

How machine learning is saving lives while saving hospitals money | healthcare technology |

When most people leave the hospital after a lengthy stay, they probably assume they won’t be coming back again soon to deal with the same problem. Unfortunately, that’s often just wishful thinking. In fact, re-admissions — sometimes within just a couple weeks — are such a big problem that the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) includes measures to address the problem.

Put simply, the law provides financial incentives for hospitals to improve readmission rates and financial sticks with which to punish hospitals where the problem persists. Improve the problem, get more funding. Keep readmitting patients within short windows after discharge, don’t get paid for treatment. The latter scenario is bad for patients and bad for hospitals.

According to studies, about a quarter of Medicare patients treated for heart failure are readmitted within 30 days, and heart-failure re-admissions alone cost Medicare about $15 billion a year. Predictions about how many of those are preventable range from less than 20 percent up the the Department of Health and Human Services estimate of 75 percent.

“If you can predict that, that’s a huge, huge cost saving for the hospitals,” said Ankur Teredesai, who manages the Center for Data Science at the University of Washington, Tacoma.

However, help might be on the way thanks to a research project by Teredesai and his Center for Data Science colleagues. It’s called the Risk-O-Meter, and it’s already being used by one hospital system in the Seattle area. Now, the researchers who created it are looking to commercialize it, either by licensing the access to the cloud-based service or by starting their own company.

Under the hood of the web and mobile applications that allow doctors to enter patient information and receive a risk score is a machine learning system that analyzes more than 100 attributes about each patient. These range from standard stuff such as vital signs, lab results and medical history to more-personal stuff such as a patient’s demographic information and living conditions.

However, the Risk-O-Meter has much more utility than simply as a one-off risk-scoring app, Teredesai explained. Risk scores change as patients progress through treatment, helping doctors to evaluate treatment options on an ongoing basis. Even after patients leave the hospital, hospital staff can benefit from alerts indicating it’s a good time to check up on a patient, or to call with reminders about taking medication.

Doctors can also drill down into the data in order to figure out what factors are causing a score to spike. This type of analysis is important because a high score could be caused by a non-medical factor that’s easy enough to account for once a patient is discharged. For example, Teredesai said, “The chances of then getting readmitted are higher — much higher — if [patients] live alone. … The models actually show that.”

What might be most appealing about the Risk-O-Meter is that it’s a broadly deployable cloud service that promises better patient outcomes while also helping hospitals where it matters most to them — their bottom lines. Hospital CIOs and administrators know they need to do both, and anything that can plausibly deliver has to at least get a serious look.

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Social Network Sites as a Mode to Collect Health Data

Social Network Sites as a Mode to Collect Health Data | healthcare technology |

Background: To date, health research literature has focused on social network sites (SNS) either as tools to deliver health care, to study the effect of these networks on behavior, or to analyze Web health content. Less is known about the effectiveness of these sites as a method for collecting data for health research and the means to use such powerful tools in health research.

Objective: The objective of this study was to systematically review the available literature and explore the use of SNS as a mode of collecting data for health research. The review aims to answer four questions: Does health research employ SNS as method for collecting data? Is data quality affected by the mode of data collection? What types of participants were reached by SNS? What are the strengths and limitations of SNS?

Results: The inclusion criteria were met by 10 studies and results were analyzed descriptively to answer the review questions. There were four main results.

(1) SNS have been used as a data collection tool by health researchers; all but 1 of the included studies were cross-sectional and quantitative.

(2) Data quality indicators that were reported include response rate, cost, timeliness, missing data/completion rate, and validity. However, comparison was carried out only for response rate and cost as it was unclear how other reported indicators were measured.

(3)The most targeted population were females and younger people.

(4) All studies stated that SNS is an effective recruitment method but that it may introduce a sampling bias.

Conclusions: SNS has a role in health research, but we need to ascertain how to use it effectively without affecting the quality of research. The field of SNS is growing rapidly, and it is necessary to take advantage of the strengths of this tool and to avoid its limitations by effective research design. This review provides an important insight for scholars who plan to conduct research using SNS.

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Experiential Virtual Scenarios With Real-Time Monitoring for the Management of Psychological Stress

Experiential Virtual Scenarios With Real-Time Monitoring for the Management of Psychological Stress | healthcare technology |

Background: The recent convergence between technology and medicine is offering innovative methods and tools for behavioral health care. Among these, an emerging approach is the use of virtual reality (VR) within exposure-based protocols for anxiety disorders, and in particular posttraumatic stress disorder. However, no systematically tested VR protocols are available for the management of psychological stress.

Objective: Our goal was to evaluate the efficacy of a new technological paradigm, Interreality, for the management and prevention of psychological stress. The main feature of Interreality is a twofold link between the virtual and the real world achieved through experiential virtual scenarios (fully controlled by the therapist, used to learn coping skills and improve self-efficacy) with real-time monitoring and support (identifying critical situations and assessing clinical change) using advanced technologies (virtual worlds, wearable biosensors, and smartphones).

Results: Although both treatments were able to significantly reduce perceived stress better than WL, only EG participants reported a significant reduction (EG=12% vs CG=0.5%) in chronic “trait” anxiety. A similar pattern was found for coping skills: both treatments were able to significantly increase most coping skills, but only EG participants reported a significant increase (EG=14% vs CG=0.3%) in the Emotional Support skill.

Conclusions: Our findings provide initial evidence that the Interreality protocol yields better outcomes than the traditionally accepted gold standard for psychological stress treatment: CBT. Consequently, these findings constitute a sound foundation and rationale for the importance of continuing future research in technology-enhanced protocols for psychological stress management.

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Hospitals hope to predict illness by analyzing your spending habits

Hospitals hope to predict illness by analyzing your spending habits | healthcare technology |

Advertisers aren't the only ones interested in your spending habits — hospitals and insurance companies are taking note as well. Carolinas HealthCare, which operates hundreds of healthcare facilities from hospitals to nursing homes and care centers throughout North and South Carolina, is purchasing transaction data and other information on its patients to try and get ahead of any medical problems, according toBloomberg Businessweek.

The data, including purchase history and information like car loans, is put through an algorithm that gives a risk score to patients. That score can then be shared with doctors. A representative from Carolinas HealthCare tells the magazine that it plans to start routinely giving those scores to health-care professionals in two years' time, and it hopes to do more with the data.

It currently can't pass along detailed information — like what its patients are purchasing — to doctors, but the company hopes it can renegotiate with its (undisclosed) data provider to give professionals access to that as well. Nevertheless, under the current system, data like whether patients have open gym memberships or how often they purchase cigarettes is used in the score calculation.

Both insurance companies and hospitals are interested in using consumer data in this way to help cut costs. While insurance companies are no longer allowed to increase premiums or deny coverage under Obamacare based on preexisting health conditions, companies can save money by trying to proactively prevent health conditions based on the data. Alternatively, hospitals can identify patients who are likely to heavily lean on emergency room visits instead of regular check-ups, and proactively provide resources to help cut down costly ER trips.


nrip's insight:

I was a little scared as I read this. And I don't think its a great idea. But my opinion on the concept aside, the potential of what it can achieve is promising. 

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5 Myths About Consumer Use of Digital Healthcare Services

5 Myths About Consumer Use of Digital Healthcare Services | healthcare technology |

A recent international survey by the McKinsey & Company consulting firm addresses some myths about consumer use of digital healthcare services.

Many healthcare executives believe that, due to the sensitive nature of medical care, patients don’t want to use digital services except in a few specific situations. Decision makers often cite relatively low usage of digital healthcare services. Results of this survey however reveal something quite different. 

The 5 myths debunked by this survey are as follows

Myth 1: People don’t want to use digital services for healthcareMyth 2: Only young people want to use digital services

Myth 3: Mobile health is the game changer
Myth 4: Patients want innovative features and apps
Myth 5: A comprehensive platform of service offerings is a prerequisite for creating value

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Wearables: A Solution Searching For Problems?

Wearables: A Solution Searching For Problems? | healthcare technology |

Wearables, devices used to sense data and process it into information, are generating quite the buzz in healthcare these days. But down the line, does that buzz come with a sting?

In Wearable Tech News, Tony Rizzo reports wearable technology spending predictions of $50 billion by 2018. He also reports on a ground-breaking, glucose-sensing contact lens for diabetics that will be a “true solution for a very real medical problem that affects hundreds of millions of people.”

By 2016, wearable wireless medical device sales will reach more than 100 million devices, according to a Cisco blog on the future of mobility in healthcare. The importance of these devices is that healthcare professionals can access critical data via mobile apps before, during and after a patient’s hospitalization, thus boosting the speed and accuracy of patient care, the blog says.

The Age of Wearables has a few caveats, though – note that a doctor “can,” “could,” “may” or “potentially” be able to monitor a patient from a wearable, as the products are still under development. One product cites unpublished research as support, and another uses a modality, thermography, that the National Cancer Institute states has no additional benefit for breast cancer screening.

The new, intense focus on wearables is the engagement of the general public, both the ill and the well, and how they collect and transmit patient information to physicians and EHRs. This presents two challenges:

1. Are physicians prepared for this tidal wave of data and information?

2. What is the true cost of the data surge versus its benefits?

Like all healthcare information technology, wearables have huge potential – married to massive challenges. 

Mike Rucker's curator insight, July 20, 2014 1:38 AM

The answer to #1 from the doctors I have spoken with is a resounding no. The answer to #2 is a bit more complicated.

Maria Wolters's curator insight, August 25, 2014 10:50 AM

Interesting critique of wearables

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A System That Reverses Paralysis

A System That  Reverses Paralysis | healthcare technology |

On December 5, 2011, Andrew Meas wiggled his toes for the first time since a motorcycle accident four years earlier paralyzed him from the chest down. Within a week, he was beginning to stand. Meas’s remarkable (albeit partial) recovery comes courtesy of a groundbreaking use of an electrode array implanted over his spinal cord. 

For decades, researchers have been seeking ways to help the millions of people with spinal cord injuries regain control of their limbs, with frustratingly little success. The new device provides a rare glimmer of hope. Scientists at the University of Louisville’s Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center, where Meas and three other patients received their im­plants, speculate that the stimu­lation may be reawakening connections between the brain and the body. “There’s residual circuitry that we can recover that no one realized was possible to do,” says Reggie Edgerton, director of the Neuromuscular Research Laboratory at the University of California, Los Angeles. “We were shocked.” 

Some of the benefits, such as better bowel and bladder control and improved blood pressure, remain even when the device is switched off. Electrical stimulation isn’t a cure, of course. The patients still can’t walk. And the stimulation must be customized for each individual, a time-consuming process. But it’s an enormous advance nonetheless. Says Edgerton, “It opens up a whole new mechanism of recovery.” 

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ProTransport-1 to Deploy Google Glass in Ambulances and Mobile Medicine Units

ProTransport-1 to Deploy Google Glass in Ambulances and Mobile Medicine Units | healthcare technology |

ProTransport-1, a Northern California based medical transport provider has announced a software partnership with CrowdOptic, maker of mobile and wearable broadcasting solutions to deploy the CrowdOptic Google Glass broadcasting solution in its ambulances and mobile medicine units.

ProTransport-1 will use CrowdOptic’s software solution that will allow paramedics and nurses to broadcast through Google Glass a live view of complex cases from the ambulance to medical teams at the receiving hospital during transport. According to the press release, the companies aim to “improve documentation and expand medical consultative opportunities for patients en route.

“CrowdOptic’s see-what-I-see technology allows paramedics and nurses on our ambulances to broadcast the live view of complex cases to medical teams at the hospital”, said Glenn Leland, Chief Strategy Officer for ProTransport-1.

Additionally, ProTransport-1 envisions multiple opportunities to utilize CrowdOptic’s software particularly in the mobile medical setting by enabling a two-way educational forum between a patient in their home and providers.  “We additionally envision a variety of dispatch, navigation, documentation and operational processes will migrate to CrowdOptic and Google Glass over time” said Glenn Leland, Chief Strategy Officer for ProTransport-1.

ChemaCepeda's curator insight, July 18, 2014 7:41 AM

Una de las múltiples utilidades de las Google Glass en salud es su aplicación en el ámbito de las emergencias, como forma de transmisión de información en directo a las centrales de coordinación, como para soporte visual durante el tratamiento de los pacientes. ¿Acabaremos llevándolas como un dispositivo de trabajo más?

Marco Antonio Gonzalez's curator insight, July 18, 2014 11:25 AM

Google Glass in Emergency

RixhPlayZ's curator insight, July 22, 2014 4:24 AM

Smart Doctor That uses Google Glasses.!!

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Personalized medicine for breast cancer patients may be just around the corner

Personalized medicine for breast cancer patients may be just around the corner | healthcare technology |

For breast cancer patients, the era of personalized medicine may be just around the corner, thanks to recent advances by USC Stem Cell researcher Min Yu and scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

In a July 11 study in Science, Yu and hercolleagues report how they isolated breastcancer cells circulating through the blood streams of six patients. Some of these deadly cancer cells are the "seeds" of metastasis, which travel to and establish secondary tumors in vital organs such as the bone, lungs, liver and brain.

Yu and her colleagues managed to expand this small number of cancer cells in the laboratory over a period of more than six months, enabling the identification of new mutations and the evaluation of drug susceptibility.

If perfected, this technique could eventually allow doctors to do the same: use cancer cells isolated from patients' blood to monitor the progression of their diseases, pre-test drugs and personalize treatment plans accordingly.

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Bringing Big Data Analytics To Health Care

Bringing Big Data Analytics To Health Care | healthcare technology |

Big data offers breakthrough possibilities for new research and discoveries, better patient care, and greater efficiency in health and health care, as detailed in the July issue of Health Affairs. As with any new tool or technique, there is a learning curve.

Here are some guidelines to help take full advantage of big data's potential:

Acquire the “right” data for the project, even if it might be difficult to obtain.

Many organizations – both inside and outside of health care – tend to stick with the data that’s easily accessible and that they’re comfortable with, even if it provides only a partial picture and doesn’t successfully unlock the value big data analytics may offer. But we have found that when organizations develop a “weighted data wish list” and allocate their resources towards acquiring high-impact data sources as well as easy-to-acquire sources, they discover greater returns on their big data investment.

Ensure that initial pilots have wide applicability.

Health organizations will get the most from big data when everyone sees the value and participates. Too often, though, initial analytics projects may be so self-contained that it is hard to see how any of the results might apply elsewhere in the organization.

Before using new data, make sure you know its provenance (where it came from) and its lineage (what’s been done to it).

Often in the excitement of big data, decision-makers and project staff forget this basic advice. They are often in a hurry to immediately start data mining efforts to search for unknown patterns and anomalies. We’ve seen many cases where such new data wasn’t properly scrutinized – and where supposed patterns and anomalies later turned out to be irrelevant or grossly misleading.

Don’t start with a solution; introduce a problem and consult with a data scientist.

Unlike conventional analytics platforms, big data platforms can easily allow subject-matter experts direct access to the data, without the need for database administrators or others to serve as intermediaries in making queries. This provides health researchers with an unprecedented ability to explore the data – to pursue promising leads, search for patterns and follow hunches, all in real time. We have found, however, that many organizations don’t take advantage of this capability.

Health organizations often build a big data platform, but fail to take full advantage of it. They continue to use the small-data approaches they’re accustomed to, or they rush headlong into big data, forgetting best practices in analytics.

It’s important to aim for initial pilots with wide applicability, a clear understanding of where one’s data comes from, and an approach that starts with a problem, not a solution. Perhaps the hardest task is finding the right balance.

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BlackBerry boosts mHealth interoperability with new OS

BlackBerry boosts mHealth interoperability with new OS | healthcare technology |

With the unveiling of a new clinical operating system for medical devices, BlackBerry is once again making a play for mHealth.

QNX Software Systems, which was acquired by BlackBerry in 2010, has released a new operating system that's billed as being IEC 62304-compliant. With its sights set on alleviating the regulatory and financial burden for device manufacturers, the operating system supports both single- and multicore devices based on ARMv7 and Intel x86 processors. The OS also features an application programming interface to make it compatible with other QNX operating systems, officials said.

"When it comes to medical device software, the OS sets the tone: Unless it provides the architecture to enable reliable operation and a clear audit trail to substantiate claims about its dependability, the entire process of device approval can be put in jeopardy," said Grant Courville, QNX's director of product management, in a July 15 press statement. "By providing an OS that has been independently verified to comply with the IEC 62304 standard, we are helping manufacturers reduce the cost and effort of developing devices that require regulatory approval from agencies such as the FDA, MDD and MHRA."

This is far from BlackBerry's first big move into the healthcare space. In April, the telecommunications behemoth lent financial support to cloud-based health IT company NantHealth, a startup spearheaded by billionaire healthcare mogul Patrick Soon-Shiong, MD.

"We've built supercomputers that can do the genomic analysis in real-time; we've built super computers that can actually take feeds of CT scans from EMRs and feed it directly to mobile devices. All of that, regardless of where it comes from, regardless of the EMR, regardless of the device, whether it be via ventilator, or IV tube, we're agnostic to, and it speaks to this operating system," said Soon-Shiong.

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EHR Analysis More Effective, Cost Efficient Than Clinical Trials

The use of electronic health records to identify the best treatment option for patients is more efficient and less costly than the current clinical trial process, according to a study published in the journal Health Technology Assessment

Study Details

For the study, which was funded in part by the National Institute for Health Research and the Welcome Trust, researchers from several universities in the United Kingdom, used a new computer program in 23 approved general practitioners across England and Scotland.

The first part of the study used 300 patients' electronic health records, which are stored in the Clinical Practice Research Datalink and updated during routine medical visits, to monitor the effects of their prescribed treatments.

A second part of the study, which involved 31 participants, looked at the use of antibiotics among patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Study Findings

The researchers determined that they were able to understand health patterns related to specific prescribed medications and determine which treatments were more effective by analyzing EHRs.

They added that the EHR analysis offers a larger and more diverse overview of the general population than current clinical trial methods.

The researchers also noted that using EHRs allows the analysis to be conducted with minimal effects on the lives of the patients, whose involvement in the process stops after their initial consent.

According to the researchers, 26 out of 27 general practitioners who participated in the study expressed strong support for the use of patients' EHRs for research purposes. In addition, 10 patients who were interviewed by the researchers all said that their involvement in trial was an acceptable practice

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Genetic researchers have a new tool in API-controlled lab robots

Genetic researchers have a new tool in API-controlled lab robots | healthcare technology |

A life-sciences-as-a-service startup called Transcriptic has opened its APIs to the general public, allowing researchers around the world offload tedious lab work to robots so researchers can spend more of their time analyzing the results.

Using a set of APIs, researchers can now command Transcriptic’s purpose-built robots to process, analyze, and store their genetic or biological samples, and receive results in days.

The high concept idea, says Founder and CEO Max Hodak, is cloud computing for life sciences — only with “robotic work cells” instead of servers on the other end. “We see the lab in terms of the devices that make it up,” he said, meaning stuff like incubators, freezers, liquid handlers and robotic arms to replace human arms.

And although Transcriptic’s technology is complex, the process for getting work done is actually pretty simple. Researchers write code to tell the robots exactly what to do with the samples (right now, the company focuses on molecular cloning, genotyping, bacteria-growing and bio-banking), and then they send their samples to the Transcriptic lab.

Alternatively, Transcriptic’s robotic infrastructure can also synthesize samples for users.

And although Transcriptic’s technology is complex, the process for getting work done is actually pretty simple.

Researchers write code to tell the robots exactly what to do with the samples (right now, the company focuses on molecular cloning, genotyping, bacteria-growing and bio-banking), and then they send their samples to the Transcriptic lab. Alternatively, Transcriptic’s robotic infrastructure can also synthesize samples for users.

When the job is done, researchers get their results. That process can take anywhere from a day to weeks, Hodak explained, in part because the company’s operation is still pretty small and in part because “cells only grow and divide so quickly.”

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70 percent of physicians now send prescriptions electronically

70 percent of physicians now send prescriptions electronically | healthcare technology |

New numbers from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT show that far more doctors are filing prescriptions electronically than in 2008.

As of the end of April, 70 percent of doctors say that they are using the e-prescribing function common in electronic health record (EHR) software to send prescriptions to pharmacies.

The prescription pad, the phone, and the fax machine have been the dominant means of writing prescriptions for most of medicine’s modern age.

Just 4 percent of new prescriptions and refills were filed electronically in 2008. By 2013, that number had risen to 57 percent.

“We believe that financial incentives can drive providers’ adoption and use of health information technology, such as e-prescribing, and that health information networks can be a powerful tool in tracking incentives’ progress,” the authors said.

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How Twitter can be used to address specific health issues

How Twitter can be used to address specific health issues | healthcare technology |

A new study led by Jenine K. Harris, PhD, examined the use of the hashtag #childhoodobesity in tweets to track Twitter conversations about the issue of overweight kids.

The study noted that conversations involving childhood obesity on Twitter don't often include comments from representatives of government and public health organizations that likely have evidence relating to how best to approach this issue. The authors think maybe they should.

Twitter use is growing nationwide. In its 2014 Twitter update, the Pew Research Center found that Twitter is used more by those in lower-income groups, which traditionally are more difficult to reach with health information.

While younger Americans also are more likely to use Twitter, it is used equally across education groups and is used more by non-white Americans than whites.

This, Harris said, is one of the reasons Twitter is an avenue that the academic and government sources with accurate health information should consider taking advantage of in order to reach a wide variety of people.

"I think public health so far doesn't have a great game plan for using social media, we're still laying the foundation for that," she said. "We're still learning what works.

"Public health communities, politicians, and government sources -- people who really know what works -- should join in the conversation. Then we might be able to make an impact," she said.

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Do you use social media for your health questions and research? 

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Electronic health records ripe for theft

Electronic health records ripe for theft | healthcare technology |

America’s medical records systems are flirting with disaster, say the experts who monitor crime in cyberspace. A hack that exposes the medical and financial records of hundreds of thousands of patients is coming, they say — it’s only a matter of when.

As health data become increasingly digital and the use of electronic health records booms, thieves see patient records in a vulnerable health care system as attractive bait, according to experts interviewed by POLITICO. On the black market, a full identity profile contained in a single record can bring as much as $500.

“What I think it’s going to lead to, if it hasn’t already, is an arms race between the criminal element and the people trying to protect health data,” said Robert Wah, president of the American Medical Association and chief medical officer at the health technology firm CSC. “I think the health data stewards are probably a little behind in the race. The criminal elements are incredibly sophisticated.”

The infamous Target breach occurred last year when hackers stole login information through the retailer’s heating and air system. Although experts aren’t sure what a major health care hack would look like, previous data breaches have resulted in identity and financial theft, and health care fraud.

Significant breaches are already occurring. Over the course of three days, hackers using a Chinese IP address infiltrated the St. Joseph Health System in Bryan, Texas, and exposed the information of 405,000 individuals, gaining names, address, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and other information.

It was the third-largest health data breach tracked by the federal government.

The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center reported late last year that hackers attacked its computer systems over a course of two months trying to steal credit card, Social Security and other financial information. About 59,000 clients and former clients were left vulnerable.

While a stolen credit card or Social Security number fetches $1 or less on the black market, a person’s medical information can yield hundreds of times more, according to the World Privacy Forum. Thieves want to hack the data to gain access to health insurance, prescription drugs or just a person’s financial information

The Identify Theft Resource Center — which has identified 353 breaches in 2014 across industries it tracks, says almost half occurred in the health sector. Criminal attacks on health data have doubled since 2000, according to the Ponemon Institute, an industry leader in data security.

Health care is the industry sector least prepared for a cyberattack, according to security ratings firm BitSight Technologies. The industry had the highest volume of threats and the slowest response time, leading the FBI in April to issue a warning to health care providers.

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The Role of Facebook in Crush the Crave - Mobile & #hcsm Smoking Cessation Intervention

The Role of Facebook in Crush the Crave - Mobile & #hcsm Smoking Cessation Intervention | healthcare technology |

The Role of Facebook in Crush the Crave, a Mobile- and Social Media-Based Smoking Cessation Intervention: Qualitative Framework Analysis of Posts

Background: Social networking sites, particularly Facebook, are increasingly included in contemporary smoking cessation interventions directed toward young adults. Little is known about the role of Facebook in smoking cessation interventions directed toward this age demographic.

Objective: The aim of this study was to characterize the content of posts on the Facebook page of Crush the Crave, an evidence-informed smoking cessation intervention directed toward young adults aged 19 to 29 years.

Results: We found that the original Crush the Crave Facebook posts served two main purposes: to support smoking cessation and to market Crush the Crave.

Most of the original posts (86/121, 71.1%) conveyed support of smoking cessation through the following 7 subthemes: encouraging cessation, group stimulation, management of cravings, promoting social support, denormalizing smoking, providing health information, and exposing tobacco industry tactics. The remaining original posts (35/121, 28.9%) aimed to market Crush the Crave through 2 subthemes: Crush the Crave promotion and iPhone 5 contest promotion.

Most of the reply posts (214/278, 77.0%) were in response to the supporting smoking cessation posts and the remaining 64 (23.0%) were in response to the marketing Crush the Crave posts.

The most common response to both the supporting smoking cessation and marketing Crush the Crave posts was user engagement with the images associated with each post at 40.2% (86/214) and 45% (29/64), respectively.

The second most common response consisted of users sharing their smoking-related experiences. More users shared their smoking-related experiences in response to the supporting smoking cessation posts (81/214, 37.9%) compared to the marketing Crush the Crave posts (11/64, 17%).

With the exception of 4 posts, a moderator posted all the original posts. In addition, although 56.00% (18,937/33,815) of Crush the Crave Facebook page users were men, only 19.8% (55/278) of the reply posts were made by men.

Finally, men were found to be more likely to express sarcasm or make strong assertions about quitting smoking and Crush the Crave than women.

Conclusions: The CTC Facebook page presents as a unique platform for supporting young adult smoking cessation at all stages of the cessation process. The findings of this study indicate that social networking sites, especially Facebook, warrant inclusion in tobacco control efforts directed towards young adults. Research on effectiveness of the Facebook page for quitting smoking is needed.

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FDA Looks to Urge Companies to Tweet Drug Risks

FDA Looks to Urge Companies to Tweet Drug Risks | healthcare technology |

The FDA is looking into a new way to regulate drugs and medical devices—by using social media. The agency has drafted social media guidelines that would urge drug companies to use platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, to educate the public about the risks of their prescription drug or medical device.

The draft guidelines, which are currently under review by the agency, propose that companies be required to use the “character space constraints” on social media platforms such as Twitter to tweet the risks, along with the benefits, of a product. The guidelines also recommend that manufacturers include a link that takes readers to more information about the product. In the case of Twitter, that information should all be included in a single tweet.

    If a firm concludes that adequate benefit and risk information, as well as other required information, cannot all be communicated within the same character-space-limited communication, then the firm should reconsider using that platform for the intended promotional message.

If approved, the guidelines will become the first formal recommendation by the agency regarding manufacturers’ use of social media.

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iPatientCare Updates the miGlass Wearable EHR App Platform

iPatientCare Updates the miGlass Wearable EHR App Platform | healthcare technology |

iPatientCare announced the update of the miGlasss, the first wearable EHR App for the Google Glass, by adding options healthcare professionals will be able to exploit in their day-to-day activities by addressing the new demands a connected working environment presents.

According to iPatientCare, its goal was to give care givers the ability to interact with their patients by accessing the right information whenever they need it to deliver better care.

The new version extends functionality available on the iPad, Android and web to Google Glass. This gives physicians and other practitioners access to patient information while in mid-care, without having to go to their desktop computers, laptops, or tablets to retrieve it. Whether it is X-Rays or MRIs, physicians will now be able to see what they need in real-time.

"We constantly work to explore how doctors can achieve better access to the right information at the right time so they can focus on providing better care to the patients. Physicians are looking for ways to spending quality time with patients rather than spending it on bureaucratic tasks such as entering data into a computer. The ease of use on both ends, namely, the Glass and the EHR, makes the difference,"said Kedar Mehta, CTO, iPatientCare.

The technology available on the miGlass includes:

  • Web browser based EHR and PM System
  • Microsoft .net Technology
  • Services Oriented Architecture
  • HL7 CCD and ASTM CCR for Interoperability
  • HL7 Integration with leading Lab
  • Information Systems
  • SureScripts/RxHUB Certified ePrescribing
  • Reporting & Analytics using Cognos and Business Objects
  • Available on iPhone and iPad

The miGlass app can also be used by patients to provide medication reminders, appointments, alerts, and patient education. Engaging patients with a device they have with them at all times means they will be less likely to make mistakes with their medication, or miss any other kind of therapy, by delivering real-time information.

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