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The ways in which technology benefits healthcare
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Technology is moving on but don’t assume the Doctors using it are…

Technology is moving on but don’t assume the Doctors using it are… | healthcare technology |

“Virtual” Consulting


It’s unsurprising that people who have never done a remote video consultation with a Doctor refer to it as a “virtual” experience. But there is NOTHING virtual about a registered Doctor consulting with you about your health over video especially if they have your full history.


Arguing it is ‘virtual’ is to my mind like claiming I virtually flew to the Middle East last last week because I arranged it all online.


“Morning! morning Doctor how are you today? Good, can you tell me your name please?”


These opening lines of the video suggest to me this Doctor has very little experience of effective remote consulting.


I’m quite confident of this as in 6 years of offering 3G Doctor we’ve never had to ask a patient to tell us their name. Why? Because it’s not an effective way to ensure the identity of your patient (you should at least be referring to a stored facial image in their EMR), there are better ways (like discussing the details in the history they’ve shared before the consultation), it’s a waste of time that’s akin to the lack of purpose and pointlessness you pick up from video call demos in which participants wave to one another due to their discomfort and lack of focus.


“Telemedicine is a fairly new medium”


Really? Ever consider the work of the Royal Flying Doctors? Ever wonder how the Navy, oil rig workers or Astronauts access care?


“I don’t think it will replace traditional medicine. It will just be an adjunct for patients who have simple issues or who are between Doctors or need a refill”

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Experts: Use patients to reduce errors in electronic records

Giving patients better access to their electronic health records is not only part of Stage 2 of Meaningful Use. It's also an effective way to improve the quality of the data, according to a panel of experts who spoke on a recent webinar hosted by the National e-health Collaborative, a public-private partnership established by a grant from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) to foster national health information exchange (HIE).

"You can't proofread your own stuff. You have to have a second pair of eyes," said speaker Dave deBronkart, co-chair of the Society for Participatory Medicine.


DeBronkart pointed out that patients often catch mistakes in their medical records. He likened bad data to an infectious disease, which spreads like "crazy" if not fixed.

However, more research is needed to determine the best way to provide patients with access to their electronic records, said Prashila Dullabh, Health IT program area director of NORC, a research organizatrion affiliated with the University of Chicago. "There is great variety in how EHRs handle amendments," she said.

One promising way to share data with patients and correct mistakes is to use patient portals tethered to EHRs, Norman Sondeimer, Ph.D., co-director of the electronic enterprise institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst said during the webinar. A recent study of eight hospitals' patient portals found that the portals can encourage feedback using a feedback button embedded on the screen. Then an icon can identify that the patient suggested an edit to the data, giving the provider the opportunity to review and formally change the medical record.


While the concept of providing patients access to their digital data didn't appear controversial, there are concerns that requiring it of all hospitals to meet Stage 2 of Meaningful Use may not be practicable. The American Hospital Association (AHA) noted in its comment letter on the proposed rule for Stage 2 that the requirement raises security issues and that many hospitals do not yet have the technical capability.

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Cloud Computing Won’t Be the Death of Client Server EMR – Something Else Will Be

One of the all time favorite topics of discussion here at EMR and HIPAA is around SaaS EHR software versus client server EHR software. They each go by many other names and the technical among us might know the hard core technical difference between each, but most doctors don’t know and don’t care.


SaaS EHR software is often called hosted EHR software or ASP EHR software or even Cloud Computing if you want to use a general term. Client Server EHR software is sometimes called in house EHR software or self hosted EHR software. I’m sure there are other names I missed.


Regardless of what you call it, many people (usually those from SaaS software vendors) believe that client server software will lose out to the cloud. It’s hard to argue with them since in almost every other industry cloud based software has won.


Here’s why I don’t think we’re going to spell the death of client server software for a long time to come. Client server is going to be here for a long time because of such wide adoption by so many doctors.


Not to mention, many of the client server EHR systems are really large implementations that would be hard to displace. Plus, there are many doctors who don’t care about the mobile benefits of a SaaS based EHR software. Quite a few doctors want to only use their EHR software in their office.


Certainly there are others on a client server based EHR system which will want to access their EHR outside of their office. Unfortunately, instead of EHR replacement we’re likely to see a hybrid environment that supports client server and some sort of app environment come out of the various client server EHR vendors.


Sure, a lot of doctors will also use Citrix or other remote desktop environments and hate the user experience, but it will pacify them until the hybrid EHR environment is built. In fact, that hate towards the remote desktop environment on a mobile device will drive the development of this hybrid approach. The advantages of a client server environment with an app connection will keep the client server environment around for a while.


So, while many want to declare the death to client server, I’m not ready to do so. Sure, SaaS EHR software has its advantages, but client server software isn’t going to go down without a fight and they’re going to be around for a while since in many cases they hold the high ground.

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The Growing Power of Social Media in Healthcare

The Growing Power of Social Media in Healthcare | healthcare technology |

I remember the first time Twitter had an actual impact on my life, rather than just acting as a meaningless platform for me to vent and comment. Ironically, it was during one of my venting sessions.


After moving to a new apartment, I was having trouble understanding why there was money owed on the cable bill from my previous apartment. I complained about my previous cable provider for making my life needlessly difficult in an innocuous tweet. Shortly thereafter a representative from the company contacted me and offered to help clear up my conundrum, which he ultimately did.


This kind of customer service floored me. I didn’t expect it at all.


Going the extra step and appealing to consumers, while tapping into their concerns in this way, is the kind of phenomenon that’s starting to occur in healthcare, and one hopes will become even more frequent as providers and payers implement social media business strategies.


In a recent conversation I had with John Edwards, director of the healthcare strategy and business intelligence practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), he talked about how social media can improve patient experiences and drive engagement for providers, payers, and pharmaceutical companies.

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EU e-Privacy: Can Cookies be bad for health?

EU e-Privacy: Can Cookies be bad for health? | healthcare technology |

For quite a long time, the majority of people have used websites blissfully unaware of the level to which their online habits could be used to develop a profile by advertisers, companies and governments; information which might be the basis of targeting with customised messages or observation.


No pun intended, but ‘Target’ (a discount store chain) recently made waves in the media when it became clear that their ability to mine customer information from multiple channels had helped them to identify that a father’s daughter was pregnant before he himself knew about it.


While this instance was not necessarily about online shopping, the concept of gleaning customer relationship management data is familiar – even more so when using website technology. This may not particularly bother someone who is using Amazon to buy some books, however when it comes to health information, many people consider this to be one of the most important, personal and sensitive areas of our lives. Individuals will often choose carefully how and when they reveal detail about conditions or illnesses that they may be experiencing.


The idea that a company might send an email to congratulate you on your pregnancy – even potentially before you yourself became aware of it – is either disturbing, or exciting, depending on your attitude to technology and privacy.


Cookies and multi-channel marketing


Pharmaceutical companies are, like most digitally-enabled information providers, increasingly looking to integrate touch-points and measurement across multiple channels and campaigns. One way of achieving this is through the use of tracking cookies. It is not always an easy thing to do in practice, yet even when successful in an approach for implementation, a brand can then still face new hurdles around a person’s individual privacy preference.


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Will EHR adoption encourage information exchange

Will EHR adoption encourage information exchange | healthcare technology |

A fully networked healthcare system in which a majority of providers are using electronic health records (EHR) is supposed to save us from inefficient, redundant and disconnected healthcare, which essentially describes the HealthIT system today. But is this necessarily the case?


One expert thinks not. In a recent article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Julia Adler-Milstein suggested that high rates of EHR adoption will not necessarily lead to increased data exchange. CMIO reports that she doubted the future of information transfer because it raises many privacy concerns, there is a lack of interoperability, meaningful use excludes some healthcare organizations and physicians lack interest.


Adler-Milstein saw this last point as the most challenging. The fact that patients can take their health information with them to whichever provider they choose may be seen as a competitive disadvantage by some physicians. Additionally, using data from past encounters, much of which may have been collected by other doctors, to make treatment and diagnosis decisions is a new thing that some physicians may resist.


The article threw some seriously cold water in the face of proponents of EHRs and their ability to facilitate information exchange. Up until this point few commentators had anything negative to say about the prospects for data transfer in a future dominated by EHRs. The issues raised in the article certainly give the industry something to think about. So what about it? Should we believe that data transfer will be more limited than many people believe?

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The DOs and DON'Ts of Healthcare Technology

Over the past year, we began to evaluate the “Dos and Don'ts” in hospital technology and have comprised a list that we hope is helpful to all:


Do start implementing cloud-based services. Don’t think, though, that just because you are implementing cloud services that you will have less infrastructure or related work to do. Cloud services, especially in the SaaS realm, are “application-centric” solutions and as such the infrastructure requirements remain pretty substantial – especially the sophistication of the network infrastructure.

Do consider programmable and app-driven content management and document management systems as a core for their electronic health records instead of special-purpose EHR systems written decades ago. Don’t install new EHRs that don’t have robust document management capabilities. Do consider EHRs that can be easily integrated with document and content management systems like SharePoint or Alfresco.

Do go after virtualization for almost all apps – as soon as possible, make it so that no applications are sitting in physical servers. Don’t invest more in any apps that cannot easily be virtualized.

Do start looking at location-based asset tracking and app functionality; your equipment should be aware of where it’s physically sitting and be able to “find itself” and “track itself” using location-based awareness. Don’t invest heavily in systems that can not support location-based awareness (like potentially allow or disallow logins based on where someone is logging in from as well as enable / disable certain features in applications on where logins are occurring).

Do start implementing single sign on and common identity management with CCOW integration. Don’t invest in any systems that cannot meet common identity or SSO requirements.

Don’t make long-term decisions on mobile app platforms like iOS and Android because the mobile world is still quite young and the war between Apple, Microsoft, and Google is nowhere near being resolved. A platform that looks strong today may be weak tomorrow and become legacy quickly; however, HTML5 is not going anywhere and will be ultimate winner of the next 15 years just like HTML4 is the winner from 1995 to now.

Do start investing in HTML 5 and CSS3 and away from HTML4.

Don’t install any more apps that require IE6/7 or older browsers and don’t invest in systems that don’t have HTML5 in their roadmaps.

Don’t write applications on top of legacy EHR platforms; write applications with proper HL7 connectivity and platform independence. Most EHR platforms are using technologies that are either ancient or need to be replaced; by integrating deeply but remaining independent of their technologies you’ll get the best of both worlds.

Don’t buy any medical devices from vendors that don’t have a deep and thorough medical device to healthcare IT enterprise connectivity strategy. If a device doesn’t have wired or wireless TCP/IP access, doesn’t have data export or HL7 connectivity is not worth purchasing.

Don’t buy any thick-client applications that do not have thin-client “remote viewers” available.

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Is HL7 Still Meaningful?

Is HL7 Still Meaningful? | healthcare technology |

While HITECH and Meaningful Use, Stage 1, primarily focused on get certified EHRs installed and operational, lingering in Stage 2 is actually exchanging patient data. Health Information Exchanges, or HIEs, are receiving a lot of attention and funding, and IHE Profiles are now finding real adoption in how data will be exchanged. IHE Profiles are getting respect, finally, which they may deserve.


To get the patient data flowing within any health care provider organization, though, requires HL7. HL7 is the clinical data standard, and many will scoff at the idea that this is a standard. It has been called a “framework for negotiation” more often than a healthcare standard.


Regardless, HL7 is part of the foundation in which any healthcare interface, integration, or interoperability initiative can begin. There are no “out-of-the-box” HL7 templates between two or more applications, since each application is implemented a little differently and HL7 is used with just a little modification. This is what creates the joy and opportunity for many healthcare interfacing teams in the essential work they do.


The key points to remember are:

There is software to make HL7 easier. In the commercial world, this software is usually called middleware. In healthcare, it is typically called an interface engine.

As it relates to Meaningful Use Stage 1, HL7 version 2.3.1 and HL7 version 2.5.1 are specifically called out as the ones to use. In the proposed Meaningful Use Stage 2 requirements, it is narrowed to just HL7 version 2.5.1.

HL7 is also responsible for the Continuity of Care Document, or CCD, standard as well as the Consolidated CDA initiative. This will be essential to deliver patient summary data to other providers as a patient transitions through a cycle of care. CCD is also the standard used to give patients their own data.


To answer the question in this post, yes, HL7 is still meaningful and relevant. 

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Accelerating Progress on EHR Adoption Rates and Achieving Meaningful Use

Accelerating Progress on EHR Adoption Rates and Achieving Meaningful Use | healthcare technology |
As spring quickly blends into summer, we at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) continue to see signs that providers and hospitals nationwide understand why electronic health record (EHR) adoption and achieving meaningful use is critical to improving patient care.


The number of providers and hospitals trading in their old fashioned paper records for EHRs and taking advantage of the assistance provided by the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs continues to climb each month with hundreds of thousands of additional providers registered and in queue to participate in the EHR Incentive Programs and get paid.


Preliminary data show that during the month of April alone, more than 17,000 eligible professionals and 280 eligible hospitals received payments under the EHR Incentive Programs. Since the EHR Incentive Programs started a little over a year ago, a total of approximately 90,000 eligible professionals and 2,250 hospitals—which is 42 percent of all eligible hospitals—have successfully participated in the program!


This success is attributable to the hard work of providers across the country who are diligently using the Stage 1 meaningful use criteria as a roadmap for improving patient care.
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6 ways big data can boost healthcare

A recently released report by Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation proves the value of big data is certainly something to take seriously. And as more organizations create plans to make better use of and leverage their big data, Joe Petro, senior vice president of healthcare research and development at Nuance Communications, believes the industry is on the brink of seeing some pretty remarkable things as a result.


Petro outlines six keys to the future of analytics and big data in healthcare.


1. Organizations are "drowning in information, but dying of thirst" at the same time. According to Petro, one CMIO at Nuance sums up the current state of big data eloquently: "When you're in the institution and you're trying to figure out what's going on and how to report on something, he says you're dying of thirst in a sea of information," he said. "And what he means by that is, there's a tremendous amount of information but a big data problem, and the issue is how do we tap into that to make sense of what's going on?" This question applies not only to the patient, Petro continued, but also to the government's plans in regard to disease and population management. "The issue is it isn't organized," he said. "It's a mixture of structured and unstructured data, and what's going to happen over the course of next several years is the government is imposing a tremendous amount of information for folks to report."

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Are online medical records safe?

Are online medical records safe? | healthcare technology |
Imagine if any medical practitioner could access your healthcare records at the click of a mouse. The emergency department could treat you more quickly, specialists could compare test results instantly and you wouldn’t have to remember the last time you had a tetanus shot.


Welcome to the world of eHealth, a program the Government has invested $466 million in. Its aim is to create PCEHRs (Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records) that centralise a patient’s healthcare information and, with their permission, present it to registered healthcare providers.


Advocates of the scheme say it will ensure a safer, more efficient healthcare system, but critics raise issues including privacy, access and consent.


"I don’t think privacy has been addressed enough," says Professor Julie Zetler, senior lecturer in the department of marketing and management at Macquarie University, who is researching the ethics of eHealth.

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EMR Blueprint: Future State Workflow; Design, Build and Validate; User Testing

Quick story to illustrate how one word, misunderstood and untested, can lead to tremendous challenges:

In a specialty practice, providers dictated their notes. They were assured that post-implementation, they would still be able to dictate. This made the providers happy. After go-live, providers dictated their notes as they always had, into portable tape recorders, and dropped the tapes off to be transcribed with the front desk assistant.


Providers grew very frustrated when, after a few days, their transcribed notes were not appearing in patients’ charts. After multiple help desk calls, visits from IT staff, some yelling and a few threats to unplug every machine here (that is a quote!)...still no resolution. The IT staff came to test the providers' computers and make sure that audio was working, sound files could be heard. Since they could, it was determined that it wasn’t an IT problem. Help desk ticket closed...those spoiled doctors...insert eyeroll here.


The problem? The IT understanding of dictation (speaking into a microphone attached to a PC so that a .wav file is created) and the providers understanding of dictation (speak into a separate recording device and have information transcribed) were very different. No one had validated the proposed workflow for dictation, agreed upon it and had it tested by those who would be using it. When IT tested it, it worked - for what they thought would happen. Providers were not given the opportunity to test, only placated and brushed aside.


It may sound obvious, but it is imperative to get users involved in the documentation of workflows and testing because they are the people who will be most impacted when misunderstandings arise. While it may be tempting to do whatever is necessary to make end users smile in the short term (or get them off your phone/out of your inbox) it is better for the organization in the long run to take the time to confirm and test the proposed workflows.

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New ONC guide explains EHR privacy, security to providers

Privacy and security take center stage in a new instructional guide unveiled by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT this week. The guide--a collaboration of ONC's Office of the Chief Privacy Officer and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) Foundation--is designed to teach healthcare professionals about the roles of privacy and security in the use of electronic health records (EHRs) and in Meaningful Use.

The 47-page "Guide to Privacy and Security of Health Information" includes sections on Meaningful Use, security risk analysis, and working with health IT vendors, as well as a privacy and security action plan. In addition, it includes lengthy explanations of the HIPAA privacy and security rules.


The manual explains in detail the two core Meaningful Use Stage 1 requirements related to privacy and security. The first is the requirement that patients who request it be supplied with an electronic copy of their health information within three business days. This access is mandated by the HIPAA privacy rule, which is imbedded in the Meaningful Use criteria.

Providers who want government incentives for Meaningful Use of electronic health records also must conduct a security risk analysis of their EHRs, as required by the HIPAA security rule. The guide defines a security risk analysis and shows how to conduct it.


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‘Smart Health – Better lives’: How European countries reap the benefits of eHealth

Bjørn Astad, Head of Division in the Norwegian Health Department presented the Norwegian eHealth strategy this morning in a session aimed at Sharing Knowledge and practice on interesting eHealth projects in Europe.


Astad said that the country´s healthcare reform was in fact a “coordination reform” with clearly defined goals: first, to coordinate activities and information sharing among healthcare providers; second to enable primary care to provide more services; and third, to reduce the need for expensive specialized care.


ICT critical for healthcare reform


Astad underlined, that the Norwegian government has positioned ICT to be “one of the most important tools to improve healthcare and reach the goals of the reform.” And the country has come a long way in implementing the reform.


Today, the “eHealth highway” is the Norwegian health net: a secure national data network connects 3,100 healthcare providers including all hospitals, all GPs, and 80% of the municipalities. Participation in the network is mandatory to be able to send electronic messages to other healthcare providers.
A year ago the country launched In its first stage, it is purely a citizens´information portal. In future, it will provide services to patients and give access to health data.

Electronic prescriptions are well advanced. Norway started the rollout in 2009, and by end of 2013, all of Norway will be on electronic prescriptions. “This is a way to raise patient safety and reduce the number of medication errors”, Astad said.

The Electronic Patient Summary will start piloting in 2013, with the rollout scheduled for 2014. Norway has changed legislation to support a central archive with patient data that can be accessed by health personnel with the consent of the patient. Citizens may opt out of the archive.

Electronic messages provide a standard information exchange of referrals, prescriptions, test orders and result.


Astad observed that top-level political support is key to implementing a national strategy, in order to give the project legitimacy, but also to create an adequate legal frame-work to support the eHealth rollout. He also emphasized that the action plan must meet concrete needs and support their realization, and he recommends the engagement and integration of all stakeholders in the plan. Last, but not least, data protection and security must meet high standards in order to get buy-in from public and healthcare providers


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The Patient, the Physician, and Dr. Google

In July of 2002, I watched as my wife, a practicing obstetrician/gynecologist, was deluged with telephone calls as scores of her patients began processing the news that the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute had halted the combined estrogen and progestin arm of the massive Women’s Health Initiative clinical trial because of concerns of risk over invasive breast cancer.


What was perplexing about the experience, I recall, was that many of the women calling had already downloaded a preprint of a JAMA article explaining the institute’s decision a full week before the print issue had arrived at my wife’s desk. Naturally, the callers were filled with questions. One of my wife’s more innovative solutions was to invite interested patients to a journal club review of the online article, so that they could go over and digest the new information together.


What I was watching firsthand was playing out in physicians’ offices around the country. In 1999, a study of online information revealed that health-related concerns dominated much of what people were looking for on the newly opened “information superhighway” . Patients were doing an end run around traditional medical sources and were beginning to search online for answers to their health-related questions. What they found, though, was a hodgepodge of medical information, from cutting-edge study data to dubious advertisements for miracle cures .


Often it was difficult to tell what the source of information on a web site might be, and many ostensibly credible web pages were actually masking a spate of ulterior motives. Direct-to-consumer advertisers were especially prevalent in this space, with new online companies making it easy to skirt local jurisdictional restrictions on the sales of pharmaceuticals. Phishing (i.e., the fraudulent practice of sending people to a bogus web site that collects their personal account information) and “pharming” (i.e., the tactic of enticing consumers to download malevolent software in the guise of updating antivirus software) added to the lack of trustworthiness .

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Society: Give patients 'immediate' access to EHR data

Society: Give patients 'immediate' access to EHR data | healthcare technology |
The Society for Participatory Medicine (SPM) has expressed concern that proposed delays in allowing patients access to their EHR records under Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use EHR incentive program are "arbitrary" and will hurt patient care.

In a comment letter submitted to CMS May 4, the SPM warned that the proposed four-day grace period between the time that eligible professionals obtain patient records and when they must provide access to the patient impedes the continuity of care--as does the proposal to give providers 36 hours to provide discharge information after a patient leaves the hospital.


"Information should be available to the patient and patients' designees as soon as it is available to any clinical user of the [certificated EHR technology] other than the author of the information itself," SPM said in its letter.

Using the mantra "nothing about me without me," the SPM also recommended, among other things, that the rule allow for some automation for the accessing and downloading data to increase the likelihood that patients will access their electronic records.

In contrast, The American Hospital Association requested in its comment letter that the 36 hour delay wasn't long enough; it asked CMS to give hospitals 30 days after a patient's discharge before having to provide discharge information to patients.


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How the medical industry is using (and could use): Pinterest

How the medical industry is using (and could use): Pinterest | healthcare technology |
The medical industry has developed a certain comfort level with the first generation of social media sites: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn. A second wave – including Pinterest, Google+ and StumbleUpon – offers hospitals, medical device and pharmaceutical companies a new set of tools for building a social media strategy.


The picture-driven Pinterest made Internet history recently by rocketing to 10 million subscribers in just under two years, and has already surpassed all of the original four except for Twitter for referral traffic. The majority of users are early adopters of social media, women in their 20s and 30s who are sharing pictures in categories ranging from beauty and fitness to science and nature.


“[Pinterest] is fascinating,” said Brendan Gallagher of Digitas Health. “It’s social commerce cleverly disguised as an aspirational visual scrapbook,” referring to Pinterest’s deal with Skimlinks to generate revenue.

Users can upload images directly to a particular “board” or use a toolbar widget to “pin” an image from a blog post or web page. The software automatically imbeds a link in the image, making it easy to find that recipe, pair of shoes, or infographic again. Although there is a considerable retail component to Pinterest through links, there could be room for much more than that. Users can follow a board, repin images to their own collections and like individual pins. 

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A new vision of healthcare for Europe

A new vision of healthcare for Europe | healthcare technology |

Europe is known the world over for its universal public healthcare systems. But these systemsare at risk of becoming financially unviable and suffering from a lack of human resources to deliver the required care.


In the face of demographic change and financial austerity, we must rethink the way we deliver, organise and finance healthcare. Fundamental reform of our systems are needed, enabled by information and communication technologies (ICTs).

I do not mean big projects like the National Programme for IT, which have come to dominate the perception of ICT in healthcare. I mean new approaches for telemonitoring, electronic prescriptions, and applications that help prevent people from needing acute care and allow the elderly to live independently in their homes.


Many of these have been tested in the UK under the Whole Systems Demonstrator project and have demonstrated huge benefits for patients, medical specialists, and care workers and have considerably reduced health care costs and boosted productivity.

Why? Because this is not actually about the technology. I would love to make healthcare less intrusive and more personalised, as well as more affordable.


The way to do that is to design care around patients, and the means of achieving that is better integrating digital technology into caring processes. That is worth fighting for, even if there are stumbles along the way.


At the centre of this vision is the power of data. By unlocking and liberating this data we can truly revolutionise health.

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Gamification and online communities - what can pharma do?

Gamification and online communities - what can pharma do? | healthcare technology |

Gamification is the new buzzword in digital marketing and has the potential to engage consumers more than traditional strategies.


This new idea uses gaming as a vehicle to encourage people to adopt new habits or influence their behaviour. Companies are now using it to deliver their marketing messages and advertising to the wider public.


By far the biggest and well-known use of gamification comes from the Facebook game Farmville. The game’s developers Zynga use the popularity of Facebook as a platform for the game.

In Farmville players grow crops and can then sell them to their friends, or form a co-operative with other players to build a bigger and more productive farm.


Pharma has now jumped on the gamification bandwagon and is starting to use it to promote disease awareness campaigns, but it begs the question: can gamification work for pharma?


Boehringer Ingelheim is betting that it can, and is the pioneer of this idea in pharma. The firm is currently developing a new game called Syrum to promote the industry as a whole, whilst also using it for its own marketing purposes.


Syrum is currently undergoing beta testing and is the brainchild of John Pugh, Boehringer’s director of digital communications. Pugh is a well-known trailblazer in pharma’s digital world, launching Boehringer’s Twitter feed in 2007, and making it a true online conversation with followers.


In January this year, Pugh won the PM Society’s Digital Pioneer Award for pushing the digital boundaries within the industry. His new project works much the same way as Farmville does, but just swaps farms and crops for laboratories and molecules.


Syrum will be available on Facebook where gamers play as an R&D pharma company that has to develop drugs and put them into clinical trials, mimicking the real industry process.


And there are social media aspects to it, as players can link up with their Facebook friends and give them gifts - these can then be used to customise their offices and laboratories. Players can also trade and collaborate to help create better compounds, but on the flipside they also have the option to steal their competitors’ staff and compounds to get ahead.

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Mobile Devices Redefine Healthcare 

Thomas Fuller, the 17th Century clergyman and author, wrote “Travel makes a wise man better, and a fool worse.”


While his words may have been aimed at his European contemporaries, they have a great deal to teach us about the rapid adoption of mobile technology in the healthcare industry. For while travel may indeed amplify the characteristics, good and bad, of the traveler, the change to mobile computing will almost certainly have the same effect on the way in which we deal with the problems of data security, privacy, and a compliance.


Mobile computing is beginning to change the way everyone, especially the healthcare industry, interacts with information. From laptops to smart phones to tablets, the capability to take significant computing power and storage with us means that data is on hand and on tap almost anywhere on the planet at a moment’s notice. Instead of waiting hours or days to access files now records, images, and analysis can be created, accessed and shared with around the globe, effectively instantly.


The benefits are immense. The healthcare industry is, in many ways, the ultimate knowledge industry which explains both the extensive training required for its practitioners and also its heavy reliance on information technology. Yet the information itself can often be difficult to manage.

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Users of hospital's social media seek health info

Users of hospital's social media seek health info | healthcare technology |

Seventy-one percent of the hospital's social media users on tools like its Facebook page, Twitter handle and blog already are using the technology to seek personal health information, according to a survey by Summa Health System in Ohio.

The health system distributed the Internet survey to its users and found that 29 percent of them were using social media to seek family health information, and 27 percent were looking for hospital programming, Summa Health said in an announcement last week.


The survey revealed some demographic information of its social media users too. An overwhelming 96 percent of them were female and 94 percent were Caucasian, compared to the hospital patient database that reports 68 percent as Caucasian. More of the social media users also had higher education, with 60 percent having a bachelor degree or higher, compared to only 12 percent with a high school degree or lower.


Even with this information in hand about who is using the hospital system's social media and how, hospitals still must be cautious. The Federation of State Medical Boards issued new guidelines on ethics for physicians, including HIPAA concerns and online professionalism.



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How to Use the Internet Wisely, for Your Health and Your Country's

How to Use the Internet Wisely, for Your Health and Your Country's | healthcare technology |

There's a lot of bad information out there online. This guide can help you avoid the crap and become a savvier citizen of our digital age.


Use the following methods and tools to protect yourself from toxic bad info. Use them and then pass them along to others. Promote the notion that more info literacy is a practical answer to the growing info pollution. Be the change you want to see.


Although the Web undermines authority (by enabling anybody to publish), authority is still useful as one clue to credibility in a detective hunt that accounts for many other clues. Claims to authority, however, need to be questioned. I might add credibility to my assessment if a source is a verified professor at a known institution of higher learning, an authentic MD or PhD, but I would not subtract it from people without credentials whose expertise seems authentic. If you are going to grant credibility to people whose expertise is based on being a professor of something, make sure that assertion is accurate. Don't stop at simply verifying that the claim to be a professor is valid if you are looking for scientific credibility. The next step is to use the Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index that derives a score from the scholar's publications, citations by other scholars, grants, honors, and awards. If you want to get even more serious, download a free copy of Publish or Perish software, which analyzes scientific citations from Google Scholar according to multiple criteria. Or use the h-index to calculate how many times other scientists have cited a particular source. Again, don't trust just one source; triangulate.

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Computers help to uncover cancer treatment targets

Using computers to sort through gene regulatory networks, researchers with the University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience were able to uncover hard-to-find cancer treatment targets, according to a study published this month in the journal Genome Medicine.

Initially, nine different computational methods for examining the gene regulatory networks were studied. After determining the most effective method--Supervised Inference of Regulatory Networks (SIRENE)--the researchers then applied that method to an ovarian cancer dataset, which ultimately revealed a plethora of new drug targets.


"Cancer is a disease, not of single genes, but rather of genomes and/or networks of molecular interaction and control," the authors wrote. "Reconstructing gene regulatory networks in health and diseased tissue is therefore critical to understanding cancer phenotypes and devising effective therapeutics."

Conventional approaches, the authors added, tend to focus on individual genes, thus making them "too time-consuming." 

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How providers impede their chances for smooth-running EHR systems

How providers impede their chances for smooth-running EHR systems | healthcare technology |

The move from paper-based records to Electronic Health Records (EHR) marches relentlessly on and is becoming an increasingly widespread requirement.


Some EHR systems are easier to implement than others. But even when a health facility chooses a good system that’s appropriate for the size and type of facility, sometimes EHR systems are poorly implemented and become a headache to clinic employees, patients, and even the providers themselves.


This article explores why putting an EHR system into place such that it satisfies site-specific everyday requirements can sometimes go wrong, and how to avoid these pitfalls.

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HRS: Play where the puck is by adopting EHR tech

HRS: Play where the puck is by adopting EHR tech | healthcare technology |

Digitization with an EHR will provide the foundation necessary to take medicine to the next level while improving operational efficiencies and workflow, which then may improve quality of care and outcomes, stated Amit J. Shanker, MD, of Bassett Healthcare at the New York Presbyterian Health System in Cooperstown, N.Y., on May 9 during the 33rd annual scientific sessions of the Heart Rhythm Society.


“While promises abound, our feet must remain on the ground,” Shanker said, mentioning that some physicians have compared adopting an EHR to repairing or building an airplane.

Shanker stated that until 2007, EHR adoption has been somewhat lackluster with only 25.9 percent of medical practices having some form of EHR. Even then, most of the information exchange was rudimentary.


Noting the U.S. is behind other countries like the Netherlands, New Zealand and the U.K. where EHR penetration exceeded 80 percent, Shanker stated that the time for adoption is critical. Hesitations to adoption include funding, anticipation of implementation difficulty, process workflow redesign and lack of support of medical staff within the group.


“What’s interesting is these hesitations for EHR adoption are universally found in the adoption and internalization of any novel technology regardless of sector,” Shanker said. “[Technology change management] requires the support of the people involved in implementation and use of the system. As such, mechanisms need to be in place that provide real-time communication and feedback so an organization can progress from one stage to the next with the ultimate goal of institutionalization of a technology within an organization.”


Smartphone and EHR collaborations already are being leveraged, he reported. In 2011, the telecom industry reaped $2 billion in revenue from mobile-to-mobile (m2m) technology so “it will be increasingly important for your practice to play where the puck is going to be, which underscores the importance to adopt EHR,” Shanker noted.

He said that the m2m market is set to hit $8 billion by 2017. “Products and services are coming out each week.”


For example, he mentioned a system in Sacramento, Calif., that increased compliance to check blood sugars and take medication 80 percent at five months using automated reminder texts to diabetic patients.

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