Category: Healthcare Technology

Why Do Doctors Hate Their Computers?

Check this out. What you will see is not the quick blog post that I usually send you to for a quick burst of profundity. Nope. This is a rather extensive and well written New Yorker article that sets out to answer this important question. Read it! Although the article goes on for pages, its message is summarized in one great quote: “…three years later I’ve come to feel that a system that promised to increase my mastery over my work has, instead, increased my work’s mastery over me.” Several important points are made here. First, physicians thoroughly understand that digitization is necessary to support medical care in 2018 and beyond. AND. They are clearly among the most tech savvy of all professions. So, what’s the problem? As you read over these pages, the answer here becomes painfully clear. Doctors believe, and apparently rightfully so, that these systems are designed without taking into consideration the contextin which the physician works. What used to be done in just a few keystrokes now requires many. Interfaces are built based on “political” concerns, rather than “technical.” The costs involved in setting up a computer system like the one described here are huge. In the $Billions. AND. The quantity and quality of the medical care being delivered actually decrease substantially while the practitioners wrestle with the new software. Bottom Line. Funny. Sort of. We live in a world that increasingly wants to compensate physicians based on “quality of care” and “outcomes,” yet we foist computer systems like this on them.  Not fair!

Human Inconvenience

Check this out. What you will see is a brief and insightful post about how little tolerance people have for inconvenience. When it comes to healthcare, patients want the latest in technology to take care of them definitively and immediately. Conveniently. BUT. This blogging physician believes that at some point in time, patients will learn that physicians will, in the process of automating healthcare, “regress to the means of consistency and quality.” In the process, the warmth of interaction that used to be a hallmark of medical practice will disappear. Bottom Line. SO. Do patients want “high tech” or “high touch” in the delivery of their healthcare? This doctor thinks that the average patient would say “both!”  Now what?

A Cardiologist Comments On The New Apple Watch

And he comments with some skepticism. Of course, he is the “Skeptical Cardiologist.” Check this out. What you will see is a physician wrestling with the best way to use “wearables” to keep track of heart health. As you will read in the link, he is far from sure that the new Apple Watch is delivering the great medical breakthroughs in heart health to which it is laying claim. In fact, he reports, the new model doesn’t even deliver on the interoperability with other wearables that he has enjoyed with previous models. AND. The doctor is understandably concerned about what will happen if the watch generates false positive arrhythmias, sending unsuspecting wearers scurrying off to ER’s. Bottom Line. This will be interesting to watch. As usual, let me ask you to stand back for a moment and ponder where all of this goes. Who should be interested in wearing a watch that detects arrhythmias, what is the appropriate nature and level of physician involvement with the device, how should they be instructed to make use of the information, etc.  Stay tuned!

Is “Genetic Privacy” An Oxymoron?

Check this out. What you will see is a story that I did a double take on when I first heard about it on the national news. Seems that the Golden State Killer was finally captured, after a long and until now unsolvable string of rapes and murders, by banging together DNA evidence with data housed at a “commercial genealogy website.” My first reaction? How could anybody who is busy spreading his DNA around in a series of California rapes be so anxious to find out his family history that he would send his DNA to a company to be tested? DUH!  Nope. It was apparently one of his relatives that, by sending in such a sample to a genealogy company, created a “family tree” pool of suspects that detectives could use to solve the crimes. My second reaction? This is sort of like the Facebook scandal a few weeks ago. Some apps were not only making use of the individual’s information, but that of friends as well. No permission granted by the individual, and permission not even requested of the friends. Bottom Line. I’m thinking that as 23andMe and their clones deepen their market penetration, ALL of us will have enough genetic information in their databases, even if we don’t provide any ourselves, to catch us if we are serial killers. I’m thinking that most of us are on pretty safe ground there. BUT. What other uses could be made of this information? How about prescreening us for life and health insurance policies for example?  Think about other examples until you conjure up one that really gives you the creeps. Only then will you realize how the disappearance of “genetic privacy” can be a bad thing. Very bad!!!

The Future of Digital Health

Fourth Wave As defined in this new book, digital health involves both digital and genomic technologies in applications pertaining to health, healthcare and related fields. Fascinating. According to this author, who chairs the digital health group on LinkedIn, genomic technology provides the reason to customize healthcare interventions and digital media provide the means to do so. Put those two technologies together, and he foresees “A New Era of Human Progress.” Frankly, I’ve never thought about digital health as involving this duality, but having started delving into this book, it makes a lot of sense. Bottom Line. Spring $10 and join me in reading this important new book. I am convinced we will both find enough really important “stuff” here to make it worth our while!

Facebook Looks for Potential Suicides

phone Check this out. What you will see is a Reuters article that describes how Facebook is further ramping up its use of artificial intelligence to recognize suicide risks in the verbiage of member posts. Importantly, Facebook not only has the ability to recognize such threats, they also have developed the ability to intervene, in multiple languages, 7/24/365. Good stuff! Are there privacy and other issues here? Sure. But it strikes me that the benefits far outweigh the downsides. Bottom Line. The potential uses of artificial intelligence to glean information and intervention triggers from social media posts are almost limitless.  Let your imagination run wild for a moment. What do you see as the most interesting/important applications of this technology?

Layoffs at WebMD

WebMD What is WebMD? I remember when it was a startup, aimed at communicating with/advertising to physicians. It has morphed many times in the ensuing years, and as the recent 10% staff cut indicates, is in the process of morphing again. Bottom Line. Healthcare communications aimed at physicians and patients is a very crowded space. Given the WebMD core competencies and the future opportunities in the marketplace, ponder the direction in which you would take the company if you were in charge.

Guardian Angel or Big Brother???

digital pill You need to check this out. What you will find is the announcement that the FDA has just approved the first pill that can provide a record that it has been taken. On ingestion, the pill transmits a signal to a patch warn by the patient, then to a cell phone app and yada yada. Importantly, this technology has been applied first to Abilify, an antipsychotic agent. While patient compliance is notoriously bad across treatment areas and patients, it is really abysmal when we get into psychotropic medications. AND. The consequences of noncompliance can be especially catastrophic for patients taking these medications. Will this technology help to eliminate, or at least reduce, patient drug noncompliance? Probably. BUT. There are a couple of countervailing forces here.  First, the technology being employed is not inexpensive. AND. It being 2017, there are concerns about the confidentiality of the resulting data. Potential issues here range from inadvertent data sharing to governmental agencies requiring access to such data. Bottom Line. In summary, I am guessing that for the foreseeable future, this technology will be far more likely to be employed for drugs like antipsychotics, and not likely to be trotted out to make sure that we finish our course of antibiotics. But, in the longer run, who knows?

Pocket Doc

Pocket Doc The world of health-related apps has been progressing slowly. Painfully slowly. Pedometers, diet managers, apps for dealing with diabetes, etc. But check this out. What you will see is an article that maintains that we are at the brink of a “transformation.” This transformation will get us out of the era of single purpose healthcare apps, and into an era in which the technology in your smartphone will substitute for a general practitioner. Needed data will be collected and sorted by the phone through appropriate wearables. Necessary information will then be disseminated to the patient. Bottom Line. Picture the boon that this will be to First World countries that are increasingly experiencing “doctor shortages,” and to Third World countries that never had enough doctors to begin with!

The Growing Value of Digital Health

Healthcare apps That is the title of this excellent report that gives us an update on the state of Apps that pertain to health care. Several pearls here. First is the update on the number of healthcare apps currently available. Over 318,000. HOWEVER. Only 41 Apps, each with over 10 Million downloads, account for almost half of the activity in this space. AND. Studies are increasingly demonstrating that real money, big money, can be saved if the right Apps are applied to the management of even a few key diseases. $7 Billion! Bottom Line. As this report simply but profoundly observes, progress in digital health results from the progression through:
  • innovation           
  • evidence
  • adoption
Clearly, there is no shortage of innovation in this arena, with the number and quality of apps proliferating. AND. Evidence is rapidly accruing about their utilization and benefits. BUT. Adoption will be key to making these apps worthwhile.  How will we get patients to adopt these apps is now the $7 Billion question!