Last Week in Health Tech: November 13, 2017

Written by Drew Rushmer on Nov 20, 2017 11:33:39 AM

What could be better on Monday than someone else doing your work for you? Well, Redox has done exactly that—at least when it comes to news about healthcare technology. Whether you're first time readers or have been with us since the beginning, welcome, sit back and grab a cup of your beverage of choice, and check out...

(The Best of)
Last Week in Health Tech

Continuing the debate about the efficacy of Electronic Health Records (EHRs), the website “EHR Intelligence” and others offered up some frankly scary statistics about what healthcare executives think about the potential of current EHR models. In short, the article comes to the conclusion that a whopping 75% of executives “doubt” the ability for current EHRs to “help meet the demands of population health management.” The article also offers a series of links to more EHR related news, including one about the rise in malpractice claims, their prevalence “among skilled nursing facilities in 2016”, and a third link that explores how common the use of EHR and CPOE systems are at hospitals in the United States.  

The short answer? Despite their very real (and consequential) shortcomings, almost all hospitals use EHRs. The main article goes on to examine why so many executives doubt any current EHR model’s ability to do things like “warehouse their data even though EHRs are not...built for doing so. EHRs struggle to handle the unstructured data that is collected in clinicians’ notes and to integrate data from other systems.”

So why pay attention to yet another series of articles about EHRs?  Well, it's important because if those at the top of the healthcare industry see EHRs as limited, it begs the question of how (and with what) we will replace them—a question that’s not just worth consideration, but one that we (patients, clinicians, and executives all), absolutely need to answer if we are truly interested in changing EHR systems for the better (or, perhaps, foregoing them altogether in place of other ideas like blockchain-based EHRs).  

Whatever we choose, the past has much to teach us about where we went wrong with the models that are still hanging around for one reason or another (lack of funds and regulations that are eons behind technology are only two of the many issues facing what seems to be the necessary overhaul of how we choose to use technology to handle our health records).

We would do well to keep in mind how other industries use their technology, including such things as machine learning and artificial intelligence, to not only effectively store data in an easily categorized and searchable way, but also to help create a system that functions seamlessly with others.

Last week, the Digital Journal and others offered a look at how nanotechnology will shape the next five years while another article ruminated on the many questions that need to be answered before we apply artificial intelligence and machine learning methods to healthcare. The questions include how much data will be collected from things like wearables, as well as how much of that data will be shared and anonymized. The author comes to the excellent conclusion that “the development of technology needs to be coterminous with public policy in relation to data ownership, privacy, and security.”

Though many of the articles last week were focused on the future, one focused on using currently-available technology to help us avoid mistakes that are already all-too-common in healthcare. For instance, the article advocates for the use of pill identifiers (one can search the web and find a description of just about any pill, tablet or capsule, and some apps are even able to identify some medications through digital analysis of photographs.

In an article for Cardiovascular Business’ website, author Annicka Slachta describes “5 things standing between now and better” “heart tech,” and examines what needs to be done to hurdle those barriers. Though a niche area, Ms. Slachta’s words ring true for much of the healthcare technology sector.  For instance, she describes the “chasm between [well-funded conceptual research] and FDA approval, clinical development and launch of a device” as a “Valley of Death” that requires bridging. This, like many of her points, certainly applies to the field as a whole just as well as it does to cardiology. The other impediments Slachta writes about include the idea that “patients want to self-monitor with wearable[s]” but that “there needs to be a stronger push for user retention solutions,” meaning that although many people are already using wearable technology to help manage and keep track of their overall health, many of those wearers “religious[ly] use [wearables] for a few weeks before...toss[ing it] in a drawer.” This is a problem that definitely affects all of healthcare, not just cardiology. 

And in the middle of the week, Forbes delivered two articles on very different subjects. The first, about what they call “exponential medicine” and “the joy of technology,” is an opinion piece from a contributing author writing about the Exponential Medicine meeting in California, a meeting that “is emerging as a catalyst for...important changes.” Embedded in the article is a short YouTube video showcasing Klick Health’s “wireless tremor sharing” technology designed to create true empathy for people suffering from Parkinson’s. Though not medicinal, this is truly innovative technology that helps us better understand other's’ interior lives, with the potential for further breaking-down barriers currently bridged only by language and other, even less precise modes of communication.

The second Forbes piece, by Dr. Robert Pearl, focused specifically on three “Disruptive Solutions For U.S. Healthcare: CareMore, Forward, and Health City,” each of which has taken action or a stance that might at first seem counter-intuitive, but have proved themselves. In the case of CareMore, for instance, instead of using technology to cut personnel costs, the organization has instead doubled the human element in an effort “that has proven remarkably successful.” The article digs deeper into CareMore as well as the other two aforementioned “disruptive” healthcare solutions.

In a fascinating article from SingularityHub—which also happens to challenge a lot of our preconceptions about high technology—argued that “the Best Healthcare Hacks are the Most Low-Tech,” justifying said argument by first pointing out the hopes we have for high technology in the coming year or so, as well as, and perhaps more importantly, improvements that can be made using existing or “low” technology. As Dr. Darshak Sanghavi put it at the Exponential Medicine meeting, “we often think in extremely complex ways, but...a lot of the improvements in health at scale can be done in an analog way.” Essentially, the article looks at how even small advances through lower-tech innovation, for a variety of reasons including price, can better help a larger number of people more easily.

The Rest of the Best

  • In terms of “wow factor,” the New York Times showcase of “Five Technologies That Will Rock Your World,” including actual flying vehicles, most certainly takes the cake.
  • Gender bias has been an issue with which our country, and the world at large, has struggled for centuries. Sadly, that legacy continues today and even reaches healthcare design, a problem that we can no longer afford to ignore.  Authors Dan Formosa, Ph.D., and Natalia Bednarek do a very good job of exposing the problem as well as offering some solutions.
  • There was an article highlighting three ways technology can help fight both the “regular” stress of the holidays as well as the “extra” stress they bring for those suffering from mental illness.
  • In The Baxter Bulletin, (a subsidiary of USA Today), Dr. David Lipschitz published an opinion piece on “the impact of technological advances on healthcare,” looking both to the past as well as the future.
  • As some of us may remember from our own childhoods, Legos are...well, in a word, awesome. In the regional first round of the Lego League tournament (whose slogan was “Future Healthcare Engineers,”), there were a series of challenges designed around that very premise. Perhaps coolest of all, the tournament included an onsite “da Vinci Xi” surgical robot complete with hands-on demonstrations, in an effort by a local hospital to share their new robotic surgery capabilities with the community.
  • An article about the results of a survey of healthcare leaders came to the conclusion that there are two “top” concerns for 2018.  First will be leveraging the data and analytics, while second will be population health services.
  • Continuing the trend of telemedicine-related pieces that we have seen over the last few months, Nomad Health launched the first telemedicine jobs marketplace nationwide in the United States.
  • If you’re looking for interviews from last week, the Digital Journal spoke with Areo Nazari, co-founder of CarRx, “a pharmacy startup that has set out to rebuild the pharmacy concept from the ground up, {sic} through the use of a mobile app.” Additionally, we were provided with a Q&A featuring the CIO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan, Bill Fandrich.
  • An article in The San Diego Union-Tribune highlights the many changes the healthcare startup “Doctible” has been through recently, how the company has handled those changes, and what kind of culture exists for the employees of the company, where “culture is king.”
  • MedCity News played host to an article about “a new and healthier attitude toward the use of technology,” an attitude centered around what author Kathy Mosbaugh calls “Value-Based Reimbursement” models. This is not the first time that idea has appeared in this column, but this article brings up the interesting idea of using “social determinants” of health to better provide care.
  • Savannah, GA, based healthcare provider St. Joseph’s/Candler plans to build a new $22 million, 40,000 square-foot medical campus in nearby Bluffton’s Buckwalter Place—a large improvement over the Kroger’s grocery store that was previously planned for the lot.
  • In slightly political news, Healthcare Analytics News opined about whether or not they think the 2009 healthcare bill known as the “HITECH Act” is a success. Whether you agree with their assessment will likely depend on your opinion of EHRs, as the author uses them as one metric for the success of the bill.

And the Award Goes to

  • Nextech, for being named “Technology Company of the Year” for 2017 in the annual Tampa Bay Tech Awards.
  • Rocco “Rocky” Massey, CEO of Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital (BAR-H) in West Virginia, was the subject of a local piece detailing the advancements he has brought to BAR-H.
  • Netsmart was honored by Black Book Research as “the No. 1 Technology Solutions Vendor” in a variety of healthcare technology sectors.
  • Olympus was awarded the “Innovative Technology Designation” for the fifth consecutive year by Vizient for medical and surgical services they have developed.  This comes from a press release, so take anything else it has with a grain of salt.
  • PENTAX Medical received the “Innovative Technology” designation from Vizient for their OPTIVISTA EPK-i7010 Video Processor. 

That's it for this week. 'Til next time, happy reading!

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Drew Rushmer

Written by Drew Rushmer

Drew Rushmer is a writer reporting on IT and healthcare news. He is also a philosophy and literature nerd, which fuels his passion for writing on the web.

Topics: Health Tech

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