Select Page
Healthcare Tech of the Future

Healthcare Tech of the Future

One thing people love to think about is the great technology that scientists of the future will develop.  In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a series of French artists drew paper cards that envisioned what the world would look like in the year 2000.  Among other things, these postcards portray schoolchildren being taught by a machine that’s being stuffed with books, a fully mechanized orchestra at the opera, and no shortage of flying machines.  They look very goofy, but actually aren’t too far off: in the 115+ years since these were created we’ve developed the Internet, iTunes, and airplanes.  The point of this, however, is that people love to envision what future technologies will look like.  I recently read a post on the “Healthcare Guy” blog, discussing what innovations the author thinks will shape the healthcare industry in 50 years.  Of course, the article was written several years ago, but still, a lot of the trends they’re discussing remain relevant.  

In the first 50 years of computing, we’ve been digitizing plenty of aspects of human activity, such as administration, engineering, finance, news, literature, and retail.  These have made life infinitely more efficient, but in the next 50 years we should be able to digitize biology through genomics, chemistry through early detection systems, and physics through improved simulations.  If this sounds far-fetched, it’s already happened.  For example, search engines already offer a “Dr. Google”, but in the future tech will make medical knowledge even more accessible to the average patient without even having to book an appointment.  

The author of the post outlined a few other ideas for what the world of healthcare technology will look like.  There are a couple of points they argued that are pretty feasible: the upcoming decades, for example, improved technology will be able to drastically reduce the margin of error in research, and machines will be able to recognize and diagnose ailments with astounding accuracy.  Improved diagnostics can also be used to create significantly improved therapeutics, even personalized drugs.  There could be, the author argues, advanced diagnostics capabilities of genetics and proteomics that will be able to create artificial body simulators, allowing researchers to more accurately understand the side effects of drugs, and possibly eliminate the need of animal testing.  

A lot of this sounds farfetched for sure, and ultimately in the end imagining what technology will look like is a lot different from actually making that technology will look like.  But at the same time, think about how far technology has gone in the past 20 years.  The idea of a cell phone, let alone one with ready access to the Internet and a whole other slew of services, was pretty amazing.  Even social media, which has completely revolutionized our lives today, didn’t even exist.  And when you consider that, such technological advances don’t seem nearly as far away.  

But what about risks?  Most likely the biggest will be centered around regulations, privacy, and security.  With technology developing at such a rapid pace, developing regulations based around the industry, let alone ones that can stay relevant in the face of various technological advances, will be tough.  Even now, the questions about security are raising major issues, and security breaches pose potentially disastrous consequences.  In the future, as more and more aspects of our everyday lives become digitized, these breaches will be that much more damaging, and will need to be controlled.  But these technological advances have huge potential, and if these potential issues can be handled, then the future looks bright.  

The Year Ahead in Healthcare

The Year Ahead in Healthcare

We are anticipating quite a year in the world of health care. Reenita Davis writes in Forbes, “technology will continue to flourish and will have unprecedented impact on healthcare in terms of building some of the foundation blocks towards a connected home and healthcare ecosystem.”

What can we expect in the coming months?

A New King: The Consumer

Technology will thrive as it continues to impact the foundation blocks. A more connected home and tech ecosystem must address the needs of the people using this technology; the consumer. After all, consumers are the ones who are being treated in the health care industry.

Venture Capital

The economic downturn and recession tightened regulatory oversight over the past five years.  Early-stage companies in the healthcare industry anticipate new streams in funding for healthcare technologies as the global economy improves.

Blockchain Technologies

Blockchain technology is a permanent record of online transactions or exchanges. It emerged in 2009 as the foundation for trading the digital currency bitcoin. The resources have serious potential to tackle some of the most difficult battles in healthcare information management.

Artificial Intelligence

AI-enabled support tools help make clinical decisions support all over the health care world. In 2017, AI will participate in diagnostic imaging by assisting radiologists with advanced interpretation and imaging informatics supports.

Transparency
Pressure from around the globe on the control of surging drug prices will influence health authorities to increase transparency. From both public voices and political entities suggest transparency around drugs pricing where more low-cost generic competition is gaining market acceptance.

Mobile

Christine Kern writes in Health IT Outcomes, “91 percent of respondents say they take advantage of mobile apps when offered, and 80 percent actually prefers mobile to a traditional office visit.”  Healthcare organizations must have an agile operating model to keep pace with today’s technological needs.

If you look at the retail and banking industries, consumers eagerly use their phones and are eager to use technology. When it comes to change, health care would greatly benefit from learning how to adapt to these new technologies.

Jiea Rutland Simpson lives in Harlingen, Texas with experience in the hospital system and developed her interest in the use of electronic medical records within the healthcare industry. Follow Jiea Rutland Simpson on Twitter, @jiearutlandsimp and on Tumblr, @jiearutlandsimpson

Healthcare in the Age of Modern Miracles

Healthcare in the Age of Modern Miracles

How do you define a miracle?

Some people cite the works of God. Others emphasize the simple luxury of waking up everyday to the sun rising over the horizon is a miracle. Being able to breathe and think as a human being, is a small miracle often overlooked.

Today, there are modern miracles that make the lives we lead possible. Healthcare has progressed in exponential ways in the past few decades. Now, with the influence of computers and data technology, healthcare information stimulates miracles for individuals everyday.

Say you go to the ER for a bleeding ulcer. First you will interact with EMT responders who take notes of your condition. Then you will be taken care of ER nurses, who hook you up to IVs and various machines. Then you will be seen by doctors, internists and GI specialists who address your situation and prescribe you various medication. There is always risk for error with so many actors. Healthcare information technology is expanding in its speed, expertise, and overall power, but the biggest challenge we contend with is how all of the spheres connect.

Marc Andressen recently reflected in a Vox.com article that healthcare is a sector with “insufficient productivity growth, innovation, and disruption. You’ve got monopolies, oligopolies, cartels, government-run markets, price-fixing. If healthcare and healthcare technology are not evolving at the pace of other industries, healthcare information technology is getting incredibly close.

Dave Levin writes in Healthcare Informatics that we need platforms like interoperability (and open APIs) to unleash the breadth and depth of innovation that HIT needs. By conn ecting separate islands of powerful health data networks, healthcare professionals will be able to build powerful IT ecosystems.

We need miracles. And we’re going to need more. We can harness our technology with the power to help us.

 

Follow Jiea Rutland Simpson on Twitter and connect on Linkedin.

Managing Data in Healthcare Information

Managing Data in Healthcare Information

There’s a lot of data out there.

Consider every person who goes into the doctor office on a given day; the information they provide to their specialist, that’s data. The observations recorded through laboratory research, that’s data. Processing in a hospital’s emergency room. More data.

Traditional methods for managing health data simply do not suffice for the numbers we deal with today. Given the value of healthcare data, new approaches to managing this data are essential.

So this September, a task force from the Department of Health and Human Services, launched a panel to address the threat of cyber attacks to healthcare information, now that so much data is stored online.

Experts from a range of expertise, such as providers, payers, pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers, IT vendors, government agencies, as well as a patient advocate, provide an opportunity to have well-rounded discussions about the future of health care data.

There are multiple topics to be addressed. The panel will review the challenge of securing networked medical devices and other software or systems that connect to an electronic health record. They will provide information about the explaining cybersecurity threats to the healthcare, and they will establishing a plan to create a single system for the federal government to share actionable intelligence regarding cybersecurity threats. That the healthcare industry have a real-time solution to these threats for no fee is of utmost importance.

According to Theresa Meadows, co-chair of the Health Care Industry Cybersecurity Task Force and CIO of Cook Children’s Health Care System, it will report to Congress on its findings and recommendations early next year.
“Today, there’s not a good mechanism for sharing information when cybersecurity issues occur,” she says.

“Usually what happens is we hear through word of mouth or we see it in the media, but we don’t really know what the cause was and so there’s no way for us to be proactive in preventing these things in our organizations.”

The best health care information management must work with leaders in technology and government to protect against cyber threats and make digital organizing accessible for everyone in the industry. Hopefully, this panel sheds some light on the future and possibility of health care data!

 

The Epipen Debacle: Patients Against Big Pharma

The Epipen Debacle: Patients Against Big Pharma

If you’ve been following healthcare news, you may have noticed the recent spike (and uproarious backlash) in EpiPen, a lifesaver for those who suffer from life-threatening anaphylactic shock.

Some people are so allergic to things like peanuts that they develop anaphylaxis, when the airways for breathing swell and close.  Possible allergies include but are not limited to peanuts, tree nuts (such as walnuts and pecans), shellfish, fish, cow’s milk, eggs, wheat and soy. Many affected are children, who rely on EpiPens in case of emergency. Between 1 and 2 percent of people have this condition, but there’s a simple hormonal treatment to counteract this allergic shock; Epinephrine ( or adrenaline). It’s a hormone naturally produced by the adrenal glands. In addition to making your heart beat faster, pupils to dilate, and blood vessels to constrict, it opens your airways. When it stimulates the heart it works to reduce hives and swelling that may occur around the face and lips thus saving peoples’ lives everyday.

In September 2016,  CEO Heather Bresch testified before a congressional committee last week saying Mylan’s profit was $100 for a two-pack of the injectors, despite a $608 list price. Since acquiring the rights to EpiPen in 2007, they have increasec prices 550%. Pens now sell for $608. What this means is people can’t get their medication. The situation is so dire that people on Youtube are showing ways to DIY the medication at home. This alternative “EpiPencil,” is the brainchild of Michael Laufer of DIY medicine collective Four Thieves Vinegar. It consists of an auto-injector (usually used by diabetics), a syringe (available isn ten-packs), a 22-gauge hypodermic needle, and the epinephrine (a prescription still necessary, but its generally inexpensive).

Nobody can force Mylan to lower its prices. But what consumers are doing with their angry articles and clever alternatives are showing that it is possible to provide affordable healthcare to those who need it. Their profit margin was an entire 60% higher than what they originally told Congress. Remember, this product saves lives. While the health care industry is a playing field for high profit margins in research and product, when it comes to life-saving drugs, significant increases in price like Mylan’s abuse of EpiPen prices translate as profiteering off a person’s life or death need.

 

Read more from Jiea Rutland Simpson on Twitter and Linkedin.

Dialysis-Style Treatment Washes Blood Of Cancer Cells

Dialysis-Style Treatment Washes Blood Of Cancer Cells

A team of researchers at the University of New South Wales have developed a new system that can potentially lower the cost of cancer treatment as well as reduce the risk of cancer spreading by cleaning cancer from the blood.

The new cancer treatment uses biochip filters that identify and remove cancer cells. The team refers to the technique as “dialysis for cancer.” For patients who are in the early stages of cancer treatment, the process can be used to lower the chance of cancer metastasizing by using the method to cleanse the blood of circulating tumor cells.

“We are simply getting the blood from the patient, it’s a mixture of normal blood cells and cancer cells,” describes Dr. Majid Warkiani, who leads the team of researchers. “We put it inside one of our biochips and the cells go under migration, and they get affected by hydrodynamic forces. Under those forces that we are applying to the cells inside the chip, the bigger cells go up to the cancer cell outlet, and the smaller cells get pushed down and essentially they get fractionated, they get separated.”

Cancer patients require regular scans to ensure that their tumors are shrinking; these scans tend to cost around $700. This new producer, using the biochip to track and monitor the level of cancer cells in a patient’s blood, could offer patients the same level of efficiency at a fraction of the price: costing anywhere from $50 to $100.

This revolutionary method comes on the heels of a different cancer-research development that can hopefully provide a way to effectively manage, if not eradicate, the disease.

“There is still a long way to go – including securing money and support in Australia – before this is possible,” Warkiani adds. With proper funding and support, it is expected that the study will be rolled out in Australian hospitals within a couple of years. The team is hopeful that this discovery can make inroads in cancer research and management.

New Protein-Blocker Stops the Spread of Cancer Cells

New Protein-Blocker Stops the Spread of Cancer Cells

Scientists have discovered a new treatment for leukemia that has the potential to provide a much better alternative to existing methods of treatment. The cancer breakthrough allows us to fight cancer without killing any of the healthy cells.

Researchers from Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne are responsible for developing the new treatment, which could soon be available for one of the most aggressive cancers: acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

This news is incredibly promising, but it will need to undergo rigorous testing before it can get approval from the Food and Drug Administration, as is the case with any medical breakthrough. Although there are no guarantees that this treatment will get approved or implemented, the discovery is certainly exciting news for the medical community.

Leukemia_(aml)

What exactly does the treatment involve?

The scientists identified a protein that is crucial to stopping the spread of the blood cancer called Hhex protein. When they are able to effectively cut off production of the Hhex protein in laboratory conditions, the results show that cancer can be stopped from spreading uncontrollably.

The use of the Hhex protein is especially beneficial because it is not required in healthy blood cells. This makes it a great alternative treatment to typical AML treatments that normally have damaging side-effects.

“Most existing treatments for AML are not cancer cell-specific, and, unfortunately, kill off healthy cells in the process,” said one of the studies researchers, Matt McCormack. “Hhex is only essential for the leukaemic cells, meaning we could target and treat leukemia without toxic effects on normal cells, avoiding many of the serious side-effects that come with standard cancer treatments.”

The researchers are now looking at whether or not the same results can be recreated in humans.

“Hhex only regulates a small number of genes and is dispensable for normal blood cells,” stated McCormack. “This gives us a rare opportunity to kill AML cells without causing many side-effects. We now hope to identify the critical regions of the Hhex protein that enable it to function, which will allow us to design much-needed new drugs to treat AML.”

Time will tell if this treatment becomes readily available for cancer patients. But if clinical trials prove to be successful then widespread use may be just a few years away.

A New Approach To Knee Pain

A New Approach To Knee Pain

Moximed, a California and Zurich-based company, has recently been awarded the European CE Mark to introduce its Atlas Knee System. The device is a knee joint unloader, which helps to lower pressure applied to knee joints and possibly delay costly and inevitable knee replacement surgeries. The technology is similar to the shock absorbers found on vehicles.

The knee system will also be extremely beneficial to patients suffering from knee injuries to help them maintain a healthy lifestyle while reducing pain and minimizing repeat surgeries.

The company believes that they will be able to help lessen damage to the knee cartilage, allowing it to last longer than it naturally would. However, the device will require surgery to fix the implant correctly in your knee and it will need a period of rehabilitation to allow patients to regain strength and flexibility.

The device has the capacity to unload up to 13 kg; it is clinically proven to provide pain relief and preserve knee joints.

According to the website, the system is made from “advanced biomaterials and has passed durability and biocompatibility testing.” The device is perfect for anyone who suffers from pain on the inner side of the knee (particularly during activity), wants to improve physical activity, wants to regain full range of motion, or suffers from medial compartment knee osteoarthritis (OA).

Although it was not designed to provide a cure, the device does have the potential to provide relief. Regardless of whether or not the device is used as a preventive measure or to address certain knee conditions, it should be able to restore the join to normal loading conditions and alleviate a great deal of pain.

From the announcement:

The Atlas System design was evaluated in a 40 patient, prospective, multi-center clinical study. One of the study investigators, Konrad Slynarski, MD, of Lekmed Szpital in Warsaw, Poland commented, “My practice treats many young, active patients with mild osteoarthritis. I was amazed at the overwhelming patient interest in receiving joint unloading therapy, and I was very happy with my patients’ consistently rapid recovery and return to daily activities. I have already shifted my practice patterns to offer the Atlas System to patients.”

Another of the investigators in the study was Willem van der Merwe, MD, FCS (SA) of the Sports Science Orthopaedic Clinic in Cape Town, South Africa, who noted, “I enrolled my full allotment into the study and could have enrolled additional subjects. I believe the Atlas System could be a pre-arthroplasty treatment solution for people who are too young or not ready for joint replacement, and I look forward to adding the service as a regular part of my practice.”

3D Printing Changing Health Care

3D Printing Changing Health Care

3D printing has been around for more than three decades, but it wasn’t until recent years people started to realize the importance of it, likely due to technology’s constant improvement.

Nowadays, anything 3D is at your disposal. You can purchase 3D-printed shoes, 3D-printed pens, and even 3D-printed vehicles. The 3D printing industry grew by 35.2 percent in 2014, followed by a slight slowdown in the year to follow. Nonetheless, the 3D printing industry continues to advance, particularly in the healthcare industry. 3D printing is starting to shake things up, especially as the price tag for it drops and the technology becomes more accessible.

Medical technologies are often expensive, especially when they’re new to the market. However, many of these new 3D-printed solutions are coming in at a reasonable price point and they’re doing incredible things with the technology.

For example, experts recently created 3D-printed skin for burn victims and airway splints for babies with tracheobronchomalacia, a rare condition where the airways around the lungs are prone to collapsing. The production of the airway splints are especially significant because they’re the first 3D implant made for children and they’re designed to grow with the patient.The splints can be produced in a matter of hours, and, miraculously, they only cost just $10 per unit.

Another important detail to take notice of is cost-effectiveness. The reason 3D-printed solutions are often cost-effective is the technology behind it. The process involves building solid, three-dimensional objects from a digital model, using additive processes in which successive layers of material are assembled on top of one another to build the desired object. This is extremely important because items can now be assembled from a digital model, which can increase precision and remove the risk of error. The 3D printing is quite different from older manufacturing techniques, which traditionally rely on removal (by cutting, drilling, chopping, etc.) instead of addition.

These medical solutions are not just for serious medical issues, they have also helped treat a wide range of different issues. Over the past two years,3D-printed ankle replacements,3D-printed casts, and3D-printed pills have all been developed and have seen great success rates.

This is all encouraging news, as the future for healthcare looks bright with technology continuing to improve in today’s society.

For more information on 3D printing,please read this article.