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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

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.