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Breaking News Stories in Healthcare Information Technology: Coronavirus Tracking

Moving into the final week of February, here is a rundown of the latest developments in healthcare technology news.

Tracking and Testing Coronavirus

Global work to contain the spread of the coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China has continued at a rapid pace to deliver relief to the areas affected by the outbreak and to stop its spread. As part of this work, two international health standards groups, the Regenstrief Institute and SNOMED International, have made major developments. The first, called LOINC, is a “laboratory and health observations-oriented coding system”. The second, SNOMED CT, is a clinical terminology for the disease. The virus was recently named SARS-CoV-2, the acronym for “Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2” by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICT) while the World Health Organization has dubbed the virus “COVID-19”. A scientist with the Regenstrief Institute stressed the importance of these latest developments to aid health care workers on the front lines of the epidemic to more accurately and quickly diagnose cases and to assess the actual spread of the virus by coming up with a uniform evaluation process for new cases.  View updated Corona Virus outbreak data .

Roadblocks to AI Healthcare Application Development

The medical applications of artificial intelligence (AI) technology are vast and exciting. AI has the potential to aid in diagnosing and treating a whole range of illnesses as well as the future possibility of surgery performed entirely by AI. Analysts note the increased efficiency of care and potential down the road for huge cost-savings as some of the major benefits of AI-oriented healthcare. However, a recent survey found a number of potential roadblocks for the application of AI technology to healthcare. The survey targeted healthcare leaders to ask about their opinions on AI in healthcare and what may prevent its progress. They found that a lack of professionally trained workforce to operate the technology, the high cost of incorporating AI into regular care, and privacy concerns with sensitive patient information may prevent as many providers from getting on board with AI as some have hoped. The hospitals and clinics that have implemented AI are very positive in their reviews. 89% of those surveyed reported that they believed AI technology in their hospitals was making patient care more efficient, and 91% said that AI increased patient access to care – two crucial markers for public health advocates who extoll the virtues of AI applications in healthcare. Many of the survey respondents touted the prospects of AI for their healthcare operations. 47% said they believed AI would have a “huge impact” on diagnostic procedures in the near future and 68% reported that they believed AI would play a major role in diagnosing patients as well. However, citing concerns, 44% of the same respondents said that their employees are prepared to institute AI in the workplace and not even half have relevant training programs for their healthcare workers. This healthcare technology news comes as a blow to AI developers who are staking part of their firms’ long-term success on the widespread adoption of AI technology by healthcare providers.

Congress Worried about Patient Privacy in New VA Healthcare App

The conflict between technology and privacy continues as congress weighs in on the issue. A new app approved for use by the Veterans Administration (VA) to aid in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and to help with pain management has come under scrutiny as congress expresses concern about the privacy of users — veterans seeking care in the federal government VA system. It is one of 50 apps approved for use currently by the VA. The concern was first raised in Congress by Representative Susie Lee from Nevada who noted the wide range of permissions that the user must grant to the app before using it, which could potentially allow access to sensitive data.

House of Representatives to Hold Hearing on Health Record Rollout

More healthcare technology news broke recently regarding the institution of new healthcare technology for the federal bureaucracy Veterans Administration. The VA recently announced plans to put off its scheduled rollout of a controversial new records-keeping system which it had originally planned to debut on March 28 at a facility in Spokane, Washington. Many members of Congress have expressed frustration about the delays as well as the potential problems with the app, citing privacy concerns and functionality. Representative Lee called on the VA to be “forthright about its progress, identify concerns, and notify Congress about any challenges.”