The Week in Health Information Technology News
Heading into the close of the year companies are busy trying to wrap up the year strong. This week Telehealth again is front and center. Add in blockchain, AI and digital health and you have a few very interesting stories in HIT for the week.
In recent healthcare technology news, an article published in US News World Report examines the implications of technology on the well-being of senior citizens. The advent of technology has impacted the care-continuum for older Americans both in and out of the hospital. For some patient groups, such as those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, technological monitoring can reduce the negative effects associated with moving into an assisted living home, all the while ensuring the patient still receives top tier services. Telehealth also has benefits for seniors in homes, as technology can alert already understaffed facilities to problems they may have otherwise missed. Mobile technology can track different indicators of health problems, such as when a patient’s movement pattern changes, or when they slur their speech. Relaying these signs to medical professionals can help them better understand when a person may need hospitalization. Another major boon in telehealth for seniors is precisely its overall ability to help healthcare professionals navigate the often fraught decision process of hospitalization, should it become necessary.
Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley published a paper in JAMA Open Network that claimed individual users of wearable activity trackers were still identifiable even after their data were aggregated. While the success rate wasn’t 100%, the ability to identify so many users still suggests that there are ramifications to using such devices as a FitBit that consumers, not to mention anyone involved in its regulation, manufacture or design, ought to consider. The import of data re-identification is especially clear upon consideration that military data could be compromised through wearable activity trackers. But more importantly, any number of health care organizations could pinpoint certain individuals from the data, which would redefine the privacy continuum for all parties involved if hospital or insurance companies used that data for their decision making processes.
Industry experts look at another development in healthcare technology news: how block
chain technology could disrupt the healthcare industry. After a brief review of the underpinnings that make block chain function, the author considers the importance of adopting such technologies in the healthcare industry, which notably suffers from privacy concerns in sharing patient data. Block chain data can secure that data and ensure that only approved users can view the files. Using this advancement would allow the numerous nodes in the healthcare continuum to communicate efficiently and securely. In fact, several companies have already begun to pursue applications. And while most of the developments focus on sharing patient data, other uses include preventing any user from falsifying the data in location trackers. Companies could see great savings from their products being able to be securely tracked from beginning to end of the sale cycle. Block chain has become so pervasive that most major tech companies have even invested at some level. That is to say, given such a large purview, the number of companies pursuing technological developments in this field is commensurate.
According to a study published in Health Affairs, tech firms fail to report on high-risk populations. This problem is compounded by the scant availability of studies that digital tech companies publish in the first place. The article argues that despite the nearly $6 billion invested in digital health companies last year, the anticipated benefits have yet to receive peer-reviewed study to back up claims that any of the metrics, such as client connection, communication or patient responsiveness, are actually improving. This problem is not necessarily a tipping point: since the technology in the healthcare is so recently innovating the industry, the authors acknowledge that serious studies into the benefits of such investments would necessarily be forthcoming. The researchers in the study even suggest their intention with publishing their paper was to encourage more tech firms to prove that the money they spent has lead to measurable increase outcomes and suggest possible ways to do so.
Another development in healthcare technology news is that the FDA has launched its own parameters to guide the industry to develop safer applications for cutting edge products. The guide launched by the government administration addressed the safe use of software used in the ever-developing healthcare landscape to make decisions, diagnose diseases and check in on patients. There are several metrics used to test the thoroughness of the software. The intention in creating such diagnostics is to ensure the safe use of artificial intelligence, among other applications. The new initiative would allow those companies that pass to obtain FDA clearance more easily in the future.