Free EMR Newsletter Want to receive the latest news on EMR, Meaningful Use, ARRA and Healthcare IT sent straight to your email? Join thousands of healthcare pros who subscribe to EMR and HIPAA for FREE!!

AMA’s Digital Health ‘Snake Oil’ Claim Creates Needless Conflict

Posted on June 22, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Earlier this month, the head of the American Medical Association issued a challenge which should resonate for years to come. At this year’s annual meeting, Dr. James Madara argued that many direct-to-consumer digital health products, apps and even EMRs were “the digital snake oil of the early 21st century,” and that doctors will need to serve as gatekeepers to the industry.

His comments, which have been controversial, weren’t quite as immoderate as some critics have suggested. He argued that some digital health tools were “potentially magnificent,” and called on doctors to separate useful products from “so-called advancements that don’t have an appropriate evidence base, or that just don’t work that well – or that actually impede care, confuse patients, and waste our time.”

It certainly makes sense to sort the digital wheat from the chaff. After all, as of late last year there were more than 165,000 mobile health apps on the market, more than double that available in 2013, according to a study by IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. And despite the increasing proliferation of wearable health trackers, there is little research available to suggest that they offer concrete health benefits or promote sustainable behavior change.

That being said, the term “snake oil” has a loaded historical meaning, and we should hold Dr. Madara accountable for using it. According to Wikipedia, “snake oil” is an expression associated with products that offer questionable or unverifiable quality or benefits – which may or may not be fair. But let’s take things a bit further. In the same entry, Wikipedia defines a snake oil salesman “is someone who knowingly sells fraudulent goods or who is themselves a fraud, quack or charlatan.” And that’s a pretty harsh way to describe digital health entrepreneurs.

Ultimately, though, the issue isn’t whether Dr. Madara hurt someone’s feelings. What troubles me about his comments is they create conflict where none needs to exist.

Back in the 1850s, when what can charitably be called “entrepreneurs” were selling useless or toxic elixirs, many were doubtless aware that the products they sold had no benefit or might even harm consumers. And if what I’ve read about that era is true, I doubt they cared.

But today’s digital health entrepreneurs, in contrast, desperately want to get it right. These innovators – and digital health product line leaders within firms like Samsung and Apple – are very open to working with clinicians. In fact, most if not all work directly with both staff doctors and clinicians in community practice, and are always open to getting guidance on how to support the practice of medicine.

So while Dr. Madara’s comments aren’t precisely wrong, they suggest a fear and distrust of technology which doesn’t become any 21st century professional organization.

Think I’m wrong? Well, then why didn’t the AMA leader announce the formation of an investment fund to back the “potentially magnificent” advances he admits exist? If the AMA did that, it would demonstrate that even a 169-year-old organization can adapt and grow. But otherwise, his words suggest that the venerable trade group still holds disappointingly Luddite views better suited for the dustbin of history.

UPDATE:  An AMA representative has informed me that I got some details in the story above wrong, and I’m eager to correct my error. According to Christopher Khoury, vice president of environmental analysis and strategic analytics with the group, the AMA is indeed investing in digital health innovation. He notes that in January, the group announced the formation of San Francisco-based Health2047 (www.health2047.com), for which it serves as lead investor. Health2047 is dedicated to furthering the commercialization of digital tools and solutions that help practicing physicians. It also sponsors Matter, a healthcare incubator based in Chicago.

E-Patient Update: Using Digital Health For Collaborative Medication Management

Posted on June 1, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Recently, I had a medical visit which brought home the gap between how doctors and patients approach to medications. While the physician and his staff seemed focused on updating a checklist of meds, I wanted med education and a chance to ask in-depth self-management questions. And though digital health tools and services could help me achieve these goals, they didn’t seem to be on the medical group’s radar.

At this visit, as I waited to see the doctor, a nurse entered with a laptop on a cart. Consulting her screen, she read off my medication list and item by item, asked me to confirm whether I took the given medication. Then, she asked me to supply the name and dosage of any drugs that weren’t included on the list. Given that I have a few chronic conditions, and take as many as a dozen meds a day, this was an awkward exercise. But I complied as best I could. When a physician saw me later, we discussed only the medication he planned to add to the mix.

While I felt quite comfortable with both the nurse and doctor, I wasn’t satisfied with the way the medication list update was handled. At best, the process was clumsy, and at worst, it might have passed over important information on drug history, interactions and compliance. Also, at least for me, discussing medications was difficult without being able to see the list.

But at least in theory, digital health technology could go a long way toward addressing these issues. For example:

  • If one is available, the practice could use a medication management app which syncs with the EMR it uses. That way, clinicians could see my updates and ask questions as appropriate.
  • Alternatively, the patient should have the opportunity to review their medication list while waiting to be seen, perhaps by using a specialized patient login for an EMR portal. This could be done using a laptop or tablet on a cart similar to what clinicians use.
  • When reviewing their medication list, patients could select medications about which they have questions, delete medications they no longer take and enter meds they’ve started since their last visit.
  • At least for complex cases, patients should have an opportunity to do a telehealth consult with a pharmacist if requested. This would be especially helpful prior to adding new drugs to a patient’s regimen. (I don’t know if such services exist but my interest in them stands.)

To me, using digital health options to help patients manage their meds makes tremendous sense. Now that such tools are available, physicians can loop patients into the med management discussion without having to spend a lot of extra time or money. What’s more, collaboration helps patients manage their own care more effectively over the long term, which will be critical under value-based care. But it may not be easy to convince them that this is a good idea.

Unfortunately, many physicians see sharing any form of patient data as a loss of control. After all, in the past a chart was for doctors, not patients, and in my experience, that dynamic has carried over into the digital world. I have struggled against this — in part by simply asking to look at the EMR screen — but my sense is that many clinicians are afraid I’ll see something untoward, misinterpret a data point or engage in some other form of mischief.

Still, I have vowed to take better control of my medications, and I’m going to ask every physician that treats me to consider digital med management tools. I need them to know that this is what I need. Let’s see if I get anywhere!

Talking Digital Health at CES on MedHeads

Posted on January 8, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I was invited by the good people at MedCity News to join their weekly MedHeads video chat to talk about Digital Health at CES. It was a great chat about some of the things myself and Stephanie Baum found at CES. Plus, Chris Seper and Neil Versel talked about what they saw watching from home. Check it out in the video embedded below.

Of course, the challenge was we only had 30 minutes to talk about the 2.5 million square feet of of exhibit space and ~20,000 new products that were unveiled at the show. Chew on those numbers a little bit.

Plus, while what’s happening on the show floor is great, there’s also hundreds of thousands of meetings that happen over dinners and drinks and that’s where the most exciting stuff happens. For example, Philips put on an incredible dinner Wednesday night of CES that had a whose who in the Digital Health space. I had a similar experience at the Digital Health Summit Speaker dinner last night. The bringing together of these like minded businesses is a really powerful thing.

You’ll never guess the theme of both dinner events: Collaboration! There was a real sense by those in attendance that we can’t accomplish what we need to alone. We need each other to be successful. The first step to making that happen is meeting each other and learn about what each of us is doing. CES presented an amazing opportunity for doing just that.

Amazingly, there are still 2 more days left of CES. Today and tomorrow I’m looking to hit more of the startup area (Eureka Park) and the main show floor at the Las Vegas convention center. Much more to come!

Are We In a Digital Health Bubble?

Posted on January 7, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

As I walked through the exhibit hall at CES, I must admit that I was extremely overwhelmed by the number of digital health options that were on display. Certainly the size and grandeur of the booths was off the charts. Take a quick look at part of the iFit booth:
Digital Health at CES
Yes, that is 4 girls walking on treadmills on a vaulted stage. Of course, this was maybe 1/3 of their booth. Behind me they had a massive closed room and another girl walking on a different treadmill. Plus, upon closer inspection you might also notice that they have a bed on the vaulted stage and cloth coming down from the ceiling. I think they officially call that cloth “silks.” While I didn’t see it, you can tell that they’re going to have a Cirque du Soleil performer working the silks to attract attention to their booth. For those keeping track at home, there is a great sleep sensor from EarlySense on the bed.

While many might consider much of this absurd. The show and staging doesn’t really bother me too much. Since I organize the Healthcare IT Marketing and PR Conference, I understand how hard it is to stand out at a conference. No doubt this booth left an impression. iFit even got exposure in this blog post because of it. We could argue if it was a good investment or not, but that’s a different story.

All I could think about as I walked through the incredible number of digital health solutions at CES was “Not all of these can survive.

Of course, many in the startup world would say that 90% of startups fail and so it shouldn’t be a surprise that so many of the companies exhibiting at CES will disappear. That’s true, but I never felt like this in past years. In past years at CES it felt like a number of players with some overlap and some competitive pressures, but that there was plenty of pie for everyone. This year has me wondering if that’s still the case.

As I mentioned, I’m hoping to publish a list of all the various health tracking devices. I realized that this going to take a lot of work. I’m still planning to work on it, but it’s going to take some time to do it right. One person I talked to said that there are about 700 health tracking devices out there. Of course, the real challenge is that 500 of them still don’t actually deliver (ie. they haven’t gone to market with a product or they can’t deliver the results they say they can deliver). Even 200 legitimate companies makes for a really competitive environment where people still talk about Fitbit and the Apple Watch and don’t know many of the others.

Let me be clear though. I think there’s a ton of tremendous innovation happening in the digital health space. From a consumer perspective all of this competition (bubble if you will) is great! Competition will push vendors to take what they’re doing to a new level. We’ll have a ton of amazing discoveries that will ripple through all of these companies. This is all great and will work out well for consumers and healthcare.

Plus, on the fringes you find some people doing unique things. The problem is that many of those companies have a hard time being heard with all of the other companies making so much noise. Sometimes I’m talking literal noise. I think it was the Under Armour booth that felt like they were a Las Vegas night club. It made it a lot of fun to visit and certainly attracted attention. I just wouldn’t want to be exhibiting at the booth next to them.

My First Look at Digital Health at CES

Posted on January 5, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Last night was the official press kick off of CES (Use to be called the Consumer Electronics Show) with a press only event called CES Unveiled. In past years CES Unveiled has been somewhat of a disappointment. Too crowded. Little food. Not very many interesting companies. However, you’d find 1 or 2 companies that really caught your eye and it was also good to see generally what some of the trends of the industry were.

This year felt different. The variety of interesting technologies that were on display was quite exciting. Here’s some mostly healthcare related observations from CES Unveiled.

The number of healthcare wearable copycats is exploding. I’ll be following up on this when I hit the full show floor. I’m going to do my best to make a list of all the companies that are doing health wearables at CES and which ones they’re doing. Needless to say, you’re going to have a lot of choices the next time you want to buy a fitness watch, blood pressure cuff, ekg, connected scale, etc. If I’ve already seen this proliferation at CES Unveiled (which has like 100 companies) I can only imagine how many more there will be on the CES show floor. Plus, there’s at least a few companies talking about invisibles which track the same as wearables but you don’t wear them. More on those later.

The digital health solutions I found are very international. I was impressed by the large number of international players that were developing digital health solutions. I saw solutions coming from China, Netherlands, France, and Italy to name a few. It makes sense that health matters around the world. I just hadn’t seen all these international players in the digital health space at past CES. Some of them haven’t even thought about the US market. However, they’re considering it in the future.

I also came across a smart desk solution from Humanscale that shows promise for employee wellness. I’ll be exploring these solutions more, but they have a sit-stand desk and sensors that track how long you’re sitting or standing and have created software to encourage you to move around more if you’re not moving enough. They even have employer dashboards that help a company evaluate their employee’s wellness from an ergonomic standpoint.

The home is being digitized. A simple example of this is the ICON Home Panel. Imagine having an iPad or Android device on your wall. That’s basically what they’ve done. They’ve started with having it control the temperature of your house the way your current temperature gauge can do, but now that you have a full Android device on the wall, it opens up a whole new world of opportunities.

My family got an Amazon Echo for Christmas this year and that’s opened my eyes to the future. If you haven’t seen or used the Amazon Echo, it’s basically a voice controlled virtual assistant. Kind of like Siri for your home. Now imagine that technology available in the Android home panel I just talked about. Pretty powerful stuff.

What does a smart panel and Amazon echo have to do with healthcare? It’s all part of the mesh of connections that will be needed to help you monitor and improve your health. Amazon Echo already has what they call the 7 minute workout. You just say “Alexa, start my 7 minute workout” and the Amazon Echo will start walking you through a workout. Think about the Humanscale sensors mentioned above. Could the wall mounted “brain” connect with sensors around your house to let you know that you’ve been in front of the TV for 4 hours? I don’t see it shouting out at you to get off the couch, but there could be ways to use this data to motivate you to be more healthy.

From a security and privacy perspective, I was really impressed by the Qkey. In many cases, CES Unveiled was a progression of existing technologies. However, I’d never seen anything like Qkey. The Qkey is basically a key size device that you can plug into any computer. You can then run a web browser (one they developed) and securely surf the internet. It also has a number of other interesting security features like securing storing your credit card info so that you don’t have to hit any keystrokes. Not only is that convenient, but it makes it so keyloggers can’t capture your credit card info either. I’m planning to stop by their booth and get one that I can use. So, I’ll report back on it more later.

The one challenge with the Qkey for health care is that it runs a custom web browser. I’d be interested to know if it works with the web based EHR out there or not. However, that doesn’t really matter since you can’t run any of the client server applications like Cerner, Epic, or MEDITECH on it. So, it’s not really an option for a large portion of healthcare. From a patient perspective, it could be a great way to access their health info. I love that Qkey is looking at security and privacy from a very different perspective though.

There’s a few of the things I saw that caught my eye. Along with these there was an interesting mix of drones, 3D printers, Virtual Reality (VR), accessories, and new input devices. Some of the new input devices get me excited. Unfortunately, they’re all focused on things like gaming and music right now. However, that tech will no doubt leak over into all of our computer interfaces in the future.

3D Printed Stethoscopes for Just 30 Cents

Posted on August 25, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

We’ve written about 3D printing a number of times before including the 3D printed hand, 3D printed hearts, and even 3D printed blood systems to name a few. Plus, we’re just getting started with the 3D printing revolution.

Another example of the amazing work of 3D printing in healthcare is this story about a doctor in Gaza that’s developed a 3D printed Stethoscope. Here’s a quote from the article which highlight the healthcare challenges he faces:

“I had to hold my ear to the chests of victims because there were no good stethoscopes, and that was a tragedy, a travesty, and unacceptable,” Loubani told the Chaos Communications Camp in Zehdenick, Germany. “We made a list of these things that if I could bring them into Gaza, into the third world in which I work and live, then I felt like I could change the lives of my patients.”

In order to solve this problem Loubani turned to the Glia Free Medical hardware project in order to develop the 3D printed stethoscope. They estimate that it cost them about $10,000 to develop. Here’s the quote about the 3D printed stethoscope that’s astounding:

“This stethoscope is as good as any stethoscope out there in the world and we have the data to prove it,” Loubani says.

I’m sure the FDA won’t let them say that, but when your alternative is putting your ear to the chest of the patient, it’s hard to argue with a 30 cent tool that will be an improvement over no stethoscope.

It’s also exciting that the Glia team is also working to develop pulse oximetry equipment, a gauze loom, otoscope, and other surgical tools. Plus, as you can probably imagine from the name, anything that the Glia Free Medical hardware project develops will be released as open source to the community.

It’s worth noting that prominent people like Dr. Eric Topol have been saying that he no longer carries a stethoscope since he can just do an ultrasound and see the heart or an EKG with his cell phone. This reminds me of the hashtag #FirstWorldProblems The hashtag doesn’t quite work for this, but it reminds us of the difference between what’s available in a first world country versus the developing world. It’s amazing what we take for granted. A doctor having a stethoscope nearby has been a standard forever in the US. Hopefully now it will become a standard in Gaza thanks to the new 30 cent innovation.

Digital Health at CES Wrap Up Video

Posted on January 21, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

CES 2015 is now in the headlights. One person I talked to said they thought that the event was missing some of the excitement of previous years. I disagreed with him. I thought it was more exciting than previous years. Although, my excitement comes from the entrepreneurs and the Digital Health space. If you look at the larger CES floor with the massive million dollar booths, it was lacking some luster. Of course, with the size of CES, it’s easy to understand why two people could have very different experiences.

If you’re interested about what else I found at CES, I sat down with Dr. Nick van Terheyden, CMIO at Nuance, to talk about our experiences at CES 2015 and some of the takeaways from what we saw. I think you’ll enjoy this CES 2015 video chat below:

A Video Look at the Digital Health, Fitness and Wellness Section of CES 2015

Posted on January 8, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

After my initial CES Observations post, I’ve spent most of the time on some over the counter drugs and trying to stay warm in bed. Luckily I think I’m on the way out of whatever cold/flu/misery I had upon me. However, it kind of ruined many of my CES plans.

With that said, I did make some time to go and at least check out the Digital Health section of CES 2015. I wrote about the wearables explosion over on Smart Phone Healthcare and to illustrate some of what I describe in that post, I shot this video of the Digital Health exhibition space at CES. I was moving pretty fast to get through it in 12 minutes, but you’ll see a bunch of the brands and booths that were there along with a feeling for the event (Yes, tomorrow I need to go and investigate the steady cam options at the show.).

If you’ve been at CES or watching the coverage back home. What’s been most exciting, interesting, impressive, thought provoking, disappointing?

Healthcare IT at CES and Digital Health Summit

Posted on January 3, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

As most of you know, I attend quite a few healthcare IT conferences. This is aided by many great conferences coming to my hometown of Las Vegas. Next week this happens again when the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) happens in Las Vegas. If you thought HIMSS was big, you should attend CES to see what big really is. CES is insane. It’s so large that I think that Las Vegas is the only convention city that can support its size. CES takes over both the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Sands Convention Center and that’s just for the official show.

I’ve been attending CES ever since I moved to Las Vegas about 7 years ago. At first I mostly attended CES to enjoy the “circus.” I’d just walk onto the CES show floor and get lost in the flashing lights, incredible products, showy booths, and just about everything else you could imagine on an exhibit floor. It was always a fun experience and I’d always happen upon something healthcare IT related in my wanderings.

A couple years ago, CES started to create essentially mini-conferences within the larger CES conference. One of those focuses was healthcare IT and was called the Digital Health Summit. Since those small beginnings the digital health portion of CES has grown into a really interesting place to see various consumer health IT products.

The Digital Health Summit is broken into two areas. First, they have the educational programming piece which is 2 days of digital health panels. You can see the full Digital Health Summit agenda here. One thing I love about the Digital Health Summit is that it’s not the regular healthcare IT speakers. In fact, in many cases it is people who you won’t find at other healthcare IT conferences you might attend. So, you’re guaranteed to hear some different perspectives on healthcare IT that you hadn’t heard before. Plus, they bring in big names like Arianna Huffington, Sanjay Gupta, and Deepak Chopra MD.

The second part of the Digital Health Summit is a section of the CES show floor that is focused on digital health. Each year I’ve attended the Digital Health section of CES has grown larger and larger. It’s usually an interesting mix of devices, exercise equipment, healthcare companies (like United Health Group), and other amazing healthcare technology (like the Genetic sequencer at last year’s CES). I even found an EHR company at CES one year. It seems that healthcare devices are really coming into their own this year and so I expect the exhibit hall to be stock full of the latest medical devices.

I’m sure I’ll be tweeting from CES on @ehrandhit when I find cool things. Plus, I’m sure I’ll capture a picture or two of the craziness that is CES (like the guy last year who was doing double back flips on a trampoline wearing skis).

If you’re going to be at CES, let me know. I always love meeting people at the event and enjoying the craziness together.