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The Future Of Telemedicine Doesn’t Depend On Health Plans Anymore

Posted on December 6, 2017 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.

For as long as I can remember, the growth of telemedicine depended largely on overcoming two obstacles: bandwidth and reimbursement. Now, both are on the verge of melting away.

One, the availability of broadband, has largely been addressed, though there are certainly areas of the US where broadband is harder to get than it should be. Having lived through a time when the very idea of widely available consumer broadband blew our minds, it’s amazing to say this, but we’ve largely solved the problem in the United States.

The other, the willingness of insurers to pay for telemedicine services, is still something of an issue and will be for a while. However, it won’t stay that way for too much longer in my opinion.

Yes, over the short term it still matters whether a telemedicine visit is going to be funded by a payer –after all, if a clinician is going to deliver services somebody has to pay for their time. But there are good reasons why this will not continue to be an issue.

For one thing, as the direct-to-consumer models have demonstrated, patients are increasingly willing to pay for telemedical care out-of-pocket. Customers of sites like HealthTap and Teladoc won’t pay top dollar for such services, but it seems apparent that they’re willing to engage with and stay interested in solving certain problems this way (such as, for example, getting a personal illness triaged and treated without having to skip work the next day).

Another way telemedicine services have changed, from what I can see, is that health systems and hospitals are beginning to integrate it with their other service lines as a routine part of delivering care. Virtual consults are no longer this “weird” thing they do on the side, but a standard approach to addressing common health problems, especially chronic illness.

Then, of course, there’s the most important factor taking control of telemedicine away from health plans: the need to use it to achieve population health management goals. While its use is still a little bit lopsided at present, as healthcare organizations aren’t sure how to optimize telehealth initiatives, eventually they’ll get the formula right, and that will include using it as a way of tying together a seamless value-based delivery network.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that without the reach, flexibility and low cost of telehealth delivery, building out population health management schemes might be almost impossible in the future. Having specialists available to address urgent matters and say, for example, rural areas will be critical on the one hand, while making specialists need for chronic care (such as endocrinologists) accessible to unwell urban patients with travel concerns.

Despite the growing adoption of telemedicine by providers, it may be 5 to 10 years or so before it has its fullest impact, a period during which health plans gradually accept that the growth of this technology isn’t up to them anymore. But the day will without a doubt arise soon enough that “telemedicine” is just known as medicine.

EHR, Patient Portals and OpenNotes: Making OpenNotes Work Well – #HITsm Chat Topic

Posted on December 5, 2017 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’re excited to share the topic and questions for this week’s #HITsm chat happening Friday, 12/8 at Noon ET (9 AM PT). This week’s chat will be hosted by Homer Chin (@chinhom) and Amy Fellows (@afellowsamy) from (@MyOpenNotes) on the topic of “EHR, Patient Portals and OpenNotes: Making OpenNotes Work Well.”

There are now nearly 100 health systems across the United States using secure patient portals to share visit notes with more than 20 million of their patients. And as the saying goes, if you’ve seen one OpenNotes implementation, you’ve seen one OpenNotes implementation.

No two health systems approach OpenNotes in the same way, and much of the variation stems from human resistance to change. Change is hard; whether it involves assuring and supporting clinicians in their move toward sharing notes or whether it’s surmounting technical challenges within the electronic health record.

We know the electronic health record is here to stay. We’re not going back to paper. And we know that when patients are offered online access to the medical information in their records, including access to notes, these patients continue to want that access and they share its benefits.

At their annual meeting in November 2017, the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) announced a formal collaboration with OpenNotes, stating, “The evidence-base is clear: providing patients access to their physician’s notes improves physician-patient communication and trust, patient safety, and perhaps even patient outcomes.”

So how do we bridge resistance to change? And as OpenNotes expands, how do we guide health systems to ensure the best possible patient experience?

Join us as we dive into this topic during this week’s #HITsm chat using the following questions. Homer Chin and Amy Fellows will be on hand to share key learnings from vendors and health IT teams that have been making OpenNotes work over the past few years.

Reference Materials:

Topics for This Week’s #HITsm Chat:

T1: What cultural barriers to OpenNotes adoption and use exist within the #healthcare IT profession vs. the clinical/medical community? #hitsm

T2: Given that OpenNotes is a movement and not a discrete software product, what are the technical challenges for implementing OpenNotes inside the patient portal? #hitsm

T3: If you’re currently implementing OpenNotes in your health system: What advice and/or cavetats can you share with colleagues? #hitsm

T4: If you haven’t implemented OpenNotes at your health system: What’s holding you back? What do you believe are the key challenges impeding implementation? #hitsm

T5: What customization strategies and/or tips do you have for helping patients navigate healthcare portals to find their #medical record notes? #hitsm

BONUS: What type of “OpenNotes-related” functionality should #EHR vendors be including in their product(s) to serve both clinicians AND patients? #hitsm

Upcoming #HITsm Chat Schedule
12/15 – What’s Keeing HealthIT from Soaring to the Cloud?
Hosted by David Fuller (@genkidave)

12/22 – Holiday Break

12/29 – Holiday Break

We look forward to learning from the #HITsm community! As always, let us know if you’d like to host a future #HITsm chat or if you know someone you think we should invite to host.

If you’re searching for the latest #HITsm chat, you can always find the latest #HITsm chat and schedule of chats here.

Machine Learning, Data Science, AI, Deep Learning, and Statistics – It’s All So Confusing

Posted on November 30, 2017 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.

It seems like these days every healthcare IT company out there is saying they’re doing machine learning, AI, deep learning, etc. So many companies are using these terms that they’ve started to lose meaning. The problem is that people are using these labels regardless of whether they really apply. Plus, we all have different definitions for these terms.

As I search to understand the differences myself, I found this great tweet from Ronald van Loon that looks at this world and tries to better define it:

In that tweet, Ronald also links to an article that looks at some of the differences. I liked this part he took from Quora:

  • AI (Artificial intelligence) is a subfield of computer science, that was created in the 1960s, and it was (is) concerned with solving tasks that are easy for humans, but hard for computers. In particular, a so-called Strong AI would be a system that can do anything a human can (perhaps without purely physical things). This is fairly generic, and includes all kinds of tasks, such as planning, moving around in the world, recognizing objects and sounds, speaking, translating, performing social or business transactions, creative work (making art or poetry), etc.
  • Machine learning is concerned with one aspect of this: given some AI problem that can be described in discrete terms (e.g. out of a particular set of actions, which one is the right one), and given a lot of information about the world, figure out what is the “correct” action, without having the programmer program it in. Typically some outside process is needed to judge whether the action was correct or not. In mathematical terms, it’s a function: you feed in some input, and you want it to to produce the right output, so the whole problem is simply to build a model of this mathematical function in some automatic way. To draw a distinction with AI, if I can write a very clever program that has human-like behavior, it can be AI, but unless its parameters are automatically learned from data, it’s not machine learning.
  • Deep learning is one kind of machine learning that’s very popular now. It involves a particular kind of mathematical model that can be thought of as a composition of simple blocks (function composition) of a certain type, and where some of these blocks can be adjusted to better predict the final outcome.

Is that clear for you now? Would you suggest different definitions? Where do you see people using these terms correctly and where do you see them using them incorrectly?

The Present Bias Problem with Medication Adherence

Posted on November 29, 2017 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 recently met Matthew Loper, the founder of a startup company called Wellth. The company is using behavioral economics to improve healthcare outcomes. They’re literally paying patients cold hard cash to take their medications. Plus, they have some pretty cool technology that uses just the smart phone to track medication adherence.

I must admit that I’ve seen hundreds of medication compliance companies over the years. While the approach each took was intriguing, all of them seemed to have some major obstacle to adoption. Some were too expensive. Some would never be adopted by patients. Some would never be adopted by healthcare providers, etc.

With this in mind, I was intrigued by a few slides that Matthew Loper from Wellth showed me about the medication adherence market and why the startups in that space have had limited success to date. First, he started off with this slide which illustrated the problem:

I’m not sure I agree totally with the concept of chronic patients not doing what’s rational. Instead, I think this slide illustrates that many chronic patients make short term versus long term decisions when it comes to their care. No doubt these short term decisions are very rational decisions in their minds. However, this data illustrates the Present Bias problem we have with medication adherence.

Matthew’s next slide illustrated really well how most current medication adherence solutions don’t solve the present bias problem:

I thought this slide categorized the medication adherence companies I’ve seen really well. It also explains why most of them aren’t very effective. Then, Matthew went on to suggest that paying patients to adhere to their care plan does overcome the Present Bias challenge:

You can talk with Wellth if you want to get more details on their work and the results of their pilots. It’s still early in their journey, but the concept seems to be producing some quality results. Plus, I love their efforts to use the cash incentive long enough to create a habit which then is sustained well after the payments stop. Pretty fascinating approach.

No doubt there are a lot more complexities associated with medication adherence. For example, this approach doesn’t take into account people who are motivated by money. However, it’s surprising how even rich people want to get a good deal. It will also take some time to see how much money is required to truly motivate someone to be compliant and if that cost is less that the amount of money saved. Not to mention, how do you even quantify how much money was saved when someone is more adherent to their care plan.

These challenges aren’t unique to Wellth, but to every healthcare IT solution working on this problem. It’s also why many of them have a hard time making the case for their solution. Turns out that purchasers of these solutions have a present bias problem as well. However, as more studies are done and as we get better at tracking a patient’s health, we’ll better be able to understand the long term benefits of things like medication adherence.

What do you think of Wellth’s approach to medication adherence? Should we be paying patients when they adhere to their care plan?

Using Technology to Fight EHR Burnout – #HITsm Chat Topic

Posted on November 28, 2017 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’re excited to share the topic and questions for this week’s #HITsm chat happening Friday, 12/1 at Noon ET (9 AM PT). This week’s chat will be hosted by Gabe Charbonneau, MD (@gabrieldane) on the topic of “Using Technology to Fight EHR Burnout.”

We live in confusing times. The marriage of technology and medicine is on the cusp of game changing breakthroughs. There is so much promise with deep learning/AI, big data, and the exponential growth in processing speed and storage, just to name a few. So, how is it that we are yet to get out of the dark ages when it comes to the EHR?

Physician burnout is a real problem. It seems like there is a new article put out weekly on the topic. Study after study points fingers of blame at the EHR. The pain from data entry and systems that don’t flow for clinicians is at an all time high. “Too many clicks”, and too many docs spending “pajama time” charting at home.

It has to get better.

While tech has been identified as a top contributor to the problem, it also has the potential to be a huge part of the solution.

Join us as we dive into this topic during this week’s #HITsm chat using the following questions.

Topics for This Week’s #HITsm Chat:

T1: Why is the EHR such a major driver of burnout in medicine? We’ve heard the common answers of “too many clicks” and increased clerical burden, but what else? Let’s dig deeper. #hitsm

T2: Who is happiest with their EHR and why? What can we learn from them? #hitsm

T3: What current technologies are the best for reducing EHR burnout? #hitsm

T4: What is the most exciting emerging technology for decreasing EHR burnout? #hitsm

T5: When should we expect to see the first wave of major improvements in EHR user experience for clinicians? What will it look like? #hitsm

Bonus: How can we take steps today to start moving the burnout needle in the right direction? #HITsm

Upcoming #HITsm Chat Schedule
12/8 – EHR, Patient Portals and OpenNotes: Making OpenNotes Work Well
Hosted by Homer Chin (@chinhom) and Amy Fellows (@afellowsamy) from @MyOpenNotes)

12/15 – What’s holding HealthIT from soaring to the Cloud?
Hosted by David Fuller (@genkidave)

12/22 – Holiday Break

12/29 – Holiday Break

We look forward to learning from the #HITsm community! As always, let us know if you’d like to host a future #HITsm chat or if you know someone you think we should invite to host.

If you’re searching for the latest #HITsm chat, you can always find the latest #HITsm chat and schedule of chats here.

AMA Connects Doctors With Health IT Ventures

Posted on November 22, 2017 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.

Maybe I’m wrong, but the following strikes me as coming straight from the Redundancy Department of Redundancy…but let’s see. Maybe I’m just being mean. Or maybe it’s because I just couldn’t taste The Rainbow in my last package of Skittles.

Anyway, recently AMA announced the launch of an online platform, the Physician Innovation Network (PIN), designed to connect physicians together with health tech firms.

The PIN will give HIT companies will have a straightforward channel for collecting physician input on the products and services they’re developing. The health IT ventures will also be able to search for physicians who have the expertise they need and are willing to exchange information with them. Meanwhile, the platform will help physicians to find paid and volunteer opportunities to work with health tech companies to work with the health take ventures that suit them.

In recent years, the AMA has taken several steps to bring the world of health IT and physicians closer together. Most recently, the trade group announced that it had created a data standardization organization known as the Integrated Health Model Initiative. The physician group and its partners say the new data model will include clinically-validated data elements designed to speed up the development of improved data organization, management, and analytics.

Its other HIT initiatives include:

  • Co-founding Health2047, a company designed (like PIN) to bring together physicians with established healthcare companies and help them launch useful services and products
  • Serving as one of four founding organizations behind Xcertia, an organization intended to foster knowledge about clinical content, usability, privacy, security and evidence of efficacy for mHealth apps
  • Managing a student-run biotechnology incubator in collaboration with Sling Health,

But what is there to say about PIN that distinguishes it from all of these efforts? It resembles Health2047, mais non? And what benefit does it add over LinkedIn? Specialty interest groups within the MGMA and HIMSS? AngelList? A giant digital corkboard and some virtual Post-It notes?

Don’t get me wrong, I know I’ve come down hard on the AMA’s product launch announcements rather often, perhaps too often. Depending on how it actually works, PIN may actually offer some incremental value over all of these other options. And hey, if the trade group wants to throw its money around, whom am I to say that they shouldn’t have at it.

The thing is, though, the AMA doesn’t work in a vacuum.

Look, as we all know, we’re absolutely drowning in initiatives and proposals and great new ideas for interoperability and the collection of consumer-generated health data. And don’t forget scoping out the best architecture for deploying two tin cans with a piece of string between them, getting budget approval from a Magic 8 Ball (signs point to no), and repurposing some BASIC code from a  Commodore 64 to develop your next mobile health app. (Yes, it tired me out to write that sentence but it was worth it.)

Silliness aside, when you have the kind of resources the AMA does, you want to the profession to say something meaningful when you open your mouth, professionally speaking. Other than that, you’re just sucking air out of the room that could be used for people with a differentiated idea in real value to deliver.  Hey, but other than that, the PIN announcement is just fine.

LTPAC – A Vibrant Hidden World

Posted on November 20, 2017 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

PointClickCare, makers of a cloud-based suite of applications designed for long-term post acute care (LTPAC), recently held its annual user conference (PointClickCare SUMMIT) in sunny Orlando, Florida. The conference quite literally shone a light on the LTPAC world – a world that is often overlooked by those of us that focus on the acute care side of healthcare. It was an eye-opening experience.

This year’s SUMMIT was the largest in the company’s history, attracting over 1,800 attendees from skilled nursing providers, senior living facilities, home health agencies and Continuing Care Retirement Communities. Over the three days of SUMMIT I managed to speak to about 100 attendees and every one of them had nothing but praise for PointClickCare.

“I couldn’t imagine doing my work without PointClickCare. I wouldn’t even know where to start if I had to use paper.”

“I don’t want to go back to the days before we had PointClickCare. We had so much paperwork back then and I used to spend an hour or two after my shift just documenting. Now I don’t have to. I track everything in the system as I go.”

“PointClickCare lets us focus more on the people in our care. We have the ability to do things that would have been impossible if we weren’t on an electronic system. We’re even starting to share data with some of our community partners.”

Contrary to what many believe, not every skilled nursing provider and senior living facility operates with clipboards and fax machines. “That’s one of the biggest misconceptions that people have of the LTPAC market,” says Dave Wessinger, Co-Founder and CTO at PointClickCare. “Almost everyone assumes that LTPAC organizations use nothing but paper or a terrible self-built electronic solution. The reality is that many have digitized their operations and are every bit as modern as their acute care peers.”

According to a recent Black Book survey, 19 percent of LTPAC providers have now adopted some form of an Electronic Health Record (EHR) system. In 2016, Black Book found the adoption rate was 15 percent. The Office of the National Coordinator recently published a data brief that showed adoption of EHRs by Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs) had reached 64% in 2016.

Although these numbers are low compared to the +90% EHR adoption rate by US hospitals, it does indicate that there are many pioneering LTPAC providers that have jumped into the digital world.

“It’s fun to be asked by our clients to work with their acute care partners,” explains BJ Boyle, Director of Product Management at PointClickCare. “First of all, they are surprised that a company like PointClickCare even exists. They are even more surprised when we work with them to exchange health information via CCD.”

Boyle’s statement was one of many during SUMMIT that opened my eyes to the innovative technology ecosystem that exists in LTPAC. Further proof came from the SUMMIT exhibit hall where no less than 72 partners had booths set up.

Among the exhibitors were several that focus exclusively on the LTPAC market:

  • Playmaker. A CRM/Sales solution for post-acute care.
  • Hymark. A technical consultancy that helps LTPAC organizations implement and optimize PointClickCare.
  • Careserv. A LTPAC cloud-hosting and managed services provider.

And some with specialized LTPAC offerings:

  • Care.ly. An app that helps families coordinate the care of their elderly loved ones with senior care facilities.
  • McBee Associates. Financial and revenue cycle consultants that help LTPAC organizations.

I came away from SUMMIT with a newfound respect for the people that work in LTPAC. I also have a new appreciation for the innovative solutions being developed for LTPAC by companies like PointClickCare, Care.ly and Playmaker. This is a vibrant hidden world that is worth paying attention to.

Note: PointClickCare did cover travel expenses for Healthcare Scene to be able to attend the conference.

Measuring the Vital Signs of Health Care Progress at the Connected Health Conference (Part 3 of 3)

Posted on November 17, 2017 I Written By

Andy Oram is an editor at O’Reilly Media, a highly respected book publisher and technology information provider. An employee of the company since 1992, Andy currently specializes in open source, software engineering, and health IT, but his editorial output has ranged from a legal guide covering intellectual property to a graphic novel about teenage hackers. His articles have appeared often on EMR & EHR and other blogs in the health IT space.

Andy also writes often for O’Reilly’s Radar site (http://oreilly.com/) and other publications on policy issues related to the Internet and on trends affecting technical innovation and its effects on society. Print publications where his work has appeared include The Economist, Communications of the ACM, Copyright World, the Journal of Information Technology & Politics, Vanguardia Dossier, and Internet Law and Business. Conferences where he has presented talks include O’Reilly’s Open Source Convention, FISL (Brazil), FOSDEM, and DebConf.

The previous segment of this article covered one of the crucial themes in health care today: simplifying technology’s interactions with individuals over health care. This segment finishes my coverage of this year’s Connected Health Conference with two more themes: improved data sharing and blockchains.

Keynote at Connected Health Conference

Keynote at Connected Health Conference

Improved data sharing
The third trend I’m pursuing is interoperability. If data collection is the oxygen that fuels connected health, data sharing is the trachea that brings it where it’s needed. Without interoperability, clinicians cannot aid patients in their homes, analysts cannot derive insights that inform treatments, and transitions to assisted living facilities or other environments will lead to poor care.

But the health care field is notoriously bad at data sharing. The usual explanation is that doctors want to make it hard for competitors to win away their patients. If that’s true, fee-for-value reimbursements will make them even more possessive. After all, under fee-for-value, clinicians are held accountable for patient outcomes over a long period of time. They won’t want to lose control of the patient. I first heard of this danger at a 2012 conference (described in the section titled “Low-hanging fruit signals a new path for cost savings”).

So the trade press routinely and ponderously reports that once again, years have gone by without much progress in data sharing. The US government recognizes that support for interoperability is unsatisfactory, and has recently changed the ONC certification program to focus on it.

Carla Kriwet, CEO of Connected Care and Health Informatics at Philips, was asked in her keynote Fireside Chat to rate the interoperability of health data on a scale from 0 to 10, and chose a measly 3. She declared that “we don’t believe in closed systems at all” and told me in an interview that Philips is committed to creating integrated solutions that work with any and all products. Although Philips devices are legendary in many domains, Kriwet wants customers to pay for outcomes, not devices.

For instance, Philips recently acquired the Wellcentive platform that allows better care in hospitals by adopting population health approaches that look at whole patient populations to find what works. The platform works with a wide range of input sources and is meant to understand patient populations, navigate care and activate patients. Philips also creates dashboards with output driven by artificial intelligence–the Philips IntelliVue Guardian solution with Early Warning Scoring (EWS)–that leverages predictive analytics to present critical information about patient deterioration to nurses and physicians. This lets them intervene quickly before an adverse event occurs, without the need for logging in repeatedly. (This is an example of another trend I cover in this article, the search for simpler interfaces.)

Kriwet also told me that Philips has incorporated the principles of agile programming throughout the company. Sprints of a few weeks develop their products, and “the boundary comes down” between R&D and the sales team.

I also met with Jon Michaeli, EVP of Strategic Partnerships with Medisafe, a company that I covered two years ago. Medisafe is one of a slew of companies that encourage medication adherence. Always intensely based on taking in data and engaging patients in a personalized way, Medisafe has upped the sophistication of their solution, partly by integrating with other technologies. One recent example is its Safety Net, provided by artificial intelligence platform Neura. For instance, if you normally cart your cell phone around with you, but it’s lying quiet from 10:00 PM until 6:00 AM, Safety Net may determine your reason for missing your bedtime dose at 11:00 PM was that you had already fallen asleep. If Safety Net sees recurring patterns of behavior, it will adjust reminder time automatically.

Medisafe also gives users the option of recording the medication adherence through sensors rather than responding to reminders. They can communicate over Bluetooth to a pill bottle cap (“iCap”) that replaces the standard medicine cap and lets the service know when you have opened the bottle. The iCap fits the vast majority of medicine bottles dispensed by U.S. pharmacies and costs only $20 ($40 for a pack of 2), so you can buy several and use them for as long as you’re taking your medicine.

On another level, Mivatek provides some of the low-level scaffolding to connected health by furnishing data from devices to systems developed by the company’s clients. Suppose, for instance, that a company is developing a system that responds to patients who fall. Mivatek can help them take input from a button on the patient’s phone, from a camera, from a fall detector, or anything else to which Mivatek can connect. The user can add a device to his system simply by taking a picture of the bar code with his phone.

Jorge Perdomo, Senior Vice President Corporate Strategy & Development at Mivatek, told me that these devices work with virtually all of the available protocols on the market that have been developed to promote interoperability. In supporting WiFi, Mivatek loads an agent into its system to provide an additional level of security. This prevents device hacking and creates an easy-to-install experience with no setup requirements.

Blockchains
Most famous as a key technological innovation supporting BitCoin, blockchains have a broad application as data stores that record transactions securely. They can be used in health care for granting permissions to data and other contractual matters. The enticement offered by this technology is that no central institution controls or stores the blockchain. One can distribute the responsibility for storage and avoid ceding control to one institution.

Blockchains do, however, suffer from inherent scaling problems by design: they grow linearly as people add transactions, the additions must be done synchronously, and the whole chain must be stored in its entirety. But for a limited set of participants and relatively rate updates (for instance, recording just the granting of permissions to data and not each chunk of data exchanged), the technology holds great promise.

Although I see a limited role for blockchains, the conference gave considerable bandwidth to the concept. In a keynote that was devoted to blockchains, Dr. Samir Damani described how one of his companies, MintHealth, planned to use them to give individuals control over health data that is currently held by clinicians or researchers–and withheld from the individuals themselves.

I have previously covered the importance patient health records, and the open source project spotlighted by that article, HIE of One, now intends to use blockchain in a manner similar to MintHealth. In both projects, the patient owns his own data. MintHealth adds the innovation of offering rewards for patients who share their data with researchers, all delivered through the blockchain. The reward system is quite intriguing, because it would create for the first time a real market for highly valuable patient data, and thus lead to more research use along with fair compensation for the patients. MintHealth’s reward system also fits the connected health vision of promoting healthy behavior on a daily basis, to reduce chronic illness and health care costs.

Conclusion
Although progress toward connected health comes in fits and starts, the Connected Health Conference is still a bright spot in health care each year. For the first time this year, Partners’ Center for Connected Health partnered with another organization, the Personal Connected Health Alliance, and the combination seems to be a positive one. Certain changes were noticeable: for instance, all the breakout sessions were panels, and the keynotes were punctuated by annoying ads. An interesting focus this year was wellness in aging, the topic of the final panel. One surprising difference was the absence of the patient advocates from the Society for Participatory Medicine whom I’m used to meeting each year at this conference, perhaps because they held their own conference the day before.

The Center for Connected Health’s Joseph Kvedar still ran the program team, and the themes were familiar from previous years. This conference has become my touchstone for understanding health IT, and it will continue to be the place to go to track the progress of health care reform from a technological standpoint.

The Power of Combining Clinical & Claims Data

Posted on November 16, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog by Monica Stout from MedicaSoft

Whether the goal is to improve outcomes or increase efficiency, the healthcare industry finds itself searching for more and better data to support its efforts. Clinical data provides substantial details on patient encounters, but it is often difficult to assemble and integrate data from more than one healthcare provider. Claims data is better at following a patient across multiple care providers, but lacks information on patient health status and outcomes. Individually, both sets of data tell helpful stories, from chronicling the cost of care to reflecting how medicine is practiced. Together, clinical and claims data provide a fuller picture of a patient’s interactions with health care systems, the costs involved, and the results achieved. This larger picture provides the information that healthcare providers and insurers can use to guide their actions.

Assembling this data and making it available in a useful framework remains challenging. Data is not always available from providers and payers. When data is available, it is often not standardized (a particular issue with clinical data), making analysis difficult. So, how do organizations avoid investing time and money in efforts that fail to produce meaningful results? How do you make the data useful and improve patient satisfaction, care quality, and drive down system costs?

  1. Better data sharing agreements. Both providers and payers need more stringent data sharing agreements in place as well as insistence that they receive good data from plans.
  2. Address data quality issues head-on. Use real experts armed with specific tools to address any data quality issues within an organization.
  3. Use technology to help. Clinical data platforms can aggregate and integrate data into clinically relevant patient records, and claims data platforms extract relevant information from the complexity of the underlying claims data. Further, new advanced platforms help integrate clinical and claims data to support meaningful analytics.

Bringing together clinical data and claims data in a form that supports a variety of tools and analytics is key to the efforts of both healthcare providers and payers to improve outcomes, quality, and cost. This integrated data approach will yield better results than can be achieved with clinical or claims data alone. Stakeholders can and should leverage both policy and technology to develop solutions that produce meaningful results.

Are you combining clinical and claims data in your organization? What value have you gotten out of doing so? Why aren’t you doing it if you’re not?

About Monica Stout
Monica is a HIT teleworker in Grand Rapids, Michigan by way of Washington, D.C., who has consulted at several government agencies, including the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). She’s currently the Marketing Director at MedicaSoft. Monica can be found on Twitter @MI_turnaround or LinkedIn.

About MedicaSoft
MedicaSoft designs, develops, delivers, and maintains EHR, PHR, and UHR software solutions and HISP services for healthcare providers and patients around the world. MedicaSoft is a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene. For more information, visit www.medicasoft.us or connect with us on Twitter @MedicaSoftLLC, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

Measuring the Vital Signs of Health Care Progress at the Connected Health Conference (Part 2 of 3)

Posted on November 15, 2017 I Written By

Andy Oram is an editor at O’Reilly Media, a highly respected book publisher and technology information provider. An employee of the company since 1992, Andy currently specializes in open source, software engineering, and health IT, but his editorial output has ranged from a legal guide covering intellectual property to a graphic novel about teenage hackers. His articles have appeared often on EMR & EHR and other blogs in the health IT space.

Andy also writes often for O’Reilly’s Radar site (http://oreilly.com/) and other publications on policy issues related to the Internet and on trends affecting technical innovation and its effects on society. Print publications where his work has appeared include The Economist, Communications of the ACM, Copyright World, the Journal of Information Technology & Politics, Vanguardia Dossier, and Internet Law and Business. Conferences where he has presented talks include O’Reilly’s Open Source Convention, FISL (Brazil), FOSDEM, and DebConf.

The first segment of this article introduced the themes of the Connected Health Conference and talked about the importance of validating what new technologies do using trials or studies like traditional medical advances. This segment continues my investigation into another major theme in health care: advanced interfaces.

Speaker from Validic at Connected Health Conference

Speaker from Validic at Connected Health Conference

Advanced interfaces
The compulsory picture of health care we’re accustomed to seeing, whenever we view hospital propaganda or marketing from health care companies, shows a patient in an awkward gown seated on an uncomfortable examination table. A doctor faces him or her full on–not a computer screen in site–exuding concern, wisdom, friendliness, and professionalism.

More and more, however, health sites are replacing this canonical photograph with one of a mobile phone screen speckled with indicators of our vital signs or thumbnail shot of our caregivers. The promise being conveyed is no longer care from a trusted clinician in the office, but instant access to all our information through a medium familiar to almost everyone everywhere–the personal mobile device.

But even touchscreen access to the world of the cloud is beginning to seem fusty. Typing in everything you eat with your thumbs, or even answering daily surveys about your mental state, gets old fast. As Dr. Yechiel Engelhard of TEVA said in his keynote, patients don’t want to put a lot of time into managing their illnesses, nor do doctors want to change their workflows. So I’m fascinated with connected health solutions that take the friction out of data collection and transmission.

One clear trend is the move to voice–or rather, I should say back to voice, because it is the original form of human communication for precise data. The popularity of Amazon Echo, along with Siri and similar interfaces, shows that this technology will hit a fever pitch soon. One research firm found that voice-triggered devices more than doubled in popularity between 2015 and 2016, and that more than half of Americans would like such a device in the home.

I recently covered a health care challenge using Amazon Alexa that demonstrates how the technology can power connected health solutions. Most of the finalists in the challenge were doing the things that the Connected Health Conference talks about incessantly: easy and frequent interactions with patients, analytics to uncover health problems, integration with health care providers, personalization, and so on.

Orbita is another company capitalizing on voice interfaces to deliver a range of connected health solutions, from simple medication reminders to complete care management applications for diabetes. I talked to CEO Bill Rogers, who explained that they provide a platform for integrating with AI engines provided by other services to carry out communication with individuals through whatever technology they have available. Thus, Orbita can talk through Echo, send SMS messages, interact with a fitness device or smart scale, or even deliver a reminder over a plain telephone interface.

One client of Orbita uses it platform to run a voice bot that talks to patients during their discharge process. The bot provides post-discharge care instructions and answers patients’ questions about things like pain management and surgery wound care. The results show that patients are more willing to ask questions of the bot than of a discharge nurse, perhaps because they’re not afraid of wasting someone’s time. Rogers also said services are improving their affective interfaces, which respond to the emotional tone of the patient.

Another trick to avoid complex interfaces is to gather as much data as possible from the patient’s behavior (with her consent, of course) to eliminate totally the need for her to manually enter data, or even press a button. Devices are getting closer to this kind of context-awareness. Following are some of the advances I enjoyed seeing at the Connected Health Conference.

  • PulseOn puts more health data collection into a wrist device than I’ve ever seen. Among the usual applications to fitness, they claim to detect atrial fibrillation and sleep apnea by shining a light on the user’s skin and measuring changes in reflections caused by variations in blood flow.
  • A finger-sized device called Gocap, from Common Sensing, measures insulin use and reports it over wireless connections to clinical care-takers. The device is placed over the needle end of an insulin pen, determines how much was injected by measuring the amount of fluid dispensed after a dose, and transmits care activity to clinicians through a companion app on the user’s smartphone. Thus, without having to enter any information by hand, people with diabetes can keep the clinicians up to date on their treatment.
  • One of the cleverest devices I saw was a comprehensive examination tool from Tyto Care. A small kit can carry the elements of a home health care exam, all focused on a cute little sphere that fits easily in the palm. Jeff Cutler, Chief Revenue Officer, showed me a simple check on the heart, ear, and throat that anyone can perform. You can do it with a doctor on the other end of a video connection, or save the data and send it to a doctor for later evaluation.

    Tyto Care has a home version that is currently being used and distributed by partners such as Heath Systems, providers, payers and employers, but will ultimately be available for sale to consumers for $299. They also offer a professional and remote clinic version that’s tailor-made for a school or assisted living facility.

A new Digital Therapeutics Alliance was announced just before the conference, hoping to promote more effective medical devices and allow solutions to scale up through such things as improving standards and regulations. Among other things, the alliance will encourage clinical trials, which I have already highlighted as critical.

Big advances were also announced by Validic, which I covered last year. Formerly a connectivity solution that unraveled the varying quasi-standard or non-standard protocols of different devices in order to take their data into electronic health records, Validic has created a new streaming API that allows much faster data transfers, at a much higher volume. On top of this platform they have built a notification service called Inform, which takes them from a networking solution to a part of the clinicians’ workflow.

Considerable new infrastructure is required to provide such services. For instance, like many medication adherence services, Validic can recognize when time has gone by without a patient reporting that’s he’s taken his pill. This level of monitoring requires storing large amounts of longitudinal data–and in fact, Validic is storing all transactions carried out over its platform. The value of such a large data set for discovering future health care solutions through analytics can make data scientists salivate.

The next segment of this article wraps up coverage of the conference with two more themes.