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!!

More Ways AI Can Transform Healthcare

Posted on April 25, 2018 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.

You’ve probably already heard a lot about how AI will change healthcare. Me too. Still, given its potential, I’m always interested in hearing more, and the following article struck me as offering some worthwhile ideas.

The article, which was written by Humberto Alexander Lee of Tesser Health, looks at ways in which AI tools can reduce data complexity and detect patterns which would be difficult or even impossible for humans to detect.

His list of AI’s transformative powers includes the following:

  • Identifying diseases and providing diagnoses

AI algorithms can predict when people are likely to develop heart disease far more accurately than humans. For example, at Google healthcare technology subsidiary Verily, scientists created an algorithm that can predict heart disease by looking at the back of a person’s eyes and pinpoint early signs of specific heart conditions.

  • Crowdsourcing treatment options and monitoring drug response

As wearable devices and mobile applications mature, and data interoperability improves thanks to standards such as FHIR, data scientists and clinicians are beginning to generate new insights using machine learning. This is leading to customizable treatments that can provide better results than existing approaches.

  • Monitoring health epidemics

While performing such a task would be virtually impossible for humans, AI and AI-related technologies can sift through staggering pools of data, including government intelligence and millions of social media posts, and combine them with ecological, biogeographical and public health information, to track epidemics. In some cases, this process will predict health threats before they blossom.

  • Virtual assistance helping patients and physicians communicate clearly

AI technology can improve communication between patients and physicians, including by creating software that simplifies patient communication, in part by transforming complex medical terminology into digestible information. This helps patients and physicians engage in a meaningful two-way conversation using mobile devices and portals.

  • Developing better care management by improving clinical documentation

Machine learning technology can improve documentation, including user-written patient notes, by analyzing millions of rows of data and letting doctors know if any data is missing or clarification is needed on any procedures. Also, Deep Neural Network algorithms can sift through information in written clinical documentation. These processes can improve outcomes by identifying patterns almost invisible to human eyes.

Lee is so bullish on AI that he believes we can do even more than he has described in his piece. And generally speaking, it’s hard to disagree with him that there’s a great deal of untapped potential here.

That being said, Lee cautions that there are pitfalls we should be aware of when we implement AI. What risks do you see in widespread AI implementation in healthcare?

London Doctors Stage Protest Over Rollout Of App

Posted on April 18, 2018 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.

We all know that doctors don’t take kindly to being forced to use health IT tools. Apparently, that’s particularly the case in London, where a group of general practitioners recently held a protest to highlight their problems with a telemedicine app rolled out by the National Health Service.

The doctors behind the protest are unhappy with the way the NHS structured its rollout of the smartphone app GP at Hand, which they say has created extra work and confusion among the patients.

The service, which is run by UK-based technology company Babylon Health, launched in November of last year. Using the app, patients can either have a telemedicine visit or schedule an in-person appointment with a GP’s office. Telemedicine services are available 24/7, and patients can be seen in minutes in some cases.

GP at Hand seems to be popular with British consumers. Since its launch, over 26,000 patients have registered for the service, according to the NHS.

However, to participate in the service, patients are automatically de-registered from their existing GP office when they register for GP at Hand. Many patients don’t seem to have known this. According to the doctors at the protest, they’ve been getting calls from angry former patients demanding that they be re-registered with their existing doctor’s office.

The doctors also suggest that the service gets to cherry-pick healthier, more profitable patients, which weighs down their practice. “They don’t want patients with complex mental health problems, drug problems, dementia, a learning disability or other challenging conditions,” said protest organizer Dr. Jackie Applebee. “We think that’s because these patients are expensive.” (Presumably, Babylon is paid out of a separate NHS fund than the GPs.)

Is there lessons here for US-based healthcare providers? Perhaps so.

Of course, the National Health Service model is substantially different from the way care is delivered in this country, so the administrative challenges involved in rolling out a similar service could be much different. But this news does offer some lessons to consider nonetheless.

For one thing, it reminds us that even in a system much different than ours, financing and organizing telemedicine services can be fraught with conflict. Reimbursement would be an even bigger issue than it seems to have been in the UK.

Also, it’s also of note that the NHS and Babylon Health faced a storm of patient complaints about the way the service was set up. It’s entirely possible that any US-based efforts would generate their own string of unintended consequences, the magnitude which would be multiplied by the fact that there’s no national entity coordinating such a rollout.

Of course, individual health systems are figuring out how to offer telemedicine and blend it with access to in-person care. But it’s telling that insurers with a national presence such as CIGNA or Humana aren’t plunging into telemedicine with both feet. At least none of them have seen substantial success in their efforts. Bottom line, offering telehealth is much harder than it looks.

Nokia May Exit Digital Health Business

Posted on March 2, 2018 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.

The digital health market has become phenomenally competitive over the last few years, with giants like Google and Apple duking it out with smaller, fast-moving startups over the choicest opportunities in the sector.

Even with a behemoth like Google, you expect to see some stumbles, and the Internet giant has taken a few. But seldom have we seen a billion-dollar company walk away from the digital health market, which arguably stands to grow far more. Still, according to a recent news report, that’s just what Nokia may be doing.

A story published in The Verge reports that the Finnish telecom giant has launched a strategic review of its health division. While Nokia apparently isn’t spilling the beans on its plans, the news site got a look at an internal company memo which suggests that its digital health business is indeed in trouble.

In the memo, The Verge says, Nokia chief strategy officer Kathrin Buvac wrote that “our digital health business has struggled to scale and meet its growth expectations… [And] currently, we don’t see a path for [the digital health business] to become a meaningful part of a company as large as Nokia.”

While it’s hard to tell much from a press release, it notes that Nokia’s digital health division makes and sells an ecosystem of hybrid smart watches, scales and digital health devices to consumers and enterprises. Its digital health history includes the acquisition of Withings, a French startup with a sexy line up of connected health-focused digital health devices.

This may be in part because it just hasn’t been aggressive enough or offered anything unique. In the wake of the Withings acquisition, Nokia doesn’t seem to have done much to build on Withings’ product line. Though much of the success in this market depends on execution, its current roster of products doesn’t sound like anything too exciting or differentiated.

It’s interesting to note that Buvac blames at least part of the failure of its digital health excursion on Nokia’s size. That doesn’t seem to be a problem for industry-leading companies like Apple, which seems to be carving out its digital health footprint one launch at a time and cultivating health leaders along the way. For example, Apple recently partnered with Stanford Medicine launch an app using its smartwatch to collect data on irregular heart rhythms. Arguably, this is the way to win markets and influence people — slow and steady.

In the end, though, Buvac is probably right about is digital health prospects. Nokia’s seeming failure may indeed be attributed to its sprawling portfolio, and probably an inflexible internal culture as well. The moral of the story may be that winning at the digital health game has far more to do with understanding the market than it does with having very deep pockets.

Federal Advisors Say Yes, AI Can Change Healthcare

Posted on January 26, 2018 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.

The use of AI in healthcare has been the subject of scores of articles and endless debate among industry professionals over its benefits. The fragile consensus seems to be that while AI certainly has the potential to accomplish great things, it’s not ready for prime time.

That being said, some well-informed healthcare observers disagree. In an ONC blog post, a collection of thought leaders from the agency, AHRQ and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation believe that over the long-term, AI could play an important role in the future of healthcare.

The group of institutions asked JASON, an independent group of scientists and academics who advise the federal government on science and technology issues, to look at AI’s potential. JASON’s job was to look at the technical capabilities, limitations and applications for AI in healthcare over the next 10 years.

In its report, JASON concluded that AI has broad potential for sparking significant advances in the industry and that the time may be right for using AI in healthcare settings.

Why is now a good time to play AI in healthcare? JASON offers a list of reasons, including:

  • Frustration with existing medical systems
  • Universal use of network smart devices by the public
  • Acceptance of at-home services provided by companies like Amazon

But there’s more to consider. While the above conditions are necessary, they’re not enough to support an AI revolution in healthcare on their own, the researchers say. “Without access to high-quality, reliable data, the problems that AI will not be realized,” JASON’s report concludes.

The report notes that while we have access to a flood of digital health data which could fuel clinical applications, it will be important to address the quality of that data. There are also questions about how health data can be integrated into new tools. In addition, it will be important to make sure the data is accessible, and that data repositories maintain patient privacy and are protected by strong security measures, the group warns.

Going forward, JASON recommends the following steps to support AI applications:

  • Capturing health data from smartphones
  • Integrating social and environmental factors into the data mix
  • Supporting AI technology development competitions

According to the blog post, ONC and AHRQ plan to work with other agencies within HHS to identify opportunities. For example, the FDA is likely to look at ways to use AI to improve biomedical research, medical care and outcomes, as well as how it could support emerging technologies focused on precision medicine.

And in the future, the possibilities are even more exciting. If JASON is right, the more researchers study AI applications, the more worthwhile options they’ll find.

Hospitals Still Lagging On Mobile

Posted on January 18, 2018 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.

One would think that these days, when the desktop computer is an extension of mobile devices rather than the other way around, hospitals would have well-defined, mature plans in place for managing mobile technology. But according to one survey, that’s definitely not the case.

In a study sponsored by Spok, which provides clinical communication services, many healthcare providers are still in the early years of developing a mobile strategy.

The study, which drew on contacts with more than 300 healthcare professionals in the US, found that 21% had had a mobile strategy in place for less than one year, 40% for one to three years,14% for 3 to 5 years and 25% for more than five years. In other words, while one-quarter of organizations had settled in and developed a mobile approach, an almost equal amount were just getting their feet wet.

Not only that, many of those who do have a mobile strategy in place may be shooting from the hip. While 65% of those surveyed had a documented mobility strategy in place, 35% didn’t.

That being said, it seems that organizations that have engaged with mobile are working hard to tweak their strategy regularly. According to Spok, their reasons for updating the strategy include:

* Shifting mobile needs of end-users (44%)
* The availability of new mobile devices (35%)
* New capabilities from the EHR vendor (26%)
* Changes in goals of mobile strategy (23%)
* Challenges in implementing the strategy (21%)
* Changes in hospital leadership (16%)

(Seven percent said their mobile strategy had not changed since inception, and 23% weren’t sure what changes had been made.)

Nonetheless, other data suggest there has been little progress in integrating mobile strategy with broader hospital goals.

For example, while 53% wanted to improve physician-to-physician communications, only 19% had integrated mobile strategy with this goal. Fifty-three percent saw nurse-to-physician communications as a key goal, but only 18% had integrated this goal with their mobile plans. The gaps between other top strategies and integration with mobile plans were similar across the strategic spectrum.

Ultimately, it’s likely that it will take a team approach to bring these objectives together, but that’s not happening in the near future. According to respondents, the IT department will implement mobile in 82% of institutions surveyed, 60% clinical leadership, 37% doctors, 34% telecom department, 27% nurses and 22% outside help from consultants and vendors. (Another 16% didn’t plan to have a dedicated team in place.)

The whole picture suggests that while the hospital industry is gradually moving towards integrating mobile into its long-term thinking, it has a ways to go. Given the potential benefits of smart mobile use, let’s hope providers catch up quickly.

What If We Looked at the Smartphone Camera as a “Sensor” Instead of a “Digital Camera”

Posted on November 16, 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.

Benedict Evans is one of the smartest people I’ve read on treads happening in the technology industry. It’s been fascinating to read his perspectives on the shift to mobile and how mobile adoption has changed society. Back in August he blew my mind again as we think of the evolution of mobile and redefining how we use the camera on our smartphones and what it means for mobile applications. Here’s an excerpt from that post:

This change in assumptions applies to the sensor itself as much as to the image: rather than thinking of a ‘digital camera, I’d suggest that one should think about the image sensor as an input method, just like the multi-touch screen. That points not just to new types of content but new interaction models. You started with a touch screen and you can use that for an on-screen keyboard and for interaction models that replicate a mouse model, tapping instead of clicking. But next, you can make the keyboard smarter, or have GIFs instead of letters, and you can swipe and pinch. You go beyond virtualising the input models of an older set of hardware on the new sensor, and move to new input models. The same is true of the image sensor. We started with a camera that takes photos, and built, say, filters or a simple social network onto that, and that can be powerful. We can even take video too. But what if you use the screen itself as the camera – not a viewfinder, but the camera itself? The input can be anything that the sensors can capture, and can be processed in any way that you can write the software.

Everyone has long argued that the smartphone is great as a consumption engine, but it’s not great as a content creation engine. That’s largely true today, but will that change in the future? I think it’s an extremely powerful idea to think of the camera on your smartphone as a sensor that captures meaningful actions beyond just capturing a picture. That’s a powerful concept that is going to change the way mobile apps work and how they’re designed.

The same is true when you think about the camera app software on your smartphone. We see that with Snapchat and other apps that have taken what’s essentially a camera app and overlayed filters to add new functionality to an otherwise simple item.

Now think about this from a healthcare perspective. Could the camera on your smartphone be a window into your health? Could what you capture with the camera show a window into your daily activities? That brings health tracking to a whole new level.

I first saw an example of this at a Connected Health Symposium many years ago when I saw someone researching how your cell phone camera could measure your heart rate. I’m not sure all the technical details, but I guess the way you look subtley changes and you can measure that change and thus measure your heart rate. Pretty amazing stuff, but that definitely sounds like using your camera as a sensor as opposed to a digital camera.

Go and read Benedict Evan’s full article to really understand this change. I think it could have incredible implications for digital health applications.

The Need for Consumer Health and Employer Health to Collide

Posted on August 31, 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.

This post is sponsored by Samsung Business. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

A Towers Watson study looked at telehealth services that are offered by large employers. The main study result isn’t that surprising: more employers are offering telehealth services and more employers plan to offer telehealth services. This is part of a much larger trend where employers realize that easy access to health services is great for their employees and their business.

What was a bit surprising from the study was that despite offering telehealth services, many of the employees of these large companies aren’t actually using those services. Here’s how Megan Williams described this finding on the Insights blog:

The Towers Watson study in particular highlights one of the greatest challenges employers face in realizing the full benefit of telemedicine solutions — awareness. Many employees aren’t even aware of traditional options, so it’s highly likely that their options of digital health tools are being overlooked.

Why is it that consumers don’t realize the full breadth of telehealth options their employer provides?

The problem here is that most of us don’t look to our employer for healthcare. We look to them for insurance, but not health care. We don’t expect our employer to take an active interest in our health. In fact, often our employer would step away from suggesting “the best” doctors to us and just provide us the list of in-network doctors. It was up to us as patients to figure out who was “best.”

Given this dynamic, we’ve had to figure out how to navigate the healthcare system on our own. We were more likely to discover a new healthcare option through email, Facebook or Twitter than we were through our employer. To date, telehealth services have largely been consumer driven and so it’s no surprise that most patients discover telehealth services through other consumers and not their employer.

Will the day finally arrive that the consumer health options we seek overlap with the employer health options that my employer supports? I think we’re heading that direction. In the telemedicine space, for example, we’re starting to see some dominant industry players emerge. Large companies will only need to support a small set of telemedicine companies to cover their entire workforce and allow their employees to discover and use whichever telemedicine service they find on their own.

Patients’ interest in telehealth services will only continue to grow. Each of us has a smartphone in our pocket and we’re used to getting the answers to all our questions wherever we are and whatever we may be doing. The same is true for our health. Our health choices will be more influenced by our smartphone than our employer. That’s why employers need the consumer health and employer health worlds to collide.

For more content like this, follow Samsung on Insights, Twitter, LinkedIn , YouTube and SlideShare.

Has the Smartphone Become So Usable that Anyone Can Use One?

Posted on August 18, 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.

We’ve long heard about how seniors didn’t have smartphones and so they wouldn’t have access to all these incredible mobile health apps and sensors that are tied to the smartphone. In some respects this is true and I’ve always argued that it didn’t really matter, because their caregivers (often their children) is going to be the one using it and they use smart phones. It’s an important discussion since our seniors make up a large chunk of healthcare spending.

This tweet from David Doherty had me stop and think about this subject again.

It’s true that in many ways the tablets and smartphones have gotten so easy to use that even older people are using them for all sorts of amazing things. Would you rather teach a senior to use an iPad or a desktop computer? As someone who once was hired by an elderly couple to teach them how to use their computer in college, I’d much rather have taught them how to use the iPad or smartphone. It would have been so much easier.

We have to remember that Seniors still have an insatiable desire to be connected to the ones they love. That’s why they care about these technologies and are willing to learn them. Adding on some health related applications is an easy next step.

I still think there’s an interesting market out there for customized tablets for seniors that make them even easier, but like David it’s interesting to see how tablets and smartphones have become so usable that seniors of all ages are using them. This trend will only increase and more seniors will be using this technology.

Using Your Mobile Trail to Improve Your Health

Posted on June 1, 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.

Mobile Health Trail

I’d always heard people talk about the value of the data collected on a mobile device and how that could be leveraged to benefit your health. However, this is the best illustration of this concept that I’ve ever seen. It’s really easy to see how much of this data could be leveraged to improve your health. There’s certainly some privacy questions, but the next generation seems to not care about it. I wonder what apps we’ll see that leverage all of this data about our habits.

Are We More Honest with Our Phones Than with Our Doctors?

Posted on April 6, 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.


This is such a great question, but like most great questions requires more than a Yes or No answer and usually leads to a depends response. If you’re asking for my short answer though, I’d say that usually yes.

Certainly there are some exceptions. There are certain people that won’t share anything on the internet and that includes their phone. So, of course they’re not going to be more honest with their phone than they are their doctor. However, social media proves that the majority of people don’t mind sharing. In fact, when you look at what people are willing to share publicly, you have to wonder what they’re sharing online privately.

From a health perspective, this can be a huge benefit as you try to track someone’s health. In the article linked above they talk about how a smart phone app was a much better way to get data from teenagers participating in their research. They described the paper surveys as homework and the mobile app as fun. No doubt that resonates with anyone that has spent time with teens.

However, that really only addresses the accessibility and ease of providing the data. There’s a disconnect from reality that happens on the phone which allows us to be more comfortable sharing some things that we wouldn’t likely share face to face with the doctor. In healthcare, we’re usually battling against this issue as we talk about Telemedicine and how it’s not the same as an in person office visit. They’re right. Telemedicine isn’t the same as an in office visit. In some ways it feels less threatening and people are more willing to share. While this “disconnect” can be a down side, it can also be used as an upside.

Like most things in life, there are pros and cons. The key as we approach digital health solutions is to understand the benefits and challenges and make the most of what’s possible.