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Is Health Data Privacy On Its Way Out?

Posted on April 30, 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.

As healthcare providers gradually improve their HIPAA data security and privacy compliance, one might think that the odds of a breach occurring are getting lower. Maybe that’s true within the provider organizations themselves, but there are forces outside of healthcare which will make it impossible to protect personal data in the future, according to a post on Axoblog.

The piece argues that the notion of data privacy is dying. “To the extent that emails and other communications meant for designated recipients are analyzed, scraped aggregated and stored it is the opinion of this author that the protection of PHI is illusory,” the article says.

As the piece correctly notes, unscrupulous companies and can learn a great deal about consumers by analyzing their Internet search history. And of course, there are social media stalkers like Facebook, which monitors Internet activity even when the subscriber is logged off. (It’s hard to believe that other Internet companies aren’t doing the same thing in a less public manner.)

By using a rich source like Facebook user data and aggregating it with information from other social media networks, outsiders can pull together a personal profile of users. This database could easily expose medical information that should be protected under HIPAA and HITECH.

And it’s not just Facebook data that is of concern. By buying available data from all the social media networks, then matching that data with commercial databases offering details such as address, phone number and location, it’s possible to develop an astonishingly detail portrait of individuals.

So what should providers do in the age of minimum privacy? Be aware of emerging threats, the author suggests:

  • Be aware that social media outlets aren’t subject to the legal requirements providers are when compiling health information.
  • Keep your eye on data aggregators, which are selling data to everyone you can think of, plus others you wouldn’t even have considered, including marketers, advertisers and researchers.
  • The government has only now begun trying to understand how social media networks handle privacy and how well they explain their practices to consumers
  • In the wake of Facebook scandals, social media giants might develop protocols for managing sensitive data, but they may fail at doing this, in which case the government is likely to step in
  • Though Facebook has been asked by regulators how the company manages and shares data, it seems that no one’s asking about the aggregation of data and how it is stored and protected

Now, I’d like to think the article described above is a bit too pessimistic. If nothing else, I’m not sure that the aggregation of other forms of data means that medical privacy will become impossible to defend. Still, the piece makes it clear that we have a long way to go before we can sure PHI is protected by companies like Facebook.

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?

Lumosity: An Exercise Program For Your Brain

Posted on June 10, 2013 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

So often, we focus on our physical health, but neglect our mental health. All forms of dementia are devastating. Many people complain of brain fog. Thousands of people suffer from attention disorders. While I don’t claim to know the cure for any of these things (or even the cause) I do think that exercising the mind is just as important as exercising your body. I mean, if your brain fails, then your life ceases to exist. It’s a pretty important thing to take care of!

I saw a commercial today for a website called Lumosity.com. It sparked my interest, so I decided to check it out. The website says that it “turns neuroscience breakthroughs into fun, effective games” and it’s a way to “harness your brains neuroplasticity [the brain’s ability to grow and expand] and train your way into a brighter life.”

To be honest, it seems like it is set up a bit like an exercise website. When you sign up, you answer some questions about where you want changes to be made. Changes can be made in any of five categories, all of which have subcategories. These categories are memory, attention, speed, flexibility, and problem solving. You can select as many or as few of these categories as you want. After doing this, you can create an account and view your free and personalized training program, and you can personalize your training even further.

The program changes with you — as you get better at the challenges, you get newer ones. Each of the “sessions” include a variety of games to help you improve in the areas you initially selected. You get points very every game you do, to help you track your progress. The games are actually pretty fun, and challenging, and scientifically developed to help increase your brain function.

The basic version of Lumosity is free, but if you really want to get into the program, there are paid options. This gives you more games each day, more personalized training, and more. People spend hundreds, maybe even thousands, on personal training at a gym, as well as countless hours…so why not spend some of those valuable resources on making sure your brain is in tip-top shape? I thought this was a cool idea, and I think it could be a great resources for anyone wanting to exercise their mind. Apparently, 97% of Lumosity users improve after just 10 hours of training (which can be seen in the personalized tracking portion of the website.)_

Lumosity Brain Trainer is also available as a free download for iOS devices.

Most People Don’t Care About Their Health Every Day

Posted on June 4, 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.

I’ve been having a lot of really important conversations with people about the various consumer health applications that are coming out. The discussion usually requires the patients to care enough to use the consumer health device. I’m often found saying, “most patients don’t care.”

The response to this comment is usually a bit of disbelief around people not caring about their health. The problem is that people do want to be healthy. However, they don’t want to worry about their health all the time. This quote from the amazing Susannah Fox added the nuance that I was always missing in my comment about patients not caring.

People do care about their health, but they don’t want worrying about their health to rule their life. Of course, chronic conditions are another story. For the majority of patients that are healthy or at least “feel” healthy, they aren’t motivated to improve their health daily. This is the challenge that healthcare app developers face. Overcoming it is a real challenge.

11 Great iPhone Apps for Nurses — According to Apple

Posted on May 13, 2013 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

It seems like every day, I read another article about nurses using tablets and smartphones in the workplace. I was just thinking the other day that I should do a round-up of great apps for nurses, but it looks like Apple beat me to it. This list was compiled by Apple last year, and they are their top 11 iPhone apps for nurses. While I still plan to make a list of apps for both the iPhone and Android devices that nurses can use, I thought I’d share these apps as well.

Most of these apps are free (though they may involve a paid subscription), though some cost less than $10. After reading about them, I can definitely see how they could be helpful. So, nursing friends, if you have an iPhone or an iPad that you use at work — these might be something you want to look into. Here’s a brief description, and cost, of each app that made Apple’s top apps for nurses list:

1.  Voalte OneBefore you get too attached to this one, your hospital must be equipped with the Voalté Server. And if it is, then great! Because this app allows for phone calls through a hospital’s VoIP system, secure text messaging using a user directory, and alarm management. Medical professionals are able to receive alarms, and respond quickly, which helps with overall workflow.

Cost: Free 

2Nursing CentralThis is a comprehensive database designed to help nurses find answers to just about any question they might have.There is detail information on diseases, tests, drugs, and more, and a medical dictionary with more than 60,000 entries.

Cost: Free

3. NurseTabs: FundamentalsThere are a couple of NurseTabs apps, which are specifically designed for new nurses. This one covers the basic skills and procedures nurses need to know. After selecting a specific procedure, the nurse will be given step-by-step information, including what kind of equipment should be used.

Cost: 9.99

4. PatientTouchThis app was created to help improve workflow, and help nurses spend more time with their patients.  It assists in specimen collection, infant care, communications, and more. PatientTouch is completely HIPAA compliant, and hopefully will help increase quality of care, while decrease costs. 

Cost: Free

5. MedigramMedigram is a simple way to securely send messages containing medical information. This makes it possible to collaborate with other medical professionals in a secure and quick manner.

Cost: Free

6. NurseTabs: MedsurgeAnother app by NurseTabs that was created specifically for new nurses, or nursing students. It contains over 300 diseases and disorders, organized in an easily searchable way. After selecting a certain ailment, the user can access tons of information about it, including a nursing process approach on how to handle the situation. It’s also a great place to review for the NCLEX exam.

Cost: 9.99

7. Lab Values ReferenceIf you are working with lab results a lot, this could be very helpful. I actually might download this myself (access to my lab results immediately makes me constantly look things up until I hear from my doctor.) It has coverage of the 375 most commonly performed lab results, which includes the normal ranges or findings, results, explanations of abnormalities, and more.

Cost: .99

8. NCSBN Learning Extension Medication FlashcardsStressing out about the NCLEX? No need to worry anymore. This app is a great resource for memorizing drug information, as you can sort cards into different categories, learn interesting facts, and more.

Cost: Free

9. The Merck Manuals for Mobile + WebMerck Manuals are one of the most widely used and accepted medical reference guides. And now, you can have it at your fingertips. The app is free, but you have to pay for the subscription. There are three different manuals that can be downloaded — the 19th edition for mobile and web, patient symptoms guide, and Davis’ drug guide.

Cost: Free

10. Shots by STFM: Does anyone like getting shots? I sure don’t think so. And I imagine nurses don’t get any joy out of administering them. This app helps making the process a little easier when trying to determine the correct dosages, especially for unique situations. It contains the CDC recommended course for vaccines, information on ingredients, side effects, and more.

Cost: Free

11. Lexicomp: Lexicomp is a great resource with trusted information about drug and clinical information. There are quite a few databases available with information, pictures, videos, and more. These can be accessed with or without a data/WiFi connection.

Cost: Free to download, but you will need a subscription to Lexicomp as well

Walgreens Starts Steps with Balance® Rewards

Posted on May 3, 2013 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

Walgreens has been rather savvy when it comes to mHealth. They have a great mobile app and website to help manage prescriptions as well as find answers to health questions. It was no surprise to me when I heard about their Steps with Balance Rewards program.

If you are familiar with Walk with Walgreens, Steps with Balance® Rewards replace that program. Basically, you get rewards for doing simple exercise and health “tasks” throughout the day. By walking, running, or tracking weight management, you earn points that can be redeemed for products and other rewards at Walgreens.

There are a few popular devices that can be associated with your Steps with Balance account — BodyMedia, FitBit, and Withings. This makes it easier to earn rewards and track your progress.

I’m not sure if this is something I’ll sign up for, just because I feel like I have so many other programs I’m involved in, but it seems cool. It sounds like a good way to track your progress toward certain goals, and earn rewards while you are at it. It has the typical features of a health tracking program – you can connect with others, set personalized goals, and see your progress. It looks like it has been pretty successful so far, as there have been close to 10 million miles logged and around 600 thousand users. So if you shop at Walgreens a lot, and you are wanting to be rewarded for living a healthy life, this may be the program for you!

If you want to sign up, it’s free! Just head over here and get started today (and yes, it’s free)

Lose Weight and Win Money With DietBet

Posted on April 19, 2013 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

After I posted about the study that found financial incentives to be a good motivator for weight loss, I have been on the lookout for more websites popping up like Gym Pact. I was curious to see how much something like this would motivate me, and since I no longer belong to a gym, Gym Pact was out of the question. Well, today a friend of my sent me an invitation to a website called DietBet, and I was immediately intrigued.

DietBet is a 4-week program, where participants need to lose 4% of their body weight (or more) in order to get any of the “pot.” You can create your own challenge, or join someone else’s, and pay a certain sum of money to participate. For instance, the one I joined was $25. And let me tell you, I’m more motivated than ever before to lose weight, even just to get back my $25.

Whenever a new person enters your group, the pot rises. I was looking at the top game, and it’s at almost $9,000. I wouldn’t mind being part of that group! When the date arrives for the contest to begin, you have to take two photos  — one full length photo of you on a scale in “airport security” attire, and one of the scale, the number on it, and a piece of paper with a weigh-in word, to prove it’s actually you. I was wondering how they would do this, actually, and it seems like they’ve got it under control! These photos are kept private, and you don’t have to share your weight with the others in the competition.

During the competition, you can post photos, write comments, and just interact with others in the game. There is also an iPhone app companion for the game, which I thought was nice.  Starting on the last day of the competition, you have 48 hours to “weigh out”

I really believe that money is a great motivator for just about anything, and I’m interested to see if I actually have any success using this site. (PS, if you want to join in, my group starts on April 29th. The more the merrier!)

NetPulse Brings Fitness Apps and Equipment Into One Place

Posted on March 22, 2013 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

I’ve talked about a lot of different devices that were created to track (and help users meet) fitness and health goals. With all the options, it can get kind of overwhelming!  Especially when you have to transfer the information from your fitness device, to your food and exercise tracker. There’s a new platform that aims to simplify all this data into one place, making it easier to track.

NetPulse is similar to Microsoft’s HealthVault that I recently talked about. Working with several third-party apps, as well as fitness equipment workers, NetPulse brings them all together in one platform and helps them work together to help users reach their ultimate fitness goals.

These companies have fitness equipment assocated with NetPulse:

  • LifeFitness
  • Woodway
  • Matrix
  • Octane
  • TechnoGym
  • True
  • StarTrac

And the 3rd party apps that are working with NetPulse include:

  • MyFitnessPal
  • MapMyFitness
  • FitBit
  • CarePass

I was excited to see a couple of very well-known apps that can be used at NetPulse. I think that was a smart move to try and get those companies on board, because to me, they seem like the apps that most people probably use. MyFitnessPal is definitely my favorite food and exercise tracker, and if I were to want to use something like NetPulse, the fact that MyFitnessPal would be a determining factor.

One additional feature that NetPulse has that I thought was neat is the club app. It allows you to check out class schedules and track your exercise at your fitness club. While it works best if your club has fitness equipment that is compatible with NetPulse, even if it doesn’t, the xCapture feature lets you take pictures of the end-of-workout stats to record late. You get credit for checking out the class schedules, and all types of workouts can be tracked.

After you’ve set up your account, you can start to find out what NetPulse is all about. You can set up fitness and health goals to be tracked, sign up for challenges, and compete, team up, and encourage others.

This is really cool, and I think people that are really passionate about using mobile technology to track their exercise and nutrition will really get a lot of out of this. I’ll definitely be interested in trying it out once it’s available for the public!

Three Health Apps Women Should Consider

Posted on March 4, 2013 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

I’ve posted my fair share about mHealth apps that are geared toward women, so I found this article at Fierce Mobile Healthcare very interesting. Apparently, 47 percent of people who use one or more mHealth apps, are using a women’s health app as well. This was in the Citrix ByteMobile Mobile Analytics Report.

The report also revealed that about 40 percent of people using one or more mHealth app are using a fitness-specific app. I felt like this was rather telling of what type of people are most involved with mHealth. It’s no wonder I see, what seems like, a new woman-focused health app popping up every day. There appears to be a great demand for women’s health apps. Just for fun, here are a few that I found. There’s definitely quite a few!

52 Weeks for Women’s Health: Created by the National Institutes of Health, this app was created to help women recognize health risks for not only themselves, but their family members. It has a personal health section, where the woman can record medications, medical conditions and disabilities. There are 52 health topics, so one for each week, for women to study and read up on, to help promote a healthier lifestyle. It offers suggestions for improving the health and well-being of the woman, and her family. It is a free app available for Android and iOS devices

MyPillApp: This is a great app for any woman that uses pill, patch, or ring contraception. It can be customized for any of those forms of birth control, and has quite a few features. It has a daily reminder feature, that obviously reminds a woman to take her bill. There is a history tracking function, where the user can write down notes to remember for future doctor’s appointments. It has a virtual “pill pack,” to provide a visual for how much is left. There’s even a snooze alert, just in case someone can’t take their pill when the alert goes off.  It is available for free on iOS devices, though I’m sure there is something similar for Android.

Breast Self Exam: Women are encouraged to perform a breast self exam monthly. In fact, I’ve known a few people who discovered they had cancer because they did this. However, it can be difficult to know exactly how to do this. This app provides a short tutorial on how to do the exam, a record can be kept about each exam, and it was designed by physicians. It is .99 on iOS devices.

 

I’m sure there are many more out there, and these are just a sampling. And because I think men’s health is just as important as women, look for an upcoming post on some great men’s health apps that are available.

 

52 weeks for women’s health

The easy-to-use mobile app can help women identify health risks for themselves and their families, and can help them create and maintain healthy lifestyles throughout their lives. Questions to ask health care providers, a glossary of health terms, and health screening information and links to additional information from NIH institutes and centers expand the mobile app’s offerings.

Key features of the app are:

  • a personal health section for recording medications, medical conditions, and disabilities
  • a journal feature
  • a personal goal-setting section for health and lifestyle details

A variety of different skins can be applied to personalize the app, and it ca

 

HealthTap Release “TipTaps” – Health Tips From Professionals

Posted on February 21, 2013 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

While I don’t normally advocate turning to the Internet with health questions, Health Tap might be the exception. It’s like the Yahoo Answers of healthcare, except it’s actual doctors responding to the questions, rather than just any random person with an Internet connection. There are over 32,000 doctors across the United States that are participating, and making it easier for people to get health information at home.

Health Tap has just introduced a new feature to help further its goal to have a positive impact on the health of people. TipTaps, the new program, are little tidbits of health knowledge that incorporate pictures, and are created by some of the best doctors in the world.

The health tips are about 100 characters. They focus on more than 50 topics, and written by doctors who specialized in them. Unlike some programs that only send the messages through text, TipTaps can be delivered to any mobile device, or even just to email, and can be easily shared with social networks.

The messages can be received as often as a person wants, and are personalized for a person’s lifestyle, and what time of day they come at. Some example TipTaps are:

  • Managing Stress at Work: Too much stress? Breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 7, exhale for 8. Do 4 times. Anywhere. Anytime.
  • Lunch: Want to eat smaller portions? Try using a bowl instead of a plate.
  • Breakfast: Don’t skip a healthy breakfast. Eat whole grains and protein to fuel a productive day!

As I mentioned, each TipTap has some kind of graphic that comes along with it.

It sounds like an interesting idea. I know that I’m not a huge fan of getting random notifications to my phone or email like this, but I’m sure that people that like to be encouraged throughout the day would like this. If you can select which categories you get sent, that would be cool.

To see more examples of TipTaps, view this PDF. If you’d like to sign up, you can subscribe here. It definitely looks like a high quality program — I wouldn’t expect anything less from HealthTap.