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WearDuino Shows That Open Source Devices Are a Key Plank in Personal Health

Posted on August 13, 2015 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.

New devices are democratizing health. We see it not only in the array or wearable fitness gear that an estimated 21 percent of Americans own (and that some actually wear), but also in innovative uses for mobile phones (such as testing vision in regions that lack doctors or checking athletes for concussions) and now in low-cost devices that are often open source hardware and software. Recent examples of the latter include the eyeSelfie, which lets a non-professional take an image of his retina, and the WearDuino, a general-purpose personal device that is the focus of this article.

WearDuino is the brainchild of Mark Leavitt, a medical internist who turned to technology (as have so many doctors pursuing visions of radical reform in health care). I ran into Leavitt at the 2015 Open Source convention, where he also described his work briefly in a video interview.

Leavitt’s goal is to produce a useful platform that satisfies two key criteria for innovation: low-cost and open. Although some of the functions of the WearDuino resembles devices on the market, you can take apart the WearDuino, muck with it, and enhance it in ways those closed platforms don’t allow.

Traits and Uses of WearDuino
Technically, the device has simple components found everywhere, but is primed for expansion. A small Bluetooth radio module provides the processing, and as the device’s name indicates, it supports the Arduino programming language. To keep power consumption low there’s no WiFi, and the device can run on a cheap coin cell battery for several months under normal use.

Out of the box, the WearDuino could be an excellent fitness device. Whereas most commercial fitness wearables collect their data through an accelerometer, the WearDuino has an accelerometer (which can measure motion), a gyroscope (which is useful for more complex measurements as people twist and turn), and a magnetometer (which acts as a compass). This kind of three-part device is often called a “9-degree of freedom sensor,” because each of those three measurements is taken in three dimensions.

When you want more from the device, such as measuring heartbeat, muscle activity, joint flexing, or eye motion, a board can be added to one of the Arduino’s 7 digital I/O pins. Leavitt said that one user experimented with a device that lets a parent know when to change a baby’s diaper, through an added moisture detector.

Benefits of an Open Architecture
Proprietary device manufacturers often cite safety reasons for keeping their devices closed. But Leavitt believes that openness is quite safe through most phases of data use in health. Throughout the stages of collecting data, visualizing the relationships, and drawing insights, Leavitt believes people should be trusted with any technologies they want. (I am not sure these activities are so benign–if one comes up with an incorrect insight it could lead you to dangerous behavior.) It is only when you get to giving drugs or other medical treatments that the normal restrictions to professional clinicians makes sense.

Whatever safety may adhere to keeping devices closed, there can be no justification on the side of the user for keeping the data closed. And yet proprietary device manufacturers play games with the user’s data (and not just games for health). Leavitt, for instance, who wears a fitness monitor, says he can programmatically download a daily summary of his footsteps, but not the exact amounts taken at different parts of the day.

The game is that device manufacturers cannot recoup the costs of making and selling the devices through the price of the device alone. Therefore, they keep hold of users’ data and monetize it through marketing, special services, and other uses.

Leavitt doesn’t have a business plan yet. Instead, in classic open source practice, he is building community. Where he lives in Portland, Oregon a number of programmers and medical personnel have shown interest. The key to the WearDuino project is not the features of the device, but whether it succeeds in encouraging an ecosystem of useful personal monitors around it.

CCHIT Responds to Booz Allen Hamilton EHR Certification Contract with NIST

Posted on January 23, 2010 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.

CCHIT’s Mark Leavitt has published his analysis of the $400,000 contract that NIST awared to Booz Allen Hamilton to develop a framework for electronic health record certification (see certified EHR).

Honestly, it seems that Mark’s as confused as everyone about this whole process. This is an interesting development since I would have thought that CCHIT would have had a close relationship with HHS, ONC, NIST, CMS, etc. The fact that CCHIT and Mark Leavitt are kind of left in the dark and full of lots of questions is not a good sign for CCHIT and fans of CCHIT. It is a good sign for those who don’t care for CCHIT.

Guest Blog Post: Who is CCHIT?

Posted on August 4, 2009 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.

At EMR and EHR we welcome people to submit guest blog posts on our contact us page. We’re happy to post them with your name and a link to your website or anonymously. This week’s guest blog post comes from a doctor who wishes to remain anonymous but has some real questions about CCHIT’s involvement in the EMR world. Enjoy!

Companies are lobbying the Administration to keep product-testing and standard-setting within the sole jurisdiction of a nonprofit body called the Certification Commission for Healthcare Technology. Founded in 2004 with industry money and grants from nonprofits, CCHIT now receives $7.5 million a year under a contract with the federal government. The other half of CCHIT’s $15 million budget comes from fees paid by companies. Mark Leavitt, chairman of CCHIT, is a former tech vendor. He sold his electronic health records company to GE in 2002 and later became chief medical officer of the Healthcare Information & Management Systems Society (HIMSS), a trade group in Chicago. Seven of the CCHIT’s 19 voting members work for vendors or for-profit tech consulting firms. -– Chad Terhune, BusinessWeek, May 4, 2009, The Dubious Promise of Digital Medicine: Why huge spending on electronic records won’t produce quick improvements in efficiency or care.

$15 million dollars per year! To do what? Where is all the money going? I wonder how much Mark Leavitt makes per year? How much are the voting member paid per year? Boy, would I love this job! And what about the fact that almost half the voting members work for vendors or consulting firms! Is there a conflict of interest?

Does anyone have any additional information on CCHIT? This really makes me curious. Alarms are going off all over the place when I hear the basic information about CCHIT, how much they take in per year ($15 million) and what they actually do (certify a few EMR Systems).