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Competition Heating Up For AI-Based Disease Management Players

Posted on May 21, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Working in collaboration with a company offering personal electrocardiograms to consumers, researchers with the Mayo Clinic have developed a technology that detects a dangerous heart arrhythmia. In so doing, the two are joining the race to improve disease management using AI technology, a contest which should pay the winner off handsomely.

At the recent Heart Rhythm Scientific Sessions conference, Mayo and vendor AliveCor shared research showing that by augmenting AI with deep neural networks, they can successfully identify patients with congenital Long QT Syndrome even if their ECG is normal. The results were accomplished by applying AI from lead one of a 12-lead ECG.

While Mayo needs no introduction, AliveCor might. While it started out selling a heart rhythm product available to consumers, AliveCor describes itself as an AI company. Its products include KardiaMobile and KardiaBand, which are designed to detect atrial fibrillation and normal sinus rhythms on the spot.

In their statement, the partners noted that as many as 50% of patients with genetically-confirmed LQTS have a normal QT interval on standard ECG. It’s important to recognize underlying LQTS, as such patients are at increased risk of arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death. They also note that that the inherited form affects 160,000 people in the US and causes 3,000 to 4,000 sudden deaths in children and young adults every year. So obviously, if this technology works as promised, it could be a big deal.

Aside from its medical value, what’s interesting about this announcement is that Mayo and AliveCor’s efforts seem to be part of a growing trend. For example, the FDA recently approved a product known as IDx-DR, the first AI technology capable of independently detecting diabetic retinopathy. The software can make basic recommendations without any physician involvement, which sounds pretty neat.

Before approving the software, the FDA reviewed data from parent company IDx, which performed a clinical study of 900 patients with diabetes across 10 primary care sites. The software accurately identified the presence of diabetic retinopathy 87.4% of the time and correctly identified those without the disease 89.5% of the time. I imagine an experienced ophthalmologist could beat that performance, but even virtuosos can’t get much higher than 90%.

And I shouldn’t forget the 1,000-ton presence of Google, which according to analyst firm CBInsights is making big bets that the future of healthcare will be structured data and AI. Among other things, Google is focusing on disease detection, including projects targeting diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and heart disease, among other conditions. (The research firm notes that Google has actually started a limited commercial rollout of its diabetes management program.)

I don’t know about you, but I find this stuff fascinating. Still, the AI future is still fuzzy. Clearly, it may do some great things for healthcare, but even Google is still the experimental stage. Don’t worry, though. If you’re following AI developments in healthcare you’ll have something new to read every day.

AI Software Detects Diabetic Retinopathy Without Physician Involvement

Posted on April 27, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

The FDA has approved parent company IDx to market IDx-DR, the first AI technology which can independently detect diabetic retinopathy. The software can make basic recommendations without any physician involvement.

Before approving the software, the FDA reviewed data from a clinical study of 900 patients with diabetes across 10 primary care sites. IDx-DR accurately identified the presence of diabetic retinopathy 87.4% of the time and accurately identified those without the disease 89.5% of the time. In other words, it’s not perfect but it’s clearly pretty close.

To use IDx-DR, providers upload digital images of a diabetic patient’s eyes taken with a retinal camera to the IDx cloud server. Once the image reaches the server, IDx-DR uses an AI algorithm to analyze the images, then tells the user whether the user has anything more than mild retinopathy.

If it finds significant retinopathy, the software suggests referring the patient to an eye care specialist for an in-depth diagnostic visit. On the other hand, if the software doesn’t detect retinopathy, it recommends a standard rescreen in 12 months.

Apparently, this is the first time the FDA has allowed a company to sell a device which screens and diagnoses patients without involving a specialist. We can expect further AI approvals by the FDA in the future, according to Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD. “Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning hold enormous promise for the future of medicine,” Gottlieb tweeted. “The FDA is taking steps to promote innovation and support the use of artificial intelligence-based medical devices.”

The question this announcement must raise in the minds of some readers is “How far will this go?” Both for personal and clinical reasons, doctors are likely to worry about this sort of development. After all, putting aside any impact it may have on their career, they may be concerned that patient will get short-changed.

They probably don’t need to worry, though. According to an article in the MIT Technology Review, a recent research project done by Google Cloud suggests that AI won’t be replacing doctors anytime soon.

Jia Li, who leads research and development at Google Cloud, told a conference audience that while applying AI to radiology imaging might be a useful tool, it can automate only a small part of radiologists’ work. All it will be able to do is help doctors make better judgments and make the process more efficient, Li told conference attendees.

In other words, it seems likely that for the foreseeable future, tools like IDx-DR and its cousins will help doctors automate tasks they didn’t want to do anyway. With any luck, using them will both save time and improve diagnoses. Not at all scary, right?

AI Tool Helps Physician Group Manage Prescription Refills

Posted on April 25, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Most of the time, when we hear about AI projects people are talking about massive efforts spanning millions of records and many thousands of patients. A recent blog item, however, suggests that AI can be used to improve comparatively modest problems faced by physician groups as well.

The case profiled in the blog involves Western Massachusetts-based Valley Medical Group, which is using machine learning to manage medication refills. The group, which includes 115 providers across four centers, implemented a product known as Charlie, a cloud-based tool made by Healthfinch 18 months ago. (I should note, at this point, that the blog maintained is by athenaHealth, which probably has a partnership with Healthfinch. Moving on…)

Charlie is a cloud-based tool which automates the process of prescription refills by integrating with EHRs. Charlie processes refill requests much like a physician or pharmacist would, but more quickly and probably more thoroughly as well.

According to the blog item, Charlie pulls in refill requests from the practice’s EHR then adds relevant patient data to the requests. After doing so, Charlie then runs the requests through an evidence-based rules engine to detect whether the request is in protocol or out of protocol. It also detects duplicates. errors and other problems. Charlie can also absorb specific protocols which let it know what to look for in each refill request it processes.

After 18 months, Valley’s refill process is far more efficient. Of the 10,000 refill requests that Valley gets every month, 60% are handled by a clerical person and don’t involve a clinician. In addition, clerical staff workloads have been cut in half, according to the practice’s manager of healthcare informatics.

Another benefit Valley saw from rolling out Charlie with that they found out which certain problems lay. For example, practice leaders found out that 20% of monthly refill requests were duplicate requests. Prior to implementing the new tool, practice staff spent a lot of time investigating the requests or worse, filling them by accident.

This type of technology will probably do a lot for medium-sized to larger practices, but smaller ones probably can’t afford to invest in this kind of technology. I have no idea what Healthfinch charges for Charlie, but I doubt it’s cheap, and I’m guessing its competitors are charging a bundle for this stuff as well. What’s more, as I saw at #HIMSS18, vendors are still struggling to define the right AI posture and product roadmap, so even if you have a lot of cash buying AI is still a somewhat risky play.

Still, if you’re part of a small practice that’s rethinking its IT strategy, it’s good to know that technologies like Charlie exist. I have little doubt that over time — perhaps fairly soon — vendors will begin offering AI tools that your practice can afford. In the meantime, it wouldn’t hurt to identify processes which seem to be wasting a lot of time or failing to get good results. That way, when an affordable tool comes along to help you’ll be ready to go.

Patient Demand For Digital Health Tools May Exceed Providers’ Ability To Deliver

Posted on March 15, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

It’s taken a long time, but it looks like consumers are getting serious about using digital tools to improve their health. According to a new survey by Accenture, in some cases consumers are actually more interested in using such tools than their providers are, researchers found.

Patients are taking advantage of a wide range of digital health options, including mobile tech (46%), accessing electronic health records (38%), social media (35%), wearable technology (33%), smart scales (27%), remote consultations (16%) and remote monitoring (14%). All of these numbers are up from 2017, notably mobile and access to electronic health records, use of which grew 10% and 9% respectively.

The survey also notes that the number of consumers receiving virtual healthcare services has increased since last year, from 21% in 2017 to 25% this year. Seventy-four percent of those accessing virtual care were satisfied with the encounter. Meanwhile, about three-quarters of consumers said they would use virtual care for after-hours appointments, and about two-thirds would choose this option for follow-up appointments after seeing a doctor in person.

Key takeaways for clinicians, meanwhile, include that while patients agree that in-person visits provide quality care, engage patients in their health care decisions and diagnose problems faster, virtual visits offer some significant advantages too. Virtual care benefits they identified include reducing medical costs to patients, accommodating patient schedules and providing timely care, respondents said.

Clinicians should also note that AI-based virtual doctors may someday become the competition. When asked whether they would use an AI virtual doctor provided by their provider, some were doubtful, with 29% saying they prefer visiting the doctor, 26% that they didn’t understand enough about how AI works, and 23% that they did not want to share their data.

However, 47% said they would choose a virtual doctor because it would be available whenever they needed it. Also, 36% said they’d use a virtual doctor because it would save time by avoiding a trip to the doctor, and 24% said they’d like to access a virtual doctor because the AI would have access to large amounts of relevant information.

Right now, it’s far more likely that hospitals will have the capacity to deliver such services, which may demand a higher level of IT expertise and staff time that many medical practices have available. Nonetheless, it seems likely that at some point, medical practices will need to offer more digital services if they want to remain competitive.

Meet the #HIMSS18 Press – A Wrapup Discussion of the Conference

Posted on March 13, 2018 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 week most in the healthcare IT community are recovering from the massive healthcare IT conference we know as HIMSS. The conference brings together a wide variety of people from the healthcare IT community and everyone is guaranteed to miss something that they’d find interesting and valuable. With that in mind, we’re hosting this week’s #HITsm chat to talk about what we saw and heard at #HIMSS18. Be sure to join us and share your insights and perspectives since we all no doubt had unique experiences.

As I’d done once previously, on the last day of HIMSS I hopped on video with my friend and colleague, Neil Versel who now writes at Genome Web, to talk about what we saw at HIMSS 2018. While I’m attending my 9th HIMSS, this was Neil’s 17th. So, we have some experience and perspective to offer having attended HIMSS for a combined 26 years. Enjoy our wrap up discussion on the final day of HIMSS:

What was your experience at HIMSS18? If you didn’t attend, what would you have liked to see? Did you follow along on Twitter? What do you think of the trending topics we discussed. How will they impact your business? Let us know in the comments.

#HIMSS18 Exhibitors Shift Away from Glitz & Glamour in Vegas

Posted on March 9, 2018 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.

The crucible that is the #HIMSS18 exhibit hall is over. 1300+ vendors have taken down their booths and rushed off to catch flights home. In the quiet aftermath of the vendor exodus, I had the chance to reflect on the overall themes of this year’s exhibits.

AI was everywhere and nowhere

Going into #HIMSS18 I fully expected that artificial intelligence would be a dominant theme. It was…and then some. AI was splashed across banners and monitors as far as the eye could see. Michael Rothman PhD, Co-founder and Chief Science Officer at Pera Health summed it up best: “Artificial Intelligence was liberally sprinkled across the #HIMSS18 show floor. It was the pixie dust that blanketed everything.”

Yet after speaking with many vendors, it became apparent to me that the term was being used very broadly to include: machine learning, data mining and rules-based workflow. Worse, a few vendors I spoke to were unable to describe how the addition of AI made their products incrementally better than what they offered before. Will “AI” go the way of neural networks, hydrogen cars and 3D TV? Doubtful, but it is concerning how quickly the term has become a marketing buzzword.

Fewer brochures handed out

In years past, you couldn’t walk down the aisles at HIMSS without vendors handing you nicely printed marketing brochures. This year, there was a noticeable lack of brochures. Several vendors had no paper handouts whatsoever, electing instead to email materials directly to booth visitors rather than force bulky paper brochures into their hands.

In my mind this is a win-win-win. The environment wins because fewer trees are transformed into glossy brochures with smiling doctors staring at computer screens. HIMSS attendees win from not having to carry heavy brochures. HIMSS exhibitors win from not having to print and ship brochures.

Fewer tchotchke’s, more in-booth experiences

One of the staples of HIMSS has been the amazing promotional items given out by vendors in the exhibit hall. This year, however, vendors scaled back their giveaways, opting instead to invest more on in-booth experiences. I counted no fewer than 20 podcasting stations and 15 video/livestream setups embedded in vendor booths. The soundproof podcast studio in the Cerner booth was amazing.

Also notable were the number of in-booth theatres that dotted the exhibit floor. I stopped counting after reaching 250. What impressed me was that it was not just sales presentations that were happening on these stages. Many vendors featured panel discussions and live interviews of industry thought leaders as part of their programs.

In my mind the hands-down winner was the CDW Healthcare Jeopardy station. Every day there was a crowd of people actively participating in a game-show style contest that pitted up to 6 teams of participants against each other. The show host was particularly charming and engaging. He really got the crowd excited. Bonus: the questions were all healthcare based.

Special shout out to @MedicaSoftLCC @FogoDataCenters @NextGate @emedapps for gathering donations for SafeNest an organization that helps victims of domestic abuse in Las Vegas.

Booth Models becoming extinct

It’s one thing to hire an entertainer like a magician or look-alike to attract people to your booth. It’s quite another to hire an attractive model to do nothing more than to stand in your booth and be attractive. At HIMSS18 I noticed very few of these hired helpers. There were certainly models who were hired to play the part of a patient in mock exam rooms, but there were no scantily-clad flamingo girls or bare-chested tuxedo men handing out company brochures like in years past when HIMSS was in Las Vegas. I’m hoping this downward trend continues.

Smaller Booths

The most surprising aspect of the HIMSS18 exhibit floor was size of the booths themselves. There were the usual giant footprints from industry titans: Epic, Cerner, Allscripts and IBM Healthcare. But other than the new Change Health booth, it felt like most vendors chose smaller booth sizes. Salesforce, Oracle, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, DellEMC and Verizon had moderately-sized booths at HIMSS18 relative to the size of those companies.

Healthcare IT has never been about glitz and glamour. Despite being held in Las Vegas – the city that is the epitome of glitz – the vendors in the #HIMSS18 exhibit hall showed restraint and practicality. Hopefully this is a trend that continues next year at #HIMSS19

#HIMSS18 First Day:  A Haze Of Uncertainty

Posted on March 7, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Entering the HIMSS exhibit area always feels like walking straight into a hurricane. But if you know how to navigate the show, things usually start to come into focus.

There’s a bunch of young, scrappy and hungry startups clustered in a hive, a second tier of more-established but still emerging ventures and a scattering of non-healthcare contenders hoping to crack the market. And of course, there are the dream places put in place by usual suspects like Accenture, SAP and Citrix. (I also stumbled across a large data analytics company, the curiously-named splunk> — I kid you not – whose pillars of data-like moving color squares might have been the most spectacular display on the floor.)

The point I’m trying to make here is that as immense and overwhelming as a show like HIMSS can be, there’s a certain order amongst the chaos. And I usually leave with an idea of which technologies are on the ascendance, and which seem the closest to practical deployment. This time, not so much.

I may have missed something, but my sense on first glance that I was surrounded by solutions that were immature, off-target or backed by companies trying to be all things to all people. Also, surprisingly few even spoke the word “doctor” when describing their product.

For example, a smallish HIT company probably can’t address IoT, population health, social determinants data and care coordination in one swell foop, but I ran into more than one that was trying to do something like this.

All told, I came away with a feeling that many vendors are trapped in a haze of uncertainty right now. To be fair, I understand why. Most are trying to build solutions without knowing the answers to some important questions.

What are the best uses of blockchain, if any? What role should AI play in data analytics, care management and patient interaction? How do we best define population health management? How should much-needed care coordination technologies be architected, and how will they fit into physician workflow?

Yes, I know that vendors’ job is to sort these things like these out and solve the problems effectively. But this year, many seem to be struggling far more than usual.

Meanwhile, I should note that there seems to be a mismatch between what vendors showed up and what providers say that they want. Why so few vendors focused on RCM or cybersecurity, for example? I know that to some extent, HIMSS is about emerging tech rather than existing solutions, but the gap between practical and emerging solutions seemed larger than usual.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m learning a lot here. The wonderful buzz of excited conversations in the hall is as intense as always. And the show is epic and entertaining as always. Let’s hope that next year, the fog has cleared.

10 Things I Look Forward to at HIMSS 2018 #HIMSS18

Posted on March 1, 2018 I Written By

Healthcare as a Human Right. Physician Suicide Loss Survivor. Janae writes about Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Data Analytics, Engagement and Investing in Healthcare. twitter: @coherencemed

What are you looking forward to this year for HIMSS18? Since last year I won the award for best shoes, I’m not sure how this year could be better than last. However, here are 10 reasons this year might beat the year where I won “best shoes.”

Women in Health IT Mentor Meetup

Each year HIMSS releases a report on women in healthIT included wage disparities. The release of this report and support of women in healthIT has gained traction this year. There is a HIMSS Meetup Thursday morning addressing the challenges of women in Health IT. You can register for the event and be matched with leaders. Doyenne Connections is also having a meet up before the Monday Keynote from 3- 4:30 PM at Yardbirth Southern Table & Bar. Doyenne Connections is a group dedicated to creating opportunities for women in HealthIT to make meaningful connections and networking. I really enjoy the Women in Health IT events at HIMSS.

Friendship

Catching up with friends and making new friends. I’m looking forward to seeing amazing thought leaders and finding out what they have been up to. I was going to put swag here (I actually really appreciate great swag) but really- the people I’ve met at HIMSS have been some of the best career inspirations and allies and I consider many close friends. It is also inspiring to see progress with increased access to mental healthcare and better patient communication through health IT.

I am lucky to have friends that are brilliant data scientists and working to provide better health. There is also a meetup at HIMSS for people who like #SciFi. With HealthTech Bookclub chats online we discovered that a LOT of people in HealthIT like scifi. Some of the predictions from older books that seemed to paint an impossible future now have prophetic impact from self driving cars to surgical robots. I am looking forward to meeting new friends who love data science and reading (and also swag).

Series A Pitch Competition Presentations

There is a contest at HIMSS! HIMSS VentureConnect has a pitch competition and I love contests and games. I am looking forward to the presentations and hearing more from investors about what they see as a great value proposition in HealthIT. I have seen Wellpepper for several years in the Patient Engagement space and admire Anne Weiler’s leadership as a female CEO and leader in business excellence. The pitch competition is Wednesday March 7 from 10:45 AM to 12:00 PM in Lido 3104.

Best in Klas Vendors

I have a lot of respect for the KLAS research team and I’m looking forward to meeting the vendors that are voted best in KLAS for 2018. I am planning to check out Lightning Bolt and their physician scheduling tools. Lightning Bolt helps manage physician scheduling and improve workflow. Who would you vote best in KLAS? Klas research has also started a cooperative that I am thrilled about, the arch collaborative. This group is working to improve physician satisfaction with their EMR and EHR experience.

Speaking

I get to speak!  I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak at HIMSS18 about physician suicide and burnout with Melissa McCool, CEO and Founder of Stellicare. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to share some of the work we’ve done in memory of my late husband. John Madsen died of suicide in 2015 and I noticed a lack of resources for our three children. Most physicians know someone that has died and there aren’t really easy ways to talk about the loss.

Please share your stories at MDSuicide.com. Yesterday we launched Sharpindex.org, collecting more information about burnout, including providing community support tools. The mission of providing a memory honoring such a personal loss is hard to talk about. I am hoping our newly forming non profit has more partners and sponsors for increasing care for physicians after HIMSS. Our session, “Physician Suicide and Clinician Engagement Tools,” takes place on March 8 at 4 p.m. PST at the Venetian Convention Center, Palazzo L.

Power Press Party

I love meeting press leaders in Health IT. On the eve of HIMSS I am looking forward to the Power Press Party. Every year we have a party celebrating great healthIT accomplishments in Media and have early meetings with vendors. If you are in the media and will be there Sunday Night- make sure you register HERE. This year it is at the Hyde Bellagio and celebrates Momcology as a charity partner. We get to celebrate the good news of HealthIT and support pediatric cancer.  The Power Press Party is Sunday, March 4 from 5:30 to 8:15 PM PST.

Telehealth Presentations

I am interested in a few presentations about Telehealth, One of them is A Framework to Support Measure Development for Telehealth with Jason Goldwater and Judd Hollander on Wednesday from 8:30-9:30 AM. The other is Behavioral Health: A Launchpad for Enterprise Telehealth with Nathaniel Lacktman and Sarah Sossong Tuesday from 4 PM to 5 PM. There are great possibilities for telehealth increasing access to providers and allowing better access to specialists. From rural populations with little access to specialists to underserved populations who need better behavioral health support, telehealth has increased access to care and will get bigger.  

Artificial Intelligence and Data Systems

Intersystems is a unified data platform for building scalable analytics platforms. They are also hosting workshops for FHIR and keynote speakers at their booth. I want to go see the presentation from Erid Widen, CEO of HBI solutions, about Predicting suicide and Opioid Abuse Using Clinical and Social Determinant Data. They are hosting this in their booth #4444 March 6 from 1 PM to 1:30 PM PST.  Innovation in Algorithms and data management is a key imperative to improving Health IT and HBI solutions has great innovations in data. If you know about companies that have great analytics I want to see what they are doing.  I will also go see CrossChx and meet their AI agent, Olive.

New Media Meetup

Some of my favorite people in HealthIT are the people who understand communication and marketing. They can translate a great algorithm to a message people understand. I call them the matchmakers, facilitating great solutions through faster connections. I’m looking forward to the New Media Meetup hosted by Care Cognitics. It is Wednesday from 6 PM to 8 PM at Senor Frogs. Register here. Communication is important in healthIT and @techguy hosts several meetups during HIMSS about the power of social media in healthcare, both to improve patient care and improve business. I go to as many of the Healthcarescene meetups as possible.

Empathy.Health

Wednesday at 4:30 Michael Joseph and Rasu Shrestha will launch Empathy.Health. Healthcare and patient leaders have observed an empathy gap, especially in the digital health arena, and believe that empathy must be a strategic and humane imperative and a core value for every health care delivery system. Physicians lose empathy during their training and frequently have a difficult time regaining that ability to relate. They will launch their work developing an increase in empathy and how to spread empathy in digital health. I am looking forward to being part of a group that recognizes the importance of healthy connections and understanding.

Those are a number of the things I’m most looking forward to at HIMSS18. What did I miss? What are you most excited to experience, see, or do at HIMSS? Let us know in the comments.

E-Patient Update: Alexa Nowhere Near Ready For Healthcare Prime Time

Posted on February 9, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Folks, I just purchased an Amazon Echo (Alexa) and I’ll tell you up front that I love it. I’m enjoying the heck out of summoning my favorite music with a simple voice command, ordering up a hypnotherapy session when my back hurts and tracking Amazon packages with a four-word request. I’m not sure all of these options are important but they sure are fun to use.

Being who I am, I’ve also checked out what, if anything, Alexa can do to address health issues. I tested it out with some simple but important comments related to my health. I had high hopes, but its performance turned out to be spotty. My statements included:

“Alexa, I’m hungry.”
“Alexa, I have a migraine.”
”Alexa, I’m lonely.”
”Alexa, I’m anxious.”
”Alexa, my chest hurts.”
“Alexa, I can’t breathe.”
“Alexa, I need help.”
“Alexa, I’m suicidal.”
“Alexa, my face is drooping.”

In running these informal tests, it became pretty clear what the Echo was and was not set up to do. In short, it offered brief but appropriate response to communications that involved conditions (such as experiencing suicidality) but drew a blank when confronted with some serious symptoms.

For example, when I told the Echo that I had a migraine, she (yes, it has a female voice and I’ve given it a gender) offered vague but helpful suggestions on how to deal with headaches, while warning me to call 911 if it got much worse suddenly. She also responded appropriately when I said I was lonely or that I needed help.

On the other hand, some of the symptoms I asked about drew the response “I don’t know about that.” I realize that Alexa isn’t a substitute for a clinician and it can’t triage me, but even a blanket suggestion that I call 911 would’ve been nice.

It’s clear that part of the problem is Echo’s reliance on “skills,” apps which seem to interact with its core systems. It can’t offer very much in the way of information or referral unless you invoke one of these skills with an “open” command. (The Echo can tell you a joke, though. A lame joke, but a joke nonetheless.)

Not only that, while I’m sure I missed some things, the selection of skills seems to be relatively minimal for such a prominent platform, particularly one backed by a giant like Amazon. That’s particularly true in the case of health-related skills. Visualize where chatbots and consumer-oriented AI were a couple of years ago and you’ll get the picture.

Ultimately, my guess is that physicians will prescribe Alexa alongside connected glucose meters, smart scales and the like, but not very soon. As my colleague John Lynn points out, information shared via the Echo isn’t confidential, as the Alexa isn’t HIPAA-compliant, and that’s just one of many difficulties that the healthcare industry will need to overcome before deploying this otherwise nifty device.

Still, like John, I have little doubt that the Echo and his siblings will eventually support medical practice in one form or another. It’s just a matter of how quickly it moves from an embryonic stage to a fully-fledged technology ecosystem linked with the excellent tools and apps that already exist.

Partners AI System Gives Clinicians Better Information

Posted on January 25, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

While HIT professionals typically understand AI technology, clinicians may not. After all, using AI usually isn’t part of their job, so they can be forgiven for ignoring all of the noise and hype around it.

Aware of this problem, Partners Connected Health and partner Hitachi have come together to create an AI-driven process which isolates data physicians can use. The new approach, dubbed ‘explainable AI,’ is designed to list the key factors the system has relied upon in making projections, making it easier for physicians to make relevant care decisions.

Explainable AI, a newer term used by the two organizations, refers not only to the work being done to develop the Partners system, but also a broader universe in which machines can explain their decisions and actions to human users. Ultimately, explainable AI should help users trust and use AI tools effectively, according to a Hitachi statement.

Initially, Partners will use the AI system to predict the risk of 30-day readmissions for patients with heart failure. Preventing such readmissions can potentially save $7,000 per patient per year.

The problem is, how can organizations like Partners make AI results useful to physicians? Most AI-driven results are something of a black box for clinicians, as they don’t know what data contributed to the score. After all, the algorithm analyses about 3,000 variables that might be a factor in readmissions, drawing from both structured and unstructured data. Without help, there’s little chance physicians can isolate ways to improve their own performance.

But in this case, the AI system offers much better information. Having calculated the predictive score, it isolates factors that physicians can address directly as part of the course of care. It also identifies which patients would be the best candidates for a post-discharge program focused on preventing readmissions.

All of this is well and good, but will it actually deliver the results that Partners hoped for? As it turns out, the initial results of a pilot program are promising.

To conduct the pilot, the Partners Connected Health Innovation team drew on real-life data from heart failure patients under its care. The patients were part of the Partners Connected Cardiac Care Program, a remote monitoring education program focused on managing their care effectively in reducing the risk of hospitalization.

The test compared the results calculated by the AI system with real-life results drawn from about 12,000 heart failure patients hospitalized and discharged from the Partners HealthCare network in 2014 in 2015. As it turned out, there was a high correlation between actual patient readmissions and the level predicted by the system. Next, Partners will share a list of variables that played the biggest role in the AI’s projects. It’s definitely a move in the right direction.