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Consumers Use Fitness Bands Track Symptoms Of Illegal Drug Use

Posted on July 20, 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.

Over the last few years, providers have begun to do more and more with patient-generated health data. Much of this data has come from fitness bands such as the Fitbit or Apple Watch, whose data adds some additional dimensions to the big data warehouses hospitals maintain.

In recent times consumers have apparently found a new and possibly lethal use for this feedback. According to a CNBC story, a number of people in their 20s are using these devices to track the effect of illegal drugs on their system. That’s especially the case among techies already quite familiar with running their lives with devices, the article suggested.

Don’t believe it? For proof, the author cites a number of social media sites where users discuss the benefits of tracking how illicit drugs like cocaine, ecstasy and speed affect their bodies. For example, a Reddit user recently posted a description of using a health tracking device to keep tabs on their pulse after taking cocaine. In a skewed version of medical data sharing, the post even included heart rate graphs.

Another Redditor cut to the chase: “Drugs are basically the only reason I wear a Fitbit,” the poster wrote. “I want an early warning system for when my heart’s going to explode.”

Of course, very few physicians (if any) would condone this practice, which certainly doesn’t offer a bulletproof way to protect users from the effects of the drugs they’ve taken.  Not only that, consumer-grade trackers are nowhere near as accurate as a standard medical device.

Some would say that this is a nasty example of the law of unintended consequences. With very little evidence to support their assumptions, some users are basing their lives, in effect, on the accuracy of the relatively-ineffective technology.

On the other hand, at least some of those who track their body’s response to drugs may have a sense of the devices’ limitations.

One drug user who tracks his vital signs with a fitness band told a reporter he feels that the device is useful despite its limitations. The man, identified only as Owen, said that while the band may not be completely accurate, it seems to display heart rates consistently at low and high exertion levels.

“If somebody says, ‘Let’s do a line,’ I’ll look at my watch,” Owen told the publication. “If I see I’m at 150 or 160, I’ll say, ‘I’m good.’”

Physicians, Patients Intrigued By Digital Health Options

Posted on March 12, 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 digital health technologies have been available for many years, it’s taken a long time to get both doctors and patients comfortable with using them. However, the time is fast approaching, as the following study suggests.

New research from Ernst & Young has concluded that both physicians and consumers want to collaborate using digital technologies. The study found that consumers are comfortable reaching out to the doctors via digital channels and that physicians agree that digital technologies and data sharing can improve patient well-being.

More than half (54%) of consumers responding to the survey said they were comfortable contacting their doctor digitally. Also, they were interested in using technologies found outside of the physician’s office, including at-home diagnostic testing (36%), using a smartphone or connected device to share information (33%) and video consultations (21%).

Meanwhile, 83% of physicians told researchers that harvesting consumer and patient-generated data would make more personalized care plans possible and improve care quality. In addition, 66% said they felt increased use of digital technologies would make the healthcare system more efficient and lower costs, while 64% said it would help lower the burden on doctors and nurses, reducing the potential for burnout.

To make such cooperation practical, however, providers need to create incentives for data sharing, the E&Y researchers concluded.

When asked whether they were prepared to share lifestyle information with their physician, only 26% said yes. On the other hand, if doing so would allow them to reduce waiting times, 61% said they would share such data, if it would lower costs, 55% were interested. Also of note, 26% said they would be willing to share dietary and exercise information if they got tailored diet and exercise plans.

That being said, the level of interest in digital cooperation varied by demographics. Specifically, the survey found much lower levels of engagement and interest from consumers age 45 years and older, regardless of the form of technology discussed.

Still, both consumers and physicians seem to have a fair amount of optimism about the future of health. Sixty-four percent of consumers reported that they saw the US health industry as innovative, and 70% of physicians saw currently used technology as effective, both of which are high-water marks.

As this research points out, the gap between physician users of medical data and consumer portal users is narrowing by the day, but it’s still far from closed. It may take some time to figure out what incentives consumers find the most motivating. At the moment, it’s still a shot in the dark.

Supercharged Wearables Are On The Horizon

Posted on January 3, 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.

Over the last several years, the healthcare industry has been engaged in a rollicking debate over the value of patient-generated health data. Critics say that it’s too soon to decide whether such tools can really add value to medical care, while fans suggest it’s high time to make use of this information.

That’s all fine, but to me, this discussion no longer matters. We are past the question of whether consumer wearables data helps clinicians, which, in their current state, are under-regulated and underpowered. We’re moving on to profoundly more-capable devices that will make the current generation look like toys.

Today, tech giants are working on next-generation devices which will perform more sophisticated tracking and solve more targeted problems. Clinicians, take note of the following news items, which come from The New York Times:

  • Amazon recently invested in Grail, a cancer-detection start-up which raised more than $900 million
  • Apple acquired Beddit, which makes sleep-tracking technology
  • Alphabet acquired Senosis Health, which develops apps that use smartphone sensors to monitor health signals

And the action isn’t limited to acquisitions — tech giants are also getting serious about creating their own products internally. For example, Alphabet’s research unit, Verily Life Sciences, is developing new tools to collect and analyze health data.

Recently, it introduced a health research device, the Verily Study Watch, which has sensors that can collect data on heart rate, gait and skin temperature. That might not be so exciting on its own, but the associated research program is intriguing.

Verily is using the watch to conduct a study called Project Baseline. The study will follow about 10,000 volunteers, who will also be asked to use sleep sensors at night, and also agreed to blood, genetic and mental health tests. Verily will use data analytics and machine learning to gather a more-detailed picture of how cancer progresses.

I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point. We are not looking at your father’s wearables anymore — we’re looking at devices that can change how disease is detected and perhaps even treated dramatically.

Sure, the Fitbits of the world aren’t likely to go away, and some organizations will remain interested in integrating such data into the big data stores. But given what the tech giants are doing, the first generation of plain-vanilla devices will soon end up in the junk heap of medical history.

What’s Involved In Getting To EHR 2.0?

Posted on September 22, 2017 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 the current crop of EHRs have (arguably) served a useful purpose, I think we’d all agree that there’s a ton of room for improvement. The question is, what will it take to move EHRs forward?

Certainly, we face some significant obstacles to progress.

There are environmental factors in play, such as reimbursement issues.

There’s the question of what providers will do with existing EHR infrastructure, which has cost them tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars if next-gen EHRs call for a new technical approach.

Then, of course, there’s the challenge of making the darn things usable by real, human clinicians. So far, we simply haven’t gotten anything that solves that issue yet.

That doesn’t mean people aren’t considering the issue, however. One health IT leader that’s stepped up to the plate is Dr. John Halamka, chief information officer of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and CIO and dean for technology at Harvard Medical School.

In his Life As Healthcare CIO, Halamka lays out the changes he sees as driving the shift to EHR 2.0. Here are some of his main points:

  • Regulators are shifting their focus from prescribing certain types of EHR functionality to looking at results technology achieves. This supports the healthcare industry’s movement from a data recording focus to an outcomes focus.
  • With doctors being pulled in too many directions, it will take teams to maintain patient health, this calls for a new generation of communication and groupware tools. These tools should include workflow integration, rules-based escalation messages, and routing based on time of day, location, schedules, urgency, and licensure.
  • With value-based purchasing gradually becoming the norm, EHRs need new capabilities. These should include the ability to document care plans and variation from those plans, along with outcomes reported from patient-generated healthcare data. Eventually, this will mean the dawn of the Care Management Medical Record, which enrolls patients and protocols based on their condition then ensures that patients get recommended services.
  • EHRs must be more usable. To accomplish this, it’s helpful to think of EHRs as platforms upon which entrepreneurs can create add-on functionality, along the lines of apps that rest on top of mobile operating systems.
  • Next-gen EHRs need to become more consumer-driven, making patients an equal member of the care team. Although existing EHR models do have patient portals, they aren’t robust enough to connect patients fully with their care, and they don’t include tools helping patients navigate their care system.

As far as I can tell, Dr. Halamka has covered the majority of issues we need to address in transitioning to new EHR models. I was also interested to learn that regulatory bodies have begun to “get it” about the limitations of demanding certain functions be included in an EHR system.

I’m still left with one question, however. How does interoperability fit into this picture? Can we even get to the next generation of EHRs without answering the question of how they share data between one another? To me, it’s clear that the answer is no, we can’t leave this issue aside.

Other than that, though, I found Dr. Halamka’s analysis to be fairly comforting. Nothing he’s described is out of reach, unless, of course, vendors won’t cooperate. I think that as providers reach the conclusions he has, they’ll demand the kind of functionality he’s outlined, and vendors will have no choice but to pony up. In other words, there might actually be light at the end of the EHR tunnel.