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The fascinating future of technology in healthcare

(TECH NEWS) Technology in the world of healthcare has been lagging but things are changing, and quickly.

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Tech in healthcare has been lagging

It’s undeniable that technology is playing a huge role in how we get around, how we interact with each other, and how we do business. But what about how healthcare is delivered and managed?

For many patients, interactions with the healthcare world can feel jarringly slow and disconnected, especially when it comes to communication between doctors and patients or between different healthcare providers.

Doctors and tech entrepreneurs acknowledge that in many ways, technology in healthcare has been lagging – but that’s about to change, and quickly. From the way hospitals are built to the way we visit doctors, get ready for some huge technology disruptions in the world of healthcare.

How patient data is shared

It may not seem like the sexiest part of the healthcare world, but it’s a critical aspect of how care is delivered: patient data.

“If you’re a patient, it’s difficult to track down your medical records,” says Kevin Grassi, MD, Chief Medical Officer and Co-Founder of PatientBank. “95% of medical info is exchanged by fax or by hand. In 2016 it’s ridiculous for faxing to be the main communication method, but faxing is HIPAA compliant, and it’s been the backbone of medical information exchange.”

Today, online fax services are the only easy way for patients to receive digital copies of their medical records.

There are health information exchanges in certain geographic areas, but they are limited to information like immunizations and prescriptions, Grassi says, and systems in different parts of the country aren’t set up to communicate with each other.

So if you’re a resident of New York who is seeing an oncologist in Texas, you’re on your own finding and conveying all the pertinent medical details, and you will likely have to navigate through several isolated patient portals.

That’s where Grassi hopes PatientBank will change things. PatientBank is a HIPAA-compliant service that can request medical records for you from multiple providers, and combines the information you choose to store into a summary that can be shared with doctors and family members.

Grassi hopes the technology will not only make it easier to safely share information, it will also increase patient engagement. That’s a crucial issue for doctors as well, since reimbursement models for physicians will change in 2017, from a fee-for-care model to a value-based system.

In an effort to improve patient outcomes, doctors will be required to do much more follow up care than they currently do.

“If a patient can give medical record access to their doctor, they’re empowered to look at that information, maybe even see where it isn’t correct – which is a big issue particularly in medication records,” Grassi says. “Engaged patients are healthier patients.”

It’s not just transmitting patient data that is difficult – sometimes just getting it in the first place is nearly impossible. That’s something Fahad Aziz, Co-Founder and CTO of CareMerge, learned firsthand when he got into a bicycle accident. He was treated in Seattle, then went back to San Francisco, where his doctor wanted to learn what had happened and how he’d been treated in order to give Aziz follow up care.

“I couldn’t get my medical records from the operation in Seattle. They put me in an endless loop of trying to get my records, and after two weeks I just gave up,” Aziz says. “That started me thinking differently about my company, and what we are doing.”

CareMerge builds coordination and communications technology specific to geriatric care that lets doctors share information with nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

If a doctor sends a patient from a hospital to a nursing care facility, for instance, that physician can use CareMerge to keep tabs on the patient’s progress and get alerts if there’s a change so that a doctor can visit at the nursing home.

That cuts down on patients being readmitted to hospitals, and improves patient outcomes, Aziz says. That’s a direction he sees a lot of healthcare technology going.

“There are close to 100,000 apps that area healthcare-related, but they are all isolated, none of them talk to each other,” Aziz says. “There’s been a lot of talk around building care coordination systems that talk to each other, but there wasn’t a driver to really make that take off until the shift to value-based reimbursements was finalized. All the entities responsible for providing patient care will have to talk to each other, and for the first time these systems are starting to get traction.”

Make way for AI

Aziz predicts that artificial intelligence (AI) is also going to lead to major changes in the healthcare industry.

“A lot of startups are working on technology that will read notes from your doctors, and based on intelligence like your own labs, or viral incidents in the area, will give you recommendations,” Aziz says. “That’s where the future is going to be. Five years from now, there is no doubt you and I will have an app that will give information about an episode happening to me, and what it means not just for me but for my whole family.”

That kind of machine learning will eventually replace many routine doctor’s visits, Aziz predicts.

AI will be able to coordinate data in a way that is currently not possible, he says, which could mean better, more coordinated treatment plans for complex health problems.

Smarter hospitals

That same unified coordination will also become a factor in the new hospitals being built.

Auron Priestley, MD, says that hospitals are under duress trying to solve the issues around patient handoff.

“Physicians today have no secure and efficient collaborative tool to share information at the end of shift changes,” Priestley says. “Believe it or not, they use Word documents to share information between each other at the end of shifts. Often written in short code and when physicians are exhausted, some information may be missed. Miscommunication in hospitals currently results in 80% of preventable patient deaths in the U.S. 250,000 preventable patient deaths occur each year.”

To combat this, Priestley worked with the American College of Surgeons (ACS) to create Kolkin SOS, a HIPAA-compliant app that makes it easy for doctors to collaborate on clinical workflow in real-time. It can work with or without Internet connectivity, and allows physicians to share clinical protocols and best practices. The ACS is working on getting the app integrated into hospital IT systems.

Grassi also thinks that technology in hospitals will change around the customer experience: remote checking in that can eliminate waiting rooms, or kiosks that will help shorten wait time.

In Austin, Texas, the new Dell Seton Medical Center is under construction, and will include smart screens in each patient room so that healthcare teams can access patients’ medical history and monitor their condition in real time. Because it is a teaching hospital, there will also be cameras in operating rooms, which will allow medical students to observe procedures from offsite.

Whether it’s sharing notes between doctors or more efficiently monitoring patients, technology in hospitals will streamline communications, something physicians hope will save time and improve safety and patient outcomes.

Conclusion:

Cutting edge technology has already led to huge advances in how our health care is delivered, from robotic surgery to advances in prosthetics. Now physicians and tech entrepreneurs are making inroads in how medical data is shared, both between patients and their providers and between physicians.

For physicians involved in piloting new technology, the hope is that those innovations could mean more efficient doctor’s visits, fewer medical errors, and greater patient satisfaction. With evolving challenges in the U.S. like aging and disease, that’s certainly welcome news to healthcare providers and patients alike.

#MedTech

Leo Welder is the founder of ChooseWhat.com, which guides entrepreneurs through the process of starting a business. Using How-To's, Comparisons, "STARTicles," and a community forum, the site gives people a detailed road map to support them through their entrepreneurial journeys.

Tech News

Domino’s asks Supreme Court to take up web accessibility case

(TECHNOLOGY) Domino’s is going all the way to the top to ask the Supreme Court to decide if ADA applies to their (and your) website.

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As long as your company is following the rules and regulations set by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), customers with disabilities should be able to access your brick-and-mortar store. The ADA ensures that stores have parking spots, ramps, and doors wide enough for folks in wheelchairs.

But does the ADA also extend to your business’s website? That’s a question that the Supreme Court may soon have to answer.

As an increasing number of services and opportunities are found online in this day and age, it’s quickly becoming a question that needs answering. Several New York wineries and art galleries, Zillow, and even Beyoncé have been sued because their websites were unusable for people who are blind.

In 2016, Domino’s Pizza was sued by a blind customer who was unable to order a pizza on Domino’s website, even while using the screen reading software that normally help blind people access information and services online. The Ninth Circuit Court ruled that Domino’s was in violation of the ADA and that the company was required to make their sites and apps accessible to all. Three years later, Domino’s is petitioning SCOTUS to take on the case.

Domino’s argues that making their sites and apps accessible would cost millions of dollars and wouldn’t necessarily protect them or any other company from what their lawyer called a “tsunami” of further litigation.

That’s because the ADA was written before the internet had completely taken over our social and economic lives. While the ADA sets strict regulations for physical buildings, it has no specific rules for websites and other digital technologies.

The Department of Justice apparently spent from 2010 to 2017 brainstorming possible regulations, but called a hiatus on the whole process because there was still much debate as to whether such rules were “necessary and appropriate.”

The Domino’s case proves that those regulations are in fact necessary. UsableNet, a company that creates accessibility features for tech, reports that there were 2,200 court cases in which users with disabilities sued a company over inaccessible sites or apps. That’s a 181 percent increase from the previous year.

While struggling to buy tickets to a Beyoncé concert or order a pizza may seem like trivial concerns, it’s important to consider how much blind people could be disadvantaged in the modern age if they can’t access the same websites and apps as those of us who can see. Christopher Danielsen from the National Federation of the Blind told CNBC that “If businesses are allowed to say, ‘We do not have to make our websites accessible to blind people,’ that would be shutting blind people out of the economy in the 21st century.”

If the Supreme Court decides to take the case, it could set an important precedent for the future of accessibility in web design.

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Tech News

Slack video messaging tool for the ultra lazy (or productive) person

(TECHNOLOGY) Courtesy of a company called Standuply, Slack’s notable lack of video-messaging options is finally addressed.

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Slack — the popular chat and workflow app — is still going strong despite its numerous technical shortcomings, one of which is its notable lack of native video or audio chat. If you’re an avid Slack user, you might be interested in Standuply’s solution to this missing feature: video and audio messaging.

While it isn’t quite the Skype-esque experience for which one might hope when booting up Slack, Standuply’s video messages add-on gives you the ability to record and send a video or audio recording to any Slack channel. This makes things like multitasking a breeze; unless you’re a god among mortals, your talking speed is significantly faster than your typing, making video- or audio-messaging a viable productivity move.

The way you’ll record and send the video or audio message is a bit convoluted: using a web browser and a private Slack link, you can record up to five minutes of content, after which point the content is uploaded to YouTube as a private item. You can then use the item’s link to send the video or audio clip to your Skype channel.

While this is a fairly roundabout way of introducing video chat into Slack, the end result is still a visual conversation which is conducive to long-term use.

Sending video and audio messages may feel like an exercise in futility (why use a third-party tool when one could just type?) but the amount of time and energy you can save while simultaneously responding to feedback or beginning your next task adds up.

Similarly, having a video that your team can circle back to instead of requiring them to scroll through until they find your text post on a given topic is better for long-term productivity.

And, if all else falls short, it’s nice to see your remote team’s faces and hear their voices every once in a while—if for no other reason than to reassure yourself that they aren’t figments of your overly caffeinated imagination.

At the time of this writing, the video chat portion of the Slack bot is free; however, subsequent pricing tiers include advanced aspects such as integration with existing services, analytics, and unlimited respondents.

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Want to know how your passwords could get hacked?

(TECH NEWS) While we all know that passwords can be hacked, it is rare that we know how they’re hacked.

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Ever wonder how passwords get stolen? I like to imagine a team of hackers like The Lone Gunmen from The X-Files, all crowded in some hideout conducting illegal computer business based on tips from rogue FBI Agents.

Turns out there’s a little more to hacking than waiting for Fox Mulder to show up with hints.

Most of the common tactics involve guessing passwords utilizing online and offline techniques to acquire entry. One of the main methods is a dictionary attack.

This method automatically tries everything listed in a small file, the “dictionary,” which is populated with common passwords, like 123456 or qwerty. If your password is something tragically simple, you’re out of luck in a dictionary attack.

To protect yourself, use strong single-use passwords for each individual account. You can keep track of these with a password manager, because no one is expecting you to remember a string of nonsensical numbers, letters, and characters that make up a strong password.

Of course, there are still ways for hackers to figure out even complex passwords.

In a brute force attack, every possible character combination is tried. For example, if the password is required to have at least one uppercase letter and one number, a brute force attack will meet these specifications when generating potential passwords.

Brute force attacks also include the most commonly used alphanumeric combinations, like a dictionary attack. Your best bet against this type of attack is using extra symbols like & or $ if the password allows, or including a variety of variables whenever possible.

Spidering is another online method similar to a dictionary attack. Hackers may target a specific business, and try a series of passwords related to the company. This usually involves using a search “spider” to collate a series of related terms into a custom word list.

While spidering can be devastating if successful, this kind of attack is diverted with strong network security and single-use passwords that don’t tie in easily searchable personal information.

Malware opens up some more fun options for hackers, especially if it features a keylogger, which monitors and records everything you type. With a keylogger, all your accounts could potentially be hacked, leaving you SOL. There are thousands of malware variants, and they can go undetected for a while.

Fortunately, malware is relatively easy to avoid by regularly updating your antivirus and antimalware software. Oh, and don’t click on sketchy links or installation packages containing bundleware. You can also use script blocking tools.

The delightfully named (but in actuality awful) rainbow table method is typically an offline attack where hackers acquire an encrypted list of passwords. The passwords will be hashed, meaning it looks completely different from what you would type to log in.

However, attackers can run plaintext passwords through a hashtag algorithm and compare the results to their file with encrypted passwords. To save time, hackers can use or purchase a “rainbow table”, which is a set of precomputed algorithms with specific values and potential combinations.

The downside here is rainbow tables take up a lot of space, and hackers are limited to the values listed in the table. Although rainbow tables open up a nightmare storm of hacking potential, you can protect yourself by avoiding sites that limit you to very short passwords, or use SHA1 or MD5 as their password algorithms.

There’s also phishing, which isn’t technically hacking, but is one of the more common ways passwords are stolen. In a phishing attempt, a spoof email requiring immediate attention links to a fake login landing page, where users are prompted to input their login credentials.

The credentials are then stolen, sold, used for shady purposes, or an unfortunate combination of all the above. Although spam distribution has greatly increased over the past year, you can protect yourself with spam filters, link checkers, and generally not trusting anything requesting a ton of personal information tied to a threat of your account being shut down.

Last but certainly not least, there’s social engineering. This is a masterpiece of human manipulation, and involves an attacker posing as someone who needs login, or password, building access information. For example, posing as a plumbing company needing access to a secure building, or a tech support team requiring passwords.

This con is avoidable with education and awareness of security protocol company wide. And also you know, not providing sensitive information to anyone who asks. Even if they seem like a very trustworthy electrician, or promise they definitely aren’t Count Olaf.

Moral of the story? Your passwords will never be completely safe, but you can take steps to prevent some avoidable hacking methods.

Always have a single-use password for each account, use a password manager to store complex passwords, update malware, keep your eye out for phishing attempts, and don’t you dare make your password “passoword.”

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