Category Archives: Healthcare

How Chatbots Make Healthcare More Efficient

In the mid 1960s, Joseph Weizenbaum of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory created ELIZA, an early natural language processing computer program and the first chatbot therapist. While ELIZA did not change therapy forever, it was a major step forward and one of the first programs capable of taking the Turing Test. Researchers were surprised by the amount of people who attributed human-like feelings to the computer’s responses.

Fast-forward 50 years later, advancements in artificial intelligence and natural language processing enable chatbots to become useful in a number of scenarios. Interest in chatbots has increased by 500% in the past 10 years and the market size is expected reach $1.3 billion by 2025.

Chatbots are becoming commonplace in marketing, customer service, real estate, finance, and more. Healthcare is one of the top 5 industries where chatbots are expected to make an impact. This week, we explore why chatbots appeal to help healthcare providers run a more efficient operation.

SCALABILITY

Chatbots can interact with a large number of users instantly. Their scalability equips them to handle logistical problems with ease. For example, chatbots can make mundane tasks such as scheduling easier by asking basic questions to understand a user’s health issues, matching them with doctors based on available time slots, and integrating with both doctor and patient calendars to create an appointment.

At the onset of the pandemic, Intermountain Healthcare was receiving an overload of inquiries from people who were afraid they may have contracted Covid-19. In order to facilitate the inquiries, Intermountain added extra staff and a dedicated line to their call center, but it wasn’t enough. Ultimately, they turned to artificial intelligence in the form of Scout, a conversational chatbot made by Gyant, to facilitate a basic coronavirus screening which determined if patients were eligible to get tested at a time when the number of tests were limited.

Ultimately, Scout only had to ask very basic questions—but it handled the bevy of inquiries with ease. Chatbots have proved themselves to be particularly useful for understaffed healthcare providers. As they employ AI to learn from previous interactions, they will become more sophisticated which will enable them to take on more robust tasks.

ACCESS

Visiting a doctor can be challenging due to the considerable amount of time it takes to commute. Working people and those without access to reliable transport may prevent them from taking on the hassle of the trip. Chatbots and telehealth in general provide a straightforward solution to these issues, enabling patients to receive insight as to whether an in-person consultation will be necessary.

While chatbots cannot provide medical insight and prognoses, they are effective in collecting and encouraging an awareness of basic data, such as anxiety and weight changes. They can help effectively triage patients through preliminary stages using automated queries and store information which doctors can later reference with ease. Their ability to proliferate information and handle questions will only increase as natural language processing improves.

A PERSONALIZED APPROACH — TO AN EXTENT

Chatbot therapists have come a long way since ELIZA. Developments in NLP, machine learning, and more enable chatbots to deliver helpful, personalized responses to user messages. Chatbots like Woebot are trained to employ cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to aid patients suffering from emotional distress by offering prompts and exercises for reflection. The anonymity of chatbots can help encourage patients to provide more candid answers unafraid of human judgment.

However, chatbots have yet to achieve one of the most important features a medical provider should have: empathy. Each individual is different, some may be scared away by formal talk and prefer casual conversation while for others, formality may be of the utmost importance. Given the delicacy of health matters, a lack of human sensitivity is a major flaw.

While chatbots can help manage a number of logistical tasks to make life easier for patients and providers, their application will be limited until they can gauge people’s tone and understand context. If recent advances in NLP and AI serve any indication, that time is soon to come.

HL7 Protocol Enhances Medical Data Transmissions–But Is It Secure?

In our last blog, we examined how DICOM became the standard format for transmitting files in medical imaging technology. As software developers, we frequently find ourselves working in the medical technology field navigating new formats and devices which require specialized attention.

This week, we will jump into one of the standards all medical technology developers should understand: the HL7 protocol.

The HL7 protocol is a set of international standards for the transfer of clinical and administrative data between hospital information systems. It refers to a number of flexible standards, guidelines, and methodologies by which various healthcare systems communicate with each other. HL7 connects a family of technologies, providing a universal framework for the interoperability of healthcare data and software.

Founded in 1987, Health Level Seven International (HL7) is a non-profit, ANSI-accredited standards developing organization that manages updates of the HL7 protocol. With over 1,600 members from over 50 countries, HL7 International represents brain trust incorporating the expertise of healthcare providers, government stakeholders, payers, pharmaceutical companies, vendors/suppliers, and consulting firms.

HL7 has primary and secondary standards. The primary standards are the most popular and integral for system integrations, interoperability, and compliance. Primary standards include the following:

  • Version 2.x Messaging Standard–an interoperability specification for health and medical transactions
  • Version 3 Messaging Standard–an interoperability specification for health and medical transactions
  • Clinical Document Architecture (CDA)–an exchange model for clinical documents, based on HL7 Version 3
  • Continuity of Care Document (CCD)–a US specification for the exchange of medical summaries, based on CDA.
  • Structured Product Labeling (SPL)–the published information that accompanies a medicine based on HL7 Version 3
  • Clinical Context Object Workgroup (CCOW)–an interoperability specification for the visual integration of user applications

While HL7 may enjoy employment worldwide, it’s also the subject of controversy due to underlying security issues. Researchers from the University of California conducted an experiment to simulate an HL7 cyber attack in 2019, which revealed a number of encryption and authentication vulnerabilities. By simulating a main-in-the-middle (MITM) attack, the experiment proved a bad actor could potentially modify medical lab results, which may result in any number of catastrophic medical miscues—from misdiagnosis to prescription of ineffective medications and more.

As software developers, we advise employing advanced security technology to protect patient data. Medical professionals are urged to consider the following additional safety protocols:

  • A strictly enforced password policy with multi-factor authentication
  • Third-party applications which offer encrypted and authenticated messaging
  • Network segmentation, virtual LAN, and firewall controls

While HL7 provides unparalleled interoperability for health care data, it does not provide ample security given the level of sensitivity of medical data—transmissions are unauthenticated and unvalidated and subject to security vulnerabilities. Additional security measures can help medical providers retain that interoperability across systems while protecting themselves and their patients from having their data exploited.

How Wearables Help Fight Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic forced lifestyle changes to the global population unlike any other event in recent history. As companies like Amazon and Zoom reap major profits from increased demand for online ordering and teleconferencing, wearable app developers are taking a particular interest in how they can do their part to help quell the pandemic.

It’s easy to take a wearable device that tracks key health metrics and market it as helping to detect Covid-19. It’s much harder to create a device with a proven value in helping prevent the spread of the disease. Here’s our rundown of what you need to know about how wearables can help fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

WEARABLES CANNOT DIAGNOSE COVID-19

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In an ideal world, your smartwatch could analyze your body on a molecular level to detect whether you have Covid-19. Technology has not evolved, yet, to where this is possible. The only way to diagnose Covid-19 is through a test administered by a health-care professional.

Fortunately, there are several ways in which wearables can help fight the spread of Covid-19 that do not involve direct diagnosis.

WEARABLES CAN DETECT EARLY SYMPTOMS

Wearables make it easy for their users to monitor general health conditions and deviations from their norms. Although wearables cannot detect the difference between the flu and Covid-19, they can collect data which indicates early symptoms of an illness and warns their users.

Fitbit CEO James Park hopes the device will eventually sense these changes in health data and instruct users to quarantine 1-3 days before symptoms start and to follow-up for confirmation with a coronavirus test.

Oura Ring

Oura Ring

Another big player in the Covid-19 wearables space is the Oura ring. The Oura ring is a smart ring that tracks activity, sleep, temperature, pulse, and heart rate. Since the outbreak, it has emerged as a major tool for detecting early symptoms like increased resting heart rate. Most notably, NBA players in Orlando, Florida use the device to monitor their health and detect early symptoms.

WEARABLES HELP KEEP FRONTLINE HEALTH WORKERS SAFE

John A. Rogers, a biomedical engineer at Northwestern University, has been developing a wearable patch that attaches to the user’s throat and helps monitor coughing and respiratory symptoms like shortness of breath.

Wearable patch developed by John A. Rogers of Northwestern University

Wearable patch developed by John A. Rogers of Northwestern University

One of the planned uses of this wearable is to protect frontline health-care workers by detecting if they contract the virus and become sick.

In addition, wearables can help monitor symptoms in hospitalized patients. This will reduce the chance of spreading the infection and exposing infected patients to workers.

ASYMPTOMATIC CARRIERS ARE ANOTHER STORY

Although wearables can collect and identify health data that points toward potential infections, recognizing asymptomatic carriers of the Coronavirus is another story. When carriers show no symptoms, the only way to determine if they have been infected is through a test.

TAKEAWAY

Unless there are significant technological leaps in Covid-19 testing, wearables will not be able to detect infections directly. However, they can help catch symptoms early to prevent the spread. Their ability to assist the pandemic represents a major growth sector. We look forward to seeing how wearable developers will innovate to protect the health of users and our future.

How Wearable Smart Clothing Will Revolutionize Health, Fitness, and Fashion

Wearables are in a nascent stage since coming into vogue through the advent of Samsung Galaxy Gear in 2013 and the Apple Watch in 2015. Smartwatches and fitness devices like Fitbit continue to reign supreme and help us make our lives more efficient while tracking vital health data and improving our workouts.

The next generation of wearables will be able to cultivate even more data and transmit that information to health professionals with the help of 5G. Machine learning algorithms will help predict potential health issues based on the data gathered. In order to cultivate this data, we predict that wearable clothes fitted with sensors will rise in popularity, yielding ground-breaking applications in Fitness, Healthcare, Emergency Services, and Fashion.

FITNESS

The release of Fitbit in 2009 marked the first consumer-grade wearable focused on activity tracking, precipitating the advent of the smartwatch by four years. Since then, Fitbit has designed and released a line of products focusing on activity tracking, including the Fitbit Versa, a health and fitness smartwatch, and the Fitbit Ace, an activity tracker for children 8+.

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Fitbit isn’t the only major player in the wearables game. Nadi X Yoga Pants use built-in haptic vibrations to encourage wearers to move and hold positions.

Sensoria’s second generation connected socks use textile pressure sensors to track the pressure put on the user’s foot when running and inform the user when it senses too much pressure on a particular body part to prevent injury. They also track time, cadence, pace, speed, and distance.

The Thin Ice smart vest cools your body using thermo receptors, activating the bodies brown fat pathways which effectively burns white fat (bad fat).

OMsignal’s OmBra measures heart rate and breathing rhythm in addition to time, distance, cadence pace, and impact for runners.

athos

The Athos Core is perhaps the most thorough and expansive application in smart clothes today. Athos Core collects data from a line of clothing embedded with micro-EMG sensors and analyzes it to help improve your workout. Athos shirts can evaluate electrical activity produced by your muscles to track the exertion of major upper-body muscle groups (pecs, bis, tris, delts, lats, and traps).

HEALTHCARE AND EMERGENCY SERVICES

As cited in our last blog on 5G and healthcare, 86% of doctors say wearables increase patient engagement with their own health.

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The second generation Owlet Smart Sock is a smart-sock made for babies which uses pulse oximetry technology to monitor heart rate and sleep patterns.

Siren Smartsocks are designed to prevent diabetics from suffering from foot injuries. They have microsensors designed to continuously monitor temperature for inflammation and alert users through their smartphone app.

As wearable clothes become more popular, applications will automatically contact emergency services when the wearer’s health shows major warning signs.

Invisiwear offers wearable smart jewelry and other accessories with a panic button which gives the option to share your location with loved ones and 9-1-1.

The iBeat Heart Watch monitors health and notifies your loved ones and an EMT team in emergency situations.

FASHION

“Fashion tech” is gradually earning adoption.

On a mass consumer level, Levi’s teamed up with Google’s Project Jacquard to offer a smart trucker jacket designed for urban cyclists. Conducive yarn makes it easy for the user to tap, swipe, or hold the sleeve to fulfill simple tasks like changing music tracks, block or answer calls, or access navigation information.

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A London-based design firm THE UNSEEN created a line of luxury accessories including a backpack, phone case, scarf, and more which respond to air pressure, body temperature, wind, sunlight, and touch to change colors.

THE FUTURE OF WEARABLE CLOTHES

Recently, NBA commissioner Adam Silver unveiled the future of the NBA Jersey: a line of smart jerseys that allow you to customize the name and number on the jersey.

There’s no doubt that the future of wearable clothes is still unveiling itself to us as 5G receives mass adoption and programmers continue to uncover potential applications of machine learning. What is clear at this point is that wearable clothes will help make the human race smarter, stronger, healthier, and more efficient.

How 5G Will Enable the Next Generation of Healthcare

In the past month, we’ve explored 5G, or fifth generation cellular technology, and how 5G will shape the future. In this piece, we’ll spotlight the many ways in which 5G will revolutionize the healthcare industry.

DATA TRANSMISSION

Many medical machines like MRIs and other imaging machines generate very large files that must then be sent to specialists for review. When operating on a network with low bandwidth, the transmission can take a long time or not send successfully. This means patients must wait even longer for treatment, inhibiting the efficiency of healthcare providers. 5G networks will vastly surpass current network speeds, enabling healthcare providers to quickly and reliably transport huge data files, allowing patients and doctors to get results fast.

EXPANDING TELEMEDICINE

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A study by Market Research Future showed that the future of telemedicine is bright—an annual growth rate of 16.5% is expected from 2017 to 2023. 5G is among the primary reasons for that level of growth. In order to support the real-time high-quality video necessary for telemedicine to be effective, hospitals and healthcare providers will need 5G networks that can reliably provide high-speed connections. Telemedicine will result in higher quality healthcare in rural areas and increased access to specialists around the world. Additionally, 5G will enable growth in AR, adding a new dimension to the quality of telemedicine.

REMOTE MONITORING AND WEARABLES

It’s no secret that 5G will enable incredible innovation in the IoT space. One of the ways in which IoT will enable more personalized healthcare involves wearables. According to Anthem, 86% of doctors say wearables increase patient engagement with their own health and wearables are expected to reduce hospital costs by 16% in the next five years.

Wearables like Fitbit track health information that can be vital for doctors to monitor patient health and offer preventative care. While the impact may initially be negligible, as technology advances and more applications for gathering data through wearables emerge, 5G will enable the high-speed, low-latency, data-intensive transfers necessary to take health-focused wearables to the next level. Doctors with increased access to patient information and data will be able to monitor and ultimately predict potential risks to patient health and enact preventative measures to get ahead of health issues.

Companies like CommandWear are creating wearable technology that helps save lives by enabling first responders to be more efficient and more conveniently communicate with their teams.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

In the future, artificial intelligence will analyze data to determine potential diagnoses and help determine the best treatment for a patient. The large amounts of data needed for real-time rapid machine learning requires ultra-reliable and high-bandwidth networks—the type of networks only 5G can offer.

One potential use case for AI in healthcare will be Health Management Systems. Picture a system that combines the Internet of Things with cloud computing and big data technology to fully exploit health status change information. Through data-mining, potential diseases can be screened and alarmed in advance. Health Management Systems will gradually receive mass adoption as 5G enables the data-transmission speeds necessary for machine learning to operate in the cloud and develop algorithms to predict future outcomes.

MAJOR PLAYERS

Right now, the major players who serve to benefit from 5G are the telecom companies developing technology that will enable mass adoption. Companies like Huawei Technologies, Nokia, Ericsson, Qualcomm, Verizon, AT&T, and Cisco Systems are investing massive sums of money into research and development and patenting various technologies, some of which will no doubt become the cornerstones of the future of healthcare.

Qualcomm recently hosted a contest to create a tricoder—a real life device based on a machine in the Star Trek TV movie franchise. Tricoders are portable medical devices that would enable patients to diagnose 13 conditions and continuously monitor five vital signs.

For a full list of major players in the 5G game, check out this awesome list from GreyB.

CONCLUSION

With human lives at stake, healthcare is the sector in which 5G could have the most transformative impact on our society. As the Qualcomm Tricoder contest shows, we are gradually building toward the society previously only dreamed about in sci-fi fiction–and 5G will help pave the way.

Get Fit And Stay Fit With Mobile Health Apps

These days, many businesses are clamoring for ways to cut costs and still provide healthcare benefits.  One of the most effective ways to accomplish both is with Health and Wellness Programs.  Businesses who implement Health and Wellness Programs experience a decrease in yearly spending on health plans, by as much as 7%.  Along with saving money businesses also witness significant productivity gains.  By incorporating healthier lifestyles into the strategy and culture of their business, fewer employees miss work and morale is higher.

The most effective health and wellness programs address proper nutrition, exercise, and behavioral health.  Treating the whole person, and including everyone in the company, has been recognized as the most effective means for success.  Getting there can be a challenge:  gathering baseline info, setting schedules, understanding what to eat and tracking other metrics is time consuming.  However, it doesn’t have to be.  With mobile health (mHealth), information is easily gathered and the right incentives can be easy to provide.    

Everyday more and more consumers utilize apps on their iOS and Android mobile devices to track their health and fitness.  An effective healthcare app can make participating in Health and Wellness Programs fun and exciting.  A good healthcare app should combine proper nutrition and weight loss tips, with suggested activities, motivational texts and contests.  The power of social media can also be utilized to increase the fun.  Employees can post funny pictures of workout attire, unusual workout venues or exercises, and even show successes in weight loss.   

By promoting healthy lifestyle habits, businesses experience a decrease in healthcare costs and an increase in productivity.  Help your company incorporate healthier lifestyles into its strategy and culture with the best healthcare apps.  Mystic Media specializes in iOS and Android app development and can craft the perfect app for any company’s wellness program.  Contact us today for a free consultation, or click here to learn more about our capabilities.   

Keeping Healthy With Some Cool iPhone Apps

With the explosion of mobile health, there are a lot of medical apps designed for the iPhone.   Nutrition apps monitor current lifestyle habits to help individuals stay healthy and avoid sickness.  There are also apps specifically designed for pregnant and nursing women to help new mothers monitor the health of the fetus and track feeding schedules.  A number of iPhone medical apps are designed specifically for doctors to assist with differential diagnosis and lab values.

Exciting new iPhone health apps for patients and doctors include:

  1. Sleep – Improves sleep by monitoring individual sleep cycles and heart rate, and helps individuals become more active.
  2. Baby Connect – Record feedings, naps, nursing, diapers, milestones and much more!  Also, share that information with babysitters, nannies and family.
  3. Pocket Pharmacist – Better understand prescription medications to ensure medication compatibility, and minimize side effects and unnecessary drug therapy.
  4. Instant ECG – Excellent learning tool and quick reference for physicians, nurses, paramedics and other healthcare professionals.
  5. Pocket Lab Values – Provides on-the-go information necessary for the daily practice of medicine for practitioners and students.

With the 2013 release of the new iPhone this Fall, growing demand for lifestyle and medical apps will increase.  Patients and doctors enjoy the assistance medical apps provide.  Nobody is complaining about the way mobile healthcare apps increase the overall health of patients, as well as decreasing medical costs!

Enlist Mystic Media’s help to keep pace with this new trend.  We design wonderful, effective smartphone apps to meet the needs of today’s marketplace.  Click here to learn more about our app development services.

Smartphones Help Patients Take Charge of Their Own Health

One of the biggest problems in healthcare today is missed medications.  Patients who knowingly, or accidentally, forget to take their prescription medication account for approximately 45% of all medication-related hospitalizations.  This problem leads to billions of dollars in annual health care costs.  Fortunately, this is one area of healthcare that is easily managed.  Medical apps for patients help stem the tide of increasing healthcare costs by placing medication and other health-management needs in the palm of their hands.

Medical apps are being developed for both Android and iPhone operating systems that offer gentle reminders to take medications and/or provide helpful information regarding symptoms and other basic medical questions.  In 2013, smartphone apps usage is growing at a fast pace.  Estimates project that over 20 billion apps will be downloaded in 2013.  Included in this number are medical apps for patients and for doctors. 

Some of the best medical apps for Android and for iPhones are:

  1. Drugs.com Medication Guide (Free) – Store all of your medication info, set reminders to take pills, look up prescription pills and learn about possible side effects.
  2. Diabetes in Check (Free) – Monitor type 2 diabetes with healthy eating tips (i.e. recipes and nutritional info), exercise reminders, blood sugar monitors and medication reminders.
  3. ZocDoc (Free) – Type in your zip code and insurance type and locate a doctor in your area that best suits your needs.
  4. WebMD (Free) – Check symptoms, learn more about a specific condition, identify pills and locate local health facilities in case of an emergency.

Of course, with the demand for medical apps growing daily, you should take advantage of this new market and let Mystic Media design an innovative smartphone app for you.  Contact us to learn more.

The Smartphone Is In: Are Mobile Medical Apps Replacing Doctors?

What does FDA regulation have to do with mobile phone applications?  It’s called mHealth and it is taking mobile health to a higher level.  With the ability to access information anywhere, smartphones and tablets are changing the way doctors provide care to their patients.  Mobile medical applications are growing at a very fast pace.  And with increasing demand on doctors to be in more than one place at a time, these health apps make it easier for doctors to deliver care.

Many mobile medical apps pose minimal to no risk at all to patients.  Health apps that turn mobile devices into medical devices can pose a risk and need federal regulation.  Some of these apps are only accessible to doctors.  However, a growing number of mobile health apps are directly available to patients – raising concerns that patients will believe themselves to be experts and not seek medical advice because their medical smartphone apps said this or that.  Thus, the need for some regulation of mobile health apps, not total regulation, seems appropriate.  In order to find out what medical apps are currently under FDA regulation, check out: http://www.fda.gov/medicaldevices/deviceregulationandguidance/ 

Mobile health apps increasing in popularity among doctors and patients are:

  1. iHealth Blood Pressure Monitor – Connect a cuff to your smartphone or tablet and monitor your blood pressure.
  2. SmartHeart – Uses wireless transmission to send information from your heart monitor to your mobile device.
  3. OnTrack Diabetes – Free application that allows diabetics to track crucial information connected to diabetic health: blood glucose, food, blood pressure, exercise, pulse, medication and weight.

One thing is for sure, mobile health apps are a trend that is continuing to grow.  mHealth is increasing in importance and mobile health apps are making things easier for doctors and patients alike.  If you are interested in tapping into the growing, lucrative market of medical-oriented apps, Mystic Media can create the mobile app you’re looking for.  Contact us to learn more.