Healthcare IT stories you may have missed – 06/11/20

Healthcare IT stories you may have missed – 06/11/20

The economic and societal impact of the global pandemic cannot be understated. New initiatives, regulatory updates, and national survey data spotlight both the challenges and opportunities on our nation’s path to recovery.

For individuals who have been out of work due to the coronavirus outbreak, contact tracing is emerging as a potential job opportunity. It has been widely accepted that contact tracing will be essential to the country’s reopening efforts, but proper training will be a critical success factor. CNBC recently reported that to help enlist tracers across the country, Johns Hopkins has created a free six-hour online course for contact tracing. So far, more than 250,000 people have enrolled, and 70,000 people have passed.

To help address clear disparities in the pandemic’s impact, federal officials announced that labs will be required to report demographic information for people tested for COVID19 such as race, ethnicity, age and gender along with their test results starting Aug. 1. The Washington Post reported that, “In announcing the rules, Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services who is in charge of the government’s coronavirus testing response, acknowledged what Democrats, public health experts and civil rights leaders have complained about for months.”

Additionally, a new poll from Kaiser Family Foundation shows that nearly half of Americans delayed medical care due to COVID-19. The data does not surprise many in the medical field, and they recognize it is likely to cause big problems down the road. Of those who went without seeing a doctor, 11% experienced a worsened medical condition. Moreover, nearly 40% said stress related to the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health.

Learnings from the pandemic, however, may have important lasting power. In a recent opinion piece, Diana Nole (former CEO of Wolters Kluwer Health) says that the disruption we are seeing today from COVID-19 is forcing a recalibration of what is truly important, including trust in healthcare and in our nation’s care providers. You can read it now in MedCity News.

Medtech stories you may have missed – 06/04/20

Medtech stories you may have missed – 06/04/20

The demand for #COVID19 antibody testing continues to increase, as does the scrutiny regarding tests’ accuracy. While #CDC guidelines have shown that less than half of those testing positive for COVID-19 antibodies actually have them, increasing the number of tests conducted, particularly in areas of high disease prevalence, boosts positive predictive value. This NPR article shows how prevalence and false positive rates affect antibody test results and why using two different tests, which the CDC now recommends for those who test positive, could improve testing accuracy.

As a result of these CDC guidelines, our client BioDot, which provides dispensing automation and manufacturing solutions to the world’s largest diagnostic companies, continues to scale up its manufacturing operations to keep pace with testing demand. The company recently announced that more than 50 companies worldwide are now using its technology to develop #COVID19 #antibody tests. Each of its automated lateral flow dispensing platforms enable customer production of 1 million point-of-care antibody tests per week. Read more in this SelectScience piece.

In COVID-19-related #telemedicine news, our client Prospero Health, a team-based home health care company, has partnered with GrandPad to improve access to care for seniors during the crisis and address gaps in care coordination. Prospero can now provide 24/7 telemedicine support to its vulnerable patients through GrandPad’s video chat capabilities that enable care teams to regularly check in on patients in real-time, while adhering to social distancing guidelines. This story on South Carolina Public Radio highlights how Prospero and GrandPad are contributing to the promise of virtual medical care, which went from being the future to being the new norm.

Medtech stories you may have missed – 06/04/20

Recent medtech stories you may have missed

From Rachel RobbinsSenior Vice President at Greenough Brand Storytellers

Artificial intelligence and robotics top trends that will transform healthcare in 2020

From the use of machine learning to process enormous amounts of medical data to robotics that span surgical use, transporting medical supplies and helping patients with rehab, technology will continue to transform healthcare in 2020. According to this Forbes article, wearable tech, 3D printing and extended reality (virtual, augmented and mixed) also show incredible promise for patients and medical professionals. In fact, a team of scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York has developed a way to 3D print living skin, complete with blood vessels.


Competition heats up in robot-assisted surgery market

Robotic-assisted surgery using da Vinci robots – which enable surgeons to perform delicate and complex operations through a few small incisions – continue to skyrocket. This is evident through Intuitive Surgical’s latest sales numbers, bringing the total number of da Vinci systems in operation to more than 5,400 worldwide. Despite this domination, only about 2% of surgeries worldwide are performed using robotic surgery equipment. The competition is about to heat up, with medical device giant Medtronic planning to launch its Hugo system in 2020—a system they claim is more flexible and cost-effective than those presently on the market.


More Americans using wearable fitness trackers to monitor health than ever before

Millions of Americans are using technology to monitor their exercise, heart rate, calorie consumption, sleep quality and step count. According to ACSM’s survey of 2020 fitness trends, the use of wearable technology—now a $95 billion industry—topped the list for the third year in a row. Google is tapping into the success of the fitness tracker market, going head-to-head with Apple and Samsung, announcing last week it is buying Fitbit for $2.1 billion. The purchase will help Google tap into an enormous amount of health data, with more than 28 million users on the Fitbit platform.


New technology promises to change the future of cancer diagnosis and treatment

In conjunction with Lung Cancer Awareness Month, Auris Health unveiled a revolutionary robot that can detect lung cancer at an early stage. Data from the company’s first study on live human subjects show its Monarch robotic system can successfully target hard-to-reach lung nodules and obtain a tissue sample for biopsy. The robot is a promising advancement that has the potential to change the future of cancer diagnosis and treatment. Similarly, Thermo Fisher Scientific unveiled its Ion Torrent Genexus System this week—a next-generation sequencing (NGS) platform that can deliver results in a single day, which will enable patients to be matched to targeted therapies or clinical trials faster. The system simplifies genomic testing so it can be performed in any clinical setting – including community hospitals, where most cancer patients are treated today.


Healthcare Data Analytics: What Would Francis Bacon Think?

Photo: Francis Bacon,, 2013

Photo: Francis Bacon,, 2013

There have been a lot of articles lately about how big data is going to revolutionize business, particularly the healthcare industry. Hospitals are going to be able to record, access and analyze exponentially more data than they could in the past, but instead of easing fears of data paralysis, analytics vendors seem set on creating angst. Bad strategy, for two reasons.

First of all, “the sky is falling” won’t help them sell, because few businesses enjoy being revolutionized. Major changes in the way an industry conducts business are usually not comfortable or pleasant – ask Best Buy how it feels about mobile retail, or ask how Tower Records feels about digital music distribution. The last thing a business owner wants is a market shift that’s going to radically and rapidly change their comfortable way of doing things.

Second, the storyline demonstrates a lack of understanding of data. For most industries, including healthcare, big data is not a revolution – it’s an evolution, allowing businesses to do what they already do better and faster. Doctors and hospitals have been using data and empirical observation to improve patient outcomes since the scientific method was established 400 hundred years ago. Big data doesn’t fundamentally change that premise; it just provides doctor and researchers with (exponentially) more information to work with.

Imagine that the philosopher Francis Bacon, one of the figureheads of the scientific revolution, could travel to a modern hospital and have access to all the benefits big data provides. Though the tools would be radically different, Bacon would essentially be following the same process as he laid out in his 1620 work, Novus Organum Scientiarum: gathering data, isolating variables and testing hypotheses. The changes big data is making for healthcare are differences in degree, not in kind.

It’s important to tell the story of big data in a positive way – rather than focusing on how it’s going to shake up and revolutionize businesses, vendors should emphasize how big data gives users access to a quantity and quality of information that past scientists could only imagine. Access to and study of this data makes it easier for doctors, insurers and hospital administrators to create better strategies and improve their operations.

Think about what WellPoint is looking to do in the healthcare space with IBM’s Watson supercomputer. By using the Jeopardy! winning machine’s incredible analysis capabilities to compile, analyze and make accessible unprecedented amounts of medical data, Wellpoint hopes that Watson will help doctors and insurers make more informed decisions, from choosing treatment options to accurately assessing risk.

This is what big data really is: another tool that gives healthcare professionals access to information that they can use to improve patient outcomes, lower costs and reduce waste. The introduction of the scientific method was a revolution that changed the central processes of healthcare; big data analytics are just the next evolutionary step. This difference may seem purely semantic, but as Lena Boroditsky of Stanford University’s Department of Psychology argued in this paper, these seemingly minor narrative changes can have a big difference on how a product is perceived.

Big data analytics are a remarkable and important new discipline that allows healthcare providers and insurers to access, manage and evaluate more information, leading to better informed research and improved patient outcomes.  They’re the next step in more than 400 years of scientific thought; Mr. Bacon would be impressed.

Zach Pearson is a Consultant at Greenough. Follow him on Twitter: @zach_p_pearson

With Great Potential Comes Regulation Uncertainty for Medical Mobile Apps

Photo:, 2012

Photo:, 2012

Ask the average smart phone user and he can probably show you a whole slew of apps he uses, providing a range of different services,  from keeping track of his schedule to streaming custom radio stations to paying for a meal with the scan of a barcode. But what about using your phone to monitor or diagnose your health? According to Research2Guidance, a mobile industry market research firm, approximately 247 million mobile phone users worldwide downloaded a health-related app in 2012.
Health apps are on the rise, providing users with software to log exercise, count calories and even assess moles to decide whether they warrant a visit to the dermatologist. Some apps target doctors, allowing them to view X-rays on the go or communicate digitally with their patients. The US FDA noted that there were 17,288 health and fitness apps on the market in mid-2012, along with 14,558 medical apps. However, these mobile apps are the subject of debate as policy makers sort out how to ensure these health resources are credible and safe for consumers to use.

Currently, as is often the case in the tech world, health app technology has outpaced regulation. Heath-related mobile apps represent the intersection of consumer technology, communication, and medicine, making it unclear as to who the responsible regulatory body should be. Both Apple’s App Store and Google Play require that app developers meet some standards, but their guidelines do not currently pertain to content quality or validity. The FDA regulates medical devices, and provides oversight to certain health apps that in effect converts a phone into a medical device. “There are apps today that change a mobile platform into an EKG machine. When it’s being used to diagnose patients, it’s a medical device we believe is subject to FDA oversight,” explained Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, in an NPR interview. But that still leaves the oversight of thousands of less technical apps up in the air.

At the moment, federal legislators are working to move a bill through Congress that would help clear up this regulatory ambiguity. Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA) has introduced The Healthcare Innovation and Marketplace Technologies Act, which proposes creating an Office of Mobile Health within the FDA. Establishing this new department would ensure that health apps actually provide users with credible and safe information.

We are inevitably going to see a shift towards mobile healthcare and a greater use of health-related consumer technology.  Local health care system Partners HealthCare has already established an entire Center for Connected Health to focus on efficiently and safely developing and implementing mobile health solutions. The recent focus on how to best regulate this new technology is a step in the right direction. The safety and security it will provide will enhance consumer confidence and ultimately accelerate the technology’s adoption.

Lucy Muscarella is a Consultant at Greenough. Follow her on Twitter: @lucymuscarella

The Rise of Retail Clinics

Photo: Minute Clinic, Rockford Register Star 2011

Photo: Minute Clinic, Rockford Register Star 2011

The severe flu season currently underway has been all over the news and, as a result, the topic has been peppered throughout our office chatter for the past couple of weeks.  After an especially sniffle, sneeze, and cough-filled “T” (subway) ride to work one morning last week, I hopped onto CVS’s website and, after about 45 seconds, had an appointment to get my flu shot the following night.  Later in the week, I heard from a few colleagues who, after hearing how easily I signed up, had also gotten their vaccines at a CVS MinuteClinic.  This sparked thought on retail clinics and the role they’ll play in the future of healthcare.

Retail clinics, like those in popular drugstore chains and superstores like Target and Walmart, have rapidly grown in popularity in recent years.  According to HealthDay News, the first retail clinic opened in the U.S. in 2000, and there are now more than 1,350 such clinics operating around the country.  An American Medical Association news report says CVS opened 68 clinics from December 1, 2011 to December 1, 2012. With 620 locations, MinuteClinic accounts for approximately 44 percent of American retail clinics.  Clinicians at MinuteClinics have seen an astounding 14 million patients since 2000.

While retail health centers are not the answer to all health issues—obviously people with more serious symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, etc. should call their doctor or head straight to the emergency room— consumers should consider them as an option more often.  Until now, most retail clinics have addressed routine needs like flu shots, prescriptions, and blood pressure checks, but many clinics can also meet a variety of other health needs such as sports physicals, strep throat cultures, and diabetes testing.  Clinics are typically staffed by qualified nurse practitioners, and, in Massachusetts, they are regulated by the Department of Public Health to ensure the safety of all patients.

As a result of healthcare reform, more people now have access to insurance and will be seeking medical attention.  Outsourcing minor procedures and tests to retail clinics could ensure that a greater number of people will receive the care they need and at a lower cost.  Affordable clinics in convenient locations with convenient hours, short wait times (and sometimes no need for an appointment at all) staffed with qualified personnel, seems like a win-win situation to me.

Lucy Muscarella is a Consultant at Greenough. Follow her on Twitter:@lucymuscarella