Category Archives: Health information technology

Predicting the evolution of telehealth over the next decade

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko via pexels.

Many of us have experienced how telehealth works today: Log on to a secure website and talk to your doctor or another care provider via video. But the technology is only predicted to expand and become more detailed over the next decade, according to recent news reports.

Journalists can find interesting stories on this topic by looking at current and predicted trends such as hybrid care combining in-person and virtual components, niche telehealth programs for specialty populations, and remote physical exams in which physicians will incorporate data collected by remote tools like glucose monitors, bathroom scales and spirometers (instruments to measure air capacity in the lungs).

Virtual care “helped define the pandemic” in many ways, Mike Brandofino, CEO of telehealth technology and services company Caregility, told Healthcare IT News in a recent article. “We witnessed a spectrum of solutions take place…from switching to Zoom for doctor appointments to health care professionals putting baby monitors in rooms to monitor patients, minimizing the use of dwindling PPE (personal protective equipment) supplies while reducing the number of times a caregiver had to enter a COVID unit.”

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Impact of expected Roe v. Wade reversal on telehealth and femtech providers

Photo by Meruyert Gonullu via pexels.

A predicted overturning of the landmark Roe v. Wade case by the U.S. Supreme Court may force some people of childbearing age to turn to telehealth and femtech (technologies such as mobile apps or other products related to women’s health and wellness) for reproductive care, potentially crossing state lines to use these options.

There are many health IT angles to pursue within this larger story, including what telehealth and femtech providers are doing about safeguarding their patients’ and consumers’ data. Journalists can also find out what users of these services are concerned about, what advocacy organizations are promoting to protect consumers, and some downstream effects regarding women’s health and data collection.

Telehealth and reproductive health care

The overturning of Roe v. Wade could lead to a surge in visits to telehealth clinics prescribing abortion medications online, STAT’s Health Tech newsletter reported in its May 5 issue. However, the clinics would only be able to operate in states where abortion — and telemedicine prescriptions for the medication — remain legal — meaning patients in more restrictive states would have to cross state lines to access virtual care.

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How an investigation gave voice to people whose bionic eye implants went obsolete

Eliza Strickland                                        Mark Harris

What happens to users of cutting-edge implants when the only company that makes the technology runs out of money? That’s the question we set out to answer during a year-long investigation of the Argus II retinal implant, manufactured by a California company called Second Sight Medical Products. The investigation was published by IEEE Spectrum in February and covered in a recent Science Friday broadcast. 

Strickland had first written for Spectrum about the company back in 2011, lauding the development of a revolutionary eye implant that restored a crude kind of artificial vision to blind people involved in Second Sight’s clinical trials. That article featured a New Yorker named Barbara Campbell, who had been completely blind since her 30s because of a genetic condition called retinitis pigmentosa, but who could then make out rough shapes, figures and lights. The retinal implant connected wirelessly to a pair of sunglasses housing a low-resolution video camera. In 2013, the Argus II system was the first visual prosthesis to be approved by the FDA.

As the Argus II rolled out in the United States and around the world, many more such stories were written, typically showing users delighted to regain some vision — even if it was only flashes of light and shades of gray. Globally, over 350 people would ultimately have an Argus II implanted.

Late in 2020, Strickland revisited Second Sight to write a blog post about its latest project: a brain implant that stimulates the user’s visual cortex directly, potentially opening up its prosthetic system to a much wider group of people with vision challenges. Tucked away in that post were a few lines noting that the company had suspended production of the Argus II device and had recently suffered financial difficulties, nearly going out of business in early 2020. Strickland tried to contact the company for a status update, but didn’t get a response to her emails and phone calls. 

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Digital front doors: a deep dive into this growing health care trend

Photo via bing.com.

We have all traveled through the physical entrance of a doctor’s office or hospital. But if you have scheduled an appointment or checked in for an appointment online or through a mobile app, you have participated in a newer trend — the use of digital front doors.

A digital front door is a strategy health care institutions are employing to use technology to improve patient experiences and could be defined as “all the touchpoints where providers can digitally interact with patients to drive better access, engagement and experiences across the service continuum,” said Mutaz Shegewi, research director of IDC Insights, during a recent webinar hosted by Becker’s Hospital Review.

The idea is to replace or supplement tasks traditionally performed in person or manually, such as calling to schedule an appointment, with digital offerings. Depending on a health care entity’s offerings, consumers can use digital front doors to research care options, identify new providers and manage care delivery. Some platforms also allow patients to fill out forms, pay bills, and wait in the privacy of their car outside a traditional wait room until the provider is ready. In some cases, patients can receive all services without ever stepping foot into a physical facility.

The use of digital front doors is a trend journalists covering health IT (and health care in general) should be aware of. Reporters could find interesting stories about what hospitals are providing by way of digital front doors and/or interviewing patients who have used these services. Find out if they like these services and what process has been like. 

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Brain-computer interfaces translate thoughts to actions

A student in Dr. José del R. Millán’s lab at the University of Texas at Austin, demonstrates a brain-computer interface project during one of the Health Journalism 2022 field trips. The cap is outfitted with electrodes. When an external magnet is placed near the cap, it produces an electric current that moves the student’s finger. The technology could potentially be harnessed toward recovery for stroke or other patients following brain injury.

Imagine if a computer or assistive technology could process the thoughts of a person paralyzed or lacking the ability to speak and respond. That’s the burgeoning field of brain-computer interfaces, a world that journalists covering Health IT may want to learn about and explore to further enhance their reporting.

brain-computer interface (BCI) is a technology system that collects and interprets brain signals and transmits them to a connected machine that outputs the commands, panelists explained during “The electric brain: How technology can unite minds and machines” session, moderated by AHCJ Board President Felice Freyer at Health Journalism 2022. During the panel, researchers from Massachusetts, Texas and Michigan highlighted their work in BCIs as potential therapies for people with physical and/or speech limitations.

“When I see somebody in the neuro ICU who yesterday was able to walk and speak without any difficulty, but suddenly today is unable to move with cervical spinal cord injury, I’d like nothing more than to be able to tell that person, ‘I’m sorry this happened, but you’re going to be able to move again tomorrow,’” said Leigh Hochberg, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of engineering and senior lecturer in neurology with Brown University, Massachusetts General Hospital and the Providence VA Medical Center in New England. 

That’s one of the goals of a project he directs called BrainGate, an effort funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Institutes of Health, among others, to develop BCI technologies to restore communication, mobility and independence for people with neurologic disease, injury or limb loss. 

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