Is digital health neglecting The Big Preventable–medical errors?

 

Preventable medical errors persist as the No. 3 killer in the US – third only to heart disease and cancer – claiming the lives of some 400,000 people each year.

(US Senate hearing, cited in HealthcareITNews 18 July 2014)

At the end of last month, this Editor questioned the efficacy of our current state of ‘consumer engagement’ in Patients should be less engaged, not more. The ‘less engaged’ was a call for simplification: regimens and devices which were easier to use, less complicated and far easier to fit in everyday life. (Aesthetics helps too.) Back in 2013, HeartSister/Ethical Nag (and Canadian) Carolyn Thomas called for health app (and by inference consumer engagement) designers to ‘skate to where the puck is going’–as in “For Pete’s sake, go find some Real Live Patients to talk (and listen) to first before you decide where you’re going!” Often it seems like these apps and platforms are designed in a vacuum of the entrepreneur’s making. The proof is the low uptake (Pew, Parks, IMS) and the apps’/programs’ lack of stickiness after all this time (Kvedar 8 Sep blog post).

Now Laurie Orlov tells us we were looking at the wrong puck, as analysts do. First, all that ‘nudging’ and all those apps haven’t moved the needle on diabetes and obesity. Second, why are app developers neglecting that third largest killer, preventable medical errors? Add to that 400,000 yearly–over 1,000 per day–the 10,000 estimated patients every day who suffer serious complications. (more…)

Unhappy endings: where even innovation cannot make a difference

This week’s sad news of the death of comedian/film star Robin Williams and his ongoing battles with addiction and depression are the center of this thoughtful article by EIC Veronica Combs in MedCityNews. Even with access to the best care and innovations such as virtual visits, Mr Williams committed suicide. The larger point made is that access and healthcare innovation don’t mean automatic adoption or a positive outcome. Some of those with chronic physical or mental illnesses choose not to change their behaviors, comply with a regimen or even to seek help, much less seek out technology or be a QSer. And some are simply beaten down and depressed by the perpetual Battle of Stalingrad that is chronic disease–ask any diabetic [TTA 5 Apr 2013]. Her conclusion is that though innovation may not help everyone, it doesn’t mean we should not pursue it. And, this Editor would add, for developers to realize that they must make technologies simple and affordable enough–‘tear down that wall’–so that those who won’t access help become fewer. (And, yes, there is a spiritual aspect of care that must be addressed–see VOX Telehealth’s work with HealthCare Chaplaincy Network TTA 25 July.)

Update:  Other factors may have tipped Mr Williams’ depression flare-up. The first (more…)

Monday’s ‘in the news’ briefs

Proteus raises $120 million from “major new institutional investors based in the United States, Europe and Asia” for further development of its ‘smart pills’. Mobihealthnews. Previously in TTA here (starting in 2009!) It’s a long way from ‘tattletale pills’…..InTouch Health now has an FDA-cleared iPad app, CS for iPad, to support a digital stethoscope component on the mobile devices. The app is designed to assess heart and lung sounds in real time in acute-care settings particularly tele-ICU. MedCityNews…..In the mood to read your brainwaves? The Muse is here to help with neurofeedback. MedCityNews takes it on a test drive and if you don’t mind wiping your head down to get a good connection, it definitely points to the future of controlling computers with brain waves and in the meantime, pairing up health apps to get a correlation with those waves….And finally a ‘think piece’ in HeartSisters by Carolyn Thomas“To just be a person, and not a patient anymore” is largely an impossible dream for those with chronic disease. It’s part of the basis behind non-compliance and other patient behavior that doctors have difficulty understanding. The experience of the patient–the frustration (the ‘perpetual battle of Stalingrad’) and the burden that person carries is the argument behind ‘Minimally Disruptive Medicine’. Must reading as those same patients will be pressed now even more to Quantify Themselves and also to keep track of every fluctuation in vital signs on their iPhone.