Robots, Taxpayer technology, Healthcare apps, and more
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Health Management Technology News
November 20, 2013

In this issue:

Robots let doctors 'beam' into remote hospitals

Taxpayer-Funded Technology Flops Plague U.S. Government

Healthcare Apps That Doctors Use

Healthcare plan enrollment surges in some states after rocky rollout


Robots let doctors 'beam' into remote hospitals

Remote presence robots are allowing physicians to "beam" themselves into hospitals to diagnose patients and offer medical advice during emergencies.

A growing number of hospitals in California and other states are using telepresence robots to expand access to medical specialists, especially in rural areas where there's a shortage of doctors.

These mobile video-conferencing machines move on wheels and typically stand about 5 feet, with a large screen that projects a doctor's face. They feature cameras, microphones and speakers that allow physicians and patients to see and talk to each other.

Dignity Health, which runs Arizona, California and Nevada hospitals, began using the telemedicine machines five years ago to diagnose patients suspected of suffering strokes — when every minute is crucial to prevent serious brain damage.

The San Francisco-based health care provider now uses the telemedicine robots in emergency rooms and intensive-care units at about 20 California hospitals, giving them access to specialists in areas such as neurology, cardiology, neonatology, pediatrics and mental health.

Read the Yahoo article.

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Taxpayer-Funded Technology Flops Plague U.S. Government

Almost a decade before the Obamacare website’s failed debut, the Air Force began work on a project to replace 240 outdated networks with a single logistics system.

After spending about $1 billion, the program led by Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) collapsed last year. Senators Carl Levin and John McCain described it as “one of the most egregious examples of mismanagement in recent memory.”

The list of federal information-technology lapses and flops includes systems to modernize air-traffic control and to secure the nation’s border, and now even President Barack Obama is wondering why the government can’t get it right.

“How we purchase technology in the federal government is cumbersome, complicated and outdated,” Obama said Nov. 14 at a press conference, remarks he echoed yesterday.

“You’re going through, you know, 40 pages of specs and this and that and the other and there’s all kinds of law involved,” he said Nov. 14. “And it makes it more difficult -- it’s part of the reason why, chronically, federal IT programs are over budget, behind schedule.”

What the Air Force and healthcare.gov systems had in common were unclear requirements, according to contracting and technology specialists. Projects from a border surveillance program to an FBI case-filing system also have failed because of late changes, a lack of oversight, cost overruns and an emphasis on deadlines rather than the flexibility to let big, complex projects evolve, they said.

Read the Bloomberg article.

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Healthcare Apps That Doctors Use

Cardiologist Eric Topol says he knew medicine had reached a turning point when patients started emailing him the results of do-it-yourself electrocardiograms.

With the help of a smartphone, a software application and a portable device that reads a person's heart rhythm, anyone can get an instant EKG reading on their phone screen.

"I am getting emails from people saying, 'I'm in atrial fibrillation—what do I do?' " Dr. Topol says, referring to a type of irregular heartbeat. "Whoa! The first time I saw that in the subject line of an email, I said, the world has really changed."

Mobile apps for smartphones and tablets are changing the way doctors and patients approach health care. Many are designed for the doctors themselves, ranging from handy databases about drugs and diseases to sophisticated monitors that read a person's blood pressure, glucose levels or asthma symptoms. Others are for the patients—at their doctor's recommendation—to gather diagnostic data, for example, or simply to help coordinate care, giving patients an easy way to keep track of their conditions and treatments.

Doctors say many of the apps are useful time savers, and have the potential to make health care more efficient by speeding diagnosis, improving patient monitoring and reducing unnecessary visits to a physician or hospital. Still, the field has a way to go, doctors add, particularly when it comes to making good use of all the patient data being generated.

Read the Wall Street Journal article.

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Healthcare plan enrollment surges in some states after rocky rollout

WASHINGTON — Despite the disastrous rollout of the federal government's healthcare website, enrollment is surging in many states as tens of thousands of consumers sign up for insurance plans made available by President Obama's health law.

A number of states that use their own systems, including California, are on track to hit enrollment targets for 2014 because of a sharp increase in November, according to state officials.

"What we are seeing is incredible momentum," said Peter Lee, director of Covered California, the nation's largest state insurance marketplace, which accounted for a third of all enrollments nationally in October. California — which enrolled about 31,000 people in health plans last month — nearly doubled that in the first two weeks of this month.

Several other states, including Connecticut and Kentucky, are outpacing their enrollment estimates, even as states that depend on the federal website lag far behind. In Minnesota, enrollment in the second half of October ran at triple the rate of the first half, officials said. Washington state is also on track to easily exceed its October enrollment figure, officials said.

Read the Los Angeles Times article.

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