The Pros and Cons of Having a Smart Assistant on Smartphones

When it comes to smartphone and AI technology, both have seen major improvements over the years.  Now, it has been reported that roughly fifty percent of smartphones purchased this year will have an assistant that is powered by artificial intelligence.  Considering how this figure is on a pace to continue to rise, it is important to look at the pros and cons for having a smartphone with a smart assistant.

Industry Consulting Firm Reports a Rise in AI-Powered Smartphones

According to a recent report by industry consulting firm Strategy Analytics (SA) Inc., they reported on July 29th that 47.7 percent of smartphones purchased on the global market will contain on the device an artificial intelligence assistant; Yonhap news agency reported that last year’s number was 36.6. 

Source: android.gadgethacks.com

The report by SA also showed that AI on-device assistants are increasing at a faster pace among vendors that sell smartphones and roughly ninety percent of smartphones will have a built-in AI assistant by 2023; so, it would be a good idea to understand the positives and negatives of these types of devices.

The Pros of Having an AI-Powered Assistant

Whichever voice assistant you may have or want to utilize, there appears to be an endless expand-ability to the add-on skills that they can perform.  Amazon’s Alexa, for example, can have a pizza-skill enabled where you can order a pizza through the assistant and the only thing left to do is deciding whether to tip the driver; then again, there is a skill for that as well.

Keep in mind that voice assistants are more capable than just ordering a pizza.  They can keep you updated on current events, motivate you to exercise, play games, provide information regarding your bank accounts and so much more.

Another ability of voice assistants is automating the user’s life which allows more free time to occur.  What if instead of having to go out shopping you could find someone you can trust to do that for you; such as your voice assistant?  Well, there is a skill for that as once your assistant gets familiar with your shopping habits, it can re-order products when you run out of it just by giving a programmed command.

Source: amazon.in

Utilizing programmed commands can also be applied to turn on/off appliances, such as saying good morning to turn off the lights while saying good evening will turn the lights on.  The more devices that are plugged into smart plugs, the more devices your voice assistant can control.

The Cons of Having an AI-Powered Assistant

Although there are many reasons for having an AI-powered voice assistant, there are issues with this as well.  One problem that has come up is that there are times the voice assistant cannot differentiate between a user giving an actual command and something said from the TV or another audio source.  There have been users who set up their Google Home in the living room and will see often the device being activated and then fulfilling a command that comes from a show or the news from the TV.

Source: support.google.com

While it is convenient to have your personal assistant in one room controlling one or two devices, it can become an issue to have your assistant in every room of the house which means having to purchase and install other devices in these areas.  Even though the mics and speakers of the device can pick up commands coming from a small distance away, you would still have to buy multiple devices depending on how big your home is and how much control you want your assistant to have; therefore, this comes at a higher cost.

There is no doubt that if you consider technology an asset instead of a hindrance, an AI-powered assistant can make a user’s life easier.  However, everything comes at a price and some people may prefer life without having a smart assistant.  Nevertheless, technology is currently moving in a direction where AI-powered assistants are being incorporated more and more into smartphones; so, it will be up to the individual to determine if utilizing a smart assistant would be a positive or negative influence on their life.

NervGen Pharma Plans to Test Nerve Regeneration Tech

Technology in the health industry is consistently finding new ways to tackle medical conditions that were previously unapproachable.  New discoveries are being made utilizing tech that seemed only available in science fiction while more are on the way.  Now, another medical condition is possibly one step closer to being resolved as NervGen as announced recently that new technology has the potential to improve the millions of lives of patients with spinal cord injuries.

NervGen and Case Western Create Nerve Regeneration Tech

Source: globenewswire.com

Although medicine and technology have combined over the years to treat patients that were once considered to be un-treatable, there are still medical issues that this partnership needs to tackle, such as patients with spinal cord injuries; however, there is new hope.  According to writer Bernie Monegain from Healthcare IT News, new technology has been announced that has the potential to help patients with spinal cord injuries live better lives.

NervGen Pharma is a regenerative medicine company that is based in Vancouver, B.C. and is collaborating with Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland on commercializing patented technology to treat those with spinal cord injuries as well as other conditions that involves the damage of nerves.  The technology was developed by Jerry Silver, who is a researcher of spinal cord injury regenerative medicine, co-inventor and professor of neurosciences at Case Western Reserve’s School of Medicine.  He feels that this technology has the potential of making the lives of millions of those who have spinal cord injuries better.

Silver’s research identified protein tyrosine phosphatase (PTP), which is a vital neural receptor that prevents nerve regeneration through parts of scarring that happens with those who have injuries to their spinal cord as well as other medical conditions. He was able to zero in on PTPs through an agent known as ISP as it promotes regeneration of nerves that has been damaged and improved functionality in animal models.  Silver augmented his work further by employing a series of what he labeled as receptor antagonists that is delivered systematically.

Source: thedaily.case.edu

Plans for Testing the Nerve Regeneration Technology

Silver was also able to pinpoint an analogue of ISP that he feels is ready for clinical development.  NervGen has decided to utilize the ISP analog to treat those with spinal cord injuries that are in the clinic.  Also, it will leverage the technology to chose individuals that suffer from related medical conditions.

Nerve damage, which ranges from having loss of sensation in certain areas of the body to paralysis, happens when a physical trauma occurs such as in combat injuries and car accidents.  This is also known to happen with strokes, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, heart attack induced arrhythmia and other traumas and diseases where damage to nerves occur.

Ernest Wong, CEO of NervGen said in a statement that we are extremely excited to be advancing this important nerve regeneration technology as there is currently no approved therapy known to enhance nerve regrowth in patients suffering from nerve damage.  Wong also said that the functional recovery that was seen in animal models were unprecedented as well as consistent throughout many pre-clinical models in several university labs that were independent.

Source: biochemj.org

Also, it is worth mentioning the license agreement includes technologies that were co-developed with Hong Kong University, Oregon Health and Science University as well as Ohio State University.  NervGen’s plans for clinical testing comes roughly a month after the company announced the appointment of a new President and Chief Executive Officer. 

According to The Newswire, Ernest Wong , PhD MBA, is said to be an experienced Biotechnology Executive to lead Innovative Regenerative Medicine Company dedicated to Creating Solutions for the Treatment of Nerve Damage.

Health Tech Overlooks How Patients Hate Going to the Doctor

While digital health is becoming very popular for companies to invest in, there is something that is being overlooked that could prove costly down the road.  The issue at hand is the relationship that exists between the doctor and their patient as advice given by the physician is being ignored.  Considering that many patients hate going to the doctor, digital health companies need to be aware that they may be creating more of a separation between the care provider and the patient instead of being less.

Digital Health Limited in Helping Users Who are Already Sick

Recently, writer Christina Farr from CNBC took a look at a flaw that has been overlooked by health technology, which is that patients despise going to the doctor.  Since technology continues to advance at a steady pace, companies have seen that digital health is an industry that is worth investing in.

Source: bgr.com

The first quarter of 2018 has seen $1.6 billion dollars in venture capital raised by companies alone, while other companies such as Amazon, Apple and Alphabet are jumping in with their own devices and apps designed to track a user’s health.  While it may be true that these companies are improving on their abilities to take populations of people and screen for health issues before becoming a serious medical issue, they appear to struggle with assisting those patients that have greater medical needs.

Experts in the medical field are saying that those users who are at high risk or are already sick cannot be helped much by digital health as a lot of these companies will not diagnose an illness due to regulatory reasons.  Even if sensors and algorithms pick up strong signals that a problem exists, the result is a suggestion to see their doctor. 

Such is the case with smartwatches from Fitbit and Apple, where sensors can detect problems like atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm disorder, and sleep apnea, a sleep breathing problem; yet, the best that they can do is recommend patients to seek medical care.  There is one major flaw in offering this advice; patients detest going to see a doctor.

Overcoming the Patient/Doctor Visit

The heart of the matter is that multiple studies have revealed that a majority of patients avoid going to a doctor because of the high cost or the experience is not a desirable one.  One possible solution would be for digital companies to form a partnership with providers that offers services within hospitals and clinics that results in a pleasant experience for the patient.

Source: itunes.apple.com

Jeffrey Wessler, a cardiology fellow at Columbia University Medical Center and the founder of the digital health company known as Heartbeat, said “all the things done well by digital health—they’re simple, fun, visual with great user experience—are still missing from most clinical visits—so it remains pretty unpleasant to be a patient.  To me, this gap gets closed by bringing the clinical experience up to the same standards as our digital health solutions.”

This suggests that digital health companies should find ways to get inside hospitals or clinics either through new products or a partnership instead of focusing outside the health experience.  Wessler is attempting this through Heartbeat by leveraging digital health solutions that already exists but also attempting to rethink the experience of in-person primary care that assists those at risk for heart disease.

Fortunately, others within the medical sector agree that this serious issue must be addressed, such as Joel Dudley, who is the director of the Institute for Next Generation at Mount Sinai.  One favorable solution would be to utilize telemedicine, or virtual doctor visits, within the patient experience which would allow patients to have a consultation through a video or phone call.  This would also assure digital health companies that a user has at least consulted a medical expert instead of ignoring the situation.

Source: qoctor.com.au

Another benefit of digital health services and apps would be for doctors having the ability to improve the patient experience rather than dreading or trying to avoid their next appointment.  Dudley said that if this doctor/patient gap fails to be closed, he fears that digital health solutions will really just create more separation between patient and care provider.

China is Creating Unmanned Subs Controlled by Artificial Intelligence

China has been open about their push to excel in technology, which includes artificial intelligence, and apply it to various sectors of industry.  Over the weekend, it was reported that China’s military is developing unmanned, AI submarines with the expectation of being available during the 2020s.  Besides the obvious advantage China would have in strategic waters, such as in South China Sea, it is important to look at the pros and cons China, or any other nation, would have in utilizing unmanned subs that are controlled by artificial intelligence.

Source: scmp.com

Establishing Naval Power Through AI Technology

According to writer Stephen Chen from the South China Morning Post, scientists involved in projects that focus on artificial intelligence say that China is creating relatively low-cost, smart and big submarines that are unmanned with the capability of roaming the oceans of the world to perform numerous missions.  These wide range of missions include placement of mines, reconnaissance and possibly suicide attacks against enemy ships.

The project stems from the ambitious plan of China’s government to increase their naval power by utilizing artificial intelligence technology.  Besides already creating the world’s biggest facility for testing surface drone boats in Zhuhai, Guangdong province.  Also, military researchers are creating a support system that is assisted through AI for commanders of submarines; the system will assist captains during the heat of combat to make more accurate and faster decisions.

The researchers said that the new unmanned subs will join other manned or autonomous military systems that are in orbit, land and water to complete coordinated efforts during a mission.  The subs that are devoid of human operators will head out to complete their missions and then return on their own to base.  While temporary contact may be established to receive periodic updates from ground command, they are designed to be capable of fulfilling assignments without intervention from humans.

Confirmation of the program was made by Lin Yang, marine technology equipment director at the Shenyang Institute of Automation and Chinese Academy of Sciences, who said it was a response to development of similar watercraft being worked on by the US.  However, AI subs have their pros and cons which needs to be addressed to decide if such unmanned AI vessels are worth developing.

Source: syedsoutsidethebox.blogspot.com

Pros and Cons of AI Submarines

One main advantage to producing artificial intelligence submarines would be the relatively low cost as the majority of funds invested into these vessels in making sure the environment is survivable for humans is no longer needed.  Removing humans means that these ships can operate fearlessly without having to be focused on protecting individuals inside; instead, artificial intelligence systems can concentrate on learning what is going on around them.  Also, these unmanned subs become a major concern for enemy captains to cope with, according to professor Luo Yuesheng at the College of Automation in Harbin Engineering University.    

While these unmanned AI subs have their advantages, they have drawbacks as well, such as they need to be resilient since diagnostics and repairs normally performed by humans cannot be done.  Researchers have pointed out that there are limits to what artificial intelligence subs can accomplish, especially during the initial stages of being launched.  They will initially perform simple tasks while not replacing a human crew entirely; the final decision of whether to attack will be made by the commander.

Source: thegeekherald.com

China’s ambition of producing AI subs is a wake-up call to nations that advancements in artificial intelligence technology is ongoing and can be applied in many ways, such as in strategic waters to either defend against or to conquer.

Google-Funded Company Fights Fake News Using AI

The battle over distinguishing what is real news and what is fake news has become a daily struggle.  People are bombarded with news on the television, radio, internet and through social media but how does one navigate through the falsehoods to arrive at what is true?  Apparently, there is a company that is funded by Google who is utilizing artificial intelligence to battle against fake news.

Fake News has Existed for Centuries

While there are people who feel that life was simpler centuries before the radio, telephones and other forms of technology like it that were ever invented, this idea partly stems from a time where fake news was not part of the main-stream vocabulary and people basically trusted the news that they read.  However, individuals recognized centuries ago that there was a problem determining what was real versus what was fake. 

Source: searchengineland.com

Writer Bernard Marr from Forbes recently posted an article about how this Google-funded company was trying to tackle the problem of fake news and pointed out how this issue existed centuries ago by citing something Jonathan Swift said over two centuries ago; Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it.  Obviously, this problem has grown more excessive being we live in an age of how Twitter and Instagram alone can spread falsehoods that can reach people on a global scale.

Combating the Dilemma of Fake News

There is no denying that fake news has become a problem that occurs daily on both sides of politics.  This issue has become so big that Gartner has made the prediction that society will absorb more falsehoods than truth by 2022.  The dilemma is how to combat fake news and though technology has compounded the situation, there is new hope that it might offer the solution; particularly, in artificial intelligence.

Utilizing AI currently, in its most useful form, is already helping institutions in a variety of ways.  Machine learning is being used in banks and financial institutions to review financial transaction records for any noticeable signs of fraud or errors.  The information can then be used to make institutions more efficient without the need of human input.

Source: techcrunch.com

These same algorithms can be programmed to monitor media from news organizations and social networks; then, seek out any tell-tale signs in a story or comment that would possibly be out of sync with the objective truths already known about the events or situations.  Currently, an interesting application of this technology has already been developed. 

Belgium-based startup VeriFlix has developed an application that utilizes this type of technology.  Apparently, a method has been created where user-submitted videos are scanned and attempt to ascertain whether the they are real or fake; scanning videos submitted by users play an increasingly vital part in the output of a large portion of media organizations. 

The company’s technology acquired funding through Google’s Digital News Initiative and is currently being used by Rourlarta, which is one of the biggest media outlets of the country, which has shown promising results.  Founder Donald Staar spoke with Marr about how the evolution of the platform from the original conception of a peer-to-peer crowd-sourcing app utilized for videos.  Staar told him that once the videos get sent to the platform we add a layer which first detects the content of every stream – so we can say what we see in the video, alongside the geolocation data and time stamp.

He went on to say that and once the videos are tagged we can compare them to one another, so that if for example, one request results in 1,000 videos, we can compare the content of every video and if a majority of the videos show the same content, then it can verify the authenticity of what has been shot.   If 800 videos out of 1,000 show the same thing then the probability that the video has been faked is very low.

VeriFlix utilizes real-time object detection algorithms known as You Only Look Once (YOLO) to label and classify video contents before sending that information through to proprietary algorithms; these were created in a partnership formed with KU Leuven University.  The algorithms study the information along with geolocation and timestamp data which passes through the secure interface of the application.

Source: facebook.com

According to Staar, there are two main advantages – the first is that media companies can now make sure that videos they use are authentic and shot in the location where they say they are taken, and not modified or doctored.  The other advantage is that they are able to bridge the gap between themselves and their audience – let their audience become a part of the story, and source exclusive and verified content very quickly. It can be for small things, too – it doesn’t have to just be big, breaking news.

The battle to combat fake news will not be won overnight.  However, the technology that some say is at the heart of spreading fake news has the potential to stop it in its tracks for good.

PwC Says AI Will Create More Jobs Than It Destroys

The common knock against artificial intelligence is that it will destroy more jobs than create for humans to perform.  Excluding the fear of many that robots with advanced AI will one day rise and take over the world, a recent article suggests that those in the U.K. who believe more jobs will be destroyed than creating are mistaken.  According to PwC, research suggests that artificial intelligence will create more jobs than it would destroy.

Source: telecoms.com

Dispelling a Lingering Fear

Anyone who reads, or watches science fiction have seen many examples of how artificial intelligence will grow to a point where it would no longer serve mankind but strive to destroy it.  While this may be science fantasy, many believe this could happen not only in the U.K. but throughout the world.  Adding to this belief was the late Stephen Hawking who in 2014 stated to the BBC that the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.

However, an article from writer Anmar Frangoul on the CNBC website recently stated that artificial intelligence and related technologies will produce more jobs within the U.K. as those over the next twenty years that are displaced, according to the audit firm PwC analysis that was published on Tuesday.  While the research predicts that artificial intelligence might displace roughly seven-million jobs in the country, 7.2 million jobs could also be created, which would be a modest result of roughly two-hundred-thousand jobs.

However, individual sectors that are impacted by AI can vary.  Within the social work and health sectors, PwC stated the number of individuals that are employed could go up to one million; manufacturing jobs could decrease by around twenty-five percent, which would run a net loss of close to seven-hundred-thousand positions.  PwC’s chief economist, John Hawksworth, in a press releases stated that major new technologies, from steam engines to computers, displace some existing jobs but also generate large productivity gains.  

He added that this reduces prices and increases real income and spending levels, which in turn creates demand for additional workers,” he added. “Our analysis suggests the same will be true of AI, robots and related technologies, but the distribution of jobs across sectors will shift considerably in the process.

Debating the Impact of AI on Society

Significant debate continues to go on over the subject of artificial intelligence and the potential impact it will have on society.  Stated earlier, the late Stephen Hawking had shared his view on this subject back in 2014, when he expressed full AI would possibly be the end of mankind. 

Source: cnet.com

Others have expressed positive views of artificial intelligence reaching its full potential.  Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said back in May of last year that society was in something of a golden age and renaissance in reference to the subjects of AI and machine learning.

Bezos spoke to an audience at the Internet Association’s Annual Gala where he said we are now solving problems with machine learning and artificial intelligence that were … in the realm of science fiction for the last several decades.  And natural language understanding, machine vision problems, it really is an amazing renaissance. 

PwC looked at other sectors and stated that technical, professional and scientific services would notice a sixteen percent net increase, while education would observe a six percent increase.  Meanwhile, public administration and the transport and storage sectors would see an estimated decrease of twenty-two and eighteen percent, respectively.

Source: internetofbusiness.com

PwC suggests that governments invest more in science, technology, engineering, art and design and mathematics (STEAM) skills while encouraging workers to adapt and update their aptitudes continually to complement machines; this was recommended to mitigate the effect of displacement caused by artificial intelligence.  PwC added that a safety net should be strengthened for those that find it difficult to fight change in technology.

The U.K. leader of AI at PwC, Euan Cameron, said that as our analysis shows, there will be winners and losers.  It’s likely that the fourth industrial revolution will favor those with strong digital skills, as well as capabilities like creativity and teamwork which machines find it harder to replicate.

Ways That Embracing Innovation Can Transform Your Hospital

Today’s healthcare industry is constantly finding ways to change and grow as hospitals are determined to stay competitive in a market that is increasingly becoming crowded.  Though establishing a culture that is willing to embrace collaboration and innovation is considered a way for hospitals to ensure excellent care is being provided, this is easier to say than accomplishing.  However, there are several ways that embracing innovation can transform your hospital.

Innovation Can be Difficult to Achieve

Writer Kelsy Ketchum from Healthcare Business Tech looked at numerous ways that hospitals could transform themselves so long as they were willing to embrace innovation.  While these facilities want to be more innovative and expand, most that do are often confronted with severe roadblocks that need to be overcome.  Part of the problem is that costs in healthcare are increasing while everyone is attempting to maintain revenue, so leadership becomes hesitant in willing to invest in innovation.

Source: healthcare-informatics.com

Strategies in Promoting Innovation

Despite these concerns, there are strategies that can be adopted that would assist in promoting innovation.  Dr. Adrian Zai, who is the Director of Research at Partners eCare in Boston, discussed this at the HIMSS Big Data and Healthcare Analytics Forum while Healthcare IT News emphasized several strategies from his presentation that can be applied to promote innovation.

One suggestion is to encourage staff to pursue quality improvement projects. Building a quality-focused, innovative culture involves promoting new opinions and ideas that may not follow normal routines, but thinking creatively might transform your hospital to becoming the next leader in healthcare.  Make sure to avoid rejecting ideas immediately while allowing all members of your staff the opportunities to give opinions.

Source: hhnmag.com

Another suggestion would be to formalize your strategy.  Unclear goals can lead to results that are vague.  Free reign can be important during the brainstorming process; however, make sure it is clear what your strategy is.  Align initiatives with the needs of your organization for your hospital to acquire the best bang for its buck.

Creating a governance structure.  Building an implementation framework is vital to becoming innovative.  Operations needs to be centralized to avoid dealing with several small groups coming up with ideas that are minor.  The goal is to create a large impact throughout the organization so that care is improved for your patients.

Emphasize collaboration means no matter how creative a person’s ideas may be, altering the culture of a hospital must be a team effort.  Knock down any (metaphorical) barriers between clinical and research staff while promoting interdisciplinary teamwork so your organization becomes better.

Source: ehrintelligence.com

Looking for alternative funding sources is important when traditional funders may not be clear with what you’re trying to accomplish as acquiring finances is a part of innovation.  Consider various types of partnerships with vendors who offer your facility more value.  However, hospitals that are smaller may consider collaborating with facilities that are bigger to utilize additional resources.

Finally, start small.  Abstain from jumping immediately into a project considered to have major high-stakes.  Develop first smaller pilot programs that can later be scaled up if they become successful.

Facebook is Educating AI to Speak to You Using Directions

Everyone these days are looking for creative ways that artificial intelligence can be used, and Facebook is no exception.  Recently, it was reported that the company is working on creating AI called Talk the Walk which would be capable of providing walking directions to a place without knowing the location of the user.

Recently, writer Tristan Greene from The Next Web reported on how Facebook is creating Talk the Walk artificial intelligence that would have the ability to give walking directions but will not know the user’s location.  Considering how Facebook is still dealing with violating many of their user’s privacy of information, this feature is a step in the right direction.

What is ‘Talk the Walk’?

Apparently, a team made up of Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research (FAIR) scientists and a researcher from the University of Montreal in Canada published recently a white paper explaining how a neural network would be capable of describing to an individual directions using plain language without using GPS or other aids that could track location. 

The researchers said that we introduce the Talk the Walk data-set, where the aim is for two agents, a “guide” and a “tourist”, to interact with each other via natural language in order to achieve a common goal: having the tourist navigate towards the correct location. The guide has access to a map and knows the target location but does not know where the tourist is; the tourist has a 360-degree view of the world but knows neither the target location on the map nor the way to it. The agents need to work together through communication in order to successfully solve the task.

How it Will Work

The neural network, hypothetically, would have to be fleshed-out fully to have the ability to provide to an individual end-to-end direction even if internet connectivity and location services was unavailable.  Within this situation, it could function by providing a conversation between the user and the AI; basically, it would mostly be the same way as if speaking to a human.

Source: itproportal.com

The individual would give a description of the landmark they are looking at, such as I am standing next to a theater, then the artificial intelligence attempts to determine where the person is.  Next, it would reply with its own set of questions, such as asking if the individual can see a shop down at the corner to assist in narrowing down which theater is being viewed.  Once the AI can determine the location of the person, it can respond with plain language on guiding the individual to where the next way-point is.

When Will it Become Available

Considering this isn’t something new that is being rolled out by the company, the answer would be maybe never.  This early research seems to be laying the ground work for development in the future as the talk the Walk white paper establishes some basic algorithms and a data-set which supports this concept can work; however, it is a long way from being available for people to use.

Source: walkbrandtalk.com

What is most significant about this work is the focus on developing artificial intelligence that can work in conjunction with humans to achieve a common goal.  Anyone wishing to learn more about neural networks can go here.

Healthcare Technology Allows Moving of Data from Mainframes to iPhones

When it comes to innovations with new technology, a pattern has emerged over the last seventy years.  Computers started off as these huge machines which could take up space in an entire room; however, the technology undergoes a maturing process where bulky machines undergo a miniaturizing process.  When it comes to technology in healthcare, a similar trend is underway where data is making the transition from mainframes to iPhones.

Writer Justin Butler recently posted an article on the Tech Crunch website where he looks at how technology in the healthcare sector are transitioning from important data being stored in several centralized companies to patients and doctors that benefit from it the most.  This is being accomplished by those who are willing to make the investment of time and money to create these new innovations in healthcare technology.

Source: geekfencez.com

Startups are Transforming Healthcare Tech Across the World

Throughout the world, startups are changing the capabilities that were previously designated to specialty labs containing expensive, huge capital equipment with technicians that are highly trained.  Back in early 2000, three hundred DNA sequencers, along with seven thousand processors, was used by Celera Genomics to complete sequencing of one human genome; the cost came to almost one-hundred million dollars. 

Utilizing today’s technologies, the entire genome of a human can be accomplished on a machine desktop with a cost of under one-thousand dollars.  New companies are focusing beyond DNA sequencing to other areas like strokes and the flu by moving the data, technology and revenue from the few companies that are centralized to the patients and doctors who need it the most.

Source: genome.gov

How the Industry is Benefiting from Cost Reduction

Since new innovations are opening the doors to areas that had been previously shut or non-existent, the industry is able to benefit from reductions in cost due to mass manufacturing of electronics for consumers.  Electronics, optics and microfluidics have become largely less expensive than what prices were a decade ago.  Smarter software and novel chemistry have combined to make these tests cost equally or better than their centralized equivalent.

Moving beyond how much these tests cost, it has been documented that accurate and quick diagnosis are vital for promoting positive outcomes for patients regarding a vast variety of diseases.  Diagnosis achieved at a quick pace provides a correct and fast treatment, reduces over-prescribing of antibiotics and lowers the rates of hospitalization. 

Source: healthcareitnews.com

Sadly, these types of tests are still filled with challenges that need to be overcome.  Some of these challenges include strong competition from markets, can be costly to certify and create while require possible alterations to clinical workflows.  Another issue is that these tests may be less expensive and smaller, they must still pass the same tough standards enforced by the FDA as well as other agencies.  Although the 510 (k) pathway provides a way to meet regulatory scrutiny than what a new therapeutic may face, significant resources are still required.

Though the process will take time to complete, the shift from big, centralized testing facilities to at-home and in-clinic testing has started.  The more investors are willing to make investments in this technology, the sooner doctors and patients will have access to data that can be used properly.  Then, the benefits of having access to this type of technology will be for individuals to live healthier and longer lives.

The Importance of Having Cyber-Security for Innovations in Healthcare

Human Services and the Department of Health are currently looking at ways to motivate investment and innovation within the healthcare sector.  However, according to several organizations involved with industry, those who submitted feedback said that among the important issues that need addressing is cyber-security.

Over the weekend, writer Marianne Kolbasuk McGee from the gov info security website posted an article that explained why cyber-security in vital when applying innovation to the healthcare industry.  Last month, the Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a request for data seeking public comment “on a planned initiative of the Office of the Deputy Secretary of HHS to develop a work-group to facilitate constructive, high-level dialogue between HHS leadership and those focused on innovating and investing in the healthcare industry.” 

Source: forbesmiddleeast.com

Within the HHS request for information, the department was searching for comment on how to structure a work-group, or other form of interaction between the department and such participants in the healthcare industry, in order to best support communication and understanding between these parties that will spur investment, increase competition, accelerate innovation, and allow capital investment in the healthcare sector to have a more significant impact on the health and well-being of Americans.

Threats to Cyber-Security

While there is nothing wrong with the healthcare sector looking for ways to spur investments and innovations, it is equally important to recognize that cyber-security issues need to be on their radar, which some organizations mentioned in their feedback.  The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), which is an association of CIOs and CISOs, referred to how vital issues with cyber-security need to be included in standards during any conversations between HHS and new work-group industry that is related with creating technology in healthcare investments and innovations.

CHIME wrote that one of the biggest challenges that the work-group will face is identifying an effective way to incentivize or otherwise promote ongoing, responsible innovation.  We recommend that this new work-group: 1) Offer the HHS secretary its recommendations for a set of standards – based on … [several] factors … that innovators should consider in developing technology to help treat patients and help caregivers; and 2) HHS use the recommendations to develop a voluntary framework for use by innovators.

Source: electronichealthreporter.com

CHIME appears to be adamant on cyber-security being part of any standards that are recommended which innovators must embrace involving healthcare.  CHIME stated that the cyber-security threats in healthcare are mounting, increasing costs to the industry and creating patient safety concerns.  Cyber-crime in healthcare settings is now a lucrative industry for bad actors. The growing nature of our interconnected healthcare world is also raising the stakes for the likelihood of negative patient outcomes attributed to a cyber event. Innovations in technology must consider these growing threats.

The Need for Protecting Patient IDs

There are other factors that are important to recognize such as protecting records of patients.  CHIME feels that standards that healthcare innovators embrace should consider a prioritization of ethical considerations, involve patients and clinicians at the beginning of design and roll-out phases while supporting a uniform way to accurately and uniquely recognize patients as well as connecting them with their medical records.

CHIME points out that current lacking standards in relation to recognizing patients is a barrier to maximizing the benefits of existing and emerging technologies.  Consistently identifying patients across health systems and different electronic health record platforms is a significant challenge. As patients seek care at different providers and seek the most cost-effective treatment, this situation will only grow more complicated. 

Source: medcitynews.com

Besides CHIME, there are several organizations that are healthcare information technology-related that have been calling for the industry for years to make improvements on patient ID record matching efforts that would bolster patient safety and privacy.  Considering how frequently the news has reported an increase in cyber-attacks on individuals, businesses and government officials; it will be only a matter of time before patients’ electronic health records will become susceptible to being hacked unless proper cyber-security measures are put into place by the healthcare industry.

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