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The Expanding World of Health Sensors

It’s been fascinating to watch the number of health sensors blow up over the years. The sad part of the last 3-5 years has been that a huge majority of the sensors that were hitting the market were essentially me too products. How many fitness trackers, blood pressure cuffs, smart scales, heart rate monitors, etc do we need. No doubt each of these products has produced some successful businesses, but have they really moved the needle on healthcare? My answer is no and that’s because these health sensors aren’t very clinically relevant.

The good thing is that I’ve started to see a wider variety of sensors that measure everything imaginable on your body. None of these have been breakout hits yet, but that’s largely because they’re trying to really measure something that’s clinically relevant versus creating a consumer toy.

There are a lot of ways to look at the health sensor market, but one way is to look at which part of the body they’re using to measure some health indicator. Here’s a list of some of the sensors I’ve seen over the past couple years (starting with the obvious ones):

  • Skin
  • Motion
  • Sweat
  • Blood
  • Eye
  • Visual
  • Brainwaves
  • Stool
  • Blood Flow
  • Spit

As you can see, there are companies working on measuring every output we produce in order to try and understand our health.  Some of these we’ve been doing forever like blood tests.  Labs are such an important part of healthcare.  However, what’s different about the latest generation of health sensors is that most of these health sensors are going direct to consumers as opposed to selling to the healthcare providers.

Think about that shift. That’s a massive change. Plus, the ironic part is that many healthcare providers are adopting and using consumer sensors in their healthcare organizations. I’m also interested in how this shift in information is going to change the balance of power in healthcare. Information is power.

Are there other sensors out there that you see coming to market? Which ones do you think will be most clinically relevant?

December 8, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The Next Evolution in Patient Communication – Chatbots

I’ve been fascinated by chatbots since they started to become popular a year or so ago. I checked out the Wikipedia page for a definition of chatbots and they offered this definition:

a chat robot is a type of conversational agent, a computer program designed to simulate an intelligent conversation with one or more human users via auditory or textual methods.

When looking at that page, I was reminded that chatbots existed back in my old IRC (internet relay chat…any one else remember spending time on IRC?) days as well. The problem with chatbots in the IRC days is that they were extremely basic. I guess that’s why I didn’t naturally remember that IRC had chatbots. The chatbots and AI behind the chatbots have progressed so much that they barely resemble each other.

We’re even starting to see chatbots evolve so that they can be used in healthcare. One example of this is a company called SimplifiMed. What I liked about SimplifiMed is that they have an open platform that can be used to implement a chatbot based on any protocol a hospital, health system, payer, etc would like to deploy. They’re making chatbots accessible to anyone that wants to implement one.

While I think chatbots are really interesting and can have an impact for good on healthcare, it’s going to take some work to develop the right protocols to make them effective. A big part of that is going to know how to train the chatbot to communicate with non-adherent patients in an effective way. That’s where the secret sauce really lies. Certainly, a chatbot takes communication and automation to a new level. However, training it to work effectively is going to be where the real value will be created.

I’m excited to see the next evolution of communication and automation come to healthcare. Done correctly, chatbots can save healthcare a lot of money and remove menial tasks that don’t need to be done by a human. They can also escalate tasks to the right person where human intervention is necessary.

November 23, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

What If We Looked at the Smartphone Camera as a “Sensor” Instead of a “Digital Camera”

Benedict Evans is one of the smartest people I’ve read on treads happening in the technology industry. It’s been fascinating to read his perspectives on the shift to mobile and how mobile adoption has changed society. Back in August he blew my mind again as we think of the evolution of mobile and redefining how we use the camera on our smartphones and what it means for mobile applications. Here’s an excerpt from that post:

This change in assumptions applies to the sensor itself as much as to the image: rather than thinking of a ‘digital camera, I’d suggest that one should think about the image sensor as an input method, just like the multi-touch screen. That points not just to new types of content but new interaction models. You started with a touch screen and you can use that for an on-screen keyboard and for interaction models that replicate a mouse model, tapping instead of clicking. But next, you can make the keyboard smarter, or have GIFs instead of letters, and you can swipe and pinch. You go beyond virtualising the input models of an older set of hardware on the new sensor, and move to new input models. The same is true of the image sensor. We started with a camera that takes photos, and built, say, filters or a simple social network onto that, and that can be powerful. We can even take video too. But what if you use the screen itself as the camera – not a viewfinder, but the camera itself? The input can be anything that the sensors can capture, and can be processed in any way that you can write the software.

Everyone has long argued that the smartphone is great as a consumption engine, but it’s not great as a content creation engine. That’s largely true today, but will that change in the future? I think it’s an extremely powerful idea to think of the camera on your smartphone as a sensor that captures meaningful actions beyond just capturing a picture. That’s a powerful concept that is going to change the way mobile apps work and how they’re designed.

The same is true when you think about the camera app software on your smartphone. We see that with Snapchat and other apps that have taken what’s essentially a camera app and overlayed filters to add new functionality to an otherwise simple item.

Now think about this from a healthcare perspective. Could the camera on your smartphone be a window into your health? Could what you capture with the camera show a window into your daily activities? That brings health tracking to a whole new level.

I first saw an example of this at a Connected Health Symposium many years ago when I saw someone researching how your cell phone camera could measure your heart rate. I’m not sure all the technical details, but I guess the way you look subtley changes and you can measure that change and thus measure your heart rate. Pretty amazing stuff, but that definitely sounds like using your camera as a sensor as opposed to a digital camera.

Go and read Benedict Evan’s full article to really understand this change. I think it could have incredible implications for digital health applications.

November 16, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Mobile Use by Hospitals and Health Systems

I just finished spending a few days at the Healthcare Internet Conference. It was a fascinating event that mainly featured website, social, and marketing teams for hospitals and health systems. That’s a unique group of people that have a really challenging job.

One interesting discussion I heard at the conference was the right way to approach mobile. Someone put out the shocking number that 1/3 of major hospitals don’t have a website with a responsive design. In this increasingly mobile optimized internet, that’s amazing to think that 1/3 of hospitals are that far behind. In the healthcare B2B marketing world, I think that the need of a responsive design or at least a mobile optimized website is overrated, but in the B2C hospital world that’s crazy.

In another discussion I heard someone talk about how so many attendees at the conference had to jump on the latest trend. I met people at the conference that were in charge of their Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, blog, and then they managed their website in their free time as well. It was crazy.

The reality is that one person can’t manage all of these things effectively. However, when their boss heard that millenials were all on Snapchat, they had to hop on board and fall in line. It was sad to see how few of them had a real strategy when it came to which platforms they’d use and how they’d use them. Instead, so many of them were following the latest shiny object while all of these platforms were transgressed.

Turning back to mobile, one of the beauties of using these various social media platforms in your health system marketing efforts is that each of them have been optimized for mobile. In fact, some of them are mobile first platforms like Instagram and SnapChat (I guess it’s mobile only).

No doubt there’s a huge potential for health systems and hospitals to engage patients on mobile. However, I think it’s underutilized.

November 10, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Is Innovation Missing at MGMA 2016?

This week I’ve been at the MGMA Annual Conference in San Francisco. It’s been a very interesting event with a ton of people that really want to improve healthcare. I’m always impressed by these practice administrators passion for their work and their desire to do what’s right for patients.

While I love their passion, I can’t help but feel that there’s a clear lack of innovation at MGMA. More specifically the practice executives and not the MGMA organizations itself. Instead of trying to figure out and participate in new business models that will take their practice to the next level, most healthcare practices seem focused on optimizing their existing practice.

Sure, many of them are focused on various government regulations like MACRA. In fact, I’d suggest that most of them are too focused on government regulations. No doubt that’s part of why healthcare executives at MGMA aren’t focused on innovation. They’re too busy dealing with government regulation to be able to have time to sit down and think how they could take patient care to the next level or create new business models.

The two places I do think we see some interest in innovation is the shift to value based reimbursement and the change to direct primary care. The problem with value based care is that people don’t really know what that’s going to be. Most are in wait and see mode to see where it’s all going to go. Direct primary care is quite interesting to many, but that largely only applies to primary care and many feel it’s limited in which primary care practices can and should participate (I know that many people firmly disagree with this idea).

I guess that means that MGMA stands in somewhat stark contrast to many of the other healthcare conferences out there. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. We need to optimize our current processes as well. I just think that many of these medical practice executives would benefit from more effort talking about where healthcare is heading in the future.

It’s great that patients can now schedule an appointment on a physician website. However, are practices ready for appointments to be auto scheduled based on personal device data or through a simple request through Amazon’s echo? I know that’s ahead of the curve, but it’s not that far off either.

November 2, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Patient Forms for the Impatient – How mobile patient forms can increase patient satisfaction

The following is a guest blog post by Bogdan Lupu.

I work in a technology company. Most of my friends work in companies either handling technology or providing technology related services. In our day to day work it’s all about optimizing, streamlining and getting things to improve even if only by a little. It’s become a habit whenever dealing with something to ask the question, well how could this be better?

Now, having said all that, whenever I must go to the doctor or have a routine check I expect it to take up a whole day. That’s not true most of the times, but everything from the thought of making the appointment, being scheduled weeks after and then filling out the endless stream of forms make me feel impatient even before picking up the phone.

Imagine my surprise when I had to do a routine eye check-up and was told to book an appointment online on the clinic’s website.
patient-registration-form
The first thing I noticed was that the mobile appointment form was perfectly optimized for my phone. I could press everything without having to zoom in and out and it felt somehow natural.

The good surprises came rolling after. I got the scheduling confirmation directly via email and a link to save it in my calendar. After arriving and being greeted by the polite receptionist by name, I was asked to just go in and see the doctor. Having already filled out all the required information  when scheduling the appointment, there was no need for any other paper forms.

After my visit, I got an email and I was kindly asked to fill out their patient satisfaction survey.

It seems that customer experience is now a priority within the healthcare sector with patient engagement and secure data collection as their top priorities.

I’m looking forward to my next annual check-up.

October 27, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

A Patient Engagement Company Could Be Anything

I’ve been spending the past couple days at the Connected Health Symposium in Boston. After talking to hundreds of people I was realizing my problem with companies saying that they are a patient engagement company. If you tell me you’re a patient engagement company, then I have no idea what you do.

The same isn’t true for an EHR company. If you say that you’re an EHR company, then I know that you’re helping doctors chart electronically. Sure, some people have used that term incorrectly or have executed poorly, but we all basically know what a company is doing if they’re an EHR company. Same is true for revenue cycle management companies and practice management software vendors.

The same can’t be said for patient engagement companies. If you say that you do patient engagement, that could literally be anything. In fact, is every company a patient engagement company?

I think we should banish the term patient engagement when describing a company. Instead, companies should tell us how they’re engaging the patient. Then, we can have an idea of what you’re doing and be able to understand how you fit into the healthcare ecosystem.

Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t engage patients. Absolutely not. We 100% should be doing patient engagement. However, there are 1000s of ways that we can engage patients and many of them don’t involve technology at all. Those can all be great things, but it’s not a category of software companies.

October 21, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

What’s Your Digital Burden?

John Halamka has a pretty interesting blog post out there that talks about his decision to reduce his digital burden. I love his approach, because unlike so many people it’s a very reasonable approach to simplifying his online and social media life. Most people that write a blog post like his say stuff like “I’m quitting social media” or “I’m getting off the internet.”

While I understand the emotion, I think those decisions are usually really dumb decisions (with a few safety exceptions). When you take an all or nothing approach to social media and life online, then you often throw the baby out with the bathwater. The wiser move is to take a much more sophisticated approach to social media and your online life. Save the parts that add value and cut the pieces that don’t.

I understand that this can be a lot easier said than done, but it’s certainly possible. In fact, I’d argue that it’s necessary for your own sanity. If you don’t then your digital burden will creep up and your health and well being will suffer.

As I look into the future of health apps, one of the most important features of that future is letting technology filter those things that don’t matter. Plus, it needs to bubble up to the top those things that do matter. Technology does a poor job of this today, but it will get there.

What I find interesting is that John Halamka has ended with a similar result as me with one exception. I still do a ton on LinkedIn and he shut down his account. Granted, we have very different goals. Plus, I think he could still glean a lot of value from LinkedIn if he’d have approached it the right way. We definitely do align when it comes to personal/work email, Twitter, blogs (I guess I have a few more blogs than he does), and Facebook.

I’ve often argued for a dive in and optimize approach to social media platforms. Spend a month or two diving into a social media platform you don’t know. Then, once you understand the nuances of that community, optimize your efforts in it. In some cases that means you stop doing it all together. In other cases you automate certain things that matter to you. In other cases, you casually participate. Every once in a while you add it to your phone’s home screen and it becomes a daily habit.

We all know about digital burden. Cutting out the weeds is good housekeeping. That’s a progressive idea and not regressive as some may suggest. The key is being honest with yourself about what’s a week and what’s a flower.

October 13, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Factors Related to Digital Health Adoption

Is it any wonder that digital health adoption isn’t happening quicker? It’s complex. Check out this great graphic and paper that was shared by John Torous, MD:
provider-perceptions-of-mhealth

What I find most interesting is that it seems like the biggest negatives are the human environment and the organizational environment. I’d translate that to mean that patients and healthcare organizations are holding back these digital health options.

What will it take to change these environments? Will they change?

October 5, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The Future of Healthcare Depends on Partnerships


This tweet from Estrella Jaramillo (See her @HelloBwom app) quoting the incomparable Rasu Shrestha (@RasuShrestha) really stuck with me when I read it. I agree 100% with the concept that partnerships will determine the destiny of most healthcare organizations. It’s very clear that one organization is not going to be able to do everything they have to do in healthcare.

What scares me about this idea is that many healthcare organizations aren’t embracing it. Many healthcare organization and even their partner health IT companies don’t embrace the idea of partnerships. Instead, they think they can build everything themselves. They sincerely believe that a single source system is the best thing for the future of healthcare.

This type of arrogant attitude is going to leave these organizations behind. In the short term, a single source system is better. However, once the community starts innovating and integrating, these single source systems start to fall behind and fall behind quickly.

I’m reminded of a popular African proverb (at least I think that’s the source) that Dr. Nick shared on Facebook recently “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go further, go together.” Too many in healthcare are playing the short game. That’s going to eventually catch up to them.

September 28, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.