Attune Technologies Gets $10M Series B To Expand Its Healthcare Software Beyond India

By Catherine Shu

Attune Technologies, a startup that makes cloud-based software for hospitals and labs, will tackle markets outside of India after scoring a $10 million Series B round from Qualcomm Ventures and returning investor Norwest Venture Partners.

This is the first investment from Qualcomm Ventures’ Strategic Venture Fund in India, which was announced at the end of last month. Along with a $6 million Series A that Attune Technologies raised in May from Norwest and angel funding, this brings the startup’s total venture funding so far to $17 million.

Founder Arvind Kumar says there is still plenty of room to grow in India, where Attune’s software currently handles 10 million patient records for 2,500 healthcare centers, but it also plans to launch soon in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Africa.

Posted on October 20, 2015 .

Texas Hasn’t Banned Telemedicine: Why The TMB Regulatory Approach Makes Sense

By BLAKE McKINNEY, MD

There has been at least onereport that the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) is looking into anti-competitive practices based on the Texas Medical Board’s telemedicine regulations.

As a telemedicine company operating in Texas, we maintain that the rules put in place by the Texas Medical Board are by no means insurmountable and do not seriously limit competition. The rules merely allow better integration of telemedicine offerings with existing medical services and help ensure a better patient experience.

Telemedicine is possible in Texas as defined by the guidelines of The Texas Medical Board (TMB), but it has to be telemedicine done right. Telemedicine must be provided in a way conforms with modern clinical safety standards, including ensuring continuity between traditional care encounters and telemedicine encounters.

Posted on October 5, 2015 .

High tech health gives hope to sick and injured

By Gary Robbins

UC San Diego researcher Todd Coleman developed a flexible electronic biosensor that was recently placed on Alfonso Polanco, a 62 year-old patient at Thornton Hospital in La Jolla. The experimental biosensor is able to monitor electrical activity in the brain, helping doctors and nurses to monitor patients. — Misael Virgen

UC San Diego researcher Todd Coleman developed a flexible electronic biosensor that was recently placed on Alfonso Polanco, a 62 year-old patient at Thornton Hospital in La Jolla. The experimental biosensor is able to monitor electrical activity in the brain, helping doctors and nurses to monitor patients. — Misael Virgen

A doctor named McCoy dazzled viewers when “Star Trek” debuted on TV in the 1960s. In mere seconds, the medical officer of the starship Enterprise could diagnose illnesses with a device known as a tricorder.

People began to wonder: Will such technology ever become real?

The answer appears to be yes.

Few places have exploited such advances more than San Diego County. The region is famous for drug development, but it’s also a force in medical technology, a field mostly built around devices and diagnostic tests. Anchoring this innovation are UC San Diego, San Diego State University and companies such as Epic Sciences and Illumina.Scientists in San Diego are evaluating a tricorder that reflects the extraordinary advances made in computing, electronics and telecommunications since “Star Trek” first hit the airwaves. Today, for example, a single Google search involves more computing power than was used during the entire Apollo moon landing program in 1969.

Posted on October 3, 2015 .

Private Medicine in India is a Free Market

BY SAURABH JHA, MD

Once, a farmer from a village in Bihar was diagnosed with colon cancer. He came to Patna, the capital city, to have the tumor removed. Because he was poor, my father recommended a young surgeon who trained in the UK. The surgeon was competent and idealistic. He was a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. His charges were the lowest. He did not charge the extremely poor.

The farmer declined, saying “if this babu is treating patients for free, he can’t be a good surgeon.” The farmer chose the most famous surgeon in the city, whose charges were not astronomical in comparison, but certainly higher. The farmer paid full fare – there were no discounts for poverty. The practice accepted credit cards. He paid cash. Once the surgeon received half the payment, he made the incision. The surgery was uneventful. The farmer was cured.

This was a voluntary contract between surgeon and farmer. No middle man. No forms to submit. Cash for scalpel and the skill of its bearer. There is a resurgence of this model in the US, known as Direct Pay Medicine. Despite India’s socialist roots, paradoxically, much of medicine has always been direct pay, or private.

Posted on October 1, 2015 .

33 Million Americans Still Don’t Have Health Insurance

By Anna Maria  Barry-Jester and Ben Casselman

Nearly 9 million people gained insurance last year, a win for “Obamacare” as the president’s signature health care law expanded Medicaid and opened health insurance exchanges. And yet, 33 million Americans, 10.4 percent of the U.S. population, still went without health insurance for the entirety of 2014. Millions more were uninsured for at least part of the year.1 New data released this month shows they were disproportionately poor, black and Hispanic; 4.5 million of them were children.

It isn’t a surprise that some Americans still don’t have health insurance. Despite aiming to insure “everybody” in the U.S., the Affordable Care Act (ACA) left significant gaps in coverage, and decisions made by the law’s opponents have denied benefits to millions of people it was designed to help. 

Posted on September 28, 2015 .

Patients Give Thumbs-Up to Online Post-op Visits

by Jim Burger

Online follow-up exams could offer a new model for post-op care, a new prospective pilot study in theJournal of the American College of Surgeonssuggests, with both patients and physicians giving high marks to virtual post-surgical visits as an alternative to in-person consultations after certain elective surgeries.

Researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., tracked 50 patients who'd had laparoscopic cholecystectomies, laparoscopic ventral hernia repairs, umbilical hernia repairs or inguinal hernia repairs, and who later consulted with their physicians both online and in person. More than three-quarters of the patients (76%) felt that the consultations were acceptable, and the surgeons conducting the study likewise felt that for 68% of the patients, the online approach was equally effective.

Posted on September 24, 2015 .

What ONC Got Wrong in their Guidance on Telehealth

By Roy Schoenberg, MD

Telehealth – which lets patients see a doctor immediately, anytime, anywhere – shows no signs of slowing.  We are seeing this cross-industry, as more health plans make telehealth a benefit to members, and hospitals fold these services into new or expanded offerings for patients.  Consumer-facing products are also on the rise.  Patients can download an app and in minutes, have a FaceTime-like visit with a doctor for faster, more convenient care.

It was great then to see this week that the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) is picking up telehealth as a new focus – by issuing guidance for consumer companies in the design and delivery of these technologies.  The problem is ONC issued guidance without learning first how telehealth is actually being used in the industry today, leading to some basic… let’s just call them “misunderstandings.”

Posted on September 24, 2015 .

Interactive Health Tracking May Help in Hypertension

By Salynn Boyles 

WASHINGTON -- Routine use of an interactive website or app that tracked health data and incentivized regular exercise and other healthy behaviors -- structured as a game -- was associated with significantly lower blood pressure among hypertensive participants in a 3-year study.

Nearly half of study participants with high blood pressure (≥140/90 mm Hg) at the start of the study showed meaningful reductions in their systolic blood pressure by the end. 

Those who engaged in the most activity and other challenges proposed on the interactive site known as 'higi' (www.higi.com) had the greatest drops in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure over the course of the study (systolic drop of 16.2 mm Hg and diastolic drop of 10.6 mm Hg), said chief technology and medical officer for the Chicago-based venture, Khan M. Siddiqui, MD. 

Posted on September 18, 2015 .

San Diego State to specialize in wearable health sensors

 

By Gary Robbins

San Diego State University is expanding into the booming market for wearable sensors, creating an institute that will develop wireless devices that diagnose and monitor a person's health.

The Smart Health Institute will initially be composed of existing faculty from the school's large engineering and health programs and four professors who will be hired from such fields as biosensors and nano-materials.

The university generated a lot of publicity in the mobile health market over the past couple of years when a student team fared well in an international competition to build a medical tricorder similar to the one in "Star Trek."

Google has been working on a contact lens that can measure glucose levels. This kind of wireless mobile health technology has become a major focus of research at American universities. Google

Google has been working on a contact lens that can measure glucose levels. This kind of wireless mobile health technology has become a major focus of research at American universities. Google

Posted on September 17, 2015 .

Common Pre-op Tests Not Needed Before Most Operations

By Kendal Gapinski

Study suggests more than 90% of bleeding disorder screenings are a waste of healthcare resources.

Do your physicians routinely order Prothrombin Time (PT) and Activated Partial Thromboplastin Time (aPTT) screenings for surgical patients? A new study suggests the common pre-op tests are often unnecessary.

Researchers examined the records of more than 1 million patients who underwent elective surgery at 27 medical facilities between 2009 and 2012. They found that approximately 680,000 of those patients had been given one or both of the PT and aPTT tests, which analyze a patient's ability to clot and check if heparin therapy is effective in the patient, respectively.

The researchers then looked at whether the tests were administered unnecessarily, which they defined as PT tests performed on patients with no history of abnormal bleeding, warfarin therapy, vitamin K-dependent clotting factor deficiency or liver disease and aPTT tests given to patients with no history of heparin treatment, hemophilia, lupus anticoagulant antibodies or von Willebrand disease. According to the findings, 94% of the patients needlessly underwent PT tests and a whopping 99% received unnecessary aPTT tests.

Posted on September 2, 2015 .

As Medicare and Medicaid Turn 50, Use of Private Health Plans Surges

    By Robert Pear 

President Lyndon B. Johnson, left, with former President Harry S. Truman, signed the Medicare bill in 1965. ASSOCIATED PRESS  

President Lyndon B. Johnson, left, with former President Harry S. Truman, signed the Medicare bill in 1965.
ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

WASHINGTON — As Medicare and Medicaid reach their 50th anniversary on Thursday, the two vast government programs that insure more than one-third of Americans are undergoing a transformation that none of their original architects foresaw: Private health insurance companies are playing a rapidly growing role in both.

More than 30 percent of the 55 million Medicare beneficiaries and well over half of the 66 million Medicaid beneficiaries are now in private health plans run by insurance companies like the UnitedHealth Group, Humana, Anthem and Centene. Enrollment has soared as the government, in an effort to control costs and improve care, pays private insurers to provide and coordinate medical services for more and more beneficiaries.

Although the programs remain highly popular with patients, skeptics question whether the use of private plans will save the government money in the long run and worry that the plans may skimp on care. But both programs served as foundations for the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which, like the newer versions of Medicare and Medicaid, uses a combination of government money and private insurance to provide coverage.

Posted on July 29, 2015 .

Avoid ICD-10? Yes, You Can!

By Jacob Reider, MD

Lots of news/talk about ICD-10 these days.  Most organizations are spending time and money training care providers on it.  Software developers are busy implementing it – often by changing diagnosis selection search menus from ICD-9 to ICD-10.

They’re missing a fantastic opportunity.

ICD-9-CM and ICD-10-CM are administrative coding systems.  They’re used to code diagnoses. Clinicians have (unfortunately) been forced to learn many ICD-9 codes and are being told that we need to shift to ICD-10.  Some of our colleagues are hoping that they can just use ICD-9 and “someone else” will convert ICD-9 to ICD-10 but of course this can’t happen.  ICD-10 is much more granular, and often requires additional information.  It’s like the vet requiring one to specify your animal’s breed:  ICD-9 allowed for “dog, cat, aardvark.”  ICD-10 requires:  “Golden Retriever, Persian, O. a. lademanni .”  Nobody can translate to the more precise term if you hadn’t recorded sufficient information in the first place.

“But how can we avoid ICD-10?  That’s the title of your blog post!”  You say.  “How?  Why?”

 

Posted on July 23, 2015 .

The Sullivan Institute, WEDI, HIMSS, MGMA Unveil Pilot Design for Virtual Clipboard Initiative

By Sullivan Institute 

The Sullivan Institute for Healthcare Innovation, in collaboration with the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange (WEDI), the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) and the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), announced the release of its Virtual Clipboard Initiative pilot solution definition and design document. This document outlines the specifications for the Virtual Clipboard Initiative pilot program, including defined user functionality, pilot scope and functionality, as well as documenting future strategic design considerations.

“We expect the Virtual Clipboard Initiative to significantly improve the burdensome patient intake process – a critical and overlooked component of the healthcare delivery system,” said Devin Jopp, Ed.D, president and CEO of WEDI. “In an unprecedented collaborative effort, key stakeholders from across the healthcare continuum have come together to define initial standards for mobile healthcare applications. Leveraging the technology that many patients already use, the pilot seeks to demonstrate dramatic improvements to the healthcare registration process.”

The initial phase of the Virtual Clipboard Initiative pilot will be to facilitate the automated collection of critical patient health insurance and demographic information. Ultimately, the goal of the Virtual Clipboard Initiative is to create consistent standards, integration points and security that will add value to the entire healthcare delivery system by increasing the quality of care, improving patient safety and reducing administrative costs.

 

Posted on July 16, 2015 .

Bungled Payments

By Paul Keckley 

The proposal involves a five-year bundled payment model across 75 geographic areas whereby hospitals would be eligible for a bonus if their costs and outcomes were optimal or be penalized if not based on results 90 days post-discharge. The agency noted that in 2013, it spent more than $7 billion on hospitalization for these procedures with the payments for hospitalization and recovery ranging widely from 16,500 to $33,000. Comments about the proposal will be received by CMS through September 8, 2015, aiming for implementation January 1, 2016.

Their rationale, according to Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell, in the HHS statement announcing the proposal: “By focusing on episodes of care, rather than a piecemeal system, hospitals and physicians have an incentive to work together to deliver more effective and efficient care. This model will incentivize providing patients with the right care the first time and finding better ways to help them recover successfully. It will reward providers and doctors for helping patients get and stay healthy.”

 

Posted on July 13, 2015 .

Why choosing the right surgeon matters even more than you know

By Marshall Allen and Olga Pierce

illo-operating-room.min.jpg

LaVerne Stiles went to Citrus Memorial Hospital near her home in central Florida for what should have been a routine surgery.

The bubbly retired secretary had been in a minor car accident weeks earlier. She didn’t worry much about her sore neck until a scan detected a broken bone.

The operation she needed, a spinal fusion, is done tens of thousands of times a year without incident. Stiles, 71, had a choice of three specially trained surgeons at Citrus Memorial, which was rated among the top 100 nationally for spinal procedures.

She had no way of knowing how much was riding on her decision. The doctor she chose, Constantine Toumbis, had one of the highest rates of complications in the country for spinal fusions. The other two doctors had rates among the lowest for postoperative problems like infections and internal bleeding.

Posted on July 13, 2015 .

Death By Documentation

By Dike Durmmond, MD

In my work with hundreds of over stressed and burned out physicians, one thing is constant. Documentation is always one of their biggest sources of stress.

In fact, if you ask the average working doctor to make a list of their top five stresses, documentation chores will take up three of the five slots.

1. EMR – especially if you use multiple EMR software programs that don’t talk to each other

2. Dealing with lab reports and refill requests

3. Returning patient and consultant calls and documenting them adequately and all the other places information streams have to be forced together by the sweat of your brow.

Posted on July 11, 2015 .

Harvard researchers tested 23 online ‘symptom checkers.’ Most got failing grades. Here’s how they stack up.

By Ariana Eunjung Cha 

Big Stock

Big Stock

Ever asked the Internet what your symptoms mean and gotten a response that seemed wacky or totally off base? It's not your imagination.

In an audit that is believed to be the first of its kind, Harvard Medical School researchers have tested 23 online “symptom checkers” — run by brand names such as the Mayo Clinic, the American Academy of Pediatrics and WebMD, as well as lesser-knowns such as Symptomate — and found that, though the programs varied widely in accuracy of diagnoses and triage advice, as a whole they were astonishingly inaccurate. Symptom checkers provided the correct diagnosis first in only 34 percent of cases, and within the first three diagnoses 51 percent of the time.

Posted on July 10, 2015 .

Why Doctors Quit (And What to Do About It)

By John Haughom, MD

I got an e-mail from out of the blue the other day.

The e-mail informed me that a colleague, a man I respected greatly, had tendered his resignation at the hospital.  That coming Friday would be his last day. There would be an informal gathering for staff at the hospital cafeteria and that would be that.

I was shocked. The physician in question was an institution at our hospital. As far as I knew he was happy, his patients loved him, he was respected by his peers.   I could think of no earthly reason for him to go.  This did not did not sound like the old friend I knew.

Posted on July 8, 2015 .

Most People Have Cholesterol All Wrong

By Beth Skwarecki 

We make cholesterol in our bodies. It’s a key part of cell membranes, and we use it as a building block to make important chemicals like hormones, vitamin D, and bile. 

Other animals make cholesterol too, so you’ll find it in animal foods like meat, dairy, and eggs. Since cholesterol is a lipid (it mixes well with oil, but not with water) you’ll tend to find it in the fatty parts of food. But it’s not a type of fat!

Plants don’t make cholesterol, so anything vegan (like vegetable oil) is automatically cholesterol-free.

More importantly, since we make our own cholesterol, the amount we eat isn’t very important. Cholesterol, while important in our bodies, is not essential in our diet. If you never eat another cholesterol again in your life (hi, vegans!) your body will still make plenty and do just fine.


Posted on July 2, 2015 .

Nurse-practitioner led preoperative care reduced surgery cancellation

By Nicole Blazek, Senior Clinical Content Editor

Nurse-practitioner led preoperative care can reduce surgical cancellation rates by increasing the number of patients medically optimized for surgery and may provide additional revenue for surgical practices, according to a speaker here.

“Nurse practitioners are well poised to lead interdisciplinary teams to improve preoperative care coordination,” said Aaron Sebach, DNP, MBA, FNP-BC, at the American Association of Nurse Practitioners 2015 meeting.

Preoperative care is often uncoordinated and lacks standardization, which can lead to unnecessary surgical delays, cancellations, and increased healthcare spending.

Posted on June 27, 2015 .