Feature Articles

HHS Ventures Team Helps Detect Disease Outbreaks

It was a no brainer for the HHS Ventures Fund to include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) GHOST project in its latest round of funding. There are about 3.5 million Americans infected with Hepatitis C (HCV), which attacks the liver and can lead to cirrhosis and other serious health problems, according to the latest data collected by the CDC. This CDC Ventures team is developing a cloud-based, public health research tool to help state and local health departments more quickly detect and fight the spread of disease. The team calls their system GHOST – Global Hepatitis Outbreak Surveillance Technology.

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When It Comes to Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices, We Should Ask More and Listen Better

A new study in JAMA suggests that nearly one-in-three drugs approved by the FDA between 2001 and 2010 had post-market safety issues, which caused safety communications to physicians and consumers, "black-box" warnings on labels, and drug withdrawals. It is not clear how many patients may have died or otherwise harmed by these issues...Lead author Joseph Ross, M.D., noted: "No drug is completely safe, and during premarket evaluation, we are not going to pick up all the safety signals," and urged "that we have a strong system in place to continually evaluate drugs and to communicate new safety concerns quickly and effectively."

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OpenMRS Announces 2017 Google Summer of Code students

Congratulations to the 15 students selected by OpenMRS to participate in Google Summer of Code™ this year! A total of nearly 1,400 students were selected to participate with 201 different open-source projects. As the organization administrators for the program, we are thrilled to announce our 11th year of participation yet in the annual event graciously sponsored by Google. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed participating in this great program in the last 10 years and are even more excited about the students, projects and mentors that are participating this year. Coding for OpenMRS is a great way for university students to practice coding skills and at the same time help benefit people in developing countries who are on the front lines of the battle against HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria, and other public health challenges. Read More »

Leveraging the "Learning Health Community" Concept in Education

This idea of an iterative engaged learning environment (we can call it a “Learning Health Community”) is not far-fetched. Such a system would require quality evidence-based data and information delivered in real-time based on the real-world experiences of millions of patients. As new verified information and data develop, these would be incorporated and then deployed. We would harness the power of existing and future knowledge in a form that is usable by both medical professionals and the patients they serve. The questioning fathers and others similarly situated could access the Internet for augmented and personalized health information.

Halamka on "The Dark Side of E-commerce"

As I mentioned in a recent post, Amazon has focused on the convenience of the customer instead of the convenience of their business. Yesterday’s New York Times highlighted the trend for the hotel industry to do the same. In my post, I lamented that some industries including old school industrial companies and healthcare have not widely adopted customer focused technologies. To their credit, Marvin Windows followed up with me and promised to accelerate their automation efforts. I was impressed. However, all is not completely rosy in the transformation from brick and mortar to e-commerce...

Clicks-and-Mortar: Health Care's Future

The woes of the retail industry are well known, and are usually blamed on the impact of the Internet.  Credit Suisse projects that 8,600 brick-and-mortar stores will close in 2017, which would beat the record set in 2008, at the height of the last recession.  There are "zombie malls," full of empty stores but not yet shuttered. And then there's health care, where the retail business is booming. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Christopher Mims set forth Three Hard Lessons the Internet is Teaching Traditional Stores.  The lessons are: Data is King, Personalization + Automation = Profits, Legacy Tech Won't Cut It.

Europeana adds 470,000 images to Creative Commons Search

CC Search beta has added 470,000 images from the millions of materials contained in Europeana’s collection of Creative Commons images. Europeana is Europe’s digital platform for cultural heritage, collecting and providing online access to over 54 million of digitised items ranging from books, photos, and paintings to television broadcasts and 3D objects. As an important cultural partner to CC, Europeana’s platform strengthens the commons through its large, searchable collection of digital records from nearly 4,000 European libraries, archives, museums and audiovisual galleries...

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Healthcare Innovation: Think Bigger, Fail Often.

Alan Kay recently outlined some of the principles that he thought made Xerox's PARC so successful (if you don't know who Alan Kay is or why PARC was so special, you should try to find out).  One was: "'It's baseball,' not 'golf'...Not getting a hit is not failure but the overhead for getting hits." That doesn't quite square with my impression of golf, but I take the point.  It's about the price of success. As psychologist Dean Simonton pointed out in Origins of Genius: "The more successes there are, the more failures there are as well."  "Quality," he wrote, "is a probabilistic function of quantity." We talk a lot about innovation these days, especially "disruptive innovation."  Why not?  It sounds cool, it allows people to think they're on the cutting edge, and it often excites investors.  But perhaps we've lost sight of what it is supposed to actually be...

Health Datapalooza 2017 – The Data Revolution Rolls On

The 8th annual Health Datapalooza returns on April 26 – 28 and offers a re-imagined vision of health and health care through the lens of data. In years past, Health Datapalooza has set its sights on health-care startups, apps, big data, electronic health records – you name it – but the main thrust was always more about the business of health care and how tech and data are used to innovate. The annual conference for data geeks, developers, health tech venture capitalists, and start-up wannabes, among others, will this year triangulate around the idea that the patient should be at the center of health care.

HHS IDEA Lab to Host Innovation Day on May 15

Join us for HHS Innovation Day on May 15th at the Hubert H. Humphrey Building in Washington, D.C., where you’ll experience first-hand how new approaches and creative thinking can advance our work in government. You’ll hear from stellar employees at HHS who are using entrepreneurial methods like design thinking and lean startup to improve how their office or agency delivers on the HHS mission. The day will also feature a panel on deploying creative thinking to improve work in government, and innovative speakers from government and the private sector.

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Losing the Doctor Lottery

Donna Jackson Nakazawa's insightful Health Affairs article "How to Win the Doctor Lottery" is, in turn, sad, frightening, wise, and hopeful.  She recounts some of her personal travails in finding the right doctors, the ones who will truly listen and become "a partner on my path to healing," and offers several suggestions about what has to happen for us to have more chance to "win." The real question, though, is not how to win the doctor lottery we find ourselves in, but why we're playing it at all. Getting the right doctor is hard.  Consider the following: It's easy enough to find out where a physician went to medical school and did their residency.  It's not as easy to know what the best medical schools or best teaching hospitals are, other than by reputations (that may or may not be deserved)...

Global Coalition Pushes for Unrestricted Sharing of Scholarly Citation Data

This week a coalition of scholarly publishers, researchers, and nonprofit organizations launched the Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC), a project to promote the unrestricted open access to scholarly citation data. From the website: "Citations are the links that knit together our scientific and cultural knowledge. They are primary data that provide both provenance and an explanation for how we know facts. They allow us to attribute and credit scientific contributions, and they enable the evaluation of research and its impacts. In sum, citations are the most important vehicle for the discovery, dissemination, and evaluation of all scholarly knowledge"...

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Clones Welcome in Scientific Hardware

In the inaugural issue of the Journal of Open Hardware I review emerging business models for open source hardware. Many of these models are borrowed from the free and open source software industry and will no doubt be familiar to you. However, traditional companies should also take a close look at adding open source hardware to their strategy. One way a company can start the transition to the open source way is to open source a single product to drive sales of its other products. A firm can open source the hardware they sell in order to expand the market of other parts of their product line...

Computational Thinking in Healthcare

OK, you use your smartphone all the time: you use the latest and greatest apps, you can text or tweet with the best of them, you have the knack for selfies, and so on.  You probably also have a computer, tablet, and a gaming system, each of which you are also very proficient with.  No question: you are a whiz with electronic devices. But, if you're like most of us, you don't really know how or why they work. Maybe that's OK.  Most of us don't know how our cars work either, couldn't explain how heavier-than-air flight is possible, have no idea what the periodic table means to our daily lives, and would be in trouble if our lives depending on us making, say, bricks or glass...

Halamka's Cautionary Tale for Healthcare

During my CIO career, I’ve worked on a few Harvard Business School case studies and I’ve had the “joy” of presenting my failures to Harvard Business school students for over a decade. I enjoy telling stories and inevitably the cases I teach are about turning lemons into lemonade. In this post, I’d like to tell a story about a recent experience with Marvin Windows and lessons learned that apply to healthcare...