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Questioning Mobile Health

This is something. Jay Parkinson on the Future Well blog has suggested that health apps are overrated. Then on Twitter came a remark that the post represented “fightin’ words.” While I think the tweet was in jest, I’m sure there are some who will take offense to the less-than-flattering remarks about our coveted health apps.

We love the concept of health apps for what they represent more than for what they really offer us. We want to feel that we’ve got it all in the palm of our hand. After all, technology might do for us what we won’t do for ourselves.

Like Jay I’m underwhelmed, but I don’t think that’ll always be the case. The post’s criticism should start a conversation about what’s real in mobile health and what isn’t. Even the fantasy of Health 2.0 has been questioned, and that’s a good thing. This dialog about reality versus rainbows and unicorns needs to continue.

Youngme Moon in Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd wrote, “The way to keep criticism from devolving into cynicism is to make it a starting point rather than a punctuation mark.” Jay Parkinson’s post is a starting point.

*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

Managing Diabetes In “Real Time”

The cost of managing chronic diseases is the largest portion of healthcare expenditures in developed countries. For example, the prevalence of adult acquired diabetes has been rising in the United States, in concert with increasing rates obesity. The CDC has termed it an “epidemic,” especially in light of the massive costs incurred by the healthcare system due to diabetes.

The deleterious health effects of many chronic conditions can be diminished by behavior modifications. While few would underestimate the difficulty of having patients lose weight or exercise more, good management of blood sugar in diabetes is both objectively measurable and strongly correlated with reduced end-organ damage.

This is among the reasons why Research2Guidance has recently nominated diabetes as the condition most likely to be most targeted by mobile medical software and devices (mHealth). This finding is part of their recently published Global Mobile Health Market Report 2010-2015. This is the same report that also predicted that, in the future, medical apps are likely to be distributed by physicians and healthcare institutions.

This time Research2Guidance is highlighting the portion of the survey where they looked into where mobile devices have the most potential to affect health outcomes. While other chronic conditions such as hypertension and obesity have larger populations, the market researchers felt diabetes had the largest market potential due to the huge cost saving potential, the demographic and geographic overlap between smartphone users and people with diabetes, and the real potential to improve blood sugar management using mobile devices. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at iMedicalApps*

Fire Department App: “There’s A Hero In All Of Us”

Just admit it: Deep in your heart you’ve always wanted to be an emergency medical technician, if at least for a few moments. If you’re located in San Ramon Valley, California, you can now live that dream: The local fire department has released an iPhone app that will alert you of any emergency activity in the area.

The well thought-out application will send out a push notification to users who have indicated that they are proficient in CPR whenever there is a cardiac emergency nearby. In addition, the closest public-access automated external defibrillator (AED) is located by the app. Current response status of dispatched units are shown and incident locations are pinpointed on an interactive map. There’s even a log of recent incidents including a photo gallery. For the old-school ham and scanner lads, it’s possible to listen in on live emergency radio traffic. The app is available for free.

Homepage: Fire Department…

iTunes link: Fire Department…

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

Text-To-Braille Conversion Via Touch-Sensitive “Thimble”

While Braille can give the blind the ability to read, much of the text one encounters is not available in Braille (and our increasing dependence on touch-screen smartphones isn’t helping.) Two students at the University of Washington hope to solve this problem with their concept device, which they have termed the “Thimble.” The Thimble contains a fingertip camera and an electro-tactile grid which can read text and convert it to touch-sensitive Braille. The device can also interface with a user’s smartphone via Bluetooth for reading online content.

Source: “Thimble”: Another smartphone-enabled concept for the visually impaired

(Hat Tip: Engadget)

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

Your Hydration Needs Monitored By An Intelligent Water Bottle

Imagine a water bottle that knows how hard and how far you are running, how much you’re drinking, what’s the outside temperature, and, based on all these variables, the device calculates when you need to have a drink. Cambridge Consultants have developed the i-dration bottle that does just that.

From the press release:

Intelligent sensors in the i-dration bottle can be used to monitor the external temperature, drinking frequency and quantity, and this data is then sent via Bluetooth to its user’s smartphone. The phone’s inbuilt accelerometer and gyroscope can measure exercise levels, and by “fusing” the data from a heart rate chest-band and information pre-entered using the smartphone interface (such as height, age and weight), the application can perform an assessment of a user’s hydration levels. The i-dration bottle then responds accordingly by flashing a blue light if the athlete needs to drink more. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

Latest Interviews

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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How To Make Inpatient Medical Practice Fun Again: Try Locum Tenens Work

It s no secret that most physicians are unhappy with the way things are going in healthcare. Surveys report high levels of job dissatisfaction burn out and even suicide. In fact some believe that up to a third of the US physician work force is planning to leave the profession…

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Latest Cartoon

Richmond, VA – In an effort to simplify inpatient medical billing, one area hospitalist group has determined that “altered mental status” (ICD-9 780.97) is the most efficient code for use in any patient work up.

“When you enter a hospital, you’re bound to have some kind of mental status change,” said Dr. Fishbinder, co-partner of Area Hospitalists, PLLC. “Whether it’s confusion about where your room is located in relationship to the visitor’s parking structure, frustration with being woken up every hour or two to check your vital signs, or just plain old fatigue from being sick, you are not thinking as clearly as before you were admitted. And that’s all the justification we need to order anything from drug and toxin screens, to blood cultures, brain MRIs, tagged red blood cell nuclear scans, or cardiac Holter monitoring. There really is no limit to what we can pursue with our tests.”

Common causes of mental status changes in the elderly include medicine-induced cognitive side effects, disorientation due to disruption in daily routines, age-related memory impairment, and urinary tract infections.

“The urinalysis is not a very exciting medical test,” stated Dr. Fishbinder. “It doesn’t matter that it’s cheap, fast, and most likely to provide an explanation for strange behavior in hospitalized patients. It’s really not as elegant as the testing involved in a chronic anemia or metabolic encephalopathy work up. I keep it in my back pocket in case all other tests are negative, including brain MRIs and PET scans.”

Nursing staff at Richmond Medical Hospital report that efforts to inform hospitalists about foul smelling urine have generally fallen on deaf ears. “I have tried to tell the hospitalists about cloudy or bloody urine that I see in patients who are undergoing extensive work ups for mental status changes,” reports nurse Sandy Anderson. “But they insist that ‘all urine smells bad’ and it’s really more of a red herring.”

Another nurse reports that delay in diagnosing urinary tract infections (while patients are scheduled for brain MRIs, nuclear scans, and biopsies) can lead to worsening symptoms which accelerate and expand testing. “Some of my patients are transferred to the ICU during the altered mental status work up,” states nurse Anita Misra. “The doctors seem to be very excited about the additional technology available to them in the intensive care setting. Between the central line placement, arterial blood gasses, and vast array of IV fluid and medication options, urosepsis is really an excellent entré into a whole new level of care.”

“As far as medicine-induced mental status changes are concerned,” added Dr. Fishbinder, “We’ve never seen a single case in the past 10 years. Today’s patients are incredibly resilient and can tolerate mixes of opioids, anti-depressants, anti-histamines, and benzodiazepines without any difficulty. We know this because most patients have been prescribed these cocktails and have been taking them for years.”

Patient family members have expressed gratitude for Dr. Fishbinder’s diagnostic process, and report that they are very pleased that he is doing everything in his power to “get to the bottom” of why their loved one isn’t as sharp as they used to be.

“I thought my mom was acting strange ever since she started taking stronger pain medicine for her arthritis,” says Nelly Hurtong, the daughter of one of Dr. Fishbinder’s inpatients. “But now I see that there are deeper reasons for her ‘altered mental status’ thanks to the brain MRI that showed some mild generalized atrophy.”

Hospital administrators praise Dr. Fishbinder as one of their top physicians. “He will do whatever it takes to figure out the true cause of patients’ cognitive impairments.” Says CEO, Daniel Griffiths. “And not only is that good medicine, it is great for our Press Ganey scores and our bottom line.”

As for the nursing staff, Griffiths offered a less glowing review. “It’s unfortunate that our nurses seem preoccupied with urine testing and medication reconciliation. I think it might be time for us to mandate further training to help them appreciate more of the medical nuances inherent in quality patient care.”

Dr. Fishbinder is in the process of creating a half-day seminar on ‘altered mental status in the inpatient setting,’ offering CME credits to physicians who enroll. Richmond Medical Hospital intends to sponsor Dr. Fishbinder’s course, and franchise it to other hospitals in the state, and ultimately nationally.

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Click here for a musical take on over-testing.

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Latest Book Reviews

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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Unaccountable: A Book About The Underbelly Of Hospital Care

I met Dr. Marty Makary over lunch at Founding Farmers restaurant in DC about three years ago. We had an animated conversation about hospital safety the potential contribution of checklists to reducing medical errors and his upcoming book about the need for more transparency in the healthcare system. Marty was…

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