Zoom’s head of healthcare talks the future of telemedicine

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Telehealth continues to be a priority for the healthcare industry. It has proven itself throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Recent Zoom research found that in the U.S., 72% of survey respondents want to attend healthcare appointments both virtually in-person post-pandemic, demonstrating the clear need for telehealth as an option for this hybrid approach to healthcare.

Despite the success of telehealth during the last year a half, some have questioned its broader use as healthcare returns to in-person office visits. However, this reversal could put certain communities demographic populations at a disadvantage, such as those in rural areas or ones without reliable transportation.

Healthcare IT News sat down with Heidi West, head of healthcare at Zoom, to discuss telemedicine’s future, hybrid in-person/telehealth care, communities that could be hurt without virtual care, challenges to telemedicine becoming fully mainstream.

Q. Telemedicine visits have tapered off some since their pandemic peak in 2020. Will telemedicine remain popular? If so, what will drive its continued popularity?

A. During a year full of stay-at-home mandates concerns about public safety, it makes sense as to why we saw such a sharp increase in the use of telemedicine solutions – virtual care offerings made it possible for us to get the help we needed while largely staying out of harm’s way, protecting ourselves loved ones.

Yes, there will always be a need to provide in-person care – surgical procedures, imaging specific hands-on care still will require actual office visits. However, the opportunity for telemedicine is tremendous, physicians should consider a virtual-first mentality to support the convenience safety of the patient.

Some forms of medical care can easily be managed over virtual platforms, by continuing to be available virtually, providers can reach new audiences, regularly track existing ones even grow stronger patient-provider relationships than before.

One area that is particularly well-suited for this is psychiatry psychotherapy. With online therapy, providers can meet with patients far from their physical office space, opening up opportunities to take on new business outside of the immediate neighborhood, as well as meet with patients at different times, since travelling will not need to be taken into consideration.

There also is untapped potential for video communications telehealth platforms to help aid enhance group therapy experiences. Studies have already shown higher demfor online group therapy and fewer no-shows among the participants who sign up for sessions.

We also will see some medical practitioners such as nutritionists dermatologists continue to use telehealth solutions in their practices. There are many cases in which doctors in these fields can provide expertise recommendations to patients via video conferencing in the same way they would in person.

Telemedicine will continue to bring a level of flexibility accessibility to the patients that need it in these realms, it will only continue to grow as we become an even more digitally connected society.

Q. In your recent study, the clear majority of consumers want both virtual in-person care. This seems to show a need for telehealth as an option for a hybrid approach to healthcare. What will this hybrid look like, more specifically?

A. We will see this hybrid approach combine the best of both the physical digital worlds to offer an incredible experience. Generally, we’ll see more primary consultations conducted via virtual platforms, with providers then asking patients to come in or engage with a specialist either remotely or in person as needed. This provides a greater number of patients with a greater level of convenience.

Because of the pandemic, there also has been a heightened awareness preference to manage post-acute care chronic conditions at home. Providing accessibility to care in the home will be one of the greatest growth areas for telehealth. We’ll likely see more outpatient care or physical rehab programs conducted over video calls for patients who have recently undergone surgery are resting at home.

New hybrid experiences also will improve information sharing precision among doctors in their respective fields. Rather than waiting for hours across time zones for emails to be read sent about a specific case, videoconferencing can allow doctors that are physically in a room examining a patient to digitally share information with consultants or experienced professionals outside of the room – or even in other parts of the world – in real time.

Additionally, no longer do smaller hospitals or doctor’s offices have to solely rely on experts in or near the local community – the talent pool for a given procedure or evaluation vastly expands when video conferencing is a part of the equation.

Q. While telehealth has indeed been very successful amid the pandemic, some experts have questioned its broader use as the industry returns to in-person care. You’ve said this reversal could put certain communities demographic populations at a disadvantage, such as patients in rural areas or without reliable transportation. Please elaborate.

A. Yes, a great deal of the population lacks the accessibility to healthcare in the same ways that people in affluent urban areas often have. Urban dwellers generally come across a greater number of doctors’ offices, specialized care facilities treatment options, whereas those on the outskirts or those without reliable transportation have limited choices in when who they see as medical issues arise.

The evolution of telehealth its swift adoption during the pandemic gave many communities access to doctors other medical professionals that they normally wouldn’t be able to see.

As an example, before committing to buying an expensive plane ticket hotel room in order to see a specialist in a city far away, a patient in a more rural area can join a video conference to discuss any issues with the specialist ahead of time determine if the trip is truly needed. This saves both parties time, money peace of mind.

Certain demographic populations also have seen the positive effects of virtual care in a way that wasn’t as prevalent before the pandemic. For example, minority race groups people of color oftentimes have difficulty finding therapists or psychiatrists that understor align with their cultural beliefs. However, the proliferation of online therapy sessions during the pandemic has drastically changed this.

Virtual health services have allowed patients to find connect with the mental health professionals that have academic, personal professional backgrounds that align with their existing values beliefs, even if the practitioner lives outside the immediate region of the patient. For the first time, many marginalized groups are getting the care they need from people they trust connect with on a deeper level.

Removing telehealth as an option for care also removes a great deal of accessibility for people in similar situations to the above, or those who previously were not able to nor offered an opportunity to get the care they needed. Losing these options could mean driving a greater divide between socioeconomic groups regions throughout the U.S.

Lastly, conversely, many physicians need to consider the increased competition threatening their patient population by not prioritizing digital health solutions. Between direct-to-consumer telehealth apps being developed daily, retail health becoming more prevalent, there is a significant risk to not offering virtual care. Doctors other providers could lose their patients to other companies practices that are ahead of the curve.

Q. What are remaining challenges to telemedicine being fully mainstream, including permanent reimbursement? How will healthcare provider organizations overcome these challenges?

A. There are a couple of challenges that come to mind. The first that inhibits a large portion of the global population from widely leveraging telemedicine is lack of Internet connection. Without broadbeasy access to the web, telemedicine is nearly impossible. In time with strong partnerships with Internet service providers telecommunications organizations, the two industries will be able to offer greater accessibility to consumers potential new patients.

The second is the issue of reimbursement. There still is a lengthy discussion to be had about if payers should be required to reimburse for a telehealth appointment or service the same as they would for an in-office one.

Some view a virtual care experience as less valuable therefore, financially, worth less, as well. Providers payers must work with legislators to combat this notion, instead recognize the importance of telehealth, focusing on the needs of the consumer potential to actualize value-based care.

Virtual healthcare services will only continue to proliferate due to consumer demmarket competition. Regardless of reimbursement structure, the requirements advancements in telehealth will dictate continued interest opportunities.

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.



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How Southwestern Health Resources saves $6M a year with predictive analytics

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Despite its efforts to identify rising- at-risk patients in the midst of the pandemic, communicate with their primary care physicians about these patients, generate patient-facing education, Southwestern Health Resources, the largest health system in North Texas, found many patients still were delaying physician visits for chronic disease management preventive care because of fear of COVID-19.

THE PROBLEM

The country has seen death rates rising from episodes such as heart attacks strokes, while cancer screenings have plummeted. The Southwestern Health team decided it needed to do more to ensure the population it serves receives the care they need safely promptly. With that, they launched a “closing the care gaps initiative” in the late summer early fall of 2020.

“We used our predictive analytics data to identify rising-risk high-risk patients, reminded them of their need to pursue routine care appointments, screenings, tests visits, provided the lists to physicians so they also could follow up to encourage in-person or virtual appointments,” said Dr. Jason Fish, chief medical officer at Southwestern Health Resources.

“In addition, we worked with third-party partners to send in-home test kits to patients so they could provide crucial information that would support optimal care, such as fecal test kits diabetes test kits, as well as offering more options for care in the patients’ homes, such as diabetic eye exams,” he added.

PROPOSAL

In general, healthcare organizations aren’t short of data. Rather, it’s that people don’t act on the data that’s available, Fish said.

“Our predictive analytics technology team helped move us quickly from retrospective reporting to being able to effectively harness data already in our system to develop predictive analytics for the populations we serve,” he explained. “We needed to be able to use our data to prospectively apply resources where they’re needed in a timely fashion for maximum impact.

“For example, if we can identify patients who are at higher risk of admission, readmission or medication noncompliance, coordinate proactive preventive care for those patients, we will end up with better patient outcomes and therefore a lower total cost of care,” he added.

“A key component is how we can identify patients who need additional resources support, whether it’s home-based interventions, pharmacy support, etc., at any level.”

Dr. Jason Fish, Southwestern Health Resources

The critical element is how the provider organization uses data to identify patients who are likely to need additional resources support now or down the road, whether through home-based interventions, pharmacy support, more PCP visits other means.

“We now have the ability to integrate clinical EHR data, claims data public health data to find the meaningful clinical information deliver it to providers at the point of care,” he noted. “At Southwestern Health, we can use data to identify gaps, set triggers reminders that enable providers to intervene before patients have an acute – costly – illness.

“We use predictive analytics to improve the experience for both physicians patients to lower the cost of care for payers other purchasers of health benefits,” he said.

MEETING THE CHALLENGE

Southwestern Health’s population health services provide staff with a health management system that enables information improvements to be rapidly scaled across the network. An extensive data repository (from physician EHRs that now include nearly three million unique Dallas/Fort Worth patients), data integration analytics all feed into a robust health information exchange system that helps physicians improve performance.

“Using information resources from our population health services, individual physicians physician groups are supported in improving quality safety, as well as reducing the total cost of care,” Fish said. “This supports opportunities to build improvements of individual providers groups, as well as the overall performance of the physician network.”

There are three areas that make up Southwestern Health’s population health clinical integration performance analytics:

  • Analytics architecture, built to include claims-based analytics, supplemented by real-time (or near-real-time) physician practice EHR data, scheduling data hospital ADT information (including non-SWHR hospitals).
  • Opportunity analysis. Identifying patients who need PHSC support services, including high-risk care management, preventive care, incorporation into disease-management programs, referral guidelines utilization-management programs.
  • Direct patient engagement. The ability to directly engage patients through personal automated means in order to track adherence to care-management protocols provide additional support services.

“A key component is how we can identify patients who need additional resources support, whether it’s home-based interventions, pharmacy support, etc., at any level,” Fish said. 

“Often you wait until someone is already hitting the health system. They’re in an emergency department, they’re admitted, they’ve had surgery. They’ve had some acute process going on, when we identify those folks, more more we’ve been relying on an inpatient care coordinator to start that process as soon as the patient is in an inpatient facility.

“That’s when we can then start to apply resources,” he added. “Of course, we would much rather prevent the accidents from occurring in the first place.”

The organization is starting to integrate data from multiple sources. For example, social determinants of health can be key factors in a person’s overall health. Many people think of SODH as economically disadvantaged populations, that’s part of it.

However, social determinants impact health outcomes across all socioeconomic strata, across all racial groups across all different cultural backgrounds. Therefore, Southwestern Health had to adapt its care-management resources to meet patients’ social needs, as well as their healthcare needs.

RESULTS

“A prime example is through our colorectal screening results,” Fish noted. “Nearly one-third of 108,000 colorectal test kits we distributed were returned, approximately 5% of those were positive, meaning they showed a blood antigen that is associated with colon cancer.

“From there, follow-up was conducted with patients who tested positive for a blood antigen associated with colon cancer, Southwestern Health reported a 32% gap closure rate,” he said. 

“Participating clinics exceeded their original target goal of 25% while further strengthening the patient provider relationship opening the door for open, honest communication about colorectal cancer.”

Southwestern Health also distributed more than 200,000 targeted communications to patients at risk of heart attacks strokes, urging them to avoid delaying care. Using advanced analytics from claims EHR data, the organization disseminated more than 250,000 amplified messages to patients members in high-prevalence Zip codes that highlighted prevention of COVID-19 infections in the community.

“Strategic partnerships with testing lab vendors allowed for in-home testing for diabetes A1C, nephropathy, colorectal cancer, facilitated in-home testing for diabetic eye exams,” Fish explained. 

“Southwestern Health established a partnership with Univision to reach more than 5.5 million people with messaging delivered by Southwestern Health network physicians to encourage the Latino population not to delay necessary care,” he said.

The health system “identified more than 150,000 patients among their members who are at risk for cardiovascular disease serious cardiac events,” he added. “Emails letters were sent to 150,000 patients to educate them about the symptoms of stroke heart events, when to seek emergency care.”

The post-acute care initiative established a model for performance improvement a tiering system for high reliability preferred PAC providers, he added. It reduced the per member/per year total cost of post-acute care by 5% – or an estimated $6 million in savings related to reduced unnecessary utilization for 2019. Savings have continued to increase in the years since.

ADVICE FOR OTHERS

Fish advised his peers working with predictive analytics to be open to new ideas. He said Southwestern Health is continually piloting, testing scaling innovations that demonstrate the feasibility of a value-based health system while demonstrating the ability of population health management across the continuum to lower the total cost of care.

“Take the SDOH, which has always been amplified, recently became exacerbated during the pandemic,” he added. “As a clinically integrated network, we are continually evolving how we address these unique needs of the community. We have learned to leverage the power of data analytics for more robust proactive population health management.”

For example, the organization can survey patients to understthe reason for avoiding healthcare appointments look jointly for possible solutions, he said.

By capturing data at every touchpoint, Southwestern Health can provide value for patients, physicians payers, even during the pandemic.

“Data helps identify gaps in care to ensure at-risk patients get routine care, the elderly are being cared for at home, that all eligible patients are getting their routine vaccinations,” he concluded. 

“During the pandemic, data aggregation analytics have enabled us to conduct outreach to more than 10,000 patients in high-prevalence Zip codes manage screenings of COVID-positive patients for SDOH.”

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.



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UPMC CMIO talks telehealth’s new normal, EHR workflow, pharmacogenomics more

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LAS VEGAS – At HIMSS21 earlier this month, Dr. Robert Bart, who has served as the chief medical information officer at Pittsburgh-based UPMC since 2017, spoke with Healthcare IT News about his to-do list during this busy past year a half, what he’s eyeing in terms of clinical priorities as he looks toward the next year beyond.

Among the topics we discussed: the value of voice recognition, the path toward effective decision support, building a bigger comfort level for machine learning the future of value-based contracting.

Q. We just wrapped up a series at HITN focused on CIOs CMIOs nationwide, the lessons they’ve learned over the past 18 months of the pandemic. What have been some of yours?

A. I don’t know if there’s something called post-pandemic. I’m not personally convinced yet. But I think probably the thing that I’ve learned the most in the past 18 months is just the adaptability of people. People still needed to receive care, clinicians felt it was their duty to deliver care. We were one of those organizations that flipped over to telemedicine pretty seamlessly.

Q. How much of an increase was that over what you had in place before? There were some pretty eye-popping percentages in terms of scale-up.

A. We probably had about 3,000 people who were authenticated to deliver use our telemedicine platform. During the last two weeks of March in 2020 … the first two weeks of April, we went up to about 16,000. We were doing about 250 daily consumer-facing telemedicine visits pre-pandemic.

“One way healthcare can become much more comfortable with machine learning AI is if we use more tools in the clinical operations area: driving efficiency in scheduling [and] throughput of patients using smart learning algorithms that help us manage the operations of healthcare. As we get more comfortable with artificial intelligence in that space, I think the comfort within the clinical realm will follow.”

Dr. Robert Bart, UPMC

By about April 1, we’re doing about 10,000 a day. And across our system, we peaked at somewhere in the 15,000 range, plus or minus a little bit. We did ended up doing over 1.25 million telemedicine visit for ambulatory care last year.

Q. That’s a pretty substantial change.

A. We’re not doing the same volume anymore, not knowing when the end of the pandemic is going to come, or whether there truly will be a post-pandemic. What I’m seeing is there’s a fair number of our patient population that really prefer, ‘If things are calm enough right now that I can see my clinician face to face, I’m going to go do that.’

And so we’re still tracking at about, I would say, 15% our peak of telemedicine visits, which is still significantly higher than our pre-pandemic based baseline. But it certainly is not near what we were doing twelve months ago, 15 months ago.

Q. But it’s still going to be a piece of the pie, going forward?

A. Oh, yeah, I think so. The pandemic was just a forcing function, right? Some people need care. You’ve got to do it. This is how we’re going to do it.

But what I don’t want to become is: This clinician’s preference is to do telemedicine; this patient’s preference is to do visits via telemedicine. But we do need to factor in a little bit, I think, on the patient-preference side.

Certainly the high-level, consistent use of it we’re seeing is in the behavioral health space. And that’s just because in rural Pennsylvania, there’s not a lot of behavioral health specialists out in those communities. 

The fact that they can get therapy interaction with a behavioral health specialist via telemedicine – especially if part of your challenge is you have anxiety – being able to deliver it to you while you’re sitting in your home on your couch, didn’t have to fret about driving parking, it’s a really good thing.

What we’re trying to do to give sort of telemedicine, some staying-power, or legs, coming out of this is trying to work with each of the medical specialties surgical specialties on how do we best place telemedicine within the care-delivery models that work well for the diseases they manage. It becomes part of the integrated care-delivery process.

So if a Type 1 diabetic typically is seen by their endocrinologist once every three months, can every other visit, at a minimum, maybe be done via telemedicine? So you’re seen face-to-face twice a year instead of four times a year. Or maybe even three of the visits are telemedicine, you’re seen face-to-face once a year if you’re otherwise doing well.

That’s, I think, what we want to do is bake it into the cadence of the type of clinical specialty you are, the type of patients you manage over a long term period, figure out what that opportune mix of face-to-face virtual care is.

There’s a little bit of a higher bar to go over, because no one sets standards on, like, what’s the appropriate cadence of face-to-face? You can get 10 endocrinologists or 10 cardiologists who have the same patient in front of them, some of them will say, ‘I just need to see this patient once a year.’ Some will say twice a year. Some will say three or four times. It varies quite a bit by practice.

What we’re being asked to do with telemedicine – this is, I think, a lot by the payers, who are trying to also understhow that might change access to care – is to make sure that we are using it in a manner where we’re providing value to the patient, but we’re not also doing it just to drive some of the cost of care.

So I think there’s a way to do it where you can actually derive improved health for the patient, while not driving significant costs in the system. And that’s really what you want to do. I’d like to get beyond, like, managing the disease – but really to the point of using virtual care to help push someone towards a healthier existence, a healthier life, pushing them towards something where we’re managing wellness.

Q. Is UPMC also getting more deeply involved in remote patient monitoring hospital at home?

A. We’ve been a long-term utilizer of remote patient monitoring. We’ve got a pretty broad practice. We focus a lot on patients with congestive heart failure, patients with inflammatory bowel disease.

Because, especially with IBD, there’s a medical component, but there’s also, because it’s a fairly heavy lifestyle burden, there’s a psychological component. And so that remote patient monitoring that frequent contact, I think, really helps the behavioral health aspect of it.

And then you mentioned hospital at home. We are moving in that direction. Hospital at home, I think, you’re probably going to see people moving into it depending on how the payers in each region of the country support it, quite frankly.

We’ve had significant discussions. We’ve developed a prototype program that starts doing some of the hospital at home types of care, so we can start moving into that space really learn about it as we move closer closer to a true hospital at home, at least as CMS outlines it.

The other area that I think we’re quite interested in, because we do own some post-acute facilities at UPMC, is the SNF at home – sort of the post-acute care type of experience that can be done at home, different from just the traditional home health nurse.

It does the check-ins, but is much more involved, much more supportive of all the things that occur. And so that’s one of the things we’re interested in really exploring.

Q. Obviously, the pandemic has also really put a spotlight on social determinants of health.

A. UPMC is very interested in social determinants of health. I personally have a strong interest in it: My role immediately prior to joining UPMC four years ago, I was the CMIO at the Los Angeles County Department of Health.

So as the second-largest urban government health care system in the country, you can imagine that social determinants of health is a big component of the care-delivery process.

In Pennsylvania, where we are at UPMC, there’s still a fair amount of fee-for-service care delivery. And social determinants of health are important impactful, even in the fee-for-service models of care delivery, but not nearly as important when you start moving into the value-based contracting.

In value-based contracting, where you’re getting per member, per month fee for some cohort of individuals, you’re very much incentivized to understplay an active or interventional role within the social determinants of health for those individuals.

We’ve examined quite a few different companies in that space, as well as try to really improve the types of information that we’re gathering on our patients during ambulatory visits, so that we can understhow to make care decisions more impactful to who they are what their living circumstance experience is.

If you’re not mindful of those things when you’re trying to help them make the best decisions on care, I think that we can make poor recommendations for that individual. There is a right recommendation, maybe from a clinical/medical perspective, but they’re not necessarily that executable or easy for that individual to follow through, given the social circumstances. And we need to actually factor that piece in. And we’re trying to do that better with the information that we’re harvesting from the electronic health records.

Q. Let’s talk about EHRs a little bit. How can they do better?

A. We want to get to the point where we’re starting to use more AI-driven workflow. The two major vendors in the EHR space I’m a client of, so we’re actually going through projects with both of them in modernizing optimizing their footprints.

Both of those platforms have been at UPMC for more than 20 years, and, you know, we’re not just freshening it up like a new coat of paint. This is removing walls, remodeling, all very involved on both ambulatory acute care platforms.

And doing it, I think, with one of the keys in mind: As we’re doing this, can we also improve or decrease physician stress improve physician wellness?

One of the things that we did when we started on this program about a year before the pandemic started, in the spring of 2019, I asked the physician who oversees our physician wellness at UPMC. I asked her to sit on our committees for both of our projects, so we would be thinking about what we need to do from an informatics perspective – but making sure that we’re getting feedback from her about how that might impact the physician workflow.

I think the other thing that we recognize realize is voice is a big saver here. It’s sort of this huge equalizer. It’s a time saver. And because of natural language processing, the leverage that you can get from the discrete data within the dictated or voice recorded note may allow you to fill out or complete many other work-related required things for billing or regulatory requirements that can be harvested from the note, as opposed to relying on the physician doing a bunch of different tasks.

So we’re very heavily pushing on voice is one of the things as we modernize our platforms. We’ve used it consistently over the past few years, but we’re now taking it to a whole other level, leveraging some of the AI that our voice partner has embedded in their solution.

Q. I’ve written a lot over the years about various precision medicine initiatives at UPMC. What’s new on that front?

A. One of the reasons I came to HIMSS this year was to do a presentation. I work very closely with a PharmD by the name of Phil Empey, we did a presentation on genomics, really drilled in on pharmacogenomics. I’m really excited about pharmacogenomics the ability to improve care by getting the drug-gene pairs right.

So we ingest the data in a discrete manner from the result, so we can utilize clinical decision support. Because one of the challenges is it’s such a new field that most of our physicians don’t really understthe interpretation of the results.

On top of that, it’s such a new field that what was the appropriate interpretation of a result, last year, with new knowledge might be different this year.

We really think that, when you’re moving into the world of pharmacogenomics or genomic medicine, that you really need to embed decision support into your electronic health record. And that you have to really insist on taking the results only in digital format.

So if we get external results from reference labs, we don’t want PDFs. We want to actually discrete data, so we can trigger the decision support, as well as provide supporting content for interpretation by our clinicians – the content so the patient can understwhat that result means for them.

One of the reasons I’m so high on pharmacogenomics is that there can be a big benefit on medication adherence. There can be a big benefit in the cost of medications, making sure that someone’s on the appropriate medication for whatever is being treated. And the payers are very interested in pharmacogenomics, have been very supportive of the reimbursement of this testing.

So there’s a nice opportunity where the payers are aligned, because they feel there’s financial benefit in healthcare. The clinical side is aligned, because they feel that they can get better therapy therapeutic treatment for the patient. And the patients are aligned because they want the right medication at the right dose for them personally. So I think it’s a really nice opportunity.

Q. It’s exciting. Do you think it’s going to continue to kind of be the province of big academic medical centers like UPMC, or do you think eventually it will filter down to smaller hospitals – maybe eventually become the standard of care?

A. Definitely pharmacogenomics will filter down become the standard of care. With more of the whole-genome genomics, I’m not sure how much that will get down to the standard care as we think about it.

There’s two types of healthcare systems: There will be those that are consumers of the information, which might be the bulk of the healthcare system, standalone hospitals, those types of things, then there’ll be healthcare systems that are involved in producing genomic results.

UPMC right now is currently a hybrid. We do consume some external results, but we also have our own genome center produce our own genomic results. We want to get more more to being a producer, less less of being a consumer. But, particularly in the pharmacogenomics space, there’s opportunity for all levels of healthcare systems to be involved in that.

Even for certain aspects of genomic sequencing, there’ll be some of that – particularly, say, if any hospital has an oncology service. That’s certainly going to have tumor genomics as something that’s being offered, studied quite aggressively.

I think we did see a sort of stagnancy with genomics through the first 18 months of the pandemic. But I think people are rekindling their interest, we’re seeing it sort of get more more focused, even over the course of the summer here of 2021.

Q. Any closing thoughts?

A. There’s two areas that I’m particularly interested in. We talk a lot about machine learning AI in healthcare. But, as you probably know, the acceptance of use of it in the truly clinical diagnostic space, is very narrow.

One way healthcare can become much more comfortable with machine learning AI is if we use more tools in the clinical operations area: driving efficiency in scheduling [and] throughput of patients using smart learning algorithms that help us manage the operations of healthcare. As we get more comfortable with artificial intelligence in that space, I think the comfort within the clinical realm will follow.

The other area that I’m quite interested in is robotic process automation. A lot of other industries have been using it for quite a few years have gotten a lot of benefit in areas where there’s heavy, redundant human labor.

By automating it, they can get rid of so much of the redundant tasks. Healthcare hasn’t done that as much. And I do think robotic-process automation is an area where I’m really excited to see much more of a stronghold, or grow some legs desire to use it – not just in the care delivery process, but maybe a lot of the back office processes within healthcare systems.

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: [email protected]

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS publication.



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NICE extends method review for health technology evaluation

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Building on its existing approach to evaluating new health technologies, the UK’s National Institute for Health Care Excellence (NICE) has decided to extend its review of its methods for technology appraisals guidance production for highly specialised technologies.

NICE will include the methods processes of the Medical Technologies Evaluation Programme the Diagnostics Assessment Programme, aligning them where appropriate.

A steering group will have senior oversight of the methods process review.

WHY IT MATTERS

Through this review of its evaluation methods, NICE aims to support the ambition of the NHS to provide high-quality care good value to patients.

Due to various novel innovations in healthcare such as personalised medicine, digital health technologies cell therapy, products are becoming more complicated to evaluate. Products are required to launch quickly, sometimes with a lower evidence base than was previously the case.

NICE will respond to these increased demands by providing guidance advice being involved in commercial discussions, something that is consequently increasing the complexity of their operations.

The steering group will use its collective knowledge of the health care landscape to oversee the review while considering the changing national policy climate.

The review hopes to speed up patient access to new promising health technologies; support better market access; simplify the health technology evaluation process.

THE LARGER CONTEXT

In January, NICE successfully completed its first assessment using the digital health technologies guidance development pilot project, on the Zio XT service, which is used for detecting abnormal heart rhythms.

The pilot project has since paved the way for further NICE assessment of digital health technologies that are supported by evidence are accessible to NHS patients.

ON THE RECORD

The report says: “The purpose of our review is to optimise NICE’s evaluation methods to support the ambition of the NHS to provide high-quality care that offers good value to patients to the NHS.

The review is not starting with a blank sheet of paper. This is an incremental development of our existing world-class approach to evaluating new health technologies.”

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Malaysia launches vaccine certificate verification app

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The Malaysian government has introduced a new mobile app that checks the authenticity of digital health certificates.

Based on information from the Apple App store, the Vaccine Certificate Verifier app can authenticate both printed digital COVID-19 vaccination certificates stored in the MySejahtera contact tracing app. It supports certificates issued by Singapore the European Union as well. The app is available for download in Google Play Huawei App Gallery. 

Initially released in May, the app has been updated to its latest version ahead of the interface changes made in the digital health certificates stored in the MySejahtera app. The digital certificates now have an updated QR code format indicate that they can only be scanned through the Vaccine Certificate Verifier app.

WHY IT MATTERS

The release of the Vaccine Certificate Verifier app, along with the updated digital health certificates, is a response to bad actors producing selling fake certificates in the country. Two weeks ago, the Royal Malaysia Police said it was investigating the circulation of a Facebook post claiming the existence of the sale of fake vaccination certificates.

THE LARGER TREND

American-Israeli cybersecurity software firm Check Point conducted research into the black market for fake digital vaccine certificates. It noted that the trend has been happening around the world with most of such activities taking place in Europe. In the Darknet, fake vaccine passports can be produced for $250. This is also happening in the US, Pakistan Indonesia, the software company said.

Concerns over the thriving trade have led 47 state attorney generals in the US to issue a statement urging CEOs of Twitter, Shopify eBay to take down ads or links selling fake vaccination cards. 

Last month marked the US Justice Department’s first prosecution case involving the sale of bogus COVID-19 immunisation vaccination cards. 

To combat these illegal activities, Singapore developed rolled out the HealthCerts system for verifying digital COVID-19 test reports. The system is intended to facilitate hasten travellers’ clearance at immigration checkpoints. In Dubai, a digital verification system was also put in place to clear travellers’ COVID-19 tests vaccination reports.

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