Creating a technology-enabled culture of empathy compassion

While the standard ways of measuring empathy in healthcare are taken through surveys how patients rate their experience, the Covid pandemic highlighted the degree of isolation loneliness patients feel, underscored the need to push empathy to a central concern on an organizational level.

This was the perspective of panel moderator Adrienne Boissy, chief experience officer of ClevelClinic, who spoke as part of HIMSS21 Digital with Dr. Ben Moor, an anesthesiologist at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, Helen Riess, co-founder CEO of Empathetics, about how healthcare organizations can build a more robust culture of empathy compassion.

“We all went into this business to help people, providers feel a disconnect between what they should be providing to the patients what they were able to because of Covid,” Moor said. “You should be your patient’s advocate, even if that goes against what your organization is telling you.”

That perspective was backed up by Boissy, who said healthcare organizations have to be more bullish on empathy.

“We need to be much more assertive around the idea that the relationship is paramount, everything we do, be it digital or human processes, requires a bit of guts to say this is in service of my patients the relationship I have with them,” she said.

Reiss pointed out how risk averse hospitals are noted how important patient safety HIPAA compliance are, but explained there’s also a risk at not prioritizing relationships.

“How do we make empathy easier infuse it into digital tools?” she said. “We have a unique opportunity now that everyone knows we can use EHRs to help bolster our empathic capacities. We’ve all learned that sharing computer screens engages patients in a way that really makes them partners in their healthcare.”

She said there’s an “unlimited opportunity to use EHRs to help healthcare workers connect in a way that we share information really tuning into what’s important to the patient.

“What does this person need to see hear to understwhat’s happening to them, how can I convey that information in the most caring connected way?” said Reiss.

Moor noted that a lot of empathic impulses stem from the simple fact of being human doing what you feel is the right thing to do.

“We shouldn’t discount what care really is, which is being with a person who is suffering, if nothing more than to just bear witness to what they’re going through,” he said.

Boissy picked up on that point as well.

“There’s no point in having this brilliant EHR with 800 tabs if it doesn’t help you show up in the room as a human being,” she said. “My job when I’m in that room is to build relationships, not rehash 800 tabs of data.”

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Switzerland’s Digital Health Engagement Institute launches to improve health lifestyle choices

Zurich-based non-profit independent foundation, The Digital Health Engagement Institute (DHEI), has launched its research institute for digital health engagement tools digital health benchmarking.

DHEI has gathered professors experts in the fields of gamification, behavioural science, big data, healthcare data handling with the aim of making digital health accessible beneficial to consumers.


A key area of focus for the institute will be how to motivate both healthy at-risk populations to take ownership be proactive about their health outcomes.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), NCDs currently account for 41 million deaths yearly around the globe, which is equivalent to 71% of all deaths globally.

With NCDs on the rise, the DHEI aims to help tackle this problem through digital health tools – such as digital health engagement platforms, wellbeing apps or lifestyle navigators.

The institute will also investigate into new engagement approaches, to keep users involved with their health long-term

The DHEI’s vision is to be an established institution in research among the fields of digital health engagement technologies wellbeing platforms. It also aims to seek valuable knowledge about how digital health engagement can benefit consumers’ health around the globe.


In recent news, Polish Norwegian scientists health personnel have planned to collaborate on the Polenprosjektet project, an initiative launched to equalise access to health services for impoverished groups in remote areas in Poland.


Peter Ohnemus, founder chair of the DHEI, said: “In my opinion, the most pressing issues to humanity right now are global warming NCD prevalence, hence why we felt the need to create the DHEI. Through the institute, we aim to focus on prevention rather than treatment, since NCDs are largely derived from modifiable lifestyle choices, such as harmful alcohol or nicotine intake, lack of physical activity an unhealthy diet.

“We strive for a world where everybody has access to better health outcomes through digital health engagement platforms. We want to empower everybody to achieve their full health potential.”

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NHS to launch new cervical screening management system

NHSX has announced the launch of a new cloud-based IT system for cervical screening in England.

The initiative has been welcomed by charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, which said it was necessary for the system to track the patient pathway collect the right data to move towards eliminating cervical cancer.

From October the screening service will be moved onto the new NHS Cervical Screening Management System, which is designed to be more secure reliable.

The new system is intended to improve data quality be simpler to use. A new interface will replace outdated technology, making it easier to access use screening participants’ information.

Currently, the cervical screening system uses data from around 80 different databases. The new management system will link into the NHS Personal Demographics Service (PDS) provide a single source of national patient demographic information.

After the launch of the cervical screening management system, NHSX plans to transform the IT system behind other screening services, starting with breast screening in 2022.


There is an urgent need to address screening backlogs following the COVID-19 pandemic. Having a single source of data will help ensure the NHS has up to date details, including address information, reduce potential delays to screening participants receiving important correspondence.

The digital transformation of the screening programme aims to introduce state-of-the-art technology to support NHS screening services achieve the ambitions set out in the 2019 Independent Review of Screening by Professor Sir Mike Richards. These include increasing the uptake of screening making it more personalised targeted.


Meanwhile, a trial is taking place at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge into using artificial intelligence (AI) to diagnose dementia from an MRI brain scan before symptoms develop.

Professor Zoe Kourtzi has devised an algorithm which scans patients’ medical records compares their brain scans to thousands of dementia patients.


Samantha Dixon, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said: “We welcome an urgent long-overdue improvement to the Cervical Screening Management System to make it a more person-centred experience. The IT system was called ‘not fit for purpose’ a decade ago, by the Department of Health, it is women people with a cervix who have felt the impact of this over these years. We need to see a system which can adequately track the patient pathway, collect the right data ultimately bring us closer to our goal of eliminating cervical cancer.”

Dr Simon Eccles, NHSX’s lead for digital transformation of screening, said: “Our top priority throughout is to ensure the clinical safety of screening participants. This is the basis for trust in the NHS. In the short term this has meant weighing our ambitions for the future with the urgent priority to move the cervical screening service onto a more secure reliable IT system.”

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Legislators at HIMSS21 point to telehealth as key pandemic-era tech

Florida Rhode Islaren’t all that similar when it comes to population size or state politics.  

But what they do have in common, said two legislators who co-presented at a HIMSS21 session on Thursday, is a telehealth strategy that proved to be wildly popular among residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

As a multi-decade legislator, Rhode IslRep. Brian Patrick Kennedy, D-District 38, said he thought he’d seen it all – until the pandemic hit.

“We first received word about this back in February 2020,” explained Kennedy, who is speaker pro tempore of the Rhode IslHouse of Representatives. “At the time, they made us aware of this told us there was a potential that we might see the spread of the virus in the United States.”

Rhode Islpivoted to respond – with some initiatives getting more traction than others. Kennedy noted wryly that the “Crush COVID RI” app, aimed at shoring up contact-tracing, was not received with enthusiasm among Rhode Islanders.

“Having the app was a good thing for the state of Rhode Island,” he said. “Was it a successful thing? Since so few people actually downloaded it, I don’t know if there was a great deal of success to it.

“At least there was something available,” he added.  

Telemedicine, on the other hand, was a much bigger hit – something in which Kennedy takes pride. For several years, he said, he fought to get legislation through that would enable telehealth expansion in the state.  

Still, he said, “It took five years, until this pandemic, for it to actually come into full-scale play in the state of Rhode Island.”   

“The big thing that I think came out of this is telehealth,” agreed Florida Sen. Gayle Harrell, R-District 25.  

Although some progress had been made in the last few years to get the ball rolling, Harrell explained that Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order in 2020 expanding virtual-care flexibilities allowed providers to reach patients outside brick-and-mortar clinics.

“It was very productive, especially in the area of behavioral health,” Harrell said. She flagged payment parity audio-only visits as particularly vital elements of the program.  

Because Florida has such a large population of older adults, connecting with clinicians via video chat could have presented a hurdle to care. She cited utilization rates as evidence of telemedicine’s popularity, noting that yearly Medicaid expenditures on telemedicine services jumped from $27 million pre-pandemic to $612 million during the pandemic.  

Visit numbers similarly jumped from 391,000 to 8.7 million, she said.

“Those statistics are just overwhelming, when you look at how important telehealth became,” she said.

Unfortunately, the expiration of DeSantis’ executive order means that many of those telehealth gains may be in jeopardy.   

In response, Harrell said, it will be up to state lawmakers to pass legislation moving forward to safeguard telehealth availability.   

“That is a key lesson learned,” she said.

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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Moderna CEO predicts another 12 to 18 months of coronavirus mutations

LAS VEGAS – When the COVID-19 pandemic first began to set off alarm bells among epidemiologists in late 2019, Moderna had 800 employees. That year, it had made 100,000 doses of product. It planned to launch its first vaccine around 2024.

But when Chief Executive Officer Stéphane Bancel got the call to develop a vaccine against the emerging disease, he felt confident that the company could go from a genetic sequence of the virus to a clinical-grade product in a matter of months.  

“They all thought I was nuts – the funny French guy with the French accent,” Bancel said during a HIMSS21 “view from the top” session on Wednesday, hosted by VMware president Sumit Dhawan.

Fast forward to a now familiar story: millions of Americans have been vaccinated against COVID-19, many of them with the mRNA vaccine that Moderna produced.  

We’re of course not out of the woods. The Delta variant has torn through the world. And although unvaccinated people feel the effects particularly severely, vaccinated people are also experiencing breakthrough infections.

“The virus is never going to go away from the planet,” said Bancel. He guessed that it would continue mutating “a lot” through the summer or the end of 2022.   

“I think there’s another 12 to 18 months of … mutations coming,” he predicted, those mutations could combine. The so-called Beta variant, first identified in South Africa, the Delta variant are likely to do so soon.  

“The good news is the vaccines are working well at preventing hospitalization severe disease,” he said.

Moderna’s team, he said, is working on booster shots tweaking the sequence to try respond to those variants.  

“The next 12 to 18 months are still going to be pretty intense, pretty complicated,” he said. 

After that, he sees a future in which few enough people get infected that the mutation rate slows – that, similar to the flu, people will get a shot every year aimed at protecting them from the most recent variant.  

In fact, one of Moderna’s goals is to create a vaccine that would combat both respiratory illnesses.

In the meantime, he said, it’s important for unvaccinated people to get inoculated, “because the virus is only going to grow more more virulent, more more infectious.”  

Bancel also described initiatives at Moderna to enhance digital capabilities, such as its partnership with a California university to get all employees up to speed on artificial intelligence machine learning.  

“We as leaders in enterprise have to understthat sometimes technology is way ahead of where the human brain is, part of our job is to get people to the place where they can embrace leverage it,” he said.  

Looking ahead, Dhawan noted advances in 5G as a heartening signal of innovation, saying VMware is investing in research development as well as working with telecommunication providers to expconnectivity.   

For his part, Bancel foresees what he called a democratization of healthcare.   

“I believe the pandemic made a lot of people realize that they didn’t know much about [their] health,” he said.

He predicted the development of technology that provides actionable, customized advice to patients based on their individual circumstances.

Even with the challenges posed by the last few years, “It’s an exciting time to be alive … to contribute to science technology to make the world a better place.”

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Email: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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