The Trump administration is making a concerted push to make health data more available for patients, and tech companies are rushing in to get a piece of the lucrative field. But with profits comes great responsibility for a lot of personal information. In other health and technology news: what AI can tell from your voice, getting better bedside manner from robots, and a telehealth surge in 2017.
Technology and health-care companies are competing to develop new ways for consumers to corral their digital health data, prompting questions about data privacy and control. Companies such as Apple Inc. and UnitedHealth Group Inc. are rolling out online tools that consumers can use to bring together health information now siloed in the systems of hospitals, doctors and insurers. These personal health records aim to consolidate information like diagnoses and lab results for consumers to access easily via their smartphones or computers. (Mathews, 4/2)
Are you depressed? In danger of a heart attack? Dozing at the wheel of your car? Artificial intelligence promises to figure that out—and more—by listening to your voice. A range of businesses, health-care organizations and government agencies are exploring new systems that can analyze the human voice to determine a person’s emotions, mental and physical health, and even height and weight. (McCormick, 4/1)
The bedside manner of doctors, nurses and other caregivers is getting a boost from an unexpected source: artificial intelligence. Virtual simulations that incorporate AI are making their way into medical training programs across the country, placing caregivers in the role of patients or having them interact in their real-life roles with virtual patients. The simulations aim to help train health-care workers to be more empathetic and improve difficult conversations with patients suffering from a wide range of conditions including Alzheimer’s, cancer and substance addictions. (McConnon, 4/1)
Telehealth use jumped 53% from 2016 to 2017, outpacing all other sites of care, according to a new report. Telehealth utilization grew nearly twice as fast in urban than rural areas over that span, according to a new white paper from Fair Health, which parsed its database of 28 billion commercial insurance claims, the largest repository in the country. National use of urgent-care centers increased 14%, followed by retail clinics at 7% and ambulatory surgery centers at 6%, while emergency department utilization declined 2%. (Kacik, 4/1)