REPOST: Virtual Reality Is A Growing Reality In Health Care

The virtual reality (VR) phenomenon is transcending the realms of video games and entertainment as it is now being seen to be just as useful in the health care industry. This Forbes article explains how this is going to be possible:

Pictured here at the Games for Change festival is Kognito’s simulation game. (Photo: Courtesy of Ron Goldman/Kognito)

 

Back to reality … sort of. Recently, I attended the Games for Change Festival at the Parsons School of Design at The New School in New York City. The 14th installment of this annual event that brings together people who make video games to help society, people, and health also included a one-day Virtual Reality (VR) for Change Summit on August 2. And this VR Summit showed just how much of a reality VR for health care is becoming.

 

As Susanna Pollack, President of Games for Change, explained, “The VR portion of the Festival is new. The Games for Change Festival started with 40 or so people in a conference room who realized that video games offer a way to connect with audiences and reach audiences that are tough to reach. Now we have over 1100 people attending.”

 

The festival concluded with a cocktail reception at VR World NYC that included VR games, sushi, and beer…which for some people is the definition of Nirvana.

 

Indeed, the prospect of playing video games to help people may seem sort of like eating healthy molten lava chocolate cake. Combining indulgent fun with health benefits is just desserts for anyone who was told while growing up that playing video games is bad for you. Previously, many gamers have had to argue the indirect benefits of playing such as improving hand eye coordination (as described in this study published in Psychological Science) and problem solving skills while stealing cars (Grand Theft Auto), gathering abnormally large mushrooms (Super Mario Brothers), avoiding a massive gorilla who seems to have an endless supply of barrels (Donkey Kong), or saving the Universe (Halo). Note: the saving the universe argument doesn’t work with parents.

 

But now there are more and more video games explicitly being designed to improve health. For example, I wrote previously for Forbes about how Amblyotech and Ubisoft are introducing Dig Rush to help kids with “lazy eye” or amblyopia. Now, while there isn’t yet a “rush” to develop video games for health (certainly compared to the much larger overall video game market), efforts are growing.

 

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These countries spend the most money on healthcare

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Countries around the world allocate their national budget depending on the demand and priorities of their population.  For instance, among the list of the standard and highly important expenses that government focus on are education, military, infrastructure, and most importantly, healthcare.

Because of the varying needs of these sectors, administrations have to prioritize some over the others. This list gives you the countries with the highest allocated budget on healthcare in the world.

United States

As one of the wealthiest and most culturally diverse countries in the world, the United States’ annual spending on healthcare ranks as the first and top compared to other countries with similar life expectancy, allocating 17.1 percent (based on 2014 data) of the GDP on health services. That’s equivalent to an average of over $9,000 dollars per person. Looking at the data from 1995, there was an increase in budget distribution in 2014 and it can be credited to the Obamacare reforms that opened more opportunities and benefits for healthcare services.

Sweden

Did you know that per 1,000 people in Sweden (based on 2013 data), there were four practicing physicians available? This is thanks to the country’s jump in health spending that has reached 11.9 percent in 2014.  Furthermore, these changes have boosted their population’s life expectancy to 84.7 years (2014).

Switzerland

With 11.7 percent of GDP allocated to healthcare, Switzerland became 2013’s second highest spending country ($6,325 per person) in the world with a life expectancy of 82.9 years. The country has been topping rankings among many others, revealing a 66 percent increase in health expenditure from its 1995 to 2014.

Haiti

According to the 2014 expenditure statistics, Haiti recorded a 13.2 percentage of GDP expenditure per capita—that’s $61.50—and as the World Health Organization (WHO) noted, the country’s annual spending has more than doubled from its 1995 budget of 6.6 percent.

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REPOST: Mark Cuban sees a model for fixing health care — and he didn’t find it in the United States

Can billionaire Mark Cuban’s healthcare structure proposal ‘fix’ the current system? Instead of relying on insurance companies, he suggests using federal funds to boost medical staff numbers and make care more widely accessible. CNBC has the full story:

Billionaire Mark Cuban has proposed scrapping insurance companies from the U.S. health-care system and instead using federal funds to boost medical staff numbers and make care more widely accessible.

In a series of tweets late Sunday, which appeared to advocate parts of the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS), the tech titan and philanthropist weighed in on President Donald Trump’s beleaguered health-care reform agenda, saying that insurance companies were draining U.S. funds with “artificial” and inflated costs.

“Dear politicians. Let me ask a question. If every person in our country had health insurance, would we be any healthier?” Cuban posited in the first in a series of tweets.

He then went on to criticize the U.S. system, which relies on individual health insurance policies, and claimed that eradicating the role of private insurers could reduce costs by 50 percent or more. This would bring the U.S. system closer in line with the U.K.’s NHS or Australia’s Medicare, which are largely state-funded.

“No chance a system where you give an ins (insurance) comp $, then beg them to spend it among limited options is the way to optimize our healthcare,” Cuban insisted.

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Someday, wearable techs are going to save your life

Image source: foxnews.com

 

Wearable technology may sound straight out of science fiction but in recent years, such innovation has gradually become a reality and may even soon become more mainstream. In fact, experts predict that more than 400 million smart wearable devices—worth an incredible $34 billion—will be sold worldwide by the end of the decade. Indeed, the future is here and in the very near future, we’re going to see major changes in systems and processes involved in different sectors and industries—most especially in the medical industry.

So what are the present and possible roles of wearable tech in the medical setting? Let’s start with the most common type of this innovation that any ordinary person can easily access in the market.

 

Technology for the active lifestyle

Image source: one2s.com

 

From smartwatches, smart apparels, and fitness trackers, wearable tech in this category can help you keep track of your fitness levels. These devices easily and perfectly blend in with any fashion style so it’s been popular among active individuals from different walks of life without feeling and looking a little bit ‘nerdy’.

 

Wearable tech for physicians

Image source: smallbiztrends.com

 

Wearable tech’s huge jump from a commercial device to a more medical and expert-oriented tool is what we’re going to expect in the years to come.  In fact, it’s going to change everything about the medical practice and the industry as a whole. Possible features of this future tech include providing doctors and health practitioners with an activity tracker for patients and in turn, the collected data will give physicians a better idea of the overall physical status of patients with all accuracy and honesty.

 

Overall health tracker

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One day, wearable techs will enable medical experts to track the most serious health problems and help keep up with patients suffering from chronic conditions such as heart disease, asthma, diabetes, and other challenging ailments.  In addition, patients will be encouraged to comply with their doctor’s diet and workout instructions.

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REPOST: As You Age, Here’s How To Steer Your Health Care

Is it possible to model one’s healthcare plan after his or her lifestyle and personal preferences? In a person-centered direction, perhaps? Here’s an article from Forbes for some discussion:

 

Say you have a preference about the kind of treatment you want from your doctor. Maybe you dislike the cost, the risk of side effects or just the idea of depending on prescription medications and building your day-to-day routines around them. You want to give priority to alternative treatments like walking, yoga, nutrition or meditation whenever that makes sense.

Or maybe there’s something important in your life — a family event, a sport you want to pursue, a craft — and you want to keep your health issues and your health care from interfering with it if you can.

 

 

How do you make sure that your preferences and priorities get on the agenda with your health care providers? And how do you make sure they stay on the agenda beyond a single office visit?

“You have a right to ask” for that, says Dr. Phyllis Hayes-Reams, chief of the department of geriatrics for Kaiser Permanente of Southern California. Ideas like patient preference and quality of life tend to get linked to end-of-life care, but health care providers “want to move the conversation upstream” she says, to all the years that come before end of life.

 

What You Want Is Person-Centered Care

“It’s the things that aren’t said that cause us to go down the wrong path” sometimes, Hayes-Reams adds. “Most physicians would welcome the opportunity to know what’s important to the patient, because it gives them some guidance.” She acknowledges that time-constrained appointments can make this a challenge on both sides of the conversation.

Dr. Debra Saliba served on an American Geriatrics Society panel a couple years ago that pinned down a definition of person-centered care and the central role that people’s individual preferences and goals should have in shaping their care. In short, the definition said that:

  • providers should ask about a person’s values, goals and preferences
  • they should use that information to guide all aspects of the person’s care
  • and they should do so in a coordinated and collaborative way as a health care team, including coordinating with the patient and other people the patient may want to include in the care relationship.

Saliba, a physician in the Los Angeles Veterans Administration health system, is also director of the University of Southern California Los Angeles/Jewish Home Borun Center for Gerontological Research and the new president of the American Geriatrics Society (AGS). The definition of person-centered care mirrors a focus on quality of life that geriatricians have had for years, she says. But in her field and across the health industry as a whole, there’s still a long way to go before the AGS definition of person-centered care is a reality in patients’ experience of care.

“I think it’s aspirational for the health system,” Saliba says.

 

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Three important medical developments to emerge in the last decade

The health and medical industry is arguably one of the most crucial businesses in the world, not only for its economic importance but more so because of its role in keeping the human race alive. Like food production and power generation, it will never get obsolete but would instead, continue to evolve.

 

For many years, the advancement in technology has led the way to outstanding growths in different fields and industries, not only improving our way of life but also promising new and better things to look forward to in the centuries to come. In fact, several advantages from these developments shaped a better world and their benefits can be seen most especially in how the combination of technological feats and healthcare research revolutionized medicine in the last decade. Let’s discuss some of the most innovative healthcare developments in the past 10 years.

 

3D Printing in medicine

Medical 3D printing is probably one of the most industry-changing technologies of the century. This type of three-dimensional printing initially made headlines because of its innovations in manufacturing and production until its popularity took another spotlight when scientists achieved the impossible and successfully created human organs and simple body parts using 3D printers.

Image source: ibtimes.co.uk

 

Cancer fingerprinting

Another breakthrough in medicine contributed to the necessary development in cancer therapies is through cancer fingerprinting. This approach analyzes the how particular cases of this disease react to specific treatments. According to experts, each cancer case displays a unique identity code and the process of “fingerprinting” can allow medical staff to observe and study the mutated genes of tumors, letting them measure the sensitivity of specific cancers to different types of chemotherapy.

Image source: express.co.uk

 

Synthetic hormones

Heart failure is one of the leading causes of death around the world but recent progress in research related to this disease provided hope for people suffering from serious heart conditions through a new synthetic version of relaxin, the “serelaxin,” a type of hormone that can boost survival rates in patients by 37 percent. This type of treatment can open up blood vessels and have shown anti-inflammatory effects on the human system.   Although several medical trials are still being conducted, this is one of the strongest candidate to finally pave the way to new and advanced avenue of research.

Image source: mymasc.com

 

Truly, we have come so far in our search for a more optimistic and healthier life and these developments will go on to lead a brighter and healthier future for all of humanity.

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REPOST: Why Health Care Is Especially Vulnerable to Ransomware Attacks

When computer savvy is used maliciously, it could spell chaos and data breaches. As with the recent WannaCry ransomware attacks, many organizations—including hospitals—had their systems taken advantage of by amateur hackers, jeopardizing patients’ records and putting the health care industry in major disarray. Read the article below by Sy Mukherjee of Fortune to know why medical systems are especially unprepared to deal with this new class of cyber-criminals:

 

The WannaCry attack has jolted our digital lives. Mark Schiefelbein—AP

 

The ongoing saga of the WannaCry ransomware attack which devastated the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) over the weekend and has already infected hundreds of thousands of computers across the globe reads like a Black Mirror episode set in our very times.

 

A cadre of amateur hackers took advantage of security flaws in widely-used Microsoft operating systems with a technique gleaned from none other than the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA)—and consequently brought a nation’s health system to its knees while throwing patients’ lives into disarray.

 

It’s still too early to gauge the fallout from this digital delinquency. But the breach highlights a stark—and scary—reality about health IT: Outdated medical systems are woefully unprepared to deal with a new class of criminals willing to hold patients’ medical data, credit card numbers, and other personal information hostage barring a big payout. In fact, the FBI has issued several stark warnings about the unique and growing threat ransomware presents to health care companies specifically in the past few months.

 

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Modernizing healthcare: Is blockchain technology the next step?

Interoperability is at the heart of the blockchain technology and for the health care industry, this ability could power a more accessible yet safer way of health information exchange. For instance, taking advantage of this innovation for electronic medical records sharing will not only provide patients with real-time information but also deliver a faster way of data sharing among institutions and healthcare providers.

 

Image source: btcmanager.com

 

The technology could give rise to new health information exchanges (HIE) models that will create more efficient electronic medical records. Although it still in its early stages, here are the potential uses of Blockchain technology that will revolutionize the healthcare industry.

 

  1. Health record management

The technology has the potential to build a less complicated and more updated digital record-keeping system. As a ledger technology, it can promote interoperability, ensuring integrity and privacy for patient records.

 

  1. Patient-centered approach

Patients can have the full control and real-time access to their own medical data so that they can easily share it with other healthcare providers like hospitals, insurance companies as well as laboratories.

 

  1. Secured sharing

With its real-time access and control capabilities, patients can share data to various groups or individuals. Data sharing are pre-approved so that it will only be shared with the patient’s chosen group of individuals or organizations.

 

  1. Cost-efficient

Transferring a patient’s medical records between institutions and healthcare providers will be faster and will cost less. In addition, compliance costs will be reduced and the digital nature of this technology will make auditing easier.

 

Image source: ancapetre.com

 

Blockchain technology has not yet reached its full maturity in its possible applications in other industries and there are still issues that need to be addressed. However, many experts believe that it has the revolutionary potential to transform the health care industry in the future, which can spell a healthcare boom, higher client satisfaction rates, and even increased value of healthcare stocks—the latter a major plus for investors.

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Four digital healthcare startups to watch

 Digitalization has not only encompassed modes of entertainment such as movies and music. It has also made its way into the hospitals and the healthcare system. This has numerous positive implications for the industry. Not only will service delivery become faster, but it will also translate to a more efficient working framework. This is a most welcome change for one of the pitfalls of healthcare is that it is highly cluttered. That’s why the numerous startups that are popping up in this field are something to truly watch out for.

 

Image source: crowdstrike.com  

 

Zocdoc is one of the pioneers in this field. On average, patients struggle just to acquire a doctor’s appointment. Zocdoc wants to solve this problem by giving patients real time access to their healthcare providers through their app. During their early days a few years ago, they were able to raise $15 million.

Force Therapeutics, meanwhile, is drastically improving patient outcomes by giving them direct communication with their doctors. They take it a step further by educating them through video recordings. They mainly deal with patients with musculoskeletal problems.

 

Image source: wsj.net

 

The co-founders of Flatiron Health had a first-hand experience of what it means to fight cancer. That is why they launched their cloud-based startup which mainly focuses on the digitalization of oncology. They were able to raise an incredible $175 million in funding.

StartUp Health on the other hand has made their goals a little bit bigger. In a span of 25 years, they are planning to improve the global healthcare system by elevating the wellbeing of all through their network of Health Transformers.

 

Image source: biznews247.com

 

Many more positive changes in the healthcare industry will happen in the next couple of years or even decades, and most of them will be largely based on technological advancements. Thus far, hundreds of millions of dollars have already been spent to develop apps or tools that could streamline data management within the industry.

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Vigor and vitality: The healthiest cities around the world

According to the World Health Organization, a healthy city is a setting wherein there is continual change in the improvement of the physical and social aspect of the environment which its residents occupy. It will also enable them to mutually support each other in the performance of life activities. Ultimately, a healthy city is a place where the people within it will achieve the best quality of life possible. Naturally, people want to spend their days in a happy and conducive environment, and these healthy cities from all over the world are definitely making the benchmark so high for the others.

Image source: jllrealviews.com

In the United States of America, the title of healthiest city would go to Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Florida. This is based on the Gallup-Healthways’ Community Well-Being Index. When they interviewed the residents of these locations, they were able to find physical, emotional, financial, and social health satisfaction. It certainly is no fluke that they are in the top spot for it is their second year in a row there.

If the US has Naples, then Europe has Copenhagen. It has been dubbed as one of the healthiest cities in the world as proven by its track record. It is an environment which is nearly ‘stress-free’ because only 2 percent of the population are working for 40 hours or more in a week. This translates to residents having more time to do what they want to do, including more time for an active lifestyle.

Moving to Asia, the honor would go to Okinawa. The residents there are so healthy that they are beating the life expectancy average for men and women by a whole decade. It also has the highest concentration of people who are living to be a hundred or more (centenarians). They practice vigorous exercise and a lean diet. That’s why their average body mass index hovers around 18 to 22.

Image source: forksoverknives.com

Among Latin American cities, meanwhile, Havana in Cuba is perhaps the healthiest in the region. The country as a whole has a life expectancy similar to that of the US. Despite being a generally poor city, Cuba has a near-100 percent vaccination rate and health screenings are quite regular. Residents in Havana are taught about proper nutrition, exercise, and first aid from a young age.

In the world’s smallest continent, Melbourne boasts of a quality of quality that is matched only by a few other cities on earth. This Australian metropolis has been named the ‘most livable city in the world’ by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which ranks places based on a number of categories or criteria including healthcare, education, crime rate, and lifestyle. Melbourne is very clean, safe, and hospitable, with a pleasant weather, top-notch infrastructure, and absence of any civil unrest that plague many other urban centers.

Image source: visualresource.com.au

Health and economic performance have direct correlation. Improving the health of a nation’s citizens would most likely translate to economic prosperity because there will be more people in the workforce able to perform effective activities. Policy choices with regard to healthcare should therefore not be taken lightly. Countries with strong health and education conditions may find it easier to achieve sustained growth.

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