BMJ: Symptom checkers get diagnosis right 34 percent of the time on average

By: Jonah Comstock | Jul 13, 2015        

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Sharecare's AskMD.

Sharecare’s AskMD.

Online and mobile symptom checkers like WebMD, AskMD, iTriage, and even offerings from the Mayo Clinic and the UK’s NHS, come up with an accurate diagnosis only about a third of the time, according to a study by Harvard researchers recently published in the British Medical Journal.

Researchers looked at 23 free English-language symptom checkers that either offered patients a diagnosis; triaged a condition into emergency care, non-emergency care, or home-care; or did both. Researchers found that 11 symptom checkers offered both diagnoses and triage advice, eight were diagnoses only, and four provided triage advice only. They ran 45 standardized patient vignettes through each symptom checker and evaluated whether the correct diagnosis was presented as the top choice, in the top three, or in the top 20. They also evaluated whether they triaged the conditions correctly.

On average, symptom checkers listed the correct diagnosis first just 34 percent of the time. They had it listed in the top three 51 percent of the time and listed it in the top 20 just 58 percent of the time. Conditions were triaged correctly 57 percent of the time on average, but the symptom checkers erred on the side of sending patients to the emergency room: 80 percent of vignettes requiring emergency visits were triaged correctly, compared to 55 percent requiring non-emergency care and 33 percent requiring self-care.

“Whether this level of performance for diagnosis and triage we observed is acceptable depends on the standard for comparison,” researchers wrote. “If symptom checkers are seen as a replacement for seeing a physician, they are likely an inferior alternative. It is believed that physicians have a diagnostic accuracy rate of 85 to 90 percent, though in some studies using clinical vignettes, performance was lower. However, in-person physician visits might be the wrong comparison because patients are likely not using symptom checkers to obtain a definitive diagnosis but for quick and accessible guidance.” Keep reading>>


Curely raises $2M for telehealth app that helps physicians answer health questions worldwide

By: Aditi Pai | Jul 13, 2015        

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CurelyNewport Beach, California-based Curely, which has developed a telehealth app that allows patients to ask physicians health and wellness questions, raised $2 million in a round led by Exponential Partners. Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that “GE Health’s” CIO had invested in Curely.

Doctors who communicate with patients through the app, which is available for iOS and Android devices, cannot diagnose conditions or prescribe medication for patients, but will answer other questions related to symptoms, follow-up care, or wellness.

The company argues that because doctors on the app do not diagnose or prescribe meds, they also do not have to comply with regulations and geographical limitations. Curely sees this as a benefit — it currently has nearly 600 board-certified physicians from 17 countries on the app. One of the company’s focus areas is connecting people with doctors in other countries, either because that’s where they are originally from or because of simple language barriers.

“At our core, we believe reliable health care is a fundamental human right, one that transcends political, socio-economic, and physical borders,” Curely CEO Paul Lee said in a statement. “The telehealth industry is projected to grow to $4.5 billion by 2018, and with solutions like Curely, people won’t be forced to wait until their situation is urgent to consult a doctor.”  Keep reading>>

Why Pharma might be especially interested in ResearchKit

By: Jonah Comstock | Jul 13, 2015        

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Apple medical ResearchKitWhen Apple first announced ResearchKit, it was met with a fair amount of skepticism about whether the data collected via smartphones would be robust enough to be useful. But just a few scant months after that announcement, it seems many in healthcare are at least paying attention to the possibilities of smartphone-based data collection in general and ResearchKit in particular.

Last week the National Institutes of Health made it clear they were looking into something along those lines for the White House’s Precision Medicine Initiative. Now Buzzfeed is reporting that at least two pharma companies — GlaxoSmithKline and Purdue Pharmaceuticals — are looking into ResearchKit projects of their own.

GlaxoSmithKline confirmed it was “currently working on integrating (ResearchKit) into clinical trials and planning to start in coming months.” Purdue said that they’re still in the early stages of developing something for the platform.

“We know that all these changes in tech are going to impact health care, but we don’t know exactly how,” Larry Pickett Jr., Purdue’s vice president and chief information officer, told BuzzFeed News. “People have been talking about it for a long time, but haven’t been able to figure out how to leverage that data and take advantage of it. My team views ResearchKit as a very significant milestone in being able to move that capability ahead.”

But a few other pharma companies told Buzzfeed they’re expressly not working with ResearchKit — Gilead Sciences and Pfizer. The latter is particularly interesting, because Pfizer has been one of the leaders in the idea of remote clinical trials. Pfizer’s Head of Clinical Innovation Craig Lipset was on a panel at life sciences conference BIO this year where panelists discussed the importance of novel methods of data collection. Keep reading>>

Survey: Wellness programs helped 46 percent of people with chronic conditions get diagnosed

By: Aditi Pai | Jul 13, 2015        

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HealthMine's app

HealthMine’s app

Some 46 percent of people who were diagnosed with a chronic condition in the last two years discovered their chronic illness through a wellness program, according to a HealthMine survey of 750 adults who were enrolled in employer-sponsored wellness programs. The survey was conducted in April 2015 and fielded by Survey Sampling International (SSI).

HealthMine reported that 28 percent of the survey respondents had been diagnosed with a chronic condition in the past two years.

“Plan sponsors can and do utilize wellness programs to beat the numbers — one member at a time.” HealthMine CEO Bryce Williams said in a statement. “To succeed, wellness programs must enable people to learn their key health facts, and connect individuals to their personal clinical data anytime, anywhere. When consumers and plans are empowered with knowledge, wellness programs can make recommendations meaningful to individuals, and help to prevent and manage chronic disease.”

A majority of respondents said they also want health plan sponsors to offer health screenings. Some 74 percent of respondents said they would participate in vision screenings, 73 percent would complete a blood pressure screening, and 69 percent would participate in a cholesterol screening. Over 50 percent of respondents would also participate in cancer screenings, hearing screenings, BMI screenings, and glucose screenings.

Last month, a HealthMine survey of 1,200 consumers with either self- or employer-sponsored health insurance found that interest in payer-led mobile health initiatives is still fairly low. Although 89 percent of respondents use a smartphone, tablet, or both, only 30 percent of those surveyed said they would participate in a wellness program offered by their insurer or employer that would require them to use a mobile app to track or monitor their health. And only 18 percent said they liked to learn health, wellness, and lifestyle information from a mobile app.

Microsoft to shutter MSN Health & Fitness app, but Microsoft Health app to stay

By: Aditi Pai | Jul 13, 2015        

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MSN Health & FitnessMicrosoft has announced that it will discontinue three of its MSN apps: MSN Health & Fitness, MSN Food and Drink, and MSN Travel, which are available on Windows Phone, Android, and iOS. The shutterings will not affect Microsoft Health, a separate app that connects to the Microsoft Band.

“We regularly evaluate our business to ensure we’re focused on the areas where our users find the most value,” the company said in a statement. “We will continue to support those apps with broad consumer appeal including News, Weather, Sports and Money, which will be made available as apps on Windows 10 and will remain cross platform.”

While Microsoft will shut down MSN Food & Drink and MSN Travel on September 28th, the company will discontinue MSN Health & Fitness on November 1st.

Microsoft first announced MSN Health & Fitness as Bing Health & Fitness in July 2013.

MSN Health & Fitness allows users to browse exercise videos, including yoga and pilates, learn about human anatomy, track their diet, monitor their cardio workouts, access a symptom checker, and learn about medical procedures and drugs. The app also connects to Microsoft’s HealthVault, which brings in data from other health trackers such as blood glucose monitors, electronic scales, and activity and medical monitors.

In October 2014, Microsoft launched another health and fitness app, called Microsoft Health, which connects to the company’s activity tracker, Microsoft Band. The app offers a cloud-based platform that syncs data from not only the Microsoft Band but also other fitness apps including Jawbone, Gold’s Gym, Runkeeper, Under Armour’s MapMyFitness, and MyFitnessPal. The Microsoft Health app also syncs to Microsoft HealthVault as well. Unlike MSN Health and Fitness, Microsoft Health does not track nutrition.

Survey: 79 percent of US hospitals offer patient portal access via an app

By: Aditi Pai | Jul 9, 2015        

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Female Doctor with TabletThe annual Most Wired hospitals report and survey results are out, and they include a bevy of metrics about health IT adoption in the US today.

Some 63 percent of hospitals on the 2015 Most Wired list, which includes US hospitals that have reached a certain level of IT adoption, offer patients self-management tools for chronic conditions, according to a companion survey of 741 representatives from more than 2,213 hospitals in the US.

The survey was sponsored by VMware and fielded between January and March of this year. It was also conducted in partnership with the American Hospital Association’s (AHA) Health Forum and the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME).

The survey also found that 89 percent of Most Wired hospitals offer access to the patient portal through an app. This is significantly higher than last year’s number, when just 58 percent offered this feature. It’s actually not too far off from all hospitals represented in the wider survey. Some 79 percent of all hospitals in the survey offered access to the patient portal through the app, up from 47 percent in 2014. This year, 63 percent of Most Wired hospitals offered secure messaging, compared to 40 percent last year. Some 50 percent of Most Wired hospitals have an app for patients’ personal health records too, up from 32 percent in 2014.

What’s more, around 67 percent of Most Wired hospitals offer a feature to incorporate patient-generated data into their patient portal, and 60 percent offer patient education in multiple languages via the patient portal.