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What's hindering healthcare IT innovation (and how that can change)

Brian Eastwood | Nov. 12, 2013
No one disputes the healthcare industry's need to apply technology to the patient care process -- or difficulty of doing it. In that vein, the recent Center for Connected Health Symposium examined innovations that could change care delivery as well as the drivers that will help the industry get there.

4. Emotional Sensing: Understanding How Patients Feel
Skydiving brings similar physiological effects to all comers, says Meghan Searl, a research psychologist with the Center for Connected Health - an increased heart rate, a shortness of breath and, well, the feeling that one's dropping from the sky. Some find it exhilarating; others, downright frightening.

Emotional state isn't necessarily "discrete and categorical," Searl says. That's makes emotional sensing an important part of the care process. But it's equally difficult, as so much of what we communicate is unconscious, and as a result represents a "huge burden" of overall healthcare costs.

For years, healthcare has attempted to address emotional state through surveys - but survey takers aren't always honest, and results can be manipulated, says Martin Peddie, founder and chairman of Emotional Sciences Ltd., which makes sentient emotional analysis technology.

Instead, Peddie suggests, let patients talk during the diagnosis process, but keep close tabs on what they say. For example, a teenager diagnosed with high blood pressure may say he worries about whether his new lifestyle will affect his relationships with family and friends. This could point to a risk for depression that a lengthy paper form may not have revealed, he says.

This technology need not be confined to the doctor's office, either. Peter Costello, senior vice president of customer solutions for Cogito Corp., says self-monitoring tools can show patients that they need to change. When the behavioral data systems vendor took part in a pilot project in Boston this spring, he notes, many participants noticed a significant drop in social and physical activity in the days after the Boston Marathon bombing.

What Will Drive Future Healthcare IT Innovation?
So what will drive emotional sensing, analytics, home healthcare, telestroke technology and other healthcare IT innovations? Connected Health Symposium speakers offered these prognostications.

Sensors. Saxon has used sensors to help athletes pinpoint cardiovascular tendencies and military personnel identify who experiences the least stress. She also says she sees potential in automobile sensors, which are already plentiful and could be augmented to, say, monitor a driver's blood pressure using sensors in the steering wheel. External sensors, in particular, are prime for growth, Firlik adds: "As soon as we don't invade the body, we have a lower regulatory barrier."

Social media. YouTube is the most popular "TV network" among 18-34 year olds, Saxon points out, and works well as an educational platform for, say, sharing recipes and diet tips for young diabetes patients. Meanwhile, Saxon's encourages people to post a photo of their heart rate to Instagram, simultaneously offering "another window of experience" for the photo-sharing site and providing an easy-to-access data set.


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