Archive for the ‘Health industry’ Category


Boots teams up to Web MD to provide patient info

In Health industry on October 22, 2009 by Hanna Tagged: ,

This new website from Boots and U.S.-based Web MD uses information from “NHS Choices, BMJ Best Treatments, WebMD and Boots” (NeLM news). Interesting features include a symptom checker and questions to ask your doctor. It has a comprehensive editorial policy covering conflicts of interest and a section explaining how to spot sponsored content (the tension between the two still remaining however, why not just go to NHS Choices?…choice of course…). The health areas it covers are comprehensive, not just minor ailments, primary care issues that you would expect. Perhaps as well as my future were-that-I-had-time-to-do study looking at Pubmed v NHS Evidence v Trip in terms of utility for scoping/systematic searching I’ll widen it to look at the best evidence based consumer health sites, unless this has already been done? This seems to be an expanding market.


Why we must ration health care

In Health industry,Uncategorized on July 21, 2009 by Hanna

Peter Singer, the controversial ethicist based at Princeton University, writing in the New York Times argues for a rational debate about rationing in the face of decisions such as those around cancer drugs such as sutent:

You have advanced kidney cancer. It will kill you, probably in the next year or two. A drug called Sutent slows the spread of the cancer and may give you an extra six months, but at a cost of $54,000. Is a few more months worth that much?

If you can afford it, you probably would pay that much, or more, to live longer, even if your quality of life wasn’t going to be good. But suppose it’s not you with the cancer but a stranger covered by your health-insurance fund. If the insurer provides this man — and everyone else like him — with Sutent, your premiums will increase. Do you still think the drug is a good value? Suppose the treatment cost a million dollars. Would it be worth it then? Ten million? Is there any limit to how much you would want your insurer to pay for a drug that adds six months to someone’s life? If there is any point at which you say, “No, an extra six months isn’t worth that much,” then you think that health care should be rationed.

This debate will run and run


Clinical Reader: Malicious or just stupid?

In Blogging on Blogging,Health industry,Information industry,Web 2.0 & all that,Website reviews on July 14, 2009 by Alan Lovell Tagged: , , , , , ,

I’d never heard of Hanlon’s razor before. Apparently it is an adage that reads “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity”. I rather like that; I’ll have to remember it. It is a nice way to look at the world, as we can all be stupid sometimes. Take for example the new company Clinical Reader. The company has an online product that basically seems to be an RSS reader but that they decide which RSS feeds they’re going to track, not you. I came across it a few days ago as some clinicians were discussing what a good service it was on some mailing list. Well, I thought, that’s clinicians for you. The product didn’t seem bad enough to comment on, but likewise certainly didn’t seem interesting enough to comment on either – at least not from my point of view. So I thought to myself “well, our handsome and fragrant readership will probably come across it soon enough, and they can make their own perfectly balanced minds up about it…”, and left it there.

But today I see another twist on the Clinical Reader story, and what happens when you get involved in social networking tools without really knowing what you’re doing. The thing was that Nicole Dettmar (evidently a fan of The Prisoner) had pointed out in her blog that Clinical Reader were implying that they had been awarded ‘five stars’ by institutions such as the British Library, the NLM, Imperial College, The Lancet etc. She pointed out to them on Twitter than the NLM does not endorse anything, and that they ought to do something about it, and promptly received a reply threatening legal action (I love the use of ‘kindly’):

Twitter response

I mean to say, what a stupid (or malicious) thing to do. Of course everyone picked up on it and they received a barrage of tweets and blog commentary. As of writing they have since backed down, which they should do because they are plainly in the wrong, saying “We are keen to engage the twitter community the tweet made by a junior member of the team was poor judgment”. However the “five stars according to…” graphic remains throughout their site once you get past the first page.

Malicious or stupid? You decide. Either way it doesn’t reflect well on Clinical Reader.


Human slaves…in a robot world

In Health industry on July 10, 2009 by Danielle Tagged: , , , ,

I was reading a very interesting article in the New Scientist about, er, robots, that can detect our emotions. Or ‘machines’, if you prefer (I noticed that the title had been changed to ‘robots’ from ‘machines’, perhaps in a bid to raise eyebrows).

Yes, robots are fun and so are machines, but where is the health connection, you ask. Machines can distinguish between the 6 ‘basic emotions’, fear, disgust, surprise, anger, happiness and sadness, but only if an exaggerated expression is presented to them. (Digression: reading about basic emotions or universal expressions always makes me a little skeptical as different people have different ways of expressing themselves-you’ll find lots of exaggerated smiles in North America, but comparatively few in the UK).

My favourite part: machines have gotten quite skilled at differentiating between real and fake pain in humans.  One study by Littlewort et al saw computers correctly classify pain 88% of the time. Human volunteers got it right 50% of the time-perhaps they were guessing. Will this technology have ramifications for reducing numbers of benefits fraudsters and pill-poppers as well as people trying to separate pain into organic or psychosomatic causes? Oh, and teaching autistic children to correctly identify facial expressions?

I hope so. Although it is easy to see the scarier side of technology like this. Who knows, maybe we’ll all be forced to adopt poker faces in the future to avoid ‘mood profiling’ and targeted advertising.


Using Twitter to track disease outbreaks

In Health industry,social networking,Web 2.0 & all that on July 8, 2009 by Alan Lovell Tagged: , , ,

A few months ago I wrote a short post on Phil Baumann’s 140 healthcare uses for Twitter. Well, Chris Thorman over on Software Advice has written a longer piece on the potential of Twitter for identifying and tracking disease outbreaks in real-time. To get some vaguely reliable data from Twitter, rather than the mess of misinformation with the occasional piece of truth thrown in which is Twitter as of today (oh, cynic that I am), it would  be necessary to have a uniform set of diagnostic codes, “hash tags” and a proper authentication system, e.g. as Chris writes:

“…This adoption by doctors would need include a verification system that only allows trusted or authenticated users to tweet about information contained in the EMRs. What we’re trying to avoid is aggregating a whole mess of data related to a particular disease. Authenticating users to make sure they are who they say they are avoids this problem. With a uniform set of diagnosis codes and a proper authentication system, suddenly the trending data sent out by these verified doctors’ tweets goes from speculative to extremely reliable.”

I do actually think that Twitter or a similar technology could be very useful in tracking the early signs of a condition, or any other “rare event” pattern. In fact I’d be amazed if we weren’t using it this way very soon. What is required however, as always, in some kind of central, trustworthy institution to organise, analyse, study and disseminate the data that comes in, as well as ensuring the diagnoses are correct and not just false positives. That’s the hard part, not some Dr in a clinic in Great Yarmouth tweeting that one of their patients has a sniffle. Anyway, take a look and see what you think. Twitter fans will like it at least. Another step towards world domination.


NHS health records to private sector?

In Health industry on July 7, 2009 by Alan Lovell Tagged: , , , , , ,

Personally, I’d be delighted if the Tories got Google or Microsoft or someone to build the NHS records system. Might actually work. Read the news story on the HSJ here. That nice (?) Mr Cameron also says he will review all quangos should they come into government, including the bloated (did I say bloated?) NICE and Care Quality Commission. Keep the public sector on their toes eh David? Mind you, the opposition always says they’ll get rid of quangos, until they get into office then they just create a whole lot more. Jobs for the boys (and girls).


What will US healthcare reform look like?

In Evidence-Based Medicine,Health industry,How to work better on July 1, 2009 by Hanna Tagged: ,

Fascinating article  in Economist about the United States healthcare system that proves that throwing money at a system doesn’t necessarily relate to either efficiency or quality. They may end adopting compulsory insurance and some form of the QOF to remedy this. Will they set up a US version of NICE? It’s too early to tell although if they do I’d be happy to help…