Investors have been eyeing artificial intelligence as the next big thing in healthcare, with billions of dollars pouring into AI-enabled digital health startups in recent years.
But technology has yet to transform medicine as many predicted, Ben and Ruth report.
“Companies come in promising the world and often don’t deliver,” Bob Wachter, head of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told Future Pulse. “When I look for examples of…real AI and machine learning that are really making a difference, they’re pretty rare. It’s pretty disappointing.
Administrators say algorithms from third-party companies often don’t work seamlessly because each health system has its own technology system, so hospitals develop their own in-house AI. But it’s moving slowly – job search shows that health care is lagging in all industries except construction.
The FDA is working on a model to regulate AI, but it’s still in its infancy.
“There is an inherent disconnect between the pace of software development and government regulation of medical devices,” said Kristin Zielinski Duggan, partner at Hogan Lovells.
Questions remain about how regulators can tame the shortcomings of AI, including biases that threaten to exacerbate health inequalities. For instance, a 2019 study found a common algorithm in hospitals that more frequently referred white patients to programs that offered more personalized care than black patients.
And when vendors build their own AI systems, they’re typically not vetted like commercial software, which can potentially allow flaws to go unfixed longer than they otherwise would. Additionally, with data often siled across health systems, the lack of quality data to feed algorithms is another hurdle.
But AI has shown promise in a number of medical specialties, particularly radiology. NYU Langone Health worked with Facebook’s AI research group (FAIR) to develop an AI that allows an MRI to take 15 minutes instead of an hour.
“We removed 80% of the human effort,” said John D. Halamka, president of Mayo Clinic Platform, which has an algorithm in a clinical trial that aims to reduce the lengthy process of developing a plan. surgery to remove complex tumors.
And in another success story, Ochsner Health of Louisiana has developed an AI that detects early signs of sepsis, a life-threatening infection.
Micky Tripathi, national health information technology coordinator for HHS, says AI could look like sports broadcast systems that spit out a team’s odds of winning at some point in the game. In health care, an electronic health record system could give doctors a patient’s risk profile and the actions they might need to take.
“This will go down as one of the most, if not the most important transformative phases in medicine,” said Eric Topol, founder of the Scripps Research Translational Institute. “There is still a lot of heavy work to be done.”
Welcome back to future impulse, where we explore the convergence of healthcare and technology. Tiny blood samples from infants, used to screen for disease, are now also used in criminal investigations accuse their parents! What a world.
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IMPACT OF THE RULE ON ABORTION – More Democrats are backing complementary legislation from Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-California) and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) that would make it harder for companies to share personal data online.
Jacobs is touting his bill, the My Body My Data Act, in response to Nebraska police seizing Facebook messages between a woman and her daughter that allegedly revealed a plan to cause an illegal abortion outside the 20 limit state weeks.
Similar Jacobs and Hirono bills would limit the data companies can collect, protect personal health information not currently covered by HIPAA health privacy law, and give the FTC the power to make enforce the law alongside a private right of action.
Ninety-three representatives have signed, as well as 13 senators. Without GOP support, the bill cannot pass the Senate, but Jacobs encourages state lawmakers to follow its lead in their capitals.
BIDEN SIGNS HEALTH CARE AND CLIMATE ACT — President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed legislation that will allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices in an effort to reduce costs.
Starting in 2026, the legislation allows Medicare to negotiate with manufacturers on 10 high-cost drugs, expanding over the decade. The costs of cancer, HIV and diabetes drugs could be factored into the negotiations, according to SVB Securities.
Biden’s signature caps the biggest Democrat victory since seizing control of both chambers of Congress and the White House in January 2021, POLITICO’s Sarah Ferris and Jordain Carney report.
The drug negotiations took place despite fierce opposition from the pharmaceutical industry, which argued that the legislation would stifle innovation.
Something to watch: Steve Ubl, the chairman of PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry lobby group, said members supporting the bill would not get “a free pass” and that one of PhRMA’s member companies would refuse. 15 drugs if the bill becomes law.
BRUTAL CYBERSECURITY NUMBERS — Nearly 6 in 10 hospital and healthcare system leaders said their organization had experienced at least one cyberattack in the past two years, according to new data from cybersecurity firm Cynerio and cybersecurity research center Ponemon Institute.
The report also notes that the attacks – which cost nearly $10 million on average – often reoccur: Of the victims, 82% were affected by four or more attacks during the period.
And the damage is not only financial – about 1 in 4 cyberattacks resulted in increased mortality by leading to a delay in care, according to the report.
UNITEDHEALTHCARE TELEHEALTH OVERVIEW — The country’s largest health insurer has seen patients turn to telemedicine in a plan called Surest, which gives enrollees pricing up front.
Presented with costs, enrollees choose telemedicine visits 10 times more often than people in typical plans and go to the emergency room or have surgery less frequently.
“When a consumer goes there and looks for [care] …we are able to say, “Hey, did you know the virtual tour offer is zero co-pay?” Alison Richards, CEO of Surest, told Future Pulse. “That’s where we’re seeing this increase in virtual care.”
Many other major insurers offer “virtual-first” plans that push patients toward telemedicine before in-person care.
RACIAL DISPARITIES IN HOSPITAL PROFITS — Revenues and profits per patient are lower in hospitals serving the highest percentage of black Medicare patients.
“US hospital funding effectively places a lower monetary value on the care of black patients,” a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found.
Researchers from UCLA, Johns Hopkins and Harvard Medical School examined the profits of 574 hospitals serving high rates of black patients. Profits were on average $111 lower per patient day in hospitals, and revenues were $283 lower.
“Equalizing reimbursement levels would have required $14 billion in additional payments to hospitals serving black people in 2018, an average of about $26 million per hospital serving black people,” the researchers found. “Health financing reforms should eliminate underpayment of hospitals serving a large portion of black patients.”
TELEREHABILITATION CAN IMPROVE BACK PAIN — Good news for the quarter of Americans who suffer from acute low back pain: it can be treated remotely.
A recent study found that a 12-week telehealth program from a Portuguese company called Sword Health significantly reduced pain, depression, anxiety and productivity in those who took it.
The program, supervised by a physiotherapist, includes a combination of exercise, education and psychotherapy.
Of the approximately 338 people who completed the study, more than half reported a significant reduction in their disability and 61% experienced a decrease in pain.
The problem is that there is no problem: The program does not work for everyone. Some patients with acute lower back pain need more hands-on help, such as massage or spinal manipulation, and digital rehab can’t do that.
OTC HEARING AIDS GET FDA NOD — The FDA has created regulatory guidelines for hearing aids that manufacturers can sell without a prescription, POLITICO’s David Lim reports. Until now, patients needed a prescription.
The change could bring new competition to the hearing aid market. On average, a prescription hearing aid costs around $2,300, although some cost up to $6,000, according to Consumer Affairs.
The rule will go into effect in 60 days. Manufacturers who want to sell existing over-the-counter products will have 240 days to comply with technical requirements and rules to ensure OTC hearing aids are easy to use without the help of a doctor.