Tag: health

Humans make better quacks than computers

rubber-duck-robotWhile the tech world gets enthusiastic about computers working out what is wrong with your health, a new study suggests that it is probably better to let a human decide.

There are lots of apps or other symptom based checkers to help self-diagnose diseases. Over the last 20 computer-based checklists and other fail-safe digital apps have been increasingly used to reduce medication errors or streamline infection-prevention protocols.  Yet the first direct comparison shows human doctors outperform digital ones in diagnostic accuracy.

A new study led by researchers at Harvard Medical School show that physicians’ performance is vastly superior and that doctors make a correct diagnosis more than twice as often as 23 commonly used symptom-checker apps.

Diagnostic errors stem from failure to recognize a disease or to do so in a timely manner. Physicians make such errors roughly 10 to 15 percent of the time, researchers say.

In the study, 234 internal medicine physicians were asked to evaluate 45 clinical cases, involving both common and uncommon conditions with varying degrees of severity. For each scenario, physicians had to identify the most likely diagnosis along with two additional possible diagnoses. Each clinical vignette was solved by at least 20 physicians.

The physicians outperformed the symptom-checker apps, listing the correct diagnosis first 72 percent of the time, compared with 34 percent of the time for the digital platforms. Eighty-four percent of clinicians listed the correct diagnosis in the top three possibilities, compared with 51 percent for the digital symptom-checkers.

The sicker you are the more likely the quack will be to spot it over a computer. Ateev Mehrotra, an associate professor of health care policy at HMS said that while the computer programs were clearly inferior to physicians in terms of diagnostic accuracy, it will be critical to study future generations of computer programs that may be more accurate.

Physicians still made mistakes in about 15 percent of cases. Researchers say developing computer-based algorithms to be used in conjunction with human decision-making may help further reduce diagnostic errors.

South Australian hospitals depend on ancient code

Ayers Rock/Uluru in central Australian desert, Northern Territory. 1992.The South Australian Government has warned about patient safety if it is forced to stop using an ancient crucial software system in country hospitals.

The system called CHIRON, is used at 64 country health sites in South Australia, including at the Mount Barker Hospital. It is based on MS-DOS and is so old it can remember when dinosaurs were its first patients.

But CHIRON’s maker, an outfit called Working Systems demanded the State Government stop using it because the licence expired in March last year.

But the  Government said complying would jeopardise patient safety and there would be a material risk to SA Health’s ability to provide an effective health service.

The Government says that without CHIRON hospital staff would not have access to critical information such as patient allergies to medication and there was potential for new patient data being lost or incorrectly recorded.

But Working Systems said that is the government’s fault for not buying new software. CHIRON was updated in 2003, so the government had plenty of time.

Working Systems said that it was impossible to get a licence extension for CHIRON was not possible because it was too old and no longer supported.  In 2014 the Government assured Working Systems it was seeking a replacement.

In fact that system, called EPAS, was dogged by delays, controversy and cost blowouts. It is currently only operating at three sites, including Port Augusta.

A court will decide what the government will have to do and the trial will start in December.


Hackers ransom a hospital for $3.6 million

bankHackers are holding the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Centre for a $3.6 million ransom.

The hackers are demanding a 9,000 Bitcoin ransom to release the “electronic keys” to unlock computers.

So far details are nearly impossible to get.

NBC Los Angeles is reporting that the hospital’s IT network has been crippled and that staff is redirecting emergencies to other hospitals.

Meanwhile staff are using pen and paper to record patient information and a fax to communicate with other departments. Patients need to come in person to the hospital to pick up test results since the email servers are inaccessible.

Computers are not allowed to be turned on, as the managers fear that more workstations will be affected by the incident. The hospital’s Radiation and Oncology departments have been completely shut down.

So far there is no evidence that patient or employee information has been taken but that is just a small blessing.  Still it is America and the hospital could free itself by paying up and selling a few more asperin to make up the cost.

The cloud is elementary, my dear Watson

Dr Watson and Sherlock HolmesIBM is branching into the health business with its Watson technology and has hired the CEO of Philips Healthcare to set up its Watson Health Cloud.

Deborah DiSanzo will run the business for Big Blue and has been given the task of expanding the business globally and look after a number of customers and partners including Johnson & Johnson, Apple, Medtronic, Epic and CVS Health.

IBM said it has expanded its portfolio with Watson Health Cloud for Life Sciences Compliance and Watson Care Manager.

The first of these is aimed biomedical companies to bring medical inventions to market more efficiently using a Cloud compliant infrastructure and applications.

Watson Care Manager integrates capabilities from Watson Health, Apple’s Healthkit and ResearchKit letting researchers use iPhones for a range of purposes.

IBM claimed that Watson has made significant inroads into the market since its introduction five months ago.

Cameron leaves government computers open to hackers

 David-Cameron-at-the-EU-s-007While David “One is an Ordinary Bloke” Cameron is trying to save children from internet perils with censorship he is opening up government computer systems to hackers by starving them for cash on upgrades.

Countless government computers are still using Windows XP under a £5.5 million contract with Microsoft to prevent them getting hacked.  Now it seems that Cameron’s government has decided that it is too expensive to keep paying Microsoft for the upgrades and simply hopes that no hackers will attack the systems.

This is the first time that prayer based security has been attempted in Whitehall and is being seen as cheaper than upgrading the ancient computers.

The government has not renewed its £5.5 million Windows XP support deal with Microsoft despite thousands of computers across Whitehall still running the ancient software, leaving them wide open to cyber-attacks.

The contract was negotiated last year between Microsoft and the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), which is part of the Cabinet Office, to provide one year’s additional support after the general support deadline for XP expired.

To be fair, the CCS made it plain at the time that it would not renew the deal, and urged all departments to ensure that they migrated in time.

Of course they didn’t and many government departments are still in the process of migrating, or are still running Windows XP and risking the inherent security threats.

No one is able to talk about it because everything is shut down with the election.  Microsoft has confirmed that the deal will end on 14 April 2015.

Microsoft will not offer more custom support deals, and the company said that this might be an option for any department still struggling to migrate. It will just have to be for the new government to decide.

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) is currently negotiating a support deal after it was revealed that the organisation still has 35,000 laptops and desktops running XP.

What this suggests is that for all Cameron’s banging on about internet security, and protection, under his watch the security at Whitehall has dropped down the loo, just as his surveillance of ordinary citizens and internet censorship has escalated.

Minister orders review after NHS computer chaos

Health secretary Alex Neil has ordered a review of NHS computer systems after a cock-up in Scotland.

More than 500 appointments and operations were postponed after servers at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde failed.

Over 459 outpatient appointments, 14 inpatient procedures, 43 day cases and 48 chemotherapy treatments were postponed over the last couple of days because doctors, nurses and administration staff were left unable to access vital clinical information, including patients’ records.

Neil told the Scottish Express that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has fixed the “problem with the server” [surely there must be more than one, even in Scotland -ed] and started reloading users back on to the system.

No data was lost and half of the NHS users now have access to the system, and the remainder should have access soon, he said.

Neil promised that there would be a robust review of IT systems and backup systems across the health service.

The problem appears to be in the software. Experts have been despatched from Microsoft and Charteris to “try to get to the root cause of the problem”.

There have been the usual “leaves on the line ” apologies about the inconvenience.

Robert Calderwood, chief executive of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said that the IT problems were “unprecedented”.

He said that, thanks to a lot of hard work from the IT department, the vast majority of the services have been maintained and around 7,400 procedures and appointments planned over the past 36 hours have gone ahead as scheduled.

For example, the vast majority of chemotherapy sessions went ahead although a small number of sessions were postponed.

Labour health spokesperson Neil Findlay warned the situation was “very worrying” because similar IT systems were used across Scotland.

He called for an an independent review of all of IT systems across Scottish health boards. 

IBM bashes its former workers' health scheme

IBM, which at one time looked after its workers from cradle to grave, wants to replace the health plan of retired workers.

IBM retirees will be moved off the health plan due to the rising costs of keeping them on and will be given money to buy their own coverage on a health insurance exchange.

It looks like Biggish Blue is trying to work out a way of saving money and wants to move away from providing the usual health benefits to retirees.

According to the Examinerpart of the problem is that the number of retired suits is increasing and they are living longer. It has been estimated that the figure will triple by 2020 if they stay on the current system.

More than 110,000 retirees who are all eligible for Medicare will be affected and it will also hit prescription drug, dental, vision, and medical coverage.

IBM has been going around telling the retirees the bad news. The company has stated that many of the retirees are “skeptical” about the changes, but that is why they are meeting with them.

It claims that the new plan will actually offer up health benefits at possibly lower costs and some that weren’t even available on the company’s group plans. 

Online snake oil peddlers hit CES

It appears that CES is not immune from digital snake oil peddlers, according to Science blogger Orac.

He was wandering around CES and spotted a booth being run by something called QuantumMAN™, which bills itself as the world’s first downloadable MEDICINE. The word MEDICINE was capped so that users did not confuse it with medicine, which comes from one of those big, nasty pharmaceutical companies.

Apparently all you need to do is buy a Portal Access Key™ (PAK™) and data then transfers from a remote quantum computer to your brain’s neural network for the benefits desired.

QuantumMAN is being peddled by the Zürich Alpine Group which claims to be a private humanitarian medical research group of scientists and physicians working cooperatively. You might not have heard of them because they work very quietly around the world in the quest to improve the quality, efficacy and costs of medical care.

ZAG claims to have found a way to transfer bioinformation from its quantum computer via quantum teleportation to the brain, also a quantum computer, to reprogram the brain to effect positive medical changes within the body and mind.

It has to stay quiet because Big Pharma will crush its technology, appropriating it for its own, and then charge exorbitant sums for it.

At the booth,  ZAG claims to have conducted clinical trials around the world testing its new developments for efficacy and safety. Curiously none of the results of these studies have been published nor seen by other scientists. This is because ZAG thinks that Big Pharma and politics influence the peer review system.

However, after years of testing, it has decided to arrange the creation of a web presence as the venue for the presentation of its numerous products developed from its technology.

QuantumMAN™ can cure malaria, influenza, and the common cold. You can even immunise your kids from becoming addicted to meth by downloading some ZAG programming.

One app called Zaxis™ promises 24 hour pain control and if you are overweight you can even undergo a form of “quantum gastric bypass surgery” by reprogramming your brain.

The idea is so full of holes that it is hard to begin. Not only does it use quantum computing technology which has not been invented yet, but loses so many points on logic it is not funny.

The product in all its purple, black and green glory can be found here.

Orac thinks the idea is so whacko it must be a hoax, but there was too much salesmanship going on, and there was an actual checkout for the store selling the “downloads”.

The blogger was surprised that CES 2013 organisers will rent a booth to anyone.  

Micro machines tipped as future in medicine

A panel of health professionals and MEMS industry specialists today said that if MEMS existed when the audience was growing up, thanks to their potential applications and accuracy, perhaps they wouldn’t have hated going to the doctor’s office so much after that first visit. 

The excitable panel suggested that micro-machine medicine is en route to being very big business, but first, researchers have to find exactly the right way to approach the challenges. Neurologist Francois Berger, M.D.-Ph.D., Director, CEA Leti – Clinatec, said that first and foremost, the biomedical need for MEMS has to be identified. “We realise that we need to interface between technology and medical applications,” he said. “It is important to have early contact with technology companies to define what we need.”

Such are the potential applications of MEMS that, in Berger’s opinion, the technology could become the next major player in the pharmaceutical industry. 

An example is an insulin pump, introduced earlier in the day by Carmelo Papa at STMicroelevtronics, which is accurate to the nanolitre and can be administred remotely. Chris Baten, program manager, 3D ambulatory motion analysis, Roessingh Research and Development, said that diabetes is indicative of a global medical disaster. The pump addresses the problems with diabetes today: it is very easy to treat, but the treatment effects your quality of life. “Quality of life is exactly the limiting factor of treating it today. With that pump,” he said, “it alters the way of living”.

Besides, according to the panel, there is nothing out there which can touch the same level of safety as MEMS devices. Back to the insulin pump there are sensors in the pump which immediately detect errors and raise the alarm, along with other ways to monitor it. Couple that with the nanolitres of precision and it could be argued that the machines are failsafe. “Another area is reliability,” Berger said. “If you speak about medical devices you are speaking about life sustaining devices – in essence, you can’t afford to have the system stopping at any time.”

According to Berger, the next medical trend will be in “electronic medicine.” An example is in Parkinson’s disease. In most cases, when the disease is discovered, the pathogenic cells have already been destroyed, but, he said, with MEMS it is possible to detect the disase early by checking for very early movement disabilities, way before the cells are fully destroyed. Then, also using MEMS to monitor reactions, he would be able to detect the efficacy of the drug along with its side effects. This is important because, during early stages, he claims it is possible to stimulate the brain and have it cause a regenerative effect within the body. MEMS, along the way, “can be there from early detection through to therapy.”

“MEMS is only part of the answer,” the panel agreed. “It’s not just about what’s under the hood, but also how it interacts with the user – the user interface is extremely important. MEMS i the enabler, but to really take effect it has to have proven clinical efficacy, or it will not be introduced into the market.”

And that will bring substantial challenges. Some doctors, according to MEMS industry insiders, are reluctant to adopt new technologies because they can take revenue away from healthcare. On the other side of the fence, the “consumer” of MEMS healthcare might not, in real terms, be overly keen to trust the technologies. But the potential is astounding.

3DS sells for less than Nintendo DSi XL

Thanks to Tesco, you can pick up cutting-edge technology in the Nintendo 3DS for as little as £115, along with a couple packets of Migraleve on your way out.

Amazon has matched the offer. And, reports NowGamer, the price slash means you could potentially pick up a 3DS for just £50 with a DS XL trade in. 

Will it boost sales? We can’t know yet. The 3DS has been plagued with reports of nausea  since launch. Despite GAME’s PR outright denying returns, we know as fact that major electronics retailers were seeing a lot of disgruntled customers bringing their toys back. 

At least the 3DS is still selling at a profit per item. The frankly shoddy sales were what led to the price cut and a red-faced Nintendo boss profusely apologising to existing customers. But the bill of materials for the 3DS is just $100.71, according to analysts at IHS. 

If sales don’t pick up, Nintendo won’t have much choice but to give the 3DS away for next to nothing. But some gamers who don’t have a DS already will be buoyed by the opportunity to pick up one on the cheap in the 3DS, even if they have no interest in using the disastrous 3D slider.

In fact, the cuts mean the 3D device which was supposed to be a flagship handheld is now selling for £65 less than the DSi XL, which Nintendo hoped to oust.