Tagged: physicians

Apple’s ResearchKit offers scientists access to millions of volunteers


Jeff Williams introduces Apple’s medical research kitReuters/Robert Galbraith

Apple just released ResearchKit, an open-source software tool designed to give scientists a new way to gather information on patients by using their iPhones.

Several top research institutions have already developed applications to work on the ResearchKit platform, including those pursuing clinical studies on asthma, breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. They include Stanford University School of Medicine and Weill Cornell Medical College.

The format will allow users to decide if they want to participate in a study and decide how their data is to be shared with researchers…

The ResearchKit platform is designed to work hand in hand with Apple’s HealthKit software, which allows iPhones to work with health and fitness apps that gather information on weight, blood pressure, glucose levels and asthma inhaler use.

The ResearchKit also allows researchers access to accelerometer, microphone, gyroscope and GPS sensors in the iPhone to gain insight into a patient’s gait, motor impairment, fitness, speech and memory.

The software is also designed to help researchers build more diverse study populations, which traditionally have been limited by physical proximity to large academic medical centres.

My wife teases me – calls me her personal emoticon. And I admit I cried a little when Tim Cook and Jeff Williams were introducing ResearchKit.

The primary cause of my mom’s death was Parkinson’s. She devoted a lot of her life to the American Heart Association. I’ve done some similar things; but, the best was being able to volunteer as a human test subject for one ailment that, right now, still affects millions of people. Shingles. My mom suffered through some painful episodes and it pleased me much to be in the final test cycle of the Shingles vaccine before it was approved.

That was a big deal because it included several thousand volunteers nationwide. With ResearchKit, computational analysis of everything from day-by-day, minute-by-minute tracking of symptoms, response, exercise, a great deal of information previously only available from small groups, narrow demographics – can now be collated from millions of volunteers.

Doctors, researchers, universities worldwide can develop apps to fit their particular needs. And you decide what you wish to participate in – if at all.

You decide whether or not you are anonymous. You decide the boundaries for your participation. Apple sees none of the information. It’s all up to you.

Tim Cook and the designers at Apple feel the potential for this concept is so important — they’re making the SDK open source and developers can proceed on any platform they wish. You won’t have to own Apple products to participate.

Mirror, mirror on the wall – why does our healthcare suck?

Despite having the most costly health system in the world, the United States consistently underperforms on most dimensions of performance, relative to other countries. This report—an update to three earlier editions—includes data from seven countries and incorporates patients’ and physicians’ survey results on care experiences and ratings on dimensions of care. Compared with six other nations—Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom—the U.S. health care system ranks last or next-to-last on five dimensions of a high performance health system: quality, access, efficiency, equity, and healthy lives. Newly enacted health reform legislation in the U.S. will start to address these problems by extending coverage to those without and helping to close gaps in coverage—leading to improved disease management, care coordination, and better outcomes over time…

We hope.

The most notable way the U.S. differs from other countries is the absence of universal health insurance coverage. Health reform legislation recently signed into law by President Barack Obama should begin to improve the affordability of insurance and access to care when fully implemented in 2014. Other nations ensure the accessibility of care through universal health insurance systems and through better ties between patients and the physician practices that serve as their long-term “medical homes.” Without reform, it is not surprising that the U.S. currently underperforms relative to other countries on measures of access to care and equity in health care between populations with above-average and below-average incomes.

But even when access and equity measures are not considered, the U.S. ranks behind most of the other countries on most measures. With the inclusion of primary care physician survey data in the analysis, it is apparent that the U.S. is lagging in adoption of national policies that promote primary care, quality improvement, and information technology…

For all countries, responses indicate room for improvement. Yet, the other six countries spend considerably less on health care per person and as a percent of gross domestic product than does the United States. These findings indicate that, from the perspectives of both physicians and patients, the U.S. health care system could do much better in achieving value for the nation’s substantial investment in health.

No surprise to anyone who cares enough about healthcare to spend time working at improvements.

Then, there are the politicians, egregious conservatives and fools who feel that they’re well enough taken care of – and the rest of the country can drop dead. Literally.

Absent understanding, they have no realization of the fact that making better healthcare for all – also improves the likelihood of individual existing care improving as well.

Canadian doctors move to include euthanasia as appropriate care

With great caution, the Quebec College of Physicians is prepared to cross the line on the controversial debate over euthanasia and propose that it be included “as part of the appropriate care in certain particular circumstances.”

After examining the issue for three years, the College’s task force on ethics concluded that Quebec society has evolved to the point where it could tolerate euthanasia in specific circumstances. The task force’s recommendation will likely be part of a “reflection” document the College will release next fall, hoping that a public debate on the issue will pressure the federal government to eventually amend the criminal code.

“We are being very cautious in our approach,” said the College’s secretary, Yves Robert. “Avoiding the debate contributes to the general hypocrisy around this issue. To say that it doesn’t happen because it is illegal is completely stupid. … We have to stop hiding our head in the sand,” Dr. Robert said.

Anyone out there think Americans will stop hiding their collective heads in the sand? Will the bible-thumping crowd ever consider quality of life and death as something beyond their compendium of 14th Century rulebooks?

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