News

Pandemics Are the Mother of Invention

Many believe that the Allies won WWII in large part because of how industry in the U.S. geared up to produce fantastic amounts of weapons and other war materials. It took some time for businesses to retool and get production lines flowing, during which the Axis powers made frightening advances, but once they did it was only a matter of time until the Allies would prevail. Similarly, COVID-19 is making scary inroads around the world, while businesses are still gearing up to produce the number of ventilators, personal protective equipment (PPE), tests, and other badly needed supplies. COVID-19 is currently outnumbering these efforts, but eventually we'll get the necessary equipment in the needed amounts. Eventually. What intrigues me, though, is how people are innovating, inventing new solutions to the shortages we face. I want to highlight a few of these:

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How open source software is fighting COVID-19

Since the end of January, the [open source] community has contributed to thousands of open source repositories that mention coronavirus or COVID-19. These repositories consist of datasets, models, visualizations, web and mobile applications, and more, and the majority are written in JavaScript and Python. Previously, we shared information about several open hardware makers helping to stop the spread and suffering caused by the coronavirus. Here, we're sharing four (of many) examples of how the open source software community is responding to coronavirus and COVID-19, with the goal of celebrating the creators and the overall impact the open source community is making on the world right now.

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How Laboratories and their Systems can Weather Natural Disasters and Pandemics

We are currently experiencing a global pandemic - which, while perhaps included in disaster preparedness Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) by many labs as a possible disaster, still has caught most the infrastructure and health systems of most nations largely unprepared, and is causing major disruption because it was arguably not seen as one of the most likely events. Disaster preparedness has typically tended to focus on IT and data management risks and/or natural disasters. SOPs center around standard, daily lab safety. The truth is that whatever the odds of a particular disaster, they become 100% once they happen. It's important to have sufficient risk-reduction SOPs in play, and a good Continuity Of Operations Plan (COOP) for each potential scenario to ensure the best chance of coping during the event and recovering afterwards.

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ONC Releases Final Rule on Interoperability: How Might it Affect Public Health?

On March 9, 2020 the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) released its final rule on the 21st Century Cures Act: Interoperability, Information Blocking, and the ONC Health IT Certification Program. Referred to by some people as the "Information Blocking Rule," since this is the primary topic, the document actually covers a host of other issues related to interoperability driven primarily by requirements of the 21st Century Cures Act. In addition to the final rule itself you can read the ONC press release, a comparison between the proposed and final rules, and lots of other resources.

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The Need for Speed - It's Time to Act!

As a society we also need to get moving on the population level as well - and the sooner the better! In his fascinating genomic epidemiology detective work Trevor Bedford conducted based on the COVID-19 research he and his team had done in the Bedford lab in Seattle WA, he concluded that the narrow testing that was done in the Seattle area in the early days of the Coronavirus spread allowed the virus to spread faster. In contrast, the Coronavirus testing-blitz in South Korea appears to keep the death rate lower than it could be. It's time to test! The FDA gave high-tech labs the green light to operate tests before receiving any agency review or authorization and both Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp already announced that they have test in the market. But according to CDC, as of March 8 there were only 1,707 tests performed in the US vs. 189,236 in South Korea.

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Coronavirus and the Recurring Mistake of Fighting the Wrong Wars

What do the coronavirus and Navy ships have in common? For that matter, what do our military spending and our healthcare spending have in common? More than you might think, and it boils down to this: we spend too much for too little, in large part because we tend to always be fighting the wrong wars.I started thinking about this a couple weeks ago due to a WSJ article about the U.S. Navy's "aging and fragmented technology." An internal Navy strategy memo warned that the Navy is "under cyber siege" by foreign adversaries, leaking information "like a sieve." It grimly pointed out...

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DoD Looks for Disaster Response Solutions Through Artificial Intelligence Innovation Competition

An important new trend in the federal sector involves the use of "innovation competitions" to develop Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions for major problems that the agencies face. An ongoing AI innovation competition from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), known as the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Health Outcomes Challenge began in March 2019. While that competition is only open to major consulting firms, the Department of Defense (DoD) was the trendsetter here and has been working on a series of AI competitions that began with the xView competition in March 2018.

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Open Source Governance and the Rise of a New Open Health Movement

It's hard to tell if (or when) new open source foundations will appear and claim a leading role in healthcare. It would be interesting to see one created to scale an existing viable model, such as the one from Oroville Hospital using VistA. Or we could see OSEHRA shifting its focus and expanding its charter beyond just the US government space. Nevertheless, the successful foundation would keep a low barrier to entry for innovators, allowing them to incorporate and scale open source healthcare technologies into commercial products. Time will tell, but what's for certain is that we live in interesting times, and I am looking forward to massive innovation in healthcare in the near future. The time is ripe.

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Using Open Technology To Build a Biodefense Against the Coronavirus

As the number of US cases of the coronavirus rises, how will healthcare professionals be able to tell the difference between which panicked patients with similar symptoms has what? Even if the patient hasn't traveled to Wuhan or China recently, what if they sat at a Starbucks with someone who did? With the incubation time-lag before symptoms appear, who would even know? The challenge of monitoring 330 million people for infectious disease outbreaks is daunting. Take the flu as an example. During the last flu season which, as already discussed, was not as complex as this year's season, approximately 35.5 million Americans had flu symptoms, 16.5 million received medical care, 490,600 were hospitalized and 34,200 died.

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VA Tackles Medical Device Vulnerabilities and Cyberthreats

VA recently signed partnerships with Massachusetts General Hospital and Shepherd University. This collaboration's research will address cybersecurity and compatibility measures needed in devices used for VA patient care. It will also refine existing and emerging cybersecurity standards and practices for network connectable medical devices, medical data systems and other related technology. Beyond VA, the agreements could have a broad impact in standardizing cybersecurity and safety requirements within the larger public health sector. VA is contributing to industry-wide awareness of both medical device vulnerabilities and threats, while applying further tests of the Underwriters Laboratories criteria and other emerging standards.

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