A roundup of the week’s top healthcare technology news.

1. Hepatitis A cases are rising from coast to coast

Health officials say that Hepatitis A, a highly contagious liver infection, is spreading across the country — and anyone can catch it. Some people with Hepatitis A experience mild symptoms for a few days while others become severely ill for several months. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, joint pain and jaundice.

Hepatitis A is a virus with no cure; the infection must run its course. The good news is that this disease can be prevented with a vaccine. It’s given in two doses six months apart.

2. LED lights: helpful or harmful to health?

Consumers love LED lights. Scientists, not so much. According to recent studies, LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, can cause permanent damage to the retina and raise the risk for age-related macular degeneration. LEDs also emit short-wave, high-energy blue light that disrupt sleep.

There’s good news and bad news associated with the research. First, the bad news: LEDs light up our favorite screens from cell phones to televisions. What would we do without our technology!? Here’s the good news —more tests need to be done, so don’t ditch your tablets just yet.

“Thus far, there is no true, strong study to show either way that it is harmful or beneficial,” said Rishi Singh, MD, a Cleveland Clinic ophthalmologist. ”We haven’t had a marker of structural damage to the retina from these lighting technologies. So right now, we can’t recommend that people stop using them.”

3. What consumers want from their healthcare experience

Consumers are looking for a simple and affordable healthcare experience according to Kevin Ronneberg, MD, Vice President of Health Initiatives at HealthPartners. Ronneberg believes health plans can deliver this experience to their members by making healthcare about them. He identified over 30,000 members in need of colon cancer screenings. These individuals also had not engaged with their primary care physicians in a year. HealthPartners mailed them each an at-home FIT test as well as information explaining the importance of this screening and the value of establishing a relationship with a primary care provider. This approach resonated with members, as just over 24% completed the test and returned the kits.

To help create an affordable healthcare experience, HealthPartners launched a pharmacy price transparency tool that provides drug prices at any pharmacy. Consumers can change their pharmacy to pick up a less expensive drug with just the tap of a button. “Communications and plan tools must feel relevant and demonstrate value to the consumer if we wish to gain trust and deliver on our members expectations of a simple and affordable experience,” Ronnenberg told Managed Healthcare Executive.

4. Healthcare gets hit hard with security breaches in July

As temperatures rose across the country in July, so did the number of security breaches at healthcare organizations. Over 40 hacking incidents exposed the health data of 22 million people. That’s the second highest number of healthcare breaches since 2010, when the Department of Health and Human Services began recording security violations.

The July incidents occurred at a wide range of healthcare organizations from benefit plans and a diagnostic lab to hospitals and a community health center. February 2015 saw the highest health security breach to date when hackers stole private data from close to 80 million Anthem members.

5. Connected MOM connects rural moms-to-be with their providers

Rural moms-to-be may feel disconnected from their OB care team. Ochsner Health System in New Orleans is doing something about it. Ochsner offers its Connected MOM (Maternity Online Monitoring) digital program for free to expectant moms. The tool sends blood pressure readings, urine protein test results and weekly weights to each patient’s care team. While the American College of Obstetricians recommends 12 to 14 pre-natal visits for low-risk pregnancies, Connected MOM eliminates the need for at least three office visits For a pregnant woman who lives over an hour from her provider, three less visits saves time and money.

“Digital health programs have an opportunity to create access in areas where there isn’t always access,” said Aimee Quirk, Chief Executive Officer of innovationOcshner, the health system’s technology lab. “This is a really powerful way to help address some of the access issues and disparities we see.”

 

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