Here’s what happened in the world of healthcare tech this week.

1. Government auditors say CMS needs better security

If you apply for a plan on Healthcare.gov, you may be at risk of identity theft. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) says that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and Healthcare.gov continue to use an easy-to-breach, knowledge-based verification process.

Currently the agency uses a two-step email security process, but experts argue that these steps only confirm the email used to create an account and not the applicant’s identity. GAO auditors recommend CMS implement other verification processes that provide a higher level of security.

2. Richer regions less likely to trust vaccines

High-income countries have a lower confidence level in vaccines, according a global study from U.K. medical research charity Wellcome Trust. Researchers surveyed over 140,000 people ages 15 and up in more than 140 countries. About 8 in 10 people said vaccines are safe and 9 in 10 said their children have been vaccinated. But only 72 percent of people in North America, 59 percent in Western Europe and 40 percent in Eastern Europe believe vaccines are safe.

“And in some of these regions, greater scientific knowledge or levels of education is actually associated with less confidence in vaccines,” the study reported. “This suggests that putting out more scientific information, or trying to educate more people, will not be enough to change minds on this issue.”

3. Colon cancers spread before detection, study shows

Colon cancer may spread to other tissues throughout the body long before the original tumor is detected. That’s what a study out of Stanford University School of Medicine discovered. The research may help oncologists determine which patients should receive early treatment such as systemic chemotherapy.

“This finding was quite surprising,” said Christina Curtis, assistant professor of medicine and of genetics at Stanford and the study’s lead researcher. “In the majority of metastatic colorectal cancer patients analyzed in this study, the cancer cells had already spread and begun to grow long before the primary tumor was clinically detectable.”

“This indicates that metastatic competence was attained very early after the birth of the cancer. This runs counter to the prevailing assumption that metastasis occurs late in advanced primary tumors and has implications for patient stratification, therapeutic targeting and earlier detection.”

4. Maryland researchers develop risk assessment tool for hospital readmissions

University of Maryland researchers have figured out how to determine which patients are at high risk of hospital readmission. The scientists developed a machine learning model that assesses risk and assigns scores to patients.

Dubbed the Baltimore score (B score), the tool processed thousands of data variables in real time, showed a study published in JAMA Network Open. Experts said the findings could lower readmission rates across the country.

“A significant proportion of readmissions may be preventable with better planning and follow-up for how the patient would transition back into the community,” said Daniel Morgan, associate professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

“If hospitals can better target time and money in planning for discharge to home, then patients may not have to come back to the hospital, with the harm sometimes associated with hospitals, including risks for infection, falls, delirium and other adverse events.”

5. IBM Watson announces top 15 healthcare systems

IBM Watson Health has released its annual study naming the 15 top-performing healthcare systems in the U.S. The study considered publicly available clinical, operational and patient perception of care measures to form a balanced scorecard. Here’s a list of winners:

Large Health Systems (>$1.85 billion)

  • Avera Health, Sioux Falls, S.D.
  • Mayo Foundation, Rochester, Minn.
  • Mercy, Chesterfield, Mo.
  • Luke’s Health System, Boise, Idaho
  • UC Health, Aurora, Colo.

Medium Health Systems ($800 million — $1.85 billion)

  • Edward-Elmhurst Health, Naperville, Ill.
  • HealthPartners, Bloomington, Minn.
  • Mercy Health – Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Parkview Health, Fort Wayne, Ind.
  • TriHealth, Cincinnati, Ohio

Small Health Systems (<$800 million)

  • Asante, Medford, Ore.
  • Aspirus, Wausau, Wis.
  • PIH Health, Whittier, Calif.
  • ProHealth Care, Waukesha, Wis.
  • Spectrum Health Lakeland, St. Joseph, Mich.

 

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