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Meet the street medicine team using tech to build trust with unhoused patients
Several weeks ago, I got a chance to ride along with a street medicine team in Los Angeles that checks up on unhoused patients across the city every day. I was struck by how much the patients we visited appeared to trust the Healthcare in Action team, led by physician assistant Robert Finch: So much so, in fact, that many of them opted to wear GPS trackers to help the street medicine team find them in case of emergency or if they’d left their usual dwelling.
I’d assumed that, like a lot of Americans, patients would resist such a device, , citing concerns about privacy or personal rights. Instead, I witnessed several patients gladly accept the trackers, which the Healthcare in Action team assured them were optional and intended only to help the team care for them — never shared with law enforcement or other parties.
For me, the trip was a case study in building trust among a population that often can’t access traditional health care — whether that’s because they don’t have phones, permanent addresses, or transportation, or because of the medical stigma face. The trackers offered them a lifeline to health care they didn’t feel like they could find anywhere else. Read more on how the team uses tech here.
Masimo and Apple face off in patent trial
Today, a federal jury in central California will hear patient monitoring company Masimo‘s claims that Apple stole its trade secrets after hiring away two of Masimo’s executives to build certain models of the Apple Watch, my colleague Lizzy Lawrence tells us. Masimo has also accused Apple of infringing on patents protecting its blood oxygen-sensing technology. The trial will last 10 days, and may feature testimony from Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Masimo scored a win against Apple in January, when a judge with the International Trade Commission ruled that Apple infringed upon Masimo’s pulse oximeter patents. Masimo’s ultimate goal is an import ban on Apple Watches with pulse oximeter sensors. The ITC may finish its investigation into the case later this month. Apple has also been challenged by device company AliveCor, which successfully prompted the ITC to issue an import ban in December. But that ban is suspended until the two companies resolve their patent issues. The ITC has ruled in AliveCor’s favor, but the Patent and Trademark Office has come down on Apple’s side.
How hospitals track your data
Hospitals might promise to protect patients’ sensitive information, but their online presence tells a different story, Casey writes in his analysis of a new study concluding that 99% of them used online data trackers in 2021. Those trackers shared patient information with third parties including big tech companies, data brokers, and even private equity firms.
The ubiquitous use of the tracking tools may clash with the privacy expectations — if not the legal protections — that consumers take for granted as they look for health care and medical information online.
“The scale and scope of this continues to shock me even as I work on this research,” Matthew McCoy, a co-author of the study and assistant professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania, told Casey. “One cannot really access a hospital web site in this country without being exposed to really significant levels of tracking.” Read more here.
Why early assessments of ChatGPT in medicine miss the mark
As STAT continues to gut-check ChatGPT’s potential to transform health care, Casey points out a key shortcoming in our ability to evaluate it: Early testing has only really examined the system’s textbook knowledge, not its ability to make clinicians faster.
“We’re evaluating these technologies the wrong way,” Nigam Shah, a professor of biomedical informatics at Stanford University who led recent research on the topic, told Casey.
“What we should be asking and evaluating is the hybrid construct of the human plus this technology.”
It’s not clear, for instance, whether the technology can actually help humans in messy and complicated medical settings — most experimental uses are instead focused on automating documentation, Casey writes. Read more here.
FDA proposes new plan to streamline AI-based medical device updates
The Food and Drug Administration has a new plan to allow companies selling medical devices that rely on artificial intelligence to automatically update their products, Casey writes. The new draft guidance outlines a process by which these companies could get approvals for modifications in advance.
“If what you’re going to do looks right, we can bless the plan,” Jeffrey Shuren, head of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, told STAT. “Then you can move forward, make those changes as long as you follow the plan and you don’t have to come back to the FDA.” Read more here.
What’s coming up this quarter
Lizzy’s rounded up 13 industry events you’ll want to have on your radar over the next few months, when we’ll be expecting some turbulence as companies either collapse, get acquired or manage to narrowly elbow out competition amid economic uncertainty. Longtime Health IT industry gathering HIMSS is in Chicago later this month, and STAT has our own Breakthrough Summit in May, featuring speakers like Verily’s Stephen Gillettt and CRISPR pioneer Jennifer Doudna. Get the full guide to Q2 here.