Research about baby boomers and their use of consumer health technologies.

Samsung forms partnerships that should matter to health care

Has anybody noticed all the news releases from Samsung lately? It is intriguing to consider the amount of publicity (beyond press releases) that Samsung’s initiatives would get if it were a US company.  Apple and IBM give 5 million iPads to Japanese seniors – and that is big health-related news in the US. When Apple Pay sneezes or their watch manufacturing has issues, it gets big press in the US. It's almost like the tech reporters camp outside the Cupertino headquarters waiting for a sign or smoke signal. But meanwhile, Samsung clearly has business development folks on the ground – and their partnerships keep stacking and stacking – and other than the press releases, little is said except about the global smartphone shipment war, which they are losing some weeks and winning other weeks.  So here are a few announcements that have made it through my alerts – all information is from the press releases and/or articles:

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Health care, insurance and identity theft – bad news

Had your identity stolen lately? Oh well, you probably did. A few months ago, California’s Anthem Blue Cross admitted that someone had stolen 80 million health records, complete with name, address, SS # and more. A certain amount of self-congratulation can be found in its letter to the 80 million: "The information accessed may have included names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, health care ID numbers, home addresses, email addresses, employment information, including income data. We have no reason to believe credit card or banking information was compromised." What a relief. But with the ‘minimal’ data stolen, the thieves got busy and filed for tax refunds from the IRS, which helpfully encourages direct deposit of the refund. TurboTax halted its electronic filing process recently due to likely fraudulent filing. And the IRS, which admits to weak fraud detection tools, will issue refunds as a result of this travesty. 

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Taking stock of tech and health care in the time of HIMSS

Doctors are miserable, patients are in peril.  Well prior to this week’s Health IT fest about the transformative nature of tech innovation, a sober landscape of context had emerged. Last summer, death by medical mistakes had reached an all-time high of 400,000.  Meanwhile, another study verifies that doctors are miserable – and the EHR technology they use is one of misery’s sources. So many articles cover the absurdity of the design and mandated procedures --  not to mention the spectacular price tag --one might have thought doctors would have the power to make it work better. Not so. And of course, you can see this with your own doctor, slogging through multiple EPIC screens, just to a) catch up on your history, and b) prescribe a medication. And after the hospital stay, just when you thought the patient was safely out of the hospital, there’s that understaffed short-stay rehab – growth fueled by Medicare dollars, with one out of five patients harm.

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The 2015 AARP-Pfizer-United Study of Wearables and Boomers

Much press is made about the boom in wearables.  The wearables market is really big, shipping 45.7 million units in 2015, says IDC.  80% of it dominated by… (who knew this was a category?)… “wristwear.”  These are smart wearables or “devices capable of running third-party applications” and will represent 25.7 million of those units, with not-so-smart (aka ‘basic’) accounting for the rest.  So that hedges the smartwatch (aka Apple hoopla) forecast, and while some firms, like Samsung, Motorola, and Pebble had a head start on Apple in the smartwatch space, now we know – even for the Apple-obsessed, maybe it’s a good idea to wait for the next version

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Tech innovators can do this -- create the MRSA contact map

Do you know anyone who has MRSA?  Well, actually, you probably do. One in one hundred people carry the antibiotic-resistant skin infection known as MRSA – though not all develop the symptoms and disease that requires diagnosis and treatment.  MRSA is both highly contagious and highly resistant to antibiotics. It is a nightmare for hospitals and long-term care facilities. Forget the technically self-vindicating distinction of hospital versus community-acquired or the fact that the incidence is dropping in the former, but not the latter. MRSA is a little-discussed issue (except for survivors). But it doesn't just impact elderly and hospitalized patients with weakened immune systems – like long-term care facilities, where staff can inadvertently spread it like wildfire. It is also a vexing problem for the NFL, where the infection has literally been a plague for the past 10 years. And in college sports, where between 8 and 31% are noted to carry MRSA, no doubt passed around, in the locker room before and after games.

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When the media loves a tech brand, is it time for change?

For writers about technology – tech is personal.  Writers believe that their audiences want to know about them and their tech lives. So many reviews and blogs have been penned lately in the first person: ‘My experience trying the latest show’s featured gadget and what this will be like for me in my daily life. I need a watch, I don’t need a watch, I can’t tell time anyway. I look at my phone constantly, why would I want a device that would keep me from looking at my phone? I don’t have any meetings that matter enough to make me wear a watch.’ So here is my personal version to help the library of questionable opinions be more complete.

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The doctor and staff are remotely controlled – literally

Crises drive health innovation. The presumed potential and much-publicized looming shortage of doctors is worrisome – or at least their lopsided geographic distribution is a concern. Or there are not enough medical schools to train new doctors. Or doctors are tired of being doctors.  Or is it the problem of keeping down the cost of actually seeing a doctor or a nurse practitioner? Is it that population health risks drive the need for improved chronic disease management?  Is it that there are or may soon be so many new patients? Or is the problem one of wasting the time of so many human staff in a hospital doing back-breaking and/or mundane tasks?

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Health wearables, health apps – for boomers, what difference does it make?

Apple takes the wind out of wearable health sails.  The health innovation hype-and-hope set just can’t have what they think they want. Unfortunately, Apple’s smart watchmakers couldn’t figure out how to make reliable stress monitors, an electrocardiogram or a blood pressure monitor. And that was even after numerous meetings with the FDA and announcing their ‘moral obligation to do more.’ Uh not now, but maybe later. Now it’s just going to be yet-another me-too Smart Watch for the cool but not stressed out one-of-everything Apple gadget buyers. They already read the Consumer Reports reviews and found those watches wanting and for whom pedometers, and their current app step counters just don’t cut it. So armed with their iPhone and $349, apparently the 11.8 million projected Apple Watch buyers will, uh, buy it anyway.   

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My Fitness Nag: Boomers, apps and devices

Mother is annoyed.  In the lineage of wearable fitness devices I have owned, the motion cookie from Sen.se’s Mother has now been in my pocket for a few days.  It seems like a waste of a maternalistic nudge.  Since Mother (we have nicknamed it “Mrs. 1984”) knows nothing about water aerobics – unlike some others, the sensor isn’t waterproof – the software thinks that I’m slacker. Periodically an email arrives with snide messages like “It’s your call, but you should probably go take a walk.” Or “Come on, take a few more steps, at least it'll seem like you tried...”

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Hearables – hearing technology for boomers and beyond

The numbers are daunting -- must have been those rock bands in the 60s and 70s.  Hearing loss is a big problem among baby boomers -- but their propensity to solve it with hearing aids? Not so much. In 2012, there were 4.5 million of those aged 50-59 with hearing loss, but only 4.5% wearing hearing aids. Hearing aids are associated with the stigma of aging -- but facts are facts. Hearing issues may be attributed to overly loud rock bands from long ago.  Hearing aids are costly and typically not covered by insurance, irritating to wear -- just a few reasons cited by various sources. But those serving the boomer health market, take heed -- once boomers are seniors and take their untreated hearing loss with them into older age ranges, their gait is also impacted, and we know with gait issues comes the risk of falling -- and we know how health risks and costs rise with the frequency and severity of falls. Here are some recent technology introductions that can enhance the ability to hear -- text is from the companies' own material:

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