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Drones, bitcoin, and machine learning: HIMSS18 offers glimpse of healthcare's future

Chris Nerney
Chris Nerney, Contributing Writer |
Drones, bitcoin, and machine learning: HIMSS18 offers glimpse of healthcare's future

What do drones, bitcoin, and machine learning have in common? All are technologies expected to be – or already are – integrated into healthcare in the near future.

Healthcare CIOs attending the CHIME CIO Forum at HIMSS18 in Las Vegas outlined their technology plans and pilot projects to attendees, Healthcare IT News reports.

For example, James W. Brady, Area CIO at Kaiser Permanente, said the Oakland, California-based health system is exploring the use of drones to deliver medical supplies (such as blood) and perform other tasks.

Among the destinations for which drones are particularly suitable are remote areas, critical access hospitals, disaster scenes, and offshore ships with injured or seriously ill passengers, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Swedish researchers last year conducted tests that showed drones carrying defibrillators were able to get to the scene of heart attack victims more quickly than emergency personnel on the ground.    

John Halamka, CIO at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Dean for Technology at Harvard Medical School, told attendees at the CHIME CIO Forum that the Boston medical center is working with tech giants such as Google, Amazon, IBM Watson Health, and Nokia on initiatives ranging from telecare, the Internet of Things, and machine learning.

Machine learning enables applications to analyze data independently and apply the resulting lessons to improve performance. One example is the use of Natural Language Processing algorithms that “learn” a specific individuals speech patterns and accent; over time the algorithm becomes much more accurate in understanding what that person said, thus improving its ability to convert speech to text.

Indeed, Nuance’s Dragon Medical Dictation Software long has been popular among healthcare professionals. Emerging uses of machine learning in the medical field include medical imaging diagnostics, crowdsourced medical data collection, and precision medicine.

Halamka also said Beth Israel is looking at blockchain pilots. Blockchain, which emerged from the world of bitcoin, is a data structure that can be timed-stamped and signed using a private key to prevent digital records tampering. Its use in healthcare is being encouraged by the Office of the National Coordinator for Heath Information Technology (ONC) to address interoperability and security issues.