Digital health news briefs for 1/16/2018

By Jonah Comstock
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Connected thermometers track flu season. Smart thermometer company Kinsa that its flu tracking data is more accurate and more granular than that of the CDC. Kinsa's data -- based on 25,000 readings a day from thermometers in 500,000 households around the country -- suggests that California's flu outbreak is the worst in five years, while the Northeast, including New York and New England, is so far having a relatively mild flu season. The CDC, by contrast, is reporting a more widespread outbreak.

Should in-person care be a last resort? In in the New England Journal of Medicine, Omada CEO Sean Duffy and Dr. Thomas H. Lee, chief medical officer at Press Ganey, argue that medicine needs to move beyond video visits as an additive, supplementary avenue of care. Instead, the system should be radically redesigned to provide the most usable and convenient care for patients, even if that means in-person visits are reduced drastically. The future of medicine, the authors say, could even be an information technology-like ticket system that allows providers and patients to collaboratively manage patients' health.

"A patient could open an app, file a 'need,' answer a few tailored questions, and receive immediate guidance," Duffy and Lee write. "The case would be 'closed' only when the patient’s need was resolved — which would be an improvement on the traditional model of care. The provider system would be rewarded for solving the problem, not simply documenting activity."

More Amazon health hints. Amazon has posted a job offer for a HIPAA expert, . The posting suggests that Amazon will be signing more business associate agreements in the future, meaning it will be dealing with patient data. There are a number of possible reasons for this, but it might have to do with Amazon's voice assistant Alexa, which could potentially add even more healthcare applications if hospitals and vendors were more confident in its HIPAA compliance.

Cigna taps Catasys for behavioral health management. Cigna will implement Catasys's OnTrak system with plans to go to market this quarter. Catasys uses data analytics to identify population members who have a behavioral health condition but are avoiding treatment. The company then reaches out to those individuals to engage them in treatment. Cigna is the sixth large health plan to work with Catasys.

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