Tag Archive for telehealth

Medical translation figuring in emerging healthcare apps

Every software developer is looking for the “killer” app. With the growing popularity of smartphones and tablets like the iPad, the market for such applications is skyrocketing. Not surprisingly, healthcare is a common focus of these burgeoning tools, and the U.S. government, among others, wants to help spur that innovation.

Just ask Polyglot Systems. The North Carolina-based company (and viaLanguage client!) was just awarded the $5,000 top prize in a federally funded program that invited app developers to compete with each to develop the best health IT apps.

The winning app, chosen from a field of 15 contenders by a panel of health IT industry leaders, provides simplified medication instructions in multiple languages. Called “Meducation,” it retrieves medication lists from electronic health records (EHRs), and then links to a drug information database that provides simplified medication directions in one of several languages.

The contest grew out of a $15 million grant provided by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT through its Strategic Health IT Advanced Research Projects program. Meanwhile, researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School developed Substitutable Medical Applications, Reusable Technologies (SMART), a programming interface to support the development of health-related apps.

It is encouraging to see both the resources and energy devoted to applying technological innovation to improving healthcare. It is doubly encouraging to see that translation needs are figuring in those efforts.

For more on the contest, check out the recent post on the iHealthBeat blog. And congratulations to Polyglot from all of us here at viaLanguage!

Till next time,

Can online communities help drive completion of intervention programs?

People increasingly understand that they must take an active role in their own health and wellness. The industry, meanwhile, knows that prevention is possibly the greatest means for controlling costs. Intervention programs are one tool being looked at to help achieve both aims.

The challenge is that, while effective, in-person programs in which providers are tasked with helping people lose weight or quit smoking can be expensive and inconvenient. They are also limited to the number of people the provider can actually support, not a scalable scenario. Online programs could be a solution.

So far, trials for such web-based alternatives have been promising, but hampered by low completion rates. One recent study found that about 25 percent of participants in a managed trial abandoned, while more than 65 percent quit the free, open-access online program.

The answer, some suggest, may be in online communities. Such environments permit users to communicate with each other, helping sustain inspiration and motivation, while offering them additional forms of content designed to promote program completion.

In another study, this one at the University of Michigan, they tested that premise with a two-tiered online walking program. One group had access to online community content and support. Nearly 80 percent of this group finished. The second group had no access, with nearly 20 percent fewer completing the program.

Questions remain, including how to pay for developing and managing such communities. Ensuring these communities address and support the many languages that make up today’s patient population is another.

Till next time,

Could social media deliver an innovation in how we conduct clinical trials?

Some months ago, the Speaking Healthcare blog explored the increasing popularity of emerging social media as a tool for enabling patients to take a more involved and active role in their own healthcare. PatientsLikeMe.com, which was highlighted in that post, is continuing to blaze that trail.

The site, a healthcare data-sharing platform, recently conducted an online trial in which they sought to assess the clinical benefit of an unapproved therapy for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The study analyzed the relevant discussions on the site and included some 600 participating patients.

The results, recently published on Nature Biotechnology, drew on millions of data points and concluded that there was “no effect of lithium on disease progression.” This confirmed the results earlier found through traditional clinical trials.

The question being asked now is whether such online trials and studies driven by patient social networks can or will be a reliable option going forward. There are obvious upsides to using online communities in clinical research, including speed, access to rare patient populations, and availability of control participants. Clinicians or and even patients could one day run trials. (Read more in a recent Wall Street Journal blog post.)

Social media is transforming how we communicate and stay connected, be it among friends or participants in the “Arab Spring” protests. There is no reason to believe that such technological inroads won’t also impact how we think about healthcare.

Till next time,

Those searching for health-related content online continues to grow

Today, approximately 80 percent of Internet users look to the web for health-related information information. This puts it behind only email and using a search engine as the most common reason for using the Internet.

According to research conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project and the California HealthCare Foundation (CHFC), the number is only growing, with Internet users finding ever more health-related reasons to venture online.

The top five most popular subjects for health-related searches include the following, in order of frequency/popularity:

  • A disease or medical problem: 66%.
    (The top five issues include: shingles, gallbladder, gout, hemorrhoids, and lupus.)
  • A certain medical treatment or procedure: 56%.
    (Common terms include: pain relievers, anti-depressants, high blood pressure medication, corticosteroids, and hysterectomy.)
  • Doctors or other health professionals: 44%.
  • Hospitals or other medical facilities: 36%.
  • Health insurance, including private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid: 33%.
  • The research revealed that those most likely to look to the web for health information are caregivers, women, whites, younger adults, and adults with at least some college education. But that is changing as the rise of wireless mobile devices enables other groups such as young people, Hispanics, and African Americans to increasingly pursue information online.

    Is your web presence prepared to serve these searchers? How about for the growing population of limited English proficient (LSP) patients? If not, it might be time to consult your language services partner.

    Till next time,

Imagine, now your mobile phone could tell you if you have an STD

In a recent post on the Foreign Exchange blog, company president Andres Heuberger provides a roundup of how medical translation has changed over the past 12 years. He points to four principal drivers: regulations, technology, globalization, and measurable quality.

I was reminded last week of the dramatic role the second piece, technology, has had and continues to have on healthcare and medical translation. Consider this recent example: In a story in the British newspaper The Guardian, it was reported that a new test could soon enable sexually transmitted infections (STIs) to be diagnosed using your mobile phone or computer.

True. The innovation, which is hoped will cut the rising rate of STIs in the UK, will operate much like pregnancy testing kits. People simply place a urine or saliva sample onto a computer chip about the size of a typical USB drive and then plug that into their phone or computer. They then receive a diagnosis, identifying whether they’ve contracted one of a range of STIs—and informing them where to go for treatment.

The devices are based on nanotechnology and microfluidics, and are expected to be sold for as little as 50p to £1 (about 80¢ to US$1.50). Like condoms, they are likely to be available in pharmacies, supermarkets, and nightclub and bar vending machines.

Though no mention is made of the language in which the diagnosis is delivered, it seems reasonable to guess that a product of such potentially great benefits won’t be adapted for users of numerous languages. Viva la technology.

Till next time,

How to translate working with communities into giving back to them

At viaLanguage, we like to believe that at its heart medical translation, and in fact all translation, is really about building community. That’s what effective communication makes possible. So, I guess you could say we sort of have a community-minded focus just by virtue of the work we do.

Looking at it this way, it makes sense that we would feel a natural desire to give back. And I wanted to take this post to formally applaud all the people at viaLanguage, and beyond, who find the time and make the effort to do that during the year. Cheers to all of you!

Are you looking for some philanthropic ideas for your company? Here are few organizations and efforts we support:

Humane Society – viaLanguage donates one paid day to each employee to support their favorite non-profit. The company also offers an annual team volunteer opportunity. This year it’s the Humane Society—because pets are also part of the community!
Operation Cornbread – viaLanguage supports Sisters of the Road Café in Portland, Ore., as part of that organization’s annual matching program, Operation Cornbread, which keeps food coming to the needy during the peak summer months.
• Annual Translation Grants – We offer in-kind translation grants for organizations reaching out to limited English proficient (LEP) communities, both Healthcare and K12.
Heifer International – We provide annual support to a needy family by purchasing and donating a cow. Learn more about this unique program in an earlier post.

As the Oregon Lottery once said, though I paraphrase, “Your odds of winning are 550,000 to one—significantly higher than if you don’t play.” And it’s the same with making a difference. Act and you can help.

Good health!

Smart phones becoming a key tool for patients—and medical professionals

If you thought that smart phones were the exclusive province of the technorati and teenagers, a recent whitepaper released by the California Healthcare Foundation suggests that health care is also avidly embracing the new devices.

Entitled “How Smartphones Are Changing Health Care for Consumers and Providers,” the paper illustrates just how eagerly the industry and public are incorporating and using these evolving handheld tools. It also identifies the most important emerging usage trends.

According to the report, two-thirds of physicians and more than 40 percent of American consumers used a smart phone in 2009. Meanwhile, the numbers of phone applications related to health and health care is growing to keep pace. The paper reports that as of February 2010, the Apple AppStore offered about 6,000 apps, 73 percent of which were meant for consumer or patient end-users, 27 percent for health care professionals.

Apps targeted at physicians include the following:
• Alerts
• Medical reference tools
• Diagnostic tools
• Continuing medical education
• Patient records programs

Consumer-oriented apps include:
• Medication compliance
• Mobile and home monitoring
• Home care
• Managing conditions
• Wellness/fitness

While issues like privacy remain to be worked out before the technology is likely to achieve widespread adoption, healthcare professionals and their patients are clearly interested. Might they be right for your practice or organization? To learn more, read the entire California Healthcare Foundation whitepaper.

Good health!

New healthcare technology must respect the needs of LEP audiences

A lot of hope — and money — is being invested in technology as a means for helping promote improved healthcare. Fueled in part by President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), this situation in the U.S. is sure to continue to heat up.

Jacob Goldstein, writing in the Wall Street Journal’s Health Blog, cites a report from DataMonitor in which Intel and General Electric claim that the North American and European markets for just one facet of this effort, “telehealth” and home-health monitoring, are expected to grow from $3 billion in 2009 to some $7.7 billion by 2012.

Part of the goal with telehealth is to enable doctors to monitor their sick patients remotely, so the patients can stay at home. Google and IBM already say that patients can use IBM software to transfer data from medical devices like blood-pressure cuffs and glucose monitors directly to Google’s online personal health record.

The promise for these innovations is truly exciting. Meanwhile, the challenge for technology companies, and the healthcare providers who invest in their tools, will be to ensure that all patients, especially those for whom English is a struggle, also benefit.

Good health!