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From AI doctors to 3D X-rays, the future of healthcare is already here

A health check of the world today may seem gloomy – antibiotics are failing, people are dying of easily treatable diseases because they’re poor, and conditions such as dementia are on the rise. The scientists, researchers, investors and startups at the Francis Crick Institute in London were only too aware of the challenges – here’s what we learned.

Femtech needs to get more intelligent

Women account for almost 50 per cent of the world’s population, but women’s health technology hasn’t updated for years – however, Tania Boler, CEO of London- and Berlin-based start-up Elvie, argued that’s about to change. “We are witnessing three big trends,” she told the room. “The big feminist surge, the tech revolution in connected devices and the paradigm shift towards individuals taking charge of their own health.”

Two years ago Boler launched a discrete, mobile-connected, medical-grade silicone pod that helps new mothers – half of whom suffer post-natal pelvic prolapses – strengthen their pelvic floor muscles. Boler has just signed an agreement to supply the devices to the NHS – “Investors finally realise femtech is a huge opportunity,” she said.

Governments must see healthcare as an investment

Governments need to look at healthcare spending in economic not just social terms, Botswana’s minister for health and wellness Dorcas Makgato told the room. The huge African country with a tiny population (2.3m) provided free treatment for every citizen with HIV/AIDS. As a result, Botswana is on course to be free of HIV/AIDS deaths by 2030. “Twenty five per cent of our people had the virus,” she explained. “We had to divert most of our resources to HIV – it was the best investment we ever made.”

We need to use nature’s defences to fight disease

Medicines are of limited use and have too many side effects, Bruce Levine from the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies argued – so it’s time to use nature to treat disease. Levine uses chimeric antigen receptor-modified T cells – a patient’s own white blood cells modified by a disabled form of the HIV virus – to identify and attack cancer cells. “Three patients we treated in 2010 had between 1.3 and 3.5 kg of leukaemia killed by their own T cells,” he told delegates. “We’re seeing patients given three to nine months to live being free of cancer six years later.” With FDA approval for his “bag of cells” granted last August, the next step is tackling solid cancers – a much harder target.

Simba Gill, CEO of Evelo Biosciences, is using gut microbes instead of T cells. “We’ve spent hundreds of years trying to destroy microbes and only now realised they are part of us,” he explained. Gill converts microbes into a white powder that’s taken orally – where they interact with the immune system through the gut-body network, shutting down inflammation. He has isolated different microbes to treat different diseases and is running ten trials on diseases such as melanoma, colorectal and renal cancer, arthritis and inflamed bowel disease. He expects clinical results in the next 12-18 months.

Both have work ahead but, Levine pointed out, “There are three stages to a scientific revolution: 1) You’re crazy; 2) It’s possible but not worth it; 3) I knew it was a good idea all along.”

Diagnosing blindness needs to get easier

Curing blindness is easy and cheap, according to Andrew Bastawrous, co-founder and CEO of Peek Vision, a social enterprise owned by registered charity The Peek Vision Foundation. “It’s diagnosing that’s hard and expensive,” he says. Smartphones may have the answer.

“In schools in the developing world, three children in every 40 are dealing with poor vision and blindness,” he told the crowd of investors, scientists and CEOs. “But no one knows which kids suffer from it, and it’s costly to test everyone in distant rural schools.”

Peek’s smartphone app aims to overcome that problem – offering an optician-style eye test and back-of-the-eye scan that’s so simple that teachers can use it. He’s working on
a hearing test – but, he warned, governments need to step up and
join in to keep this sustainable.

Doctors will be helped by AI

The world needs high-quality healthcare just as it’s running out of doctors, warned Ada Health co-founder Claire Novorol – but AI can help. “In India and China, doctors have two minutes per patient,” she told delegates. “In Bangladesh it’s 43 seconds.” Her solution is Ada – a diagnostic AI built with GPs. It’s human plus machine, she explained. “Doctors are better at patient relationships, but AI has less bias and a better memory.”

Francis Crick Institute researcher Andrew Steele argued that AI’s lack of bias means it’s ideal to answer the dreaded question – how long have I got, doctor? Steele analysed the electronic health records of more than 100,000 patients, checking for diagnosis, prescription and results to arrive at strong prediction models. “Doctors can just press a button, the AI looks at the patient’s health record then spits out immediately – a ten per cent chance of dying in next five years, for instance,” he explained. The next step? Letting AI help prescribe treatment.

3D X-rays will transform surgery

Vascular surgery is so primitive it’s like a mechanic merely guessing which brake pads are worn out on a car, Oxford Heartbeat founder Katerina Spranger told the room. The most common cardiovascular treatment is a stent. While researching her PhD, Spranger watched a surgeon trying to work out which device to use from a 2D X-ray. “It was like they were watching a silent black and white movie,” she explained. Her solution? An image processing 3D visualisation of a patient’s arteries to help choose and deploy the best stent.

Gaming will shake up mental health

Virtual reality is moving into healthcare – and gaming with it can diagnose dementia and help stroke patients recover, said Tej Tadi, founder of Switzerland’s first unicorn, MindMaze. For stroke patients, playing VR games makes physical therapy fun and something they do for them- selves, he explained.

Michael Hornberger, co-creator of the Sea Hero Quest game, showed how players’ spatial perception was measured while playing – with poor spatial perception an early indicator for dementia, it allows diagnosis long before memory loss.

Tadi foresees simple electrodes to decode face movements under headset cameras treating autism, Parkinson’s and cerebral palsy. “It’s time for braintech to take centre stage,” he told the room.

Psychedelics will be taken seriously

Mental illness affects one in four people in the UK, yet mental health makes up just five per cent of research spending, according to Robin Carhart-Harris, head of psychedelic research, Imperial College London. He researches psychedelics as a possible alternative to antidepressants and the results are promising – after a single dose, patients who experienced an emotional breakthrough report benefits for days, weeks and even years. This autumn, Carhart-Harris is crowdfunding a new charity – Global Psychedelic Research – to tackle science elites and fund new studies.

Existing drugs can cure ageing

We could all live until we’re 115 if we start treating the symptoms of ageing, according to Nir Barzilai, director, Institute for Aging Research, Albert Einstein College of Medicine.“Ageing is the strongest risk factor in heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes,” he explained. Barzilai has identified genes that help cardiovascular health and proteins that may protect against ageing. He’s testing 30 drugs – including rapamycin, which increased mice lifespan by 24 per cent in trials. Increasing life expectancy by 2.2 years could save $7.1 trillion (£5.1 billion) in healthcare costs, he argued.

Article source: http://www.wired.co.uk/article/future-of-health-technology-ai-wired-health-2018

What genetic tests from 23andMe, Veritas and Genos really told me about my health

Direct-to-consumer genetic testing first came on the market about a decade ago, but I resisted the temptation to see what health information is hidden in my DNA — until now.

As a molecular biology writer, I’ve been skeptical that the field of genetics is mature enough to accurately predict health (see related article). What finally motivated me to send away my DNA in the mail was the fact that companies are now offering much more genetic information. Is more better? Would an expensive test that deciphered my entire genetic instruction manual, or genome, reveal more about me than more limited tests? That’s what I wanted to find out.

For health testing, I sent spit samples to 23andMe, Genos and Veritas Genetics, three companies that represent the various levels of DNA testing available to consumers. (I did ancestry testing, too; you can read about my experiences with that in June.) These companies all analyze natural spelling variations in the string of letters that make up DNA. Where most people have, say, a “G,” some might have an “A.” Most of these genetic variants are harmless, but some raise the risk for certain diseases.

Genetic testing goes mainstream


This story is part of a multipart series on consumer genetic testing. See the whole series

Where these companies differ is in how much of the genome they assess and whether they look for only a limited set of known variants or can uncover new ones specific to an individual. 

Getting started

The DNA-testing process starts off the same for all of the companies I tried: ordering a kit online. Genos and Veritas both require a doctor to sign off on the test. 23andMe doesn’t, and as a result, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration limits the medical information the company can report. My doctor reluctantly agreed, but only because I was exploring DNA testing as part of my job. She said there was nothing in my personal health records or family history that would normally lead her to order a genetic test.

The kits all contained the same type of saliva-collection tubes. Sample prep was easy — register the kit’s number online, spit in a tube, mail in the sample. I also opted to let each company use my DNA in research studies, which required an extra step of answering a questionnaire about myself.

Within a couple of months, 23andMe and Genos emailed to tell me my results were available online. Because of a technical glitch, it took about seven months to get results from Veritas. The company says the typical wait time is closer to 12 weeks. Veritas also sent a copy of its report to my doctor.

23andMe

screenshot from 23andMe

23andMe uses the oldest technology, called SNP genotype testing. SNPs, short for single nucleotide polymorphisms, are the spelling variations in DNA. For $199, 23andMe examines about 690,000 predetermined SNPs. That may sound like a lot, but it’s only 0.01 percent of the 6 billion DNA letters in the human genome. It’s the genetic equivalent of spot-checking a few letters in each chapter of War and Peace and trying to decipher the plot.

Still, the company can tell you interesting things about some physical and physiological traits, like cleft chins, dimples or the ability to taste bitter flavors. And 23andMe has FDA approval to report on a few health conditions linked to specific genetic variants, such as celiac disease and macular degeneration.

The problem is, the company tests only a small subset of all potential SNPs. Getting a report of “variants not detected” doesn’t mean you don’t have any variants related to a particular medical condition. It just means you don’t have the ones tested for.

On the plus side, 23andMe provides clear explanations of what it does and doesn’t test for, and lists other factors that contribute to disease risk. In fact, 23andMe does a far better job than Genos or Veritas of explaining what having specific genetic variants means.

Genos

screen capture of Genos genetic test

screen capture of Genos genetic test

screen capture of Genos genetic test

Genos offers broader testing, for $499. It reads, or “sequences,” every letter in a person’s protein-producing genes. By deciphering this Cliffs Notes version of the genome, called the exome, Genos can theoretically find genetic changes that are unique to an individual, though the significance of these finds for health isn’t always clear.

Compared with the other two services, Genos gave me the most data but the least useful information. The company found 44,225 variants in my exome and showed me how many are on each chromosome. But Genos provided information for just 4,294 of them because those variants are in ClinVar, the publicly available database that Genos draws information from.

And even for these variants, Genos gave few details — like how common the variants are and whether they change one of my proteins. The company offered almost no interpretation of what the variants mean for my health, other than to classify how harmful they might be: pathogenic, likely pathogenic, likely benign, benign or unknown significance. Most frustrating, Genos didn’t tell me which diseases these variants are associated with. I would need to explore the scientific literature myself to figure this out. So for most people, Genos’ report wouldn’t be that useful.

The company did, however, have more to say about how my variants influence a variety of my traits, such as hair and eye color, freckling, several characteristics of my ears and my ability to smell cut grass, roses and sweat. Genos also reports how genetics can affect a few behavioral characteristics, such as a tendency to overeat and the propensity to worry.

Veritas Genetics


screenshot from Veritas

Finally, Veritas charged $999 to read nearly every letter in my genome, including portions in between genes that regulate gene activity and parts containing noncoding RNAs, which do a variety of cellular jobs. Those sections between genes are proving to be lush territory for discovering health risks.

Not surprisingly, Veritas gave me the most wide-ranging report. For instance, only Veritas shared “pharmacogenomic” information — how my genetic variants could influence how certain drugs affect me. The list of drugs my genes may or may not play well with is long. I take only one drug on the list, but I’m glad to have all of this information in case it becomes relevant in the future.

While Veritas has nearly the entirety of my genetic information in its data banks, the company told me surprisingly little. Turns out, I’m just not that interesting, genetically speaking. The company screened more than 40,000 genes (including the noncoding RNAs) but found no big health risks — at least, none that scientists can reliably predict today.

The company did cover a more extensive list of physical and physiological traits than either Genos or 23andMe did. Veritas’ focus is on medically relevant information, though, so the traits tended to be practical: for instance, how prone someone might be to tendon injuries, how muscles would respond to exercise, and how one’s genes might affect blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Final assessment

One thing I discovered from all this testing is that the companies don’t necessarily tell you everything they find in your DNA. Veritas, for instance, sometimes doesn’t report certain information that it doesn’t consider medically relevant. But that decision could have medical consequences.

I learned from 23andMe, for example, that I carry a variant linked to hemochromatosis, a disorder in which excess iron in the blood can build up and damage organs. My variant is unlikely to cause me harm, but it could be a problem for any future children if they also inherited a different harmful variant of the gene from their father. So that’s useful information to have if planning a family. (And indeed, my husband carries this variant, though the odds of us having a child with this disorder are still low.) My Veritas report did not mention the variant. When I checked with the company, Veritas said it chose not to report this variant because of its low likelihood of causing me trouble. But I would prefer to have that information.

Overall, none of these genetic testing companies give you complete information about your health and genetics. Veritas may give you the most bang for your health care dollar, but its report is definitely not as user-friendly as 23andMe’s. Unless you’re a hard-core genetics nerd like me, Genos in its current form could be a frustrating experience.

Before you decide to get your DNA tested for medical reasons, talk to a genetic counselor to see which level of sequencing best suits your needs. If testing uncovers something worrisome, the result should be confirmed by a doctor. Keep in mind that genetics is an inexact science. Someday it will be better. If you can wait for that day, you may have a more satisfying experience. If you just can’t wait, take the results with a grain of salt and keep an open mind. As scientists learn more, interpretations may change.

Which test is right for you?

Here’s how the companies compare.

*Not typical

Editor’s note: This story was updated May 22, 2018 to correct the illustration of DNA in the image at the top of the page.

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Article source: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/review-genetic-tests-23andme-veritas-genos-health-comparison

The Surprising Link Between Procrastination and Threats to Your Health


We all know the negative consequences of procrastination firsthand; we wait too long to start a project, or delay that important phone call, then end up feeling more pressure than we would had we started things sooner.

Related: 11 Ways to Beat Procrastination

All of us do this from time to time, and, according to research by Joseph Ferrari, about 20 percent of us are what’s known as “chronic procrastinators,” frequently and intentionally delaying work on projects with no gain other than to temporarily delay the inevitable.

In school, we’re taught not to procrastinate because the practice leaves us less time and more pressure, and those issues certainly aren’t good. But, later in life, the consequences of procrastination might go even further than we realize.

The correlation with heart health

Research by Fuschia Sirois, from Bishop’s University in Quebec, suggests that trait procrastination (the tendency to regularly delay  important tasks) is correlated with both hypertension and cardiovascular disease. The correlation exists even when researchers control for variables like age, race, education level and personality factors.

The procrastination habit itself may not directly cause hypertension or damage to your heart, but it’s correlated with other factors that could influence your health:

  • Stress. It’s no secret that procrastination is a major source of stress. People most often procrastinate on their most stressful tasks as a strategy to cope with that stress. But in turn, they prolong the time they spend thinking and worrying about those tasks, thereby increasing the amount of time that they feel stress. In addition, they leave themselves with less time to finish the task, and feel even more stressed than just doing it would prompt.
  • Behavioral disengagement. Sirois’s study also noted the tendency for participants to demonstrate behavioral disengagement; in other words, they procrastinate as a way to distance themselves from a given problem. It’s a coping strategy, and not a healthy one, so chronic procrastinators aren’t able to manage their stress effectively.
  • Self-blame. Procrastinators also tend to feel bad after procrastinating, understanding that this is a bad habit and knowing they’ve put themselves in a difficult situation. But that self-blame can make them even more stressed.
  • Health procrastination. Chronic procrastinators, it’s also worth noting, are also likely to delay health-related tasks; they might avoid seeing the doctor until their health problems are more obvious (and more difficult to correct), or might delay starting a new diet or exercise program because of the perceived discomfort. Those delays leave them in even worse health, and allow years of damage to accrue unabated.

The bright side

Though procrastination’s health consequences are impossible to ignore, it’s not fair to cast all instances in a negative light. For example, one study from the Journal of Social Psychology noted two distinct types of procrastinators: active and passive.

Related: 6 Steps to Go from Procrastinating to Productive

Passive procrastinators delay tasks until absolutely necessary because they find themselves unable to summon the discipline to do them sooner. Active procrastinators intentionally decide to delay their work as a time-management strategy.

As you might suspect, while active procrastinators spend the same amount of time procrastinating, they display a more productive use of time and more adaptive coping skills.

Overcoming procrastination

So, what can you do to overcome procrastination in your own life?

1. Become an active, rather than passive, procrastinator. Instead of allowing procrastination to manifest in your life, make an active decision to procrastinate. Take charge of your delay, and deliberately choose a time to deal with the problem.

2. Think about why you’re procrastinating. If you feel like putting a task off until tomorrow, ask yourself why. Are you doing this because it’s going to genuinely make the task easier to deal with, or just because you don’t want to deal with it now? Recognizing these influences can help you make more logical decisions.

3. Manage your self-blame. If you do procrastinate — and almost all of us do from time to time—avoid the tendency to blame yourself, and try not to feel too guilty. Procrastination happens to all of us, and your lack of action doesn’t have to haunt you the rest of your week.

4. Set tighter deadlines. You could also try setting stricter deadlines for yourself, so you don’t have as much time to fill with procrastination. Unfortunately, self-imposed deadlines won’t do you much good, so you may need to ask a supervisor, coworker or friend to help you stay accountable to your new deadlines.

Procrastination is something that has and will continue to affect all of us from time to time, but it doesn’t have to control your life — nor do you have to let it affect your health.

Related: 4 Reasons People Procrastinate and a Cure for Each One

Understanding the consequences of procrastination, and fighting back against the habits that make you more susceptible to it will keep you productive and in better overall health.

Article source: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/313644

Georgia Tech’s innovative new police HQ aims to boost health and wellness

Add another innovating building proposal to Georgia Tech’s roster.

The Midtown school’s police department has outgrown its headquarters, and the replacement office has been designed to boost health and wellness, according to Saporta Report.

Blueprints for the department’s new digs, to be developed at the corner of 10th Street and Hemphill Avenue, were sketched in compliance with the relatively new WELL Building Standard—made to improve the health and well-being of its projects’ occupants.

The new structure will replace Tech’s Campus Safety Building, the current police headquarters at 879 Hemphill Avenue, and will offer more meeting space than its predecessor.

The campus police department’s new home will feature “lighting systems that protect the circadian rhythm—so sleep is less disrupted—interior designs and artwork that calm the mind, and air handling systems that reduce air pollutants and airborne germs, according to a list of WELL standards,” per a press release.

In some ways, the WELL standards are more stringent than Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) regulations. Its air quality qualifications, for instance, are tighter than LEED’s.

Among its few WELL-certified projects, Atlanta’s highest-ranking development is Holder Construction’s 52,000-square-foot office in Cumberland.

Georgia Tech’s current police department is slated to be leveled and replaced with green space as part of the school’s Eco-Commons project.

The plot that will host the police department’s new offices is being assessed and is expected to be primed for summer construction.

The building is slated for a quick spring 2019 opening.

Article source: https://atlanta.curbed.com/atlanta-development/2018/5/21/17374978/georgia-tech-atlanta-police-health-and-wellness

Talking Grievances And Health Care, An Outsider Kentucky Dem Found The Inside Track

Yet as McGrath’s national profile grew after her first ad, she remained relatively unknown and perhaps even a little suspect to Kentucky voters. A native of Edgewood in northern Kentucky, she’d never lived in the central part of the state and had only relocated to the district in June, upon retiring from the U.S. Naval Academy. 

(Gray attempted to punch back on this point in the race’s closing days, releasing an ad that hit McGrath for only recently moving to Kentucky. But groups like VoteVets, a nonprofit that promotes veteran candidates and their issues, have slammed the ad as an attempt to “swift-boat” McGrath’s campaign.)

Even before Gray entered the race, Nickolas, who had managed former Rep. Ben Chandler’s (D) successful 6th District campaign in 2004, outlined an aggressive retail politicking strategy to get McGrath in front of voters ― not just on TV, but in their homes, churches, billboards and mailboxes.

Nickolas ― who thought he was out of politics for good until Chandler urged him to meet with McGrath ― said he was instantly swayed by her grasp of the issues and the realities of politics, which she had honed during stints working for Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) in Congress during her time in the military. Most of all, he was impressed by her passion, and he banked on his belief that if they had to chance to meet her, Kentucky voters would feel the same.

McGrath, meanwhile, purchased ad space in every local newspaper in the district and published an editorial detailing why she had chosen to run now, in 2018, and here, in central Kentucky. She piggybacked off the popularity of the initial ad, which gained her thousands of social media followers, to hold QA’s with voters in the district that were broadcast on Facebook. She hit all 19 counties in her first few months in the race, stumping across the region and spending hours, even days, in areas that had once been reliable Democratic strongholds but have trended red for more than a decade.

In a district where Democrats still hold a registration advantage, she has pushed the message that the national party has abandoned its voters here. “The Democrats here feel left behind by the national party,” she said. “The national party, to them, is Washington D.C. They don’t have the same values. They’re led by San Francisco and New York. They don’t see leaders from here or the Midwest. And they’re focused on the wrong things.”

Article source: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/kentucky-democratic-primary-amy-mcgrath_us_5b033c22e4b07309e05b6212

Strong Earnings Season Boost Home Health Stocks

The market values of some of the biggest home health companies ticked in April, thanks in part to positive earnings results at the start of the year.

The Home Health Index, managed by Stoneridge Partners, has long tracked the market value of three of the largest home health companies. Previously, three companies comprised the index: Almost Family, [NASDAQ: AFAM] LHC Group (NASDAQ: LHC)  and Amedisys (NASDAQ: AMED).

Following the mega-merger between LHC Group and Almost Family at the beginning of April, the HHI now consists of two companies: LHC Group and Amedisys. Almost Family is no longer traded as an individual stock.

Lafayette, Louisiana-based LHC Group stock jumped 20.9% in April. Year-to-date, stock is up 21.5%. Following the completion of its merger, LHC Group is now the second-largest home health care company in the nation, with approximately 775 locations and an annual revenue of $2 billion. Even after its mega-merer,  the company shows no signs of slowing down on its mergers and acquisitions activity.

During the company’s recent first quarter earnings call, CEO Keith Meyers stated his organization has a pipeline of 24 ongoing discussions with health systems and hospitals. These discussions revolve around forming home health joint ventures.

As the only other company in the HHI, Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based Amedisys also saw stock prices rebound by 9.3%. The company revealed during its first quarter earnings call that Q1 2018 saw its margins increase to their highest levels since 2015. Amedisys stock, year-to-date, is up 25.2%.

As April ended, the HHI was up 18.4% as a result of removing Almost Family and recalculating the index. The uptick is a stark difference from March, when the HHI declined 2.7%. Compared to this point in 2017, the HHI is up 24.4%. And it wasn’t just home health stocks that bounced back in April — the SP 500 slightly rose 0.9%.

Both company’s strong first quarter earnings were likely boosted by a proposal from the Centers for Medicare Medicaid Services. At the start of April, CMS announced that non-skilled in-home care supports will be allowed as a supplemental benefit for Medicare Advantage plans, starting in 2019. Large home health care providers view Medicare Advantage as a growing opportunity.

“On top of the completion of a major transaction that changed the face of the home health care industry, the news from CMS definitely helped companies overcome a turbulent March,” said Stoneridge Partners President Rich Tinsley. “And with strong first quarter earnings, the coming months may be even better for home health companies.”

Also of note, Frisco, Texas-based Addus HomeCare (NASDAQ: ADUS) also posted positive gains. At the end of April, Addus stock rose 7.19%, and year-to-date, it’s up nearly 50%. While Addus is a major personal care services provider, it’s not part of the HHI, as little of its revenue is from Medicare.

Erik Prado on EmailErik Prado on LinkedinErik Prado

Article source: https://homehealthcarenews.com/2018/05/strong-earnings-season-boost-home-health-stocks/

Australian ​Department of Health using blockchain for medical research records

The Australian Department of Health is working on a proof of concept that uses blockchain to record who is accessing its medical data.

Teaming up with secure cloud provider Vault Systems to host the data, and local startup Agile Digital for its distributed ledger technology, the department is exploring blockchain as means to prove who is accessing medical data, why they’re accessing it, and to securely record research queries.

Must read: My Health Record secondary data must stay in Australia and not be used for ‘solely commercial’ reasons

Speaking with ZDNet about the project, Agile Digital executive director David Elliot said the department was seeking a platform that supports research on health data, while maintaining privacy on citizen data.

“They dually want to make that [data] available for health researchers, because in the huge trove of data, there could be cures for cancer, or at least indicate in that direction,” Elliot said.

Elliot said Agile Digital spoke with department director Lindsay Barton about solutions, and came up with one using the Vault Secure Cloud.

“Given we’ve now got the ability to securely store data within Vault Cloud … we could leave the data in place, expose the metadata — that the department can offer for research — expose that metadata out, and provide a laboratory or a data science toolkit to the internet, so researchers can see it,” he continued.

“The secret sauce is that if a researcher submits an experiment against that data, we take that query, through a data diode, down deep into the Vault datacentre, execute the query … pull back that answer to that query, for the researcher, but not ever expose the data itself.

“Given its public access, we take the query the researcher ran — which is their experiment and essentially their intellectual property — and we notarise that query using blockchain, so if that researcher is to publish their findings, they can very easily pull up all their sequence of queries which is demonstrable from the blockchain, it’s immutable, and prove their chain of evidence … or prove their hypothesis.”

The second benefit, Elliot explained, is that younger researchers can see what queries are being run by more senior researchers and then build upon those themselves in a more “collaborative” way.

Vault Systems, alongside fellow local cloud provider Sliced Tech, were the first to receive certification from the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) in in March last year, allowing the local duo to store highly classified government information in their respective cloud platforms.

According to Elliot, the project Health is undertaking is only possible thanks to the ASD certification.

Read also: Commonwealth pushes public cloud by default | Vault Systems opens cloud academy to government IT staff | Vault Systems to host Australia’s digital identity solution

“It’s a Venn diagram of secure cloud and blockchain to really make health research really power up in Australia,” Elliot explained. “It’s always possible that there could be malicious activity to try and extract data or de-anonymise data, but ensuring that everything is being notarised on a public blockchain … if somebody was to be ‘playing silly buggers’, the blockchain is going to make that very clear.”

Vault Systems CEO Rupert Price told ZDNet his company has taken the same security controls required for storing secret, top secret, and protected-level information and applied it to the blockchain project.

“The key thing is the collaboration of the two technologies providing that highly secure environment so the government can store sensitive data in there and then the blockchain technology enabling people to create value out of that without risking the security of that data,” Price explained.

Both Price and Elliot praised the federal government for its enthusiasm in testing technology like blockchain.

“We must give credit to Lindsay — the public sector has a lot of pressures around what they can do and what risks they can take, and how they can spend public money, so it’s tough to get change champions out of the public sector,” Elliot said.

Internal researchers are currently playing with the proof of concept, but it’s not yet been exposed to universities as yet, as it will require a significant amount of pen-testing first. The department is also currently using Teradata technology to mine its data and run queries.

“We’re talking with the DTA — the Digital Transformation Agency — about where else we can stand this up,” Elliot added.

Speaking at the CeBIT Australia conference in Sydney on Wednesday, DTA acting CEO Randall Brugeaud said the government was toying with the idea of using blockchain for Centrelink welfare payment delivery.

“Our plan is to look for use cases across the Commonwealth with an initial focus on the welfare payment delivery system, then working with our digital service standard, we’ll conduct user research with a view to having a prototype by the end of next financial year,” he explained.

Elliot said his team immediately reached out to the DTA following the revelation to see how Agile Digital could assist the government with a distributed ledger solution for welfare payments.

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Blockchain is already impacting companies across the finance, healthcare, and food industries. Here’s how.

Article source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/australian-department-of-health-using-blockchain-for-medical-research-records/

What Barbershops Can Teach About Delivering Health Care

The more recent study went further, removing physicians almost entirely from the process. The control group consisted of barbers who encouraged lifestyle modification or referred customers with high blood pressure to physicians. In the intervention group, barbers screened patients, then handed them off to pharmacists who met with customers in the barbershops. They treated patients with medications and lifestyle changes according to set protocols, then updated physicians on what they had done.

The results were impressive. Six months into the trial, systolic blood pressure (the higher of the two blood pressure measures) in the control group had dropped about 9 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury) to 145.4, which is still high.

In the intervention group, though, blood pressure had dropped 27 mm Hg to 125.8, which is close to “normal.” If we define the goal of blood pressure management to be less than 130/80, more than 63 percent of the intervention group achieved it, compared with less than 12 percent of the control group.

It gets better. The rate of cohort retention — measuring how many of the patients remained plugged into the study and care throughout the entire process — was 95 percent.

The barbershop customers were part of a population that is traditionally hard to reach. More than half of participants lived in households earning less than $50,000 a year, and more than 40 percent in households earning less than $25,000. On average, they were overweight or obese, about a third smoked, and more than a fifth had diabetes. Yet the improvement in blood pressure was more than three times that of the average of previous pharmacist-based interventions seeking to improve blood pressure, and many of those had focused on populations easier to reach.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/21/upshot/what-barbershops-can-teach-about-delivering-health-care.html

How job strain may impair mental health

A new study suggests that up to 14 percent of common mental health issues could be prevented by reducing job strain in the workplace.

Experiencing a high level of pressure at work can seriously impact your mental health, suggests a new study.

Mental health problems are more common than we might think.

The National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) estimate that 16.2 million people in the United States have experienced major depression at least once in the past year.

Depression is considered the leading cause of workplace absenteeism in the U.S., as well as the leading cause of disability worldwide.

Anxiety is another common mental health problem. Over 19 percent of the entire U.S. population is estimated to have had an anxiety disorder in the past year.

Some studies have suggested that job strain is the leading cause of stress in the U.S., but could the intensity of a high-pressured work environment lead to common mental health issues such as anxiety and depression?

A new study, published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry, asks precisely this. The research — led by associate professor Samuel Harvey, from the Black Dog Institute in Sydney, Australia — examines the impact of job strain, defined as a combination of low job control and high job demands, on mental health.

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High job strain puts mental health at risk

Harvey and colleagues analyzed data available on 6,870 people enrolled in the United Kingdom National Child Development Study, a large cohort study.

The researchers focused on whether people who experienced a high level of job strain at the age of 45 would go on to develop mental health issues by age 50.

To determine job strain, the participants answered questions about their decision-making abilities at work and their ability to use their skills at their discretion, as well as questions about the workload, work pace, and other demands of the job.

Harvey and his colleagues accounted for potential factors outside of the workplace that might have influenced the results, such as marital separation, financial stress, a death in the family, or health issues.

The participants’ IQs, education, and history of mental health issues were also considered. At age 50, the participants’ mental health was assessed using the Malaise Inventory questionnaire.

Overall, by the age of 50, the study participants who had experienced higher job strain were up to 14 percent more likely to develop a common form of mental illness.

“The results indicate that if we were able to eliminate job strain situations in the workplace, up to 14 percent of cases of common mental illness could be avoided,” explains Harvey.

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Workers need to feel in control

Harvey further weighs in on the study, saying, “These findings serve as a wakeup call for the role workplace initiatives should play in our efforts to curb the rising costs of mental disorders.”

“It’s important to remember that for most people, being in work is a good thing for their mental health,” he goes on to say.

“But,” Harvey continues, “this research provides strong evidence that organizations can improve employee well-being by modifying their workplaces to make them more mentally healthy.”

“Workplaces can adopt a range of measures to reduce job strain,” says Harvey, “and finding ways to increase workers’ perceived control of their work is often a good practical first step. This can be achieved,” he goes on to explain, “through initiatives that involve workers in as many decisions as possible.”

Our research attempted to account for the possible reasons an individual’s work conditions could impact their mental health — and this modeling is the most complete ever published.”

Samuel Harvey

Article source: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321825.php

Group therapy turns crisis into mental health success story

AURORA – Few people are willing to publicly share their experiences with mental illness because of the stigma.

However, Robin and Mark Cutright are sharing the struggles and successes of their oldest son Zach to inspire others in crisis to seek help.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and Zach’s story is an example of what can happen with the right kind of help.

“Even though he has high-functioning autism, it was a struggle once the depression hit,” Zach’s mom said. “He couldn’t quite do it on his own.”

She said it started about 16 months ago. Zach’s depression resulted in about 50 emergency room visits and dozens more stops at crisis centers.

“Just major depression where it felt like Groundhog Day,” she said. “Every few days he would just regress backwards and start feeling depressed and not be able to cope.”

When Zach would start to think about taking his own life, he would seek help at an ER.

His family’s health insurance eventually approved treatment in The Medical Center of Aurora’s partial hospitalization program.

Zach spent about five weeks in the program, which uses art therapy, recreational therapy, music therapy, occupational therapy and other kinds of group activity-based therapies.

“I think Zach’s struggle with the autism was really around the kind of social interaction,” Director of Outpatient Services at The Medical Center of Aurora Jeff Johnson said.

“So, having those other outlets for Zach to express himself through music, through the art, through the rec therapy, really helped Zach feel comfortable in the environment that he was in because we didn’t really ask him to process or talk for five hours. We gave him other interventions to be able to express himself.”

Zach had been diagnosed with major depressive disorder and autism.

Johnson said when Zach started the treatment program, he was anxious, nervous and reluctant to have any faith that this program would be any different.

“The first week was awful,” Robin said. “He didn’t want to stay. Finally, after about a week, I could start to see him getting better. It was just amazing. I think part of the problem was that he – that Zach was just not thinking that he needed help. He kept thinking he could do it on his own.”

Johnson said therapy gave Zach the tools, techniques and strategies to manage himself. He learned to cope with negative emotions and uncomfortable feelings by getting outside and being active, listening to music and accepting help from his family.

“I think that’s the ultimate tool in mental health is how do I cope with the challenges that life throws at us, the curve balls, and when we get flipped upside down,” Johnson said. “How do I cope with that in a healthy, productive manner that keeps me moving forward in life.”

Zach’s mom said the program gave him the feeling that he was worth the work and that when he got better, people wanted to be with him.

“I think having a person in your family that has a disability makes for a stronger family, quite honestly,” she said. “And I don’t see it as a burden to our family at all.”

Zach is now able to participate again in trivia night with his dad at a local restaurant once a week, and his mom encourages him to have some sort of daily social interaction. That could be as simple as talking to the cashier at the grocery store or going out to eat.

Article source: https://www.9news.com/article/news/health/group-therapy-turns-crisis-into-mental-health-success-story/73-552868458