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AHRQ: More Research Needed on Diabetes Self-Management Apps

May 9, 2018
by David Raths
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Of 280 apps identified, only five were shown to improve levels of HbA1c

In a new study, the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) found that few of the commercially available apps to help diabetes patients have been evaluated thoroughly.

The AHRQ report found that only 11 such apps have been researched, and of these, only five were associated with clinically significant improvements in levels of blood sugar control as measured by hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) tests.

AHRQ-funded researchers sought to understand the effectiveness of roughly 280 apps that may be used to support patient self-management of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. In addition to the five shown to improve levels of HbA1c, other apps studied were shown either to reduce episodes of blood sugar levels being too high or too low; reduce low blood sugar episodes while reducing triglyceride levels and improving treatment satisfaction; or improve blood glucose levels, diabetes knowledge and self-care behaviors.

In addition to the care that patients receive from their providers, diabetes patients often rely on mobile apps to improve and maintain their health. Common features of apps for diabetes self-management include the ability to measure HbA1c, as well capabilities to track short-term blood glucose levels, medications, physical activity and weight.

But the study noted that evidence is lacking on the ability of apps for diabetes self-management to improve patients’ quality of life, weight, blood pressure or body mass index, the report concluded.

“Although consumers have access to dozens of apps for diabetes management, only a handful of these technologies have been evaluated,” said AHRQ Director Gopal Khanna, M.B.A., in a prepared statement. “AHRQ’s report helps identify an important area where more research will help us understand how these apps can improve the health of people with diabetes.”

The published studies were relatively short in duration, lasting less than a year. AHRQ said that makes it unclear whether the apps would eventually impact longer-term health outcomes that often complicate diabetes patients’ health.

Researchers also tested the usability of apps and found that patients may have difficulty using some of them. In addition, some have questionable or non-existent privacy policies.

“The apps are only valuable if people can use them,” said Stephanie Chang, M.D., director of AHRQ’s Evidence-based Practice Center Program, in a statement. “Because apps like these are becoming part of everyday life, people should also be aware of who might eventually see their health care data and how it will be used.”

AHRQ’s report was developed through its Evidence-based Practice Center (EPC) Program. EPC reports have informed more than 125 clinical guidelines, health coverage decisions and government policies and programs, and contribute to greater shared decision making between patients and their caregivers.



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LabCorp Joins Apple Health Records Project

November 5, 2018
by Rajiv Leventhal, Managing Editor
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LabCorp, a provider of clinical laboratory and end-to-end drug development services, has announced that it has enabled Apple’s Health Records feature for its patients.

This iPhone feature aims to make it easier for LabCorp patients to access their LabCorp laboratory test results, along with other available medical data from multiple providers, whenever they choose, according to officials.

In January, Apple announced that it would be testing the Health Records feature out with 12 hospitals, inclusive of some of the most prominent healthcare institutions in the U.S. Since that time, more than 100 new organizations have joined the project,  according to Apple.

LabCorp test results are viewable in the Apple Health app for LabCorp patients who have an account with the company, and enable integration with the Health Records app. In addition to their LabCorp test results, patients will have information from participating healthcare institutions organized into one view, covering allergies, medical conditions, immunizations, lab results, medications, procedures and vitals.

Patients will receive notifications when their data is updated, and the Health Records data is encrypted and protected with the user’s iPhone passcode, Touch ID or Face ID, according to officials.

“LabCorp on Health Records will help provide healthcare consumers with a more holistic view of their health. Laboratory test results are central to medical decision making, and broadening access to this information will help patients take charge of their health and wellness, and lead to more informed dialogues between patients and their healthcare providers,” David P. King, chairman and CEO of LabCorp, said in a statement.

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HIMSS Analytics Introduces Infrastructure Adoption Model for Health Systems

October 25, 2018
by Rajiv Leventhal, Managing Editor
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HIMSS Analytics, the research arm of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, announced the introduction of the Infrastructure Adoption Model, or INFRAM, which is designed to measure the technical infrastructure used within a health system.

The INFRAM focuses on five technical subdomains, allowing organizations to benchmark how their infrastructure operates within the following areas: mobility; security; collaboration; transport; and data center.

Similar to HIMSS Analytics’ well-known Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model, or, EMRAM, the INFRAM is an eight-stage model (0 – 7) that allows healthcare IT leaders to map the technology infrastructure capabilities required to reach their facility’s clinical and operational goals, while meeting industry benchmarks and standards.  The final stage, Stage 7, guides organizations towards optimized information integration, contextualization and orchestration essential for the delivery of higher order local and virtualized care processes.

For reference purposes, Stage 0 on the model represents that an organization does not have a VPN, intrusion detection/prevention, security policy, data center or compute architecture. Stage 3 signifies that an organization has an advanced intrusion prevention system, while Stage 5 represents having video on mobile devices, location-based messaging, firewall with advanced malware protection, and real-time scanning of email hyperlinks.

HIMSS officials note that by identifying specific benchmarks for organizations to reach before they go live with EMR, systems, the INFRAM aims to ensure that a health system’s infrastructure is stable, manageable and extensible. Through this, organizations can ideally improve care delivery and create a pathway for infrastructure development tied to business and clinical outcomes.

 “The INFRAM is a welcome addition to our maturity model suite and addresses a longstanding need – guiding healthcare organizations in securely implementing the infrastructure with which their EMRs are built upon,” Blain Newton, executive vice president, HIMSS Analytics, said in a statement. “We have seen health systems engage with advanced clinical applications, only for them to ‘glitch’ under infrastructure that isn't powerful enough to support their tools. With the INFRAM, healthcare providers can develop a detailed, strategic technology plan that defines their organization's current state, desired future state, and each stage in between to achieve their clinical and operational goals.”

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