Sharona Hoffman’s picture

By: Sharona Hoffman

Artificial intelligence holds great promise for improving human health by helping doctors make accurate diagnoses and treatment decisions. It can also lead to discrimination that can harm minorities, women, and economically disadvantaged people.

The question is, when healthcare algorithms discriminate, what recourse do people have?

A prominent example of this kind of discrimination is an algorithm used to refer chronically ill patients to programs that care for high-risk patients. A study in 2019 found that the algorithm favored whites over sicker African Americans in selecting patients for these beneficial services. This is because it used past medical expenditures as a proxy for medical needs.

Poverty and difficulty accessing healthcare often prevent African Americans from spending as much money on healthcare as others. The algorithm misinterpreted their low spending as indicating they were healthy, and deprived them of critically needed support.

Dave Klumpe’s picture

By: Dave Klumpe

Recent surveys point to increasing frustration and, frankly, exhaustion among nurses across the country. Although attending to patients during the pandemic has exacerbated the challenges of the profession, nursing shortages have been reported on for well over a decade. It is incumbent on hospitals to do everything they can to ensure that nurses—often referred to as the backbone of our healthcare system—can do their jobs safely and effectively, maximizing their focus on patient care.

Multiple Authors
By: Tinglong Dai, Christopher Tang, Ho-Yin Mak

More than 50 million Americans have received at least one dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna Covid-19 vaccine. So far, Americans have been largely brand-agnostic, but that’s about to change as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine rolls out.

The vaccine been hailed as a game changer. It requires only a single dose rather than two doses spaced weeks apart, and it does not need freezer storage, making it a natural fit for hard-to-reach rural areas and underserved communities with limited access to healthcare and storage facilities.

Anne Trafton’s picture

By: Anne Trafton

In the era of social distancing, using robots for some healthcare interactions is a promising way to reduce in-person contact between healthcare workers and sick patients. However, a key question that needs to be answered is how patients will react to a robot entering the exam room.

Researchers from MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital recently set out to answer that question. In a study performed in the emergency department at Brigham and Women’s, the team found that a large majority of patients reported that interacting with a healthcare provider via a video screen mounted on a robot was similar to an in-person interaction with a healthcare worker.

“We’re actively working on robots that can help provide care to maximize the safety of both the patient and the healthcare workforce,” says Giovanni Traverso, an MIT assistant professor of mechanical engineering, a gastroenterologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the senior author of the study. “The results of this study give us some confidence that people are ready and willing to engage with us on those fronts.”

In a larger online survey conducted nationwide, the researchers also found that a majority of respondents were open to having robots not only assist with patient triage but also perform minor procedures such as taking a nose swab.

Clare Naden’s picture

By: Clare Naden

It’s been about a year since the Covid-19 pandemic turned our world upside down, and that includes the world in which we work. Certainty has hung up its hat, normality looks unlikely to return, and unpredictability is here to stay for the long term. How can organizations manage in this context, and how can employees keep themselves safe while fulfilling their obligations?

Agility and flexibility are the hot new recruits, according to Sally Swingewood and Martin Cottam, manager and chair of ISO/TC 283, ISO’s expert committee on occupational health and safety (OH&S).

The committee recently published ISO/PAS 45005—“Occupational health and safety management—General guidelines for safe working during the Covid-19 pandemic,” a publicly available specification designed to help employers and employees in all areas of work, from one-man bands to multinationals.

Denis Bergeron’s picture

By: Denis Bergeron

From the earliest days of radioactivity research, radiation and cancer therapy have gone together like peas and carrots. But Zach Levine covered peas and carrots in an earlier blog post, so I will focus on radiation and cancer therapy.

Shortly after Wilhelm Röntgen discovered the high-energy electromagnetic radiation he called “X-rays” in 1895, their cell-killing power was recognized and harnessed to treat cancer. Similarly, within a few years of the Curies’ discovery of the radioactive element radium, doctors were deploying the energetic particles it emitted to treat skin cancers. By the 1910s, more powerful X-ray tubes were producing beams that could penetrate deeper into the body to treat all sorts of tumors. This “external beam therapy” was on its way to becoming the standard for radiotherapy, largely supplanting radium-based therapies.

Gleb Tsipursky’s picture

By: Gleb Tsipursky

Stakeholder engagement is one of the more critical aspects of leadership, whether you’re a team leader or a member of a cross-functional team trying to lead team members to focus on quality. Stakeholders can be anyone from your colleagues to suppliers to business partners, and your relationship with them is dynamic and can change over time.

There are many advantages to identifying and getting to know your stakeholders, and even more disadvantages to not engaging with them. Failing to understand their needs can lead to blind spots for managers and executives, which can have disastrous effects, such as low employee morale or a dismal bottom line.

On the other hand, effective engagement can result in increased productivity and stronger financials. We can use research-based strategies to notice such blind spots so we can overcome them.

Clare Naden’s picture

By: Clare Naden

Never have we been more acutely aware of the importance of reliability when it comes to laboratory testing. As the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted, the development of accurate diagnostic tests plays an important role in outbreak management.

Whether a laboratory develops its own test methods or incorporates ones that already exist, there is a lot to be considered, and the task bequeathed to them is great. Apart from the general risks of contamination, inadequate equipment, or failings in processes that must be rigorously managed, the procedures and tools required for each test can potentially differ.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, ISO has been collaborating with experts in many fields to establish where standards can really make a difference. As a result, experts on ISO’s technical committee for laboratory testing and in vitro diagnostic (IVD) test systems are currently working on international best-practice guidelines to assist laboratories.

Multiple Authors
By: Stephen M. Hahn, Amy P. Abernethy

During a short period of time, our society has seen a rapid increase in the interest and availability of cannabidiol (CBD) products and other products derived from cannabis. However, we still have a limited understanding of the safety profile of CBD and many other cannabis-derived compounds, including potential safety risks for people and animals.

At the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, we see these knowledge gaps as an opportunity to develop new ways of building the science to inform public health decisions.

Richard Harpster’s picture

By: Richard Harpster

As someone who has helped companies in a wide variety of industries for the last 30 years solve many problems using risk-based thinking, I cannot think of an issue that I have worked on that is more important than preventing the spread of Covid-19. With three high-risk people in my home, I have spent considerable time studying Covid-19 since February 2020. By applying the risk-based thinking techniques I have used, I believe there is a method for saving 100,000 lives before we get the protection the new vaccines are going to provide during the next three or four months.

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