Digital health news briefs for 12/14/2017

By Dave Muoio
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Another telemedicine player enters. Careington International Corporation, an aggregator of non-insurance discount programs, announced that it will be launching a telemedicine company in January. DialCare will operate as an affiliate of Careington, and will offer employers, organizations, and consumers 24-7 access to health professionals over the phone or through video chat.

“Telemedicine has become one of the most requested and valuable products among a growing and diverse population,” Justin Hajek, director of DialCare Operations, said in a statement. “Our comprehensive telemedicine solution helps to improve access to care when it matters most, and in ways that are the most convenient and meaningful to consumers.”

Mobile counselors. A recent New York Times video feature outlined the strategies and technology behind Crisis Text Line, a group that engages individuals at risk for depression, self harm, or suicide through text conversations. Along with profiling one of the group’s counselors and highlighting the advantages of text-based counseling, Chief Executive Nancy Lublin described a language-analyzing algorithm the company uses to identify high-risk conversations. Specifically, she noted that the use of words like “suicide” or “overdose” were much less likely to result in 911 calls than the use of a crying emoji or language describing pills, according to analysis of the counselors’ text communications.

“These cellphones are lifelines,” Nancy Lublin, chief executive of Crisis Text Line, said in the video. “The pain that we see from people largely comes from isolation and shame, and by being able to connect to us in a private, anonymous way, they feel stronger.”

Automated patient outreach. Since the Manhattan Endoscopy Center implemented Voice — a patient outreach system that delivers call and text support for pre-op and post-discharge patients while identifying potential issues — last year, the center estimates that it has saved registered nurses more than 3,000 hours of time that would have been spent performing manual patient outreach, according to the center. The technology, which was implemented in partnership with CipherHealth, saved the endoscopy center nearly $150,000 in labor costs alone, and allowed staff to resolve 1,200 patient issues within three hours.

"The savings are remarkable,” Jeffrey Singerman, director of operations at Manhattan Endoscopy Center, said in a statement.  "We've streamlined operational workflows to reach more patients than we were before, and can better align staff time and facility resources to provide safe, efficient, and high-quality care.”

Seeing iPhone. Microsoft’s Seeing AI app — a tool that helps people who are blind by using a device’s camera and AI to narrate surroundings — has been updated to recognize currency, colors, light, and hand-written language, among other new features. Since launching earlier this year, the app has been downloaded over 100,000 times, has assisted users with more than 3 million tasks, and is now available in 35 countries, according to a Microsoft blog post.