What Apple’s standoff with the FBI means for your medical records — Zen Chu and Maulik D. Majmudar

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Zen Chu

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Zen Chu

From Fortune

The data privacy debate is overlooking a very important issue.

The issue of data privacy on mobile phones has been brought to public and judicial debate again with Apple’s AAPL 0.56% refusal to create a backdoor into its operating systems. The debates so far have failed to highlight that granting governments access to mobile phone data opens access to not only sensitive financial and personal information, but also the crown jewels of healthcare: patient health records. Now that the majority of patients and doctors are accessing, storing, and transmitting healthcare information via mobile phones and connected medical devices, smartphone security has become a lynchpin of patient data security.

Healthcare data breaches are a real and serious threat and have already led to identity theft, financial loss, civil rights and employment discrimination, and even a risk to patient safety. In addition to the moral responsibility of protecting these data, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) specifically mandates that patient data be encrypted and assigns meaningful fines to violations. These breaches by hospitals, companies and doctors can add up to multi-million dollar liabilities.

Last year saw the active theft of over 100 million health records, as reported in Health IT Security, with the vast majority from malicious hacking. These data breaches involved electronic medical records, which can sell for more than 20 times the value of a stolen credit card. Today, most hospital and medical records systems have created smartphone apps and web portals for both patients and doctors to access via the smartphone in their pockets, enabling smartphones to be the new weakest link protecting personal health information.

Healthcare records contain mission critical and sensitive information, including social security numbers, financial information, diagnostic test results, medical diagnoses, and the correct dosages of hazardous drugs. Dr. John Halamka, a professor at Harvard Medical School and CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, wrote about his hospital’s experiences with internet-connected drug infusion pumps, which have been compromised. In extreme cases, malicious hacking also could be used to disrupt the workings of a heart pacemaker or drug infusion pump to deliver the wrong amounts of hazardous drugs.

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The challenges of using social media for marketing purposes — Catherine Tucker

MIT Sloan Professor Catherine Tucker

MIT Sloan Professor Catherine Tucker

In an era when marketers spend billions on managing social media, is that investment worthwhile? Should firms actively guide, promote and shape online conversations, or leave them to grow organically?

To investigate this, my colleague Amalia Miller from the University of Virginia and I recently studied what happens when hospitals started to actively manage their profiles on Facebook. We focused on Facebook because it’s the most visited media site in the U.S., accounting for 20% of all time spent on the Internet. We also chose it because the Facebook Places initiative created a page for every single hospital in the U.S., allowing organizations to choose whether to actively manage their pages or not.

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How big data can be used to improve early detection of cognitive disease — Cynthia Rudin

MIT Sloan Asst. Prof. Cynthia Rudin

MIT Sloan Asst. Prof. Cynthia Rudin

From The Health Care Blog

The aging of populations worldwide is leading to many healthcare challenges, such as an increase in dementia patients. One recent estimate suggests that 13.9% of people above age 70 currently suffer from some form of dementia like Alzheimer’s or dementia associated with Parkinson’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Association predicts that by 2050, 135 million people globally will suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.

While these are daunting numbers, some forms of cognitive diseases can be slowed if caught early enough. The key is early detection. In a recent study, my colleague and I found that machine learning can offer significantly better tools for early detection than what is traditionally used by physicians.

One of the more common traditional methods for screening and diagnosing cognitive decline is called the Clock Drawing Test. Used for over 50 years, this well-accepted tool asks subjects to draw a clock on a blank sheet of paper showing a specified time. Then they are asked to copy a pre-drawn clock showing that time. This paper and pencil test is quick and easy to administer, noninvasive, and inexpensive. However, the results are based on the subjective judgment of clinicians who score the tests. For instance, doctors must determine whether the clock circle has “only minor distortion” and whether the hour hand is “clearly shorter” than the minute hand.

In our study, we created an improved version of this test using big data and machine learning. For the past seven years, a group of neuropsychologists have had patients use a digital pen to draw the clocks instead of a pencil, accumulating more than 3,400 tests in that time. The pen functions as an ordinary ballpoint, but it also records its position on the page with considerable spatial and temporal accuracy.  We applied machine learning algorithms to this body of data, constructing a data-driven diagnostic tool. So rather than having doctors subjectively analyze the pencil-drawn clocks, the data from the digital pen drawings goes into the machine learning algorithm’s model which provides the result of the test.

Read the full post at The Health Care Blog.

Cynthia Rudin is an Associate Professor of Statistics at the MIT Sloan School of Management in Operations Research and Statistics.

Why Apple’s ResearchKit signals a Golden Age for health care — Zen Chu and Maulik Majmudar

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Zen Chu

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Zen Chu

From Fortune

In a surprise announcement recently, Apple Inc. preceded the debut of its new line of connected watches by unveilingResearchKit, a medical research platform that has demonstrated its powerful potential with the first five applications. The open-source ResearchKit and evolving HealthKit promise new ways for apps and researchers to gather sensor and health data that will enable faster clinical insights at lower cost.

Digital health and mobile health platforms have been emerging for a number of years, primarily in consumer health, but few with clinical rigor or clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. As in other product categories, Apple has used thoughtful design and its market strength to create a powerful new platform that lowers the barriers to creating apps. ResearchKit promises to benefit researchers, physicians and patients across a spectrum of diseases, from rare diseases to widespread chronic diseases that make up the majority of healthcare costs.

Apple’s new platform will amplify a broad set of new opportunities we are calling “Digiceuticals” — where software, sensors and apps are standalone treatments for disease and integrated into comprehensive care plans alongside drugs and medical devices. Leading academic groups have already demonstrated that digital tools can improve the effectiveness of drugs and health behavior change. Health platform investments by Apple AAPL , Google GOOG and Samsung KRX are lowering the barriers for reaching the right patient, time and place with engaging messaging customized for each patient.

Rather than threatening to crush the innovators that have blazed the trail in front of previous Apple releases, ResearchKit and HealthKit promise to amplify the efforts of researchers and startups in digital health. One example is Ginger.io., a pioneering MIT venture enabling large scale clinical trials on smartphones. CEO and founder Anmol Madan is expecting his company to use ResearchKit across many clinical trials. And within the first 24 hours of launching, Stanford University’s cardiovascular research app, which promises to accelerate clinical insights and lower the costs of research, received over 11,000 downloads.

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Closer to a cure: a new approach to funding biomedical innovation — Andrew Lo

MIT Sloan Professor Andrew Lo

MIT Sloan Professor Andrew Lo

Watch Andrew Lo, the economist, hedge fund manager, and finance professor at MIT Sloan, discuss his idea to bring Wall Street-style financial engineering to solving one of the most pressing medical problems of our time: curing cancer and rare diseases. Professor Lo’s proposal—the creation of a “megafund” that invests in early-stage biomedical research and drug development —holds promise for new treatments and medicine to fight cancer and other diseases. Robert Langer, the noted entrepreneur, scientist, and Institute Professor at MIT, also appears on the program to talk about bringing investors on board..

Andrew W. Lo is the Charles E. and Susan T. Harris Professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and director of the MIT Laboratory for Financial Engineering.