Industry Watch – June 2017

May 25, 2017

Telehealth

On-the-go telehealth kit

At the annual conference of the American Telemedicine Association, Yorktel unveiled enhancements to its mobile telehealth kit, FeatherMed, which empowers caregivers with customization, flexibility, interoperability, and versatility to improve clinical workflows and provide a higher level of patient-centric care. FeatherMed kits combine FDA-approved medical diagnostic tools and Yorktel’s secure communication software application that integrates with healthcare delivery systems, improving the ease and efficiency of multisite collaboration between hospitals, specialists, home healthcare providers, and their patients.

For two-way video, the updated kits offer the choice of using either FeatherMed’s built-in video application with data streaming software or a separate video client compatible with a health delivery system’s Cisco, Polycom, Vidyo, Skype for Business, or other video platform. A new modular design allows for various configurations to match the medical device with any clinical application. Additional accessory options are available, giving health systems the capability to custom design their kit.

Each kit is compact, durable, lightweight (12 lbs.), and portable. Paired with a proprietary video compression technology requiring bandwidth as low as 90 kb, FeatherMed provides HD, encrypted, jitter-free video for face-face consultations in remote situations, a critical factor in providing quality care in home health, emergency and crisis environments, as well as long-term care facilities in rural communities.

Compliant with home healthcare regulations, FeatherMed allows nurses, paramedics, and other caregivers to deliver quality, efficient care in off-site settings and followup with patients discharged from hospitals for whom recurring onsite visits are not practical, such as seniors, veterans, and chronically ill patients.

“As legislation across the country provides more favorable reimbursement policies for remote care, demand for reliable, HIPAA-compliant telehealth solutions will reach new heights in the coming years,” said Yorktel SVP, Healthcare, Pete McLain. Yorktel

Cybersecurity

Alarming increase in targeted attacks aimed at politically motivated sabotage and subversion

Cybercriminals revealed new levels of ambition in 2016—a year marked by extraordinary attacks, including multi-million dollar virtual bank heists and overt attempts to disrupt the U.S. electoral process by state-sponsored groups, according to Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR), Volume 22.

Symantec’s ISTR provides a comprehensive view of the threat landscape, including insights into global threat activity, cybercriminals trends, and motivations for attackers.

A new breed of attackers revealed major financial ambitions, which may be an exercise to help fund other covert and subversive activities. Today, the largest heists are carried out virtually, with billions of dollars stolen by cybercriminals. While some of these attacks are the work of organized criminal gangs, for the first time nation states appear to be involved as well. Symantec uncovered evidence linking North Korea to attacks on banks in Bangladesh, Vietnam, Ecuador, and Poland.

In 2016, Symantec saw cybercriminals use PowerShell, a common scripting language installed on PCs, and Microsoft Office files as weapons. While system administrators may use these common IT tools for daily management tasks, cybercriminals increasingly used this combination for their campaigns as it leaves a lighter footprint and offers the capability to hide in plain sight. Due to the widespread use of PowerShell by attackers, 95% of PowerShell files seen by Symantec in the wild were malicious.

The use of email as an infection point also rose, becoming a weapon of choice for cybercriminals and a dangerous threat to users. Symantec found one in 131 emails contained a malicious link or attachment—the highest rate in five years.

Ransomware continued to escalate as a global problem and a lucrative business for criminals. Symantec identified more than  100 new malware families released into the wild, more than triple the amount seen previously, and a 36% increase in ransomware attacks worldwide.

A growing reliance on cloud services has left organizations open to attacks. Tens of thousands of cloud databases from a single provider were hijacked and held for ransom in 2016 after users left outdated databases open on the internet without authentication turned on. Cloud security continues to challenge CIOs. According to Symantec data, CIOs have lost track of how many cloud apps are used inside their organizations. When asked, most assume their organizations use up to 40 cloud apps when in reality the number nears 1,000. This disparity can lead to a lack of policies and procedures for how employees access cloud services, which in turn makes cloud apps riskier. These cracks found in the cloud are taking shape. Symantec predicts that unless CIOs get a firmer grip on the cloud apps used inside their organizations, they will see a shift in how threats enter their environment. Symantec

Mobile Communications

Part two of seventh annual Spok survey confirms infrastructure improvements and mobile device diversity

Spok released the second part of the company’s annual mobility in healthcare survey. Spok has been conducting this survey since 2011 to assess mobile workflow enablement trends in hospitals across the country. More than 300 U.S. healthcare professionals responded to this year’s questions about mobile strategy development, bring your own device (BYOD) policies, communications infrastructure, and opportunities to improve mobile communications.“

The first installment of our 2017 research, released last month, examined how hospitals are developing, maintaining, and executing on their mobile strategies,” said Hemant Goel, president of Spok. “This second piece in our two-part series looks at the details behind these strategies. For example, we asked about the types of mobile devices particular staff carry, what challenges hospitals are encountering with mobile device usage, and whether they support BYOD programs.”

The research this year reveals that hospitals are making progress in addressing the previously identified infrastructure gaps in order to better support mobile strategies and devices. “Forty-five percent of respondents answered that Wi-Fi coverage is a challenge for mobile device users, and 38% cited cellular coverage as problematic. Both of these data points showed a nine percentage point improvement over 2016,” said Goel. In addition, data security as a mobile device challenge dropped from 43% to 31%. “Though there is still a lot of room for improvement, the responses this year demonstrate that hospitals are taking action and making progress addressing these important issues,” Goel stated.

Survey findings also revealed that hospital staff still carry a diverse mix of mobile devices to do their jobs. For the sixth straight year smartphones are the most popular device, with 77% of respondents saying their organization supports them while other tools, including pagers, maintain strong representation. “Again this year, the survey shows that pagers play a major role in hospital communications,” said Vince Kelly, chief executive officer of Spok Holdings, Inc. “As part of Spok Care Connect, our enterprise healthcare communications platform, we continue to support the paging needs of the market, including secure paging. Twenty-one percent of surveyed healthcare professionals said their organization uses encrypted pagers. This mobile device diversity confirms our strategic direction to provide integrated communications across the health system and let leaders decide what devices are most appropriate for their staff, based on the workflows they support,” Kelly concluded.

The report also assessed the backup communication plans hospitals have in place should cellular networks become overloaded or fail and the perceived reliability of different communication channels. Survey participants were also asked to identify the biggest opportunity for mobile communication improvements over the next three to five years. Answers included enhancing patient care team collaboration and using mobile strategies to simplify technology and bring uniformity across hospital systems. Business Wire

Software

Carestream introduces software to reduce effects of scatter radiation

Carestream Health has introduced SmartGrid software that can reduce the damaging effects of scatter radiation in a radiographic image and help eliminate the need for an anti-scatter grid. This optional capability is available for use with Carestream’s portable and room-based DRX imaging systems as well as its DRX-1 retrofit system that converts computed radiography systems to digital radiography. The SmartGrid feature has received FDA 510(k) clearance and is scheduled to begin shipping in the third quarter of 2017.

Scatter radiation degrades image quality by creating a haze within the image that reduces both contrast and detail. It is prevalent when imaging thicker anatomy and when collimation is not close enough to the anatomy of interest. An anti-scatter grid can be placed over a detector but it’s heavy and bulky, which makes positioning and alignment difficult and typically requires an increase in radiation dose.

In addition to enhancing image quality, use of SmartGrid software can boost productivity by reducing the need for technologists to place cumbersome grids over detectors. SmartGrid is an enhancement algorithm that estimates low-frequency scatter distributed throughout an image and removes it. Many physical factors affect the properties of scatter including energy spectrum of the beam, thickness and size of the object, and collimation. Using physics and empirical modeling, SmartGrid software can accommodate these factors through estimation of the algorithm parameters that are tuned to replicate anti-scatter grid visual performance.

SmartGrid image processing software is available for room-based and portable AP chest, AP abdomen, AP pelvis, AP hip, and AP spine exams for adult patients. Carestream

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