Person looking at a Fitbit watch in a Best Buy store

Reviewing Health Announcements at Google, Facebook, and Apple

By Adriana Krasniansky

Over the past several days, technology players Google, Apple, and Facebook have each reported health-related business news. In this blog post, we examine their announcements and identify emerging ethical questions in the digital health space.

On Nov. 1, Google announced plans to acquire smartwatch maker Fitbit for $2.1 billion in 2020, subject to regulatory approval. The purchase is expected to jumpstart the production of Google’s own health wearables; the company has already invested at least $40 million in wearable research, absorbing watchmaker Fossil’s R&D technology in January 2019.

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Illustration of multicolored profiles. An overlay of strings of ones and zeroes is visible

Understanding Racial Bias in Medical AI Training Data

By Adriana Krasniansky

Interest in artificially intelligent (AI) health care has grown at an astounding pace: the global AI health care market is expected to reach $17.8 billion by 2025 and AI-powered systems are being designed to support medical activities ranging from patient diagnosis and triaging to drug pricing. 

Yet, as researchers across technology and medical fields agree, “AI systems are only as good as the data we put into them.” When AI systems are trained on patient datasets that are incomplete or under/misrepresentative of certain populations, they stand to develop discriminatory biases in their outcomes. In this article, we present three examples that demonstrate the potential for racial bias in medical AI based on training data. Read More

Photograph from above of a health care provider taking a patient's blood pressure.

Diving Deeper into Amazon Alexa’s HIPAA Compliance

By Adriana Krasniansky

Earlier this year, consumer technology company Amazon made waves in health care when it announced that its Alexa Skills Kit, a suite of tools for building voice programs, would be HIPAA compliant. Using the Alexa Skills Kit, companies could build voice experiences for Amazon Echo devices that communicate personal health information with patients. 

Amazon initially limited access to its HIPAA-updated voice platform to six health care companies, ranging from pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to hospitals. However, Amazon plans to expand access and has identified health care as a top focus area. Given Thursday’s announcement of new Alexa-enabled wearables (earbuds, glasses, a biometric ring)—likely indicators of upcoming personal health applications—let’s dive deeper into Alexa’s HIPAA compliance and its implications for the health care industry.
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Photograph of a doctor holding a headset sitting in front of a laptop

Navigating Sensitive Hospital Conversations in the Age of Telemedicine

By Adriana Krasniansky

On March 5, 2019, a terminally ill patient from Fremont, California, learned that he was expected to die within several days. The doctor who delivered the news did so via a robotic video teleconferencing device. 

Ernest Quintana, a 79-year-old patient with a previously-diagnosed terminal lung condition, was taken to the Kaiser Permanente Fremont Medical Center emergency room after reporting shortness of breath. His 16-year-old granddaughter, Annalisia Wilharm, was with him when a nurse stopped by and said that a doctor would visit shortly to deliver Mr. Quintana’s results. 

The video below, recorded by Ms. Wilharm, shows Mr. Quintana’s consultation with a critical care doctor through an Ava Robotics telepresence device—in which the doctor explains Mr. Quintana’s rapidly worsening condition and suggests transitioning to comfort care. Ms. Wilharm and her family chose to share the video with local media and on Facebook, inciting a debate around the legal and ethical challenges of using telemedicine in critical care conversations. 

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