Is it Really Fair to Call Electronic Health Apps 'Digital Snake Oil'?

At the American Medical Association’s annual meeting earlier this month, CEO James Madara called certain electronic health care devices and apps “the digital snake oil of the early 21st century.” Christina Farr challenged that charge in a Fast Company blog Tuesday, noting that nobody yet has come up with the perfect definition of “digital health” and the term could be applied to products targeting everything from fitness to cardiac care. She points out that the Federal Trade Commission is taking a closer look at vendors’ sometimes outrageous claims and advice (one app recommended that bipolar patients drink hard liquor during a manic episode!). But, she said, the health care field can’t let its tendency to fear anything new get in the way of legitimate advances.

Google Wants to Help With Your Diagnosis

Google, apparently unfazed by the American Medical Association, recently revamped its often misguided search results for medical ailments with a new feature called symptom search, according to The Wall Street Journal. Look up symptoms like “skin rash” or “tummy ache” (searched by kids, I hope) on the Google search app for iPhone and Android and you’ll see a number of digital cards that address the problems related to your issue. Many of us have had twinge of panic after typing certain symptoms into Google, “A lot of times, what people find scares the daylights out of them,” said Wanda Filer, M.D. president of the American Academy of Pediatrics in the article. The cards have a chance to help doctors and patients, said Filer. Let’s hope this isn’t ‘digital snake oil.’

Opioids are Becoming a Pain

opiods2_190x127.jpgIf there’s one thing we thought we knew about opioids, it’s that they ease pain. It turns out even that may not be true, according to research funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse. The details on the study itself, which was performed on rats, are a little difficult to digest, perhaps unless you know what cytokine IL-1β is. The bottom line is that opioids might actually make people feel worse, which is aside from their addictive properties. “We are showing for the first time that even a brief exposure to opioids can have long-term negative effects on pain,” says Peter Grace, co-leader of the research, in an NIH article about the study. “We found the treatment was contributing to the problem.”

The opioid epidemic can hit small towns with few resources and no addiction specialists, or methadone clinics, especially hard. So after a mother of two children died of a heroin overdose in Bridgton, Maine, two family physicians — man and wife — teamed up with the head of the local substance abuse center to offer both counseling and addiction-treatment drugs, notes NPR.

Staying on Top of Zika Will Take 'A Lot'

WR_Zika_vaccine_1Summer is here, mosquito season is, too, and some big-name athletes are dropping out of the Rio Olympics because of the Zika threat, so how are we going to handle it here in the states? The New York Times explores the question; finding “a lot” is going to be needed from states and cities if small clusters of cases appear. Vulnerable and impoverished areas in the South are most at risk and many have no mosquito-control programs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a blueprint for homegrown Zika cases and is putting resources toward states with weak mosquito-control programs.

The CDC has said to the Times that “everything we’ve seen from dengue and chikungunya suggests that it [Zika] will not be a severe problem.” States are preparing their own plans, but funding is an issue on the Zika front because Congress is, not surprisingly, fighting over the president’s $1.9 billion request for Zika preparedness.