Sep 10, 2019

Separating hype from reality in health tech

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Data: Kaiser Family Foundation Health Apps and Information Survey; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Tech companies trying to disrupt the health care system still have a long way to go.

Why it matters: Splashy health tech announcements are everywhere, but many are more hype than reality, according to a poll conducted for this column.

By the numbers: 70% of the people we surveyed say they’ve used the internet to research symptoms or learn more about health conditions. And 51% use apps or other tech tools to track their sleep, fitness or diet.

  • But as people’s needs shift from personal information-gathering into the formal health care system, their tech usage begins to fall.
  • Only 44% have accessed their medical records online, and fewer than 25% have used the internet to manage chronic conditions, mental health, or their health care spending.

Yes, but: Across the board, young people are more likely to go online for some part of their health care needs.

  • Nearly half of 18-44 year-olds, for example, have used the internet to research a provider — compared with just 32% of patients older than 45.

The big picture: In Silicon Valley, where I have lived and worked for over 25 years, “disruption” is a buzzword and a goal unto itself. And in health tech, promises of “disruption” run the gamut from coverage to payment to actual care.

  • Apple, Eli Lilly and a startup called Evidation Health recently announced plans for an iPhone and Apple Watch feature they say could help detect Alzheimer’s.
  • Startups like San Francisco-based Forward offer concierge primary care that uses a slew of high-tech tools, in an office modeled on the experience of using an app.
  • And of course there’s the most famous example of a failed promise of disruptive health tech: Theranos.

The bottom line: It’s time to pay close, serious attention to what is real and what is hype in health tech.

  • This conversation, which has been the province of investors, tech companies and the business press, warrants more serious and objective questions about the effects on people’s health, privacy, and their health spending.

Go deeper

Trump accuses Twitter of interfering in 2020 election

President Trump speaks to the press as he departs the White House in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Photo: Mandel Ngan/Getty Images

President Trump responded via tweets Tuesday evening to Twitter fact-checking him for the first time on his earlier unsubstantiated posts claiming mail-in ballots in November's election would be fraudulent.

What he's saying: "Twitter is now interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election.They are saying my statement on Mail-In Ballots, which will lead to massive corruption and fraud, is incorrect, based on fact-checking by Fake News CNN and the Amazon Washington Post," the president tweeted. "Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!"

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 8:30 p.m. ET: 5,584,091 — Total deaths: 349,894 — Total recoveries — 2,284,242Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 8:30 p.m. ET: 1,680,301 — Total deaths: 98,875 — Total recoveries: 384,902 — Total tested: 14,907,041Map.
  3. Federal response: DOJ investigates meatpacking industry over soaring beef pricesMike Pence's press secretary returns to work.
  4. Congress: House Republicans to sue Nancy Pelosi in effort to block proxy voting.
  5. Business: How the new workplace could leave parents behind.
  6. Tech: Twitter fact-checks Trump's tweets about mail-in voting for first timeGoogle to open offices July 6 for 10% of workers.
  7. Public health: CDC releases guidance on when you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus.
  8. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 36 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Twitter fact-checks Trump's tweets for first time

President Trump briefs reporters in the Rose Garden on May 26. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Twitter fact-checked two of President Trump's unsubstantiated tweets that mail-in ballots in the 2020 election would be fraudulent for the first time on Tuesday, directing users to "get the facts" through news stories that cover the topic.

Why it matters: Twitter and other social media platforms have faced criticism for not doing enough to combat misinformation, especially when its propagated by the president.