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01100100 01100001 01110100 01100001 (data) -- has become increasingly valuable as we enter the information age. In healthcare systems, these lines of binary could hold sensitive information about the patient, including medical history, social security, and medical care. Due to this importance, healthcare systems apply stringent cybersecurity measures to ensure their patients' data remains in the right hands [4]. Unfortunately, the number of cyberattacks and information breaches in hospitals has increased since 2012 to around 700 nationwide cyber attacks in 2022 alone [5]. This has catastrophic effects such as losing patient health data which could affect patient care and could lead to a massive scale of identity theft and fraud.


Now more than ever, we need to adapt to fend off cyber attacks and keep personal data safe -- that's where quantum computing comes in. Quantum computing uses principles from quantum physics and computer science to perform complex calculations and, more precisely, store information. Instead of having data only represented by 1s and 0s, quantum computing allows data to be stored in any state between 0 and 1, basically allowing systems to keep vast numbers compared to normal computers [1]. This unique feature of quantum computing called superposition allows for unhackable privacy protection. Superposition is the ability for an object to exist in multiple states at the same time -- this allows for greater flexibility in storing data. The latest invention of advanced cryptography is the Quantum Key Distribution, which applies quantum physics algorithms to produce a random secret key that cannot be hacked [1]. Thus, if hospitals could implement this technology, no one would be able to breach patient data and exploit it. With more widespread use of quantum computing in medical security, we could effectively eliminate cyberattacks while keeping our data in the right hands.

Though this technology is up-and-coming -- quantum computing is still in its primitive stages of development. Currently, scientists are focused on a few challenges such as creating units of information that can apply principles like superposition and making sure these information units don't collapse and delete data [3]. Additionally, storing information in quantum computing is challenging as we need to know if user input is recorded correctly without destroying the data. Moreover, there are ethical implications, such as global equitable access to quantum technology. Developing and building quantum computers requires significant expenses and is only possible for experts in the field to use at the moment. Thus, both education accessibility and socioeconomic barriers will prevent the rapid growth of quantum cryptography [2].

ψ⟩=α∣0⟩+β∣1⟩ -- As we enter a new quantum information age, data will start to be stored like this rather than just 1's and 0's. We must begin adapting to these healthcare hackers -- our first step should be to develop more robust cryptography measures that use elements of quantum physics to prevent data breaches. Though there are significant limitations with the scalability and use of quantum computing -- I am confident that quantum computing will eventually revitalize the healthcare infrastructure and create a safer tomorrow.


Reviewed by: Harrison Pham

Designed By: Jessica Pham


Sources

  1. Ur Rasool, R., Ahmad, H. F., Rafique, W., Qayyum, A., Qadir, J., & Anwar, Z. (2023, February 27). Quantum Computing for Healthcare: A Review. MDPI. https://www.mdpi.com/1999-5903/15/3/94

  2. Kiesow Cortez, E., Bambauer, J. R., Guha, S., & Fleming, S. (2023, July 20). A quantum policy and ethics roadmap. SSRN. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4507090

  3. Shams, M., Choudhari, J., Reyes, K., Prentzas, S., Gapizov, A., Shehryar, A., Affaf, M., Grezenko, H., Gasim, R. W., Mohsin, S. N., Rehman, A., Rehman, S., & Gasim, R. (2023, October 31). The quantum-medical nexus: Understanding the impact of quantum technologies on Healthcare. Cureus. https://www.cureus.com/articles/194442-the-quantum-medical-nexus-understanding-the-impact-of-quantum-technologies-on-healthcare#!/

  4. AHA. (n.d.). The importance of cybersecurity in protecting patient safety: Cybersecurity: Center: AHA. American Hospital Association. https://www.aha.org/center/cybersecurity-and-risk-advisory-services/importance-cybersecurity-protecting-patient-safety#:~:text=By%20failing%20to%20keep%20patient,delivery%20may%20also%20be%20jeopardized.

  5. 2022 healthcare cybersecurity year in review, and a 2023 look-ahead. www.hhs.gov. (n.d.). https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/2022-retrospective-and-2023-look-ahead.pdf?lv=true

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  • Josh Lin

From coffee enemas to tapeworm diet pills, Hollywood is truly no stranger to novel health fads. On November 8th, the FDA’s approval of Zepbound—a weight loss pill targeted towards people with obesity—reignited fiery discussion about the medication’s applications, along with the culture surrounding it.


On paper, such pills are only prescribed for those with—or at risk of—Type 2 diabetes. Ozempic, the previously reigning version of this drug, uses a compound named semaglutide to suppress its users’ appetites, allowing them to feel less hungry and stay full for longer periods. With clinical studies showing an average 10% reduction in body fat, it’s clearly effective for its intended purpose. For some, this drug is worth any possible negative effects. For others, not so much.


Disregarding all illicit uses of this drug, Ozempic is known to have an endless list of side effects, including acid reflux, heartburn, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, hair loss, and facial sagging—just to name a few. Users of weight-loss pills also reported developing a dependency on this medication, with an almost immediate gain in weight upon quitting it—a problematic situation when these pills can cost up to $1,300 per month.


Despite such alarming side effects, Ozempic has been popularized, or even normalized, within American culture. To some, it is even known as the “hottest drug in Hollywood.” Common household names—such as Elon Musk—have admitted to using it, and countless more have been accused of doing so. Ozempic was intended as a counter against diabetes, yet the majority of its users consist of otherwise healthy people hoping for a fast, easy way to lose weight. Ultimately, the supply cannot match demand, leaving diabetic people with empty hands for months, all while these companies continuously hike up the prices as the drug becomes more mainstream.


So where does the recent FDA decision come into play? Not only did Eli Lilly—the company behind the new pill—make Zepbound more aggressive, with a promised loss of 15-22.5% of body weight, but they also targeted it towards people at risk of diabetes, meaning high body fat, obesity, and other factors. In short, it’s a stronger drug with a lower barrier of entry.


America is moving in a dangerous direction with the increasing deregulation of these medications—the casual nature of these pills’ prescriptions encourages a harmful stigma behind body weight. With the internalized unrealistic body standards so present within our culture of comparison, people will be increasingly drawn to this easy way out. Risking facial sag, gastrointestinal problems, improper nutrition, and even death, users of these weight loss pills perpetuate a cycle of destructive self-image and drug abuse as they continuously chase unrealistic standards with no end goal in sight.


After Thanksgiving, Zepbound will be freely prescribed by doctors. Only time will tell about the far-reaching consequences of the FDA’s decision.


Reviewed by: Reena Kagan

Graphic by: William Sun


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The integration of telehealth into healthcare systems has emerged as a transformative tool,

particularly in addressing geographical and accessibility barriers for women in gynecological

care. Telehealth, defined as the utilization of information and telecommunications technology in

healthcare delivery, presents a promising avenue for expanding the reach of reproductive health

services, including family planning, contraceptive services, and safety decision aids for survivors

of intimate partner violence (IPV). However, as this technology is not yet widespread, various

challenges, including digital illiteracy and limited buy-in from clinicians, hinder its potential

impact. Telehealth also encompasses mobile health applications designed to gather patients’

health data, screening questionnaires, and educational materials. I must mention the inherent

sensitivity of health information when using telehealth programs, that could compromise patient

privacy and ruin trust in healthcare systems, leading to legal and ethical consequences. In this

blog I plan to bridge the importance of telehealth in gynecological care and the need for racial

equity in access to it once its use becomes more widespread. I offer a new role of digital

navigators in an effort to highlight that with new technological avenues, we must address current

inequities.



It is crucial to recognize the dual nature of telehealth: a revolutionary innovation for some, yet a

potential source of exacerbation for existing racial disparities. These disparities include but are

not limited to age, digital literacy, internet access, language barriers, and social determinants of

health such as transportation barriers, trauma, and food insecurity. Structural racism further

contributes to health disparities, posing a challenge to the goal of achieving equitable access to

healthcare through telehealth and other innovative technological advances.


Current gynecological research emphasizes our need to address the impact of telehealth on

women's reproductive health, especially when working to resolve racial disparities. I must note,

there is a significant gap in determining whether telehealth increases access to care and produces

superior outcomes compared to in-person care, particularly concerning reproductive health and

IPV in women. In a paper published by theAgency for Healthcare Research and Quality, it was

noted that as a result of telehealth visits, there were “changes in STI risk behaviors such as

having multiple sexual partners”. There were also “changes in protective behaviors such as

sexual abstinence, mutual monogamy, delayed initiation of intercourse, and use of condoms”.

Patients also reported feeling a deeper sense of empowerment with telehealth features. Thus,

telehealth has created positive outcomes in patient behavior, especially in gynecology.


There was a surge in technology use for clinical purposes during The COVID-19 pandemic, in

response to the demand for innovative solutions to bypass traditional roadblocks in patient care.

In an effort to confront the challenges hindering the widespread adoption of telehealth, a new,

promising avenue has emerged: Digital Navigators. Digital navigators are envisioned as crucial

mediators, equipped to assist both patients and clinicians in navigating and customizing

technology, training patients on cell phone use and apps, and ensuring data quality. However,

challenges such as the need for training and the associated barriers to clinician buy-in still

persist, especially in low and middle-income countries.


A study led by psychiatrist, Dr. Wisniewski, proposes a structured training program for Digital

Navigators, covering core smartphone skills, basic technology troubleshooting, app evaluation,

clinical terminology, data management, and patient engagement techniques. Such a program will

empower Digital Navigators to facilitate the integration of telehealth into gynecological care

seamlessly.


As we move forward, the development of policies that standardize personal and data privacy

must strike a balance between user-friendliness and security, ensuring equitable access by

incorporating multilingual platforms. Additionally, addressing deeply rooted mistrust within

communities of color towards the healthcare system is imperative. Historical traumas, such as

the exploitation of Henrietta Lacks, underscore the need for building trust and transparency in

the implementation of telehealth services before they can be widespread in the US.


In conclusion, while the use of telemedicine holds the promise of higher quality care, it is

essential to navigate carefully through the challenges posed by disparities in access and digital

literacy. We should strive towards a more inclusive and equitable future for telehealth in

gynecological care for all women.


Reviewed by: Reena Kagan

Graphic by: Alejandra Gonzalez-Acosta


References

Wisniewski, Hannah, et al. “The Role of Digital Navigators in Promoting Clinical Care and

Technology Integration into Practice.” Digital Biomarkers, U.S. National Library of Medicine,

26 Nov. 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7768140/.


Telehealth for Women - Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality,

effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/telehealth-women-protocol.pdf.


Senz, Kristen. “Racial Disparities in Telemedicine: A Research Roundup.” The Journalist’s

Resource, 20 July 2022, journalistsresource.org/home/racial-disparities-telemedicine/.

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DMEJ

   Duke Medical Ethics Journal   

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