AI Health

Friday Roundup

The AI Health Friday Roundup highlights the week’s news and publications related to artificial intelligence, data science, public health, and clinical research.

October 14, 2022

In today’s Duke AI Health Friday Roundup: modeling the perfect cup of joe; new regulations grant patients more control over health data; how COVID slips past cellular defenses; rates of physician burnout climb; what not to do in designing biomarker studies; misinformation’s threat to health cybersecurity; a human rights framework for AI; atrial fibrillation and use of DOACs in disadvantaged neighborhoods; interventions to reduce partisan animosity; much more:


Three white porcelain cups on a wooden surface, photographed from above, containing (from left to right) whole coffee beans, espresso, and a cappuccino with a heart shape drawn in the foam. Image credit: Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash
Image credit: Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash
  • There truly is a model for everything: “Our research team—which involved a team of mathematicians, chemists, materials scientists and baristas—formulated a mathematical model to simulate the brewing of an espresso in realistic cafe conditions. We used this to make predictions of how much of the solid coffee ultimately ends up dissolved in the cup. This percentage—known as the extraction yield—is the key metric used by the coffee industry to assess different coffee recipes.” Jamie Foster and Christopher H. Hendon have the [cough] scoop at Scientific American.
  • “The new federal rules — passed under the 21st Century Cures Act — are designed to shift the balance of power to ensure that patients can not only get their data, but also choose who else to share it with. It is the jumping-off point for a patient-mediated data economy that lets consumers in health care benefit from the fluidity they’ve had for decades in banking: they can move their information easily and electronically, and link their accounts to new services and software applications.” At STAT News, Casey Ross reports on federal rules that went into effect last week that ensure patients have greater control over, and access to, their personal health data.
  • “In this paper, we put forth the doctrine of universal human rights as a set of globally salient and cross-culturally recognized set of values that can serve as a grounding framework for explicit value alignment in responsible AI – and discuss its efficacy as a framework for civil society partnership and participation.” A preprint article by Prabhakaran and colleagues, available at arXiv, proposes a human-rights-based framework for developing responsible approaches to AI.
  • “This article covers some of the bad statistical practices that have crept into biomarker research, including setting the bar too low for demonstrating that biomarker information is new, believing that winning biomarkers are really “winners”, and improper use of continuous variables. Step-by-step guidance is given for ensuring that a biomarker analysis is not reproducible and does not provide clinically useful information.” A recently posted article by Vanderbilt biostatistician Frank Harrell offers a primer on what not to do in the realm of statistical practice in the setting of biomarker research.
  • “The key difference among misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation is that, usually, those who spread misinformation truly believe the information they are disseminating, whereas those spreading disinformation and malinformation know it to be untrue but are spreading it anyway with the intention of malfeasance. This key difference is why strategies to counter misinformation by appropriately employing education, fail against organized disinformation and malinformation.” A post this week at Health Affairs blog by Eric D. Perakslis, Megan L. Ranney, and Jennifer C. Goldsack examines the converging threats posed by disinformation and attacks on health cybersecurity.


Photograph of a stethoscope with tube in a coil, resting on a white surface. Image credit: Manik Roy/Unsplash
Image credit: Manik Roy/Unsplash
  • “In a large national cohort of patients with incident AF [atrial fibrillation] receiving care in VA, we found similar initiation of any anticoagulant therapy but significantly lower use of DOACs [direct oral anticoagulants] in individuals residing in neighborhoods with higher disadvantage. The observation of these disparities in the VA health system has important implications for achieving high-quality AF care for traditionally underserved populations even in low-cost health settings.” A research article published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine by McDermott and colleagues examines the role that neighborhood disadvantage plays in access to therapies for atrial fibrillation among patients in the VA system.
  • “About five billion years ago, stars merged and exploded, creating uranium that eventually became embedded in the Earth. As uranium decays as part of a natural process, it emits radon, a radioactive gas. This gas can seep into homes and other buildings through pipes and cracks in foundations. If present in high enough concentrations, the gas and its byproducts can damage lung tissue and cause lung cancer.” As if you didn’t have enough to worry about already, this ProPublica guide by Maya Miller, with graphics by and illustrations by Mauricio Rodríguez Pons and Ed Ou, will give you plenty more – but, fortunately, also resources for identifying and remediating the presence of radon in a home.
  • “Although rabies prevalence never exceeded 0.15%, the best-fitting models demonstrated appreciable depletion of susceptible animals that occurred at local scales because of clusters of deaths and dogs already incubating infection. Individual variation in rabid dog behavior facilitated virus dispersal and cocirculation of virus lineages, enabling metapopulation persistence.” An article published in Science by Mancy and colleagues examines why rabies is able to remain such a persistent threat despite its relatively low prevalence.
  • “…we show that the SARS-CoV-2 protein encoded by ORF8 (ORF8) functions as a histone mimic of the ARKS motifs in histone H3 to disrupt host cell epigenetic regulation. ORF8 is associated with chromatin, disrupts regulation of critical histone post-translational modifications and promotes chromatin compaction. Deletion of either the ORF8 gene or the histone mimic site attenuates the ability of SARS-CoV-2 to disrupt host cell chromatin, affects the transcriptional response to infection and attenuates viral genome copy number.” A research article published in Nature by Kee and colleagues sheds light on a mechanism that allows the SARS-CoV-2 virus to slip under the guard of cellular immune responses.

COMMUNICATION, Health Equity & Policy

Man dressed in surgical scrubs, standing in profile with eyes cast downward, surrounded by deep shadow. Image credit: Mulyadi/Unsplash
Image credit: Mulyadi/Unsplash
  • “The increase in burnout is most likely a mix of new problems and exacerbated old ones, Dr. Shanafelt said. For instance, the high number of messages doctors received about patients’ electronic health records was closely linked to increased burnout before the pandemic. After the pandemic, the number of messages from patients coming into physicians’ In Baskets, a health care closed messaging system, increased by 157 percent.” The New York Times’ Oliver Whang reports on a recent Mayo Clinic study that finds rates of reported physician burnout reaching new and alarming heights.
  • “Buried deep within the Inflation Reduction Act’s drug-price negotiation provisions is language that could open the way to a new era of biomedical breakthroughs and smarter health spending…This language does something Medicare hasn’t tried before: It ties payment for treatments to how well they work.” An opinion article by M. Gregg Bloche, Neel U. Sukhatme and John L. Marshall at STAT News (log-in required) describes how a provision of the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act could alter the landscape of health spending.
  • “Rising partisan animosity is associated with a reduction in support for democracy and an increase in support for political violence. Here we provide a multi-level review of interventions designed to reduce partisan animosity, which we define as negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours towards a political outgroup.” An article by Hartman and colleagues in Nature Human Behavior describes approaches for reducing currently high levels of “partisan animosity” in US culture.