Exciting news for anyone who is interested in healthcare innovation :Exponential medicine 2015 (part of Singularity University) is live streaming these 4 days, free-of-charge. That’s amazing, considering that it costs $5000 for a ticket to attend the conference and anyone can now watch it in the comfort of their room. It’s a great conference on the cutting-edge in technology in healthcare with many distinguished speakers. It’s a bummer that it’s in a very different time zone (PST, 16 hours behind) but I’m catching as much as I can.
Among the various areas in digital health – from nanotech and biotech to wearables and the internet of things – I believe one of the key areas that has potential to make a big difference to many people is behaviour change and preventative medicine. And I’m talking about right today, and not 10, 20 years in the future.
Robotics and cutting-edge surgical devices & techniques, as cool as they are, have an overall limited impact on healthcare compared to behaviour change. And we know our current healthcare systems fail at guiding people towards positive habits – we can do better.
The other area in digital health which is very interesting is AI (Artificial Intelligence) and machine learning. One of the most challenging problems I faced in clinical practice was deciding whether a tumour was cancerous or benign on medical imaging. We use relatively simple (memorized) rules, like size, whether it has irregular edges, calcification etc. and ask colleagues for their opinions, perhaps they may have encountered a similar case before. Doctors individually or in small groups – our processing power is limited.
Deep learning algorithms that can synthesize the knowledge from thousands of other studies, patients & doctors to help make clinical decisions – mind-blowing. I’m sure we’ll get to that some time down the road. In time, the best healthcare outcomes will come from the synergy of AI, humans and well-thought processes. Lumiata, Wellframe and Ginger.io are examples of companies doing good work in this area.
Some quick notes from the insightful speeches :
– Things in medicine are starting to move exponentially (think Moore’s law). Digital Health Futurists should “skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is now”.
– We need to make healthcare ‘ubiquitous’, bringing world-class healthcare everywhere using technology. An AI system is able to keep up with medical knowledge faster than confident, experienced physicians – imagine pouring through hundreds of medical journals and articles a day.
– Digital health is the integrator between the key tenets of medical innovation, which are devices, diagnostics and therapeutics.
– Successful digital health companies are able to
understand their target audience well
Partner with relevant organisations
Navigate the minefield of interoperability
Evaluate costs, quality of care and return on investment (ROI)
– Typically, it takes up to 17 years go from study findings to actual impact on clinical practice. So much for ‘evidence-based medicine’. We need a new model of translational research.
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