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Posts from the ‘eHealth’ Category

Top 7 Health Technologies at CES 2016

The CES technology show recently took place in Las Vegas. The show, well-known for its gadget news and video games, also featured exciting medical innovations. Forget about another dozen fitness wearables or new generation smartwatches – the top 7 breakthroughs are truly inspiring steps forward.

1) L’Oréal helps prevent skin cancer

A smart patch developed by the cosmetics giant, L’Oréal, measures UV radiation on the wearer’s body. It’s basically a sticker coated in special dye that changes color when light from the sun (or, presumably a UV light source) hits the patch. A smartphone app gauges the exposure and alerts the wearer in case of dangerous UV radiation levels that may raise the risk of skin cancer. A helpful addition to any beach-goer’s pack for the summer season.

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2) Withings speeds up temperature measurements with Thermo

There are more and more smart thermometers out there but none of them is comfortable and accurate enough. Withings released Thermo that has 16 sensors and measures body temperature in seconds by pointing it at the temporal artery. It also has a clean interface and only one button, making it easy to use for anyone. This is the most sophisticated device of its kind so far.

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3) Veta Smart Case for EpiPen to keep track of the allergy medication

The EpiPen is a disposable, pre-filled automatic injection device that administers epinephrine in the event of a severe allergic reaction. The Veta Smart Case was designed to help patients use it properly – which can be challenging during an allergic event, marking the location of the Epipen to find it faster, among other things. It also makes the treatment as digitally quantifiable as possible. Expiration, location and reason of use are all measured and tracked. This way the patient can keep a better record of their treatment history, and doctors can analyze and discuss the case easily.

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4) ReSound brings natural hearing to the hearing impaired

ReSound is launching a hearing aid that mimics natural hearing almost perfectly. The Spatial Sense technology gives a natural sense of where sounds are coming from and helps form a detailed sound picture of the surroundings. The Binaural Directionality technology makes sure the wearer can still understand every word of the conversation. It is smartphone controlled. It can be connected to FaceTime, music apps and more, ensuring their sounds are played back perfectly. This is a truly digital hearing aid for the 21st century.

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5) Quell’s FDA approved Wearable Pain Relief fights pain without drugs

Quell is a wearable technology with intensive nerve stimulation that is clinically proven to help manage chronic pain. It is FDA cleared for use during the day while active and at night while sleeping. Although the Medgadget reviewer didn’t experience significant pain relief, they praised the design and comfortability.

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6) SleepPhones filter out noise to make sleeping easier

The SleepPhones headphones were designed to help the user fall asleep and stay asleep. It filters out sounds such as a partner snoring or other distractions. Having a great quality sleep is crucial for general well-being. Current technologies can help to optimize sleep but didn’t help at all if someone had trouble falling asleep. The technology will be a huge help for those suffering from insomnia.

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7) GymWatch is a true personal trainer for your home

Gymwatch might be the first affordable sensor that guides users through all exercises they need for an athletic body. It can give feedback about pushups, strength workouts, cardio, exercise on machines, and more. The reason why it’s unique is that by measuring strength and acceleration it helps make exercises that do not involve spatial displacement (e.g. running) better. This is a great step forward in wearable technology for those of us looking to stay fit, strong and healthy. I’ve already ordered mine – stay tuned for an in-depth review!

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This year’s CES was full of digital health innovation, bringing solutions for athletes, people dealing with allergy or patients suffering from chronic pain. I cannot wait to see what next year’s event will feature.

Top 10 Medical Technologies of 2016

Every year, I publish my predictions for the coming year. As the Medical Futurist, I’m expected to come up with bright visions and I’m happy to rise to the challenge. Last year my predictions included a digital tattoo, portable diagnostic devices thanks to the XPrize Challenge, IBM Watson’s rise to prominence in analyzing big health data, and brain computer interfaces such as Muse or Thync becoming available to the general public. These visions have since become reality.

It’s time to list the 10 major breakthroughs and trends that will dominate healthcare and medicine in 2016.

1) Virtual Reality

Once The New York Times gave out Google Cardboards with its newspapers, it was clear virtual reality was going mainstream. But now that Facebook’s Oculus Rift just became available for pre-order, virtual reality is going to become a booming industry. With really sophisticated devices on the market, it might have its biggest year ever in 2016. It will be used to let medical students gain realistic experience in examining patients or to let patients see what would happen to them the next day at the hospital for stress release.

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2) Augmented Reality

A Novartis chief announced that the digital contact lens patented by Google would become available in 2016. As it will measure blood glucose from tears, it is supposed to change diabetes treatment and management. Moreover, Hololens from Microsoft also comes out in 2016 which will have a huge impact on fields from medical education to architecture and engineering. It could help medical students do dissections for many hours a day from any angles without the formaldehyde smell.

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3) Fibretronics

2015 was not the year of smartclothes no matter how much we anticipated it. Even the ones with the biggest market potentials like HexoSkin were only traditional shirts with built-in devices in their pockets. But fibretronics are clothing materials with microchips implanted into them. They can react to body temperature or the mood of the wearer, among others. Google has started collaborating with Levi’s to create true fibretronic materials, which could be used to interact with technology through our clothes in novel ways. Imagine this in the OR. As the first promising collaborations in this area came out in 2015, expect to see the first tangible results in 2016!

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4) Smart Algorithms Analyzing Wearable Data

2015 was the year of wearable health trackers. A swarm of devices became available, Amazon launched its Wearable Marketplace and millions of activity trackers were sold. But gaining actionable insights from the constant stream of wearable data is not easy. We need clever algorithms and apps that merge data from several devices and apps, and help us draw meaningful conclusions. It would help lay people put more emphasis on prevention and have a healthier lifestyle. I had experience with Exist.io, one of the earliest attempts, but it still needs to go a long way.

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5) Near-Artificial Intelligence in Radiology

IBM’s Watson supercomputer has been used in oncology to assist medical decision-making. It proved the clear benefits of such a system by making diagnoses and treatment cheaper and more efficient. IBM’s Medical Sieve project aims to diagnose most lesions with a smart software, leaving room for radiologists to focus on the most important cases instead of checking hundreds of images every day.

6) Food Scanners

Food scanners like Scio and Tellspec have been in the spotlight since 2014, but as early developer prototypes have already been mailed to their first users in 2015, 2016 could be the year they become generally available. This would enable anyone to find out what’s really on their plates, providing clear benefits not just to people looking to gain weight or eat healthier food, but people with dangerous allergies as well.  

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7) Humanoid Robots

One of the most promising companies developing robots is Boston Dynamics, acquired by Google in 2013. Since then, they only released teaser videos about animal-like robots and Petman, the humanoid robot. Many technologies they are working on seem to be at a stage where they are ready to become actual products, the first signs of which we’ll see in 2016.

8) 3D Bioprinting

Organovo has been in the focus because of 3D printing biomaterials for years. They announced successfully bioprinted liver tissues in 2014 and they seemed to be 4-6 years away from printing liver parts for transplantation. But first, these bioprinted livers could be finally used in the pharmaceutical industry to replace animal models when analyzing the toxicity of new drugs. If it goes through in 2016, I feel printing actual liver tissue for transplantation could become a commercial service within the next decade.

9) Internet of Health Things At Home

Last year, I released a concept art of a bathroom of the future. All the elements in that image from the smart toothbrush to the digital mirror were partially available in 2015. But an array of sensors will reach the general public in 2016 making IoT a reality in our homes. The long-term goal is to make these devices communicate and learn from each other. This way we would not have to analyze the data of the devices ourselves, but the device manufacturers could merge their findings and share a digestible report with us when there is something to take care of.

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10) Theranos – Thumbs Up Or Down

The end of 2015 saw Theranos embroiled in a scandal. The company claims to perform blood tests from one drop of blood in a transparently priced way. Concerns were raised by the Wall Street Journal about the validity of their claims, and we are waiting for Theranos to reveal the details of their technology.

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Besides these, the new Verily Life Sciences branch of Alphabet and the gene editing method CRISPR might have a big hit in 2016. We will see.

These technologies and trends will create value and have an impact on our lives and the practice of medicine in 2016. To keep an eye on them, subscribe to my newsletter!

Top 10 Science Fiction Technologies That Arrived in 2015

As a science fiction fanatic, it’s exciting to see sci-fi in real life. Technologies that we have only seen in movies before are now transforming our everyday lives. We’re connected 24/7, across the globe by smartphones; driverless cars navigate safely in traffic; and houses are printed out. The same is happening in healthcare, even if we don’t yet feel this when we go to the GP’s office. Here are the top 10 stories that made healthcare feel like sci-fi in 2015:

1) 3D Printed Cast

Scott Summit from 3D Systems might have been the first patient ever to have a shower with a 3D printed cast on his arm. It is personalized to his arm, really cheap and easily replaceable. A Spanish startup Exovite is turning it into a product anyone can buy. Their cast also includes electrodes to prevent muscles from atrophying under the cast.

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2) Seeing Veins Under the Skin

A new device called VeinVeiwer Vision2 uses near-infrared light to generate real-time imagery of a patient’s veins. Taking blood – without damaging blood vessels or causing excessive pain – won’t just depend on the skill and the experience of phlebotomists.

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3) Kidney Tissue Grown in Lab

Lab-grown kidney tissues were successfully transplanted into animals. This is the first step towards making biomaterials transplantable into patients. Steps such as this make me hope for a near-future without organ donor waiting lists.

4) Cheap Prosthetics For Kids

The E-Nable project brings cheap, 3D printed prosthetics to underdeveloped regions. The parts can be replaced easily and the whole prosthetic device can be assembled by anyone. A lot of regional E-Nable projects were launched in 2015.

5) Augmented Reality in Medical Education

Microsoft will release its augmented reality head-mounted device in 2016 but they published the first videos about how it could be used in medical education and the future of medical training. Imagine studying anatomy by literally looking at 3D body parts in front of your eyes. I wish I was a medical student now.

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6) Pacemaker Without Surgery

A new wireless pacemaker with a battery life of over two decades can be implanted without surgery and was found safe in a clinical study. It is implanted similarly to stents: through a vein in the leg.

7) Hacking The Pancreas

A cute story about a couple showed the merits of empowered patients and citizen scientists. The husband is an engineer and the wife has diabetes. As diabetic patients face very low or very high blood glucose levels during the night, an alarm system for either extreme would be very useful, but is currently not available. They created one with DIY methods. Their solution gained fame, and might be turned into a product soon.

8) The Digital Contact Lens

A Novartis chief announced that the digital contact lens would come out in 2016. The patent about the technology belongs to Google, but the pharmaceutical company teamed up with them to provide better treatments in diabetes by letting the lens measure blood glucose from tears.

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9) Microchip Under The Skin Monitors Vital Signs

A new medical device – in effect a small microchip – can be implanted under the skin and allows for precise, real-time medical monitoring. With this invention, any vital sign or health parameter could be measured and monitored. The patient wouldn’t have to keep anything in mind or actively partake in the process.

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10) Smart Bandages Detect Infections

Next generation bandages include microchips that measure basic health parameters and also detect infections in their early phase. This way bed sores could be prevented in time.

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Hearing these news made me really excited about the future. I’m sure 2016 will bring even more technologies straight out of science fiction medicine, so keep an eye out!

Subscribe to my newsletter to get updates and analyses about important trends shaping the future of medicine.

There Will Be No Mars Generation Without These Technologies

I wrote an article about what digital health technologies the Mars Generation will need to survive the journey to the Red Planet. It is published on Futurism.

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An excerpt:

NASA is set to send astronauts to orbit Mars and return them safely by the mid 2030s. And a manned landing on the Red Planet will soon follow. However, this work will be in vain if health technology does not advance.

You can read about these technologies on Futurism:

  1. Medical 3D printers
  2. Wearable and implanted body sensors
  3. Full genomic analysis
  4. Artificial intelligence that draws conclusions from health data
  5. Telemedical solutions for remote care
  6. Thin exoskeletons
  7. Engineering in biotechnology
  8. Surgical robots

Social Media in Clinical Practice: Chapter 15, E-mails and Privacy Concerns

When I realized Springer made the individual chapters of my book, Social Media in Clinical Practice, available, I thought it would be useful for future readers to get some insights about each chapter one by one.

Here is the short summary of what you can read about and an excerpt of the fifteenth chapter, E-mails and Privacy Concerns:

E-mail or electronic mail is a method of sending and receiving digital messages online. This is one of the most common forms of online communication and while patients usually send simple questions via e-mail to their doctors, it might contain sensitive information which could lead to legal consequences if medical professionals do not know about such potential issues and the ways to avoid these.

  • The most common topics in patients’ e-mails include
  • The potential advantages and disadvantages of using e-mails in the doctor-patient relationship
  • A typical e-mail consists of these elements
  • Suggestions About Dealing with E-mails
  • Privacy Concerns in Social Media

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Chapters that have already been covered:

The Relation Between The Human Touch and Medical Technology: AND Instead of OR

I’ve been giving talks about the future of medicine for years and many times, part of the audience is worried about losing the human touch of practicing medicine by using more technologies. As a medical futurist, I want to make things clear here.

The relation between the human touch in medicine and disruptive innovations is and; instead of or as people tend to think. By losing the quintessence of practicing medicine, the real-life doctor-patient relationship, we would lose everything. Although without using innovative technologies, it is becoming more and more complicated (if not impossible) to provide proper care.

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When I was 10 years old, I volunteered in computer shops to learn the hardware part of PCs. That time a man kept on coming back to the shop as he was expecting a delivery of a brand new hard drive he ordered some weeks ago. It was a hard drive of 40 megabytes (yes, megabytes) and he told me he had no idea what he would do with so much space on his computer. After almost two decades we have over a zettabyte of information online. It is practically impossible to keep up with that without using proper technologies. Moreover, it doubles now every 12 months, and soon will double every 12 hours.

The real challenge here is finding a balance between these; and it’s easier than you would think. By preparing for what is coming regarding medical innovation for all stakeholders of healthcare, we get a chance to start working out the methods and solutions in time, therefore we can use more and more efficient and secure technologies in medicine without losing the human touch of the doctor-patient relationship.

This is the topic I cover in my new book which should be out in a few months’ time. Wish me luck!

 

 

Website for Comparing Health Trackers

The recent CES showcased plenty of wearable health trackers, therefore the timing was right for launching a new website that compares the numerous trackers at once. Here is Bioniq Health:

The more interesting elements are yet to come. “Bioniq will help individuals to find tools and technologies most relevant to their specific needs (i.e. I want to run a marathon, I want to better understand and manage my sleep, or back pain, or high blood pressure),” writes Co-Founder Dr. Daniel Kraft to me in an email.

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