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Posts from the ‘Health 2.0’ Category

A Smartwatch Detects Seizures and Emotional Stress

A new smartwatch developed by Empatica can detect seizures and emotional stress. It uses sensors to measure electrodermal activities on the skin which are transmitted to a smartphone. It could not only help us live healthier by bridging the gap between human emotions and technology, but imagine the advantages of such a device in autism or epilepsy.

An excerpt from the article:

Picard explained that autistic responses to difficult situations can seem non-intuitive and sudden to observers and might involve head banging, other self-injury, or catatonic behavior. “In some instances, they are doing this to release a neurotransmitter that can quell the pain.” Picard explains, “if an autistic kid is lying on the floor motionless, but his EDA sensor reads that his signals are through the roof, caregivers can make better decisions about how to respond.”

Electrodermal sensors also have important implications for youth with epilepsy, which Picard discovered when one of her students placed the sensors on his brother. Twenty minutes before his brother had a Grand Mal seizure, the sensors registered off-the-charts skin conductance.

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The Future of Clinical Trials: Video

An excerpt from The Guide to the Future of Medicine:

Today, new pharmaceuticals are approved by a process that culminates in human clinical trials. The clinical trial is a rigorous process from development of the active molecule to animal trials before the human ones, costing billions of dollars and requiring many years. Patients participating in the trial are exposed to side effects, not all of which will have been predicted by animal testing. If the drug is successful in trial, it may receive approval, but the time and expense are present regardless of the trial outcome.

But what if there were another, safer, faster, and less expensive route to approval? Instead of requiring years of “ex vivo” and animal studies before human testing, what if it were possible to test thousands of new molecules on billions of virtual patients in just a few minutes? What would be required to demonstrate such a capability? At the very least, the virtual patients must mimic the physiology of the target patients, with all of the variation that actual patients show. The model should encompass circulatory, neural, endocrine, and metabolic systems, and each of these must demonstrate valid mechanism–based responses to physiological and pharmacological stimuli. The model must also be cost efficient, simulating weeks in a span of seconds.

Such simulations are called computational cognitive architectures, although the current ones actually lack a comprehensive representation of human physiology. A truly comprehensive system would make it possible to model conditions, symptoms, and even drug effects. To order reach this brave goal, every tiny detail of the human body needs to be included in the simulation from the way our body reacts to temperature changes to the circadian rhythms of hormone action.

HumMod is a simulation system that provides a top–down model of human physiology from organs to hormones. It now contains over 1,500 linear and non–linear equations and over 6,500 state variables such as body fluids, circulation, electrolytes, hormones, metabolism, and skin temperature. HumMod was based on original work by Drs. Arthur Guyton and Thomas Coleman in the early 1970’s.

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HumMod is not the only effort in this area. The Avicenna project, partially funded by the European Commission, aims to construct a roadmap for future “in silico” clinical trials, which would make it possible to conduct them without actually experimenting on people. Other projects use real models instead of computational ones. A liver human organ construct, a physical object that responds to toxic chemical exposure the way a real liver does, was designed at the Gordon A. Cain University. The goal of the five–year, $19 million multi­institutional project is to develop interconnected human organ constructs that are based on a miniaturized platform nicknamed ATHENA (Advanced Tissue–engineered Human Ectypal Network Analyzer) that looks like a CPR mannequin.

It would then be possible to test molecules without risking the toxic effects on humans, and to monitor fluctuations in the thousands of different molecules that living cells produce and consume. The beauty of this project is its plan to connect their working liver device to a heart device developed by Harvard University. If successful, they hope to add a lung construct in 2015 that is being developed at Los Alamos, and a kidney designed by the UCSF/Vanderbilt collaboration by 2016, thus building the first physiological model of a human being piece by piece.

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The 12 Most Exciting and Surprising Collaborations in Digital Health

From time to time, I come across news covering collaborations between companies which are either promising or surprising. Sometimes both. A future full of science fiction technologies in medicine & healthcare starts with such collaborations. Here are those I’m the most excited about.

1) Oscar Health, the hipster insurance company, works with the wearable tracker Fitbit. Insured people can submit their Fitbit data and if they reach the daily fitness goals, they get $1 every day.

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2) Qualcomm, which is world leader in 3G, 4G and next-generation wireless technologies, and Walgreens, the largest drug retailing chain in the US, are collaborating  to power device connectivity in remote patient monitoring, transitional care support and chronic care management.

3) The patient community site Patientslikeme.com started working with the pharma company AstraZeneca to support patient-driven research initiatives. AstraZeneca will use data from the community site to improve outcomes of several therapeutic areas.

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4) The company Organovo that works on printing out biomaterials teamed up with L’Oréal to focus on printing out synthetic skin.

5) Organovo also works with the pharma company Merck to use the 3D printed liver system for drug testing. It could eradicate the use of animal testing at pharma companies.

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6) The American Association of Retired Persons launched a collaboration with Pfizer and United Health to discover how wearable devices and other health trackers could impact the lives of people aged 50 and older.

7) The pharma company Boehringer Ingelheim has formed a new digital health collaboration with California healthcare provider Sutter Health. They will test digital health solutions, mobile technologies and data analytics.

8) Novartis signed an agreement with Google about the digital contact lens that Google patented in 2014 and can measure blood glucose levels from tears. It could be a hit in diabetes management.

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9) The Human Longevity Inc. is joining forces with Cleveland Clinic for a human genomics collaboration aimed at disease discovery. They will sequence and analyze blood samples from the medical center’s patient study, running whole genome, cancer and microbiome sequencing.

10) Nestlé started working with companies that develop food printers. They want to have a branch with business models, experts and products by the time food printing becomes a common thing at home.

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11) Google’s Calico project works together with the pharma company Abbvie to accelerate the discovery, development and commercialization of new therapies.

12) Pfizer surprised many of us when it announced its collaboration with a lab developing DNA robots. They could target diseases more efficiently with robots that deliver the drug to the desired location.

Have I missed anything? Please let me know.

The Medical Futurist on Instagram

As 90% of the hundreds of millions of Instagram users are younger than 35, I made a decision. I think the message that technologies can improve the human touch should reach millennials as well.

So, check out the Medical Futurist on Instagram. Photos and images about future technologies and the amazing innovations I come across worldwide.

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How I Manage Stress With A Device

In my recent video, I describe how I manage stress with a device that teaches me how to relax. It helps a lot and only takes a few minutes. Do you use other technologies to decrease stress?

What Comes After The #Wearable Health Revolution?

The wearable health trackers’ revolution has been going on producing devices that let us measure vital signs and health parameters at home. It is changing the whole status quo of healthcare as medical information and now tracking health are available outside the ivory tower of medicine.

A 2014 report showed that 71% of 16-24-year-olds want wearable technology. Predictions for 2018 include a market value of $12 billion; a shipment of 112 million wearables and that one third of Americans will own at least a pedometer.

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Now a growing population is using devices to measure a health parameter and while this market is expected to continue growing, devices are expected to shrink, get cheaper and more comfortable. At this point, nobody can be blaimed for over-tracking their health as we got a chance for that for the first time in history. Eventually, by the time the technology behind them gets better, we should get to the stage of meaningful use as well.

Let’s see what I can measure today at home:

  • Daily activities (number of steps, calories burnt, distance covered)
  • Sleep quality + smart alarm
  • Blood pressure
  • Blood oxygen levels
  • Blood glucose levels
  • Cardiac fitness
  • Stress
  • Pulse
  • Body temperature
  • Eating habits
  • ECG
  • Cognitive skills
  • Brain activities
  • Productivity
  • I also had genetic tests and microbiome tests ordered from home.

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What else exists or yet to come? Baby and fetal monitors; blood alcohol content; asthma and the I could go on with this list for hours.

The next obvious step is designing smaller gadgets that can still provide a lot of useful data. Smartclothes are meant to fill this gap. Examples include Hexoskin and MC10. Both companies are working on different clothes and sensors that can be included in clothes. Imagine the fashion industry grabbing this opportunity and getting health tracking closer to their audiences.

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Then there might be “insideables“, devices implanted into our body or just under the skin. There are people already having such RFID implants with which they can open up a laptop, a smartphone or even the garage door.

Also, “digestables“, pills or tiny gadgets that can be swallowed could track digestion and the absorption of drugs. Colonoscopy could become an important diagnostic procedure that most people are not afraid of. A little pill cam could be swallowed and the recordings become available in hours.

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Whatever direction this technology is heading, believe me, I don’t want to use all my gadgets to live a healthy life. I would love to wear a tiny digital tattoo that can be replaced easily and measures all my vital signs and health parameters. It could notify me through my smartphone if there is something I should take care of. If there is something I should get checked with a physician.

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But what matters is finally I can become the pilot of my own health.

Right now patients are sitting in the cockpit of their planes and are waiting for the physicians to arrive.

Insurance companies such as Oscar Health have touched upon this movement and offer incentives and rewards (e.g. Amazon gift card) if the patient agrees to share their data obtained from health trackers. This way motivating the patient towards a healthier life.

There is one remaning step then, the era of the medical tricorder. Gadgets such as Scanadu that can detect diseases and microbes by scanning the patient or touching the skin. The Nokia Sensing XChallenge will produce 10 of such devices by this June which will have to test their ideas on thousands of patients before the end of 2015.

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I very much looking forward to seeing the results. Until then, read more about health sensors and the future of portable diagnostics devices in my new book, The Guide to the Future of Medicine.

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10 Things How Artificial Intelligence Could Make Me a Better Doctor

I was watching the movie Her for the second time and I was fascinated again about the scene in which the main character played by Joaquin Phoenix got his new operating system with artificial intelligence (AI) and started working with that. I couldn’t stop thinking about the ways I could use such an AI system in my life and how it actually could make me a better doctor.

Don’t get me wrong, I think empathy and great communication with patients can make a doctor better primarily, but as the amount of medical information out there is exponentially growing; as the time for dealing with patients and information is getting less, it is becoming humanly impossible to keep up with that. If I could devote the time it takes now to deal with technology (inputting information, looking for papers, etc.) to patients, that would be a huge step towards becoming better.

Here are 10 things how AI could make me a better doctor and consequently live a better life.

1) Eradicate waiting time: Not only patients have to wait a lot for their doctors, but doctors lose a lot of time everyday waiting for something (a patient, a lab result, etc.). An AI system that makes my schedule as efficient as possible directing me to the next logical task would be a jackpot.

2) Prioritize my emails: I deal with about 200 e-mails every single day. I try to teach GMail how to mark an e-mail important or categorize them automatically into social media messages, newsletters and personal e-mails, it’s still a challenge. In Her, the AI system prioritized all the 3000 unread e-mails in a second. Imagine that!

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3) Find me the information I need: I think I have mastered the skill of searching for information online using dozens of Google search operators and different kinds of search engines for different tasks, but it still takes time. What if an AI OS could answer my questions immediately by looking up the answer online?

4) Keep me up-to-date: There are 23 million papers on Pubmed.com. If I could read 3-4 papers of my field of interest per week, I couldn’t finish in a lifetime and meanwhile millions of new studies would come out. I need an AI to show me what I should really read that day. Now my curated social media networks do this job, although I’m sure it would be much more accurate with AI.

5) Work when I don’t: I can fulfil my online tasks (e-mails, reading papers, searching for information) when I use my PC or laptop, and I can do most of these on my smartphone. When I don’t use any of these, I obviously cannot work. An AI system could work on these when I don’t have any device in hand.

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6) Help me make hard decisions rational: A doctor must face a series of hard decisions every day. The best we can do is to make those decisions as informed as possible. Some of them are still hard to make. I can ask people of whom I value the opinions and that’s it. Imagine discussing these with an AI system that is even more rational than you are.

7) Help patients with urgent matters reach me: A doctor has a lot of calls, in-person questions, e-mails and even messages from social media channels on a daily basis. In this noise of information, not every urgent matter can reach you. What if an AI OS could select the crucial ones out of the mess and direct your attention to it when it’s actually needed.

8) Help me improve over time: People, even those who work on becoming better at their job, make the same mistakes again and again. By discussing every challenging task or decision with an AI, I could improve my overall well-being and the quality of my job. We could do that with people as well, but let’s be honest, it’s practically impossible.

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9) Help me collaborate more: In Her, the AI collected the letters the main character wrote and compiled them into one manuscript which she sent to a publisher that she thought would be willing to publish it. Similarly an AI could find the most potential collaborators and invite them to work on a paper or study I otherwise work on. This way, opening up my networks even more.

10) Do administrative work: Quite an essential percentage of an average day of a doctor is spent with administrative stuff. An AI could learn how to do it properly and do it better than me by time. It could write down my thoughts and compile them anytime just as if I decided to sit down and write them down saving me an enormous amount of time.

Read more about the use of AI in medicine in The Guide to the Future of Medicine!

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Would you use AI in your work? Please do share! Until then, here is how supercomputers make physicians better:

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