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Posts from the ‘Healthcare’ Category

Transporting Lab Samples With Drones? What Else?

The news article of the day award goes to FastCoExist that gave an awful title to its story about how drones could deliver lab samples. They said drones could take urine samples from your own bathroom.

The reason why this issue came up is that getting samples analyzed in big labs is safer than in smaller ones. But because of the distance, drones could do the hard job.

“Currently many, many couriers drive one or two lab samples over long distances (over 50 miles) because there is a medical need for it,” says Amukele. “However, the cost (gas, driver salaries, wear and tear) is incredibly high, especially for rural areas, and makes no sense. This occurs in both rich and poor countries.”

Drones don’t care about poor roads, either, another advantage in rural or developing areas. But the regulation of drones currently stands in the way of using them for medical purposes. Amukele doesn’t see that changing for a decade.


Last year, there was a demonstration about using drones in emergency at the University of Delft in the Netherlands.

What else could be delivered by drones?

Medical equipment?

Drugs to rural areas?

What else? Please share your ideas!


Will Robots Take Over Our Jobs In Healthcare?

An excerpt from my new book, My Health: Upgraded:

I teach a course about the future of healthcare to medical, public health, and allied students. In one lecture I ask students to design the future of care. They come up with their own ideas. We talk them through those and design the process of care in real time. Doing this I learn a lot each semester about how students think about the future. I had an older student with a previous degree in economics. He had decided to become a doctor at the age of 30. When I spoke about what jobs robots and algorithms might take in the future, he raised his hand and asked whether robots would take over our jobs in healthcare–with a very worried look on his face.

Surgical robots become increasingly precise each day. Man–size robots can lift and move patients and transport them throughout the hospital. I held a PARO therapeutic robot in my arms. It was cute and calmed me. At a conference I once watched how a diminutive robot made an entire audience dance with it. It only takes the Xenex robot 10 minutes to disinfect a patient room with UV light. A robot called Tug works at hospitals in the San Francisco Bay Area. It delivers food and medicine. It picks up waste and laundry. It navigates the halls without crashing into people.

Paro robot

Paro robot

The above student asked about robots, but I think he was really asking about automation. Automation includes robotic devices, robots that look like a human, and algorithms. Silicon Valley investor Vinod Khosla once said something that resonated within the medical community for a long time. He said that technology would replace 80% of doctors because machines, driven by big data and computational power, would not only be cheaper but more accurate and objective than the average doctor. He added that we eventually wouldn’t need doctors at all.

In 2015 the information technology research firm Gartner predicted that one–third of existing jobs will be replaced by software, robots, and smart machines by 2025. Blue collar as well as white collar workers such as financial and sports reporters, marketers, surgeons, and financial analysts were in danger of being replaced. As Martin Ford outlines in Rise of the Robots, healthcare represented less than 6% in the US economy in 1960. Its share had tripled by 2013. The real issue is not utilizing too many robots but too few. Typically robots are expensive but reduce costs. Medicine and healthcare won’t be able to and should not try to avoid this.

If we look at the history of automation the first wave of machines in the 19th century was better at assembling things than people were. The second wave machines were better at organizing things. Today data analytics, cognitive computers, and self–driving cars suggest that they are better at pattern–recognition.

But both the simplest tasks and the most complicated ones require people. By simplest I mean that there is a greater chance a robot can play chess than go upstairs. By complicated I mean that regarding jobs such as managers, healthcare workers, and others related to education or media; humans are still superior at working with, and caring for others humans. Although, making a diagnosis is cheaper with cognitive computers than doing that alone as physicians.

But whether a robot can make an ethical decision is a huge question. An interesting experiment raised this question. In it a small robot was programmed not to let other robots called human proxies, which represented real people, get into the danger zone on a table game. When only one human proxy approached the danger zone, the robot could successfully thwart it. But when two proxies appeared the robot became confused, and in 14 out of 33 trials it wasted so much time trying to decide that both human proxies fell into the hole. Robots cannot make yet the ethical decisions that characterize experienced physicians.

A Robot companion for the elderly

A Robot companion for the elderly

Automation will make the world better and create opportunities for people clever enough to seize them. But healthcare will change. Tasks and procedures that can be automated should be, and will be. Algorithms will make diagnoses based on quantifiable data better than how humans do it now alone. It is easy to automate the fabrication of equipment or the transportation of patients. The challenge comes when empathy and interpersonal interaction comes into play. Robots won’t approach this level of sophistication for a long time.

To answer my initial question: many jobs will be taken over by robots and automation in the coming years. If people whose jobs are replaced cannot acquire new skills or improve their existing ones, they will no longer have a job. Given this possibility we must constantly question what our best individual skills are and what we can do to improve them. Let’s make sure to attend to those skills that make us irreplaceable.

Read more about other 39 exciting questions in My Health: Upgraded.



Revolutionary Technologies To Bring A Healthier Future: Part I.

An excerpt from my new book, My Health: Upgraded:

Millions of medical studies and papers exist, making it humanly impossible for physicians to remain current without digital help. Some estimate that starting in 2020, the amount of medical data will double every 73 days. During their life an average individual will generate more than 1 million gigabytes of health–related data. Data sets that large can no longer be analyzed by people. Cognitive computers such as IBM’s Watson can analyze tens of thousands of clinical studies and patient records, and suggest–for a particular patient–possible diagnoses and therapy options from which the physican can then choose. The time saved by crunching this enormous amount of data could be spent on direct patient care.

Radiology devices will soon provide real–time and more detailed images of a patient’s internal organs. Virtual– and augmented reality devices will further improve this. Such images could help surgeons plan their operations more precisely by guiding 3D printers to produce models of a tumor or other abnormality. Such printers could also create economical prosthetics and instruments.


Patients can not receive proper medical care if they are unable to wear devices that monitor their vital signs and health parameters at home. Telemedicine services like this are vitally needed in areas that have a shortage of doctors. Without it, care cannot be delivered, patients must miss time from work, or travel to an institution far away. Biotechnology that can produce artificial organs in the lab could elimiate transplantation waiting lists forever. Virtual models could test potential new drugs in seconds instead of having to rely on lengthy and expensive clinical trials with real people as we do now.

New technologies are disruptive and revolutionary because they are less expensive, faster, and more efficient than previous ones.

The question is not whether we should use surgical robots, but how we can let underdeveloped regions access their benefits. It is not whether patients should measure their vital signs at home, but making sure that doing so doesn’t lead to wrong self–diagnosis and harmful self–treatment. It is not whether patients should be able to access their records and medical data, but how to implement and safeguard that access.

In the past we have asked whether to use a certain technology or not. Today we ask how not to overutilize them and still make them accessible to everyone. Ethical issues lie ahead of us, but so do unbelievable advantages. And yet no government, organization, or authority has been able to prepare populations for that. Nonetheless, revolutionary technologies are coming, and we must prepare.

Hundreds of research trends and thousands of real–life examples demonstrate how reality is getting closer to the science fiction depicted in movies. Supercomputers analyze medical records and draw personalized conclusions. They model how the brain works. Microrobots swim in bodily fluids and might perform small operations soon. External robots draw blood from individuals without the need for human interaction. And yet still I lose days from work when I catch a common cold.

For thousands of years physicians have been the pilots in the cockpit while the patient hadn’t even arrived at the airport not having access to their data and the measurements of their body. Now patients are settling into the cockpit due to the swarm of health trackers, but they are not welcome by their physicians. This is the status quo we need to change by putting them there together in an equal partnership. Together they can make better informed decisions.


We are at a stage in which the gap between healthcare technology’s potential and what we have in reality has become huge. The only way for human evolution to adjust to the pace of technological change is to embrace disruptive innovations. We need to do so in our jobs as well our healthcare. While robots and the algorithms behind them improve at an increasingly faster pace, we should strive as human beings to improve ourselves and utilize the mind’s utmost creativity. If we cannot make this happen, then we will lose the battle sooner than most skepticists thought.

The changes I propose are not going to happen over our shoulders. Only we, individually, can accomplish that. By upgrading our health to a level not yet seen, and improving the skills that make humans extraordinary we have a chance to retain what’s really important to us while still improving healthcare worldwide.


The 2015 Innovation By Design Awards Winners In the Health Category

Fast Company announced the Innovation by Design winners in the health category and my jaw dropped a few times. Three examples why.

Drinkable Book, a beautifully bound tome whose tear-out pages purify water. The pages are coated with silver nanoparticles that, when used to filter water, can trap a reported 99.99 percent of the bacteria found in cholera, E. coli, and typhoid. One book can provide up to four years of clean drinking water for a single person.


The OR 360 simulation center. The key features include movable walls and equipment; color coded trauma bays to help staff locate supplies; whiteboards in trauma bays that display key patient information; and an iPhone application that puts diagnostic data at the fingertips of medical teams.


Juno is a machine that processes small amounts of DNA samples easily so lab technicians can focus on analyzing data instead of navigating equipment. Samples for Juno take just 15 minutes to prep and the machine produces data in less than three hours.


Browse among the other winners here.

Physicians Should Not Be Left Alone With Hard Decisions

Making really hard decisions where each decision has its downsides is a part of every medical professional’s job. I felt awful when I was in that situation and would have loved to ask a few more experts but could not simply because I had no access to them. With social media and other digital technologies, being connected to other experts has become a commodity of healthcare, but only if caregivers know how to use the tools.

A recent study perfectly underscores this notion. Authors applied collective intelligence (CI) to mammography screenings. They found that:

CI can be employed to improve mammography screening; similarly, CI may have the potential to improve medical decision-making in a much wider range of contexts, including many areas of diagnostic imaging and, more generally, diagnostic decisions that are based on the subjective interpretation of evidence.

Obviously, a group of experts can make a better decision than a physician alone. Why not using this amazing opportunity to improve healthcare? The only thing needed for this is helping medical professionals embrace these methods and learn the tricks. It is possible.


My Health: Upgraded – Only Disruptive Technologies Can Secure The Future Of Humanity

While many technologies are advancing at an almost exponential pace; the loss of the human touch, failures at preventing diseases, rising costs and doctor shortages influence the days of patients and physicians. It’s time to change that. It’s time to upgrade our health with amazing technologies without becoming cyborgs. This way, there will be no limits to what humanity can achieve.

To support this mission, I answer the forty most exciting questions covering the future of robotics, sensors and medical algorithms I have ever received after my talks; and I also describe how I have been upgrading my health for a decade in my new book, My Health: Upgraded (paperback & e-book).


The book consists of three parts:

  1. The Technological Revolution in Medicine: Information in our DNA can predict our future health. Biotechnology advances enable medical scientists to produce cells that fight tumors. Wearable devices measure our vital signs while at home. What we would have considered science fiction a decade ago is quickly advancing modern health care, and we haven’t seen anything yet.
  2. The Most Exciting Questions About The Future Of Medicine: I offer a fresh look at how innovative technologies enable us to change health care for the long term. I share advances such as the present reality of surgical robots and tackle questions such as whether nanorobots will ever swim in our bloodstream or whether actual, functioning organs can be made with 3-D printers.
  3. Upgrading My Health: To keep readers grounded in the here and now, I discuss how I use technology to monitor and improve my own health. From charting my sleeping patterns to using exercise motivation apps, I give detailed examples of how we can use technology to live a healthy and proactive life.

With the unique graphics of Richard Horvath and the wonderful interior design of Roland Rekeczi, every futuristic thought and idea is visualized.



Book trailer

Here is the book trailer and you can find examples for advanced praise from Dr. Eric Topol and E-Patient Dave deBronkart, among others, below.

The book also includes movie suggestions and the top hashtags for each of the 40 topics. I hope you will enjoy reading it. You can get the paperback and the e-book here.


Advanced Praise for My Health: Upgraded

“Dr. Bertalan Mesko, the consummate medical futurist, takes us on an extended technological tour – one that bodes well for how healthcare can advance.”
— Dr. Eric Topol, author of The Patient Will See You Now, Professor of Genomics, The Scripps Research Institute

“Dr. Bertalan Mesko has been called a thought leader thanks to his views on the future of medicine, and his latest book proves yet again just why he deserves that title. Dr. Mesko’s thoughts on digital health are comprehensive and innovative, but most importantly, they are accessible and easily understood. This thrilling book is a must-read for patients, providers, and all other stakeholders interested in taking control of their own health.”
– Dr. Larry Chu, Executive Director, Stanford Medicine X

“Sit down, loosen your mind, and settle into this book. It’s an extraordinary, liberated tour of what health and treatment will be like when we no longer starve for information and when everything physical is digital – which is far closer than you think.”
– e-Patient Dave deBronkart, e-patient thought leader, speaker, author

“Only few have the gift of being transformative ánd using it; Dr. Bertalan Mesko is one of them. This book bridges Hype, Hope & reality in a way that fits both the world of technology and medicine. Definitely a must read if you’re on the intersection of technology & medicine.”
– Lucien Engelen, Director of the Radboud REshape Innovation Center

“An easy to read guide to future health. Introducing recent history and everyday examples of progress as evidence of trends, it looks to the future of health technologies and their interactions with everyday lifestyle with informed optimism, avoiding unnecessary jargon. Covering areas from personal health recording to cheap DNA sequencing and AI assistance, it shows how the reader can take control of their own health and the many future opportunities for improving it. It also explores when we will get the technologies we see in sci-fi movies. All of this makes it a compelling but easy-going read.”
– Ian Pearson, Futurologist, Author of You Tomorrow

“Dr. Bertalan Mesko has written an amazingly interesting book that explores the future of medicine and how it will affect our health. As a transhumanist and politician, I highly recommend this book to all those who are interested in how technology is going to impact our bodies and change our lives.”
– Zoltan Istvan, futurist and US Presidential candidate

“Three in one, My Health: Upgraded is a didactic snapshot of digital health today and to come, a practical “how-to” guide on self-tracking, and responses to real “questions from the audience”. And Dr. Bertalan Mesko dares to answer them all. While I see many digital health books and articles, My Health:Upgraded is definitely not to be missed!”
– Denise Silber, Founder of Doctors 2.0 and You

“This one is just fantastic, an encyclopedic work by one of the recognized experts. No need to “Google” about the future of medicine, this book is like a search-engine on itself, about the amazing facts & possibilities of our health, but upgraded!”
– Dr. Rafael J. Grossmann, FACS, Surgeon, Healthcare Futurist & Innovator

Top 3D Bioprinting Event To Be Held In Hungary: Interview

I was proud to see the top 3D bioprinting event to be held in Hungary this September. I contacted the organizers and asked Péter Maróti to answer a few questions to give a clear picture about what attendees can expect and where the industry of 3D bioprinting is heading.

One of, if not, the biggest events in 3D bioprinting will be held in Pécs, Hungary this September. How did you get the chance to organize the event?

The recent years has clearly shown that 3D technologies became essential parts of numerous applications in most scientific fields. This has been recognized by the University of Pécs when Prof. József Bódis (the Rector of UP) initiated last year an innovative and multidisciplinary project focusing on these applications. To foster and accelerate the initial steps of concept building and planning we established a coordination team from members of the various faculties of the University. This team works under the umbrella of the Szentágothai Research Center and a few months ago secured financial funds from and EU grant for the early period of the project. We invited experts from several related fields and asked them to share their expertise and knowledge with our scientific community.


Simultaneously, we established collaborations with potential industrial and scientific partners. We organize the 1. International Interdisciplinary 3D Conference in Pécs as a closing event of this series of lectures, and at the same time as the beginning of the future projects that we plan to manifest at our University. So we believe this will be the cherry on the cake for the first project that summarizes and expands what we learnt in the previous months. This time our interdisciplinary conference will place strong emphasis on bioprinting techniques and methods.

Who are the major speakers and what are the major topics that will be covered?

It is really hard to answer this question, because lots of honorable scientists and researchers confirmed their participation in the workshop. The audience will hear exciting and fruitful lectures on bioprinting, focusing on how 3D biomodelling can help us both in research and clinical therapy. To mention a few components, Prof. Pongracz Judit will present how we can use them in examination of carciogenesis and cancer therapy. We will also gain information about 3D bioprinter devices thanks to Danny Cabrera from BioBots. Dr. Claudio Migliaresi will give a talk about cell encapsulation and printing. There will be workshops on other promising topics too, with Dr. Antonella Motta, Dr. Florian Thieringer, David Correa Z. and others. Of course besides bioprinting other applications of 3D technologies will be presented as well. György Falk, as the representative of Stratasys, Dr. Jochen Zimmer from Makerbot and other well recognised colleagues from the 3D printing industry will participate on this conference including artists and engineers.


What results do you expect to see due to the event?

First of all, this meeting should provide a great framework for every interested colleagues and partners to gain knowledge and information about these promising technologies and the tendencies dominating the field. Being interdisciplinary is obviously an advantage in many aspects and appears to be essential for the success on a longer run. However, in interdisciplinary projects the communication is a key issue as the participants come from different fields. These people when working together must achieve and maintain the proper understanding of each other for the fruitful collaborations. We believe that this and similar meeting should play a central role in the related communication efforts.

Apart from this we also aim to direct the attention of students to the related research fields. Considering that on a long term we would like to establish a 3D printing center in our region and also to establish an active, innovative and in many fields leading network of scientists, engineers and professional users, we expect that this conference with the related lectures and personal discussions will provide the intellectual basis for the proper planning of these ambitious future projects. We also hope that the meeting will serve as an excellent platform for the potential partners to establish their collaborations.

Where is bioprinting heading at the moment? How much time do you think it needs to become a common element of everyday healthcare?

It is difficult to tell, though several professional studies dealt with this question recently. Some companies promise that they will print fully functional organs in 3-5 years. It seems to us an overoptimistic prognosis. On the other hand some of these technologies are already abundantly used in research projects. The field of everyday applications is probably just before an explosion thanks to the cheaper bioprinters that are more and more wide-spread. What we envisage is that in the next few years the 3D biomodels become a common thing in a researcher’s toolbox, replacing many experiments on animals and patients. But who knows, this field is growing and developing extremely fast, and maybe the optimists are right that – even if not in 3-5 years, but – in 8-10 years 3D printed organ transplantation will be an everyday procedure in the clinics.


See you there!


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