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Posts from the ‘Healthcare’ 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.

The future of the FDA and drug regulations

The system of drug regulation is obsolete. To keep patients around the world safe, authorities like the FDA must step up and deal with disruptive trends – without suffocating innovation.

Innovation in medicine is getting faster while the processes the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses are sometimes decades old. The Patient Engagement Advisory Committee, launched in September 2015, was a great step forward. But regulators are unprepared for some big changes on the horizon.


Here are the top five issues that I believe will shape the future of the regulatory environment.

1) Patients taking action

If regulations don’t support the trends and technologies that make lives better, patients will take action themselves. This trend is already apparent, fueled by disruptive technologies like crowdsourcing. There is a chance that patients (or clusters of patient groups) might start acquiring/launching biotech companies to develop drugs and conduct clinical trials themselves without waiting for a regulatory agency to pave the way for them.

2) The ‘Uberification’ of healthcare

Uber has caused protests around the world by disrupting the taxi industry through making transportation available at lower prices. The company’s success and price advantage was made possible in no small part through avoiding regulations. If on-demand care delivery services gain popularity in the same way, before proper regulations are put in place, the resulting chaos will threaten patients’ health and caregivers’ livelihoods.

The FDA will have to be at its best to prevent this. And it must hurry up – The Heal app and Go2Nurse in Chicago have already started this disruption around how healthcare is delivered.


3) Wearables

The wearable health tracker revolution is changing the healthcare status quo, as medical information is now available outside the ivory tower of medicine which previously kept this information solely in the hands of physicians.

There might soon be ‘insideables’ – namely, devices implanted into the body or just under the skin. There are already people who have had RFID chips implanted to enable them to open up a laptop, a smartphone or even the garage door. Another trend is that of ‘digestibles’ – pills or tiny gadgets that can be swallowed to track digestion and the absorption of drugs.

So far, the FDA has not been keen on regulating the wearable market heavily. But when such disruptive technologies hit the market, it will be years behind.

4) Direct-to-consumer genomic services

When the FDA shot down all direct-to-consumer (DTC) services from the likes of 23andMe and Navigenics, there was a belief that it would soon provide a regulatory framework for such services. But, two years on, these companies function on thin ice.

While the freedom to access information about our health is crucial, regulatory agencies must make sure that the data patients receive is accurate and is discussed with a genetic counselor or physician. Otherwise, patients might interpret results wrongly. In five-to-10 years, genome sequencing will become accessible to almost everyone, and won’t be limited to big companies with serious capital. When that time comes, the FDA will face a serious scenario in which patients access the information in their DNA and analyse it at home with services like IBM Watson. They won’t need to involve any healthcare professional. But lifestyle and medical decisions based on such information will still require expertise that only trained physicians bring.

5) Real-time data gathered by insurance companies

Insurance companies such as Oscar Health have started issuing wearables to their customers, and offering incentives and rewards (like an Amazon gift card) if the customers agree to share their data obtained from health trackers. This motivates the patient to live a healthier life and doesn’t require strict regulation. But current wearable technology only provides harmless information about the wearer’s health, like steps taken or heart rate.


What will happen when every health parameter and vital sign can be constantly monitored using next-generation wearables, like digital tattoos? It’s great seeing companies backing preventive medicine, but keeping patients’ information private is crucial.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) is a step in the right direction. The US law makes sure patients do not share genetic test results with their employers and insurance companies, as that could be used to personalize their insurance rates, punishing them, for example, for inherent genetic defects that they were born with.

But similar regulation that encompasses any health parameter will be much harder.

The progress of technology cannot be stopped. Similarly, we all want healthcare to be safe, affordable and efficient. However, to regulate these disruptive trends without stifling innovation, the FDA must have the clearest vision and the best knowledge about healthcare trends.

The biggest challenge today is that the regulators are not at the forefront of innovation and they cannot hope to anticipate and regulate changes that they don’t yet understand.

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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.



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.


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!


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, one of the earliest attempts, but it still needs to go a long way.

my gadgets

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.  


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.


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.


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!

Why I Will Keep On Playing Games On

Lumosity is a collection of brain training games you can play on any device. The company has claimed these games enhance brain functions, pointing to findings in neuroscience and scientific studies to back up its claims. Now the US Federal Trade Commission made them pay $2 million in refunds to settle federal charges that Lumosity deceived customers about the cognitive and health benefits of its apps and online products. In details:

Regulators accused San Francisco-based Lumos Labs of making unfounded claims about what its games could do to delay the symptoms of and protect against conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and to reduce cognitive impairment from stroke and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.




I’ve played games 2364 times on Lumosity since July, 2013. I rarely miss a day and it has turned out to be a great method for improving some of my cognitive skills. I think false claims must be punished. But this case perfectly demonstrates what misconceptions people have about new health technologies. Most people expect technologies and digital services to transform their lives miraculously.

When starting to use a new tool or service, many expect it to lead to guaranteed lifestyle changes. After quantifying my health for over a decade, I’m convinced it doesn’t work like that. Each of us has to put in the effort to change ingrained habits and make use of data and possibilities that these tools grant us. There’s no “easy way” to upgrade your health, even with technology.

After playing Lumosity for years, I’ve gained two major benefits from it:

  • I love playing these games – data show my stress levels go way down after I’ve played my daily dose.
  • The methods of thought the games force me to master are useful when solving complicated problems in other parts of my life.


I’m convinced my reflexes, attention span, memory and mental flexibility have become better purely because I have been consistently playing those games. A few concrete examples:

  • Speed Pack and River Ranger taught me how to be perfectly efficient at doing a task. While I’m in meetings, I try to make them as useful as possible. I do that by really focusing on what’s ahead of me. I almost always manage to get the most out of my meetings.
  • Train of Thought still teaches me how to pay attention to several things at once. When I sit down to focus on replying to many e-mails, I need to gather information, read the messages, write the replies in a way that I don’t spend hours there. This game was designed to help me with that.
  • Disillusion provided me with methods to look at the same thing from two angles without making a mistake. My job as the Medical Futurist involves coming up with visions based on recent findings and new technologies. These games helped me how to have a fresh look at the same thing to illuminate the reasoning behind them.

Lumosity will not go down with this decision. Hopefully they learned an important lesson about making health claims without solid data to back them up. It endangers the very real value they CAN provide to some of us.

I will definitely keep playing, and recommend you start improving your health, lifestyle and skills as well. To improve cognitive skills, I still believe Lumosity is a good choice. I have no scientific studies to back this up, only my 2 years+ of positive experience.

What Healthcare Should Learn From Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey is one of the best sci-fi movies of all times. It still looks modern and believable after fifty years. Stanley Kubrick’s secret was how he deliberately designed the future with the help of experts from NASA and IBM, not just “imagined it” with artists. Healthcare, which is still designed entirely by people within the industry, could benefit greatly from adopting Kubrick’s methods. So how can we reinvent healthcare using Kubrick’s playbook?

Fifty years ago, on the 29th of December, 1965, shooting of 2001: A Space Odyssey began. Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece was to become the best sci-fi movie of all times, according to both the American Film Institute and The Rolling Stone magazine. Part of its success – along with an eye-opening story, a brave script and breathtakingly beautiful scenes – was how utterly futuristic it looked. When production on 2001: A Space Odyssey began, the Apollo program was still in its infancy, and manned missions have not yet reached the Moon. But the movie’s spaceships, cryopreservation capsules and digital screens still seem modern and believable. They could easily be placed in contemporary films like Interstellar or The Martian and without looking anachronistic. He used methods every hospital manager in the world should consider using when the job is to design the future of care.

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Genius director Stanley Kubrick was not impressed by the settings of other sci-fi films of the time. He decided against following Hollywood tradition. He didn’t rely on Hollywood designers and visual artists as every other director did. Instead, he based the movie on the ideas and predictions of experts, engineers and scientists from trailblazing organizations like NASA and IBM.

The ivory tower of today’s medicine is very much like the Hollywood traditions Kubrick violated. Physicians, care delivery experts and regulators all believe they know what’s best for patients, and most everything, from hospital processes to new healthcare technologies is designed based on input solely from people inside the healthcare industry. As Kubrick’s example shows, truly visionary solutions can only be designed by the right mix of industry insiders and outside experts.

Why raze the ivory tower?

Initially the bravest predictions about future technologies came from Arthur C. Clarke, visionary science fiction writer. Inspired by digital guidance systems in development for NASA, he proposed that while the astronauts sleep, an on-board computer could take care of them. But computers back then were rare commodities only big companies could afford.


So Kubrick and Clarke approached IBM, a pioneer in the field of personal computers to find out how to make this computer plausible. IBM actually brought in their celebrated industrial-design consultant, Eliot Noyes, to create designs for the computer system. In the summer of 1965, Kubrick received a letter about the concern that “a computer of the complexity required for Discovery spacecraft would be a computer into which men went, rather than a computer around which men walked”. Finally, he used Clarke’s inspiration and the suggestions from IBM in designing the finalized form of HAL 9000, a computer that became a legacy.

Healthcare faces similar challenges. We need a strong vision of the future and innovation to take us there. But these cannot be achieved from the ivory tower of medicine, by regulatory agencies like the FDA and boards of physician experts. Physicians can’t see the problems of care delivery without patient input. And decision makers might not even realize there are innovative technologies available to solve these problems.

We need people with intimate knowledge of both the actual health problems we seek to treat, and the technologies disrupting our industry. We need to bring in the ideas of patients and disruptive startups. We need to raze the ivory tower, or we’ll keep running in circles while we waste trillions of dollars on ineffective care and patients continue to suffer.

What healthcare can learn from Stanley Kubrick

From spaceship interiors to the Moon base, from videophones to digital advertisements, Kubrick relied on experts not only from Hollywood, but also from scientific fields from computer science to the space industry. This is why he created something that stood the test of time. Changing an old system is not possible without putting the primary stakeholders in the driver’s seat. And this is why today’s healthcare, designed without contributions from patients and innovators, cannot meet the demands of neither patients nor politicians.


There are signs that this is changing. The Food and Drug Administration launched a Patient Engagement Advisory Committee in September of 2015. The Society for Participatory Medicine and the Blue Button movement in the US aim to provide patients with their own data and medical records. The prestigious British Medical Journal seeks more patients to be reviewers on articles about their conditions.

The HealthDesignBy.Us movement brings together patients, caregivers, healthcare providers, engineers, artists and researchers who are passionate about patient-centered participatory design. They develop smartphone games for kids with diabetes; social media campaigns, and hold workshops to redesign care delivery processes. This is a true bottom-up initiative, focusing on patients and letting them shape their care.

Still, these are just the first steps. Patients should play a pivotal role in designing the future of care. They should have their voices heard when the interior of a clinic is designed or the delivery of health services is structured.

Innovative startups that are built around patients could also help change the status quo. TrialReach connects patients to open clinical trials. Smart Patients provide a platform to share experience and advice. The Heal application connects patients to physicians the same way Uber connects passengers to drivers.

When 2001: A Space Odyssey was released in 1968, the first critical reactions were utterly negative. Well-known critics thought the film offered “pretentious music and weird effects”; or was “in summary, a most unsatisfying movie”. Viewers did not like it, and left during screening. But this audience consisted of people over 50, with no interest in science fiction. When people started spreading the word about how unique the movie is, a younger generation took notice, and cinemas started to get crowded.


We see the same in healthcare today, with physicians and regulators pushing back against empowered patients and innovators asking for a bigger say in shaping the future of care. The “old guard” may judge your contributions harshly, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t forge ahead anyways.

Designing the future of healthcare with Kubrick’s method

There are several great ways to put Kubrick’s design process to use in healthcare:

  • Every hospital should have a patient advisory board including patients who have been treated at that facility. Only with their help would it become possible to create a healthcare system that is futuristic even decades after the first plans were drawn.
  • Hospital managers and administrators should organize healthcare hacking events. Far from just inviting experts to tell him how to do his job, Kubrick planned and organized experts from outside his industry to get the most out of their knowledge and expertise. The Radboudumc REshape Center in the Netherlands has been doing this for years.
  • Healthcare event organizers should include patients in the planning of their conferences. More and more healthcare conferences get the “Patients Included” badge which means patients either speak at the event or are in the organizing committee.
  • Startup incubators should connect engineers and developers to patients who can tell them their needs. This would establish a relationship between the technologists and those who will actually use their innovations, and make sure that patient needs and concerns are resolved. Currently, this is a missing link.

It’s up to us to decide – should healthcare remain a paternalistic hierarchy with obsolete technologies, or should it be built on a foundation of innovation, serving patients effectively and at a manageable cost?

Read more about the future of healthcare and learn how to start upgrading your own health in the new book, My Health: Upgraded.

11 Things Star Wars Could Learn From Healthcare Today

I’m an enthusiastic Star Wars fan, however, as the Medical Futurist I cannot help but see what medical technologies the episodes featured. The digital health innovations we have today are so amazing that they could even improve the futuristic Star Wars universe. I binge-watched all 7 episodes to find the 11 most interesting technologies we already possess, but Star Wars — despite ubiquitous space travel and lightsabers, does not.


1. Instant wound healing?

The most obvious discovery was that laser guns are common weapons in Star Wars but there is no instant wound healing, but we have it today. A sponge-filled syringe that was announced in December, 2015, was designed to close up gaping gunshot wounds in seconds.

2. Plastic surgeons?

Between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, Anakin Skywalker develops a scar over his right eye. When the scar appeared in Revenge of the Sith, there was no explanation as to how it got there. If he had access to a plastic surgeon, such skin problems could be resolved easily.

3. Anesthesia?

Still in episode 3, when Anakin is burnt and loses his legs, robot surgeons work on him while he is in great pain. I kept on wondering why. They had no painkillers and anesthesia? No cold liquid therapy for the burnt tissue? Moreover, they put the mask on him while the skin was still not intact and susceptible to infections.


4. Food scanners?

In the opening scene of Episode 1, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi drink what the droid brings to them without checking exactly what the drink contained. Food scanners such as Tellspec orScio will become available in 2016. These tools can tell us what we have on our plates or in our glasses.

5. Biomarkers?

If midi-chlorians, the microorganisms that reside within all living cells and communicate with the Force, are in the blood and can be measured with handheld tools (as seen in Episode 1), why are there no clear blood biomarkers with which people could be screened to become Jedi apprentices easily?


6. Diagnostic devices?

Anakin finds his mother by using a really fast vehicle, but when he gets there and his mother is dying, there’s no way to rush for medical help, or to use a hand-held diagnostic device to discover how to treat her?

7. Supercomputers?

In episode 4, Han Solo says it takes a few minutes to get the coordinates from the navicomputer for faster space travel. While there are robots with artificial intelligence and free will such as R2D2, and a robotic midwife in episode 3; there are no smart artificial intelligence systems onboard starships? IBM Watson could easily navigate the Millennium Falcon thousands of times faster.

8. Smart clothes?

In the The Empire Strikes Back, Luke almost freezes to death on the icy planet Hoth. They use state-of-the-art spaceships but there are no smart clothes to keep them warm and safe?


9. Skin tissue on robot prosthetics?

The fact that Luke’s arm didn’t bleed when Darth Vader cut it off, no matter how the lightsaber could cauterize his skin and tissues, is one thing, but Luke’s robotic arm in episode 6 looks much more lifelike than Anakin’s metal one in episode 2. I guess a prosthetics startup could have disrupted the galaxy’s industry in the meantime. A few more years and Organovo could print out skin tissue with their 3D bioprinters in real.

10. Cloning issues?

Stormtroopers featured in Episode 2 were cloned from bounty hunter Jango Fett and look alike. But this doesn’t mean that they should have the exact same phenotype, an individual’s observable traits, in their adulthood. Genetics loads the gun, lifestyle pulls the trigger — meaning even though two people might have the same genetic background, but the chance of being exactly the same physically is very small. Look at identical twins who grew up in different environments.

11. Symptoms after waking up from carbonite hybernation?

Finally, when Han Solo wakes up from the carbonite state, he should be feeling way worse than he does on screen. Symptoms would include serious vomiting, dehydration, headache and even more. He might have been lucky to “only” temporarily lose his vision.


There are also some good ideas though. In the underwater scenes of episode 1, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi wear a device on their mouths that lets them breath in water. When Padmé gives birth to Leia and Luke in episode 3, the movie features a weirdly shaped, quite futuristic birth bed and a robotic midwife armed with artificial intelligence is overseeing the whole process.

If you watch the episodes again by and keep your eyes open, you might catch even more ways our world could help the one of Rey, Luke and Han Solo. Until then, I keep on being a fan and cannot wait to think about what futuristic medical solutions the new episodes will feature.

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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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!

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