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Posts from the ‘Medicine’ Category

We need to be better prepared for a technological future: My BMJ Commentary

It’s a pleasure to share that my commentary on how to prepare patients and medical professionals for the upcoming waves of technological change is available in the British Medical Journal. This issue finally puts patient centered care in the spotlight which is the biggest step forward a medical journal has ever made. See E-Patient Dave’s article as the example.

If the waves of change from disruptive technologies and a restructured medical ecosystem hit us unprepared, which is the situation we are in now, there is a risk that medicine will become even more of a technology based service. To prevent this, we should be consciously and purposefully redesigning health systems by preparing for the now.

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Exoskeletons let paralyzed people walk again! (VIDEO)

When I watched the movies Avatar, Elysium or Iron Man, I was thinking about how great it would be to have those so called exoskeletons in real life letting paralyzed people walk again. And then science fiction became reality.

On a sunny day in November, 2013 I attended the Europe Summit organized by the Singularity University in Budapest at the amazing venue of the Franz Liszt Academy of Music. We listened to Amanda Boxtel, who got paralyzed from a spinal cord injury in a ski accident in Aspen, Colorado in 1992. She told us how she felt after getting the diagnosis of never being able to walk again and how she refused to stop dreaming. Since then, she has established adaptive ski programs, carried the Olympic torch, organized disabled rafting expeditions, and even conducted research in the Antarctica. She has also become one of the ambassadors of an innovative company called Ekso Bionics.

Their exoskeletons are used by individuals with various degrees of paralysis and stemming by a variety of causes. Ekso Bionics have helped individuals take more than a million steps that would not otherwise have been possible. Boxtel is one of ten Ekso Bionics test pilots who received a customized exoskeleton. According to Boxtel, the project “represents the triumph of human creativity and technology that converged to restore my authentic functionality in a stunningly beautiful, fashionable and organic design.”

See it in action:

Another story includes Hugh Herr, who directs the Biomechatronics research group at MIT’s Media Lab and gave an amazing TED talk in 2014. Herr lost both his legs in a climbing accident 30 years earlier. He spoke of his plan to make flexible, smart prosthetics cheaper and widely available for those who need them. His team is pioneering a new class of smart biohybrid prostheses and exoskeletons for people with physical disabilities. It builds prosthetic knees, legs, and ankles that fuse biomechanics with microprocessors in order to restore normal gait, balance, and speed. They may even enhance biological functions including strength or speed. At the end of his talk came a surprise. Ballroom dancer Adrianne Haslet–Davis, who lost her left leg in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, performed on stage for us for the first time since her accident.

A San Francisco based company, Bespoke Innovations, went further in customization to make beautifully designed prosthetics based on the patient’s needs and personality. Scott Summit, the designer at Bespoke, explained that in single amputees, the remaining leg is scanned and mirrored to give the correct geometry.

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A recent study showed that flexible spinal cord implants will let paralyzed people walk again. These include “flexible electrodes, cracked gold electronic tracks and fluidic microchannels to deliver both electrical impulses and chemicals while mimicking the spine’s movements and avoiding friction”.

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There is a reason to be optimistic! The advances of 3D printing lead to better, more comfortable and cheaper prosthetics, as well as exoskeletons. Having a disability should soon mean no disadvantage to a patient. Moreover, it might lead to unexpected advantages. The first Olympic Games for people with robotic protheses or powered exoskeletons will take place in Zurich, Switzerland in 2016. It is going to be a milestone.

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The list of examples and real-life stories could go on forever and hopefully the group of powered exoskeletons is going to be the hottest example about how technology can truly improve people’s lives.

Read more about such stories, even neuroprosthetics and the ethical dilemmas we will soon have to face in in my book, The Guide to the Future of Medicine.

The Guide to the Future of Medicine ebook cover

How mobile is transforming healthcare: Report

The Economist came up with a report about How mobile is transforming healthcare including infographics and analyses. You can download the report here.

According to a new survey, mobile technology has the potential to profoundly reshape the healthcare industry, altering how care is delivered and received.

Executives in both the public and private sector predict that new mobile devices and services will allow people to be more proactive in attending to their health and well-being.

These technologies promise to improve outcomes and cut costs, and make care more accessible to communities that are currently underserved. Mobile health could also facilitate medical innovation by enabling scientists to harness the power of big data on a large scale.

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My Story and The Future of Medicine in the Get Social Health Podcast

I was glad to get invited to do a podcast on Get Social Health. I hope you will enjoy listening to it. Here is the summary:

Dr. Bertalan Meskó is a digital renaissance man for healthcare. He is an author, TEDx speaker, teacher, consultant, and medical futurist. We had a wide ranging conversation about the future of medicine and the need for all medical professionals to be digitally literate. In addition to his newly published book, “The Future of Medicine,” Dr. Meskó shared his personal story of how he became a medical doctor, a PhD in genomics but still felt he had to honor “the geek” inside and embrace a career he designed for himself as a medical futurist. Listen to the episode of catch the highlights of the podcast at the time stamps below.

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Shall We Sequence Genomes At Homes? – The Future of Genomics

As a geneticist, talking with George Church or the President of the Personalized Medicine Coalition was a fascinating experience while writing my recently published book, The Guide to the Future of Medicine. This is still one of the most promising fields of medicine but without getting it closer to the general public, genomics will never play a pivotal role in practicing medicine.

Let’s start from the beginning. From the years of 2005, 2006 and 2007, patients have been able to order genetic tests online with 23andme, Navigenics or Pathway Genomics. In 2013, 23andme received a letter from FDA about ceasing marketing of the screening service. Since then, the market has been transforming into something new that could also meet the regulations of the FDA. At least, hopefully.

My Gentle Labs package.

My Gentle Labs package.

I’ve had 3 genomic tests with Navigenics, Pathway Genomics and My Gentle Labs with 3 different results and experience. I thought the direct-to-consumer (DTC) market is just not ready for prime time. I also analyzed my own raw data with Promethease and got to very interesting conclusions about the future of my life. I loved the possibility to get insights about my genome as well, not just measuring my vital signs. Here is my overall experience with genetic testing:

Similarly to how the wearable revolution is transforming into a world of smart clothes, disease prevention and insideables (swallowed sensors), the field of DTC genomics has been changing too. Here are some reasons why.

  • While the cost of sequencing one person’s genome was about $3 billion in 2003, now it’s possible for under $1-3000 (see figure below). The $1000 genome is still not here, but the trends are clear and soon the shipping cost of the sample will be higher than actually sequencing that genome.
  • The number of sequenced genomes is skyrocketing. Illumina said that 228,000 Human Genomes would be sequenced only in 2014 and the predictions for this year are even bigger. Soon we will all have access to our own genomes.
  • It is known that fetal DNA is circulating in the mother’s blood,and it can be separated from her blood to allow analysis of the fetus’s genetic makeup. Imagine the possibilities.
  • Large US hospitals are about to begin sequencing the genomes of healthy newborn babies as part of a government-funded research program called BabySeq. Major diseases could be pointed out and precautions could be made about others far in time.
  • Oxford Nanopore developed the MinION™ portable device for molecular analyses of DNA, RNA and proteins that is driven by nanopore technology. It might be the first step towards sequencing genes at home, despite early criticisms.
  • There are more and more targeted cancer therapies available. As certain tumors have specific genetic mutations such as BRCA in breast cancer or EGFR in lung cancer, among others, they might be sensitive to targeted drugs. Sequencing a tumor’s own genome is becoming a routine step in designing the therapy for cancer patients, although the costs are exceptionally high.
Cost of genome sequencing.

Cost of genome sequencing.

As you can see, examples underscore the notion that genomics could play a very important role in everyday medicine, but numerous steps and elements are needed for that.

  1. Comprehensive and thorough regulation from organizations such as the FDA or EMA about what DTC companies can offer and actually do. Can patients order tests online or only their caregivers?
  2. Innovative companies connecting patients to medical professionals through the genomic knowledge behind cancer and other diseases.
  3. Reliable algorithms that could help use the huge amount of data genome sequencing leads to in analyzing health outcomes. A great example is how Joel Dudley at Mount Sinai Medical Center is working on implementing big data in medical decision making. IBM Watson is also analyzing genomic data to find treatments in brain cancer.
  4. With the widespread of genetic testing and the decline in the cost, it should be a common thing to analyze my genome or get a detailed analysis. Moreover, caregivers should be trained to be able to use that data in patients’ health or disease management.
  5. A better understanding of what genomics can and cannot offer by the general public. Professor Church pointed out to me that without educating people about the pros and cons of the genomic revolution, we cannot make the right steps forward.

It has become clear, seeing the trends, that the technology letting us sequence genomes at home is coming. Although it’s still hard to make good, evidence-based decisions purely based on genetic background; to get reimbursed if genetics-based personalized treatments are cost-effective on the long term (but expensive on the short term); and to interpret the huge amount of data. Cognitive computers are meant to help us with that, but I’m sure ever-improving technologies will provide all of us with our own genomes far before we could do anything with that information.

Read more about the future of genomics in my book, The Guide to the Future of Medicine.

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Channelling the future in medical education: Infographic!

I launched two courses at Semmelweis Medical School in order to prepare students for the digital world. One is focusing on the medical use of social media, and the other is dedicated to disruptive technologies and how to find the human touch in the digital jungle. Therefore I was very excited when Ashfield, an international healthcare services organization, asked me to be the moderator of a global discussion on the future of education.

I had a chance to work with key opinion leaders of medical education and to engage in amazing discussions about the future needs of medical professionals.

Medical education must ­finally step up to meet the expectations of empowered patients, the needs of busy physicians, and the use of disruptive technologies. This forum was designed to facilitate this process.

See the detailed article about the results on Pharmaphorum, the announcement by Ashfield and the whole infographic. Here is my favorite part and an excerpt from the article of Ruth Herman:

The digital revolution has already led to major changes in channel preferences as mobile technologies, online networks and other innovations provide better ways for healthcare professionals to learn and obtain new information. These changes are likely to continue as the digital skills and sophistication of both patient and physician populations continue to grow. So how can the providers of this information stay ahead?

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The Medical Futurist: Weekly Introduction

Working as a speaker and consultant with medical technology, pharmaceutical and web companies; as well as universities and governments worldwide, my mission as The Medical Futurist is to make sure the advances of technology lead to a better healthcare for everyone!

I publish a daily newsletter about the future of medicine, manage a popular Facebook page about the future; launched a Youtube channel and share related news almost every hour on Twitter.

Here is my new book, The Guide to the Future of Medicine:

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I’m also the author of Social Media in Clinical Practice handbookand the founder of Webicina.com, a service that curates medical content in social media for medical professionals and e-patients.

I launched The Social MEDia Course, the e-learning format of my university course focusing on medicine and social media for medical students, physicians and also patients with Prezis, tests and gamification.

I hope you will enjoy reading Scienceroll.com!

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