We are facing major changes as medicine and healthcare now produce more developments than in any other era. Key announcements in technology happen several times a year, showcasing gadgets that can revolutionize our lives and our work. Only five or six years ago it would have been hard to imagine today’s ever increasing billions of social media users; smartphone and tablet medical applications; the augmented world visible through Google Glass; IBM’s supercomputer Watson used in medical decision making; exoskeletons that allow paralyzed people to walk again; or printing out medical equipment and biomaterials in three dimensions.
It would have sounded like science fiction. Sooner or later such announcements will go from multiple times a year to several times a month, making it hard to stay informed about the most recent developments. This is the challenge facing all of us.
Based on my white paper and CNN article, I decided to demonstrate where the world of medicine is heading in a a book which will come out late August. The Guide to the Future of Medicine will feature 22 trends and technologies that will shape the future.
My mission with the book is to prove that the relation between the human touch in medicine and using disruptive innovations is mutual. By losing the quintessence of practicing medicine, the real-life doctor-patient relationship, we would lose everything. Although without implementing innovative technologies, it is becoming more and more complicated (if not impossible) to provide proper care.
Therefore this new world requires preparation and new skills must also be acquired. I wrote this book to fulfill this mission.
Here are some of the topics you will be able to read about soon everywhere online before the book comes out.
- Health Sensors In and Outside The Body
- DIY Biotechnology
- Advanced Robotics
- Artificial Intelligence in Medical Decision Support
- Hospitals of the Future
- The 3D Printing Revolution
- The Rise of Recreational Cyborgs
- and many more!
Let’s prepare for the amazing yet uncertain future of medicine together! #medicalfuture
Minsuk Cho, South Korean architect, curates an “epic-scale show about both Koreas” at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale. One of the most exciting projects they present there is the result of how architects of North Korea designed the future of houses and cities without actually ever leaving the country or studying about other city design in details.
Look what kind of futuristic concepts they came up with while, for instance, keeping the old types of phones alive, not really moving forward with the advances of technology.
It clearly shows how important it is to stay up-to-date about how technology is advancing today in order to be able to make informed decisions and assumptions about the future.
This is why I launched a Facebook page under the name The Medical Futurist to curate and publish news, reports and analyses about the most important trends and technologies that will shape the future of medicine. Feel free to join the discussion there!
Medical curriculum worldwide cannot meet the needs of today’s e-patients and technologies any more, therefore there is time for a substantial change. Good examples are sporadic but at least exist. At Monash University, they developed a kit of 3D-printed anatomical body parts to revolutionize medical education and training. I studied anatomy when I was a medical student from books with tiny font sizes and old atlases. Here is how it can be a different experience.
The 3D Printed Anatomy Series kit, to go on sale later this year, could have particular impact in developing countries where cadavers aren’t readily available, or are prohibited for cultural or religious reasons. After scanning real anatomical specimens with either a CT or surface laser scanner, the body parts are 3D printed either in a plaster-like powder or in plastic, resulting in high resolution, accurate color reproductions.
Moreover, in the Netherlands, a 3D bioprinting Masters program was just introduced and now they plan to become a global centre of bioprinting. This is how medical schools and institutions worldwide should aim at adopting new technologies. This is what the main organizer said:
“There will be 120 researchers completely dedicated to regenerative medicine and biofabrication. Our main work within the bioprinting facility in the early stages is on cartilage and underlying bones. For this type of biological structures, bioprinting technologies are mature and the development of bioinks is taking off exponentially. Our goal is to create a hub of knowledge focused on Utrecht while reaching out to the international scientific community.”
If we don’t change curriculum worldwide, it will be late to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s world.
In my new book, The Guide to the Future of Medicine coming out this August, I’ll feature plenty of analyses of the potential dangers we will all have to face due to new technologies. There will be new diseases because of the excessive use of virtual reality applications and it will be a real challenge to persuade people not to live an entirely virtual life.
A new article on Techcrunch, Immersive Infections, features some of these threats with a focus on augmented and virtual reality. It’s worth running over the examples it comes up with in order to prepare for the threats of the next few years.
One of the key components of Augmented Reality (AR) tech is its ability to facilitate interaction with the real world in new ways. This means that in order to provide digital content overlayed on the real world, these devices require the use of cameras.
A camera attached to an AR device that is attached to you can be a very dangerous thing. Consider if you will, malware that can use said camera to take pictures during a user’s most private times. These instances are never meant to be seen by the public, but by using the connections to social media these devices will no doubt have available, a cyber criminal can post these pictures onto the user’s social media whenever they want. Of course the most likely scenario would be if the user refused to pay a ransom.
Researchers at Nottingham Trent University are working on new kind of car seats that could measure vital signs such as ECG of the driver to prevent accidents caused by drivers falling asleep.
The sensor system can be used to detect heart signals which indicate a driver is beginning to lose alertness, and trigger a warning to pull over. Should the driver choose to ignore the alerts, active cruise control or lane departure technology could be deployed to gently guide the vehicle. The information could also be sent over a wireless network to a control centre to take further action.
This shows the path for new wearable health trackers which would play an immense role in our lives seamlessly measuring key vital signs and actually saving our lives from time to time.
Read more about the research here.
This year represents a turning point for wearable health trackers, out of which an obvious next one could be a gadget that delivers drugs through the skin when needed. ChronoDose now delivers nicotine for those who would like to stop smoking but the patches didn’t really seem to be working. Users can teach the gadget when it is the hardest to resist the temptation therefore it can add the next dosage in the right time.
ChronoDose is a programmable transdermal drug delivery system that’s worn as an armband. The ChronoDose will someday offer many different drugs the ability to be programmed, and administered via this transdermal device, but the buzz is all about it’s use as the world’s first programmable nicotine replacement method. ChronoDose’s use with SmartStop™ gives the device the ability to be programmed to anticipate the users cravings, and offer nicotine dosing scheduled to take effect before the urge to smoke strikes.
Without managing our health while being healthy it is impossible to significantly improve healthcare. I’ve already introduced the health trackers I have been using to stay healthy as an attempt of persuading people to do so.
Now Withings has come up with the report of a recent survey that had some worrying results.
- Although 82% of Americans think tracking vital signs at home is important, one fifth of Americans do not track any vitals outside of the doctor’s office.
- 75% of people would be open to checking their vitals at home if they were a part of a program that would save them money on health insurance premiums
- Oddly enough, although 59% of respondents monitor their temperature with a thermometer, only 12% could recall it as a vital sign, unprompted.
- Over 80% of patients recall their doctors taking body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate. Only 29% remember blood oxygen level being measured at their last check-up.
Obviously, better wearable gadgets are needed which make the whole process comfortable, simple and smooth.
Do you track any health parameters? If so, which ones? If not, why not?
Update: Also, here is the infographic Withings has released (click on the image for the original one):
A few months ago I discussed the future features of smart contact lenses. Now using these to augment vision or track health parameters is not only a good idea any more, as Google launched a partnership with the pharmaceutical company Novartis to develop smart contact lenses that can track diabetes by measuring blood glucose levels in tears and fix farsightedness as well.
As part of the agreement, Google[x] and Novartis’ eye care division Alcon will create smart lenses that feature “non-invasive sensors, microchips and other miniaturized electronics” and focus on two main areas. The first will provide a way for diabetic patients to keep on top of their glucose levels by measuring the sugar levels in their tear fluid, feeding the data back to a smartphone or tablet. The second solution aims to help restore the eye’s natural focus on near objects, restoring clear vision to those who are only farsighted (presbyopia).
There has been a long debate whether people would want to get the right diagnosis and the best treatment from human caregivers or algorithms/programs providing the same quality. Every round table or discussion group I have ever been the member of concluded that people need people in interaction and communication, especially when they are vulnerable. However, there is nothing to make us believe there won’t be an algorithm that can diagnose a disease better than a human doctor.
To make this issue even more complicated, new research found patients are more likely to respond honestly to personal questions when talking to a virtual human.
“The power of VH (virtual human) interviewers to elicit more honest responding comes from the sense that no one is observing or judging,” note the researchers, led by Gale Lucas of the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies. People have a strong tendency to want to look good in front of others, including doctors; this problematic tendency can be short-circuited using this high-tech tool.
If you think this is something we don’t have to deal with yet, try to convince yourself that the chatbot you are talking with is not a human. Coming up with the right questions to prove that is a good exercise before the era of artifical intelligence. Here are some examples, but not all of these links work all the time.
Have you seen the most important 5 seconds of the recent opening ceremony of the Football World Cup? A person standing in an exoskeleton controlled the machine with his thoughts and made the first kick of the game. Isn’t is amazing? It should have received a much larger attention.
Popular Science summarized in a report and a video how it actually worked and what happened in the backstage. Here are some interesting details:
The sensors placed on Juliano Pinto record angle, position, pressure, and temperature, that is then fed back to the subject through vibrations placed on their torso. These vibrations create an illusion in the brain itself that the subject is responsible for limb movement. In a sense, the exoskeleton is incorporated as an extension of the person’s body.