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Posts tagged ‘Medicine’

How I Optimized My Sleep With Technology

As a data geek, I’ve been quantifying my health for over a decade, measuring different aspects of my life in order to improve it.

For years, I was frustrated by the quality of my sleep. One day, I’d wake up refreshed after just 6 hours of sleep, but another I spent fatigued, even after getting the “recommended” 8 hours of shuteye. Given how important proper sleep is to brainpower, health and overall well-being, I wanted to optimize how I spent my nights.

As many struggle to get a good night’s sleep, I decided to lay down how I measured, understood and optimized mine. Here’s my guide to sleeping better with technology.


Getting started with improving sleep quality: Finding the problem

A mistake people often make when wanting to use technology to live better is rushing to buy a wearable device. Devising a way to optimize your life is up to you. A wearable can only show you data, which won’t be actionable if you don’t know what should be changed.

As each health tracker has different features, you must find the one that can solve YOUR problem. So the first step is understanding the problem itself.

I knew I wasn’t satisfied with my sleep quality, but to understand more, I started scoring my sleep every day. To learn exactly what I measured, check my free, step by step guide to hacking sleep.

Measuring sleep quality

Making a simple graph in an Excel spreadsheet made it clear that I regularly make mistakes before going to bed, as my subjective sleep quality often plummeted. But the change in quality didn’t depend greatly on time spent sleeping, or other often cited factors in sleep quality. So the scores helped me realize there are many things to improve, but without precise data about sleep quality, the best I could hope for was trial and error approach. To dig deeper into what made certain nights refreshing and others frustrating, I needed more data. It was time to look for a wearable device.

I purchased a small device, Withings Pulse, which, worn on the wrist, measures sleep quality. I chose it because it offers detailed sleep data such as how much time it took to fall asleep; how long light and deep sleep periods I had; and that is what I needed. It was also affordable with a cost of about 90 EUR.

One thing I often hear people worry about is wearing a tracker for the rest of their lives, but don’t worry! I only wore the device daily for about a month when optimizing my sleep. Nowadays I just put it on every other month or so – when I feel something’s amiss with my sleep quality.

In a week, I learnt more about my sleep than in decades before. It confirmed it doesn’t matter whether I sleep for 7 or 9 hours, as long as I have at least one long deep sleep period. Crucial information that flies in the face of common sense.

Improving sleep quality based on data

Now that I had found out how high quality sleep looks like for me with help from Withings Pulse, it was time to find out how to get more of it. The device couldn’t help me do this, so it was time for some experimentation.

I started compiling a list of things I should and should not do before going to bed. I tried each and measured its impact. If something like increased exercise or eating a certain type of food increased my time spent in REM sleep, I noted it down, then tried another. In another week, I learnt I should not exercise after 8 pm or check my phone before falling asleep. These things, among others, definitely ruin my sleep quality.

Upgrading my health with technology

I couldn’t have done it without data and experimentation. But with a simple and affordable device, my sleep quality today is not random, but consistently great and I don’t need to sleep with a device anymore. When I sleep badly for two consecutive days, I re-measure to make sure I’m still on the right track.


This free guide is only part of the story of upgrading my health with available and affordable technology. As well as improving sleep, this strategy helped me be more active, improve cognitive capacity and reduce stress. If you want to learn how health technology enables us to live a better life, check out my recent book, My Health: Upgraded.

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!


What I Learnt While Wearing Body Sensors For Three Days

I use a lot of health trackers to give me data therefore I can fine tune my lifestyle to be as healthy as possible. But I need to be able to analyze data and charge them, not even mentioning Bluetooth connections. So I was glad to find Fusion Vital, a company that tries to help people like me by providing them with actionable data regarding their health.

I wore this sensor for three days without interruptions.


Here is how it works:

And here is a sample result regarding how stress, physical activity and sleep affected my days and how I could recharge my energy repositories (green means good vibes, and red means stress):


Here is the summary of one day:

Screen Shot 10-25-15 at 12.42 PM

Things I learnt:

What I learnt is that measuring simple health parameters and vital signs with devices available today is not enough in making lifestyle decisions.

I also learnt that unless you are a medical professional and a researcher, you will need a report like this to understand what’s going on.

I learnt that collecting data constantly and writing notes about what I do helped a lot in discovering new things in my lifestyle. One example is how games such as Lumosity can refresh me in minutes even during a 10 hours-long work session.

Things I missed:

The sensor is still too big (even though it was comfortable) and de-attached from my skin during running and football sessions.

The report requires a professional to go through it, therefore it’s more about personal coaching than smart algorithms.


If you wanted to get a clear picture about your lifestyle and your physical form right now, I would definitely suggest giving it a try for 3 days. You will learn things I’m sure you haven’t known about yourself. Although, I expect them to reduce the size of the sensor and to make the whole process of measuring even smoother.

The era of digital tattoos is coming and it looks quite bright.


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.

A 3D Printer In Every Physician’s Medical Bag?

A technology is only considered disruptive if it provides a much cheaper and more comfortable way of providing care. There have been articles about what we can print out in 3D today from equipment and casts to biomaterials and drugs. The 3D4MD team just demonstrated a perfect example of how such a technology can deliver care in regions where the lack of resources is an everyday problem.

3D4MD has designed and tested a solar-powered, plug-and-play, ultra-portable 3D printing system to manufacture a range of hygienic, effective, and low-cost medical supplies at the point of use.  Designing this system to fit inside a carry-on suitcase allows safer handling of fragile parts and saves money by avoiding checked baggage fees.

So it is not only about 3D printing low-cost medical supplies, but creating a system to do that where it is actually needed.  Brilliant. This is how disruptive innovations coupled with the right people can make a change. Soon every physician’s medical bag will include a 3D printer.



ePatient Dave: “My Health: Upgraded” Stands Out As The Best Explanation Of The Future

I’m humbled and exceptionally proud that ePatient Dave, the world’s leading thinker about digital health and patient empowerment said that “the new book My Health: Upgraded stands out as the best explanation of the future that I’ve seen”. It was worth writing that book only for this comment from Dave. Here is the book.

Let me share an excerpt from his amazing article entitled Berci’s “My Health: Upgraded”: A futurist vision worthy of Doc Tom:

Parts of Ferguson’s vision continue to materialize today, and those are the parts My Health: Upgradedsteps forward to explore.

As a 65 year old who was saved by the best of medicine and has learned a lot since then, I’m thrilled at the idea of being alive another twenty years from now, in 2035, to see what the next wave will look like. I find reason to believe we’ll see Meskó was as right as Ferguson.



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