Personalized medicine has
become a buzzword in the use of technology to transform medicine and patient
care. Yet, healthcare is a people-based issue. It’s the intuition, the
experience, the human sense and sensitivity that allow doctors and caregivers
to excel in their profession. So the challenge is this: What can we do to
smooth the transition to a medical world that is increasingly enhanced by, and
dependent on, technology?
As someone who has regularly briefed CEOs from the healthcare and life sciences
industries at the IBM
Forum Zurich Research ISL in Switzerland, I have had the
opportunity to see which technology projects tend to be most successful. My answer to the challenge may surprise you,
coming from someone who has been working at a world-famous science and
technology lab for more than a quarter of a century.
Before I give you my impressions, let me share with you some of the major
tipping points in healthcare informatics. Three key technological components
are needed to create game-changing medtech solutions that will support our
dream of evidence-based medical diagnostics and outcomes.
|IBM Technology Advocate Moshe Rappoport |
(photo Mike Ranz)
Firstly, we need affordable and available technology for capturing patient data
and novel diagnostics in real time.
Secondly, we require the ability to share health data securely through local
and remotely interconnected communications devices (often called the Internet
Thirdly, we must have intelligent systems which are capable of combining and
comparing patient data with large amounts of clinical data and, based thereon,
proposing optimal treatments.
I believe that today we can
claim that we are just now reaching the tipping point on all of these
requirements. For example, at the University of Ontario Institute of
Technology, neonatal intensive care specialists can now monitor a constant stream of
biomedical data, such as heart rate and respiration, enabling them to spot
potentially fatal infections in premature infants up to 24 hours earlier than
before. Through deep analytics and a
better understanding of population health, it will become increasingly possible
to hyper-personalize medicine. For example, if a physician is treating a 45
year old Japanese female with high blood pressure, a history of smoking and
breast cancer, increasingly they will be able to gather evidence-based
information on specifically what treatment would work best for her. Analytics,
including novel capabilities based on IBM’s
Watson technology, will help us look more closely at
subpopulations that differ in their susceptibility to a particular disease or
their response to a specific treatment.
All of these examples are first-of-a-kind efforts, and I expect to see
significant advancements in the next few years—a golden era for medical
technology. The timing couldn’t be better, as we are facing demographic and
cost explosions that require radical new approaches to healthcare.
So back to my original
question about smoothing the transition to a technology-enhanced and
dependent medical world.
|"I believe that I can state from my more than 40 years |
of IT experience that the success of technology adoption
is usually correlated with the amount of effort spent in
designing systems optimized for human beings."
(photo by Mike Ranz)
I am convinced that we must plan from the very beginning—and not as an
afterthought—to deal with a realistic personal view of the various
people who will be using these systems. And we must continue to do so at every
point during this transition phase. Our view must encompass all stakeholders:
patients and their families, caregivers at all levels, administrators,
government officials, payers etc. In other words, as we become ever more
dependent on medical technology, we must not risk losing the human touch that
is so important to the healing process. For me this involves fostering a
feeling of trust on all sides.
Some of the factors that we will need to consider are: the ease of usability of
medtech systems including easily understandable output results as well as
transparency of complex processes. We will also need to be sensitive to the
tech-readiness of different age groups, the rights of patients to be informed
about their health in a sensitive way, and of course data privacy.
Already we are taking steps in these directions. Swiss start-up Nhumi, for example, is revolutionizing the way
physicians interact with electronic patient data by providing the most intuitive
interface you can think of: an interactive, browsable 3D-map of the human body.
It provides doctors with the ability to easily look up and access the
electronic health record of their patient. including medical notes, patient
history, CT-scans, X-ray images, etc.
With so called Smart
Rooms, patients at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center are able to
electronically follow their planned treatment protocol from their beds—if medically and
psychologically appropriate. Patient
empowerment has been shown to improve
medical outcomes. I personally
recall, watching a seriously ill physician lying in the same room as my mother
in a New York
hospital, fighting her frustration in not being informed of her condition and
the next treatment steps.
To further advance medtech solutions, we also have to gain a better understanding
of the critical characteristics that inform the patients’ choices, actions and
responses to their own health requirements. By truly understanding the
individual patient, physicians and other caregivers can really influence their
participation in their own health management.
I believe that I can state from my more than 40 years of IT experience that the
success of technology adoption is usually correlated with the amount of effort
spent in designing systems optimized for human beings.
As we move into an era of medtech-supported personalized medicine, we want to
ensure our focus on the word personal at all stages.
Labels: e-health, health care, ibm, IBM Research - Zurich, Industry Solutions Lab