Digital

Digital

Views on eHealth, big data and everything that’s not analogue.

I wonder, have you ever had a conversation with your doctor or nurse about barcodes? Not likely, I guess! Whilst the humble barcode is so ingrained in everyday life (after all, we all scan barcodes at the checkout), its potential in healthcare is both enormous, but unfortunately largely unknown. The reality is that for patients and caregivers, the beep of a scanned barcode has the possibility to help ensure that a patient receives the right medical product at the right time and that caregivers have the benefit of additional surety in their processes. Scanning barcodes can help to minimise errors due to incorrect identification of product or patient and ensure the correct product is in the hospital when the patient needs it. The global, voluntary user community, GS1 Healthcare - which brings together all healthcare supply chain stakeholders, including manufacturers, distributors, healthcare providers, solution providers, regulatory bodies and industry associations - recently produced a video to illustrate the value global standard barcodes add in hospital processes. For every one of us, this is a must-watch - after all, at one point in our lives, we will all be patients. For staff of healthcare product supplier organisations this is even more important. After all, suppliers are applying GS1 barcodes to meet a range of regulatory and trading partner requirements. In turn, these barcodes should be used by all healthcare stakeholders, most importantly, the healthcare provider organisations and staff that are issuing these suppliers’ products to patients. Please take two minutes of your time, open your minds and remember that the use of global standard barcodes in healthcare empowers all of us - patients, healthcare provider staff and healthcare provider organisations. A simple scan can contribute to doctors and nurses being able to focus even more on caring for every one of...
In the second of a two-part series, Dr. Johnny Walker talks about Jinga Life and the power of managing healthcare at home. Read the first part here . We have an ever growing clinical demand and an ever rising consumer expectation to deliver "best of breed" services across every step of the patient journey. We are living in a world where consumer-led market disruption is the norm in business, where technology that at one point was contained purely in the realm of Sci-Fi is now ubiquitous and commoditized. The current resources are strained and incapable of delivering services in this way and we are buckling under the daily fight for survival at the clinical coal face. The traditional healthcare system is simply unsustainable despite the phenomenal efforts of everyone within the ecosystem in putting their shoulder to the wheel. We need to rethink the healthcare structures. An important observation from my experience is that, in 92% of cases, the ever present custodian of well-being in a family is female. Whether this is accompanying the patient, or being the first person members of the family call when they are sick, the centre of well-being in many family units is the female, the protector, the shepherd, the warrior. The Jinga [1] . Jinga Life aims to engage, embrace, enable, empower, and educate the Jinga. By populating an Electronic Health Record, designed and maintained by the Jinga for the family, extending primary care models to include the home, and using simple technologies to increase the connectivity between the Jinga and the family’s care professionals, Jinga Life desires to place the Jinga at the centre of her healthcare team. Our vision is to change focus from the traditional hospital based doctor focused solution, and put the Jinga at the core of her and her...
eHealth technologies are pulling together personal information from diverse sources to ensure a more personalised, informed healthcare service – it’s what patients expect Precision medicine is the use of all available information about a patient to produce the most informed care plan possible. This is often associated with using genetic or other “-omics” information to help doctors select which medicine to prescribe for their patient. For example, testing a cancer patient for specific biomarkers can tell doctors which chemotherapy will work best. But it’s much bigger than that. If you look at what contributes to premature death, around 30% is thought to be genetic. The rest is a combination of our environment, diet, exercise, work, mental health, social interactions and other exogenous factors. So why limit ourselves to genetic data alone? As healthcare is now in the information era, the challenge is to pull together the vast quantity of data that exists and aggregate it in a way that allows health services to be tailored to each patient. There is already a wealth of data and this is expected to increase 50-fold in the next eight years. There is no way any physician can cope with this volume of information. That’s why software companies are playing an increasing role in healthcare. Information overload is essentially an IT challenge: how do we access and surface these data in a way that makes them accessible and actionable? How do we acquire and aggregate data, then reason against it to help manage populations and drive insights? Healthcare is unique but software experts have already overcome huge challenges in areas such as e-commerce and financial services to deliver a more tailored and user-friendly experience while safeguarding data privacy. In fact, the public is so used to this kind of customised intelligence that some patients...
Professor Kevin Warwick is pushing the boundaries of artificial intelligence and cyborg technologies How can artificial intelligence (AI ) improve healthcare? AI can be used to learn what is going on in different parts of the body and to predict problems. This gives us the power to prevent problems before they arise or to counteract malfunctions which are detected by sensors. Could you give us an example that will be part of the near future? One immediate application is in the use of deep brain stimulation or DBS. This technology is already used in people with Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy or depression to stimulate the nervous system with electrical pulses in order to alleviate symptoms. AI allows us to take it a step further by predicting when stimulation is needed. This means we could apply DBS before the patient experiences symptoms. What areas of future research are most exciting? An interesting area is the use of cultured neural networks. Typically, we use neurons (brain cells) taken from rat embryos and connect them to a robot. Sensors from the robot stimulate the culture and we have observed different pathways in the cell culture changing the direction of the robot. How do you do this? Firstly, we separate the brain cells using enzymes and them lay them out on a multi-electrode array (essentially a small dish). Very quickly the neurons start connecting with each other. We have to feed the brain cells using minerals and nutrients. The growing brain, consisting of approx. 150,000 cells has to be kept in an incubator at a controlled temperature of 37 degrees C. After about 10 days the brain has lots of connections so we give it a body. The brain is connected to its body, bi-directionally, via a Bluetooth link. Sensory signals from the robot body...
Gaming and simulations can engage surgeons in ways that traditional medical education does not, says Professor Marlies Schijven who has shown the power of play in improving surgical skills. As a surgeon, game developer and app inventor – among other things – she is also on the cutting edge of using wearable technologies in the operating room and was the first person to live-stream abdominal surgery on YouTube via Google Glass. What is serious gaming? Serious gaming uses the principles of playful technology and the power of play to get an educational message across without people feeling as though they are being taught. The key is to wrap educational content into the game, in such a way that it is not perceived as ‘homework’. How can gaming and simulations help surgeons? This approach can be used to train anyone - but it has great potential in teaching surgical skills. It is very important to have game designers involved in developing the games otherwise it will just become another boring e-learning module or tedious ask. I have shown that, compared to traditional training methods, well-designed simulations and games actually make for better, more competent surgeons. How did you become interested in working with game designers? For me, it was natural. Before I studied medicine, I studied for some time in a design academy so I can pretty much understand the way designers think and I value their approach. Good serious games are developed by good designers in collaboration with content experts. You have also been experimenting with wearable devices in the operating theatre. What do these technologies do for surgeons? To give one example, you often need to control computers or other devices whilst performing surgery. If this means typing on a keyboard or touching a mouse, you would have to...
Why do we use more advanced monitoring tools in our daily lives than we do in biomedical research? Every scientist knows that discoveries from biomedical research are useless if they cannot be replicated. Yet, in a recent survey by Nature , 70% of researchers indicated that they have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments, and more than half have failed to reproduce their own experiments. That’s an astonishing number, especially if you think of the billions of euros that are then being wasted. Back in 2011, I was running a biotech startup that was involved in a European project to filter stem cells from umbilical cord blood, and then expand them to high numbers while suppressing the differentiation. We had very promising results. As part of the project, we were culturing patient stems cells and - as anyone with experience of cell culture knows - they need to be fed sugar and nutrients regularly. Indeed, they need a lot of care and attention, and the normal practice was to check them twice a day – even on weekends. Unfortunately, one Sunday, the cells were not checked and fed due to a personal emergency of a staff member. Normally this would not pose a big problem – the cells were usually split to a new flask with medium on Monday. However, on that occasion the lack of feeding did cause a problem. The flask grew confluent and the cells were lost, along with much of the work leading up to that point. We had a disappointing meeting with all project members, and I remember that on the way back I was driving and my colleague was working on his smartphone. I asked what he was doing and he said he just changed the climate control in his house and...