One evening last November, a fifty-four-year-old woman from the Bronx arrived at the emergency room at Columbia University’s medical center with a grinding headache. Her vision had become blurry, she told the E.R. doctors, and her left hand felt numb and weak. The doctors examined her and ordered a CT scan of her head.
A few months later, on a morning this January, a team of four radiologists-in-training huddled in front of a computer in a third-floor room of the hospital. The room was windowless and dark, aside from the light from the screen, which looked as if it had been filtered through seawater. The residents filled a cubicle, and Angela Lignelli-Dipple, the chief of neuroradiology at Columbia, stood behind them with a pencil and pad. She was training them to read CT scans.
“It’s easy to diagnose a stroke once the brain is dead and gray,” she said. “The trick is to diagnose the stroke before too many nerve cells begin to die.” Strokes are usually caused by blockages or bleeds, and a neuroradiologist has about a forty-five-minute window to make a diagnosis, so that doctors might be able to intervene—to dissolve a growing clot, say. “Imagine you are in the E.R.,” Lignelli-Dipple continued, raising the ante. “Every minute that passes, some part of the brain is dying. Time lost is brain lost.”
Illustration Credit: Daniel Savage
Shortly after Thanksgiving last year, Ron Cobbley woke up with a stiff neck. Ibuprofen did nothing to help the South Jordan, Utah, resident. Soon the pain became so intense that Cobbley headed for the emergency room at Intermountain Healthcare’s Riverton Hospital.
Several MRIs and CT scans later, Cobbley’s doctors noticed a staph infection nestled where his collarbone meets his sternum. The doctors ordered surgery. While recovering, Cobbley, 74, turned on his hospital room’s high-definition television, outfitted with a zoom camera, speakers and microphones, to meet with Dr. Todd Vento, Intermountain’s medical director of infectious diseases telehealth services.
Vento conducted the post-operative evaluation from his office at the system’s Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah, its flagship campus. He examined Cobbley’s incisions and spoke with the local care team to discuss medications.
Millions of people around the world are living with arthritis. In the United States alone, the Centers for Disease Control puts that figure at nearly 23 million, or one in every four adults. But as common as it is, arthritis is actually just one word used to describe the joint inflammation associated with over 200 musculoskeletal conditions that affect everyone differently. This means people who seek out information about their condition online are often met with a barrage of confusing literature or conflicting pieces of advice that don’t address their individual symptoms.
So British charity Arthritis Research UK and IBM Watson are trying to solve that problem with the introduction of a web and mobile-based virtual personal assistant for people in the UK, where about 10 million people are living with the condition. Created with the Watson Conversation API – which allows for quick, simple building of chatbots or virtual agents across mobile devices, messaging platforms or physical robots – the digital assistant draws information from the Arthritis Research UK library and specific input from the user to offer personalized, immediate advice on symptom management, treatment options and any other questions they may have.
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If you believe that digital health and orthopedics seem mutually exclusive, then you are sadly out of step with the times.
At a panel presentation about alternative payment models and bundled care at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in San Diego on Tuesday, speakers clearly signaled that virtual therapy would be used more and more in the future. Especially now when bundled care programs like the CMS-mandated Comprehensive Care of Joint Replacement (CJR) is in place in 67 metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S.
That should be good news for digital health startups in the field who are eager to prove the clinical validity of their products, as well as help hospitals to lower the overall cost of joint replacement procedures.
Illustration Credit: MedCity News
IBM chose December’s annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America to showcase the ability of its Watson supercomputer to rapidly analyse medical images and suggest a diagnosis. Mark Griffiths, a clinical radiologist at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, who attended RSNA, says he saw some “stunning demonstrations” of the technology, including chest X-rays being “reported in milliseconds.”
Watson is an example of a technology that IBM refers to as “cognitive computing”. Using a form of artificial intelligence known as natural language processing, Watson, a cloud-based system, is able to analyse vast stores of scholarly articles, patient records and medical images. (When IBM acquired Merge Healthcare in 2015, it gained access to the company’s database of 30 billion images.) This ability to interpret written language is what marks Watson out as different from other computer-based tools used to aid diagnosis.
By Kim Thomas | Digital Health
Image Credit: Digital Health
Using Microsoft’s HoloLens platform, researchers in Oslo have developed a way of turning traditional two-dimensional medical images into 3D augmented-reality models for planning surgery and navigating around organs during operations.
The project by researchers at the Intervention Centre at Oslo University Hospital, working with developers at IT consultancy Sopra Steria, was recently awarded a Microsoft Health Innovation Award.
The data that the 3D models use comes from the hospital’s various image-generating scanning CT and MR machines. These scanners provide detailed views of the human body, but present these images in the form of two-dimensional picture ‘slices’.
When planning surgical procedures, the surgeons have to flip back and forth through a potentially large number of these slices, when using them directly from the scanning machines.
Image Credit: Hanne Kristine Fjellheim/Sopra Steria
The Silicon chip and the stethoscope have long gone hand in hand. Indeed, Moore’s Law, a widely used forecast of rising computing power, can often seem to be nudging healthcare into the realm of science fiction, with life-saving high-tech innovations coming at a rapid rate today — and plenty more in the pipeline. That is surely good news for investors, and not only those with a medical focus.
“The potential for growth extends beyond the traditional healthcare sector,” says Sarbjit Nahal, head of Thematic Investing at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research. With the provision that rising chip speeds can render a promising technology obsolete all too quickly (DVD, say hello to cloud streaming), here are the top five innovations Nahal and fellow “futurologist” Joseph Quinlan, head of Market & Thematic Strategy at U.S. Trust, think may offer investment opportunities in the years ahead.
Illustration Credit: Merrill Lynch