Archives for category: Digital health

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Pneumonia is a potentially fatal infection of the lungs, causing them to accumulate fluid in the air sacs. Especially dangerous for the very young, old, and immunocompromised, it must be diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible. Currently, the gold standard for diagnosis is a chest x-ray, which is not only inconvenient and costly, but also exposes an individual to radiation.

A staple physician accessory has always been the stethoscope, a tool for amplifying sound when listening to the internal sounds of a patient. When a doctor is listening to your heart or lungs, this requires a combination of skill with placement and auditory detection to differentiate normal and abnormal sounds. This alone is not enough to diagnose a lung infection such as pneumonia, and thus a suspected diagnosis must be confirmed with an x-ray.

A new instrument looks to improve the accuracy and ease of diagnosing pneumonia while providing an inexpensive and convenient alternative to chest x-rays. Tabla works by streamlining a series of simple steps to detect possible lung infections. A provider places the device over a patient’s sternum, and then continues to move the stethoscope around known areas of the lung while a wireless app collects diagnostic data.

As medical instruments become digitized for accuracy, interpretation of patient data and output is becoming more standardized. Tabla is a brilliant device which not only streamlines the diagnostics process for lung infections, but eases the burden of cost and minimizes exposure to radiation in the treatment of pneumonia.

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Why do we seek external advice for our health? In part, we expect providers to know more than us. This is partially through the experience of treating other patients that have had similar struggles, and also by having the background knowledge and mental data storage to make decisions that will guide us toward our goals. So, what if there was an external system that could help guide the decisions that providers make to improve our health?

Artificial intelligence is going to change the way that clinicians diagnose and treat, for the better. Any human work has the risk of error and knowledge can be variable between practitioners. Patients oftentimes don’t expect to find their providers searching their conditions or related questions on Google, but the truth is that this is common practice. Seeing a condition for the first time, with a client expecting you to provide guidance for them and keep them safe is difficult and sometimes external resources are necessary. In my first years of practice, Google Scholar and the search engine became my close alliances while I navigated many new diagnoses and patient questions.

IBM Watson seeks to provide an external network of both data and experience. It is growing to become an amazing resource for answering questions, compiling data, and helping drive logical decisions in medicine. A large cloud of data storage that learns as it compiles more data, this promises to be a close resource for clinicians by making our decisions more precise and valuable for patients. Watson’s storage allows for a diverse amount of data storage, including personal data along with genomic and clinical research. When searching for information, it will be extremely valuable and efficient to have all this information stored in one known resource.

Quality care is a combination of data and experience. Both are extremely valuable, and the combination is what makes medical decisions supreme. Without research we are unable to learn as a society and defend the decisions that we make. And it is through experience, working with thousands of people, that we begin to see patterns and apply them to our practice. People often ask, ‘have you seen this before?’ It comforts them when the answer is yes, and this is because experience gives us the power of efficiency. With a resource such as IBM Watson, providers will have the benefits of current research and data to pair with our experience.

Overhead photo of Proteus patch, device and pills in persons hand

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In light of the upcoming Digital Health CEO Summit by Rock Health on March 30th, I would like to touch on the exponentially growing sector of digital health in the healthcare technology space. As lines slowly become blurred between biotechnology, medical devices, fitness tracking, and standard healthcare, an undeniable part of this changing landscape is the presence of wearable sensors.

Most of us are by now familiar with the presence of fitness trackers such as Fitbit and the presence of Apple Health in our daily lives, tracking our steps and movement patterns. A more unknown type of wearable sensor is an ingestible one. Ingestibles are sensors contained within a pill; once swallowed, the sensor sends signals to a device. These are sensors which can be used to track medication habits and other metrics without a person constantly having to keep track.

Proteus‘s product is targeted toward those with chronic health conditions and has four components: an ingestible pill which contains a sensor, a patch which receives the signal from the pill, an app where users can look at their data, and a portal which a provider can log into and  view patient data. The ingestible pill tracks people’s medication habits, measures metrics, and provides insights for both the user and their provider. These four components offer a well-rounded system to systematically involve both the user and their provider, and give the option to also give medication reminders.

For those with chronic health conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, medication compliance is normally very low: 50%, according to Proteus’s site. Proteus was created to improve adherence, decrease healthcare costs, and also allow both healthcare professionals and patients themselves to take a more active role in their own healthcare.

From experience, I have seen that without the investment and active participation of someone in their own health, the path to stable health becomes a difficult one. This lack of participation is often multifactorial, and the patient is not necessarily to blame. Chronic health conditions become a complicated system where one must take constant medication without always understanding or being engaged with what is actually happening in their own body. Education and active participation are vital, as is understanding the significance of self care.

Particularly when dealing with chronic conditions, it is very empowering for someone to have some type of feedback which gives their health regimen significance and involvement. The added bonus of metrics such such as steps, activity, blood pressure, heart rate, and weight give a person even more insight into their own system.

As healthcare changes and people become more in control of their own well being with knowledge, research, and digital insights, we hope to see more amazing products such as the one from Proteus.