Monday, April 28, 2014

5 Technologies Shaping the Future of Medicine

By Robin Farmanfarmaian
Vice President, Strategic Relations
Singularity University

In a classic “Star Trek” episode, Captain Kirk and Spock lean over the battered body of Dr. McCoy. Spock waves a shiny device over the doctor’s chest.

He glances at it, “Severe heart damage. Signs of congestion in both lungs. Evidence of massive circulatory collapse.”

Spock may be smart, but he's no physician. However, his casual civilian access to medical data might be a reality very soon. As technology advances, care will increasingly shift into the hands of patients who have access to high-tech devices and state-of-the-art resources.

Current research reveals exciting possibilities as technology and healthcare continue to advance. Here’s a look at five ways technology is revolutionizing the medical field:

  • 3-D Printing: California-based research company Organovo has printed human liver tissue to test drug toxicity on specific sections of the liver. Although printing organs for transplants may still be far off, this technology could be used in the near future with individual patients to test their toxicity reactions to specific drugs.

  • Artificial Intelligence: IBM’s Watson is just the first step of using artificial intelligence in medicine. The supercomputer, which defeated two human champions in Jeopardy two years ago, is now being used to diagnose and manage lung cancer treatment. Imagine a computer that could evaluate and analyze your entire genome, biometric data, and environmental and personal data including your diet and activity level. The quantity of information is too much for a person to analyze efficiently, so adding an artificial intelligence component could help us get to a new level of understanding.

  • BCI and BBIs: As Brain-Computer Interfaces become more advanced, healthcare will incorporate more complex human-computer connections. The uses range from helping people manage pain to controlling robotic limbs and more. Harvard University researchers recently created the first brain-to-brain interface that allowed a human to control a rat’s tail and another human’s movements with his mind.

  • Robotics: Robotics are quickly advancing medical treatment. Ekso Bionics has already launched the first version of its eksoskeleton, which enables paraplegics to stand and walk independently. Emotionally and physically revolutionary, the technology allows a person who has spent 20 years in a wheelchair to stand on her own. This holds huge promise for the next generation of robotics.

  • Electronic diagnoses: Technology promises to put the burden of care and diagnosis directly in the hands of patients. The XPRIZE Tricorder Challenge is sponsoring a $10 million race to develop a hand-held, non-invasive electronic device that can diagnose patients better than a panel of doctors. This could revolutionize how we see diagnostics. You will no longer have to go into a doctor’s office or hospital. Instead, a device in your home will analyze your data, diagnose the problem, and send your information to a doctor who can treat you remotely. Such a device could make healthcare more accessible in rural areas and developing nations. One of the devices up for the challenge is being developed by Scanadu, which also has an electronic urinanalysis stick similar to a pregnancy test that performs up to 12 different tests and sends the results through the cloud to your physician, eliminating the need for routine lab visits.

Changing patient experiences

Advances in technology are already making healthcare better, easier, more accurate, and more efficient for physicians, patients, hospital staff, and administrators.

These changes will no doubt affect the role of hospitals and emergency rooms. As continuous monitoring of biometric data becomes the norm, I see the ER being used as a dispatch center, with patients’ information reaching the hospital before they do. This will eliminate wait times and decrease the risk of disease transmission, especially important when immunocompromised patients face hours in the ER.

Patient-physician interactions will also be affected by changing technology. In a typical doctor visit, which lasts just 15 minutes, the provider must evaluate electronic and paper records, check vitals, diagnose, and communicate with a patient, and then provide effective treatment. Advancing technology means the first three of those tasks could be done automatically, giving the doctor more time to spend interacting with the patient and providing more accurate treatment. Patients will soon be monitoring their own vital signs. MC10 is prototyping a temporary tattoo (epidermal electronics) that remains for two weeks and effortlessly and continuously captures biometric data.

All of these advances translate into one main objective — improving patient outcomes. With access to more powerful tools that are cheaper, faster, and better than their predecessors, people will become increasingly responsible for their own health. This will lead to more effective care as people can detect problems much earlier in the process. Patients will no longer delay physician appointments for years because personal health will be ever-present. This will reduce healthcare costs on several levels and change the type of medical professionals the industry needs most. 

I can’t even begin to anticipate much of what will come after all of this, but the possibilities for technology and healthcare really are endless. Now, if we could just get a transporter.

Robin Farmanfarmaian, a major driving force behind building the successful medical conference at Singularity University, has spent most of her career focused on making a positive impact on medicine and healthcare.  Robin is the Founding Executive Producer of FutureMed and the Vice President of Strategic Relations for Singularity University.  Connect with Robin on Twitter and LinkedIn

Infographic: Challenges for New Product Development

By Jillian Walker
Research Analyst
Growth Team Membership™

Frost & Sullivan

Frost & Sullivan's Growth Team Membership™ (GTM) recently completed its 2014 survey of R&D/innovation executives. The executives were asked to identify their most pressing challenges for 2014. GTM will focus its best practices research to address the prominent issues identified in the survey.

This year's survey confirmed that portfolio management remains a top issue for R&D executives. Identifying breakthrough concepts, aligning R&D and corporate strategy, and prioritizing opportunities rounded out the top three of this year's challenges. Most respondents also indicated that process issues are preventing them from achieving their desired level of success.

If you have questions regarding the survey, or are interested in learning more about GTM’s R&D/innovation and product development best practices, please contact us at:, follow us on Twitter @Frost_GTM, or visit us at

Person-Centricity: A New Paradigm to Bend the Sickness Curve and Make Health Personal

By Dennis A. Robbins Ph.D., M.P.H.
CINA and The PEARL Translational Network

The transition from healthcare to health requires a dramatic shift from patients/consumers to persons. This transition supersedes suggested antidotes, tourniquets and temporary fixes that have included a plethora of consumer/ patient involvement initiatives. While well intended, those initiatives pretty much miss the boat in terms of activating the person to change the trajectory of health and healthy behaviors and making health personal. The prescription for health centers on meaningful changes in behavior in concert with person- centric solutions, rather than impersonal ones.

Person-centricity moves beyond models of consumer/patient empowerment, centeredness, engagement, and activation and is reflective of how individuals make health and healthcare decisions within the broader context of their lives. This distinction is not a facile shift in semantics but offers a fresh paradigm that accounts for the complexity and comprehensiveness of who we are. A person is always a person; that is the default. The individual is the regulating fulcrum to evaluate and filter information based on evidence, and best practices and personal preferences.

As persons, we are not be defined by the functions or circumstances we assume temporarily, those contingencies of human existence. The person-centric focus is not a gratuitous semantic distinction but cuts to the core of who we are and who and what we are not. The recognition of the person as the dynamic fulcrum of his or her life and destiny is a critical reminder of how we need to get back on track to navigate our lives and futures.

Moreover, the changes required to create a healthier America and lower the costs associated with lifestyle-related diseases need to happen on a personal level coupled with a supportive infrastructure and public policies that promote and sustain them. This shift is critical and a necessary part of every aspect of our transition from healthcare to health and to bending the sickness curve to better curb and control avoidable costs.

Person-centricity accommodates the shift from passive patients (or any externally derived designation) to active persons in an ongoing continuous, dynamic process in which all constructs and actions revolve around each of us. It profoundly transforms how all our decisions (including those related to health and healthcare) are made and who has the authority and ability to make them in a way that is consistent with our values, priorities, preferences, beliefs, and aspirations in the context of our broader life experiences.

The relationship between the notion of person-centricity and the transition from healthcare to health is symbiotic. The concept of person-centricity functions as both the missing link and the common thread that weaves together the needs, choices, and aspirations of people throughout their health journey and is absolutely crucial in addressing the mind, body, and spirit triad required to support and inspire all individuals to reach higher levels of health, self-actualization, resilience, and well-being. In a person-centric system, the frame of reference is personal health.  

We have improved tools at our disposal to support autonomous person-centric decision-making through mobile health, and comparative effectiveness. Mobile technology, through high-speed networks and smartphones, has transformed the ways we work, learn, communicate, and play. Instant access to information on the web and the ability to contact anyone wherever they may be has changed the world forever. Mobile technology can help address this issue through easily accessible, real-time, continuous data for current status updates. The autonomy that is so critical to person-centricity is further enhanced by improved health literacy. Decision-making should pivot on what the person determines is best rather than where care or services are sought.

When the focus shifts to the person and personal health, even prevention looks different. The focus shifts from preventing sickness and disease to the readiness, resilience and endurance of the individual person. Then and only then can we begin to address and reduce the unwanted sequelae of lifestyle-related disease and illness. By bending the sickness curve and offering prescriptions for health we can make an immense difference. By shifting our focus from the patient back to the person and supporting the person in embracing healthy living and making prudent proactive choices, we adopt an approach that is more reflective of the manner in which people change the trajectory of their lives. By engaging a mix of readiness, resilience and endurance we can not only bend the sickness curve but also have dramatic impact on the health of the person and well-being of our society.

About the Author

Dennis A. Robbins is a health and healthcare thought leader and steward. His career spans multiple sectors of the health and health care system including serving as an advisor to the President’s Commission on Ethical Issues in Biomedicine, Biomedical and Behavioral Research, the White House Educational Advisory Committee on Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and the National Endowment for the Humanities and co-editor of The White House Monograph on Healthcare to Health. He has worked in the device industry in various capacities over the past 20 years dealing with product approval, research, adoption, and payment.

Dr. Robbins received his postdoctoral MPH from Harvard and Ph.D. from Boston College. He serves on the boards of companies in the U.S., U.K, and Australia, and is an Adjunct Professor/Director of Health Policy at the PEARL Translational Network at NYU and Pepperdine, and advisor to CINA-QED Clinical, KPN, Heartmath, National Research Network, DARTNet, and the Ultimate Human Foundation. Dr. Robbins has written 9 books on healthcare and lectures and publishes extensively.

Creating Value via 3D Printing

By Stuart K. Williams, Ph.D.
Executive and Scientific Director
Cardiovascular Innovation Institute

Of all the new technologies being developed today, perhaps none will have a bigger impact on medicine than 3d prining. As Stuart Williams of the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute explained during a session at the recent Medical Technologies 2014: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange, there are many opportunities for medical technology companies to start looking for ways to bring this technology to healthcare.

It is now well recognized that the in vitro assessment of new drugs and devices and tissues created for implantation in patients must utilize tissues that exhibit three-dimensional structure, Williams said. Bioprinting, the biological equivalent of computer-assisted design and computer-assisted manufacturing, is rapidly emerging as the method of choice to construct 3D micro-physiologic systems for pre-clinical and clinical applications. 

Tools That Will Revolutionize Healthcare

Bioprinting is on the forefront of 3D printing technology. It can revolutionize healthcare and alter the course of the medical industry by giving doctors tools to see exactly what they are facing in patients prior to surgery. Bioprinting may even be used in the future to create complete new organs for transplants in patients.

The concept of 3D printing has been around since 1859, Williams said, when Francois Willeme created the breakthrough imaging technique called photography. Charles Lindbergh and Alexis Carrel further explored the idea in the 1930s, as David M. Friedman’s The Immortalists discusses. In the 1980s, Chuck Hull patented stereolithography as a means of successively printing thin layers of an ultraviolet curable material one on top of the other.

While the idea of printing biological material is still emerging, 3D printing has many uses in healthcare already. For example, use of bioprinting in pre-surgery and scaffolds reduces some of the expertise required to perform procedures and enables physicians to work with models of organs in advance of opening up patients on the operating table.

Greater Efficiency, Lower Risk

Commercial bioprinting systems print guides for implantation of appliances into the mouth. Bioprinting 3D models will allow physicians to examine and practice on mock-ups prior to cutting into a patient. Those guides allow PAs to perform work that used to fall on dentists, such as drilling. The ability to reduce risk during procedures through the use of 3D-printed models can be applied in a variety of situations, including cardiovascular surgery and neurovascular separation of conjoined twins. 

Medical technology companies need to explore these areas to see just how well it can be used for physicians in all areas of healthcare. Companies can also look at how bioprinting can be applied to other new medical technology in the future.

Collaboration Will Be Key

Williams said medical technology companies should collaborate with doctors who have adopted bioprinting and see what can be done to better facilitate this revolutionary technology. Information pulled from various industries within healthcare can be used to help advance the use of 3D printing.
Bioprinting will also lead to the development of other new technologies, and likewise, other technologies will need to be developed to allow for effective use of bioprinting. For example, there’s a need for technology to help in the input of medical information into a computer to be used as a script for printing organs. Medical technology companies should be looking into this so they can begin to develop new products to meet those needs.

The ability to bioprint human organs is emerging. One such example is the Total Bioficial Heart™ the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute is developing. For further advancement, companies must partner with those in the medical profession to grow their knowledge. In order to successfully bioprint and implant human organs, technology companies need to know a lot about biology and the glue that holds structures together. 

Final Thought

Bioprinting is becoming a reality as doctors and scientists are tirelessly working to create a feasible system in the healthcare industry for this new technology. Medical technology companies should explore ideas around how the information and technology they currently have and will produce in the future could be applied to this process.