A tweet a day keeps the doctor away

We are experiencing one of the biggest shifts in how we communicate in human history. Thanks to social media and mobile technologies we can now multitask, search news, shrinks distances between our relationships and browse several activity feeds at once. But how is it impactful for the health care industry? In a generation that is more likely to go online to answer general health questions then ask a doctor, what role does social media play in this process?

Recent studies have shown that more than 40% of consumers say that information found via social media affects the way they deal with their health. People between 18 to 24 year olds are more than 2x as likely than 45 to 54 year olds to use social media for health-related discussions. Thus, it is not surprising 31% of health care organizations have specific social media guidelines in writing.

Social health revolution is on. If you want to delve deeper in this phenomenon, in this article you can find some meaningful statistics and figures that clearly illustrate its’ magnitude.

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Biodesign: show, don´t tell

Biodesign is a hothouse for medical devices. Since the methodology was founded at Stanford University back in 2001, several companies that bear the fingerprints of Biodesign fellows have entered healthcare market.

One of the latest is San Francisco-based iRhythm Technologies. It traces its founding to the Biodesign class of 2006. This company, cerated by fellow Uday Kumar, has developed the ZIO patch, a wireless adhesive heart monitor patch to help diagnose irregular heartbeats, known as arrhythmias. It has already treated over 10000 patients.

Recently, a study from the Scripps Translational Science Institute, published in the American Journal of Medicine, has shown that iRhythm’s ZIO patch detects more arrhythmia events than a traditional Holter monitor and provides a better experience for patients.

Biodesign students, like our fellows, don´t accomplish success after listening to a bunch of lectures from talkers. The secret sauce of the program is the community: the venture capitalists, the clinicians, the entrepreneurs… who come in to offer their specific expertise to help the fellows navigate the risky path of commercialization of new medical devices.

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Source: iRythm Technologies

 

The Big Data within you

Microsensors in your shoes compile data on where you go and what you do. Your workout clothes track your daily progress at the gym and tell you when to slow down or speed up. The pill you swallow reports back on the state of your digestion, vital signs, and overall wellbeing. And as you sleep, a headband monitors your REM patterns.

Sci-fi fantasy? Not at all. It is merely a glimpse into what might be possible through a movement called “The Quantified Self” that has become mainstream.

The Quantified Self employs technology, mobile devices, sensors embedded in clothing and wearable bands, to drive greater self-awareness by tracking data related to exercise, diet, weight and other health maintenance, financial management, learning and so forth. Almost 70% of the American adults already quantify their lives in areas related to health and wellness and this is just the beginning. Analysts are predicting that we will see even more growth in the months and years ahead. ABI predicts that more than 100M personal tracking devices will be sold each year by 2016. There are reasonable expectations that personal tracking will be a $12B industry by 2020. Investments have been huge, as well: Fitbit raised more than $40M this year, BodyMedia was bought by Jawbone for more than $100M, and personal informatics projects on Kickstarter have booked more than $6M in revenue alone in 2013.

While it’s clear these apps and devices have attracted a loyal following, most experts are still trying to figure out what to do with all of this data collected. For example, there are several challenges to overcome before using this data in healthcare practice. Quality is a big issue: the data need to be good enough to be used in a clinical setting. Not to drown physicians in a tsunami of personal data is another aspect to consider. Data streams need to reach practitioners in a format that’s easily consumable, searchable, and analyzable. Finally, these continuous data streams need to be contextualized as well. Doctors need to know what external factors could have caused, for example, a rapid spike in blood pressure or true diagnosis can’t happen.

In the video below you can get a glimpse on how the Quantified Self is already changing our lives. If you want numbers that show the blooming business of data have a look to this article published in Harvard Business Review. If you prefer a written introduction to the field you will probably enjoy this report at The Economist.