Virtual reality headsets. Eye-tracking glasses. Smartphone-linked LED-lit pillboxes. And even tech-enabled artistic therapy. And how about an Eminem homage to overworked and burned-out healthcare professionals?
Health 2.0, a showcase and hub for cutting-edge information and software-enhanced technologies for healthcare, celebrated its 10th anniversary at its annual conference in Silicon Valley. But it also introduced not just technologies, but also new models of care and new ideas that could improve the healthcare of people worldwide.
The conference, led by co-founders Matthew Holt and Indu Subaiya, has drawn attention to the importance of technology in medicine and patient care. Health 2.0’s worldwide conventions have spanned multiple continents, including Asia, Europe, and South America. And, over 80 local chapters have brought together healthcare innovators, clinicians, and technologists to come up with new ideas. Here were some of the more interesting events at this year’s event:
Improving mental healthcare, starting with depression
Alex Fair’s MedStartr group—with Takeda Pharmaceuticals—launched an online competition for ideas to help relieve the suffering accompanying major depressive disorder. At Health 2.0, the finalist teams competed in “#MDDCare16“. This writer even helped judge the impressive finalists with four accompanying judges! (Disclosure: no financial or logistical compensation was provided to this writer, except for a day at the conference.)
Grid team found that, with just $100, they could have a box “that doesn’t look like a pillbox,” which people loved as a “fashionable accessory that happens to save your life.” The box holds tablets and capsules and highlights them with an intelligent series of LED lights. A subscription of up to $10/user/month supports its connected app that sends encouraging reminders by using the user’s hobbies. Not only that, but the app also informs their caregivers and loved ones when a medicine was taken from the box.
Two other teams pitched models of care for mental health. Amy Edgar’s 360me team wanted to craft a full-service clinic for neurodevelopmental disorders that looks at not just medical factors, but also physical health, psychiatric, genetic, social, and family factors. And, another team, Poetry for Personal Power, reduces hospitalization by 70% with a SAMHSA-funded (U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) program where peer specialists and recovery coaches coach at-risk youth in juvenile detention centers. Their team wants to spread art-based recovery support using apps.
Other teams took all-app approaches. Raffi Grinberg presented the concept of Uplift, a tailored, complete curriculum of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that uses motivational interviewing principles. CBT is a validated, evidence-based therapy that changes the way people think (the “C” in CBT, or cognitions) and their habits and actions (the “B” in CBT, or behaviors).
Jessica Raymond’s Warriorify—for Recovery Warriors—takes on anorexia and bulimia and eating disorders with a web-based platform. Their platform targets adult females with training movies—already crafted for the Eating Disorders Center at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD)—and incorporates self-compassion, mindfulness, and CBT, using a freemium model. In their tests with their existing community of podcast listeners, they have found no issues with pro-ana or messages who are in favor of eating disorders.
Enhancing real life with virtual reality and augmented reality technologies
Virtual reality (VR) technologies use 3D head-mounted displays with audio to immerse the wearer in a new environment. Its similar cousin, augmented reality (AR), is less immersive but allows the wearer to use a display that overlays information on top of the environment. Both VR and AR have been in computer science, graphics, and human-computer interaction research for decades.
Now, with more affordable computing power, VR and AR are now mainstream technologies. Companies and researchers are finding ways to implement VR and AR in the healthcare industry. Many applications in healthcare include medical simulations, relaxation training, and pain distraction.
One panel explored this new frontier. Arshya Vahabzadeh MD, a director at startup Brain Power, showed a PBS NewsHour feature on how Brain Power’s device uses AR to encourage children with autism to make eye contact with their mothers. Justin Barad’s Osso VR company creates simulations for orthopedic surgeons, using a popular VR device called the Oculus Rift. Jean-Vincent Trives’s Revinax SAS uses less-expensive equipment—using a smartphone’s display and motion detectors—to immerse a user in a virtual operating room. And, Josh Sackman demonstrated how the AppliedVR app can help hospitalized patients learn to relax in a chaotic environment and distract themselves from painful procedures with 3D video games.
The most intriguing device, however, was the JINS MEME. Tadashi Shimizu, product manager, demonstrated how a discreet pair of glasses uses electrooculography sensors to detect eye movements. This has the potential to discern the glass wearer’s “concentration, fatigue, or composure,” according to their website. Accelerometers combined with a gyroscopic sensor can detect motion and rotation speed to also discern the wearer’s body movements.
The company, based in Japan, sells the unit for ¥ 39,000. JINS MEME comes with both Android and iOS apps to log exercises, walking movements, concentration during work, drowsiness while driving, and even core training.
Physicians rally to improve healthcare
Healthcare has transformed enormously over the past decades with an increase in healthcare administrators, coding and documentation requirements, and information technologies. But these changes have often come with burdens that provoke stress and burnout among doctors—along with a crushing workload, unfriendly technologies, and increased school debt that has encouraged many doctors to quit practicing medicine entirely. Physicians now want a greater say to improve these technologies, to help streamline workflows.
One of the most established physicians’ group, the American Medical Association (AMA), announced their new projects to bring physicians and innovation together. Chicago-based MATTER houses 130 start-ups, over 60 industry partners, and the recently-launched AMA Interaction Studio to connect entrepreneurs and physicians. Sling Health (IDEA Labs) is a medical student-run biotechnology incubator for new medical technology. Health2047, based in San Francisco, is an AMA-affiliated healthcare innovation studio. And, the AMA’s Healthier Nation Innovation Challenge, fielded over 100 submissions from medical students, residents, and physicians.
The inaugural winner of that challenge, Twiage, is led by Harvard-trained internal medicine physician YiDing Yu, MD. Her company’s platform streamlines a cumbersome process for emergency medicine personnel. Before Twiage, much of Boston reported inbound medical emergencies arriving by ambulance through notes scrawled on paper after a hasty telephone discussion. Twiage automates these reports to show, in real-time, ambulance cases and patients’ levels of emergencies. This helps doctors and nurses prepare for incoming patients.
Another panel featured hip hop artist ZDoggMD, known for his parody music videos of healthcare and medicine. The artist—known otherwise as Zubin Damania, MD, an internal medicine who trained at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF, or UC San Francisco)—uses music and viral videos to spread ideas on not only how healthcare in the United States can improve, but also to highlight the challenges faced by providers. He performed his latest song, “Lose Yourself” (https://youtu.be/3lyMvp2GoSY), featuring nurses, respiratory therapists, advanced practice registered nurses, and doctors struggling to care for patients in the hostile, uncaring healthcare work environment. More information on his movement can be found at the new Unbreak Social Hub and by joining the Health 3.0 Tribe.