Flying to #HIMSS16 and into the future

HIMSS16 SMA Badge [8339409]

I can’t think of a better book to read en route to HIMSS16 in Las Vegas than Dr. Bertalan Meskó’s (@berci) latest book My Health Upgraded: Revolutionary Technologies to Bring a Healthier Future.

A Hungarian physician and geneticist, Meskó has crammed a lot of the future into his relatively short career and is a much sought-after speaker on the potential offered by bio-technical innovation.

In this latest self-published book, Meskó takes a conversational approach in attempting to answer “the 40 most exciting and interesting questions” people have asked him about the real impact of innovations we will be hearing a lot about in Vegas, such as wearables, 3D printing, robotics, and precision medicine.

These questions range from “Why would you measure your ECG at home,” to “Will we 3D print or grow organs?”

When it comes to using new monitoring and personalized health devices and apps, Meskó knows of what he speaks. He has measured his ECG at home, had his genome sequenced while doing his PhD, as well as regularly monitoring his own fitness, mood and sleep. When it comes to the Quantified Self, Meskó is he.

Meskó was also one of the pioneers to see earl on the potential for social media to improve health and health care delivery and each chapter of the book includes handy Twitter hashtags relevant to the subject matter, as well as some specific discussions about how social media are transforming health care.

While promising a balanced assessment of the innovations he references, Meskó is an optimistic believer in how technologies can transform individual lives and improve the delivery of health care and this comes through clearly in his work.

This is not a weighty academic tome or an objective health technology assessment but rather a very personalized riff on the potential of biotech in health. Meskó’s own voice comes through clearly throughout.

When I started this book my only major disappointment was to discover it was first published last September! The future moves fast in Meskó’s world and as such some of the many companies and apps mentioned by Meskó may already be defunct or revised out of all recognition.

Still, the book is an excellent airplane read for those soon to be hitting the exhibit hall at HIMSS.

(My Health Upgraded can be purchased here)




#hcsmca made manifest

hcsmcaAttitudes can turn platitudes into vision statements or words to live by.

That’s the alliterative thought I come back to when ruminating on the #hcsmca symposium held in Vancouver two days ago.

As the most solid manifestation to date of a health care social media community that has existed almost exclusively in a virtual world, anchored by a weekly tweetchat, the one-day conference can only be seen as a huge success. More than 170 registrants attended from all sectors of the healthcare world (patients included, of course) and many were the first time IRL meetings (and associated selfies).

The meeting was organized totally on a volunteer basis and the hybrid unconference core of the meeting was based on ideas coming from the hcsmca community itself (at one point, I tweeted – “Hey ma, we crowdsourced a conference”). Thousands of tweets were posted and a live feed allowed those outside of Vancouver to view and comment.

Not that the meeting lacked star power, as it hosted both Stanford MedX conference founder Dr. Larry Chu and director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media Lee Aase together on the same panel for possibly the first time ever.

I blogged a few times in the lead-in to the meeting about what we hoped to achieve from all of this:

#hcsmca National Symposium in Vancouver: The Last Waltz

#hcsmca: The Last Waltz (or … Not Last Tango in Vancouver)

#hcsmca: The Not so Hidden Agenda

Whether we succeeded remains to be seen.The continued existence of hcsmca and in what form remains uncertain given the planned withdrawal of community founder and guardian Colleen Young. One of the conference organizers Robyn Sussel made a telling point when she suggested a Canadian organization or institution should step up to support hcsmca in much the way Mayo and Stanford support their successful social media initiatives.

And as for the deliberations from the meeting, many on paper can appear as rather vague statements of general intent.

“Proceed until apprehended” and “power shouldn’t equal respect’ and were the two ideas that resonated most with delegates in voting at the end at the end of the conference, rather than any concrete and practical suggestions for change.

Similarly, some of the best tweets captured what could appear as cute sayings (Colleen’s “We can improve health care 140 characters at a time” comes to mind).

But those of us who live on Twitter and within the (current) 140-character limit know that even short statements voiced as tweets can build relationships, support networks, and create environments that support and make change.

And there is nothing wrong with the conference delegates voicing overwhelming support for the rather vague proposition of including patients in all planning and initiation of social media initiatives involving health if they go back to their respective clinics, institutions or government departments and actually do this.

As I said at the start, it’s the attitude and approach to these ideas and statements that what will count.

So, we will see.

#Dotmed16: Health IT plus so much more

As a showcase for some of the best new health technologies being developed in Ireland, the dotMED conference held in Dublin on Friday was quite impressive.
Four shortlisted companies pitched their products ranging from an app using auditory cueing to personalize metronome therapy to help Parkinson’s patients overcome freezing to the world’s first continuous and accurate respiratory rate monitor.
But it was not this that caused dotMED to be sold out months in advance but rather a roster of speakers showcasing the humanistic side of medicine and culminating with a presentation by Dr. Stephen Bergman aka Samuel Shem whose novel ‘The House of God’ is definitive description of medical training for so many physicians.
This year was the fourth time, rheumatologist Dr. Ronan Kavanagh and physician turned medical journalist Dr. Muiris Houston have organized dotMED and it once again proved wildly popular.
They describe the one-day meeting as “the interface of medicine, technology and the humanities” intended to inspire and reinvigorate physicians “and reawaken in them a sense of fun and curiosity about medicine.”
This year’s lineup had a strongly visual focus from the photographs of residents before and after 24 hours on duty by Spanish palliative care physician Dr. Leticia Ruiz Rivera, through a discussion of the artistic potential of graphically representing medical data by Dr. John Greally, professor of genetics, pediatrics and medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the potential for representing medicine in graphic novels by British GP Dr. Ian Williams (@TheBadDr).
Concepts such as ambiguity and the importance of physicians making and maintaining connections with their patients and the rest of the world surfaced throughout the day as did the importance of maintaining humanity in a profession increasingly dominated by technology.
This was perhaps best demonstrated by the only speaker to receive a standing ovation, Irish gay rights activist and drag queen Rory O’Neill, known as Panti Bliss. During an interview by Houston focusing on her 1995 HIV diagnosis, Bliss had nothing but praise for the medical team and spoke of how little prejudice she has actually experienced during her high-profile activities in Ireland.
Just as Texas Children’s hospital gastroenterologist Dr. Bryan Vartabedian did at last year’s dotMED, Detroit nephrologist Dr. Joel Topf (@kidney_boy) was on hand this year to provide a master class on how doctors can use new technologies and specifically social media to enhance their professional lives.
One of the many memorable moments offered up by the day came when Topf was asked whether he was concerned so few of his colleagues were adopting social media tools and responded he was not because these individuals were being by-passed by a generation of new doctors growing up in a digital world.
“We have age and time on our side,” he said.
Laughter in response to this was surpassed only when Williams revealed the highly obscene message hidden in the bar code shown in one of his comic strips done regularly for The Guardian newspaper commenting on the National Health Service.
Strange maybe to pull this out as a conference highlight, but for dotMED it aptly captures the irreverence and refreshing nature of the whole enterprise.