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4 Crucial Concepts from Exponential Medicine 2014


Exponential Medicine attendees. Photos provided.

The Exponential Medicine conference has been an extraordinary event so far, bringing together thought leaders in innovation, technology, science, and healthcare from around the globe for a four day meeting in San Diego. It’s been a reboot for the way we think about healthcare challenges and a look at the opportunities ahead.

After a keynote lecture from Dr. Peter Diamandis, Founder and Chairman of the XPrize competition and Co-Founder of Singularity University (he described the 6 D’s of exponential technology: digitized, deceptive, disruptive, dematerializing, demonetizing, and democratizing) and an impressive presentation from Maulik Majmudar, M.D., the Associate Director of the MGH Healthcare Transformation Lab, we saw several fundamental themes emerging at the intersection of medicine and technology.

1. Context is Key

A recurring theme throughout the conference was the importance of context. High power computing is readily accessible and inexpensive, and our ability to analyze data is continuously improving. What is being highlighted, though, is the importance of developing technology that can interpret the context of all that data. A heart rate of 130 is fine for a young fit man running on the beach, but it could be a sign of impending fatality for the 55 year old who is sitting in a cabana on the same beach when he suddenly experiences chest pain. The most successful medical technology applications and companies of the future will be those that not only collect data but will be able to put that data into perspective. Contextually differentiated data will empower our research on health outcomes and future intervention points.

2. No Data is Bad Data

At present we spend a tremendous amount of time in medicine thinking about the quality of our data. This data has to be as “clean” as possible, leading us to follow very strict guidance and protocols on how we collect and analyze it. But it seems that all data can be useful in its own way – we just have to develop better tools to extract the relevant data and then to interpret it.

We often hear of data referred to as “good” or “bad.” The truth is that there is no such thing as bad data. The real problem, which we are wrongly ascribing to “bad data,” is actually our inability to separate that data into the parts that are relevant to the question or problem we are trying to solve. It is important that we learn to extract data from sources that medicine has long ignored. Is the data from a randomized clinical trial with strict inclusion criteria and a mere 200 participants adequate or even appropriate? Or could we better glean the data we want from millions of people in the community through crowdsourcing and technologies such as wearable devices?

We are in the midst of a sensory revolution with an explosion in the development of sensors designed to detect our body’s signals that can be shared or stored online. So what we need is not stricter inclusion criteria in trial designs, but big data analytics to understand the huge amount of data coming our way. Data from non-traditional sources can subsequently result in the development of much more broadly applicable solutions that are truly representative of the population. We must overcome our fear of big and different data, and instead recognize the challenges that we will have to overcome to use all of it for good.

3. Transitions Matter

Innovation is coming to medicine and the profession has to be ready to embrace these changes. Expect to see increased integration of wearable devices data and home monitoring results with clinic based test results. Patients will want and expect to have access to “their data,” and the role of the physician may move more towards that of interpreter, rather than gatekeeper, of information. The era of acceptance of the model of “sick care” is being overshadowed by the emergence of “well care” as technologies allow for closer monitoring of patients, so that in essence, health problems are detected either before they truly manifest or in very early stages of disease.

4. Finally, Innovation is coming, and it’s coming from outside of healthcare.

Whether we think about big data analytics, wearable devices, or the design of new applications, an exponential change in medical technology is coming to the practice of medicine. Remarkably, the biggest changes in healthcare, a field ripe for disruption, may not come from hospitals or physicians at all – they may come from technology companies, entrepreneurs and innovators.


Left to right: Arshya Vahabzadeh M.D., Alia Rashid M.D., Daniel Kraft M.D. (Chair of the Exponential Medicine Conference, Singularity University), Mette Anderson.

To hear more about this event and join Arshya for the rest of the conference, head over to our MedTech Boston Talk forum, where he will answer your questions and continue this conversation about the future of healthcare innovation.

Arshya Vahabzadeh MD and Alia Rashid MD

    Arshya Vahabzadeh M.D. is a physician psychiatrist who is committed to addressing the nations most pressing healthcare needs through medical innovation, in particular the challenges faced by individuals with neurodevelopmental conditions. He is the upcoming Chairman of the Council of Communications of the American Psychiatric Association and a consultant to Khan Academy & Neurolaunch. He is widely published in clinical neuroscience and medical communication. Dr. Vahabzadeh has written numerous media editorials and leads a federally funded program to provide autism educational outreach. He has received over 15 national and international awards.Alia Rashid M.D. is a British-trained physician specializing in ophthalmology, pathology, and ophthalmic imaging. Presently working at Genentech as a clinical development physician in clinical trial development and the Innovations division, she maintains an interest in the future of healthcare innovation and medical device technology. She has provided ophthalmology expertise for a Google Glass in Healthcare challenge, and recently spoke at a Kaiser Externship Speaker Series on the Future of Healthcare Technology.

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