How smartphones, social media, analytics and apps are powering smarter healthcare

This information provided by Smart Cities Council Global.
Fri, 2014-04-04 06:00 -- Liz Enbysk

At the Smart Cities Council we regard public health and well-being as one of a city's eight core responsibilities. And just as smart cities use information and communications technologies (ICT) to modernize transit systems, electric grids and the like – ICT is also making healthcare smarter. Here are some fascinating examples.

IBM uses predictive analytics to identify patients at risk for heart failure
 In a pilot with Council Global Partner IBM and Epic, Virginia's Carilion Clinic identified 8,500 patients at risk for developing heart failure.  The results were achieved through predictive modeling of data in the clinic's electronic medical record (EMRs), including “unstructured” data such as clinicians’ notes and discharge documents that are not often analyzed.

Using IBM’s natural language processing technology to analyze and understand these notes in the context of the EMR, the inclusion of unstructured data provides a more complete and accurate understanding of each patient. And it could lead to early intervention and better care for them.

“We’ve learned that predictive analytics insights from both structured and unstructured data is imperative to meet our goal of improving patient care at lower costs,” said Steve Morgan, MD, who is Chief Medical Information Officer at Carilion Clinic. “We were very impressed with the accuracy and usability of IBM’s predictive modeling, which the IBM team developed and deployed in six weeks. These results and innovations are helping us move the needle on quality and the costs of care."

Qualcomm among the players helping build the m-health market
Mobile health – or m-Health, is revolutionizing healthcare delivery. Consider the scenario The Economist paints of a patient with high blood pressure who wears a wireless wrist monitor that takes a reading at various times a day and sends it to an app on his smartphone, which then sends it to the patients' doctor.

Or there's the announcement from Google earlier this year that it is developing a smart contact lens that can take a glucose reading from the tears of a diabetes patient. A story in the Washington Post explains that the lens – still a prototype – has a tiny antenna, capacitor and controller and uses wireless RFID technology to send the data to a device where it can be read and analyzed.

Another industry giant in the m-health space is Council Global Partner Qualcomm, which has created Qualcomm Life and a technology platform called 2net. It's a cloud-based system designed to be universally interoperable with different medical devices and applications, enabling end-to-end wireless connectivity while allowing medical device users and their physicians or caregivers to easily access biometric data. As Qualcomm puts it, 2net is a whole new way of connecting devices and liberating biometric data so that it becomes ubiquitous across the continuum of care. Scroll to the bottom of the page for a video that showcases the technology.

BehaviorMatrix data-mines cancer blogs to gauge patient sentiments
In a Wall Street Journal story focused on how marketers are digging into social media to reveal what clues people are giving out about products or services comes an interesting piece about Council Associate Partner BehaviorMatrix. Using what's referred to as "sentiment analysis," BehaviorMatrix data-mined millions of cancer blogs, according to the WSJ report, to understand how patients feel about certain cancer drugs.

When a specific drug was mentioned, BehaviorMatrix categorized the emotion expressed – for instance, fear, optimism, despair, etc. The upshot in this scenario is BehaviorMatrix could counsel drug companies on how to target ads. But clearly the approach could be used in other ways to provide the healthcare community with insight into behavioral and emotional metrics.

To learn more about the importance of smart health technologies,
download the Smart Cities Readiness Guide (free, one-time registration is required).

University of Houston researchers think smartphones can help diagnosis diseases in real time
Researchers at the Texas school are working on a disease diagnostic system that offers results that could be read using only a smartphone and a $20 lens attachment. According to a press release, "the device relies on specific chemical interactions that form between something that causes a disease – a virus or bacteria, for example – and a molecule that bonds with that one thing only, like a disease-fighting antibody. A bond that forms between a strep bacteria and an antibody that interacts only with strep, for instance, can support an ironclad diagnosis."

The trick is finding a way to detect these chemical interactions quickly, cheaply and easily. The solution proposed by Jiming Bao, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Richard Willson, Huffington-Woestemeyer Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, involves a simple glass slide and a thin film of gold with thousands of holes poked in it.  There are still technical hurdles to overcome, but you can read more about the science involved in the release.

Where smartphones come in is that with a few small tweaks, the researchers believe a reading could  be made with a phone's camera, flash and an attachable lens, which would make them affordable and easy to interpret.

"There are a lot of situations where an affordable diagnostic tool that is simple to use and simple to interpret could be very useful," said Willson. "If both your disposables and your reader are cheap, that makes it a lot easier to extend your system out into the real world."