Stories about: bioinformatics

Bioinformatics, big data and putting the ‘count’ in accountable care

Tally_marks_counting_visitors-Wikimedia CommonsWhen you go into Netflix to choose a movie or Amazon to buy a book, they’re ready with proactive suggestions for your next purchase, based on your past history. Isaac Kohane, MD, PhD, would like to see something similar happening in medicine, where today, patients often find themselves repeating their medical history “again and again to every provider,” as Kohane recently told Harvard Medicine.

“Medicine as a whole is a knowledge-processing business that increasingly is taking large amounts of data and then, in theory, bringing that information to the point of care so that doctor and patient have a maximally informed visit,” says Kohane, chair of informatics at Boston Children’s Hospital and co-director of the Center for Biomedical Informatics at Harvard Medical School.

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Application building for dummies: Filling unmet medical needs

Photo: fdecomite/Flickr

What do you invest in if you’re a venture capitalist looking for the next big thing? I’d invest in a company that makes it easy to create your own healthcare mobile apps. Think: the WordPress of health care applications.

I believe this is an important unmet need in medicine. As a market analyst specializing in healthcare IT, I’ve supported physicians who have an idea for an application and are trying to make it a reality. Their goals vary widely, ranging from improved communication with patients to enhanced health data analytics for decision support to streamlined workflow using administrative shortcuts.

All of these disparate ideas face a common bottleneck: the physician’s inability to quickly embody an idea as a software prototype.

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Advanced computing meets healthcare: Disruptive changes to come

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The recent Bio-IT World meeting featured some exciting forecasts about disruptive healthcare advances from advanced computing technology. We’re closer than ever to process streamlining, artificial intelligence and combining the best ideas from other industries. Many themes I like to blog about — clinical decision support, data visualization, patient-entered health data — were addressed provocatively in the talks. Here are some trends I’m watching.

•    New data visualization systems will increase scientific productivity. Keynote speaker Bryn Roberts of Hoffmann-La Roche demoed a futuristic, multi-touch tool for reviewing and designing compound molecules,

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Disruptive innovation in healthcare IT: Spreading it to the masses

Photo: Paul Anderson/Creative Commons

The term disruptive innovation – introduced by Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen in a 1995 article  — has been used by technology-development stakeholders to describe radical innovations and their implications for market entry strategies. Christensen describes the term on his website:

“An innovation that is disruptive allows a whole new population of consumers access to a product or service that was historically only accessible to consumers with a lot of money or a lot of skill.”

Last week I heard Christensen speak at an event hosted by Vodafone,

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Visualizing medical data: The da Vinci touch

What would Leonardo da Vinci devote his energy to if he were alive today? I am pretty sure that he would be at a hospital. He would take advantage of data of all types — genetic, vital signs, symptoms — all streaming from patients like notes on sheet music, to seek a better understanding of the human person. And likely he would present this information in a way that appeals to the senses, drawing us to examine the information landscape and revealing the action steps we need to take to improve human health.

da Vinci’s sketch book drawings investigated human physiology to the extent that was possible in his time. da Vincis of our day, with more sophisticated tools, are poised to understand the human body at a new level. I can imagine Leonardo delighting at the level of granularity offered by our technology — the sequencing of the genetic code, for example. He would want to make sense of this information. I imagine that he’d be studying informatics and techniques for graphic visualization of data to support his quest to portray human physiology.

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Predicting the probability of a tragedy: A model for teratogenicity

Congenital malformation of the feet caused by thalidomide.

The question comes up when a pregnant woman has a serious medical condition: should she or shouldn’t she be treated? Are the indicated drugs safe for the baby?

Drugs are assigned pregnancy risk classes. Thalidomide, whose reputation for causing fetal malformations was chillingly established in the 1960s, is solidly in Class X (the most risky), as are the cholesterol-lowering drug lovastatin and the anti-coagulant warfarin. At the other extreme are Class A drugs that are widely recognized as safe in pregnancy.

But between these extremes is a huge group of drugs for which little is known.

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Health records: turning patients into hackers

Credit: D'Arcy Norman/Flickr

A pregnant woman wants to monitor her baby’s activity in response to the foods she eats. She takes her smart phone, plugs in an ultrasound adapter and takes readings after every meal. She logs the contents of her meal and presto! Pattern recognition software tells her that her baby is unfavorably sensitive to dairy. Through a personally controlled portal, she remotely loads the information to her hospital’s electronic medical record system, for review by an allergist at the time the baby is born.

A man with a diabetic foot ulcer takes home two different topical creams. He takes daily pictures of the ulcer, and using image processing algorithms,

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Biopharm America 2010, Day 1: “Consumer Reports” for diagnostics

As the keynote speaker at this year’s BioPharm America 2010 conference, Dr. Isaac Kohane, the Henderson Professor of Pediatrics and Health Sciences and Technology at Harvard Medical School and Chair of  the Informatics Program at Children’s Hospital Boston made a provocative point: We as consumers spend much more energy reporting on crash testing in the automotive industry than we do evaluating the predictive value of our diagnostic tests.

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