04 Nov Watching Evolution Happen – Evolving Healthcare Technology Spies Big Change
If Wisconsin can be said to have anything going for it in the digital age, it’s the confluence of its mushrooming health care and information technology sectors.
The first-ever Evolving Healthcare Technology Conference, being held Friday at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) in Milwaukee, is hoping to expose the breadth of what’s happening at that crossroad, as well as give participants a candid take on what could be going on down the road.
Prediction Versus Repair
One great hope that has sprung from the Human Genome Project’s map of the human genetic sequence is personalized medicine: tailoring diagnoses and treatments around a patient’s particular genetic make-up. Even in this advanced ageera, treating disease often still works with trial and error. With detailed genetic information at their fingertips, physicians may one day replace educated guesses with predictions based on clinical studies.
“Family history is the longest-known risk factor … but it’s probably the risk factor we know the least about–so far, we really haven’t been able to measure it,” said Dr. Ulrich Broeckel, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at MCW who will be speaking about personalized medicine at the conference. “For the first time, we’re in the position where we can really measure family history. You really try to quantify and determine genetic components and variations in DNA. Ultimately personalized medicine really tries to understand that and make diagnostic information dependent on this [genetic] information we have.”
Building a body of knowledge solid enough to make those types of predictions requires careful and robust research, the kind being done in Wisconsin at Marshfield Clinic, UW-Madison and MCW.
“I’m absolutely convinced this is going to happen,” Broeckel said. “But with the patient in mind, we have to do this right.”
After all, medicine is all about the patient, particularly when it comes to records. The digital age has brought nothing short of a revolution to record keeping, moving the medium from paper and film to modems and hard drives.
That proposition might be easy enough within an office or department, but what about transferring that data across campuses or even states? That’s the game TeraMedica Inc., Milwaukee, is playing, and it hopes everyone in the medical field buys a ticket.
“It’s great that you can capture it and store it, but distributing it throughout the enterprise is really the next step,” said TeraMedica President and CEO Chris Hanna, PhD., whose company specializes in helping health care providers share medical images (MRIs, CT scans, etc.) digitally. “We’ve focused all of our attention on collecting information from all the devices, centrally taking care of it and making it available to all the referring practitioners that need to see it.
“We evolve health care systems from film to digital assets,” added Hanna, who will be speaking at the conference.
That evolution is what it’s all about. Dr. Jay Lee, director of the National Science Foundation Center for Intelligent Maintenance Systems (IMS) at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, will be sharing the latest from the IMS, including its work on health monitoring and sensors and embedded intelligence. For instance, sensors in pacemakers might measure change in a person’s pulse rate and alert physicians ahead of time.
That kind of technology is part of what Lee calls “predictive infotronics” and is aimed at the same target as personalized medicine—prediction rather than reaction.
“When the patent needs care ahead of time, the system can trigger services rather than waiting until you are in a life-threatening situation,” Lee said.
The Evolving Healthcare Technology Conference runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on November 7th. More information is available at wistechnology.com/healthtechnologyAgenda.php.
Lincoln Brunner is a Stevens Point, Wisconsin-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to the Wisconsin Technology Network. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.