One of the signs of autumn for this editor is the first email from Flusurvey. This is a brilliantly simple system that sends you an email every week asking if you have flu-like symptoms, then produces a map of the UK that gives advance warnings of epidemics. It costs nothing to join and is a great contribution to public health so why not sign up?. (They also have some exciting developments that may surface soon such as a small device that you blow into the connects to a smartphone and can tell almost immediately if you have flu’.)
Increasingly of concern to this editor, due to his deep involvement in digital health regulation, is who is working out how to regulate self-learning algorithms. It is therefore good to see the issue breaking cover in the general press with this article. For what it’s worth this editor’s view is that as technology begins to behave more like humans, albeit in a much faster, and narrow, way by learning as it goes along, perhaps an appropriately adapted use of the way human clinicians are examined, supervised and regulated, might be most appropriate. Sitting next to an AHSN CIO interested in the topic at a Kings Fund event last week, I was pleased to hear him offer precisely the same suggestion, so perhaps there is a little mileage in the idea.
DHACA (disclosure: run by this editor) has just renewed its website after a long delay, and will be updating content over the next few weeks. First off is the events page advertising:
Our Digital health safety conference on 7th November at Cocoon Networks, London, is being run jointly with DigitalHealth.London – the MHRA has now confirmed they will present so we have almost all the relevant organisations and experts in the UK speaking at this event which should be essential attendance for all involved with the development and use of digital health & care. Attendance has increased substantially in the past few days so do book soon to be sure of securing a place. Much more, including an almost-finalised agenda, is here.
DHACA Day XV – we are back to our usual location at the Digital Catapult Centre on 10th January where are building an agenda of some extremely interesting speakers. To check out the agenda development and to book in advance, go here.
The following is a brief summary of a joint Royal Society of Medicine/Institute of Engineering & Technology event held at the Academy of Medical Sciences on 6th May. The event was organised, extremely professionally, by the IET events team. The last ticket was sold half an hour before the start, so it was a genuine sell-out.
The speakers for the event were jointly chosen by this editor and by Prof Bill Nailon, who leads the Radiotherapy Physics, Image Analysis and Cancer Informatics Group at the Department of Oncology Physics, Edinburgh and is also a practising radiological consultant. As more of those invited by Prof Nailon were available than those invited by this editor, the day naturally ended up with a strong focus on advances in the many aspects of radiology as applied to imaging & treating cancer, as a surrogate for the wider examination of how medicine is changing.
The event began with a talk by Prof Ian Kunkler, Consultant Clinical Oncologist & Professor in Clinical Oncology at the Edinburgh Cancer research Centre. Prof Kunkler began by evidencing his statement that radiotherapy delivers a 50% reduction in breast cancer reappearance, compared with surgery alone. He stressed the importance of careful targeting of tumours with radiotherapy – not an easy task, especially if the patient is unavoidably moving (eg breathing) – Cyberknife enables much more precise targeting of tumours as it compensates for such movement. Apparently studies have shown that 55% of cancer patients will require radiotherapy at some point in their illness.
This was followed by Prof Joachim Gross, Chair of Systems Neuroscience, Acting Director of the Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging & Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator, University of Glasgow, talking about magnetoencephalopathy (MEG), which enables excellent spatial & temporal resolution of the brain. However it currently uses superconducting magnets that in turn require liquid helium, so is very expensive to run. He then showed an atomic magnetometer which apparently is developing fast and will be a much cheaper alternative to MEG – he expects people will be able to wear sensors embedded in a cap soon. He then went on to show truly excellent graphics on decoding brain signals with incredible precision; he explained that the 2025 challenge is understanding how the different brain areas interact. Finally he described neurostimulation, using an alternating magnetic field with the same frequency as brain waves to change behaviour; whence the emergence of neuromodulation as a new therapy. Both exciting, and just a little scary.
Dr David Clifton, Lecturer, Dept of Engineering Science & Computational Informatics Group, University of Oxford, followed with a talk on real-time patient monitoring. He began by explaining the challenges that clinicians face with this wall of patient data coming towards them: only “big data in healthcare” enables all the data generated by patients to be analysed to identify the early warning signals that are so important to minimise death and maximise recovery. (more…)