The Digital Health Summer Summit 2015 recently wrapped up at the beautiful UCSF Mission Bay Campus. A conference split into two days, the summit consisted of lab tours, interactive device demonstrations, and talks about the digital age of healthcare. For Medgadget, I decided I would focus my time and energy on learning more and reviewing the new techniques and devices that were being used and developed.
On the first day, I arrived at the Clift Hotel late morning and rode the shuttle to UCSF Mission Bay. Along the way, I happened to meet Mr. Raphael Paz, an engineer who played a major role in developing the technology for FlowSense’s URINFO fluid monitoring system that was acquired by Baxter a couple of years ago. We spoke about many things including how the system he helped design was not originally created to measure urinary output. Instead, it was to be commercially used to measure water flow, but a physician suggested a more important healthcare problem to be solved. We also spoke about how he was working on a new startup for a mouth activated device to improve drug adherence in patients. Not much could be said about the tech as it was IP, but as soon as they launch, I will definitely be in touch to share the news with Medgadget readers.
After the event began we were split off into groups to tour UCSF labs and facilities. The first stop for me was UCSF’s Human Performance Center. At this lab, they employ many different specialists as well as technologies to conduct research in translational medicine. For example, they do kinematic studies where the researchers utilize 3D motion tracking, wireless EMG, and force plates on the ground to characterize the strains and stresses that humans experience to help with physical therapy. As one of the lab technicians was attaching EMG sensors to my arm, I was fully expecting him to also attach wires but he did not. Without the limitations of wires, researchers and scientists can study humans in more natural settings.
To continue, I was also able to speak with the head of the lab, Dr. Anthony Luke, about one of the digital health projects that he was working on called RaceSafe, a mobile medical system for sports events. RaceSafe is a tool for athletes to share their medical information at large scale events such as marathons. This is particularly important for first responders health emergencies. Marathons are long, employ hundreds of volunteers and medical staff throughout the course, making things quite chaotic. If a marathon runner is unable to finish the race due to a health problem, thanks to the app he or she can easily type in symptoms and call for help. Using GPS tracking the medical staff can quickly respond to the incident by knowing where the stricken runner is. The team that is working on this app will be testing it with the Rock ‘n’ Roll marathons in the near future, so be on the lookout!
The second lab that I visited, which I was probably the most excited about was the Gazzaley Lab. Here researchers work on many things regarding cognition and the brain. They use EEG, MRI scanners, and games to study the effects of physical activation on cognitive activation and vice versa.
Since this summit was largely focused on digital health, this tour opened with a talk about an iPad app to aid with multiple sclerosis research. The app allows caretakers and researchers to access the progression of MS in many patients. This app also allows for viewing of 4D MRI scans, the fourth dimension being time.
We were then taken to a fairly dark room where Dr. Gazzaley himself introduced his research, which included research in virtual reality and the glass brain project where they were mapping and visualizing the brain with all of its electrical impulses. He then opened a computer file of a model of his brain and began navigating it with a joystick! The generated brain map was absolutely stunning. Unfortunately, I did not have as much time as I had hoped to play around with all the equipment including the upcoming Oculus Rift, and the games the researchers created such as Neuroracer that they used in a recent Nature paper. I will hopefully be back sometime soon though.
The last and final stop was the newly built UCSF Benioff Children’s Hopsital. I was able to meet and speak with Dr. Aenor Sawyer, an orthopedic surgeon and professor at UCSF, as she walked me around the hospital. Here at Medgadget, we’ve reported about how specially decorated MRI scanning rooms stimulate kids’ imaginations to make them believe they’re actually riding on a San Francisco trolley instead of a MRI machine, but the hospital is equipped with so much more than that. Not only do they have robots buzzing around the floors serving meals and providing other services, there’s also a digital development lab for kids to create videos to document their lives and a certified teaching classroom where patients can continue their education in person or, if they are unable to walk, they can virtually attend class. As Dr. Sawyer said to me, she wants the patients to feel like they are interacting with the health care system instead of having care given to them. The hospital is there to allow patients to continue living their lives to the fullest even when they are receiving treatment.
The second day was filled with many talks but I wanted to focus on this year’s digital health playground. Various companies and startups were tabling and giving live demonstrations of their devices. I was able to see various technologies being showcased.
I ended up visiting the Health eHeart table where I signed up to take part in an ambitious cardiovascular health study. The investigators are trying to do a huge longitudinal study on the heart by using digital health technology and social media to study massive amounts of people from all different places and backgrounds. Furthermore, there were people representing Samsung’s innovation lab at UCSF, representatives from device companies such as ClearSounds and their Q Line of hearing aid products, Audicus, and Pokitdok.
However, the device that I found most interesting was the Mint, and you can read more about it in our Medgadget interview.
After speaking with multiple people at the digital playground, I got to share a wonderfully prepared lunch with an extremely passionate MD/PhD student at UCSF who was helping staff the event. The people in this field never stop amazing me with their passion and drive toward better healthcare.
Unfortunately, my day had to be cut short as I needed to return to Berkeley to finish running some experiments; however, the Digital Health Summer Summit provided me a great balance between interactive components as well as talks about entrepreneurship in digital health, privacy in health, and the intricate relationship between those that are receiving health care, those that are providing health care, and those that are innovating for health care. I look forward to seeing how the next summit will improve. I do hope that the digital health playground can be expanded to be a larger portion of the summit where more companies can come to showcase their new technologies.