Medical Staff Pulse Newsletter

Physician news

Paul Song, MD, named state insurance agency's first visiting fellow

Debraj "Raj" Mukherjee, MD, MPH, wins Leadership Award from AMA Foundation

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Meetings and events

Grand rounds

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Upcoming CME conferences

Click below to view a complete list of all scheduled Continuing Medical Education conferences.

Medical Staff CME Newsletter - January 2013 (PDF)

Meetings and Events

Grand Rounds

Click here to view upcoming grand rounds.

Upcoming CME Conferences

Click below to view a complete list of all scheduled Continuing Medical Education conferences.

CME Newsletter - February 2013 (PDF)

Share Your News

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Predictions of a digital health revolution

Eric Topol, MD, believes the digital revolution is producing the biggest shakeup in the history of medicine − reshaping research design, health monitoring and the physician-patient relationship. And the revolution is just getting started.

"We have only begun to scratch the surface of where this is going," Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute and chief academic officer of Scripps Health, told a standing-room-only crowd Jan. 9 in Cedars-Sinai's Harvey Morse Auditorium.

In his wide-ranging lecture, "Digitizing Human Beings," Topol described a wired-up medical future in which we continuously will monitor our health using data generated by sensors embedded in our bodies. A ringtone on our smartphones will warn us if we're about to have a heart attack. Routine medical visits will be unnecessary.

"The idea of going down to your doctor's office is going to feel as foreign as going to the video store," he predicted.

In his view, the new model will be "participatory medicine," in which patients gather their own health information for use by their physicians. Medical researchers will enlist crowd-sourcing to design studies and remotely monitor subjects.

While this future is far from fully realized, many elements are already in place, Topol said. Among them:

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December cleared a study that uses crowd-sourcing and telemonitoring. The study, which employs an online tool to elicit input from patients, physicians and researchers in the design of clinical trials, will assess an adjunctive therapy for multiple sclerosis.
  • Social networks allow communities of patients to share information and generate their own data. Members trust fellow patients more than their doctors, Topol said.
  • Numerous smartphone and tablet applications can be bought for as little as 99 cents each to monitor vital signs and other bodily functions. Working in tandem with sensors, they can measure blood pressure, oxygen saturation of blood, galvanic skin response, brain waves, glucose levels and more. Referring to the glucose monitor, Topol said, "You know the world is changing when the Apple Store sells you diabetes equipment."

The digital revolution is also accelerating the development of individualized medicine by making genomic sequencing faster and cheaper. A new iPad application, Illumina MyGenome App, makes it possible to download genome data, along with information about genetically determined conditions.

"We're not talking about bar-coding people," Topol said. "We're talking about understanding the essence of each human being."

Amid the advances, many physicians remain resistant to change, Topol said. For instance, he said he finds a digital version of the stethoscope, which uses ultrasound technology, so superior that he hasn't used a traditional stethoscope to listen to a patient's heart in three years. And yet, the newer device is "hardly being used by anyone in the U.S.," he said.

In Topol's view, physicians have little to fear from technology, which he sees as changing their practices, not eliminating their profession. And judging from his newest book, published last year by Basic Books, he thinks the digital revolution will be good for patients. The title is "The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care."

Photos, from top: Eric Topol, MD, discusses "Digitizing Human Beings"; a view of the crowd at his Jan. 9 presentation.