Welcome to this new series, Topol on The Creative Destruction of Medicine, which is named for my new book, The Creative Destruction of Medicine. I’m Dr. Eric Topol, Director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute and Editor-in-Chief of Medscape Genomic Medicine and theheart.org. In this series I will detail the driving forces behind what I believe is the biggest shakeup in the history of medicine.
What I’ll be doing in these segments is outlining the parts of my book that represent the digital revolution occurring in the practice of medicine and how this revolution can radically improve the healthcare of the future. In this segment, I’d like to play the role of Dr. Gizmodo and show you many of the devices that I think are transforming medicine today. These devices represent an exciting opportunity as we move forward in the practice of medicine.
Let me just run through some of these. This is 2012, obviously, and this is something that we’re going to build upon. You’re used to wireless devices that can be used for fitness and health, but these are now breaking the medical sphere. One device you may have already noticed turns your smartphone into an electrocardiogram (ECG). The ECG adaptor comes in the form of a case that fits on the back of a smartphone or in a credit card-size version. Both contain 2 sensors. With the first model, you put the smartphone into the case and then pull up the app — in this case I’m using the AliveCor app — and put 2 fingers on each of the sensors to set up a circuit for the heart rhythm. Soon you’ll see an ECG. What’s great about this is you don’t just get a cardiogram, which would be like a lead II equivalent; using the “credit card” version, you get all the V-leads across the chest as well. I have found this to be really helpful. It even helped me diagnose an anterior wall myocardial infarction in a passenger on a flight. It was supposed to be a nonstop flight, but, because of my diagnosis, it wound up stopping along the way. As an aside, after the passenger was taken off the plane to get reperfusion catheter-based therapy at a hospital, the pilots and flight attendants all wanted to have their cardiograms checked.
The second device I will show you is another adaptation of the smartphone, but this one is for measuring blood glucose. Obviously we do that now with finger-sticks, but the whole idea is to get away from finger-sticks. I’m wearing a sensor right now that can be worn on the arm. It also can be worn on the abdomen. What’s nice about this is that I can just turn on my phone, and every minute I get an update of my blood glucose right on the opening screen of the phone. It’s a really nice tool, because then I can look at the trends over the course of 3, 6, 12, or even 24 hours. It plays a big behavioral modification type of a role, because when you’re looking at your phone, as you would be for checking email or surfing the Web, you also are integrating what you eat and your activity with how your glucose responds. This is going to be very helpful for patients — not only those with diabetes, but also those who are at risk for diabetes, have metabolic syndrome, or are considered to be in the prediabetic state.
The third device I’d like to talk about is another device from the cardiovascular arena that comes in the form of an adhesive patch. It’s called the iRhythm, and I tried this out on myself. It’s really a neat device, because the results are sent by mail to the patient. You put it on your chest for 2 weeks, and then you mail it back. It’s the Netflix equivalent of a cardiovascular exam. The company then sends the patient 2 weeks’ worth of heart rhythm detection. I think it’s a far better, practical way, as compared to the Holter monitor wireless device. It’s not as time-continuous as the ECG or glucose device, but it’s in that spectrum.
I want to now explain a fourth device, which I use on my iPad. This device allows physicians the ability to monitor patients in the intensive care unit on their iPads. I use it to monitor patients at the Scripps ICU. You can use it for any ICU that allows for the electronic transmission of data. Right now, I’m monitoring 4 patients simultaneously. You can change the field to monitor up to 8 patients simultaneously. This is a great way to monitor patients in the ICU because you can do it remotely and from anywhere in the world where you have access to the Web. This is just to give you a sense of what this innovative software sensor can do to change the face of medicine.
Finally, I wanted to describe is something that I’ve become reliant upon, and that’s this high-resolution ultrasound device known as the Vscan. I use this in every patient to listen to their heart. In fact, I haven’t used a stethoscope for over 2 years to listen to a patient’s heart. What’s really striking about this is that it’s a real stethoscope. “Scope” means look into. “Steth” is the chest. And so now I carry this in my pocket, and it’s just great. I still need a stethoscope for the lungs, but for the heart this is terrific. You just pop it open, put a little gel on the tip of the probe, and get a quick, complete readout with the patient looking on as well. I’m sharing their image on the Vscan while I’m acquiring it and it only takes about a minute. We validated its usefulness in an Annals of Internal Medicine paper, in July 2011, describing how it compares favorably to the in-hospital ultrasound echo lab-type image. This could be another very useful device in emergency departments, where the wireless loops could be sent to a cardiologist. Another application it could be used for is detecting an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Paramedics who are out in the field, or at a trauma case, could use this to wirelessly send these video loops to get input from a radiologist or expertise from any physician for interpretation.
These are just a few of the gadgets that give you a feel for the innovative, transformative, and really radical changes that will be seen going forward in medicine. Thanks for watching this segment. We’ll be back soon with more on The Creative Destruction of Medicine. Until next time, I’m Dr. Eric Topol.
I am excited to be talking with Dr Eric Topol on Friday and hope you will be able to join me. To help prepare you for the conversation and the breadth of areas that Dr Topol covers I am posting his vide presentations from Medscape that provide quick intros to different areas. This one looks at 5 devices that will change the future of Medicine.
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