From FutureMed: Emerging medical technology is cool--but is it useful?

Medical technology is "wicked cool," but "there's a huge gap between the way many technologists envision medical problems and the way problems are actually experienced by physicians and patients," says David Shaywitz, writing for Forbes about the recent FutureMed event in Silicon Valley.

Even informal discussions at the event revolved around big questions, lofty ideas, and the next big thing, from artificial organs created from stem cells to computers that can read minds, and bottom-up innovation, he writes. "The remarkable progress many in the tech crowd had seen in other disciplines suggested that technology advances in health would be similarly achievable, and just as inevitable."

The problem, he says, is that innovators are focused primarily on developing technologies instead of solving actual problems. "It's clear there remains an urgent need to more efficiently connect those with problems and those interested in developing solutions," he writes.

That theme also emerged at last December's mHealth conference in Washington, D.C., and other healthcare technology events throughout the past year. It's all well and good to develop cool technology, apps, and software solutions. But if no one uses them all that creativity goes to waste.

As FierceHealthIT reported last December, many in the healthcare technology field are working to shift the conversation from the potential of mobile healthcare to improve access and quality to the task of getting doctors and patients to use--and keep using--it.

Still, there's no denying that emerging healthcare technologies are cool--and fun to read and think about. Medgadget reports on some of the FutureMed highlights in this article, including breakthroughs in surgical robotics, information-based virtual representations of patients and plasma medicine.

The latter is one of "most exciting new areas in addition to genomics" in modern medicine, Richard Satava, a professor of surgery at the University of Washington Medical Center who also helped pioneer the da Vinci surgical robotic system said in a FutureMed presentation.

The Plasma medicine harnesses the power of plasma (as in an energy cloud) with handheld instruments at room temperature, according to the article. Charged particles in the plasma cloud work directly on individual cells and at the molecular level. The budding field gives physicians the power to turn on and turn off specific molecules to, for instance, influence coagulation times and wound healing. It also can be used to kill biological agents.

"At this moment in time, there is no known biological agent that is resistant to plasma exposure for 30 seconds," Satava said.

Expect to see more cool technology at next week's annual Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference. Undoubtedly, there will also be talk of how to translate new and emerging technologies into real-world practice.

To learn more:
- read the Forbes report
- read the Medgadget story

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