We had the pleasure of attending the 2009 TEDMED Conference last week in San Diego and were absolutely inspired by the variety of speakers & topics as well as the opportunity to reflect on how science, technology and medicine have intersected to suggest a different future. The following are a few reflections looking back on the themes and presentations:
- Researchers can now re-create organs using DNA from samples of organ tissue applied to a ‘scaffold’ that shapes the replacement organ but then disintegrates within several weeks. Imagine needing a transplant and being able to use your own tissue samples to create one in a lab in short order before your procedure.
- Nutrition and exercise still and will always have a major part to play in the prevention of disease. A no-brainer seemingly, but the frequency of this theme throughout the talks was a poignant reminder. For further insight, check out What the World Eats.
- Changing techniques in educating children, focusing on prevention and evolving the way we approach geriatric care will be important for a healthier life cycle. Making healthier behavior more fun was also a theme that we hope to see realized in education and health care in the coming years.
- Screening your genes is now a viable and relatively affordable solution that helps you understand what elevated health risks you face. Speaker Anne Wojcicki described the story behind 23andme.com and offered attendees a free account. Navigenics also provided a similar, competitive solution focused on screening your DNA to empower you to take stronger preventative measures against disease you run higher risk for.
- Being able to visualize disease and bodily functions is key for many people to quickly and easily understand them. Visual communicator Alexander Tsiaras gave a demo of TheVisualMd.com and PatientsLikeMe.com founder Jamie Heywood showed the audience how effective it was to pool data from a community of people sharing the metrics and symptoms of their disease. In fact, their data was more effective and far easier to understand that a recent clinical study.
- Human life spans may become significantly longer as a result of the technologies focused to combat disease, leaving many unanswered questions about population, resources, quality of life, etc. Speakers Aubrey de Grey and David Sinclair actually consider aging a disease and believe that with cellular maintenance and a modified diet, people can live dramatically longer.
- Shifting the paradigm of healthcare from large, expensive hospital centers toward smaller clinical centers as well as the home will be instrumental in making it more affordable. In the future, smaller neighborhood clinics and centers equipped with Nurse Practitioners offering primary care can allow for more affordable, effective care leaving surgical specialists to oversee more complicated procedures. CVS’ Minute Clinic was just one example. At home, advances in robotics and even common sense solutions like improving the clarity of prescription drug containers will provide seniors with more independence later in life.
- “Not everything that counts can be measured.” A famous Einstein quote provided ground for speakers like Dean Ornish, Deepak Chopra, Aimee Mullins and others who reminded us that positivity, motivation, collaboration, community, consciousness and love have a lot to do with health. There was a general feeling that while researchers and technologists have made amazing discoveries, the “silo” approach to advancement needs to be revolutionized to include different types of thinkers working together.
Registration is already open for the 2010 Conference for those who wish to attend.