Can Health Care Be Disrupted?

It’s widely recognized that health care must change. Paper charts are still commonly used, providers communicate via fax, and patients wait weeks for an appointment. Given the recent excitement around health information technology and the unusual political will, it may seem not only that health care is ripe for disruption, but that it may even happen.

Or will it? Disruption is one of those “know it when you see it” kind of things. By lowering the costs of distribution for content providers, the Internet, for example, has unmistakably changed, and continues to change, the media industry. Or, if you don’t like that, you can try wikipedia’s take. There is a lot about health care that feels like pre-Internet media: insular, capital-intensive, multiple stakeholders (read: middlemen). And so, it feels as though health care will be disrupted, but where and how can that reasonably happen?

Continue reading Can Health Care Be Disrupted? on the Symcat blog.

5 Steps to Making Your Medical App Idea a Reality

You’ve got this great idea for a medical app that will transform health care (or at least a chunk of it).

Now what?

There is no one path to executing your idea. Particularly for those of us in medicine where the course is clearly delineated (pre-med, med school, residency, etc), acknowledging this fact can be disorienting. My goal here is to suggest one path that has helped me personally get beyond the ideation phase.

Continue reading 5 Steps to Making Your Medical App Idea a Reality at iMedicalApps.

Symcat: Data-Driven Symptom Checker


symcat_logo_simple_900x260When people get sick, they have several options for obtaining health care. These include going to the emergency room, urgent care center, or calling a doctor or nurse. However, 80% of people experiencing symptoms start with an Internet search. Unfortunately, searching on Google offers spotty results and frequently leads to undue concern. For example, one is 1000x more likely to encounter “brain tumor” in web search results for “headache” than they are to ever have the disease. Undue concern is a contributor to the 40% of emergency room visits and 70% of physician visits that are considered to be inappropriate.

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Doctors or Algorithms: Who Will Win?

A recent TechCrunch article instigated some debate as to who will win the title of “Medical Expert:” physicians or algorithms. As a medical student with a background in engineering and machine learning, my perspective has led to a somewhat conflicted opinion. I have, on the one hand, seen how powerful algorithms can be, even in the medical domain, and on the other, watched and learned from master clinicians in medical school.

Continue reading on the Symcat blog Doctors or Algorithms: Who Will Win?

How Motor Learning Generalizes


Every movement we make requires our brains to predict what forces–gravity, an object we’re holding, a strong gust of wind–each of our body Screenshot 2015-07-12 11.03.40parts will experience in order to move in a coordinated fashion. No movement is ever exactly the same and so it is remarkable that we are not constantly tripping over ourselves. It is well-known that humans learn based on previous errors in their movements. My work at the Harvard Neuromotor Control Lab was to investigate how the brain learns to “makes generalizations” about movements and learn from its mistakes. Continue reading

Stroke in AVS App


Screenshot 2015-07-11 22.15.36Each year, half a million patients present to emergency departments in the US with acute vestibular syndrome (AVS) characterized by vertigo lasting more than 24 hours. Though this is frequently caused by something benign such as a self-limited viral infection, it may also indicate a more severe condition such as stroke of the posterior circulation. Unfortunately, MRI can miss strokes when obtained early in the disease course meaning half of those with with posterior strokes are inappropriately sent home from the ER. Continue reading

Understanding Tracheostomy as a Risk Factor for Sternal Wound Infections


Tracheostomy is an unpleasant, but effective means for transitioning patients off ventilatory support after prolonged periods of respiratory failure following cardiac surgery. There is, however, a perceived risk of patients getting infections of the surgical, sternal Screenshot 2015-07-12 16.13.38wound if tracheostomy is performed too early. This perceived risk means patients are often delayed in tracheostomy, including the benefits of ability to speak, reduced mortality, reduced ICU stay, and reduced delirium until the surgical wound is felt no longer at risk. Continue reading

Towards an Intelligent Stethoscope


Screenshot 2015-07-12 09.51.31Though in some ways replaced by ultrasound technology, cardiac auscultation–using a stethoscope to listen to a patient’s heart–remains an important screening modality for recognizing heart disease. Auscultation serves as a cost-effective screening tool for heart disease and is of particular importance in several clinical scenarios. Less emphasis has been placed on training US clinicians in auscultation, however, making this something of a “lost art.” This may delay a patient’s diagnosis of heart disease. Continue reading