How the Big Data Trend will Support Medical Research

It is no secret that research relies critically on data collection. Whether you’re talking about pharmaceutical research, market research, or outcomes research, successful analysis can only be done with robust data that captures the metrics most relevant to the question at hand. Unfortunately, that degree of data collection can be an expensive proposition, especially when it comes to health care.

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Symcat: A Consumer-side Expert System for Diagnosis (Johns Hopkins Informatics Grand Rounds)

I am appreciative for the opportunity to share alongside David some of my journeys in conceiving of and building Symcat during the Johns Screenshot 2015-07-11 19.17.18Hopkins Informatics Grand Rounds. In it, we talk about some of the history of decision support, the technology behind Symcat, and some additional points about entrepreneurship and web development that excite us.

  1. video of the presentation
  2. slides

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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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

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