TED Conversations

Alison Acevedo

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How can we better harness our human capabilities to develop medical technology?

In my bioelectricity class taught by TED fellow Nina Tandon, we've discussed the difficulties of diagnosing patients using the results of diagnostic tests like EKGs & EEGs. Diagnosis following these examinations require doctors with extensive experience correlating signal patterns with disease. Interpreting non-invasive diagnostic tests is one of many challenges requiring lifelong dedication to one facet of the medical field.
In light of this, Daniel Kraft's talk about the future of medical tech. is interesting. He highlights technologies that allow doctors to visit patients virtually and robots that allow doctors to work remotely. Exponential technologies, Kraft quotes, 'surpass the ability of the human mind.' Their development is a worthwhile application of human time and innovation.
We also learned about Catherine Wong (http://tinyurl.com/8pjbxwq) an inventor developing an inexpensive, portable EKG device that transmits data via cell phone. She discusses the reality that 2 billion people today have no access to local healthcare. These underdeveloped regions don't have the funds or equipment for remote access health care. Kraft discusses the application of the lab-chip for humanitarian aide, but charitable outreach is more Catherine's focus.
Despite the enormous promise of exponential technology lowering costs for global healthcare, access to diagnostic tools is not the only issue today in medicine. Noel Merz discusses how cardiovascular disease goes unnoticed in women but is their leading killer. While men's heart attack onset symptoms are obvious, esp. in their EKGs, women's symptoms are subtle, requiring MRI's to detect. A greater fraction of women die than fraction of men.
These ideas made me question the continuing value of human insight when developing and disseminating technologies, and the assumptions (and biases) that influence what to develop. Development is a human process. How can we better harness our human capabilities to develop medical technology?


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    Apr 9 2013: Hi Alison,
    I agree with some of the previous comments that medical devices should not replace doctors. But, I do think new medical technology and devices help us detect changes/symptoms in our body that are hard to detect ourselves. Not everyone has access to health care and a doctor, so developing low-cost medical devices to provide an alternative to more expensive medical care by doctors is valuable.
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      Apr 9 2013: I agree with Kyung.

      Medical care is a huge thing in todays world. Humans rely on medical technology advancements to keep the average human lifespan growing. After studying EKG and EEGs, I do agree that it takes a very well trained eye to detect symptoms in the signals. We should develop some sort of device that can better make this distinction. Furthermore, developing a small easy to use device will allow for a greater reach to medicare and allow less accesible areas reach the same lifespan as others.

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