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Selecting Targeted Therapies Online: The Future Of Personalized Cancer Treatment?

The word cancer comes from the greek word for crab “karkinos,” so named by Hippocrates who visualized the tumor and its surrounding vessels looking like a crab, dug stubbornly into the sand with its legs. We know far more about cancer today than the ancient Greeks, but the vision of an entrenched opponent, almost impossible to extract whole, appears to be vividly prescient.

What we have realized over the last half century is that removal of the visible tumor is not enough. Even as we learned how to do bigger and more destructive surgeries, the cancer still managed to sneak back in, growing later at different locations. The crab’s legs are still embedded in the patient.

Thus the discovery that certain chemicals could extinguish these rogue cells opened the modern era of cancer therapy and led to the first “cures” from cancer. Many of these compounds were exquisitely toxic. Early experimenters even used nitrogen mustard, quite literally a poison, as Siddhartha Mukherjee tells in his excellent history of cancer, “The Emperor of All Maladies.”

To many, the battle looked grim. For the founder of CollabRx, who himself was living in the shadow of advanced melanoma, this was the signal to take his expertise in internet information technologies and apply it to cancer. Thus a “biomedical software company” was founded, with the mission:

…to save lives by using information technology to personalize cancer treatments and accelerate research.

The rapid proliferation of knowledge about the molecular underpinnings of different cancers, has brought hope for a new age of “targeted” therapies. These drugs are designed to find and destroy cells with aberrant biochemical pathways, while bypassing the normal body tissues. Immense hopes rest on them. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at iMedicalApps*

A Doctor’s Brain: The Most Important Piece Of Healthcare Technology

Some people may tell you that healthcare IT will solve many of the quality and cost problems in healthcare. I don’t believe them.

I know a 70-year old man named Carlos (not his real name) who was hospitalized following a bout of hydrocephalus. Hydrocephalus is a build-up of fluid in the skull, which affects the brain. Among other things, people with hydrocephalus can be confused, irritable, and nauseous. Carlos had all of these symptoms.

Carlos’ problem was fixable by inserting a special kind of drain in his head called a “shunt.” This kind of shunt is, essentially, a series of catheters that runs from the brain into the abdomen, and which drain the excess fluid. You can’t see it from the outside, so it’s meant to stay inside of you for a very long time.

For a week after Carlos’ shunt was installed, his symptoms completely disappeared. But they soon started to re-emerge. Worried, his family took him to the hospital. Doctors found that his hydrocephalus was back — the shunt wasn’t draining properly. They admitted him to the hospital, and the next day they put in a new shunt. The surgery went well.

But again, about a day later, he started to have the same kinds of symptoms. The doctors sent him for a CT scan, which showed, to their surprise, no problems with the shunt. Unsure of what to do, they decided to wait and see if the symptoms resolved. It was possible, they thought, that the symptoms were from the quick drainage of fluid through the shunt. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

Managing Diabetes In “Real Time”

The cost of managing chronic diseases is the largest portion of healthcare expenditures in developed countries. For example, the prevalence of adult acquired diabetes has been rising in the United States, in concert with increasing rates obesity. The CDC has termed it an “epidemic,” especially in light of the massive costs incurred by the healthcare system due to diabetes.

The deleterious health effects of many chronic conditions can be diminished by behavior modifications. While few would underestimate the difficulty of having patients lose weight or exercise more, good management of blood sugar in diabetes is both objectively measurable and strongly correlated with reduced end-organ damage.

This is among the reasons why Research2Guidance has recently nominated diabetes as the condition most likely to be most targeted by mobile medical software and devices (mHealth). This finding is part of their recently published Global Mobile Health Market Report 2010-2015. This is the same report that also predicted that, in the future, medical apps are likely to be distributed by physicians and healthcare institutions.

This time Research2Guidance is highlighting the portion of the survey where they looked into where mobile devices have the most potential to affect health outcomes. While other chronic conditions such as hypertension and obesity have larger populations, the market researchers felt diabetes had the largest market potential due to the huge cost saving potential, the demographic and geographic overlap between smartphone users and people with diabetes, and the real potential to improve blood sugar management using mobile devices. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at iMedicalApps*

“e-Patient” Goes Mainstream

I have a Google alert for “e-patient,” and sometimes I’m surprised what it catches. [Recently] it was this:

3 Reasons Steve Jobs Will Be The Ultimate e-Patient
Steve Jobs’ medical leave sets the stage for the upcoming revolution in the production and delivery of medical information at time of diagnosis. 3 things you need to know.

So I’m thinking: “Oh, wow: Is the term ‘e-patient’ going mainstream?” That would be a hoot, because indeed the Society for Participatory Medicine is engaged in spreading the word.

*This blog post was originally published at e-Patients.net*

The Google Body Browser

b2bzsd.jpgGoogle has released an awesome in-browser anatomy viewer to demo the new 3D graphics capabilities of their Chrome development version. It lets you explore the human body in all its glory in a Google Earth-like fashion. Individual anatomic layers (skin, muscles, bones, etc.) can be selected or deselected for viewing, but can also be made semi-transparent on an individual level. Labels can be displayed, and all anatomy is fully searchable.

The catch is you will need a WebGL enabled browser to try it. WebGL is a technique that enables 3D graphics within the browser without the use of plugins. Chrome 9 Dev Channel, Chrome Canary Build and Firefox 4 beta have this enabled by default. In Chrome 8 (the current stable version), you can enable it by going to about:flags (type it in the address bar), and from there enable WebGL. Below are two videos, one demonstrating the body browser, and one of a presentation by the developers.

Link: Google Body Browser…

(Hat Tip: Google Operating System Blog)

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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