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TEDMED 2012: Telling Health Stories Through Mobile Data Collection

Dr. Leslie Saxon is a fast talker. During her presentation at TEDMED this morning, the cardiologist who is also the head of the body-computing center at the Keck Medical Center at the University of Southern California, Saxon brought her heart to the stage.

The theme of Saxon’s presentation was that healthcare is a human story, not just a collection of data. But her point was that a doctor’s job is to help patients edit that story into something meaningful, especially as digital health goes global.
The story involved her efforts in measuring ECGs in people around the world, using the AliveCor ECG reader. AliveCor is a cell phone case that takes ECG measurements. These devices were passed out among 50 people and saw 36 tracings over an 8-week period.

Saxon reviewed these data (presumably in her spare time). For one lucky man in Nairobi, she was able to see his asymptomatic ischemic heart failure. Saxon contacted the man and was able to let him know of his condition.

“Doctors should be partnering with patients. Patients have a dog in the fight and they don’t have to wait months for intervention,” said Saxon. She also says it requires doctors to ease off on the notion that patients can’t handle the information without a doctor to disseminate and mediate the data. “Health rights are one of the last great civil rights issues,” was Saxon’s proclamation, which met with loud applause.

“the tech is ready,” said Saxon, noting that smart phones can make use of gaming for collection, but can also go a step farther to contextualize data. They are efficient and ubiquitous.

It’s a rational start,” says Saxon. “One heartbeat at a time and we can change the world.”

Heather Thompson is editor-in-chief of MD+DI. Follow her on Twitter @medevice_editor.

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