Several recent projects at USC unveiled plans for virtual clinics, photo-sharing health apps, and hologram doctors as developers prepare for the future of healthcare.
The University of Southern California's (USC) Center for Body Computing (CBC) recently provided updates on a few of their innovative projects aimed at advancing technologies into a new age of digital health. Leslie Saxon, cardiologist and executive director of the center, showed off a few of the new technologies last month at CBC's ninth annual conference in Los Angeles, including a new "virtual care clinic" that utilizes artificial intelligence and virtual doctors.
Saxon described the project as a form of telemedicine, where patients can access virtual representations of physicians, including their own personal doctor. These virtual doctors are backed by clinical decision support -- meaning they are specifically programmed to weigh the "mortality advantage" of a certain course of action.
The group has even been experimenting with virtual patient care via a hologram technology. Presumably patients who have a physician in a digital clinic will be able to schedule appointments with their physician, who can then appear as a hologram to discuss health care concerns in real time. Saxon showcases the technology with a mock patient having a cardiac scare while visiting Dubai, providing patients with the ability to see their physician at any time, regardless of their location
Then there's the new Biogram app that the CBC announced a few weeks ago, which was designed to enable users to embed heart rate data into a photo distributed to social media via a photo-sharing network. The app was developed using ResearchKit, an open source software framework developed by Apple for researchers and developers looking to revolutionize medical studies.
The Biogram app was designed by researchers to gain a better understanding of how publicly shared biometrics can influence personal relationships and experiences within a social community. The idea is to use the app to gather biometric information such as height, weight, steps taken, and heart rate data directly from HealthKit, the centralized platform where iPhone users store health data. The app could provide researchers with the power to capture data from millions of users -- an effort that would exponentially increase the number of medical research study participants, which traditionally average under 1,000.
The CBC was quick to reassure that their study takes every precaution possible to ensure privacy protection, asking participants in each step of the process to allow researchers to access their activity and health data through the Biogram app. Saxon believes that the app can offer unprecedented advantages that will allow researchers to scale their medical studies to capture millions of participants, and provide potentially groundbreaking observations.
Saxon believes these tools will all be part of the "next frontier of digital health." A future where gathering, accessing, and sharing health data will be made easier through digital solutions.
While the "next frontier" of healthcare may still be one that arrives in stages, digital healthcare solutions continue to become increasingly ubiquitous. With technology at virtually everyone's fingertips, the idea of accessing personal health care with the press of button may not be as far fetched as you might think.