A glimpse of the future: advanced computing meets healthcare

Posted on May 6, 2011 I Written By

Katherine Rourke is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

While existing EMR systems can perform tasks which would have boggled the minds of our grandparents, there’s always the next step, the breakthrough which transforms how we understand a technology.  At a recent Bio-IT World meeting, attendees got a look at some of those possibilities, reports Children’s Hospital Boston blog Vector.

One promising approach comes from PatientsLikeMe.com, which connects patients with similar diagnoses to share ideas and improve management of their conditions.  According to blogger Keeley Wray, the site’s graphical tools go far beyond most Web information sharing, allowing patients to visualize data trends for both their own condition and other similar diagnoses. PatientsLikeMe.com also documents medication side effects, sometimes differently (more accurately?) than pharmaceutical companies.

Another technology Wray describes, knowledge engine Wolfram|Alpha, can be loaded with high volumes of data, including self-reported patient data.  The engine’s creator believes that tools like this will soon be used to “model a patient’s disease, anticipate adverse events or suggest personalized treatment options,” Wray reports.  Eventually, patients will eventually begin to load data directly into such engines from wearable, automated sensors, making crowdsourced medical data banks a realistic and scalable option, argues knowledge engine creator Stephen Wolfram.

These approaches are just a tiny sample of what’s going on today in bioinformatics, of course. But these patient-centered, treatment-oriented examples seem particularly relevant when you think about what an EMR can and should be.  Imagine EMRs being transformed from isolated vessels of information to nodes in a global, exponentially-expanding knowledge network that benefits both patients and clinicians directly! Folks, it’s just beautiful.