TEDMED 2009 = Innovation, Technology & Inspiring Stories

Nov 2, 2009, 2:35 AM, Posted by

I really liked TEDMED. There was lots of wiz-bang new technology stuff – genetics, organ regeneration, ways to slow the aging process, wearable sensors that can monitor and wirelessly transmit data that traditionally required a person to be in a controlled environment with leads connected to multiple body locations. It’s really exciting to see what may be possible in a few short years. Of course, no one really talks about how long it will take, how real people will be able to use these gadgets and how they’ll be paid for.

There are also great stories of human accomplishments – either overcoming tremendous adversities to triumph or innovative and caring ways to help others. Every one of the presentations is worthy of commentary. In addition, it’s amazing to realize the number of incredibly smart people that were there. Not only are they smart but each has accomplished more than one might expect, even given their brain power. And many of them are truly nice and approachable.

For me the highlight of the event was Jamie Heywood talking about the Patients Like Me site. The reason for this is less that they are using some pretty impressive analyses but more that you have a platform where ordinary people can record their experiences with their conditions and treatments in a way that contributes to a shared and actionable understanding, without expert clinical intervention. The reality is that right now this helps each participant deal with her or his condition. In addition, it is beginning to yield data that can expand clinical knowledge faster and more broadly than traditional methods. Whether the scientific community can learn how to make use of that data seems to me a question of how open the professionals are to exploring nontraditional sources. I certainly hope they are.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.