Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the first practical telephone was the trailhead to a path of continuous innovation evidenced currently by the ubiquitous cellular phone and other mobile devices. From great inventions will come great innovations.
In his book The Truth About Innovation, @MaxMcKeown said innovators “mixed ideas and inventions together. They worked hard to create the must-have and often [have] taken for granted stuff that surrounds us.”
That is how “text messaging,” vapid as it may seem now, inspired innovation over 15 years that has helped save lives. Texting was the root of an innovative technology that enables personalized, relevant, and continuous dialogue between patient and provider anytime, anywhere, and on any device — LifeWIRE.
Once upon a text, an idea arose: A series of short messages could extend the point of care by automating clinicians' protocols, follow-up, feedback, and outreach using a device that everyone seemed to be getting (remember, it was the dark ages of 2005). A light bulb lit at this idea of enabling population management with the power of an automated communication through SMS, and now through any form of communication a user prefers.
That light bulb shone ever more brightly when that innovation has proved its value during the pandemic. LifeWIRE’s capacity to be rapidly deployed as a solution for population outreach had been tested and proved in self-isolation and quarantine management. Its power lies in real-time validated data collection and analysis so that virus containment is improved.
LifeWIRE was an innovation born of the science and the art of communication. Its purpose answered the need to create a means for dialogue between providers and patients through an invisible and ubiquitous technology — the science — but at the same time dynamically customizable using desired communication media and language — the art.
From harnessing the endless possibilities of SMS use, LifeWIRE, now a multi-patented communication platform, is communicating care with no barriers, in any mode the patient chooses, such as email, text, IVRS, and wearables. For now, LifeWIRE's realm is healthcare; Tomorrow, in any realm where efficient and safe interactive communication with a population is needed, LifeWIRE applies.
As Mckeown has said, “innovation means a new way of doing something. A distinction is typically made between invention, an idea made manifest, and innovation, ideas applied successfully." LifeWIRE imagined the need to automate patient-provider communication, and so came its story of innovation.
Like LifeWIRE, many healthcare innovations have sprung from a need to address intractable healthcare issues. Here is a look at three stories of innovations inspired from existing technologies.
CTRL-Kit Image source: CTRL-Labs
The API for the Brain in a Wristband
A device worn on one’s wrist that can simulate the action that the brain conceives is a technology that could open new trails in rehabilitation medicine. An API for the brain was harvested from techniques in the last 30 to 40 years of bench experimental neuroscience.
Thomas Reardon, CEO and cofounder of CTRL-Labs, told TechCrunch in a 2018 interview that he “wanted to leverage experimental technologies from neuroscience that hadn’t yet been commercialized.”
Collaborating with @CTRLlabsCo cofounders Patrick Kaifosh and Tim Machado, Reardon created a technology that reads electrical impulses that travel from the motor neurons down the arm muscles and to the hand almost as soon as a person thinks about a particular movement. It was among Time Magazine’s “12 Innovations That Will Change Health Care and Medicine in the 2020s.”
“Some of this is chutzpah, and some of it is timing. The technologies that we are leveraging weren’t fully developed for how we’re using them...But they were far enough along that you could imagine the gap and come up with a way to cross the gap. How could we, for instance, decode an individual neuron using a technology called electromyograph," Reardon told TechCrunch.
According to Time, such innovation can open new forms of rehab access for patients recovering from a stroke or amputation, as well as those with Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and other neurodegenerative conditions.
Belgian biomedical engineer Isabel Van De Keere built on the opportunities that virtual reality presents to change the neurological-rehab experience. At 38, Van De Keere, who suffered a cervical spine injury and required intense neurological rehab, founded Immersive Rehab.
VR Image source: by Pixaline from Pixabay
This London-based start-up was born out of Van de Keere’s frustrating rehab with slow progress no matter how diligently and frequently she exercised. @ImmersiveRehab harnessed the power of virtual reality to work though the brain’s plasticity and repair neural pathways.
This innovative solution to neurorehabilitation allows patients to enter the virtual 3D world, perform rehab exercises by interacting with virtual objects. By engaging a person’s brain into thinking that they are actually moving objects around, it is possible to obtain important gains in mobility and function.
According to Time, the VR rehab program can expand the range and type of exercises patients can try and increase the amount of data caregivers can use to measure progress. Promising results have now put it up for clinical trials in the U.S. and Europe.
A disease diagnosis can break a person or deliver a breakthrough.
It was the latter for Jonathan Rothberg, a chemical engineer, biologist, and professor of genetics at Yale University, after his daughter was diagnosed with a rare disease called tuberous sclerosis. According to Blue Cross Blue Shield, the lack of satisfactory medical solutions made Rothberg search for a cure himself.
To monitor the tumor growths in the body of his daughter, @JMRothberg wanted ultrasound to be accessible and make it as routine as possible. So, to eliminate the need to go to the hospital each time, he built on the ultrasound technology and innovated to make it mobile for an ultrasound scan anywhere, anytime.
Butterfly IQ Image source: Butterfly Network
He was quoted by Time as saying that such innovation is about “democratizing healthcare by making medical imaging accessible to everyone around the world.” The 2019 Not Impossible Healthcare Breakthrough Award sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield was given to this whole-body, hand-held ultrasound scanner called the Butterfly iQ®.
This innovative healthcare technology based its design on the traditional medical imaging technology but works anywhere with a cell phone. It uses an app to acquire and securely transmit imagery for review and diagnosis, making it easier for less experienced clinicians to use.
According to the Blue Cross Blue Shield feature article about the pocket ultrasound, not only has Rothberg’s innovation helped in his daughter's treatment but it has now made “consulting as easy as sending a text message, and the tech is accessible, in your pocket, 24 hours a day.”
Like LifeWIRE, all these innovative technologies have found a fit in the digitalization of healthcare. The seeds of innovation may vary, but ultimately bright-light ideas reveal limitless possibilities for building on existing technologies to blaze the way to new healthcare solutions. #BeLifeWIREd