Daniel Kraft on How Exponential Technologies Will Reboot Healthcare

Posted in Medical Computing by Brian Buntz on January 28, 2013
Daniel Kraft, MD, executive director of FutureMed.

“Medicine is certainly ripe for some sort of disruption,” says Daniel Kraft, MD, the Stanford and Harvard-trained executive director of FutureMed at Singularity University in Silicon Valley. The fuel for that disruption is a variety of technologies with rapid growth curves and the innovators who help leverage them to change the status quo. Artificial intelligence, 3D printing, genomics, Big Data, mobile technology, regenerative medicine, and smart user interfaces each could have a significant long-term impact on the biomedical and life science industries. As diverse fields converge and become accessible at ever-lower price points, they could have a tremendous impact on healthcare, Kraft says.

Developers of medical devices or other healthcare-related products and services can tap into the power of such technologies to help reinvent and re-imagine how healthcare is practiced, Kraft says. He will deliver a keynote on the subject titled “The Future of Health and Medicine; Where Can Technology Take Us?” at MD&M West in Anaheim, CA on February 13. “Hopefully we’ll look back in ten years and some of the things we are doing now in healthcare will look antiquated as how we used to go banking or rent videos a decade ago.”

Of Hammers, Nails, and Exponentials

According to the popular expression, “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Healthcare needs to expand those proverbial hammers and nails, says Kraft, who has a fondness for reflecting on the tools that have the greatest potential to improve medicine.

Kraft’s keynote at MD&M West will also provide a recap of the technological advances discussed at his FutureMed conference. Held February 4–9, that event will bring together more than 50 faculty who will discuss everything from brain–computer interfaces to 3D printing. Kraft’s talk also will touch on his own experience as the inventor of the Marrow Miner, a minimally invasive bone-marrow harvesting device that is still under development. More recently, he founded the startup Intellimedicine, which aims to help make medicine more personalized and evidence-based.

The Future of Health and Medicine: Where Can Technology Take Us?

Daniel Kraft, MD regularly speaks on the future of health and medicine. His keynote at MD&M West will examine themes similar to those featured in the TED talk above, including artificial intelligence and nanotechnology.

Other developments to be discussed in Kraft’s talk include the burgeoning field of mHealth. “You can now go to an Apple store or a Best Buy and on the shelf they have a whole section of health-related connected devices. What are the implications of that—both for developing new technologies, clinical trial, safety and efficacy, and beyond?” he asks. In addition, there are also recently FDA-approved smartphone-enabled medical devices such as the AliveCor iPhone ECG and the iPhone-compatible iBGStar glucose meter.

Another area to watch closely is genomics, along with the bigger “–omics” world. “A 23andMe genome analysis is now at $99. I had my exome sequenced at $999,” Kraft says. “We are essentially at the $1000 genome today and it will be $100 genome in a couple years. How will that affect drugs or devices or the combination of the two?” he asks.

“Most people are quasi familiar with artificial intelligence through things like Siri. How will that affect everything from how drug and device reps interact with clinicians all the way to new ways of being able to access better care—on the workup and diagnosis side, picking the right therapy matched to the specific patient and their data and attributes?”

Also consider the popularity of wearable fitness devices. A recent example of such a product is the Basis watch, which measures one’s heart rate and activity level. “It is a consumer device today. But imagine an FDA-approved version for, say, heart failure patients that can pick up heart rate and determine if they are taking too much beta-blocker,” Kraft says. “It might also pick up volume status, blood pressure, and can utilized to modulate disease, and talk to their implanted defibrillator.”

Another field to keep a close eye on is 3D printing. Kraft predicts that as the technology takes off, there will be an uptick in custom medical devices—for instance, prosthetic limbs that are personalized for a specific patient. He also points to the case of Tal Golesworthy, a British engineer with Marfan's syndrome who saved his own life by using 3D printing technology to develop a custom aortic graft.

3D printing, or, more broadly, digital manufacturing, could also dramatically shift the way medicine in practiced in a variety of settings. “You can print out point of care lab tests on paper, in some cases, that enable you to do diagnostics,” Kraft says. Or you could use 3D printing technology to, say, make individualized orthopedic devices or custom instruments for surgery in remote locations. “It is already starting to play a role in some areas in healthcare and has the potential to change both the way we develop and test medical devices all the way to truly building bespoke components for individuals for a variety of healthcare needs.”

FutureMed: Glimpsing into the Future of Healthcare

A paralyzed woman controls a robotic arm using thought alone. Leigh Hochberg, MD, PhD, who is featured in the clip above, will speak at this year's FutureMed event.  

Many of the topics highlighted above will be featured at a FutureMed on February 4–9. The theme of convergence is also built into the conference’s design. “The main thing that makes FutureMed unique is that it brings folks from many different spectrums together as opposed to the traditional conference or meeting where it is often around a specific medical specialty or devices or pharma.” “We are for example going to have a session on artificial intelligence in healthcare with Marty Kohn, MD, from IBM Watson as well as famed venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, musing on how we can disrupt healthcare using smart algorithms and this emerging generation of connected devices.” On February 5, the event will be live-streamed at FutureMed2020.com/live.

While FutureMed is limited to less than 100 attendees, a public FutureMed event will be held on February 9 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA with the core FutureMed participants and faculty and is open to people working across the healthcare ecosystem. Topics to be covered in interactive workshops at the event include oncology, pain management, robotics, and artificial intelligence.

“We’ll also have startups doing pitches to some seasoned and interesting investors from Esther Dyson to others,” Kraft says. Also on display will be the Ekso Bionics exoskeleton device, which enables a paraplegic to walk, and an opportunity to try out the da Vinci surgical robot. Speakers at the Saturday event include brain–computer interface pioneer Leigh Hochberg, MD, PhD. “We are also going to have a session on artificial intelligence in healthcare by Marty Kohn, MD, from IBM Watson as well as famed venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, musing on how we can disrupt healthcare using smart algorithms and this new generation of connected devices.” 

Brian Buntz is the editor-in-chief of MPMN. Follow him on Twitter at @brian_buntz.