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David Kerr

David Kerr: Big pharma in Trumpland

19 Jan, 17 | by BMJ

david_kerr_2015picDonald Trump has big pharma in the crosshairs. Using classic #TrumpSpeak, the soon to be 45th President of the United States hinted recently that Medicare, the biggest buyer of drugs in the US, could soon be able to negotiate drug prices directly with the pharmaceutical industry.

This is something big pharma has spent years and millions of dollars in trying to prevent. According to Trump, the pharma industry “has been getting away with murder . . . we’re the largest buyer of drugs in the world and yet we don’t bid properly and we’re going to start bidding and we’re going to save billions of dollars.” Unusually, given the current combative nature of domestic politics here in the US, his idea has also been espoused by political opponents including Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Although short on detail, Trump’s comments caused big pharma to lose almost $25 billion in market value the same day. more…

“Our language is funny—a ‘fat chance’ and a ‘slim chance’ are the same thing”: Helping artificial intelligence understand patients

5 Oct, 16 | by BMJ

david_kerr_2015picGoogle is in hot water. First of all, the artificial intelligence (AI) focused branch of the organization, Google DeepMind, recently held a public meeting on the hot topic of accessing NHS patient information.

Google already has access to 1.6 million patient records, and plans to build an electronic portal that allows patients and doctors to track full medical histories in chronological order via an app on a smartphone. This did not go down well with some of the attendees, who expressed concerns about consent, data ownership, and the need for individuals to opt out if they do not want Google using their data. more…

David Kerr: Liquid expectations for health

13 Jun, 16 | by BMJ

david_kerr_2015picMobile is eating the world.” Next June will see the tenth anniversary of the launch of the iPhone. Without a doubt, the impact of the smartphone has been enormous, and for healthcare providers the continued growth in smartphone use has major implications going forward—especially since more than half of patients/consumers now say that they want to be able to interact with their clinicians through smartphones and mobile apps.

Furthermore, the rise of “liquid expectations”—when favorable experiences with consumer products (such as the iPhone and the anticipation of new versions each year) raise expectations in other industries more…

Shared appointments: Medical utopia or dystopia?

18 May, 16 | by BMJ

david_kerr_2015picIn simple supply and demand terms, there are now more people living with chronic disease than there are doctors and other professionals around to help them. So how can the practice of medicine respond to this particular challenge?

Here in the United States, there is growing interest in exploring the potential value of shared medical appointments, whereby a group of individuals with the same underlying long term condition are seen in the same room by a physician (albeit for much longer appointments than the traditional 8-10 minutes twice a year). more…

David Kerr: A bump on the road to mHealth utopia?

28 Jan, 16 | by BMJ

david_kerr_2015picA recent clinical trial’s finding that digital health technology (also known as mHealth) failed to reduce healthcare costs is raising eyebrows on this side of the Atlantic. For naysayers the results will most certainly reinforce their belief that mHealth is a fad, which distracts from the real business of medicine, and that more investment in staff is preferable to wasting time on smart new shiny things. On the other side of the argument, however, the study had major flaws: it had a small number of participants (3998), had a very short duration, and was already out of date when it started—given the rapid pace of technology development.

Where I live on the west coast of the US, only a few hours’ drive down from Silicon Valley, there is indeed a widespread belief that technology will change the future and much sooner than for previous generations. more…

David Kerr: Don’t move fast and break things

21 Oct, 15 | by BMJ

david_kerr_2015picNew technology companies need the oxygen of someone else’s money to survive and grow, that’s how capitalism works. Here in California, multi-million dollar investments and eye-watering billion dollar company valuations are everyday news. The ultimate goal of new technology companies is to gain “unicorn” status as rapidly as possible i.e. be valued at more than $1 billion. In reality, the process of achieving such a lofty status by wooing investors invariably involves hyping the product as soon and as much as possible. In the rarified atmosphere of Silicon Valley venture capital, where money follows money, this means offering to “change the world.”

In tech speak all aspects of human health are fair game for “disruption.” more…

David Kerr: Doctor Google versus the NHS

12 Feb, 15 | by BMJ

david_kerrApparently one in 20 searches on Google are for health related topics. At the moment typing in a medical condition (such as diabetes) on Google produces links to reputable sites and online patient forums.

However, beyond the first page of a Google search, the quality and accuracy of the listed domains becomes more questionable, with searchers running the risk of encountering various snake oil salesmen, quacks, and purveyors of alternative therapies. Furthermore, trying to find out the potential implications of common symptoms can provoke a wave of neurosis, with Googlers believing that their runny nose, cough, or headache are invariably the first symptoms of some rare and lethal condition. more…

David Kerr: Rise of the medical selfie

22 Dec, 14 | by BMJ

david_kerrAccording to Twitter, 2014 was the year of the selfie. The Oxford English dictionary defines a selfie as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media.” Selfies began only a few years ago, but have reached epidemic and global proportions—and a new industry has developed with the creation of selfie sticks to support the phenomenon. more…

David Kerr: An Apple a day keeps the doctor away?

11 Sep, 14 | by BMJ

david_kerrIt might be cool, but will it make a difference to health? This is still the unanswered question after the launch of the latest must-have device from Apple, 30 years after the launch of the original Mackintosh computer in the same building in California. Due to be released next year at a starting price of $349, the Apple Watch (not iWatch) already has the tentative approval of big names in fashion and apparently is causing nervousness among high-end Swiss watch makers. The other potentially significant item previewed by Apple was the company’s plans to “do way with wallets”—it will soon be possible to pay for goods at the supermarket checkout simply by using the Apple Watch device—but only if you also own an iPhone. more…

David Kerr: Self obsessing health technology

14 Aug, 14 | by BMJ

david_kerrHas the health tech industry and those who fund it lost the plot? Apparently, the next must have technology is the connected toothbrush. A “data driven oral health startup” company in the United States has just received a multi-million dollar investment to further develop a smartphone connected toothbrush.

With this toothbrush, an accelerometer measures how long a user brushes his or her teeth, and this information is then transferred to a smartphone that records teeth cleaning trends over time. The device can also play music during the suggested two minutes brushing time “to create a highly engaging user experience.” Whether this will be beneficial for the oral health of the nation remains to be seen, but this type of product is very likely to end up in one or two Christmas stockings this year. more…

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