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Anand Bhopal: Improving clinical consultations—one computer key at a time

30 Sep, 14 | by BMJ

anand_bhopalModern medicine is an increasingly wary place for the digitally illiterate. With medical records turning electronic and computers springing up at the bedside, there is little hiding place for doctors who are averse to the machine. In an attempt to prepare students for 21st century clinical practice, Leicester Medical School recently became the first medical school in Britain to give teaching in e-consultations. This has made me reflect on one core skill at the heart of the modern day consultation: engaging with the computer.

Throughout medical school I saw a wide discrepancy in doctors’ digital abilities. While the single digit typer, forever searching for the next character, is a caricatured extreme, a lot of doctors do not find computers intuitive. Poor navigation of software and slow typing is a waste of doctors’ time, patience, and energy. more…

Helen Morant: Characters welcome

17 Sep, 14 | by BMJ

helen_morantYou’d expect an academic researching the influence of TV and games on children’s development to be presenting some data about violent games as causative factors in school shootings. But Sandra Calvert, a professor of psychology and director of the Children’s Digital Media Center, is talking about the role of characters—especially online characters in interactive educational games—in children’s learning.

Elmo is better at teaching young American children math(s) than his (almost identical, but unfamiliar) Taiwanese equivalent. Because they know and love him, presumably. This love is part of a parasocial relationship (the type we have with fictional characters—you know, like celebrities. This stuff isn’t just for kids). 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…

Lavanya Malhotra: The ice bucket challenge—trivialising trend or canny awareness campaign?

28 Aug, 14 | by BMJ

Lavanya MalhotraLately, social media sites have been invaded by videos of people upending buckets of icy water over their heads. The goal behind this watery exercise is to raise funds, as well as awareness, for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research. The ALS ice bucket challenge is simple: douse yourself in icy water, record it, post it online—on Facebook or Twitter, for instance—including a message about doing it for ALS research, and donate money to the ALS Association (ALSA) through its donation webpage. In the UK, people can donate to the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

The final step is to nominate several friends to do the same. This chain reaction strategy has generated publicity and money for ALSA. So far, 1.7 million people have donated, raising $79.7m (€60.4m; £48m). 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…

Karen Sumpter: Can MRI help make inaccurate prostate cancer diagnosis a thing of the past?

29 Jul, 14 | by BMJ

Karen SumpterProstate cancer is the most common cancer in men; in the UK, it kills over 10 000 men every year, and currently there are over a quarter of a million men living with—and after—the disease.  If diagnosed early enough, prostate cancer can often be successfully treated. However, the diagnostic process is far from perfect, and it is arguably one of the most widely debated topics surrounding the disease today.

Firstly, the PSA test, which measures the total amount of prostate specific antigen in a man’s blood, can be inaccurate at detecting prostate cancer. A raised PSA level may indicate a problem with a man’s prostate, however, a high PSA level does not always mean the man has prostate cancer, and some men with prostate cancer may not have a raised PSA level at all. more…

David Kerr: Silicon is the new black

1 Jul, 14 | by BMJ

david_kerrRecently the big four titans of technology (Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and Google) have, almost simultaneously, thrown their hats into the wearable sensor ring. Apparently, consumers now want to wear devices to record personal physiological data, which can then be synchronized with their smartphones. Through cloud computing, this can then be shared with their doctors and nurses as well. The early adopters of wearable technology are, unsurprisingly, young, wealthy, and tech savvy—while also fashion conscious enough to want the technology to resemble jewelry. more…

Rhys Davies: Reinventing the Watch—The Longitude Prize 2014

22 May, 14 | by BMJ

“Relax! It’s not calculating longitude at sea.”

In the 18th century, before the advent of either rocket science or brain surgery, this is what folk would say to put the difficult and complicated problems of their peers in perspective. Described as the great scientific challenge of that century, the problem of knowing longitude at sea, and thus where your ship is, caused frequent shipwrecks and hampered the emerging global trade of goods. In 1714, the British government put a price on the problem—£20 000 for a method of determining longitude within 30 nautical miles. Half a century later, the Longitude Prize was won by Yorkshire watchmaker John Harrison and his H4, the marine chronometer.

Three hundred years later, the Longitude Prize is being reborn. Styled as the Longitude Prize 2014, with a reward of £10 million, it aims to find and tackle the greatest scientific challenge of our time. Exactly what that challenge is will be decided by a public vote. more…

William Cayley: “If you build it, they will come”

6 May, 14 | by BMJ

bill_cayley“If you build it, they will come!” So went the catchphrase of Field of Dreams, in which an Iowa farmer is inspired by voices to build a baseball diamond in his cornfield. And, indeed, “they” do come—the movie ends with an endless line of people in cars coming to see a ball game in his remote cornfield. While an inspiring story of seeing a dream through to fruition, it also raises serious questions of practicality—is a remote corner of Iowa really the best place for a historic baseball diamond?

Rhys Davies touched on a similar issue in his recent posting about the Imagining the Future of Medicine conference, where he was rightly skeptical about the true benefits of many of the new, high tech (or in development) medical gizmos that were on display there. more…

Rhys Davies: Imagining the Future of Medicine—not just robots and old people

29 Apr, 14 | by BMJ

On Monday 21 April, the Royal Albert Hall played host to a curious event. Imagining the Future of Medicine was an afternoon filled with a variety of speakers and artistic performances. Its goal was, in equal parts, to challenge and inspire its audience—a melange of doctors, students, and the greater public—to consider novel ways of thinking and innovative new avenues for healthcare. more…

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