Cross-posted from jumpthecurve.net.
Earlier this month I gave a presentation to the Kansas Hospital
Association on the topic of “the future of rural health care.” In
my presentation, I discussed how the cellphone will become an
increasingly important tool in helping patients diagnose certain
diseases quicker and more accurately. (I briefly touch on this
theme in this old post.)
What I did not discuss was how the cellphone might also help
health care workers in remote, rural areas take high-resolution
images of a patient’s blood cells using a cellphone camera and then
transmit those photos to experts at medical centers.
As this informative article from today’s
Technology Review discusses, however, this vision is now on
the verge of being achieved thanks to the innovative work of
researchers at the University of California.
By Dick Pelletier
As our “miracle” 21st century begins to unfold, a statement,
which has been an eternal truth for most of human history, is now
being seriously challenged: Humans will always be battling
sicknesses. Many scientists believe this statement could be
overturned within the next three decades, and most of the credit
for this feat would lie in our ability to increase computer power.
Today, medical researchers, in efforts to cure heart disease,
cancer, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and many other human ills,
perform trial and error experiments in labs, and conduct human
clinical trials that yield excruciatingly slow results. Cancer
deaths are predicted to not end for another seven years, and cures
for other diseases are projected to be even more elusive.
But researchers say we could speed medical research progress by
first using Clinical Trial Simulations (CTS). If we preceded actual
human trials with high-speed computer simulations, the end results
would be reached much faster. Ronald Gieschke, of Hoffmann-La Roche
in Switzerland, claims CTS will have a
significant impact on the way in which drugs are developed in the
future. “Human clinical trials will still be necessary,” Gieschke
says, “but CTS will make them faster and
In addressing the need for increased computer power,
IBM’s new “Roadrunner,” built for the US
Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory has achieved
performance of 1.026 petaflops (more than one quadrillion floating
point operations per second) and is now rated as the fastest
supercomputer in the world.
The DOE announced that this computer
will link its facilities to other government labs and major
research centers around the world. Scientists will find easy access
to this new supercomputer later this year, according to a
LANL spokesman. The new machine will
enable breakthrough discoveries in biology that will fundamentally
change medical science and its impact across society. (cont.)
Cross-posted from The End of the American Century
One chapter of The End of the American Century focuses on the relatively poor levels of health care in the U.S., and how badly it fares in comparison to other wealthy countries. As I point out there, this is surprising in many ways “because the United States indeed does have available the best medical care in the world and spends more on health care than any other country.” But “because there are so many poor people in the United States and so many people without access to health care, the average level of health and medical care in the United States is among the worst in the developed world.” In the late 1990s, the World Health Organization ranked the U.S. at 37th in the world in the overall performance of the health system. This was the lowest ranking of any country in the OECD. “
New data reported in the New York Times confirms these disturbing trends. The United States now ranks 29th in the world on infant mortality rates which, as the Times points out, is “one of the most important indicators of the health of a nation and the quality of its medical system.” The U.S. ranking has declined sharply since 1960, when its ranking was 12th in the world.
This international gap has widened even though the U.S. spends far more on health care than most other wealthy countries, on both a per capita basis and as a percentage of GDP. In 2006, according to the Times, “Americans spent $6714 per capita on health—more than twice the average of other industrialized countries.”
Grace Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, a conservative research organization, told the Times “infant mortality and our comparison with the rest of the world continue to be an embarrassment to the United States.”