Game-changers in health and medicine, circa 2012

From a starter map of our body’s microbes, to mobile apps that monitor critical health measures,  2012 was a banner year for  innovation in health and medicine — even if some breakthroughs and events revealed how far we have to go. We asked our community on Facebook and Twitter for nominations on the top game-changers last year. Here are a few:

The top game-changer in 2012 is AliveCor produce going mainstream. – Mahek Shah.

Similarly, Kieran Hannon Tweeted about Dr. David Albert’s work in developing the AliveCor ECG app. Leslie Saxon wowed TEDMED Delegates with her talk on the lifesaving potential of smartphone apps – watch her talk here.

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Completing the first phase of the Human Microbiome Project.  As Jonathan Eisen explained in his TEDMED 2012 talk, microbial critters are essential to keeping our bodies functioning well.  His goal: To provide an encylopedia of the bacteria, viruses and other organisms living in and on us.  The first results of the five-year project were published last year, with some surprising results; namely, some bugs previously thought to be deadly can apparently hitchhike quite comfortable, including Staphylococcus aureus, which has been linked to MRSA infections.

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The biggest innovation is the progression of the “tricorder” technology and the emergence if the “quantified self”. This will make a significant change in health and wellness. Scanadu is my bet to lead the charge. — John Nosta

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The Affordable Health Care Act mandated. — John Tang

Also in policy and business developments, by Kevin McDermott: Medicaid increasing pay for primary care physicians, and how that will affect the physician landscape. Honorable mention: The introduction of ACOs, and the continued trend of physicians leaving private practice and merging with hospitals and health care organizations

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The effort to end PSA screening by USPSTF. – Bert Gold

In other wise-use news, in April the American Board of Internal Medicine launched its Choosing Wisely campaign to help avoid duplicative treatments or harmful over-treatment, and to support evidence-based medicine. Otis Brawley chimed in with book, How We Do Harm. (Watch his TEDMED 2012 talk here.)

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The Global Burden of Disease Study.  Christopher Murray, a health economist at the University of Washington, drove data-gathering in the largest systemic effort to identify the major causes of death and disease around the globe. The results are about what you would expect:  We’re living longer, yet have more chronic disease; we’re reducing childhood deaths, but not nearly fast enough, or to the best of our capabilities.

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15-year-old Jack Andraka invents pancreatic cancer test. – Amy Sharpe

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At least 4 major NYC medical centers were closed due to the effects of Superstorm Sandy. Labs filled with years of research were destroyed. Do we need to examine this to fend off future service shortages and losses? - Mindy Schwartz Brown

Katherine Ellington also said of Sandy, via Facebook:

“It offered an opportunity to rethink the power of healing. Consider the use of technology, the remedy of social media crowdsourcing where human connection and communication was a life saving strategy allowing first responder as well as national calls for all kinds of help. This catastrophe is also reshaping the future of medicine.”

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Ben Goldacre’s book, Bad Pharma. – Jafri Ali

Goldacre’s muckraking book chronicles what he calls, “the misuse of data by the pharmaceutical industry.”  He gave a spirited talk at TEDMED about publication bias and missing data that previewed the book, in part.