A week of health and medicine #news from @TEDMED

These are the stories that we shared with the TEDMED community this week – read them again or if you missed them, you’re in luck! Follow us on Twitter to get daily updates.


Could this gaming platform based on tech from the Gazzaley lab become first FDA-approved video game?

TEDMED 2014 speaker and filmmaker Tiffany Shlain talks about how we can unlock the unique potential of the human brain

TEDMED 2014 speaker Josh Stein uses smart med devices to positively influence patient behavior

New paper on ways to address adverse childhood experiences

More on how TEDMED 2014 speaker Marc Koska is helping save lives around the world w/his single use syringe


Tailored safety-net programs to minimize institutionalizing patients with mental illness

“Basket studies:” a “new breed” of studies are providing a faster way to try drugs on many cancers

“Exploring the supposed contradiction between America’s healthcare costs & and its health outcomes” 

Teens eat better when the motivation is tied to something they’re passionate about 

Idea that kids should eat “bland, sweet food” is an “industrial presumption” 

“12 companies leading the way in digital health”

Bionic reconstruction allows the mind to control a hand after amputation

Wathc the recast of the GreatChallenges G+ Hangout event on patient experience

The CDC says we could cut the HIV transmission rate by more than 90%

Using training and technology to avoid nurse injuries at the VA

Enhancing the role of the patient in the drug review process, with Congress?

“Plain Cigarette Packs May Deter Smokers, Studies Show”

Should generic drug makers update medicine labels when they learn of safety risks?

Add your voice to the Beryl Institute’s global conversation about the state of the patient experience

Mindfulness training on your smartphone

“CHIP reauthorization is…a harbinger of things to come with future ACA battles”

“Federal study: Foster kids struggle to get health screenings”

What could the Supreme Court challenge mean for the Affordable Care Act?

Recast of the discussion from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on how we can help all kids grow up at a healthy weight

How social media is changing suicide prevention

Reducing air pollution improves children’s lung health during a critical time

Study highlights importance of exercise, even for those w/identical genes & nurturing 

It Takes a Village to Combat Childhood Obesity: Last Week’s Hangout Participants Address Unanswered Questions

Last week, a multidisciplinary group of experts joined us for a Great Challenges live online event to discuss whether it truly takes a village to prevent conditions such as childhood obesity. With NPR Correspondent Allison Aubrey moderating, these experts took a close look at community-based prevention initiatives that have led to sustainable health solutions, including reductions in childhood obesity, and discussed how those approaches can be applied elsewhere.

If you weren’t able to join us, check out the recast below.

Thanks again for sending your questions and comments via social media! We had such great questions that an hour did not leave time enough to address them all. So, we asked our panelists, Angela Diaz, Karen Peterson, Belinda Reininger and Risa Wilkerson to offer their thoughts on the remaining questions. Here’s what they had to say:

Conditions such as childhood obesity are more prevalent in lower income areas – these are precisely the ones that may not have the resources to take meaningful action. How can these communities create a program that might have an impact?

Angela: In the absence of additional resources, collaboration becomes even more important. One may build new program opportunities on top of tasks you need to do anyway. For example, a graduate program may need to place students to practice nutrition education or physical education and could be added to the resources available at a local early education center. Or changing the way an organization conducts their regular business may not require additional funding, but instead, a consideration to do things differently. For example, a daycare center offers daily snacks to their kids. An activity that requires no additional resources is setting standards for types of snacks served.

Risa: The Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities initiative supported 49 partnerships to increase children’s access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity through changes in policies, systems and environments in those communities at greatest risk for childhood obesity based on race, ethnicity, income and geographic location. The Growing a Movement report provides insights on what is achievable in low-income communities through collaboration among community-based organizations, residents, decision makers and other partners. Much was achieved by these partnerships. I realize that being part of a grant-funded program provides many advantages and yet there are ways communities can replicate some of these efforts, even if on a smaller scale or a longer time frame.

The examples cited (Brownsville, Blue Zones communities) are affiliated with large organizations – they are very special circumstances that many communities cannot replicate. Can a community take steps to better prevent chronic conditions without the backing of a powerful organization?

Angela: When you set the table for collaboration, any individual, small organization, tenant association or civic group can contribute towards health: a scout working on is Eagle project can mark trails in a local park that is used by families during the weekend, thus providing more opportunities for physical activity. A tenant association can organize a “Play Street” during the summer staffed by neighbors and summer youth employment participants from a local multi-service agency.

Belinda: Preventing chronic disease in a community takes more than one large organization – it takes numerous large and small organizations coming together. Large organizations can be helpful when you have grants where costs are reimbursed after the work is done, simply because these organizations tend to be more able to float those costs more easily than smaller organizations. However, smaller organizations are usually able to be more nimble in hiring and purchasing. The strengths of both types of organizations move things forward.

Risa: Any community can take steps toward better conditions even without a large funder behind the scenes. Perhaps there is an existing community coalition or partnership that can help organize efforts. If not, start small to develop one. It is important that coalitions meaningfully engage those residents whom are most affected by the current conditions. A first step can be assessing the situation by looking at health and safety data (most county health departments can help with this) and talking to residents about the barriers they face to eating healthy food and being physically active. From there, choosing small steps toward change to help built trusting relationships and to build energy toward change. This can include collective efforts to invest in improving (even cleaning up) a local park or starting a community garden.

What’s the single most important piece to the puzzle of preventing chronic disease on a community level?

Angela: When neighbors are socially and civically active, they can turn a community around. If neighbors have an opportunity to work together and achieve a small win, like getting a street clean, getting together and watching “Weigh of the Nation” or a similar documentary at a local community center, they may be inspired to take the next step to get more deeply involved with other issues in their neighborhood, like rallying to bring more healthy options to their local grocers.

Risa: There is no single solution. It’s a complex issue and one that requires work at the systems level. What is important is that we don’t rely only on programs, promotion and education to move the needle. We also have to work on changing policies and the social and built environments to support people’s desire to make healthy choices.

In your opinion, is it possible that childhood obesity is not the problem but a symptom of a larger issue at hand? What might that issue be?

Angela: Letting the food industry produce, market and profit from unhealthy, overly processed, high calorie-low nutritional food in the name of corporate freedom, with little regard for health is part of the larger issue. Some subsidies favor the over-production of some crops, for example, corn. Over-diversified crops result in a product flooding the market and then the need for that product to be put to use.

How can lessons learned from Brownsville or the Blue Zones be best applied to other communities? Is it a matter of policy change? Health education? Is it a community-driven process?

Angela: Again, I cannot stress enough that a good place to start is setting the table for people to come together, build relationships and start to talk about what they are doing and where there are opportunities to build on each other’s agenda. This community-driven process can be more powerful than any externally imposed, single lead program or intervention you can think about.

Belinda: Yes – it is all of that. Any community can use the evidence-based Community Wide Campaign approach. It includes media, risk factor screening and health education, policy and environmental changes.

Community leaders in Brownsville and in Blue Zones could be thinking: “Hey, we’ve found a big piece of the puzzle to solve childhood obesity! Now all we have to do is tell the world and everybody will follow our example!” How much has this actually happened? Why isn’t it happening, or happening more?

Angela: We, in public health, are obsessed with replication. There may be some principles that can be used to guide others, but at the end of the day, the relationships and the process are going to be more important and transformative than any specific content we seek to replicate from one place to another.

Based on the success stories we’ve discussed today, what’s the most important step a community looking to improve the health of its population and encourage behavior focused on prevention needs to take?

Angela: Community building is about relationship building. It is relationship, relationship, relationship. One of the most important things for the wellbeing of a community and its members is to feel connected, to be socially and civically engaged, to have common goals and work toward those goals. A good place to start is setting the table for people to come together, build relationships and start to talk about what is important to the community, what are they doing and where there are opportunities to build on each other’s agenda. Another good thing to do is to build shared history – like neighborhood traditions of health related activities that become part of a shared culture. Finally, we must always remember that community-based work is an iterative process: we advance and win some, but sometimes we need to go back to the drawing board as we fine-tune our work in response to input from our community partners.

Karen: Take the long view to developing engaged, sustained community partnerships using the organizations that are active in different community settings. Community success stories often involve not only a focus on “evidence-based behaviors” such as decreasing screen time and sugar-sweetened beverages, but also the use of “evidence-based interventions” (tested with sound evaluation designs) put together to impact all parts of a child’s day – using a community based participatory approach or alternatively, a partnership model. The interface between communities and other “levels of influence” should be considered. In particular, communities are in a position to make sure the organizations most directly responsible for caring for children (schools, childcare, etc.) have the resources they need and that they are active participants in providing their views and expertise in how to solve obesity.

Belinda: Assemble a strong and action-oriented group of partners to establish a plan with short and long-term goals based on needs of the community. Definitely use an evidence-based approach to select strategies. Get started and don’t take no for an answer. You may have to regroup at times, but keep moving forward towards goals as a group.

An Extraordinary Out-of-Body Journey

In her TEDMED 2014 talk, photographer Kitra Cahana shared a new visual language accompanying the extraordinary story of her father’s severe brainstem stroke, a catastrophe that they transformed into an inspiring and imaginative spiritual journey. She spoke with us via email about her talk and her father’s progress.

What motivated you to speak at TEDMED?

It’s very difficult to express the sublime and the surreal in words and photographs. I wanted to attempt to communicate all that my family had experienced in the summer of 2011 – my father’s brain stem stroke, and the profound spiritual awakening that followed – with others. When my father first had his stroke, I wrote down these words, and whispered them to him when I first came to his bedside: “We only ever needed one pair of hands, two legs, a respiratory system to keep the world afloat between us.” This became my mantra. We can sustain ourselves through each other. This is what my father taught us; he said that all who came into his room of healing should expect to be healed themselves. Healing has to be mutual.

Kitra Cahana at TEDMED 2014. Photo: TEDMED/Sandy Huffaker
Kitra Cahana at TEDMED 2014. Photo: TEDMED

The stroke ruptured my reality as well as his. In those initial months, so devoted to his limp body and to allowing him to communicate all that was bursting to come out from within, I saw sides of myself I never knew existed. I would have loved for him to have spoken at TEDMED himself. But as in the hospital, where my mother, sisters, brother and I acted as his mouthpiece, so too do we continue to act in that capacity, sharing his words and his Torah with others.

Why does this talk matter now? What impact do you hope the talk will have?

To me, this talk should be timeless. In fact, part of my father’s message is that he hopes others will step outside of the space-time hustle and bustle that many of us are so used to. He experiences life in a kind of slow-time (that’s what he’s called it), watching with curiosity as his body reawakens tingle by tingle, twitch by twitch. He spent and continues to spend hours alone with himself. That space of aloneness with his thoughts is not a place of anxiety, but a place of joy and introspection.

I hope that others get a sense of this slow-space-time, where you exist only with yourself, with those other humans that you are intimate with, and – my father would also say – with G-d. I tried to recreate this kind of in-betweenness (in between the inside and the outside, heaven and earth, body and mind) in the video series and photographs that I have been working on and that I presented in the TEDMED talk.

What kind of meaningful or surprising connections did you make at TEDMED?

I met a wonderful woman at TEDMED who runs a high-end rehabilitation center in Boca Raton, Dr. Lisa Corsa. Our chance encounter at the coat check turned into a half-hour consultation, wherein she reaffirmed our family’s sense of what intensive rehabilitation should look like. A body that has had every system affected as severely as my father’s needs hours of attention each day if there’s any intention for it to make functional progress. A body that doesn’t move hardens; it stiffens and withers away.

We have a wonderful circle of volunteers who give so much of themselves, but it’s not enough. Dr. Corsa helped me get a sense of how far we have to go to advocate and fundraise for my father to receive the minimum amount of proper care and attention. He’s currently living in an institution with limited human resources, and as a result we are only able to provide limited access to physiotherapists each week. She affirmed my resolve to fight for my father’s right to basic daily movement and to seek the funds for intensive physiotherapy, so that he can eventually move back home.

Please share anything else you wish you could have included in your talk.

Since my father’s stroke, I have become involved in a global community of people who have experienced brain stem strokes, either personally or on the part of a loved one. They are either still fully locked-in, or have since made great progress, including some partial to full recoveries. We share and compare our experiences online.

So many of those who have experienced being locked-in were written off too early. Their families were told to expect very little. As a result, they did not receive proper rehabilitation therapies, nor were their bodies moved on a daily basis to maintain a minimum quality of comfort and life. I’ve seen health care professionals refuse to address the locked-in patient directly, speaking about him or her in the third person, insensitive to the fact that the person is still completely conscious and able to communicate. We struggle every day to sensitize health care professionals and institutions.

Healing is taxing. But what is even more taxing is trying to heal in systems and institutions that drain the already low reserves of patients and their support systems. My father was able to have the spiritual experience that he had because he had a family and a congregation that preserved him in his role as father, husband and rabbi and advocated for him when he wasn’t able to.

How sleep deep cleans your brain

Jeffrey Iliff at TEDMED 2014. Photo: TEDMED/Sandy Huffaker
Jeffrey Iliff at TEDMED 2014. Photo: TEDMED/Sandy Huffaker


In his TEDMED 2014 talk, neuroscientist Jeffrey Iliff illuminated a newly discovered, critical function of the brain during sleep: a natural cleansing system that keeps toxic proteins at bay.  We spoke to him via email about his talk.

What motivated you to speak at TEDMED?

TEDMED offered the unique opportunity to tell the story of our research – not just its facts, but also its story. As a neuroscientist, I go to the lab every day expecting to see something new within the brain, its pieces, processes, and the systems that comprise it that no one has ever seen before. What we find within the brain – its simplicity, minimalism, functionality, and its beauty – are a continuous source of wonder to me. In the methods, results, and careful interpretation of our findings, this wonder can easily be distilled. When the outside world looks in at our work, they may only see cells, blood, water, and so many solutes; not the beauty I see through the eyepieces of a microscope. TEDMED gave me the chance to tell the story of our work as we experience it, as the story that it is.

Why does this talk matter now? What impact do you hope the talk will have?

First, I think that it is a subject to which every person can relate. Each of us who is in school, works long hours at a job, or has kids to keep them up when they’re sick, deals with the inescapable fact that sleep is necessary for our brains to work correctly. Learning that parts of the way our brains work can make intuitive sense is comforting, and makes our brains seem a little less like these strange alien machines that no one can really understand.

I think that the research itself is timely, as well. An increasing number of clinical studies have begun to link such seemingly disparate processes as sleep, neurodegenerative disease, cardiovascular disease, brain injury and others. The science that we describe, and that is the subject of my talk, is fundamental to the basic function of the brain and may help to explain many of these puzzling associations. My hope is that my TEDMED talk will spur people’s imaginations and encourage them to dive headfirst into these questions and, in doing so, drive the field forward far beyond these small contributions that we’ve made.

What kind of meaningful or surprising connections did you make at TEDMED?

During the conference, I was approached by several people who were attending TEDMED for their own professional reasons, but who had also dealt – either personally or within their immediate families – with conditions that are likely impacted by the biology that we are studying. For those of us who are scientists, but not physicians, it is incredibly easy to view our work academically, to equate progress with papers and grants, and to view treatments as ideas and hypotheses to be tested. To an extent, this is completely appropriate. But, I was reminded that, when I talk about “Alzheimer’s patients” in a scientific talk, those words stand for millions of mothers and fathers, grandfathers and grandmothers who live with this disease every day – each loved and missed as they slip slowly away. In the face of this reality, the thin replies of “We don’t know yet,” “Here’s what we think is happening,” or “Here’s something we’re testing in our mice” seem hollow and inadequate. It was a stark reminder to focus not only on what, but also whom we are trying to cure with all of this amazing science.

A chorus of support for those struggling with mental illness

Entrepreneur Jen Hyatt, founder and CEO of Big White Wall, an online mental health support and treatment platform, talked to the TEDMED 2014 audience about how social networks can provide healing help to those who feel isolated in their struggles with mental illness. We spoke with her via email about her talk.

What motivated you to speak at TEDMED?

TEDMED’s global reach presents an unparalleled opportunity to “converse with the world.” TEDMED’s ethos, the ability to share knowledge and offbeat thinking that creates surprising sparks between innovators and disruptors from across the globe, is very dear to my heart. Focusing on the people who are creating new, or even strange or unusual, speaks to the greatest challenges facing health care offers the opportunity for transforming moribund systems. Being part of that, sharing knowledge and ideas, was a real privilege. So my message, as part of that, is that the economic and human cost of poor mental health is tragic in proportion, yet has a digital and human sized solution.

Jen Hyatt at TEDMED 2014 Photo: TEDMED/Sandy Huffaker

Why does this talk matter now? What impact do you hope the talk will have?

Conventional methods of addressing poor mental health cannot meet the volume of need. We see this crisis in provision – lack of treatment, barriers to access, high costs and the pain caused by a lack of support for mental health – across the whole world. In my TEDMED talk, I showed that the human need for connection and community is thousands of years old. Yet it’s only now, with the growth of digital technology and online social networks, that we have the potential to truly transform mental health care with the support of online communities and a broad choice of support and recovery tools, so no one has to struggle alone. We need to shift the healthcare journey from one where people are passive and isolated to one where they are active and supported.

What is the legacy you want to leave?

An emotionally literate world, in which there is no more mental health stigma, and no one left struggling without help. Every human being should have one-click access to support and recovery tools for improving how they are feeling, and I hope that will be Big White Wall (BWW)’s legacy, and mine. A world in which your emotion is known without needing to speak it provides support that is integral to our lives.

Please share anything else you wish you could have included in your talk.

I wish I could have shared the vibrant images that our community members use to show their journeys from darkness to light, from struggle to recovery, and all the moments in between. Big White Wall centers on a shared, anonymous digital social space, supported 24/7 by professional staff. This center draws much of its strength from the power of peers – not trained professionals, but people just like you and me. Not necessarily the people who see themselves as leaders or helpers, but the struggling, the lost, the unhappy and the confused. I wish I could have showed a bit of their struggle, their strength and the amazing support they offer.

Watch Jen Hyatt’s TEDMED 2014 talk here.

From the Internet of Things to the Internet of the Body

As Managing Director of Healthcare at GE Ventures, Leslie Bottorff invests in healthcare industry startup companies—with a preference for medical technologies and emerging business models. Her 15 years of venture capital investing experience includes her roles as managing director at ONSET Ventures, and investments and board seats at Sadra Medical, which was sold to Boston Scientific; Spinal Concepts, which was sold to Abbott Labs; Neuronetics; Relievant; and VisionCare Ophthalmic.

Earlier in her career, Bottorff spent 19 years in operating roles at large and venture- backed companies including Medtronic’s CardioRhythm division, Embolic Protection (acquired by Boston Scientific), Nellcor (now Covidien), Ventritex  (now St. Jude), Menlo Care (acquired by J & J), and GE Healthcare. She has also served on advisory boards or as guest faculty at several universities including Purdue, Stanford, and UC Berkeley.

TEDMED: What’s the most remarkable innovation you are seeing in health tech or medicine, and what is driving it?

Bottorff: We’re seeing tremendous innovation in personal monitoring and in therapies for a wide variety of diseases. Combining therapies, diagnostics and digital communications is creating a more effective systems approach to patient care management. This means helping patients who are in the hospital or coming out of the hospital, living at home with chronic diseases as well as  helping people who are not ill, but taking steps towards preventative care.

This is analogous to the emergence of the Industrial Internet, which GE is a major proponent of. This convergence of personal monitoring technology and advanced wireless communication is a pretty big opportunity for what I’ll call, the “Internet of the Body”. This convergence is going to be the driving force behind the advances we are seeing today.

In addition to personal monitoring, another area of remarkable innovation is noninvasive technologies to treat and diagnose conditions related to the nervous system. We’ll be able to take advantage of some of the electronics and connectivity that is now available. As one example, GE has a brain initiative being led by our Healthymagination unit.

TEDMED: What’s the most important factor for entrepreneurial success in health tech—and is that different from your own key to success?

Bottorff: It’s important for entrepreneurs to embrace innovation through collaboration and not think they have to be experts in everything to bring the many pieces of the puzzle together themselves. This is a multi-functional area. You have to recruit a strong multidisciplinary team and maintain focus. This industry is being re-invented as we speak; nobody’s got the formula. So it’s important to maintain focus and persevere to understand the needs of your target customer.

Those factors are very synergistic to GE’s. We also need to stay focused, and we also need to innovate, which is why we stay close to the new thinkers and innovators. In a young and small company, you can be agile and you succeed or fail in much faster cycles than a large company. At GE, we think the best way to focus on what’s next and what’s coming is to partner with entrepreneurs and startups. We aim to help accelerate their growth and help them commercialize their ideas to really move the needle. At the same time, they may have the problem that they’re not able to scale, get big, or get reach. That’s the kind of thing we can help them with and one of the many reasons why we feel like it’s so important for us to collaborate.

TEDMED: For entrepreneurs with needle-moving ideas in global health, what are the keys to finding collaborators and supporters across specialties, industries, and geographies?  

Bottorff: We’re an infrastructure company that has global reach and global distribution. We see ourselves partnering with all sorts of external partners, including startup companies with great ideas for products and business entities in many of the countries we’re based in. Having operations in 170 countries, we can take the innovations that are going to be most appropriate to the right markets and geographies and help an entrepreneur do that parsing—to ask if their product is a fit for the infrastructure of a given market. So we can say to entrepreneurs, “Let’s talk about how we can help you most, because you don’t have the scale to get all markets .”

TEDMED: In 2020, you’re asked to give a TEDMED talk about the biggest transformation you helped bring about in your field. What is it? 

Bottorff: GE would love to play an important leadership role in coordinating what will be an end-to-end system that delivers on the promise, and not just the hype of “Digital Health”.

A lot of people have grand visions of how Digital Health is going to transform and improve healthcare, and that is exciting. But, getting from point A (where we are now) to point B (the ideal future vision) is trickier than coming up with a grand vision. It’s going to require a lot of cooperation with a lot of parties and GE intends to be right in the middle of it to help make it happen. The transformation between now and 2020 or 2030 will be remarkable.

Creating a Digital Ecosystem for the Consumer Healthcare Experience

SumbulDesaiAs the Associate Chief Medical Officer for Strategy and Innovation at Stanford Hospital and Clinics, Sumbul Desai is responsible for the product strategy, design, and deployment of Stanford’s virtual care and digital offerings. With a focus on how integrating technology into healthcare will impact our lives, Dr. Desai is developing a research program that will leverage technology to improve patient experience as well as the coordination of care. She also leads the hospital’s strategy and innovation group, and is a Clinical Assistant Professor at Stanford University’s School of Medicine.

TEDMED: What’s the most remarkable innovation you are seeing in health tech or medicine, and what is driving it?

Desai: What I find remarkable is the way the focus on the patient as the consumer is driving a lot of change in healthcare. Patients are now expecting that their experience with their healthcare systems should be closer to what their consumer experiences are, especially digitally.

It used to be almost unheard of to do user experience and consumer research in healthcare. But we’re starting to do it and I’m a big believer in driving that in our organization. I’m seeing UX folks who are very interested in healthcare and how to improve the patient experience. Digital is a way to do that and it’s moving the needle.

Mobile and digital technologies are driving that, but also patients are, which is awesome. Patients are demanding it. Patients ask, “If I can buy a cup of coffee super easily, why can’t I deal with my physician easily?” Even the airline experience has changed so much; you can check in at a kiosk or on your phone. Changes in other industries are trickling into healthcare.

As physicians we’ve always been taught that the patient is at the core. But now the market is forcing us all to think that way. Even outside the digital world, in the personal experience, there’s a lot more emphasis on interactions with patients and putting them first.

TEDMED: What’s the most important factor for entrepreneurial success in health tech—and is that different from your own key to success?

Desai: The most important factor for entrepreneurial success in health tech is to understand the business you’re working with. Healthcare is really nuanced. A lot of times when we meet with startups they have phenomenal ideas, but they’re looking at their one idea and not necessarily looking at how complex healthcare is on a global and macro level. They’re very passionate about their solutions, but only about one sliver or piece of our overall workstream problem. Coming up with meaningful solutions and being a successful healthcare business requires spending the time to really understand how healthcare works, understanding the business you’re trying to get into, understanding your users who are physicians and nurses, and understanding that there are tons of regulatory issues that need to be understood.

In my own career, I’ve always wondered, could I go work for a startup? But being on the other side in the hospital system, you really have to understand your business and where you can fit in innovations that actually improve. I’m getting at the same thing: understanding how we change things from inside is really important.

TEDMED: For entrepreneurs with needle-moving ideas in global health, what are the keys to finding collaborators and supporters across specialties, industries, and geographies?  

Desai: The keys are remembering your use case, staying true to the problem you’re trying to solve, and building upon it by partnering and collaborating with other providers. It’s important to think about how you leverage innovations in other industries to help solve those global problems.

It’s important to be creative about leveraging private company money along with public partnerships to move the needle. If you want to solve global problems you need to be global about your approach, you have to be open to collaboration. Rather than thinking you’re going to compete with someone who’s trying to solve the same large problem, it’s often helpful to put your heads together to attack some portion of the problem to get to a larger result.

TEDMED: In 2020, you’re asked to give a TEDMED talk about the biggest transformation you helped bring about in your field. What is it?

Desai: I want to be able to create a healthcare system that can truly partner with patients before they ever need healthcare. For example, when you’re well you want to be part of our healthcare system as you progress through life so that we can be a partner in your health rather than just treating you when you’re sick.

To get to that, I am focused on creating a patient experience that has digital intertwined with the physical experience to provide what feels like one overall unified patient experience. That means asking, “How do I give you care at home when it’s appropriate? How do I give you care at your office when it’s appropriate? How do I have you come in when you really need to? And how do I leverage digital to give you care as much as I can in the middle of those opportunities in the comfort of your own life so you’re not having to drag yourself into healthcare system?”

My hope is that if we make access to care easier and more convenient and more enjoyable, then you’re more likely to engage in good preventative behavior and stay healthier longer.

And then when you are going through a challenging healthcare experience, like everyone does at some point in life, your experience is amazing because you already know what to expect before you get to the hospital, when you’re there you know exactly what’s happening, and when you leave you have complete continuity of care transitioning you back to normal life.

How do we innovate and leverage digital and all the strengths we have in mobile and wearables and put it all together to solve not just one issue but to provide one amazing experience—a complete ecosystem of healthcare that ties into your life.

TEDMED Announces Artistic Collaboration with Imagine Science Films

Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways that art brings science to the general public. Equally exciting is how art and design inspire and provoke those who work in the sciences to take a fresh look at their own world, make unexpected connections and unlock their imaginations.

For these reasons, TEDMED has always made art and design integral parts of our multi-disciplinary approach to health and medicine. This year, we’re taking our emphasis on the “art of science” and “the science of art” to a new level.

In the spirit of this year’s TEDMED gathering and its central focus — Unlocking Imagination in Service of Health and Medicine — TEDMED is excited to announce an innovative collaboration with Imagine Science Films (ISF).


Now celebrating its seventh anniversary, ISF is a nonprofit organization created by geneticist and filmmaker Alexis Gambis. The organization is committed to promoting a high-level dialogue between scientists and filmmakers to increase public awareness of and appreciation for science. With sponsors including Google, Nature Publishing Group, and American Association for the Advancement of Science, ISF makes science more accessible and stimulating to a broader audience by emphasizing storytelling, narrative structure, and visual communication.

Together, TEDMED and ISF have challenged nine young, independent filmmakers to let their imaginations run wild as they created their own unique, artistic interpretations of the nine session themes of our soon-to-be-announced 2014 stage program.

Each filmmaker was given creative and editorial freedom. We simply encouraged them to be imaginative! The result is a series of short, provocative and highly engaging films. Together, the full body of work offers exciting examples of how visual storytelling can engage the heart and the senses as a powerful way of engaging the mind.

On June 25th we will release all nine films, celebrating our 2014 session themes – and reinforcing the power of the human imagination. The nine filmmakers and their associated session themes are:

  • Nate Dorr, Director of Programming at Imagine Science Films, has created a film on the theme of session 1, “Turn It Upside Down.” Speakers at this session of the TEDMED stage program will explore how our most deeply held beliefs are sometimes exactly what’s in our way.
  • Alexis Gambis, ISF Artistic Director and Founder (Rockefeller University and NYU Tisch School of the Arts) has created a film inspired by the theme of session 2, “We Just Don’t Know.” This stage session embraces the awareness that the more you know, the more you realize how little you know – and assessing how to make decisions in that light.
  • Pedro Gomez Millan (NYU Tisch School of the Arts) has created a film inspired by the theme of session 3, “Flat-Out Amazing.” This stage session will offer a series of stories about things and accomplishments that look impossible…and how they turned out to be possible after all.
  • Charlie Cole (Pratt Institute) has created a film inspired by the theme of session 4, “Stealing Smart.” In this session, TEDMED speakers will review instances where the best solutions are hidden within other disciplines, other realms or other worlds — yet within reach.
  • Sarah-Rose Meredith (NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and the University of California, Santa Cruz) has created a film inspired by the theme of session 5, “Don’t You Dare Talk About This.” During this session our speakers will confront head-on some of the biggest and most controversial issues that we usually won’t discuss, and may not even acknowledge.
  • Eliza McNitt (NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts) has created a film inspired by the theme of session 6, “Play Is Not A Waste of Time.” TEDMED speakers in this session will look at some of the many ways that the extraordinary power of play makes a difference – especially in environments where we usually don’t think of it.
  • Raj Trivedi (The University of Texas at Austin and Columbia University) has created a film inspired by the theme of session 7, “Human/Nature, Inside and Out.” Speakers in this session will explore some intriguing, internal mysteries of the human body and some surprising ways that the natural environment impacts our health.
  • Matt Christensen (instructor, New York University Tisch School of the Arts) has created a film inspired by the theme of session 8, “Weird and Wonderful.” This stage session brings us a collection of unexpected combinations and out-of-left-field stories and ideas that yield remarkable results.
  • Ian Harnarine (instructor, New York University Tisch School of the Arts and NYU Physics Department) has created a film inspired by the theme of our 9th and final session, “I Was Just Thinking Too Small.” Speakers in this session will invite all of us to step back and see a broader picture, with the understanding that context is often as important as text.

Each ISF-TEDMED film runs four to seven minutes and offers a metaphorical or allegorical storyline — or simply a montage of beautiful images — that convey the filmmaker’s vision of what that particular session will be about. Each film also includes subtle nods to the speakers and the topics that will be featured on stage within that particular session.

We look forward to inviting everyone in the TEDMED community to enjoy this artistic interpretation of our session themes through the work of an extraordinarily gifted group of young filmmakers.

Understanding Your Customer Is Crucial


A trained organ transplant surgeon and past Stanford surgery professor who led several biopharmaceutical companies and founded a venture capital business, Ken Drazan is now head of the Johnson & Johnson Innovation Center in Menlo Park, Calif. His goal there is to catalyze early stage innovation and bring transformative medicines, devices, and consumer products to Johnson & Johnson by identifying, shaping, and on-boarding the most promising science and technology opportunities from universities, academic centers, and technology and biotech companies.

TEDMED: What’s the most remarkable innovation you are seeing in health tech or medicine, and what is driving it?

Drazan: In health tech, it’s the marriage of high-performance cloud computing with wearable devices. In essence, a wearable device can sense data from one individual, aggregate similar data from among a group of individuals, and draw conclusions relevant to one person. Wearables could be devices that a physician would use in the diagnosis of a patient, or that a physician prescribes for use at home by the patient.

This technology is already being used, for instance, in electrocardiograms, the diagnosis of ear infections, and the detection of skin cancers. An image from a single patient can be compared over the cloud with a database of others’ images. I propose that this approach will go mainstream and become a way for all ambulatory-based physicians to gain the kind of peer input that only happens regularly in academic medical centers today.

An important trend driving this is that connecting to the Internet and doing cloud computing has become a commodity. It’s no longer expensive and anyone can access that technology at any time.

Another innovative use of technology in a disruptive business model is Theranos’s reinvention of phlebotomy. They have developed the ability to draw one-tenth the volume of blood that a lab would typically draw and integrated it with a microfluidics technology that enables the study of hundreds of disease biomarkers. A patient’s blood sample can be compared to thousands of others’ with similar medical backgrounds to determine variance versus normality. The patient experience is simpler, diagnosis is much faster, and the cost to look at hundreds of biomarkers is comparable to the traditional cost to assess just one.

TEDMED: What’s the most important factor for entrepreneurial success in health tech—and is that different from your own key to success?

Drazan: The most important factor for determining success is accurately defining the unmet need. Many startup business plan summaries I see target undifferentiated and generally not explicit needs. Because of that, their business models are really inefficient. It’s crucial to define the customer need and stakeholders accurately enough to create a business model.

That is the same as my own key to success. I become the most successful when I understand who my customers and stakeholders are and when I’m unambiguous about determining what their real needs are.

To be clear, a customer is someone who pays for something, while a stakeholder is someone who can potentially influence the business model, but not necessarily pay for it. The stakeholder might be a supplier, or they might manage the channel, compete with the channel, or provide enthusiasm and support.

Say you’re providing a population health tool for people with diabetes. Your customer could be the patient, the doctor, or the health insurer. If the patient doesn’t need a prescription but you need the tool distributed, then doctors are the stakeholders because they might have an opinion that is supportive or adverse to it. One really has to drill down to understand who’s a customer versus a stakeholder.

TEDMED: For entrepreneurs with needle-moving ideas in global health, what are the keys to finding collaborators and supporters across specialties, industries, and geographies?

Drazan: The same question applies: Who is the customer? In the developing world it’s more difficult to answer. The parties that might normally pay for something in other markets have no capital in the developing world. You might have to go across geographic borders to find the true customer.

If you’re targeting the unmet need of hernia repair in Tanzania, for instance, the economy there either can’t pay doctors enough or the hospitals or governments don’t have enough money to buy the hernia mesh. So you have to go to a different customer, such as the Gates Foundation.

Conducting a very careful and deep local market map helps you understand how you might find new stakeholders and customers who could pay you to get there. That mapping process defines all the stakeholders; all those who provide economic support or derive economic benefit. That includes people as well as commercial and government entities.

Here’s an example: Potable water in the developing world has always been viewed as a fundamental problem to be managed by NGOs and governments. Several years ago, the CEO of Coca Cola was pitched on delivering potable water because Coca Cola has the most effective distribution capability in the developing world and in most countries. It has become a successful model of solving a global health problem with a commercial partner who has unmatched global and local expertise.

TEDMED: In 2020, you’re asked to give a TEDMED talk about the biggest transformation you helped bring about in your field. What is it?

Drazan: It’s behavior change. Behavior change in many disease categories would result in a significant transformation of outcomes and costs in many fields, whether it’s surgical, diabetic, mood disorders, and probably many more. Compliance with care and a broader collaboration between the patient, the provider, and the community would be a significant driver of value for companies, for our government, for tax payers, and for local economies. It is perhaps the most complex problem to resolve of all.

Bringing about behavior change comes down to better understanding your customer, in this case the patient. What are all the emotional, psychological, and business model tweaks that could increase compliance with medications, or that could increase rehabilitation after a major surgery? There could be innovation in specific programs, technology, monitoring technology, or business model incentives that would enhance the chance for success.

Could such changes come about in just 6 years? Absolutely.

Stanford Joins TEDMED as a Medical Research Institution Partner; Palace of Fine Arts Will Be West Coast Venue

Stanford Medicine will join TEDMED as a medical research institution partner on the West Coast.

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We’ve also chosen our west coast venue: the Palace of Fine Arts Theater in San Francisco joins our DC presence at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as locales in our first unified two-city event this September 10-12.


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The faculty of Stanford Medicine includes eight Nobel Prize winners; Stanford Hospital and clinics is consistently ranked as one of America’s best hospitals in 13 out of 16 medical specialties; and the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford is one of our nation’s most prominent children’s hospitals. TEDMED is honored to partner with one of the world’s most respected universities. Read more here.

Delegates in both cities will view our stage program live and via HD simulcasts with each city’s location featuring approximately 50 speakers and performers who explore the same basic themes.

“Delegates in both cities will enjoy a world-class stage program and gathering in these two iconic venues, and an experience that opens the mind, heart and soul to inspiration, innovation and imagination,” said Shirley Bergin, TEDMED’s COO.

We’ll be announcing our phenomenal speaker lineup soon, as well as more details about our 2014 event, just three months away.  Please watch here and @TEDMED for updates.