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Behavioral variables and nanobots in healthcare

Big data and machine learning platforms are in a unique position to analyze one of the most challenging aspects of medical research: behavioral variables that are not reported accurately by common assessment methods. While EMRs (electronic medical records) prompt healthcare providers to collect a great deal of subjective information that impacts healthcare, such as compliance with medication regimes or alcohol intake, the validity of the information collected is questionable.

The subjective nature of the reasons people conceal or alter information given to a health care provider are as complicated at the whole of the human population. People feel social pressures to conform and please a questioner. They don’t want to admit to money problems that impact health care. They do not accurately see their own behavior. Cultural norms regarding personal information vary widely, as does disclosure by age and gender and social class. But new methods of gathering and quantifying data across populations has the potential to give greater insights into human behavior that can change the results of medical research.

Relying solely on patient reports of behavior is a method of gathering data that is extremely limited and may significantly impact the results of healthcare research. But gathering self reports, along with subjective research reports, pharmacy records, laboratory test results, social media, buying behavior, financial records, employment records, and other sources of data, and then analyzing across populations, can give a more accurate picture of what people are actually doing. By having a more accurate picture of human behavioral variables, healthcare research can more accurately assess the impact of human behavior on health care outcomes, and propose treatment modalities that are fine-tuned to the people we actually are. Continue reading

nanofarm

Small scale farming and Nanofarming improving

How are we going to feed ourselves in 2050, when the population of the world reaches 9.7 billion? How are we going to manage resources, when the majority of fresh water in the world goes to farming, and nearly half of farm produce ends up in landfills? Food waste of various types is the leading cause of methane gas production from landfills, which is contributing to climate change and impacting our access to fresh water. Across the world, being overweight (rich countries) and underweight (poor countries) is causing loss of life and human potential, and an enormous burden on health care systems. Will a kitchen still be used?

These strangely circular global problems can be broken down into these: unequal land and water resources; systems of agriculture that will require infrastructure development for storage and shipping of food in the developing world; systems of food shopping and eating behaviors in the developed world that perpetuates waste and obesity.  It might seem like a simple problem with simple solutions, to have half of the world ill from poor nutrition and vitamin deficiency, and half dying of diseases caused by obesity. Even stranger to have people going hungry while half the food we produce goes to waste. But these are problems of different systems, and changes in one system, while impactful, do not necessarily cause change across the board.

The challenges of agriculture, infrastructure development, storage and shipping of food, and nutrition in the developing world, are related systems that can be affected by resources, research, and hard work. In the developed world, resources, research, and hard work are also needed to affect change. But what is it that we need to change? Patterns of behavior, cultural standards, entitlement, habit? Are we all just spoiled brats who want what we want, and if it isn’t right, we throw it away in a snit? Will we have to face a global Armageddon on fresh strawberries and the decimation of the artisanal cheese industry before we start showing some care about our food?

We can leave the whole charged issue of spoiled brat/snit to the sociologists. The rest of us want to do better. We want to eat healthy food, and we want to eat ugly squash and tomatoes to save them from an afterlife in the landfill, covered with flies and making methane gas. We don’t want to throw away food, but we also don’t want to overeat, and after two weeks in the fridge, the Chinese food take out really needs to go. We would all probably eat less meat and more quinoa if we had a clue how to cook it, or what you were supposed to do with it in reference to a pot of chili. And we all want to support local organic farmers and reduce the carbon footprint of monoculture farms, but some mornings we just need to grab a muffin and go, and we don’t care how far that muffin had to travel to get into our hands.

These are guilt-laden conundrums, in which we take on responsibility for the fate of the planet as a direct consequence of how far our coffee beans were forced to travel. It’s no wonder that eating, tasting, growing, a simple cob of corn comes with a mantle of blame and quiet desperation before we even begin to douse it in butter and salt. It’s ridiculous, but it’s us.

But individual changes in behavior, while helpful, are not going to change a system that is unsuited for the current population growth v. resources issue as we understand it. At this time, most of us have kitchens in our homes or apartments. We shop for groceries in the grocery store, and take food home to cook for meals. We eat out in restaurants or fast food places a couple of times a week. In this system, farmers are going bankrupt, farm workers who pick produce are starving, fast food and restaurant workers are living below the poverty line, and grocery stores are showing huge profits. In addition, much of the food we buy is better travelled than we are. Those crazy jet-setting grapes, that arrive in the store after a long ocean voyage from South America!

Food waste happens in the current system in several places: at the farms, unattractive fresh fruits and veggies are not even picked–too expensive, and no market. At the grocery store, the nice-looking stuff goes fast, while the asymmetrical squash sits until it is past prime.  And when those lovely grapes are on sale, we take home a huge bag, and after several days of gorging on grapes, we let the rest of the bag sit until it starts to form raisins, even in the fridge, and we throw it away. There are several nonprofit groups who are developing systems to deal with food waste, including rescuing ugly produce and delivering it to food banks. While these groups are doing good work, they are not changing the system that is producing the problem. Continue reading

stratecta

New technologies for improving healthcare

Various thought leaders have opined that we are in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as seen by the fact that new technologies are disrupting all industries, disciplines, and economies. By 2020, the digital universe will be 44 trillion gigabytes. This amount is doubling every two years.  Big Data will become so large that artificial intelligence (AI) will make sense of it for us. Already Google has launched the Google Deepmind Health project to scrutinize the data of patients’ medical records and provide better and faster service.

Mitchell Weiss, a robotics safety expert, identified the top three trends impacting occupational health and safety in 2017. They involve complexity of automation, collaborative automation, and complexity of user interface. Along with this there is an increase use of Big Data, artificial intelligence, and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) to do medical work.

Internet of Things (IoT) — the ability to connect any device to the Internet through an on and off switch — is a major component of telemedicine, which allows healthcare professionals to communicate with people long distance and provide consultation, diagnosis and treatment of various medical conditions. IOT Telemedicine, which has been gaining in popularity, is now expanding globally.

A Brief Primer on the Internet of Things

Internet of Things is a concept that can apply to things like washing machines, coffee makers, headphones, even parts of machines. The research and advisory firm Gartner estimates  that by 2020, more than 26 billion devices will be connected to IoT. Some analysts say the figure could go as high as 100 billion. In only a short time, our society will be a network of connected “things.” And these “things” include the robots and other devices that are connected to the Internet and can therefore consult with physicians and patients thousands of miles away.

Internet of Things in Healthcare Continue reading