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Dr Louis Burns delivers Intel's medical prescription

Intel Developer Forum Open wide, this won't hurt a lot
Tue Aug 23 2005, 22:53
IT'S BEEN A YEAR since we've seen Louis Burns at IDF - while he's been recovering from the shock of having Paul Hales pre-announce his keynote speech for him, he has been getting interested in healthcare and information technology.

Now he is the head of Intel's Health Care division.

He said that medics all round the world were using technology which is over a decade or more old. Fifteen per cent of the US GDP is spent on healthcare, and if IT isn't implemented properly, he estimated that it would be 25% by 2015.

Ten per cent or so of the population are over 60 now, and in 2050 it's estimated the figure will be 21%. Old people take up most of the budgets on healthcare, naturally enough. The gap can't be closed on the current path which leads to failure and the system has to change.

Since taking the digital health job at Intel, Burns said his team had spent time listening to doctors and to other members of the medical profession to find out what IT could do to improve the gulf.

The common theme is that the medical profession needs the IT industry to listen and solve their day to day problems. Heart patients are trusted to do what they're told about exercise, nutrition and medication. Wireless monitors in the home can help collapse the distance between doctor and patients, he said. But health care represent complex systems and technology can help. There's a massive system run which is largely still on paper, and so representing isolated islands of information. Many systems use proprietary application software linked to proprietary systems. Standardisation is needed.

There are two million adverse drug reactions per year, and that represents 100,000 preventable deaths per year, and technology could fix problems like this. The IT industry works by agreeing on standards. The undertaking will be difficult and IT vendors reputation is not very good. There needs to be standards for all health care data, and while that is difficult to do, it has to be done, he said.

Most hospitals worldwide are a decade behind with IT but a few have driven the use of tech and delivered what he said were excellent results. He showed a video about St Luke's Hospital Kansas which integrates all of the functions for all the patients. That includes vital signs, cameras that can transmit to a remote location. This hospital claims that's led to a 25 per cent drop in mortalities. It uses RFID technology for patients, locate patients in different parts of the hospital. Virtual health care is possible, the administrators claim.

No details were given about the software, or hardware being used in this hospital, but presumably it's not proprietary.

Burns showed off products and reference designs for medical devices including Bluetooth stethoscopes.


Above is Doctor Burns administering Burns therapy to an Intel chap using a cow connected to a doctor at a remote location who was able to monitor the data collected to the innocent victim. The data can show the remote doctor the trend lines of temperatures and other vital signs. The system he demonstrated was built by Sensotron.

While wi-fi is good for a hospital campus, using a WiMAX network can connect numerous hospitals together. There is a lot of work to do on standardisation in hospitals, but the experience of the British government trying to develop an IT structured National Health System doesn't indicate that it's going to be easy at all. µ


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