San Diego’s Eric Topol Outlines a Coming Wave of Innovation in Wireless Health

10/29/09Follow @bvbigelow

Here at Xconomy, our focus on technology innovation is usually riveted on the interface where startups get built around new inventions and discoveries. But in a presentation last night at TEDMED, Eric Topol highlighted an innovative new medical device from an industrial giant that was unveiled last week at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco by GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt.

A prominent cardiologist, Topol is director of the San Diego-based Scripps Translational Science Institute, chief medical officer of the West Wireless Health Institute in La Jolla, and chief academic officer at San Diego’s Scripps Health.

Eric Topol

Eric Topol

When he took the TEDMED stage at San Diego’s Hotel del Coronado, Topol took out a stethoscope and dropped it into a trash can—saying GE’s Immelt introduced a handheld ultrasound device on Oct. 20 that will make the stethoscope obsolete. It resembles a slightly oversized clamshell smart phone, with a small screen that can display ultrasound images of the heart and how well it is pumping.

GE Vscan

GE Vscan

Noting that the stethoscope was invented in 1816, Topol said, “In 2016, doctors will not be walking around with stethoscopes around their necks.”

For Topol, the handheld ultrasound is just one example of a wave of innovation that is expected to render obsolete many standard medical tools and instruments.

Topol told the audience that nowadays “You check your e-mail, you check the Web if you’re bored. In the future, you can check your vital signs—and I mean all your vital signs.” An iPhone display, projected on the big screen behind him, showed the electronic signature of a heartbeat, blood pressure, temperature, and oximetry (oxygen saturation of the blood). “What if on your phone you had every minute of your sleep recorded?” Topol asked. “What about counting every calorie?”

By combining advances in sensors, wireless communications, and information technologies, Topol said it is becoming easier to … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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