Houston Group eHRI Forms to Promote HealthTech Collaboration

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For the last five years, Jesse Selber, an assistant professor in plastic surgery at MD Anderson Cancer Center, has been using a robot named DaVinci built by Intuitive Surgical, based in Sunnyvale, CA. The robotic arms, which contain cameras capable of 3D imaging, mimic the range of motion of human hands and can perform minute surgical functions that would be difficult for people to do. “It has extreme precision—even more than humanly possible,” he says. “There’s absolutely no tremor.

The potential for such medical technology to bring world-class healthcare to remote locations and underserved populations is enormous, he says. “The surgeon doesn’t have to be in the same city, the same country, or even the same planet, as long as there is enough information that can be transmitted to the machine,” Selber says. “The FDA doesn’t allow us to do that right now, but there is the possibility of the globalization of our expertise.”

A surgeon could be sitting in the Texas Medical Center while trained techs, who would be on-site with the patient, would monitor the machine.

The second presentation was by group of Rice professors and graduate students, who are working on creating smartphone-based ophthalmoscopes for patients who are losing their eyesight due to glaucoma, macular degeneration, or diabetes.

“Think of the servers of 30 to 40 years ago—that’s how imaging today looks like,” says Ashutosh Sabharwal, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice. “You get your eyes checked, a few days later, you meet the doctor and discuss. We can shrink current ocular imaging all the way down to be an attachment on a smartphone.”

Sabharwal and his colleagues are working on building a scope that connects to a smartphone. Ultimately, patients could take their own photos of their eyes and e-mail the images to their doctors, he says. “Your cell phone cameras are going to do things you never thought possible,” Subharwal added.

The third group to present at Tuesday’s meeting has developed a high-resolution microendoscope that can assess pathologic features from cervical screenings in real time. That’s instead of the traditional way of doing a screening and then sending the samples out for evaluation, which requires a second visit with the doctor. Kathleen Schmeler, an assistant professor in the department of gynecologic oncology at MD Anderson, says such real-time results are key for women in poorer countries, who might have traveled long distances to get medical care and would not be able to make a return trip. “This is a completely preventable disease,” she added.


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Angela Shah is the editor of Xconomy Texas. She can be reached at ashah@xconomy.com or (214) 793-5763. Follow @angelashah

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