Frontiers of eHealth

The mission of the annual technology event, Frontiers of Interaction, is to create "a bridge between Europe and Silicon Valley".

by Ferdinando Scala

Frontiers of eHealth
Frontiers of eHealth

Frontiers of Interaction is a yearly technology event, whose 2011 edition has been hold in Florence, Italy, last June 20-21. Founded on 2005, FOI has gradually grown in quality and breadth over the years, up to become "the geekest event in Europe". Its mission is "creating a bridge between Europe and Silicon Valley", by attracting as speakers the brightest talents worldwide in the field of technological innovation.

In particular, FOI 2011 has been a precious occasion to meet some of the leading-edge exponents of the UX/ID field, and vivid thinkers of leading-edge science.

An example is David Orban, an influential member of the Humanity+ program. H+ members are a multi-disciplinary group of international scientists whose aim is exploring the possibilities offered by the applications of robotics to medicine.

Another highlight of the meeting was the speech of the Hollywood's Fiction UI designer Mark Coleran (Mission Impossible 3, The Island, Children of Men) dedicated to the methods for the creation of veridical and technology-intensive movie scenes.

FOI11 has also been the place where the visionary Cyborg Anthropologist Amber Case thrilled the audience by presenting the opportunities and the pitfalls offered by the constantly interconnected culture. The main point of her presentation was that machines are not taking control, they are helping us to be more human by allowing connection and self-reflection.

A place of high appreciation by the audience has been finally granted to the young genius Zdenek Kalal, who presented his ground-breaking "Predator" visual tracker, a tool that learns from its errors and is aimed to allow the machines to "see" and follow objects.

Further to the high level of speakers, FOI11 has also been the occasion to showcase the possibilities offered by the current level of technological explosion, and how this is impacting the most different fields, from music to remote controlling of objects. It has for example been the place where a Jam Session by solely using iPhones as musical instruments has been performed; and where a turbocopter has been apparently piloted around the conference auditorium by using the force of thought, in the astonishing example of a mind-machine interface.

...The absolute novelty of the 2011 edition has however been the presence of a strong trace in the program dedicated to eHealth...

The absolute novelty of the 2011 edition has however been the presence of a strong trace in the program dedicated to eHealth.

eHealth is emerging as the point of singularity between cultural, anthropological, technological and medicine-related issues, thus allowing a new way of conceiving and managing interactions among Health Care Providers (HCPs), patients and caregivers. In this respect, the leading trend in fostering the contact among the main stakeholders of healthcare panorama is the utilization of mobile (or nomad) devices.

Since a number of years, there is indeed a growing body of evidence showing that physicians are progressively considering the seamless access to information not anymore as an option, but as a key condition of their daily operability. In particular, it is clearly evident that physicians are using the web as their main source of information, by substituting the traditional printed journals with their online editions; following CME courses online or in blended format; gathering information about drugs and pathologies by reading online expert opinions or visualizing webcasts; participating in medical events remotely, live or in asynchronous modality, and using sharing and commenting tools for spreading and discussing information with their reference peer network.

...The cognitive transformation which is hitting doctors is also having a strong impact on patients and caregivers...

The cognitive transformation which is hitting doctors is also having a strong impact on patients and caregivers, which are progressively getting empowered by the growing body of information available on the web. From their specific standpoint, patients and caregivers are interested to gather trustable and independent information about their condition, the treatment they are going to undergo, or finding psychological or practical support in the case there is illness is a chronic or progressively disabling one. This reality is completely disrupting the communication dynamic between doctors and patients, and transforming it from a unidirectional speech, to a conversation, where the amount of available information is bridging the traditionally wide gap between them.

...The ongoing conversational convergence of physicians and patients/caregivers is further exalted by the appearance on the market of mobile devices...

The ongoing conversational convergence of physicians and patients/caregivers is further exalted by the appearance on the market of mobile devices like smartphones and pads. Following the very same trend the generalist access is showing, mobile devices are allowing seamless, real-time information gathering, thus substituting the traditional desktop-based access.

In this framework, most part of the eHealth path at FOI11 has been dedicated to the workshop "Transforming health with mobile devices", an event led by Roberto Ascione and AJ Triano.
The audience was divided into three groups, each led by our strategists.

The workshop was subdivided in a theoretical part, aimed to set the stage of reasoning and a hands-on brainstorming session, where the concepts outlined into the first part where brought to life. The audience was divided into three groups, each led by our strategists.. Furthermore, each group had a geek physician in the number, which acted as source of information about doctors' and patients' real-life needs. The three groups have been assigned a specific path, e.g. Point of Care; Patient Education/Compliance; Physician Education. The assigned task was developing, on the basis of the needs individuated by the doctors for the specific issue; and leveraging the experience of the participants; three apps dedicated to nomad devices.

The outcome of the workshop, which has been the most followed of the whole event, has been greatly successful. The conceptual schemes of three applications, respectively dedicated to Oncology (Patient Education), Gynecology (Physician Education) and Dermatology (Point of Care) have been produced. The level of detail and potential for immediate transformation into real apps has been such that all three sketches have been presented by Roberto Ascione at the Doctors 2.0 Conference (June 22-23, Paris, France). The achievement has been of particular relevance, since Doctors 2.0 is one of the leading international congresses devoted to understand and describe the new communication paradigms in the healthcare enabled by digital technologies.

...construction of tailored healthcare applications for mobile devices can represent a quantum leap in transforming the way medical information is communicated, shared, commented and rated...

The experience developed at FOI showed how the construction of tailored healthcare applications for mobile devices can represent a quantum leap in transforming the way medical information is communicated, shared, commented and rated. It has also demonstrated how this transformation will require the integration of strategic, technical, medical and communicational capabilities, in order to develop services which are really reflecting the needs of all the involved actors.

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