Developing innovation in healthcare through synergistic partnerships at Health 2.0

Written by Victoria Louise Crump-Haill – Digital Strategist/Account Director‏

Last month we told you about a hot ‘fall’ of health-care and social media shaping up in the Bay Area, and gave you the highlights of the Medicine 2.0 conference in Stanford. This month we are back as promised to tell you the rest of the story featured on the Health 2.0 conference.

More than 1,500 people gathered in San Francisco last week to hear and share the cutting edge of innovation in health-care and information technology.  Innovation was, indeed, the buzzword of the conference. Under the rubric of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011, the Office for the National Coordination of Health Information Technology, ONC has partnered with Health 2.0 to run its Investing in Innovation i2 Challenge series.

Health 2.0 Senior VP Jean-Luc Neptune and Health 2.0 CEO Indu Subaiya presented the 2011 edition of the Health 2.0 Developer Challenge Competition. The competition awards prizes ($!) to accelerate the development of solutions to key challenges in health information technology, by providing a “jumping platform” for those innovative start ups who would not make it without an external initial help, as put by Special Assistant of Innovations and Research at ONC Wil Yu.

On Monday, September 26th, the four semifinalists of the NCI challenge were presented by Abdul Shaikh, Program Director at Division Cancer Control and Population Sciences at NCI. The NCI challenge – a subgroup of the i2 challenge – aims at using public data as input for innovating the whole spectrum of cancer prevention and control.

Among the four semifinalists, Ask Dory, an interactive search tool that aids patients to find suitable clinical trial near them, stands out for originality. With the advent of web 2.0 tools it is becoming more and more common for individual patients and their families to turn to the internet looking for active, recruiting clinical trials that may suit them.  Often though, patients and their families are overwhelmed by the maze of online information written in scientific and medical jargon. ‘Dory’ will help the patients to get beyond that kind of impasse, by asking the user personalized questions on their disease and then suggesting appropriate clinical trials near them (within a user-defined mile range), while also providing the email of the principal investigator or physician to contact for showing interest in participating in the trial. For now, Dory is helping only patients based in the US (as it uses data derived from ClinicalTrials.gov ), but we hope it may serve as a model for a similar EU-based search tool.

While Ask Dory is designed for patients, my Cancer Genome is a product that targets clinicians, as it helps doctors navigate through the most recent advances in cancer genomics and find the most appropriate targeted treatment for their patients, based on genotype.  The tool works in three steps: first, clinicians insert a ‘cancer type’; then to select a ‘gene’ to retrieve information about its significance within the disease; and third to select a ‘gene mutation’ to understand its relevance for treatment and prognosis, and possibly to find clinical trials that could match a patient’s mutated genotype. While currently the choice of diseases is limited to breast cancer, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, GIST, thymic carcinoma and melanoma, it will expand as the team is going to develop further ‘my Cancer Genome’ for the second round of competition that is coming up soon.

Health Owl is another semifinalist and an application for web and mobile platforms designed to render cancer screening process and decision making more simple and reliable both for patients and for clinicians. (To note: colored tags were distributed to each participant to help identify visually the different categories of people present at the event, i.e. patient, doctor, investor, IT person, etc.) The ‘Owl’ is developed by a team based at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and uses publicly available data from screening generated from NCI’s Physician Data Query and PubMed to provide tailored cancer screening recommendations to the user based on recorded cancer family history and demographic variables. The Owl also offers a practical help by providing an action plan and assisting the patients in identifying physicians for the follow up on screening.

Direct competitor to the Owl is mHealth Powered, a mobile health development company started by two MD/PhD students and a biomedical engineer based in Baltimore, Maryland. They developed ‘The Cancer App’, a smartphone application that provides the user with personalized information on how to reduce cancer risk.  The database covers over 400 items such as foods, drugs, chemicals and lifestyle choices, that are implicated in increasing or decreasing the risk for cancer, and cited rigorously from the authorities on cancer prevention (as rigorous source citation is one of the requirement of the i2 challenge).

Each of the four start-up semifinalists was awarded $10,000, while also receiving targeted and invaluable feedback on how to develop its product further. The deadline for the second round of development is November 18th. In Phase II, up to two winning teams out of the current four will be chosen and will each receive a $20,000 award at an international system sciences conference to be held in January 2012 in a TBD-location. Stay tuned on this blog to hear about the winners and other exciting launches at Health 2.0!

Stephen Dunn

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