TEDMED 2013 wraps but the conversation continues

TEDMED 2013 has officially wrapped but the conversation and tweets (over 78k of them) continue and that’s just what the TEDMED organizers had in mind. The goal of TEDMED was not to be a conference but a community gathering where discussions and relationships blossomed. A quick look across social media tells us that goal was achieved.

A few highlights from the final hours of TEDMED 2013.

The conversation was vast and deep.

The first ever Great Challenges Day was a success.

Some very cool and interesting ideas were shared.

This was perhaps the coolest of them all.


Why? Because of the reach – think about it!

My two favorite talks came from America Bracho and Jonathan Bush.

Some final thoughts…


This post originally appeared on CROWDTalk.

We’re all part of the TEDMED big data set

The first full day of TEDMED 2013 began by asking the question… how can big data become real wisdom?

The answer came from people with very diverse backgrounds. When was the last time you spent a couple hours bantering about health topics with an astrophysicist turned computer scientist, a palliative care oncologist, patient advocate and former NASA programmer, a computer scientist and networked sensing pioneer a mathematician and the publisher of Science News as well as the President of the Society for Science & the Public. Probably not recently, but for those at TEDMED it happened just this morning.

I will admit, the session raised more questions than provided answers – but I guess that’s the point of TEDMED. We’re here to challenge our thinking, look at the situation from a different perspective or even think about something for the very first time.

I’ll share the things that struck me this morning and have kept me thinking the rest of the day…

Larry Smarr is the astrophysicist turned computer scientist and he walked us through his colon – literally. His point was that each of us are basically a walking big data set and in the future this will enable us to participate in our own care because of the growing ability to analyze big data. His talk made me think of Danny Hillis and I had to wonder if the walk through Larry’s colon was an example of the preemptive health model Danny mentioned yesterday.

Max Little is a mathematician and he showed us how to solve health problems using math, he calls it the unreasonable effectiveness of math. Amy Abernethy is the former NASA programmer turned palliative care oncologist and patient advocate. She shared the idea of ‘data donorship’ and made me wonder why we aren’t already collectively learning from the bigger data pool.

Elizabeth Marincola is the publisher of Science News and President of the Society for Science & the Public. She shared her passion for public access to data and made me question the medical system I’ve worked in for many years. Why is there not more sharing of scientific information? What could we accomplish with an open data policy? She sees the perfect storm brewing – science, money and the public’s right to know are colliding.

I found the talk by Deborah Estrin, the computer scientist and networked sensing pioneer, to be the most interesting, eye opening and possibly the closest in immediate real world applicability. She talked about small data derived from our individual digital traces; sharing that each of us has our own social pulse graph. That means for all the big data we have, the learnings from our small data tell the real story. They’re the details that don’t come out in the routine doctor visit; they’re the details that indicate what’s truly occurring on a daily basis. It’s this leveraging of small data that can be used to make our health better.

In the end, we’re all part of the TEDMED big data set. Worldwide there are over 200,000 people participating in TEDMED, representing 81 countries. Locally in Washington DC there are 1,800 people, representing 48 states. TEDMED Live is being simulcast to groups at 2,700 locations and to individuals via tens of thousands of desktops. That’s some pretty big data.

Let us know your thoughts, do you think there is a role for big data inside of healthcare? Do you think we can use big data to improve health?

This post originally appeared on CROWDTalk.

TEDMED 2013 – How do we make health better by looking outside of healthcare?

The opening of TEDMED 2013 brought several distinct and separate ideas together into one common voice asking, “how do we make health better by looking outside of healthcare?”

An African proverb shared during the session seemed to embody the spirit of TEDMED… If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. 

Seeing with a Broader Lens was an appropriate title for the opening session as the audience was clearly challenged to look at the possibilities of what could be. Dr. Rafael Yuste summed it up very nicely when he told us the real question is not what you can do, but what do you want to do? He’d like to map the human brain and as the neuroscientist behind the Brain Mapping Project, it looks like he’s going to get the opportunity.

Do art and healthcare go together? According to John Maeda they do and after listening to him talk for just a few minutes you’re shaking your head in agreement. John spoke about design thinking, a human focused way of addressing and solving a problem. An excellent example in healthcare are the redesigned prescription bottles currently in use at Target pharmacies.

Danny Hillis challenged us forward thinking healthcare professionals when he said ‘prevention is so 20th century’. What? Prevention is the goal. No, preemption is the goal. Health is not binary; there are more stages than sickness and health. He sees the most interesting place in medicine as the point when the body fails and begins to move from health to sickness. Identifying the variables that signal this failure will allow healthcare professionals to preemptively manage patients in very individual ways. Preemption is so 21st century.

The most articulate presentation of the opening session was by far that of America Bracho. Her ideas around community are simple yet profound. She is truly making a difference at the most basic level of life – our communities where we live and thrive on a daily basis. She stared with the idea that you can’t create solutions from behind a deck. The community, those impacted by the situation, must lead the change. Simple idea, common sense but often not how things work. She is a firm believer that despite our position in life we all have ideas and knowledge to share, we all bring assets to the table. We all have a voice and we all want to be heard. She challenged us to look at life with a broader lens. When we see a powerless, hopeless, devastated community look at the alternative story of hope, change, empowerment and inclusion.

Let’s get the TEDMED discussion going…

What did you think of the TEDMED 2013 opening session?

Which speaker moved you the most? Why?