This is the second in my mini series of blogs inspired by the Imagine Medicine event at Easter.
Hacking, it’s everywhere these days, you can barely move for people in those Guy Fawkes masks (far more successful than the film which featured them) complaining about keeping the internet open source, releasing governmental data and downloading stuff for free. Hackers are definitely fighting back for all those geek gags they endured in school. They’ve been so omnipresent that organisations now talk of hacking their processes, even the CIPD ran a “hackathon” – and very good it was too.
So I wasn’t terribly surprised to find a software engineer speaking at a medical forum. Jamil El Amad has spent years working across computer science / research and one evening he was chatting with a friend who is a neuroscientist. As they grappled with understanding each other’s worlds Jamil started to wonder about how neuroscience searches for anomalies, differences in patterns. He recalled his knowledge of anti-virus software and set to work.
To demonstrate his progress he showed a lightweight EEG (a small web worn on the head) which could read brain signals accurately and in real time, a sort of brain stethoscope. He also showed us something so revolutionary that I thought I was in a sci-fi film.
They are developing an app for epilepsy. Not just an information app but a device which will be able to detect these tiny anomalies, the differences that will show up before an epileptic fit, oh and not just a few minutes before the event. He is talking about being able to give people something like 45 minutes notice, plenty of time to get somewhere safe and make preparations. There were audible gasps in the audience when he revealed the warning time and the fact that they predict it will be ready in less than a year.
As I said at the start, there’s been a lot of talk about “hacking “systems, bringing in expertise from other industries to aid organisations. There has also been plenty of resistance to the idea, claims that it is wishful thinking, the emperors new clothes et cetera. However, as I reflect on the work of Dr El Amad I’m pretty sure that by using a fresh pair of eyes and sharing insights we could make some real progress on hitherto intractable problems – proper synergy.