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Holistic decision-making in a digitized health-care environment

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Holistic decision-making in a digitized health-care environment


Smart data integration can help to increase the quality of data-based decision-making, especially in scenarios where clinical decision-makers face multiple barriers and challenges along the patient pathway. And this is critically important in today’s digitized health-care environment where the quality of decision-making depends on the quality and availability of the underlying data.

In medicine, decision-making has a clear goal: to benefit the patient. Health-care decisions are shaped by professional standards, expert knowledge, wishes of the patient, and therapeutic possibilities.

Achieving this goal increasingly depends on the smart use of medical data. The continuously growing, multi-dimensional range of health data from electronic medical records, image databases, and other multi-layered, often fragmented IT systems is becoming more and more important for making up-to-date, patient-oriented decisions and designing care processes accordingly.

Of course, not all medical decisions are necessarily difficult. In some uncomplicated health-care situations, professional medical knowledge is sufficient to find an expedient solution, so decisions are straightforward. Decision-making becomes more complex as the number of diagnoses and treatment options increase, along with the amount of relevant patient data and the risk of complications.

The challenge in a complex case is to integrate a wide range of data from a variety of sources, such as clinical, radiological, or laboratory information; genetic and pathological findings; and insights into behavioral and social conditions in such a way that the decision meets highest possible quality standards and takes into consideration the personal situation and preferences of the patient.

Medical decisions occur along the continuum of care, from initial clinical contact to follow-up. The questions health-care providers need to address are:

  • What needs to be done diagnostically and therapeutically?
  • How can I use my resources in the process efficiently?
  • With whom should I share information and coordinate to achieve the best possible outcome for the patient?

Digital technologies can improve decision-making in all these dimensions and provide valuable decision support along the patient pathway.

Complex decisions may fail for various reasons. Patient data might not be accessible, or too extensive and unstructured. Information might be overlooked. Guidelines might not be sufficiently executed. These challenges can create inefficient and costly workflows and compromise clinical outcomes.

However, they can be solved with a scalable and flexible digital platform that can gather patient data from sources in various IT systems and institutions and can provide caretakers easy access to patient data across all touchpoints of the patient journey. This smart-data integration can ultimately provide a more comprehensive picture of the patient and support holistic decision-making in medicine.

Today’s IT architectures must be able to constantly evolve and grow as needs change.

Siemens Healthineers has designed its digital health platform as a flexible tool that uses the increasingly important data for health care. Its integrated marketplace provides one-stop access to a growing number of proprietary applications as well as curated and pre-vetted partner applications, enabling advanced and customized digitization for a wide range of health-care providers and care situations.

Digitization is certainly not only a matter of technology but also conception. Health care increasingly uses an abundance of complex health data, and three changes will facilitate the digital shift:

  1. Health-care providers need a digital infrastructure that is as simple as possible, as well as versatile and adaptable: ideally a system-wide platform for networking data.
  2. Providers need a growing number of intelligent applications that can meaningfully apply networked data to specific operational and clinical questions.
  3. As digitization changes the nature of medical decision-making, such decisions will continue to be the responsibility of doctors—and patients. Nevertheless, health-care providers will increasingly have to make use of advanced digital decision support to bring the wealth of data into their deliberations and use it in a profitable way.

Learn more about how Siemens Healthineers supports smart data integration and decision support along the patient pathway.

This content was produced by Siemens Healthineers. It was not written by MIT Technology Review’s editorial staff.

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Investing in women pays off

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Investing in women pays off


“Starting a business is a privilege,” says Burton O’Toole, who worked at various startups before launching and later selling AdMass, her own marketing technology company. The company gave her access to the HearstLab program in 2016, but she soon discovered that she preferred the investment aspect and became a vice president at HearstLab a year later. “To empower some of the smartest women to do what they love is great,” she says. But in addition to rooting for women, Burton O’Toole loves the work because it’s a great market opportunity. 

“Research shows female-led teams see two and a half times higher returns compared to male-led teams,” she says, adding that women and people of color tend to build more diverse teams and therefore benefit from varied viewpoints and perspectives. She also explains that companies with women on their founding teams are likely to get acquired or go public sooner. “Despite results like this, just 2.3% of venture capital funding goes to teams founded by women. It’s still amazing to me that more investors aren’t taking this data more seriously,” she says. 

Burton O’Toole—who earned a BS from Duke in 2007 before getting an MS and PhD from MIT, all in mechanical engineering—has been a “data nerd” since she can remember. In high school she wanted to become an actuary. “Ten years ago, I never could have imagined this work; I like the idea of doing something in 10 more years I couldn’t imagine now,” she says. 

When starting a business, Burton O’Toole says, “women tend to want all their ducks in a row before they act. They say, ‘I’ll do it when I get this promotion, have enough money, finish this project.’ But there’s only one good way. Make the jump.”

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Preparing for disasters, before it’s too late

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Preparing for disasters, before it’s too late


All too often, the work of developing global disaster and climate resiliency happens when disaster—such as a hurricane, earthquake, or tsunami—has already ravaged entire cities and torn communities apart. But Elizabeth Petheo, MBA ’14, says that recently her work has been focused on preparedness. 

It’s hard to get attention for preparedness efforts, explains Petheo, a principal at Miyamoto International, an engineering and disaster risk reduction consulting firm. “You can always get a lot of attention when there’s a disaster event, but at that point it’s too late,” she adds. 

Petheo leads the firm’s projects and partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region and advises globally on international development and humanitarian assistance. She also works on preparedness in the Asia-Pacific region with the United States Agency for International Development. 

“We’re doing programming on the engagement of the private sector in disaster risk management in Indonesia, which is a very disaster-prone country,” she says. “Smaller and medium-sized businesses are important contributors to job creation and economic development. When they go down, the impact on lives, livelihoods, and the community’s ability to respond and recover effectively is extreme. We work to strengthen their own understanding of their risk and that of their surrounding community, lead them through an action-planning process to build resilience, and link that with larger policy initiatives at the national level.”

Petheo came to MIT with international leadership experience, having managed high-profile global development and risk mitigation initiatives at the World Bank in Washington, DC, as well as with US government agencies and international organizations leading major global humanitarian responses and teams in Sri Lanka and Haiti. But she says her time at Sloan helped her become prepared for this next phase in her career. “Sloan was the experience that put all the pieces together,” she says.

Petheo has maintained strong connections with MIT. In 2018, she received the Margaret L.A. MacVicar ’65, ScD ’67, Award in recognition of her role starting and leading the MIT Sloan Club in Washington, DC, and her work as an inaugural member of the Graduate Alumni Council (GAC). She is also a member of the Friends of the MIT Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center.

“I believe deeply in the power and impact of the Institute’s work and people,” she says. “The moment I graduated, my thought process was, ‘How can I give back, and how can I continue to strengthen the experience of those who will come after me?’”

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The Download: a curb on climate action, and post-Roe period tracking

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The US Supreme Court just gutted the EPA’s power to regulate emissions


Why’s it so controversial?: Geoengineering was long a taboo topic among scientists, and some argue it should remain one. There are questions about its potential environmental side effects, and concerns that the impacts will be felt unevenly across the globe. Some feel it’s too dangerous to ever try or even to investigate, arguing that just talking about the possibility could weaken the need to address the underlying causes of climate change.

But it’s going ahead?: Despite the concerns, as the threat of climate change grows and major nations fail to make rapid progress on emissions, growing numbers of experts are seriously exploring the potential effects of these approaches. Read the full story.

—James Temple

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 The belief that AI is alive refuses to die
People want to believe the models are sentient, even when their creators deny it. (Reuters)
+ It’s unsurprising wild religious beliefs find a home in Silicon Valley. (Vox)
+ AI systems are being trained twice as quickly as they were just last year. (Spectrum IEEE)

2 The FBI added the missing cryptoqueen to its most-wanted list
It’s offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to Ruja Ignatova, whose crypto scheme defrauded victims out of more than $4 billion. (BBC)
+ A new documentary on the crypto Ponzi scheme is in the works. (Variety)

3 Social media platforms turn a blind eye to dodgy telehealth ads
Which has played a part in the prescription drugs abuse boom. (Protocol)
+ The doctor will Zoom you now. (MIT Technology Review)

4 We’re addicted to China’s lithium batteries
Which isn’t great news for other countries building electric cars. (Wired $)
+ This battery uses a new anode that lasts 20 times longer than lithium. (Spectrum IEEE)
+ Quantum batteries could, in theory, allow us to drive a million miles between charges. (The Next Web)

5 Far-right extremists are communicating over radio to avoid detection
Making it harder to monitor them and their violent activities. (Slate $)
+ Many of the rioters who stormed the Capitol were carrying radio equipment. (The Guardian)

6 Bro culture has no place in space 🚀
So says NASA’s former deputy administrator, who’s sick and tired of misogyny in the sector. (CNN)

7 A US crypto exchange is gaining traction in Venezuela
It’s helping its growing community battle hyperinflation, but isn’t as decentralized as they believe it to be. (Rest of World)
+ The vast majority of NFT players won’t be around in a decade. (Vox)
+ Exchange Coinbase is working with ICE to track and identify crypto users. (The Intercept)
+ If RadioShack’s edgy tweets shock you, don’t forget it’s a crypto firm now. (NY Mag)

8 It’s time we learned to love our swamps
Draining them prevents them from absorbing CO2 and filtering out our waste. (New Yorker $)
+ The architect making friends with flooding. (MIT Technology Review) 

9 Robots love drawing too 🖍️
Though I’ll bet they don’t get as frustrated as we do when they mess up. (Input)

10 The risky world of teenage brains
Making potentially dangerous decisions is an important part of adolescence, and our brains reflect that. (Knowable Magazine)

Quote of the day

“They shamelessly celebrate an all-inclusive pool party while we can’t even pay our rent!”

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