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A fleet of toddlers get ready to race in their Go Baby Go cars, customized by therapists and parents to provide disabled children with mobility and help them strengthen weak muscles.

Start your engines: A fleet of GoBabyGo cars, customized by therapists and parents to give disabled children mobility and help strengthen weak muscles. (Courtesy Cole Galloway)

TEDMED2014 focused on a powerful theme: unlocking imagination in service of health and medicine. Speaker after speaker shared tales of imagination, inspiration and innovation. Here are a few of our favorites:

$100 plastic car stands in for $25,000 power wheelchair

In the first (and likely only) National Institutes of Health-funded shopping spree at Toys R’ Us, Cole Galloway, director of the Pediatric Mobility Lab at the University of Delaware, and crew stocked up on pint-sized riding toys.

Galloway’s quest was to facilitate independence and mobility among disabled children from the age of six months and older and offer a low-tech solution during the five-year wait in the United States for a $25,000 power pediatric wheelchair.

The hackers jerry-rigged the toys with pool noodles, PVC pipe and switches, reconfiguring them as mobile rehabilitation devices to promote functional skills among kids with special needs. Full story »

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When we see a satellite image of a tropical depression in the Caribbean, we’ve come to expect that, within seconds, it will get incorporated into probabilistic models shown on our TVs at home, predicting where the hurricane will land and who it’s going to affect. Within minutes, we expect to see a personalized view of what we have to do in response to that public threat.

Do we have anything predictive like that in medicine? Isaac Kohane, MD, PhD, director of the Children’s Hospital Informatics Program, says we don’t yet—but we should.

In this video just posted by TEDMED, Kohane envisions the capability to make our health data work for us—quickly spotting everything from serious side effects of drugs to whether a patient may be experiencing domestic abuse. Or, quickly defining what subtype of autism a patient has. By simply harnessing existing electronic medical records, we may be able to shave years off diagnostic time and improve health care.

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Clinical research is all about numbers. A new informatics network called SHRINE could help make it easier to get find out if the numbers of patients are there to answer complex questions. (victoriapeckham/Flickr)

Ed. note: This morning at 8:15 EDT, Isaac Kohane, MD, PhD, will tell the audience at TEDMED 2013 about his goal of using every clinical visit to advance medical science. 

To preview his talk, we’ve updated a past Vector story about SHRINE, a system Kohane helped develop to allow scientists to use clinical data from multiple hospitals for research.

Clinical research really comes down to a numbers game. And those numbers can be the bane of the clinical researcher. If there aren’t enough patients in a study, its results could be statistically meaningless. But getting enough patients for a study, particularly for rare diseases, can be a daunting challenge.

The Shared Research Information Network (or SHRINE) could help solve this vexing problem. Developed through Harvard Catalyst by a team led by Isaac “Zak” Kohane, MD, PhD, director of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Informatics Program, SHRINE links the clinical databases of participating Harvard-affiliated hospitals—currently Boston Children’s Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital—letting researchers at those hospitals see how many patients from those hospitals meet selected criteria.

Why is this important? Full story »

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This syringe, containing particles of oxygen gas mixed with liquid, can potentially save the lives of patients unable to breathe -- like the infant Kheir was unable to save early in his career.

John Kheir, MD, a physician in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Boston Children’s Hospital, led a team that created tiny particles filled with oxygen gas, which, when mixed with liquid, could be injected directly into the blood. In an emergency, IV oxygen delivery could potentially buy clinicians time to start life-saving therapies. Kheir will recount his journey this evening at TEDMED, during the 5:30-7:30 p.m. session “Welcoming Death Into Life.” To preview his talk, we’re reprising his popular post from last year.

It was an ordinary Saturday night in the ICU at Boston Children’s, in the fall of 2006. One of my patients was a 9-month-old girl who was admitted with pneumonia, and was having trouble breathing. I had gone in to check on her just a few minutes before; although she was not feeling well, she reached out and touched my hand as I examined her. I assured her mother she was in the best possible place for her care.

Five minutes later, the code bell alarmed. Our team rushed into her room to the most horrific sight I have ever seen. Full story »

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Margaret Coughlin is a Senior Vice President and the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Here at the TEDMED conference, it’s all about horizontal or lateral thinking – coming at problems from new directions, without regard to conventional boundaries. I like the thoughts of Edward DeBono (not a TEDMED speaker), who coined the term “lateral thinking” in 1967:

Some people are unhappy about lateral thinking because they feel it threatens the validity of vertical thinking. This is not so at all. The two processes are complementary, not antagonistic. Lateral thinking enhances the effectiveness of vertical thinking by offering it more to select from. Vertical thinking multiplies the effectiveness of lateral thinking by making good use of the ideas generated.

Lateral thinking is, in a way, an antidote to the way we’re all taught—vertically and specifically. Our education systems seem to be getting more vertical – more concerned with meeting prescribed benchmarks, and, in so doing, discarding the creativity and imagination of learning that is critical to real innovation and real forward movement. As for medical education, radiation oncologist and TEDMED speaker Jacob Scott said it has replaced creativity in the brain with a warehouse. Full story »

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Children's Hospital Boston's first Innovation Day Feb 14, 2012

On Tuesday, Children’s Hospital Boston featured its first Innovation Day.  Organized by the Hospital’s Innovation Acceleration Program, which seeks to promote grass roots innovation within the hospital, the TEDMED style conference featured talks by 17 of the Hospital’s clinicians. Our Chief Innovation Officer Naomi Fried welcomed a packed house, which included attendees from across the country. Here we’re featuring some of the technologies that were revealed on Tuesday and how they’re changing the face of pediatric medicine: Full story »

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Margaret Coughlin is a Senior Vice President and the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Children’s Hospital Boston

Disruption. A core ideal of the TEDMED conference. I’m in a senior strategic marketing position at Children’s Hospital Boston, in a healthcare world in dire need of solutions. What can I do as an individual to spark disruption, change the course?

Brilliant individuals from all over the world have converged here.  From biology lab leaders to the U.S. Surgeon General (yes, she is here) – they’ve all convened to share, to educate and to think. The ideas are flying, and the different disciplines are connecting dots that at first glance make no sense. Worlds are colliding and combining and then dividing again. Art, sensing technology, mobile devices, biology and on and on are merging to create solutions to an uncountable number of healthcare problems.

The fundamental question, though, is why doesn’t this happen every day, and happen faster? Full story »

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Concept for a new kind of surgical robot (click to enlarge)

Inventors and engineers tend to come up with ideas and technologies first, then say, “This is cool, what’s it good for?” Clinicians tend to say, “Here’s my clinical problem, how can I solve it?”

This was roughly the thinking that brought together Boston University engineer Pierre Dupont and Pedro del Nido, chief of Cardiac Surgery at Children’s Hospital Boston.

Dupont had a vision for a next-generation surgical robot. del Nido had a vision of doing complex cardiac repairs in children while their hearts are still beating. Could they create a viable technology? Full story »

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Daydreaming, Eugene de Blaas (1843-1931)

Things have a way of coming back full circle.

As in the first day of TEDMED, the message today was about imagination. Scott Parazynski, a physician and astronaut, reminded the audience about daring to imagine. As a child, he dreamed about flying in space and climbing to the peak of Mount Everest. As an adult, he made those dreams a reality, because he just dared to image. Nathaniel Pearson, a genomicist at Knome Inc., and Greg Lucier, the CEO of Life Technologies, both asked the audience to imagine a future in which patients come to their physician’s office to have their genome mapped and receive treatments tailor-made for them based upon their genetics. Full story »

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TEDMED, Wurman, Nurjana BachmanTEDMED was fascinating, and it was a great experience for the Children’s team who attended. Based on the conference attendees and the intimate size of the gathering, it offered our constituents ample opportunity to interact with peers from other fields, policy decision makers, media influencers, future collaborators and potential sponsors in a way that wouldn’t have been possible in any other setting. Full story »

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