USC opens body computing center, hosts conference

At Friday’s fourth-annual conference on body computing at USC’s Town & Gown, moderator Dr. Leslie Saxon introduced  the first “body computing” center is now open at the Keck School of Medicine.

Body computing is an interdisciplinary field that uses a cell phone, heart rate monitor, doctor and computer to track a patient’s vitals and alert people through technology.

“It’s about design, it’s about telling a story,” Saxon said. “It’s about getting healthcare in the hands of consumers and making it work.”

The USC Center for Body Computing plans to focus on preventative healthcare, medical device designs and strengthening the physician-patient relationship.

“A paradigm shift is underway, which will have many consequences for the delivery of healthcare,” the center’s website said.

Saxon and executives of technology companies spoke to a crowd of more than 200 doctors, engineers, bankers and gamers about using wireless devices such as cell phones to transport medical information.

Kian Saneii, CEO of Independa, a San Diego startup that creates technology to help caregivers, gave his definition of body computing.

“You don’t have to be a computer geek,” Saneii said. “It’s the intersection of the human being and technology … talking about your health and body.”

Keynote speaker Dr. Joel Selanikio detailed his program EpiSurveyor, a global data system that tracked supplies during the Haitian earthquake, drug vaccines in West Africa and tsunami relief efforts in Indonesia.

“Through mobile phones, even a phone with a simple text message capability, every single clinician in the world can consult with colleagues around the world,” he said.

Other programs mentioned at the conference include “wiihab,”  a virtual rehabilitative program through the Wii video game system that helps soldiers before combat or those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

“Healthcare is really the only industry which the Internet hasn’t caught up with,” Saneii said. “This conference is really the catalyst that brings technologies to bear.”

Even members from the sports world came out to the conference to discuss the importance of body computing to their field.

Lee Bushkell, vice president for the Professional Golf Association website, tested a correlation between golfers’ heart rates and their putting accuracy.

Attendees of the event said the conference provided a snapshot of technology’s future.

“It’s interesting listening to all the people and innovative ideas,” said Chalan Koneru, an engineer at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “The [question is] how do we keep the physician still in control but make the patient feel more comfortable?”

Another example of such context is KNOWME Networks, an organization that works to reduce childhood obesity through technology. Researchers send a text message or call a participant’s phone if low activity levels are recorded.

“The recipe is meaning plus entertainment plus seamless equals mass adoption,” said Dr. Steven LeBoeuf, CEO of Valencell, a company that builds technology for fitness.

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