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10 Outstanding TED Talks which shook the health tech space 

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There are worse ways to spend 20 minutes than some quick enlightenment from a great TED talk speaker. Many of the world’s most prominent academics, business leaders and creatives have taken to the TEDx stage at some point, sometimes with groundbreaking talks which change the world.  We’ve rounded up some of the most invigorating and pioneering talks from the health tech space, from some of the most amazing people in the sector. Take a look…

1 – New Nanotech to detect cancer early | Joshua Smith

Joshua Smith, a biochemist and nanoscientist working in London, England, is developing a nanobiotechnology “cancer alarm” that scans for traces of disease in the form of special biomarkers called exosomes. In this expansive talk, the researcher shares his vision for revolutionising cancer screening and diagnostics, with a view to diagnosing and treating cancer more quickly and effectively.

Motivated by his wife’s experience with cancer, Joshua applies his engineering expertise to early cancer diagnosis, and has made his mark in the health tech space as a result. 

2 – Healthcare should be a team sport | Eric Dishman 

When Eric Dishman was in college, doctors told him he had 2 to 3 years to live. Social scientist Eric Dishman is known globally as a medical tech specialist, and especially for his work in enabling independent living for seniors. Dishman was once told he had 2 years to live, and has gone on instead to boldly reinvent healthcare by putting the patient at the centre of a treatment team.

His passion for better healthcare, and for using new technology to solve big problems in the system, comes across well in this talk which, quite importantly , is about how it should be a community effort. 

3 – Dina Katabi | A new way to monitor vital signs

Dina Katabi is an outstanding technologist who investigates how artificial intelligence can be used to sense human motion and vital signs. Her wireless device, which looks no more significant than a Wi-Fi box, use machine learning to sense people through walls and other obstructions. 

Subsequent analysis can then learn how people walk, measure their gait and detect elderly falls. The device can also measure a person’s breathing, heart rate and sleep quality using wireless signals, without any sensor on the person’s body. 

Katabi is working with medical doctors to use her technology to detect health emergencies and provide a better understanding of chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. 

4 – Going Viral: The Digital Future of Public Health | Rachel McKendry 

Viruses and other communicable diseases, like Ebola, pose one of the greatest threats to our increasingly connected world. Rachel asks how can we detect these diseases before they manifest themselves.

Rachel McKendry is professor of biomedicine and nanotechnology at the London Centre of Nanotechnology, University College London. She is director of iSense, an EPSRC- funded interdisciplinary research collaboration to create global early-warning systems to detect infectious diseases such as pandemics, MRSA and HIV.

5 –  Why the hospital of the future will be in your own home | Niels Van Namen 

Health care futurist Niels van Namen leads the global CEVA Healthcare team as the Executive Vice President for Healthcare in BD. This talk pinpoints the main concerns about physical hospitals, or “putting all sick people in one building” and unravels its history right back to the ancient Greeks. 

This talk delves deep into how advances in technology are making home care a cheaper, safer and more accessible alternative to hospital stays, touching on virtual hospital wards and other technological solutions. 

Van Namen has over two decades of experience in healthcare and life science, and is a leading figure in his field. 

6 – Lifelike simulations that make real-life surgery safer | Peter Weinstock 

Critical care doctor Peter Weinstock shows how surgical teams are creating amazing lifelike replicas of real patients – so they can practice risky operations before they happen. Think: “Operating twice, cutting once.” See the future of surgery in a forward thinking talk.

Weinstock is an Intensive Care Unit physician and Director of the Paediatric Simulator Program at Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School. Peter, along with his team, use 3D printing technologies and special effects to create groundbreaking simulations of complex surgeries.

He as utilised a lifelong passion for human nature and medicine to master and develop one of the most sophisticated medical practise spaces of all time, and delivers a fascinating and inspiring talk on what health tech can do for us in the present as well as the future.

7 – To design better tech, understand context | Tania Douglas 

Biomedical engineering professor Tania Douglas delivered a moving and inspirational talk on the context of tech. She discusses passionately how we can be blinded in our pursuit of technology, and how a deeper understanding is needed to address some health challenges of the modern age.
Tania talks of how she had imagined how biomedical engineering could help address some of Africa’s health problems, and how the development of contextually appropriate technology can be good for health innovation – especially the mechanisms of medical device innovation in South Africa.

8 – A Temporary tattoo that brings hospital care to the home | Todd Coleman

Another dominant TED talk on health technology moving patient care into the home, but this time the tech is slightly more unusual.

UCSD bioengineering professor Todd Coleman talks of how he spans the disciplines of medical electronics, machine learning and public health. As a very open public health advocate, Coleman understands the value of collaborating with community health programs to truly implement and deliver sustainable innovations to those who need it most.

This talk looks at the possibility of doctors monitoring patients at home with the same degree of accuracy they’d get during a stay at the hospital. Coleman shares his quest to develop wearable, flexible electronic health monitoring patches that promise to make medicine less invasive and work towards revolutionising healthcare.

9 – We can start winning the war against cancer | Adam de la Zerda 

Adam de la Zerda is a biologist, electrical engineer and Stanford researcher who talks about the latest advances in the war against cancer with groundbreaking techniques of his own making. 

De la Zerda’s lab is lighting the way for surgeons to remove even the tiniest trace of deadly, cancerous tumours. His talks goes into detail about using a remarkable imaging technology that illuminates cancer-seeking gold particles injected into the body.

10 – Artificial Intelligence Meets Mental Health Therapy | Andy Blackwell 

Andy is the Group Chief Science and Strategy Officer of IESO Digital Health (IESO), an awards-winning global leader in digital health services which in contrast to many of its competitors, does not see mental health care as its core business. Together with his team he is implementing artificial intelligence into mental health therapy like never before – and is changing the way mental health services are delivered.

His TED talk focuses on a passionate ambition to improve many patients’ lives – and he shares his vision for treating mental health conditions, which underpins his “Eight Billion Minds” program. He is an engaging host with 12 years of in-depth management experience.


Other great TED talks to look out for on health tech


Technology and health – there’s an app for that | Dr Craig Newman


Wearable Technologies: The New Normal in Healthcare | Noushin Nasiri 


Let’s talk about healthcare in 2030 | Dr Marcus Ranney 


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