Advancements in non-invasive diagnostics accelerate disease detection
Emma is alerted after receiving repeated notifications about her reduced fitness without any apparent reason. Given her overall declining fitness and alerted by the symptoms, her general practitioner forwards her electronic health record (EHR) to several specialists. No cardiovascular causes were found by a cardiologist, and there were no obvious problems found by an endocrinologist. To be on the safe side, Emma is suggested to have her breath analyzed using an e-nose to test to detect potential diseases. The outcome of the analysis is devastating but potentially lifesaving: it points toward a potential lung cancer after a few minutes.
Portable diagnostic devices such as electronic nose or e-nose devices that help finding early signs of disease are emerging due to their user-, cost- and time-friendliness. The majority are biosensor-based devices , using advanced signal processing and AI to detect diseases such as lung cancer in real time. Due to their increasing ability to identify complex mixtures of volatile metabolites, advanced portable devices such as e-noses pave the way for an accelerated early stage disease detection that may be usable at-home in the near future.
Optimized disease detection through AI-assisted radiology and advanced robotics
Emma is referred to another specialist for an AI-assisted CT scan of her lung. As the scan shows a small nodule in the lung, she needs a robotics-assisted bronchoscopy with a biopsy to build a more detailed analysis of the suspicious tissue, revealing that it is indeed cancer — lung carcinoma.
The number of AI-based devices approved for medical use has been steadily increasing over the last years, with medical imaging being in the lead . As imaging data is collected and labelled during routine clinical practice, large datasets are readily available to algorithms, thus offering a remarkable resource for scientific and medical discovery2. Although AI-based radiology devices are highly valuable for identifying deviations from regular tissue characteristics, irregular tissue sections still require further histological investigation. In early stage lung cancer, suspicious lung nodules are often small and located in the periphery of the lung, where they are difficult to reach. Recent progress of robotics-assisted endoscopy promises interesting alternatives to current approaches due to reduced invasiveness combined with the potential to localize, diagnose, and assist in treatment (e.g., surgical extraction) of lung nodules . Thus, the combination of progress in AI-assisted imaging analysis and robotics enabling minimal-invasive tissue selection will help optimize disease detection, also in case of early stage and challenging cancer types.
The vision of a fully integrated personal electronic health record (EHR) system
Emma´s personal integrated EHR summarizes all her medical information, from personal fitness tracking to information obtained by her general practitioner or specialists. Her data is stored de-centrally and respectful of her data privacy needs, and she is informed of every new entry or update. She can also receive lab results, as well as appointments at a specialized hospital.
An integrated view on an individual’s healthcare data might be beneficial for the patient. It offers the unprecedented chance to provide easier access to health care, transparency between healthcare professionals, better care, and personal self-management. Its realization requires an interconnected infrastructure as well as well-regulated and structured data management. Sweden can be seen as a pioneer in this field, having rolled out a national patient portal and health information exchange platform, on which all EHRs are available and accessible by both healthcare professionals and patients. An overwhelming majority of 90% of patients who accessed the system were positive about it . The system was initially set up with telemedicine services, personalized e-care services and a curated searchable information portal, but a few challenges remain4. Setting up proper regulatory frameworks enabling efficient data management would allow all individuals to have a more complete overview of their health-related data based on a personal, integrated and fully embedded EHR. This data may even be provided anonymously and with the patient’s consent to public research organizations to fuel further healthcare innovations.