Looking to Technology to Avoid Doctors’ Offices and Emergency Rooms

Jeff Brue, founder of OpenDrives, outside of his hospital room in Charleston, S.C. His system will allow hospitals to store high resolution M.R.I. and C.T. scans and other 3-D images on its network without having to compress them. Credit: Sean Rayford for The New York Times

As politicians debate how to improve the nation’s expensive — and some would say broken — health care system, Americans are eagerly turning to the latest tech devices in hopes of preventing and detecting medical problems early and avoiding costly trips to the doctor or emergency room.

“Technology every day is playing a more important role in preventing and even diagnosing illness,” said Gary Shapiro, chief executive of the Consumer Technology Association and author of “Ninja Future: Secrets to Success in the New World of Innovation.” “We are just beginning this journey of revolutionizing health care and reducing trips to the doctor.”

Among the new inventions are many that use artificial intelligence, sensors or so-called internet of things (IoT) connectivity to do a host of groundbreaking tasks, from detecting Alzheimer’s from the sound of your voice to telling breast cancer patients, in real-time, if their chemotherapy treatment is working.

Some patients seek out new devices as if their lives depend on it. And for some, it does.

Take Jeff Brue, a tech guru for Hollywood films. Mr. Brue was on his honeymoon in Mexico in 2016 when his spleen ruptured and he was rushed to a hospital in the town of Zihuatanejo for a splenectomy. Upon returning home to Los Angeles, doctors wrongly gave him a diagnosis of angiosarcoma, a rare form of cancer, and began an aggressive chemotherapy regimen to treat it.

“They told me I had a year to live,” Mr. Brue, who was then 34, said. Refusing to blindly accept the prognosis, he frantically searched the internet for data on his symptoms — which included a 105-degree temperature — and rushed the pathology reports to other major hospitals in the United States for additional opinions.

A month later, doctors confirmed an error had been made and said he actually had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which was treatable. But by then, his immune system and liver had been damaged from the wrong chemotherapy treatments and from seven biopsies. He’s now awaiting a liver transplant in Pittsburgh.

Mr. Brue attributes much of the misdiagnosis to outdated imaging tools and poor communication between radiologists and oncologists. “It’s a systemic problem,” he said.

So between biopsies and positron emission tomography, or PET, scans, he set out to try and change the system. Mr. Brue took his OpenDrives digital storage system, which had made him a tech rock star in the film and entertainment industry where he worked on productions like “Gone Girl,” “House of Cards” and “Deadpool,” and brought it to the health care sector.

His system will allow hospitals to store high-resolution M.R.I. and C.T. scans, and other 3-D images on its network without having to compress them. Most hospital networks compress stored images, which can make the images fuzzy and potentially cause doctors to miss information, said Chad Knowles, chief executive of OpenDrives.

See what else OpenDrives is doing in healthcare:
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