Dr. Jack Kreindler speaks to Wired Magazine
High altitude doctor trains amateurs for Everest
Jack Kreindler is cofounder of the Centre for Health and Human Performance. His career spans 20 years of business, information technology, emergency medicine and high altitude physiology. He will be speaking at Wired Health on 29 April.
Wired.co.uk: You seem to be a bit of a polymath, working in a variety of areas.
Jack Kreindler: I wouldn’t describe myself as a polymath. Jack of all trades is probably a better way to describe me.
What are the key projects you’re involved with?
One of the key things is the Centre for Health and Human Performance (CHHP) in London. That is essentially the home of the top sports scientists, sports medics and forward thinking specialists in the UK. We manage complex cases by utilising the skills of sports science and a lot of the technology that we’ve handled in extreme sports and extreme medicine, and applying that to improve people’s health and to help them get through tough challenges. We deal with the toughest cancers and the grandest challenges. We have a lot of involvement with Sport Relief — you’ve probably seen my friend and fellow cofounder Greg Whyte on the TV this past week with Davina [McCall]. We look after a lot of the Team GB folk and we have a lot of Team GB scientists and medics at our place.
We’re usually on television once a week for one reason or another, which is fun. And that’s really fulfilling our mandate for public engagement. It is a commercial enterprise, but 30 percent of the work we do is public engagement and for charity.
How does CHHP tie in with the technologist side of your career?
What we’ve learned over the years — doing work with elite athletes and from my background originally in medicine and medical technology — is that by using the same degree of monitoring that we use in intensive care, in emergency medicine and in elite sport, we can apply that to people’s lives every day, or to people with chronic illnesses. This helps us radically transform the cost crisis regarding chronic disease and avoidable hospital admissions.
So part of my life — in fact half of my life — is based on the West Coast of America, where my startups are all involved in the application of big data analytics for solving big challenges. I look after the healthcare section of our incubator called Frost Venture Partners. At the moment we manage about 12 companies, soon to be about 20, in the big data analytics space.
Who is Frost Venture Partners working with at the moment?
We’ve got one startup called Jointly Health. It’s using the next generation of biosensors — both class one wearables and the more medically oriented ones, class two and class three types of wirelessly connected devices. We are not building new devices or gateways, that’s being done by the likes of Qualcomm, Samsung and Verizon. Instead, we’ll be the world’s first FDA-approved and CE-marked machine learning system for wireless biosensor analytics. So keeping people out of hospital, noticing changes in their health and interpreting data in the same way that expert clinicians do when you’re in intensive care.
Believe it or not, there is no approved system in the world that does anything more than an alert based on crossing a simple line. Very, very primitive heuristics. If you’re in intensive care, we look at you in a much more sophisticated manner than a simple line crossing. Teams of clinicians build up patterns: individual biological signatures, as it were, of how you’re progressing, what you do during the night or morning, what happens when we give you certain drugs. Those extraordinarily subtle pattern recognitions — the sorts of things that go on inside a clinicians head — are exactly what we’re building for the first time in machines.
This trend for sensors and big data sets is a huge trend in health at the moment. What’s the end goal from your perspective?
The end goal is to solve the grand challenge of the crisis facing health care, which is the rising burden of chronic disease, and reducing both unnecessary disease progression and avoidable hospitalisations. In the States that’s a $100 billion (£59.8 billion) a year problem and in the UK about a £20 billion a year problem. It is our job really, as technology innovators, to mobilise the amazing amount of stuff that’s gone into the miniaturisation of healthcare devices and turn that into actionable data, which can help us make decisions, not just give us false alerts.
We’re heading towards a world where people can truly input the information about themselves in order to really transform the way we practice medicine. My phrase is, if you see a patient once a year, you spend one hour listening to them and over the rest of the year you spend 8,900 hours not listening to them. What this will enable us to do is to listen the whole time to the lives and bodies of patients, and then be able to make actions, personalisable to those individuals.
You mentioned people suffering from chronic illnesses, but surely this technology will be adopted by those interested in the quantified self first?
The consumer health market is huge — the corporate health market is probably a trillion dollar business — from keeping people productive and working, to individuals keeping themselves happy and well. The main issue is, who’s going to pay for it? There’s only a limited number of people today who engage with their health. Fuelbands, Fitbits et cetera are growing in popularity, but they’re still very much for the quantified self crowd. The real question is: can we take those people who are interested in the technology when they’re not ill and commoditise the [health-based] wearables? This could enable us to solve the really big challenges for medicine.
You’ve been described as a high altitude specialist. What does that entail and how does it tie-in with your other work?
My area of speciality is high altitude medicine. It’s an area of extreme conditions medicine. We help people who want to climb up very high mountains. My particular area of interest is in high risk and high profile expeditions, so individuals who’ve maybe not been up mountains before but want to go high. It’s how I’ve come into contact with a lot of the wireless and wearable sensor technology, well before it became commoditised.
I’ve done a lot of Kilimanjaro expeditions. I’ve prepped some of the most unlikely folk for Everest and the Seven Summits. The altitude guys at my place got the first Qatari guy and Saudi woman up Everest. We did the Sport Relief expedition to Kilimanjaro and generally taken some very interesting people to places they wouldn’t have normally made it to.
What are the other trends you see blowing up at the moment?
Genomics, stem cell banking, personalised biology, personalised oncology, nanotechnology, 3D-printing, and basically computational medicine as a whole. Not broad evidence-based medicine, but personalised data-based medicine. That’s the way we’re going to be moving.
And there’s going to be a lot of movement in understanding unstructured data and natural language processing. IBM Watson’s chief medical scientist, Dr Martin Kohn, has now left IBM to join my group and we’re really working at the edge of how humans interpret data as experts.
Jack Kreindler will be appearing at Wired Health, on April 29, 2014. Tickets are on sale now: see wired.co.uk/health14 for a full speaker list and further information. Wired subscribers receive a 15 percent discount.
Read the article at wired.co.uk