On Saturday, the 22nd of February 2020, I had the incredible pleasure to attend the very first National MedTech Conference which was hosted by Imperial College at the Sir Alexander Fleming Building. As a newcomer to conferences and to the field of medical technology, I was initially hesitant to what the day would offer. However, this feeling quickly retreated as I was met with warm smiles from the committee members from leading MedTech Societies across the UK, including our very own HYMS MedTech Society!
Over the course of the day, I was delighted to listen to talks by highly esteemed individuals who had made a significant mark in their respective industries with the use of technology. From the implementation of virtual reality for medical students in their anatomy teaching, to research done at the European Space Agency (ESA) about stress on the human body caused by gravitational changes, I was able to learn and discuss the current climate of technology in healthcare and its future in the coming years.
Dr Sam Shah
The first keynote speaker of the day was Dr Sam Shah, who is one of the top 100 most influential Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) leaders in the UK tech sector. Dr Shah was able to convey his knowledge on the use of technology in the NHS by using his experience of his recent appointment as the Director of Digital Development for NHSx. During Dr Shah’s talk, he touched upon the inequalities which exist in healthcare in relation to technological innovation. I was surprised to learn about the proportion of individuals who do not have access to an internet connection, which was compounded with the realisation to the lack of solutions to this problem. Dr Shah allowed us to question ourselves on what the true aim of technology was in medicine; to which he concluded – the main aim of digital health is to allow clinicians to have more meaningful time with our patients. On a moment of reflection, I believe these words allowed for a beautiful end to our first talk.
Dr Diya Baker
Later in the day, we were introduced to Dr Diya Baker, an Academic Foundation Doctor who graduated from the University of Birmingham. I was enthusiastically looking forward to Dr Baker’s talk on virtual reality, as I was keen to hear how he is using this hi-tech solution which has an extremely wide scope. Dr Baker began his talk by teaching delegates on the basics of starting a business and bringing an idea to life. He showed us his ten simple steps to implement a project, starting from identifying an area of deficiency and finishing with correcting defects and evaluating the project. The explanation of his approach was aided by his useful tips and anecdotes during his time at medical school. This portion of his talk made me contemplate my own processes on implementing a project and further helped improve my process to which I am very grateful. In an interactive section of his talk, Dr Baker led the theatre in an exercise where he asked delegates to think about the potential uses of virtual reality in the field of medicine. Coincidentally, I was chosen to share my idea, to which I proposed the use of virtual reality for trainee surgeons who would benefit from this technology as it can be difficult for them to find time to scrub in on operations. Furthermore, during Dr Baker’s time at medical school, he developed a system that enabled students to use virtual reality to learn anatomy. His story left a deep impression on me as it showed that great ideas can be thought of and implemented at any stage of our professional careers. The one point in particular that stood out for me was when he spoke about the end stages of his virtual reality project and how he was able to persuade medical schools to use it to help students. This struck me as it demonstrated how one person can have such a great impact on the lives of so many other individuals through hard work.
At the end of the day, delegates enjoyed two short talks followed by spirited Q&A sessions from the audience which were led by Dr Sunir Gohil and Mr Nikhil Sehgal who both work with artificial intelligence (AI) in their respective fields.
Dr Sunir Gohil, a Clinical AI Product Manager for Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing and Research teams at Babylon walked the audience through a brief introduction on the inner workings of Babylon and the aim of the company. He was able to do this effectively by using the mission statement – putting an accessible and affordable health service in the hands of every person on earth – which was released by the company. Dr Gohil was able to use his experience of over 10 years to answer questions from delegates which helped to inform us about the basic concepts of AI and its use in the medical field. This included his explanation of how the AI used at Babylon is different to traditional machine learning systems. I was fortunate enough to ask Dr Gohil about the problem’s patients faced with the initial product, to which I received a detailed answer describing the difficulties the team had when trying to explain the AI’s diagnoses. This ultimately led the company to use an AI which worked on probabilities, so patients could understand the decision processes leading to their diagnosis. I thoroughly enjoyed Dr Gohil’s talk as he showed great enthusiasm throughout his talk and Q&A, engaging the audience with his charisma – even at the end of the day!
Mr Nikhil Sehgal is the co-founder and CEO of Vastmindz, an artificial intelligence company with a mission of improving individual health and wellness. Mr Sehgal presented one of his products which was able to record vital signs such as heart rate by using a user’s phone camera. He demonstrated this by recording the heart rate of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, while he answered questions from senators regarding Facebook’s role in elections. The comical end to his talk fuelled a lively Q&A session in which we learnt more about Mr Sehgal’s product and the aim of his company, which he stated was to provide accountable insights through AI-powered solutions.
Conclusion of event
The conference ended with a chance for delegates and speakers to network with each other. It was a truly awe-inspiring conference as I was able to become more acquainted with such a thriving sector of medicine which is predicted to make a larger footprint over the coming years. I was especially impressed with the knowledge and motivation in which all speakers presented with and hope they continue their impressive work. I hope the next conference is just as inviting and thought provoking as the organisers were able to make it this year.
Abdul Azam Rajper is a second year medical student at HYMS. He has a keen interest in surgery, medical technology and research. In his spare time, he enjoys reading and playing sports.