Case Studies

Forward Thinking

By David Downs, Bobbie Hartman, Monica Mehta, Christopher Null, and Kate Pavao

February 2010

Prognosis for Healthcare
How will your doctor treat you in the future—and will you even be in the same room?
In The Edge of Medicine: The Technology That Will Change Our Lives, Dr. William Hanson discusses groundbreaking advancements in healthcare ranging from proton beam therapy to miniaturization. Here, Hanson, a medical inventor and professor at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, talks to Profit about innovations that are expanding patients’ options—and why sitting in a doctor’s waiting room may soon be a thing of the past.

Profit: What medical innovations are you most excited about?

Hanson: Telemedicine can provide excellent medical care to people who aren’t necessarily close to it or currently don’t have access. I run the intensive care unit [ICU] telemedicine program at the University of Pennsylvania, but there are certainly other applications for telemedicine, from radiology to dermatology and maybe home care. There’s a big push on right now from companies that have home care appliances: you could integrate an appliance into your home that would allow you to monitor your own health if you have some medical problem—or even if you’re healthy and just want to take care of yourself.

Profit: What role do electronic records play in the future of healthcare?

Hanson: People have thought about the electronic healthcare record as an electronic reproduction of the paper record that’s more legible and that may have some decision support built into it. But I think that’s sort of shortsighted. I believe if you take a longer view, the electronic medical record is going to be like the internet for medicine, allowing you to acquire information from patients and marry it with medical information from X-rays or devices that monitor blood pressure or machines that administer treatment. Ideally, the electronic medical record will allow a single point of entry into electronic information, like X-rays and pathology slides, as well as stuff that happens to you in the hospital, such as data that’s acquired from electronic glucose and blood pressure monitors. In my ICU, we already have machines that do mechanical ventilation and give drugs and all that. All that information is currently very easy to port into the electronic medical record.

Profit: How will these changes impact the medical industry?

Hanson: I am about halfway through writing a book on what these technological changes will do to medical practices in the next couple of decades. There are going to have to be software agents that organize and format all this data in a way that somebody can digest and make some sense of. You can imagine a company that provides home healthcare services using software that sorts through the data and preprocesses it. Then the company’s employees, who are sitting in a command center, can use that data to reach out to home healthcare clients who need attention. That’s an example of a profession that’s going to evolve as a function of some of this new way of doing business.

Profit: Do you think advancements like telemedicine distance patients from providers?

Hanson: It’s conceivable that we would lose a lot of humanity in medical care with device-based stuff. We’re going to have to find a way to integrate technology with what’s essentially human about medical care. But if you think about the way technology is likely to go in terms of video communications between two people, I think it will be very much the same: we might just not have two people in the same room in the same place.

Speed Dating for Startups You’ve just come up with a new idea that’s sure to be as big as the iPhone—if only you could pitch it to the right person. To find that special someone, consider Venture2, a Florida-based firm that hooks up large companies with startups offering innovative technologies. Venture2’s program, Speed-dating for Innovation, offers an invited group of entrepreneurs the opportunity to meet with companies interested in going outside for new inventions. “So often, entrepreneurs and companies completely miss each other because they are from different worlds,” explains Mike Docherty, Venture2’s founder and CEO. “The notion of speed dating resonates because these people need to connect on a personal level.”

Entrepreneurs have 15 minutes with product development executives. If there’s a spark, they’ll move on to more in-depth “second dates.” To learn more about potential “dating opportunities,” visit

Sweet Dream Certain office celebrations call for more than just store-bought pie: when a prized employee is retiring after years of stellar service, for example, or the CIO just got promoted to CEO. To make the event even sweeter, call on Shinmin Li. Li runs San Francisco, California’s I Dream of Cake, a bakery specializing in personalized, hand-crafted edible art.

Li opened I Dream of Cake in 2003, after attending culinary school in Australia and working as a pastry chef at the noted San Francisco restaurant AQUA. She finds inspiration in everything she sees—a new display in the Gucci windows downtown or a wallpaper design. “I see the world through cake eyes,” she says. “I approach every cake project as an artist would approach a blank canvas and allow it to grow into what it wants to be.”

While Li bakes cakes of beautiful objects, she is most known for her couture pieces, including Prada purses, Jimmy Choo shoes, and True Religion jeans. She made a variety of fashion pieces for the opening of the Sex and the City movie, and she counts the Getty family and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison among her clients.

For more information, visit

Use Twitter to Connect with Your Local Gourmet Street Food Scene Here’s a food craze to plug into: use Twitter to connect to tech-savvy street food carts and trucks serving inventive—and inexpensive—dishes. In cities around the U.S., street chefs are cooking up tasty treats ranging from Korean barbecue tacos to Baileys-flavored crème brûlée.

San Francisco, California-based nutritionist and chef Kristin Hoppe, aka the Sexy Soup Lady, says she felt inspired to start serving street food after seeing carts rolling around her neighborhood last spring. “I thought, being inspired by this, I would come out and do my thing with the organic, local, healthy kind of food,” she remembers. She’s now ladling soup to the masses—US$3 servings of farm-fresh flavors ranging from ginger miso to roasted butternut squash apple. Now, nearly 3,000 Twitter users follow @SexySoupCart.

The spirit of innovation flavors each dish, an essential ingredient that Hoppe says can be addictive. “It’s very inspiring to come out and see people expressing themselves . . . and realizing that if you have an idea, anything is possible,” she says, adding that visiting street food carts might encourage diners to return to their own communities to start projects and pursue their own ideas.

Check out these foodies on the go:
Rickshaw Dumplings in New York City
Twitter account: @RickshawTruck

Kogi Korean BBQ taco trucks in Los Angeles, California
Twitter account: @kogibbq

The Crème Brûlée Man in San Francisco, California
Twitter account: @cremebruleecart

Whiffies Pie Cart in Portland, Oregon Twitter account: @Whiffies

Calling All Recyclers Corn isn’t just for popping. Turns out you can make cell phones from it too.

Samsung’s Reclaim doesn’t offer much out of the ordinary in the way of functionality. What’s unique is that this is a phone with green cred to spare.

The entire phone is made of 80 percent recyclable materials, and the case is crafted from a material that is 40 percent composed of a corn-based plastic. The phone has no polyvinyl chlorides (PVCs) or brominated flame retardants (BFRs)—both big no-no’s for the environment—in its innards, and even its packaging is as green as it gets. The box is made from largely recycled cardboard, and all printing is done with soy-based ink.

While some purportedly green plastics can feel oily to the touch, the Reclaim feels like any other phone you’ve had. It’s a pity, though, that the buttons are so small and difficult to work with—dialing a number or tapping out a text is usually an exercise in fingernail-typing, so leave the clippers at home. Audio quality on the phone is also not quite up to snuff, although the speakerphone sounds better than audio through the standard earpiece. On the plus side, photos look surprisingly good considering the relatively low resolution of the camera.

What’s better than the phone’s green aspirations? Its price tag: free when you sign up for a new Sprint service contract. To learn more, go to

Electric Vehicle Gets a Blast from the Past Ed Matula wanted to make an electric car, but when he was building one-of-a-kind cars and prototypes in the ’70s and ’80s, the technology was not ready. When he retired, he decided the time was right to return to his dream.

After looking into the electric-vehicle market and even driving a few, he decided to make something more exciting. Today, Matula makes custom-ordered hot rods called the eRoadsters, a scale 1932 Ford Hi-Boy Roadster, each of which takes up to four months to hand-assemble. Each eRoadster is priced at US$30,000.

“There are people who go out and spend [US]$25,000 for a custom golf cart, and at the end, they still have a golf cart,” he says, characterizing many of the e-vehicles currently on the road. His classic hot rod offers a different experience: topping off at 50 miles an hour, “it’s a nice little buzz around town,” he says.

For more information, visit

The GPS Express Lane: Crowd-source Your Traffic Reports Nowadays, everyone can get traffic updates about major highways from a spectrum of sources: Google Maps,, TomTom, and others. But 95 percent of mappable transit routes—the surface streets—have no traffic data at all.

Nokia has partnered with the University of California at Berkeley’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in an effort to turn cell phones into traffic sensors. Berkeley’s Mobile Millennium project is broadcasting detailed, real-time traffic data to test subjects, with detail reports down to the lane.

A downloadable program uses a cell phone’s GPS function to collect speed, location, and direction data about your drive. The program combines that anonymous information with data from other users and from road sensors, reconstructs the estimated “flow,” and beams a constantly updated map of surface traffic back to the phone. The network is currently limited to northern California; however, there are plans to expand the project to Southern California within the next year.

For information on how to sign up for the program, go to

Photography by Shutterstock