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Five Facts to Know about Convergence in Healthcare

Five Facts to Know about Convergence in Healthcare

Since 2011, Convergence in Healthcare has been an important topic of discussion among professionals in the medical community — many of whom consider it the third revolution of the life sciences. Academics from some of the top research institutions in the US contend that Convergence in Healthcare is the future of medicine, and to ignore its potential is to limit future innovations in the way physicians diagnose, treat and prevent illness. Listed below are five facts about Convergence in Healthcare that everyone should know to better understand what it is and how it may change human health for the better.

 

  1. Convergence is a concept that can be applied to many areas of science, technology and business.

It’s important to acknowledge that convergence is occurring across virtually every industry today. According to the National Science Foundation (NSF), convergence is a research method “driven by a specific and compelling problem” which demands “deep integration across disciplines.” At its core, convergence is a method through which researchers from diverse academic disciplines may more effectively communicate, exchange ideas and cooperatively problem-solve to find innovative solutions to the world’s most complex health problems.

 

  1. Convergence in Healthcare was first detailed by MIT scientists in 2011.

Convergence as it applies to the biomedical industry was first articulated by a group of 12 researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in a 2011 white paper on the subject. The report lauded convergence as “the result of true intellectual cross-pollination” and “a blueprint for innovation,” and described it as “the coming together of different fields of study — particularly engineering, physical sciences and life sciences.”

In 2016, academics from MIT alongside a collection of scientists from other top universities expanded on the concept in the white paper “Convergence: The Future of Health.” This report improved on the initial idea of convergence between the physical sciences, life sciences and engineering to also include chemistry, mathematics and computing. In addition, it provided a number of detailed examples of Convergence in Healthcare already at work and offered insight into which areas of medicine might be best served through its application. Thanks to the early work of MIT and other institutions, Convergence in Healthcare has since gained support from major funding organizations such as the NSF and the National Institutes of Health.

 

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  1. Experts believe convergence is a key factor in the future of medicine.

As stated in the 2016 MIT report, scientists believe that taking a convergent approach to medical research could solve some of the most difficult issues in medicine today. These include the need for greater understanding of the human brain and its processes, better ways to treat and prevent infectious disease, more effective approaches to cancer diagnosis and treatment and improvements in the study, management and prevention of common chronic diseases such as stroke, diabetes and heart disease.

To demonstrate Convergence in Healthcare’s potential, the same white paper outlines the ways in which a convergent approach to biomedical research has already yielded promising results. These include advances in the areas of molecular, whole organ and whole body imaging; new developments in nanotechnology for drug therapies; regenerative medicine, and personalized healthcare for patients. More detailed information about the impact of convergence on these areas of medicine may be found by reading the white paper here.

 

  1. Many countries are already benefiting from convergent research.

Whereas American investment in medical innovation has declined over the last 15 years, other countries have been doubling down on pioneering biomedical research in terms of both funding and willingness to deviate from tradition. The US made up 57 percent of the world’s total medical research and development spending in 2004; that number had shrunk by 13 percent just a decade later, with most of the difference made up by countries on the Asian continent. In the same time period, Asia as a whole increased its spending on medical R&D by nearly 10 percent annually.

What’s more, these same countries are not just widening the scope of their medical research through ample funding, but are allocating some funds specifically to convergence-based research initiatives. Take, for example, the China International Nanotech Innovation Park, a joint public-private venture under the Chinese government’s oversight. The project created a research park where Convergence in Healthcare naturally arises as a result of the academic laboratories, private research institutions and corporate research and development centers all dedicated to nanotechnology operating in a shared space.

The bold propagation of large-scale projects such as the innovation park, which are convergent in nature, are one of the reasons many in the American medical community believe China is poised to become the world leader in medical R&D within the next decade — especially if US funding priorities do not change.

 

 

  1. The future of convergence in the US will require participation from many stakeholders.

Unfortunately, the current approach to medical research and development taken by the US government and the medical industry will not allow the country to remain competitive as a healthcare innovator. However, widespread support for convergence-based healthcare research could create pivotal change.

MIT leadership lists a “robust, steady, and sustained boost to the NIH budget above inflationary levels” as a key factor in the growth of Convergence in Healthcare, as well as the promotion of convergence internally at agencies like the NSF, Department of Energy, Department of Defense (including DARPA), and the Food and Drug Administration. At the academic and industrial level, the MIT report encourages more cross-departmental collaboration between the sciences, including the establishment of graduate programs and professional departments specifically dedicated to convergent research. Other recommendations include a significant increase in the number of grants and research awards available exclusively for projects that combine principles from two or more scientific disciplines.

The Most Exciting Convergent Medical Innovations of the Year

The Most Exciting Convergent Medical Innovations of the Year

In the US, many academic researchers hold the belief that Convergence in Healthcare is the only way for America to remain a leading competitor in medical innovation on an international scale. In spite of evidence supporting its dynamic value, the convergence movement continues to struggle with issues at the educational, governmental and industrial levels in… Continue Reading

The True Value of Technology in the Convergence in Healthcare Movement

The True Value of Technology in the Convergence in Healthcare Movement

The Convergence in Healthcare movement is rooted in the integration of skilled professionals from a collection of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sectors, including life sciences, physical sciences, chemistry and computing. Academic leaders and other pundits in the medical field believe the best opportunity for innovation in medicine is the reinvention of the traditional… Continue Reading

Three Ways Smartphones May Be the Health Tool of the Future

Three Ways Smartphones May Be the Health Tool of the Future

Since the mid-1970s, the world has been in a state of technology-driven development known as the Information (or Digital) Age, generally characterized by the development of innovative tools to allow people to transmit increasingly large amounts of data and information at faster rates. The Internet is often singled out as the most defining element of… Continue Reading

This is What You Need to Know about the Future of Alzheimer’s and Convergence in Healthcare

This is What You Need to Know about the Future of Alzheimer’s and Convergence in Healthcare

America has a large number of medical research facilities employing top scientists. However, the U.S. government’s funding of life-saving research programs has declined in the past 15 years. The traditional scientific research model is failing to innovate at a pace to meet global health needs. Without a new approach, the U.S. medical research community is… Continue Reading

Three Powerful Ways to Support Convergence in Healthcare

Three Powerful Ways to Support Convergence in Healthcare

According to leaders at prestigious U.S. universities, American medical research and development is at a crossroads. For more than a century, the U.S. has been a leader in medical innovation, but today the country is struggling to compete with nations embracing the concept of Convergence in Healthcare. As defined in “Convergence: The Future of Health,”… Continue Reading

This Is How the National Science Foundation Benefits Convergence in Healthcare

This Is How the National Science Foundation Benefits Convergence in Healthcare

In 1950, the U.S. government established the National Science Foundation (NSF), a federal agency “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; [and] to secure the national defense.” Since then, the NSF has, by its own admission, been at the forefront of support for “high risk, high reward” research.… Continue Reading

How This Simple Cancer Test Could Save Lives

How This Simple Cancer Test Could Save Lives

In the report “Convergence: The Future of Health,” academics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and other top U.S. universities collaborated to outline the potential impact of the Convergence in Healthcare movement. In this white paper, Convergence in Healthcare is defined as the intersection of the life sciences, physical sciences, chemistry, mathematics, computing and… Continue Reading

The Convergence in Healthcare Timeline

The Convergence in Healthcare Timeline

Convergence in Healthcare is based on a whitepaper produced in 2016 by faculty members at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The movement is likely to provide biomedicine with the support necessary to meet a growing global need for the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of illness in humans. The movement is best described as the… Continue Reading

What You Need to Know about IT and Convergence in Healthcare

What You Need to Know about IT and Convergence in Healthcare

According to a report published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2016, the future of the medical sector hinges on Convergence in Healthcare, a movement aiming to encourage the integration of concepts from the life sciences, chemistry, physical sciences, information technology (IT) and engineering sectors to accelerate innovation in research. Though each of… Continue Reading