A time beyond all this

Public health is important. Let’s fortify it.

One day, though it is difficult to picture, the air will seem a little less toxic. Enclosed spaces will feel less suffocating. Hugs will, once again, be comforting—not harmful. The world will open up. We will bloom.

And our collective umbrella of medical professionals will continue to report to work, undaunted. But will their workplace look the same? Should it? 

This month, we have collected three talks from the TEDxTUM stage that highlight the importance of examining our healthcare system—before, during, and after a crisis.

Pedro Oliveira: How patient innovation improves lives

When we’re sick, we trust medical teams to take care of us in the best way they know how. But sometimes, the space between “how it’s always been done” and “how we go further” is a little too far.

Sometimes, patients and caregivers step in to close the gap.

“Just imagine that 8% of the patients out there, in fact, did something new for themselves. This is amazing because suddenly, we are talking about millions of people.”

– Pedro Oliveira

As Pedro Oliveira illustrates in his talk at TEDxTUM from 2015, listening to patients in the healthcare field should go beyond the intention of how best to care for them—sometimes, putting the patient in the driver’s seat is key. When patients and their caregivers came forward with creative solutions for difficult diagnoses, the results were unprecedented. 

Pedro goes on to explain that he and his colleagues founded an all-in-one database for ideas: a network to share lifesaving devices and techniques around the world. Whether it’s a kid’s backpack designed to camouflage an IV or the act of jumping on a trampoline to relieve chest pain from cystic fibrosis, this platform has unconventional ideas from fresh minds working to overcome crucial challenges.

Sabine Kobayter: A health system that works for everybody

In a country with tens of millions of people, why are we relying on a healthcare system that isn’t more customizable? 

Maybe at this point, the ability to tailor one’s own healthcare experience seems frivolous. Health professionals at all levels are pushed to their limits, and hospitals, care clinics, and doctor’s offices are overloaded. Beyond the current crisis…at a time when we need to move past analog record-keeping and fax-machine correspondence, why even speak of skipping ahead to a system so complex? Why not make progress one step at a time?

Sabine Kobayter believes that it’s not only possible, but necessary.

“So we have a disease that is actually curable, we know who we need to treat, but we’re not treating them effectively. Now that’s a cause for concern.”

– Sabine Kobayter

Sabine takes a bold stance in her 2016 talk at TEDxTUM, highlighting just one treatable illness—and the fallacy of why it’s still prevalent. Her argument asks us to reimagine the healthcare system: not as it is today, but what it could be in a time after all this. 

With just one scenario, Sabine sketches the beginning of patient care that we haven’t seen yet—but one that we have the tools, the acumen, the resources, and the drive to build from here.

Thomas Bock: The robotic future of elderly care

It makes sense to believe that in the future, automation will take hold of most caregiving positions. Science fiction has primed us to believe that we will have robotic housekeepers and, in some distant year we can’t quite picture, fully-automated healthcare machines at our beck and call. Surgeons currently perform operations with robotic arms from faraway places, so it’s not such a strange idea to believe that a robot could take care of us in our later decades.

But what if it wasn’t just a singular robot?

“We don’t develop such service robots, but we make the environment robotic, or mechatronic. So the functions are in such a way that the walls, the floors, the ceilings, the whole room becomes a whole robot in itself.”

– Thomas Bock

Through years of work with his team of colleagues, Professor Thomas Bock has designed smart living solutions for our older population—literally. In a 2017 talk session at TEDxTUM with Dr. Dora Dzvonyar, Thomas outlined the ways that he and his team have worked to design systems that are geared not only toward the needs of those who are advancing in age, but preserve their dignity and independent way of life.  

The pandemic has forced us to reckon with how we treat our older adults. We’ve placed them at the forefront in our hearts and minds now, but what about later?