Curbside Consults Podcast

Published November 7, 2019

In the summer of 2019, the medical community was faced with a mysterious series of acute and severe lung illnesses linked to e-cigarette use. In this episode of Curbside Consults, Dr. John Brownstein, chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital, discusses how his research group mines online data in an attempt to detect such outbreaks sooner, using vaping-associated lung disease as an example.

00:00 – Introduction
00:23 – Welcome new fellows!
02:45 – A vaping-associated lung disease
04:20 – What is real-time digital surveillance?
05:31 – How do you filter out real data from background noise?
06:45 – What has digital surveillance told us about the epidemiology of vaping-associated lung disease?
08:22 – How does this illness compare to other recent outbreaks?
09:30 – What should we expect as this outbreak unfolds?
10:24 – What other kinds of diseases are being monitored?
12:38 – Can real-time digital surveillance help with causality?
13:16 – How does higher level data mining impact patient privacy?
14:24 – What is the future of digital surveillance?
16:10 – Takeaways and Conclusion

Resources and articles discussed in this episode:

1. Hswen Y and Brownstein JS. Real-Time Digital Surveillance of Vaping-Induced Pulmonary Disease. N Engl J Med 2019.
2. Layden JE et al. Pulmonary Illness Related to E-Cigarette Use in Illinois and Wisconsin — Preliminary Report. N Engl J Med 2019.

The Curbside Consults series complements the foundational information in Rotation Prep by taking a deep dive into key clinical topics with expert clinicians and educators. These podcasts explore and critique the evidence behind clinical practice and break down statistical concepts for the busy clinical trainee.

John Brownstein, PhD is Professor of Biomedical Informatics at Harvard Medical School and Chief Innovation Officer at Boston Children’s Hospital. He directs the Computational Epidemiology Lab and the Innovation and Digital Health Accelerator at Children’s Hospital Boston. He was trained as an epidemiologist at Yale University. Dr. Brownstein is also the healthcare advisor for Uber and cofounder of digital health companies Epidemico and Circulation.
Ahmad is a 2019-2020 editorial fellow at the New England Journal of Medicine. He is from Toronto, Canada where he is completing his training in pulmonary medicine at the University of Toronto.
NEJM Knowledge+