Eric Topol gives Stephen Colbert an ear exam and other Colbert Show highlights (video)

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20130327_015908(1)What better way to make use of having a doctor on your talk show then getting an exam from him? Stephen Colbert took every advantage when he hosted cardiologist Dr. Eric Topol, chief academic officer of Scripps Health, who appeared on The Colbert Report to promote his book, The Creative Destruction of Medicine.

Anticipation was high on what would happen when the medical rock star mixed with the satirical conservative comedian. Would Topol have the opportunity to use his armory of smartphone medical devices to save another life? Instead, he settled for a medtech show and tell, conducting an ear exam on the host who is recovering from a burst eardrum. He used CellScope to do the exam, giving viewers in the studio and at home a close-up of Colbert’s inner ear canal to the groans of audience members. “Can I get a colonoscopy with that?” Colbert quipped.

Topol demonstrated two other ways smartphones could be converted into medical devices — AliveCor and Sotera Wireless’ VISI Mobile, giving them along with CellScope some decent airtime which should alleviate the companies’ marketing expenses a bit. One of the funniest comments came as Colbert’s sized up Topol as he used the VISI Mobil device to read his blood pressure and oxygen levels, remarking: “Are you Dick Tracy?” I was waiting for the Inspector Gadget comparisons that never came.

Colbert even dipped his toes into the physician-technology debate. “I have a smartphone. Am I a doctor?” Topol explained in the short time he had the power of mobile health and remote monitoring to improve outcomes. If medtech has the power to make physicians jobs more efficient, as Vinod Khosla argues, it can also make for amusing and more interactive props for comedy.


Emphasizing the remote monitoring and sensor advancements at Scripps, Topol said it would be coming out with a ring tone synced with a remote monitor that would alert users if a heart attack was imminent. Tapping into the question of what insurance companies and other parties would do with that information Colbert quipped: “Will I get a text message asking me if I want 20 percent off caskets?” Topol may have laughed it off, but it’s definitely a topic that bears more discussion.

Topol got a pretty strong audience reaction — here’s a link to his segment on Colbert. Hopefully that will mean more health tech guests on the show in future.

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Stephanie Baum

By Stephanie Baum

Stephanie Baum is the East Coast Innovation Reporter for She enjoys covering healthcare startups across health IT, drug development and medical devices and innovations deployed to improve medical care. She graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania and has worked across radio, print and video. She's written for The Christian Science Monitor, Dow Jones & Co. and United Business Media.
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Whether you want to call it quantified self, connected health, or wearable health  – it’s a space to watch. I work for Continuum, a global design and innovation consultancy, and my colleague Kevin Young was on Bloomberg TV last week discussing the growth of wearable health and how it can be broken down into three parts:  the device, the data, and the experience. You can read a recap on our website here: