In September, NEC Corporation of America (NEC) sponsored a meet up, “Leveraging Technology and Innovation for Proactive Healthcare,” at the Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale, CA. The panel was moderated by Charlene Yu Vaughn, CEO, The Algonquin Group, and consisted of Dr. Andrew Auerbach, MD, MPH, director of innovation at the Center for Digital Health Innovation, and Professor of Medicine in Residence at UCSF; Drew Schiller, CTO and founder of Validic; Jason Roos, CTO, Stanford Medical Center; Matt Sarrel, MPH, technology analyst, epidemiologist, and founder of Sarrel Group; and Calvin Togashi, SVP/partner, Assigncorp/HealthQEC, formerly with Kaiser Permanente. More than 100 people attended the event.
The panel convened to discuss healthcare innovations and trends in healthcare-related product and service development. Panelists began with a discussion of the types of problems found in healthcare that can be solved by technology. Mr. Roos spoke about being “on the cutting edge, not the bleeding edge” and how the innovation center needs to evaluate technology solutions and how they work at scale, and whether the manufacturer/solution provider will support the solution for a long time. Dr. Auerbach spoke about governance and problem solving using technology. UCSF is particularly interested in technology that automates processes and saves the time of the physicians, administrators, and nurses. Mr. Togashi talked about the challenges faced when trying to introduce new technologies into a healthcare enterprise and how Kaiser placed an emphasis on always trying to improve patient care. Mr. Schiller talked about the need for entrepreneurs to constantly be working to solve problems with innovative solutions and the need for an agile development process that can constantly evolve.
The conversation then turned to streamlining provider-patient communication. Mr. Togashi talked about the projects he worked on at Kaiser where they targeted specific high-risk populations and found that good, timely communication could positively impact treatment outcomes. Dr. Auerbach discussed the need to communicate with patients across different communications methods, such as telephone, email, mail, and Facebook. Patients need access to their care team in flexible ways. At this point, Mr. Sarrel commented that it might be appropriate to compare patient-provider communications to retail communications in that they are omni-channel and systems should be designed to facilitate communication the way that the patient (or customer) wants it. The ultimate goal is to improve treatment outcomes so organizations should do whatever it takes to get helpful communication flowing back and forth between providers and patients.
Any discussion of provider-patient communication must involve discussing the role of care plans in patient care. The panel discussed different ways to use technology to communicate care plans to patients and their families who may be involved in care. This creates a need to communicate across different vectors and is typically asynchronous. Particular care needs to be paid to ensuring that care continues after the patient is discharged. Do patients know what to do once they leave the hospital? Where can they turn for additional information? Providers need to communicate effectively and efficiently.
The conversation continued and the panelists discussed the role of wearables in patient health. With more and more sensors on fitness bands and smart watches, there’s a growing need to gather and analyze data from wearables. The panel agreed that there’s a huge potential in wearables because they give the provider a chance to see a complete picture of the health of the patient. Most of the face to face time between providers and patients is spent communicating so if wearables can gather diagnostic information in advance of the visit then this can streamline and improve patient-provider communications.
The panel then took questions from the audience. Questions ranged from how IT can help providers and patients communicate better to what kinds of products we might see coming on the market in the near future. One question that was interesting was how technology could improve access to healthcare in underserved populations. The panel responded with mentions of telemedicine, patient portals, and communication via SMS. It’s important to bring patients and their families into the discussion with providers.
Overall, it was an informative panel with a free-ranging and comfortable discussion. The panelists concluded by thanking NEC, the sponsor of the discussion. NEC’s IERS database is a high performance, elastically scalable key value store with a SQL interpreter and Hadoop connectors. IERS is currently being used to improve patient-provider communication as the foundation of the Prompt Outreach patient messaging system.
*Matt Sarrel is a leading tech analyst and writer providing guest content for NEC.