Technology Transforming A Physician’s Day in Practice

Technology has serendipitously permeated each and every aspect of our life, faster and deeper than we realize. Fair to say, technology has become a physician’s right-hand man.

One early morning as I drive to my hospital, I’m hit with a long list of patients that were admitted over the weekend. I step into my office, login to my desktop, and after a painful array of password entries, open my outpatient clinical EMR, scheduling portal, email, inpatient EMR, and a few others browsers. Yes, now I am ready to do what I was best trained to do and care for an actual patient.

Does this situation sound familiar? If so, you don’t have to be alone in this quest to provide good patient care while maintaining personal sanity.

Now imagine there was a mobile application which kept an updated list of all my patients; using Bluetooth connected car speakers, provided a synopsis on patients as I drove into that parking lot. A mobile rounding solution helped me round as I walk from room-to-room, taking notes, placing orders as I “order my virtual assistant.”

The practice of medicine poses unique challenges, not seen with many other industries. It portends a journey that starts with prevention, diagnosis, providing treatment options, and finally, offering continued care. A physician becomes a life-long friend and caretaker of a patient.

In addition to caring for patients, we are accountable to the payers, hospitals, and we navigate the complex world of pathways and other regulatory nuances.

So how can technology help?

1. Storage
The best known and oldest use case is electronic medical records. The EMR marketed has been dominated by the likes of like Epic, Cerner, Allscripts, NextGen, eClinicalWorks. Emerging companies like Practice Fusion, athenaHealth, and others are disrupting the milieu by providing unique bells and whistles. We are now in the era of ‘smart EMR’ where an intelligent engine can analyze patient data in real-time and provide active guidance and recommendations to the treating physician.

2. Access
Healthcare access transcends all boundaries–geographic and demographic–in the age of Telemedicine and mobile health. Lewisville-based Teladoc and several other major telehealth companies are changing the paradigm how care is delivered and consumed.

3. Information
The medical or healthcare information providing platforms like WebMD and Uptodate are increasing the accessibility of the information that allows the physicians to gain knowledge about various medical conditions and also may help them to take further decisions.

4. Precision
Bolstered by novel biotechnology concepts and less invasive surgical techniques like the Da Vinci Robotic Surgery System, procedural complications are on a decline while improving precision and specificity. Wearable technologies are helping not just document findings but personalize therapy. Market is flush with sophisticated gadgets like Scanadu Scout, Google Glass, and Ekso Bionics.

5. Cost control
The U.S. healthcare expenditure has reached $2.9 trillion, and is forecasted to reach a record-breaking $3.78 trillion by 2018. Advancement of technologies in healthcare may help to reduce the cost of healthcare services. Point of care testing in many aspects continues to revolutionize medicine and offer cheaper care. If future vision is to be believed, then self-diagnosing blood and serum analyzers are going to be part of our day-to-day household item reducing the need for further clinical diagnosis in some cases.

6. Security
As evidenced by recent security breaches into the VA healthcare system and others, the need of the hour is to create robust fire-walls and protocols to protect confidential information. Recent advances in data security services like HIPAA compliant cloud computing services and high level security encryption may reduce the risk to certain extent.

One of the disciplines technology has had a major impact is cancer care. From liquid biopsies that would one day replace actual tissue biopsies to Artificial Intelligence algorithms for cancer detection and management, we are just getting started. One of the many reasons behind high cost of drugs is the long and arduous process of drug development and the phenomenon of attrition. Technology could help by using in silico trials where an individualized computer simulation is used in the development or regulatory evaluation of a drug. This allows analyzing thousands of potential drugs on millions of physiological models with super computers, eventually expediting drug discovery.

Technology and medicine, felt to be distinct disciplines, are actually like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. They complete and complement each other.

Dr. Darshan Gandhi is executive director of innovation at Methodist Health System in Dallas. He has a special interest in healthcare innovation/entrepreneurship and is founder of DFW Health Entrepreneur Network and HealthEntrepreneur.com.

Posted in Expert Opinions.