15 Jul What Role Does Technology Play in Improving Our Model of Care?
A Q&A With Dr. Mark Blatt by Kay Eron
Mobile technology and its potential impact on healthcare is a hot topic, and for good reason. With new sensors, medical devices and end-to-end solutions constantly being unveiled as the “next big thing,” the growing focus on technology is understandable.
While mobile technology is key to improving anytime, anywhere access to care and reducing costs, personalized care, better patient outcomes and a new model of care will always rely on a personal and collaborative relationship between doctor and patient.
Recently, I sat down with Dr. Mark Blatt, a family physician and early adopter of technology prior to becoming Intel’s Worldwide Medical Director, to get his unique perspective on mobile device innovation, the patient-doctor experience and the potential impact on a new model of care.
Q: When you were practicing family medicine how did you view mobile technology and the role it could play in improving healthcare?
A: In the early 1990’s EMRs were just getting started. We had DT platforms in each room. The OSs did not yet have enough mobile productivity. I had just gotten a mobile phone and it made being on call much easier. Previously when I was on call, I knew where every pay phone in Harford County was. I walked around with a pocket full of 3x5 cards that described the conditions and medications for active patients. Mobile connectivity was still a dream.
Q: What is the biggest benefit that you feel mobile technology offers today?
A: It provides us with a tremendous amount of data and access to information we didn’t have before. All of the sensors, cameras and tablets help us gather information on a patient’s blood pressure, blood sugar and daily activities around the clock. We can now expand care virtually to rural areas, giving patients real-time access to specialized assessments they might not have been able to access before.
Q: If you were practicing today, how would you take advantage of technology?
A: As I mentioned, I think it’s a vital component to improving access to care, reducing costs and gathering data, but at the end of the day I would be focused on providing the best possible treatment to my patients. I would use this improved access and data as a guideline, and use my communication with the patient as the final filter to interpret the data and guide treatment.
I find the combination of a video visit and the data to be the most powerful. The data can give me numbers that may be alarming in and of themselves, but when I can talk to a patient and they tell me they are doing fine, then I get a better understanding of the data and what it may mean. This provides context around the data. The data will give you the long answer, or it could be noise. Video conferencing helps physicians filter out noise or non-relevant data.
That’s why remote patient monitoring (RPM) has had a difficult time taking off, it doesn’t provide a complete picture. I think we need to build our non-face-to-face solutions so they are scalable and interactive. We need to be able to interact with patients in a creative fashion.
Q: It’s no secret that face-to-face healthcare has become increasingly expensive. How can mobile technology help?
A: People often mention reimbursement as a fundamental reason, but in reality, those barriers are crumbling. The cost of producing a telehealth visit has dropped dramatically, it’s roughly half the cost of a face-to-face visit. We have very nice hospitals and clinics in this country and they all contain very expensive medical equipment. There is also operating costs associated, like electricity, maintenance and staffing. Technology will allow healthcare professionals to reduce a large portion of these costs, passing that savings on to the consumer. Because of this the “self-pay” patient is a rapidly developing business model and because it is more affordable, people are moving away from pay parity.
I think we are at the beginning of a dramatic curve. In the next three years I see mobile technology and telehealth services growing substantially. The ease and convenience of non-face-to-face mechanisms will create service offerings among entrepreneurs that will rapidly touch consumer’s hearts and minds. This is what we do for movies, transportation and eventually it will be that way for healthcare.
Q: For technology to make an impact on the cost of care we need to improve adoption among healthcare professionals and consumers. How do you see this happening?
A: First we need policy to get out of the way. We need policy to be neutral and remove roadblocks. Teladoc’s recent court battle in Texas is a prime example.
When it comes to consumers, we need to help generate the demand. Right now they’re not thinking about telehealth options. We need to raise awareness and share examples of where it’s being done. We need to continue advocating for our partners that are using Intel architecture-based devices to implement video conferencing into their offerings.
The mobile phone, tablets and medical device market isn’t slowing down. Intel has tremendous opportunity in the data acquisition devices, back end, with the cloud, analytics and virtualization.
For healthcare professionals, we need to make sure the technology is easy to learn and use, so they can adopt and ramp up quickly. They don’t want technology to get in the way of the doctor-patient interaction. We can accomplish this by delivering technology that has an easy-to-use interface, helping them to work faster and spend more time with their patients.
What questions do you have?