From the ER to the doctor’s office, technology is changing how patients get information—and what they know about their health care.
The Atlantic’s inaugural Boston healthcare summit brought three startup execs together in a health tech panel. The event was held on June 13 in partnership with STAT News. Panelists were Jay Desai, CEO of PatientPing, Thomas Goetz, CEO of Iodine, and Jay Komarneni, Founder of the Human Diagnosis Project. The panelists spoke with Atlantic editor Ross Andersen about tech’s disruption of the healthcare system.
Goetz grabbed everyone’s attention from the get-go as an ex-journalist at an Atlantic-powered event. A former Wired editor who “jumped ship,” Goetz is now the CEO of Iodine, a crowdsourcing platform for drug information. Iodine aims to empower patients through access to clear, easy-to-read information about drugs—cost, side effects, concerns and other facts. Iodine also features reviews from patients, assigning each drug a score. “It should look like a better version of Drugs.com or Web MD,” Goetz said. “The stuff you see online is written more for lawyers than for people—lawyers are people, but you know what I’m saying,” he quipped.
Desai took the audience into the emergency room with his discussion of PatientPing, an app that notifies doctors in real time anytime their patients are admitted or discharged from a healthcare facility. These pings come in the form of texts, email or web notifications and can be shared among health providers. PatientPing hopes that a better connected network of healthcare providers will lead to improved care for patients.
“Patients get care from a lot of providers, and they don’t necessarily all the time work very well together,” Desai said. “Information doesn’t flow between providers. Information doesn’t flow between healthcare systems. We knew that to connect the healthcare system, you needed to start somewhere very simple, very straightforward.” When Andersen asked about surveillance concerns, Desai explained that notifying a provider that a patient is in the emergency room is legitimate under HIPPA, depending on state consent laws. Patients can also opt out of the service, he added.
Komarneni compared the Human Diagnosis Project to Wikipedia and Linux—it’s an open online system that uses machine learning to map best steps to help any patient and make any clinical decision. “We believe the essential question of human health and well-being is, ‘when you or someone you love isn’t well, what should be done?’” he said. “Ultimately, that’s the question that every single person who touches your care is answering.”
The Human Diagnosis Project aggregates insights from the global medical community and compiles them into a resource available to anyone. It uses plain or technical language depending on the user’s preference to distill a range of medical conditions and procedures. Komarneni signed off with a noteworthy question: “Doctors understand that artificial intelligence is coming to healthcare. The question is, do they want to lead that movement and be part of governing it? Or do they want to be pushed to the sidelines?”
The health tech panel brought patient-centered care to the forefront and looked to tech as a tool to help patients make more informed choices. It also highlighted the need for a deeper, sustained conversation among tech entrepreneurs, health providers, patients and other stakeholders, as technology prepares to change healthcare as we know it.
Amy Pollard is a candidate for the MA in Communication and International Relations at Boston University. Her interest in health care began with her first trip to Tanzania, where she volunteered at a medical dispensary in a rural village and saw firsthand how access to health care impacts patients. She’s excited to learn about health care technology in Boston. She’s originally from Seattle and holds a B.A. in English from Saint Martin’s University. When she’s not writing, she’s probably drinking coffee, making tacos or watching Parks and Rec. Follow her @amyannexu.
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