Technology as an Instigator for Healthcare Improvement

By Tony Reed, CMO, Temple University Hospital

Tony Reed is a family Medicine and Sports Medicine physician with extensive experience as a program developer, educator, and health system leader. Expertise in leadership development, medical staff operations, provider performance evaluation, quality improvement, and innovation. Tony Reed teaches change management through leadership to physicians and health system science to students and residents. O, Temple University Hospital

The current scenario around personal wellness and health well-being is the result of ever-changing technological space and the pace of change in the medical sector. Today, individuals rely more on quick readings delivered by wearable and heart monitors, rather than fixing an appointment with the doctor. While the traditional practice of consulting a medical practitioner is still prevalent, technology has brought the healthcare world at every person’s fingertips and enhanced the customer experience and engagement. On the other hand, technology also functions as an instigator for improving healthcare workers’ overall professional experience. All in all, the adoption of technological inventions in medical practices has revolutionized the otherwise conventional sector that still highly relies on appointment and in-person consultation.

In a conversation with MedTech Outlook, the Chief Medical Officer of Temple University Hospital, Tony Reed highlights the multifaceted benefit of technology in healthcare space and how hospitals and pharmaceutical firms are leveraging it. Reed further goes on to mention the challenges that often accompany any new technology and how the solution to such issues is also hidden within the techniques that firms adopt.

“The day we achieve the accuracy of the robot arm and the human mind working together to receive an optimal outcome that would be the future”

What are the challenges that you have witnessed in the Medtech space?

The biggest challenge currently in Medtech space is the pace of change. Innovation, development, technology growth and tools are happening faster than ever. The healthcare industry tends to drive on such a small profit margin that we have to pick and choose where investment will generate significant ROI. While there is a wealth of technology in the market that is impacting the Medtech space, companies need to ensure that their investment in such technologies translates into resourceful growth.

Another major challenge that has been quite significant in healthcare is patient data security. Presently, we have arrived at a point where the more we adopt consumer-driven technology, the more we push the interfaces out to the humans we serve, the more opportunity it is for fraudsters to intercept those messages. For instance, consider a smartphone that collects data such as your passwords and biometrics and try to upload that in a hospital service provider system. If that transmission is not secure, it creates a tunnel for hackers to exploit and steal the information. Our challenge is to figure out how to remain open and receptive to consumer-driven input while protecting the data available in the record.

Kindly highlight the trends that you have seen emerge in the Medtech space.

As far as trends go, at-home health services have experienced high traction in the last couple of years. Telemedicine, wearable devices, and consumer-driven products are just a few methods that offer users their assessment to build differential diagnosis before contacting the healthcare industry. Even the advancement of robots in performing healthcare procedures, be it an out-patient or in-patient procedure, can be achieved through technology. In a nutshell, our focus is to keep up with the trends and provide on-demand services that leave a great impact on the consumers.

Could you walk us through your role and responsibility at Temple University Hospital? Are there any projects you are currently overlooking?

As the CMO, my ultimate responsibility is ensuring safety, quality, experience, cost, performance, and other outcome-driven methods that complement the entire chain of our delivery system. My work also consists of the operations that come under the hospital umbrella, including a number of practices as well.

Presently, I have two projects in operations that are cutting-edge for our hospital.

The first one is the access to health professionals. It is no doubt that users are used to security techniques, such as username, passwords and pin codes. Today, even biometric driven systems, single sign-on, and single point of entry enable providers to securely access the healthcare records. However, for a person like me, who practices medicine in the out-patient world and meets an average of 30 patients a day, accessing records by using username and password and logging into the system frequently becomes hectic and cumbersome. So, the idea is to connect everything either through a hub or an active directory. By getting them connected through a metric or biometric technology, everyone’s work is made easier while still being secure. There are also places where users can walk into the medical center and the proximity sensor can pick up their presence and log them in. I would love to get to that place someday.

Another project that I’m overseeing is focused around social determinants of health. We have spent the last five years learning about how a patient’s environment impacts their health and well-being. For instance, a study discovered that people who stay around North Philadelphia live an average of 20 to 30 years shorter than those who live down in South Philadelphia. Just simply by where they live, their life expectancy changes by 20 to 30 years. It has nothing to do with genetics, it is purely the environment. Other social factors that determine a person’s health are safety, and access to housing and quality food. Now, we are implementing tools not only to identify social determinants that are impacting health conditions but also to give us an indication of what the best measures would be to tackle such issues. These tools also reduce manual processes.

For example, many organizations are helping patients with food insecurity to find food banks that sell healthy, organic, and quality products. These companies leverage the computer and other software to connect the patients with the food bank. It is connecting patients to resources in ways that are no longer manual processes. Similarly, when I prescribe the drugs, the tools and software will notify me about the other less expensive alternative drug for that therapy and also help me sort out the pharmacy that provides medicines at lower prices.

How is the MedTech expected to evolve in a couple of years?

I think we are at the cusp of making a difference in patient safety using technology. Automated machines in the lab where blood tubes are stored and the bar code on it reads exactly what test is to be run for which patient; the tubes then go through the processor and pop up in patient’s records with the results.

In the operation room(OR), the advancements and development of robots have been incredible. However, the robots used for surgery still have a human operator, which maybe eliminated with further progress. For instance, in the aviation sector, the autopilot can take complete control and reach the destination. In some cases, autonomous flights have an automatic landing system. All of these are programmed in advance by humans. Now, imagine a surgeon programming a robot in advance to follow a specific and discreet pattern, then overseeing and monitoring the robot, and making adjustments to ensure that robots perform delicate operations without errors. The day we achieve the accuracy of the robot arm and the human mind working together to receive an optimal outcome that would be the future.

Even in the education space, the use of AR and VR are driving transformation in medical school. Through such techniques, medical students and professors are empowered to explore the depths of human organs in real-time and trace it to every inch.

What advice would you give to other CMOs and CIOs in the Medtech space?

Prior to being appointed as CMO at Temple University Hospital, I was a CMIO and had worked closely with CISOs where I was a part of “HIPAA police” to figure out how to build technology in a way that complements a medical practice. So, the advice I would give to CISOsis to partner with the clinical team, whether they are CMO, CMIO, or an informatics officer. They all play a unique role.

A CMO wants to be progressive and develop the next greatest thing in the patient safety environment. On the other hand, a CMIO brings all the crew, gadgets and gizmos, and devices to the partnership. The CISO listens to all of that and proposes a safe manner of implementing the ideas and using the tools. This is how we protect our patients’ data from a breach. The Chief Nursing Officer tends to look for how the workload can be reduced for the staff. Everybody has an equal role to play in that; we need only build out that kind of partnership to be successful. Therefore, always focus on forging a strong and reliable partnership that paves a pathforward.