Interview with Dr. Kvedar: Patients hunger for health to be delivered on a modern platform

Posted on: 03.08.2017

Getting in touch with Dr.Kvedar has been an incredible opportunity to connect with a medical colleague whom I have so much to learn from. We inherently share values and recently took some time to ask him to reflect on how technology has influenced the way we do healthcare today.

Going back to your roots, how has medicine changed since you graduated from Medical School (more than 30 years ago)?

So much has changed. For example, when I was a student, we thought peptic ulcer disease was caused by stress, and antacids were the treatment. Then we went through a phase of treating with H2 blockers, then proton pump inhibitors; finally we understand peptic ulcer disease to be an infectious disease treatable with antibiotics! On the technology front, we’ve gone from primitive computer systems where a laboratory result might be accessed from an inpatient unit workstation, to a world where everything is in our EMRs. This has improved the quality of care, but also led to the burden of data input for clinicians. Finally, 30 years ago we did not have anything resembling mobile technology or wearables and, today, both of those categories are poised to revolutionise the delivery of healthcare, integrating health and wellness into your life in a continuous manner, rather than our episodic, visit-based method of the 20th century.

In your first book 'The Internet of Healthy Things' you have outlined the opportunity for an interconnected global network of inexpensive sensors, connected devices helping us achieve better health. We're in mid-2017, how far have we gone? And how do you see patients embracing this vision and creating value for care as envisioned in the upcoming eHealth Tallinn Conference?

It is amazing to see how much things have changed in the 1.5 years since we released The Internet of Healthy Things (IoHT). Some of the concepts we envisaged are in practice today. There is a new class of wearables, from companies such as Interaxon (Muse) and Spire that give users insight rather than just a number to track. In IoHT, we talked about big data and in just two years, that story has progressed to the realm of Artificial Intelligence. So many of the examples we cited or prophesied are coming to pass. Finally, there are a few examples of consumers trading wearables data for reduction in health insurance costs that was mentioned in Chapter 1 of 'The Internet of Healthy Things', and has now come to pass. Examples include UnitedHealth Group’s Motion program where folks trade evidence of increased physical activity for dollars in their health savings account. Another example is Walgreen’s Balance Rewards program that encourages users to link their wearable to their Walgreen’s account and thus enables consumers to be rewarded for healthy behaviors. Patients are embracing the vision faster than clinicians. They hunger for health to be delivered for them on a modern platform that functions similarly to Lyft, Uber or Amazon.

Can you tell us a bit more about your session at the eHealth Tallinn Conference this coming October?

The opportunity to speak to an audience of top European influencers is not to be taken lightly. My talk will pose the question of why we haven’t adopted connected health more readily in the past decades, and look at the underlying psychology of the importance of the doctor-patient relationship. My premise is that connected health adoption is low because we’ve done a poor job of integrating digital experiences with in-person experiences and when we get that integration right, as other in digital service delivery have, we will see a big increase in adoption.

You regularly publish through publications, blogs, social media. How do you manage to juggle all of these with your existing roles?

I am extremely fortunate to be inspired and learn something every day from interactions with my colleagues at Partners, outside collaborators and other stakeholders. In meetings, at conferences and through conversations, I gain important insights and perspectives that I am compelled to share with others. A big part of our mission at Partners Connected Health is to educate, inform and inspire the adoption of connected health. We do that by co-hosting the Connected Health Conference, my writings and, of course, social media. I also have a very dedicated and hard-working staff that contributes to our mission to advance the field.

One last question, how do you visualise the future of Healthcare I.T Professionals education in the age of Connected Health?

At the moment, I am writing a new book, The New Mobile Age, that looks at how digital technologies are creating a new kind of old, enabling individuals to remain vital, engaged and independent through their later years. One of the important points of the book is that digital technologies need to be designed for a specific population -- older adults and their caregivers, in this case. We can't just create devices based on what technologists and app developers think people want. Connected health tools need to be intuitive, personalised and 'sticky,' so that we can integrate health and wellness into our everyday lives. Hence, the folks designing these technologies need to approach their work through the lens of the individual/population they are designing for, and create an easy-to-use device that can motivate individuals to make healthy lifestyle choices. We always urge health IT professionals to study, really understand and integrate things like behavioral science, and base the design on real-world user experience (UX) and user interface (UI), not just create the latest gee-whiz technology.

Do you want to meet Dr.Kvedar in person? Why don't you join us for #eHealthTallinn in the historic and connected capital of Estonia taking place between 16th to 18th October. Get more information on the eHealth Tallinn website. 

Connect with Joseph C. Kvedar, MD on Twitter via @jkvedar.

Stefan Buttigieg

Specialist Trainee in Public Health Medicine, Malta