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Live from the CHIME CIO Spring Forum: Healthcare Futurist Sees Personal Digital Technology Transforming Healthcare

April 12, 2015
by Mark Hagland
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Physician-scientist Daniel Kraft, M.D. shared with CHIME Spring Forum attendees his view of an exceptionally connected healthcare future

We as a society are on the verge of developing and acquiring digital technologies whose wide-ranging potential could transform not only healthcare but society, the keynote speaker at the CHIME CIO Spring Forum told over 600 CIOs and healthcare IT leaders on Sunday, April 12, at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago. Daniel Kraft, M.D., a Stanford- and Harvard-trained physician-scientist with over 20 years of experience in clinical practice, biomedical research and innovation, chairs the Medicine track for Singularity University and is executive director of the Exponential Medicine program.

Daniel Kraft, M.D. speaking to CHIME Spring Forum attendees

Dr. Kraft spoke to the explosion in new consumer and other technologies, and some of the implications for healthcare and for society. Among the many technologies he touched on were wearable technologies that for example provide immediate data on consumers’ health status data points; technologies that can connect patients to their providers and directly share data with those providers; technologies that can connect individuals directly and allow them to communicate directly; and technologies like 3D printers and others that have started outside healthcare but have huge implications for healthcare.

He provided a vision of a near future in which diabetics will quickly and easily share their current blood sugar readings with their clinicians and clinicians will use that data to immediately intervene clinically as necessary; a future in which physicians will be able to prescribe devices and applications that will combine telemedicine with feedback-loop meditation and yoga apps for consumers/patients; and a future in which 3D printers are used at the point of care to build orthopedic prostheses for patients onsite as they wait. He walked his audience through potentials for such phenomena as patients leveraging chip-based technology to take blood samples in their homes and have the data conveyed electronically for immediate upload into electronic health records and immediate interpretation by clinicians and discussion between clinicians and those patients. And he talked about the potential for leveraging personal digital technology, care management tools, analytics tools, and social media networks, to, for example, connect pre-diabetic individuals with fellow pre-diabetics in online social networks to encourage them to adopt healthier lifestyles and control their blood sugars.

Healthcare leaders will need not only to anticipate this new world, Kraft told his audience; they will also need to actively participate in bringing it about. Where this is all headed, he said, is that healthcare leaders have to help co-create a new world of proactive care management. The healthcare system has been plagued with the “inefficient use of information, fragmented care versus integrated care, duplication, defensive medicine and waste, and protracted care processes,” he noted. “We’re reactive: we wait for the heart attack, stroke, and lump. With smart healthcare and smart healthcare IT, we can become proactive. We have a sick care system we’re still spending most of our dollars on people who already have chronic disease.” But, he immediately added, “technology is starting to enable in powerful ways” the ability to promote wellness.

Still, historical referral patterns and other patterns within healthcare will inevitably disrupted, Kraft told his audience. There is no stopping that. However, with vision and foresight, healthcare leaders, including healthcare IT leaders, can be part of the large group shaping the future of healthcare, which will be more connected and automated than ever before.

“How will we plan for it a year from now or so when patients will be able to buy tools at BestBuy that connect them with clinicians?” Kraft asked his audience rhetorically. The reality is that the adoption of those new technologies in society will be very disruptive. Further, he said, “How do we understand and leverage our social networks for improved health? Most health statuses derive from behaviors, not genetics. How about identifying pre-diabetics, connecting them into a social network?” He cited an example of where the Harvard Health Plan identified pre-diabetic plan members and connected them into online social networks that engaged them around their lifestyles and health concerns.

In the meantime, he told his audience, “Start thinking exponentially. Start realizing that many of these technologies like Google Glass are already here,” they just need to be applied more fully to healthcare. “And it’s up to all of us to get involved to help create the future.”

Kraft’s keynote address was preceded by introductions by Russell B. Branzell, CHIME’s president and CEO, and Charles E. “Chuck” Christian, the association’s current board chair. Branzell emphasized for the assembled audience CHIME’s commitment to advocating for a national patient identifier, stating that “It is our moral obligation as healthcare IT leaders to see that this gets done.