Healthcare Innovation Starts with Intention

By Lisette Roman, BA, MS, Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences

On any given day of the week, Associate Chief Information Officer of the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. William Morris, is bombarded with requests to consider new health devices and health IT initiatives for the Clinic. As the gatekeeper for digital technologies at one of the world’s leading innovative health care delivery systems, Dr. Morris faces the same issue with every product pitched. What gap within the patient experience and clinical processes does the technology fill? The challenge facing the digital health delivery in hospitals is recognizing the difference between novelty inventions and necessary innovations.

Among all industries, health care is perceived as the new frontier for digital transformation. Health care is berated for being archaic in adopting consumer oriented technology, even given the constraints it faces regarding data flows, security, and data integrity. Demand to enhance the consumer experience with apps and devices is at an all time high, while regulations are significant and funding is low. For example, take a look at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. As one of the world’s leading hospitals, it is affiliated with Harvard Medical School, yet only designates 1.9% of its operating budget for health care IT. Limited working capital and strict regulation has created a disconnected continuum of care in which certain processes are left off of the digital platform.

Art by Anna Huang, Cornell Digital Health Review

Despite more than 20,000 healthcare- related smartphone apps available in the market place, as well as new medical devices entering the landscape, digital gaps continue to exist in health care delivery.  For these gaps to be filled, technology should serve as a solution to a problem, not a solution looking for a problem. Health care innovators create products with an outside view of the health care world, when in reality their focus should stem from the inside-out. Technology needs to understand and empower patient and provider competencies to have meaningful use. An inside approach to delivering meaningful digital transformation focuses on the patient-provider needs to create something they value.

Firsthand experience working in hospitals and clinics inspired the creation of Augmedix, a company designed to automate the record-keeping process physicians are responsible for daily. Augmedix utilizes Google Glass to provide physicians with real time record-keeping during a patient consultation. The patient-doctor conversation is live-streamed to Augmedix, where software is supplemented with human support to create notes which are entered into the patient’s electronic medical records. Physicians who use the service have been able to reduce the number of administrative hours spent from an average of 17 to just 2 or fewer.  Enabling Google Glass technology adds value to the patient-physician relationship by providing an additional 15 hours on average to a physician’s work week. Augmedix demonstrates the effectiveness of recognizing an opportunity in the continuum of care and implementing technology as a meaningful solution.

Autumn Beginnings - Artwork by K.H. Miao - Cornell Digital Health Review
Autumn Beginnings, Artwork by K.H. Miao, Cornell Digital Health Review

In a talk to the Hospitality, Health, and Design Industry Immersion course offered in Cornell’s School for Hotel Administration, guest speaker Francis Pitts of Architecture+ shared his philosophy on finding solutions to challenges facing the world of health care. Pitts’ guiding principle to overcome obstacles in health design is to “solve the fundamental human problem, then focus on the blank”. His philosophy resonates with Dr. Morris’s strategy to seek innovations that serve as solutions, rather than answers looking for problems. Digital transformation of the health care ecosystem involves engaging technology that can deliver meaningful use from the inside-out.

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