Technology Ushering in Healthcare’s ‘Golden Age’
When you use an ATM, you can see how much cash is in your account. You make a deposit, and the ATM scans the check and recognizes the amount. You can even withdraw cash in another country in the local currency.
We’ve come to expect a certain level of technological sophistication from our financial institutions. So why should we tolerate anything less from our healthcare institutions? If, for example, you had an EKG taken in the morning, shouldn’t the results be easily available to the emergency room doctor?
These and other thought-provoking questions were at the heart of Healthcamp SFBay 2009, a one-day event held Oct. 5 at Kaiser Permanente’s Sidney Garfield Innovation Center in San Leandro, Calif. Leaders in technology and healthcare exchanged ideas in hopes of advancing healthcare innovation and ultimately improve patient care, increase access and services and reduce costs. Cisco was a leading Healthcamp sponsor.
“The golden age of medicine is about to begin,” said Dr. Robert Pearl, executive director and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group. “And technology will be its foundation.”
There was talk of the healthcare industry’s technology challenges, to be sure. But the focus was on exploring the potential.
“Up until now, healthcare has been about one doctor seeing one patient at a time,” said Dr. Kaveh T. Safavi during the kick-off session. Safavi is vice president of Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group global healthcare practice. “But it doesn’t have to be that way,” he continued. Through such technologies as high-quality video, “we can have many doctors and one patient. Or many patients and one doctor. The possibilities are endless.”
Visitors and the media got to see some of the possibilities in action at the Sidney Garfield Center. The center is Kaiser Permanente’s testbed for trying out new technologies before introducing them to its healthcare centers.
Among the capabilities demonstrated:
- Healthcare avatar – A patient can get a wealth of information about his or her diagnosis, treatments and recovery by posing questions to an avatar—a digital representation of a physician’s assistant. The avatar, nicknamed Patty, can do things like answer questions a patient might be embarrassed to ask a nurse, provide information on specific diseases, help the patient with medication information and dose management, and also free doctors, nurses and other medical staff for other tasks. This Cisco pilot technology, which merges artificial intelligence and voice recognition, is probably 2-3 years from becoming a reality, said Frances Dare, director of IBSG Healthcare Practice. (In the video below, Dare demonstrates the Healthcare Avatar.)
- Cisco Connected Patient – A doctor visiting a hospital patient can use a Cisco Unified Wireless IP Phone 7925G to access and display real-time medical records – X-rays, lab tests, medical history and more – on the flat-panel TV in the patient’s room. This gives physicians a quick way to check and consult with the patient without carrying around a computer. Cisco Connected Patient, which has been successfully pilot-tested at the Mayo Clinic and VA Pittsburgh, is the core solution behind this capability.
- Operating room of the future – Surgeons and medical device makers can test and train others on new surgical procedures in a simulated operating room environment. In future operating rooms (as seen in a prototype at the Garfield center) surgeons may one day have an array of vital real-time information available from inter-connected devices. And they’ll be able to conference in physicians, specialists and others as needed through video.
Video will soon play a leading role in healthcare, said Dr. Robert Pearl, executive director and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group. Within three years, all 14,000 Kaiser Permanente physicians will be linked through digital video, he said. And every Kaiser Permanente nursing home will be connected to Kaiser’s hospital emergency rooms via video.
“The golden age of medicine is about to begin,” said Dr. Pearl. “And technology will be its foundation.”
Blog entry written by James A. Martin, News@Cisco Contributor based in San Francisco, CA