Innovation. As I prepare to attend Health 2.0 next week and share the Valeet Healthcare engagement platform, I’ve been reflecting on innovation in medicine, an essential ingredient to progress and transformation. It’s fascinating to realize how far we have come – and to imagine how much further we can go.
While there have been a myriad of milestones and breakthrough innovations in the history of medicine, there are several that stand out in my mind:
- The magnifying glass — first created in 1250 by Roger Bacon, he designed a convex lens specifically used for science. Shortly thereafter, lenses were constructed to correct vision.
- The flexible catheter — invented in 1752 by Benjamin Franklin for his brother who had bladder (kidney?) stones, Franklin wove together metal pieces that were hinged to form a continuous tube.
- The stethoscope — a major breakthrough advancing health care, it was invented by Rene Laennec, a French physician who was having difficulty examining an obese patient. Laennec created a trumpet shaped tube to augment acoustics, which allowed him to hear the heart sounds of his patient more clearly. The stethoscope, while first devised in 1816, is still considered the symbol of healthcare professionals today.
The 1900’s produced a succession of inventions and innovations, completely transforming how modern medicine at the time was practiced. From the electrocardiogram to laparoscopy, pacemakers to dialysis, heart transplants and more, the list goes on.
How remarkable would it be to be able to look back from the year 2116 and see what innovations transformed healthcare and medicine in today’s society?
One thing is clear: innovations propose a new way of doing something – a new perspective or solution. The simple definition of innovation is “a new method, idea, or product.” A more relevant definition (particularly for healthcare) may be “the practice of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value.” While the idea may be sparked from the desire to solve a problem for just one individual, the best innovations create value when they can be broadly applied, transforming many lives and society.
In my opinion, the main problems we face in healthcare today are regarding issues of health communications and information design. While we have vast amounts of data and information, it’s not truly at our fingertips. Patients cannot interact with their data easily – certainly not in ways that will transform their healthcare and outcomes. And neither can clinicians.
Case in point. About a year ago, I needed the head CT for a patient I was admitting. It was 2am. The patient had been transferred from another hospital, where a CT had been taken 2 hours prior. Since the CT was not included in the transfer records, I called the other hospital to request it. They burned the CT image onto a CD, put the CD in a cab, and it was in my hands by 4am. Even then, I had to go down to our radiology department to have it entered into our hospital’s system. After a lot of phone calls, faxing, and paperwork, and time delay, I had the information in hand and would not have to unnecessarily expose the patient to more radiation.
This particular example highlights how data and information is locked up in what is known as “information silos.” While silos may be great on farms as they serve the purpose of preventing different grains from mixing, they are not so great for healthcare information. They create multiple barriers for accessing important information critical to patient care and safety.
Unfortunately, my example is not an isolated incident. I have been in many situations where health information was not accessible to patients or providers. The realization of just how detrimental the “information silos” problem is to patients, providers, and healthcare organizations has been the impetus for building a patient engagement platform.
Valeet Healthcare’s vision is to solve the problem of health communications freeing up information from existing silos to get patients, providers and healthcare systems working together in synchrony. Our patient engagement platform uses technology as the bridge to disseminate and communicate information from the silos, unlocking the information needed for collaboration and fostering better and safer care.
I’m thrilled to say that with each day, this vision is becoming more and more of a reality with the help of the extraordinary team at Valeet Healthcare. As I anxiously await sharing our vision at Health 2.0 next week, I look forward to being inspired by hundreds of other health innovators working to elevate modern day medicine to the next level. See you there!