Level-Setting: Adopting Digital Health Technologies in Orthopedics

January 19, 2017



Pizza. Lamborghinis. Leather shoes. Pizza (warrants repeating). The Italians know how to produce items of preeminent quality. So, it’s no surprise that the conference launched by Dr. Stefano Bini was superb.

On January 8, 2017, CODE Technology had the pleasure of live streaming the first ever UCSF Digital Orthopaedics Conference, held in San Francisco, CA, where innovators in all areas of orthopedics gathered to share ideas and present solutions for bridging the gap between digital technology and the reality of medical practice.

Leveraging the energy of the Bay Area’s booming tech scene, the brightest minds in business and medicine were brought together with countless opportunities to mix and mingle, and — most importantly — learn how they can work together to make healthcare better.

The first level-setting session of this day-long conference set the stage by highlighting the top 10 healthcare issues and the top 10 technologies available to address them. This was led by several of healthcare’s top authorities on orthopedics and medical technology: Mark Froimson, MD, chief clinical officer for Trinity Health, the largest multi-institutional Catholic health care delivery system in the nation; Daniel Kraft, MD, faculty chair of medicine at the Silicon-Valley think tank, Singularity University; and Thomas Parker Vail, MD, UCSF’s very own Chairman of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery and former president of AAHKS.

Mark Froimson, MD

Dr. Froimson kicked off the session by outlining some of the key issues facing the healthcare market, and orthopedics specifically. He acknowledged the demand for fundamental change from both patients and physicians alike, as well the role that digital solutions might play within the realm of their interaction.

The patient/physician relationship is the cornerstone of healthcare said Froimson, and went on to emphasize how we need digital solutions to help us focus on access, service, and results. He believes this starts with physicians seeing patient experience as not just a nicety, but a driver of outcomes. In turn, patients need to understand how physicians measure these outcomes and how they relate to the quality of their care. Froimson states: “$1.1 trillion is spent in Medicare/Medicaid. We need to do something to be more effective and efficient.”

Daniel Kraft, MD

Next, Daniel Kraft, MD, fresh off the whirlwind gadget-a-thon that was CES 2017, took the stage to bring to light the top 10 technologies that are ready for prime time and could impact orthopedic care. He rattled off innovations such as AI, machine learning, 3-D printing, VR, telehealth tools, and remote monitoring … technologies that are just waiting in the wings, wired for utilization, hoping and praying to be discovered and leveraged for the benefit of patient care.

Kraft declared that the new drug is the empowered patient, and to better empower healthcare consumers we need to reframe our approach to emerging digital tools from a reactive to a more proactive mode, and comprehensively optimize procedures as part of a holistic movement toward providing value-based care.

Thomas Parker Vail, MD

Thomas Park Vail, MD, stepped in for the final Q&A portion of the session. He echoed Froimson and Kraft’s statements regarding the resistance to technological evolution within healthcare, referencing the thousands of providers and practices who are still doing business on paper.

One of the questions raised during the Q&A was regarding the psychology of those providers and clinicians who still dig in their heels when they are presented with the opportunity to move into the digital age — regardless of the training and ease of the potential transition — and how to achieve progress despite these roadblocks. Dr. Vail’s response prescribed empowering the willing and incentivizing the resistance; he acknowledged that it may be a slow road, but easing people along the progress curve rather than jumping in all at once helps reduce the noise, upset, and inconvenience to providers and patients alike.

The disparity is glaring — in our personal lives, technology makes us more productive and enhances our experiences all around. In medicine, it has been the opposite … Innovations are slow, and technology seems to be more of a hindrance than a helper, and that needs to change. Conferences like this will bridge the gap and bring medicine out of the renaissance era and into the digital future.

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