Fiber: Enabling A Distributed Health Care Model

“Why is it incumbent on families and patients to travel all the way to see us when we can have a more distributed health care model,” asks Yaa Aboagyewa Kumah-Crystal, MD, MPH, MS? This Assistant Professor Department of Biomedical Informatics and Assistant Professor Department of Pediatric Endocrinology at Vanderbilt summarizes the inspiring closing keynote she gave at Fiber Connect 2021. Kumah-Crystal brings a unique perspective as both an academic and practicing pediatrician.

She argues that the combination of broadband, devices, and software is allowing the medical profession to change its model to one where the focus is on the patient. As we have seen during the pandemic, telehealth eliminates the physical barriers that often prevent people without good mobility options from receiving care. In the above interview, Kumah-Crystal talks about the concept of distributed health care whereby care comes to the patient, via relatively inexpensive and easy-to-use video chat.

She emphasizes that the medical profession must be careful to not chase the shiny objects of technology for technology’s sake and focus on using tech to better connect with patients. One example of a positive implication of video is that she can often pick up clues to how a person lives by viewing the background of a patient’s home during a video chat. Similarly, real-time analytics from patient-worn wearables provides data that a doctor could never ascertain from an office visit.

One of the keys is designing with empathy and understanding the different patient journeys. Kumah-Crystal recommends that developers of all types design for accessibility, as that benefits everyone.  In a sense, this seems analogous to a sales pipeline in the corporate world, as, ideally, the medical system would start when a person is healthy (a prospect if you will) and help them adapt to the inevitable changes that aging brings.

Interview Highlights

00:22 – When everything fell apart during the depths of the pandemic, the tech, and the medical professions came together.

01:04 – The importance of health care access.

01:47 – Telemedicine can be a great complement to physical mobility in assuring access to health care.

02:41 – Being a pediatrician allows Kumah-Crystal to try the tools she analyzes in her research.

03:45 – Kumah-Crystal gives a specific example of how telemedicine helped one of her patients proactively address diabetes.

05:08 – To get the full benefit of the technology, it sometimes requires a new way of thinking about the challenges to deliver patient-centered care.

07:08 – The gamification of health care could be a major health care disruptor.

07:53 – The use of natural language processing offers the potential to free up a doctor to better focus on the patient and their needs.

08:57 – Kumah-Crystal points out another potential improvement is to take doctor’s notes and translate health jargon into everyday language.

09:36 – She encourages developers to ensure that they are designed for accessibility. Echoing IBM’s Erich Manser in this interview about Accessible Olli, the autonomous mobility shuttle, designing for accessibility is beneficial to people of all abilities.

ViodiTV Fiber Connect 2021 coverage courtesy of Calix.

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