Emerging Opportunities for Digital Health Technology

On October 7th, I had the honor to participate in a workshop in Phoenix, Arizona as part of the Society of General Internal Medicine Mountain West Regional Meeting.  General Internists from Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada and Wyoming participated in our workshop titled “There’s an App for That! Emerging Opportunities for Digital Health Technology in General Internal Medicine.”

For this workshop, I was joined by Drew Bolton, MD, a third year primary care resident from the University of Colorado, Chip Brunk, CEO of TestAppropriate, and Zach Johnson, Product Lead for C3LX, 2 digital health companies located in the Denver area.  I first met Chip and Zach through the PrimeHealth 2015 Digital Health Challenge, and we have continued to work together since that meeting to test their products within our clinic.

The first part of the workshop was an overview of the definition of digital health and a review of some of the medical literature regarding digital health research.  The group had a spirited discussion debating and dissecting the studies, and even though overall the initial data is somewhat limited and disappointing, the opportunity to learn from these early trials to develop new protocols was energizing.

Dr Bolton and I discussed how existing digital health apps such as the AHRQ ePSS app, the ASCVD Risk app, Calorific and Up-to-Date can be used to educate medical students, medical residents and patients in the clinic at the point of care.  I even served as a test subject to demonstrate the Kardia device and app, which records a cardiac rhythm strip using a smartphone (I am proud to say my heart rate stayed below 80!).

The third part of our workshop included Chip providing an overview of TestAppropriate, educating the internists about the upcoming changes as a result of the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 (PAMA) that will require internists to confirm that they have proactively used a validated tool when ordering cardiac and imaging studies to meet Appropriate Utilization Criteria.  Also presented at the workshop was data from a chart review of 3 years of cardiac testing from Uptown Primary Care that showed 28% of the non-invasive cardiac tests ordered by our physicians were not the most appropriate test, and 57% of the orders were not lowest cost appropriate test.  This provides us with a benchmark to see if implementation of a digital health product such as TestAppropriate will help improve these metrics.

Zach closed out our workshop by describing how general internists can act as advisors and form partnerships with digital health developers that will serve to define and refine digital health products to add value to clinical care, and how digital health developers raise capital in a competitive environment.  As a result of this workshop in the high desert of Arizona, some new contacts were made, new opportunities were presented, the efforts of Colorado in being a regional and national leader in Digital Health were highlighted, and opportunities for the specialty of general internal medicine to advance digital health were promoted.

Dr. Scott Joy 
Medical Director
Uptown Primary Care
Presbyterian/St Luke’s Medical Center/The Colorado Health Foundation