Q: What are you most excited for as pertains to the use of digital technology for treating urology patients?
Dr. Hu: Technology just makes our life easier. It helps us do menial tasks in a more efficient way. It can prevent medical error. Standardize pathways. And of course there is the promise of artificial intelligence to simplify learning processes that up to now have taken years of observation and trial and error. If AI can truly accelerate that, then it helps providers and patients even more.
Q: What would you say the biggest barriers are to implementing these new technologies?
Dr. Hu: It’s just a standardized format. Just using examples from prostate cancer, there’s a wide variety of examples (where a standardized format accelerated adoption). number one there’s a robot that’s so standardized that people have complained its a monopoly as a surgical instrument. Number two, you look at MRI. There are different MRI manufacturers, different fusion guided platforms, and all of the vendors of these imaging formats have their own proprietary systems of file types. So to accelerate the digital age, you have to have standardized formats across manufacturers.
Q: How do you think patients are going to adopt apps and technology?
Dr. Hu: Well I think that what’s interesting is you can foresee what’s going to happen. If you look at lay press, you see companies that are weaving technology into apparel for improving performance. For some of these medical conditions, you’re going to have wearables and biosensors that are woven into your clothing where the data is centralized by an app. That’s probably where things are going. Instead of patients coming into the lab. They’ll just be wearing the lab, and then getting the data uploaded by the app.
Q: How about patient reported outcomes and value based care?
Dr. Hu: A lot of us physicians certainly realize the societal benefit of value based care. However, differences across health systems and EMRs are going to be barriers to implementation. For example, Kaiser is so far ahead in value based care. Another development you see is a better air traffic control per se for coordination of care between hospital beds, emergency rooms, and discharges. Up till now, these are all done by telephone calls from one station to another. From the OR to the recovery room. So the digital age is going to simply that.
Q: Do you think it will get more simple for patients, providers, or everyone?
Dr. Hu: It will simplify for everyone. With that technology, you are taking signals that are already there, whether its the queue for a bed, what’s going on in the emergency room, and you will be able to weave that data together to see whats going on in a hosptial in real time in multiple locations. So patients benefit because it increases efficiency, and speed at which things happen. And from a provider/hospital standpoint, there is less redundancy and personnel can be replaced by technology.
Q: For prostate cancer patients in particular, we know that the two main side effects are urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction. How do you think apps that help patients report side effects and how it affects their lives help in any way?
Dr. Hu: Evaluating their symptoms beforehand, like there are companies like WiserCare where it takes patients through utilities assessments and then ultimately on your phone can help them with decision making after assessing quality of life function as well as their utility or value of each of these states. Since you’re collecting PROs, you should get into the medical decision side of it as well with integrating the first step which is getting the baseline function and utility assessments.
The PRO assessment for prostate cancer, the ability to do that before treatment, and the artificial intelligence will help medical decision making before treatment, and then after if you have that information as a provider, you could set auto alerts for when their recovery is behind the curve and therefore get them if for intervention much sooner.