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Panel: Tech advancements adding to doctors' diagnostic toolbox

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From left, Sandra Powell-Elliott of Hackensack Meridian Health, Brian McAlister of Full Recovery Wellness Center, Gillie McCreath of Mazars USA, John Novak of New Jersey Innovation Institute, Donald Parker of Carrier Clinic, and moderator Cathleen Bennett of the New Jersey Hospital Association at Tuesday's Health Care Technology panel discussion.
From left, Sandra Powell-Elliott of Hackensack Meridian Health, Brian McAlister of Full Recovery Wellness Center, Gillie McCreath of Mazars USA, John Novak of New Jersey Innovation Institute, Donald Parker of Carrier Clinic, and moderator Cathleen Bennett of the New Jersey Hospital Association at Tuesday's Health Care Technology panel discussion. - ()

There are 892 psychology residents who graduate every year to fill a 10,000-practitioner void, and 62 percent of psychiatrists are over 60 years old.

“At this point we need to extend careers, and we also have more patients to see. So what we’re working on now is a smash up of technologies,” Carrier Clinic CEO Don Parker said.

So Carrier Clinic is working with a defense company to develop technology to evaluate facial expressions that can’t be seen by the naked eye as indicators for mental health issues. The technology is already being used by the U.S. Department of Defense to detect post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans.

“You understand what the stakes are on that – either suicide if you got it wrong, possibly, or a lifetime of support if you got it wrong for someone who probably doesn’t deserve it,” Parker said. “The correlation is significant and strong and allows us to take a product that would be seen as an inferior experience and take it to the superior level because it gives additional diagnostic capability to the practitioners.”

This was just one element of the rapidly expanding world of health care technology that was the focus of an NJBIZ panel Tuesday at The Imperia in Somerset moderated by New Jersey Hospital Association President and CEO Cathy Bennett.

Also on the panel were Carrier Clinic’s Parker; John Novak, senior director of architecture and government technologies at the Healthcare Delivery System iLab at the New Jersey Innovation Institute; Gillie McCreath, principal and health information technology leader at Mazars USA; Brian McAlister, founder, president and CEO of Full Recovery Wellness Center and Freedom 365 Virtual Recovery System; and Sandra Powell-Elliott, vice president of life sciences and innovation at the Physician Enterprise Division of Hackensack Meridian Health.

The industry players together discussed various challenges facing the health care field today and how technology is helping tackle those challenges.

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At Hackensack Meridian Health, Powell-Elliott is utilizing telemedicine technology to address worker burnout. By shifting more experienced nursing and physician staff that in past years would be approaching retirement to less physically taxing roles in a command center, they are able to monitor patients at multiple locations and take on more of a supporting role.

“It enables us to be able to retain that individual and skill set while at the same time beginning to be the backup of some of the newer, younger nursing staff that are critical care staff individuals but may not have seen the same level of experience yet,” Powell-Elliott said. “It enables us to extend that knowledge base for a longer period of time not only in one location but in multiple locations.”

Brian McAlister, through his trademarked Freedom 365 Virtual Recovery System, is using technology to make recovery easier for addicts and alcoholics such as himself. McAlister, who recently celebrated 28 years of sobriety, started Full Recovery Wellness Center in Fairfield after his sister died of a heroin overdose.

“I discovered very quickly that treatment modalities haven't changed all that much since I wound up in a treatment center in 1990,” McAlister said.

So he used this discovery to create the first patented virtual recovery system that users can access 24/7. Drug overdoses kills more people than auto accidents and gun violence combined, he said, and 1 in 5 people qualify as having an addiction problem. Freedom 365 allows addicts to connect with people in recovery to offer actionable solutions, lowering the possibility they might relapse and therefore reducing health care costs for the patient and the treatment center.

“Most of our early adopters are other treatment centers,” he said. “Just strictly from a financial standpoint, it costs a lot of money to get someone into a treatment center. The cost of acquisition per client is about $5,000.”

An 80 percent failure rate and a mere 17 percent reacquiring rate make addiction a costly issue.

“This technology allows the center or the hospital or physician to stay tethered to their client,” he said. “It lets you know what features they’re using, how long they use it – instead of just having an alumni coordinator ... we’ll have an idea from our product whether they’re participating, what they're using it for, and if they’re in danger.”

Even with constant innovation, the health care field still faces challenges. A major one, according to NJII’s Novak, is patient identification. People are mobile, so if someone is receiving health care in multiple places, practitioners have to be able to identify them.

“That’s one of the biggest challenges you see,” he said. “John Novak [is] not a very common name, but there are at least five of us in the state of New Jersey all around the same age. How do you identify which one of us is seeking care? We’re talking anything from traditional medical care or behavioral health and substance abuse. How do you uniquely identify that person to know you’re saying the right information?”

He cited organizations that don’t collect social security numbers and state health registries that don’t collect date of birth or sex; and spoke of the state’s large health care information exchanges that are only now starting to share data amongst each other.

“It’s really hard for patient management,” he said.

The issue here is life or death.

“Nine percent of patient misidentifications lead to ultimate death or permanent injury,” said Mazar’s McCreath. “And 35 percent of denied claims are all around misidentification.”

New Jersey is one of only a few states that have implemented a statewide patient index to identify people across health care spheres, according to Novak. At this point, he said, health care companies can uniquely identify about half of the population, or 4.5 million people.

The next NJBIZ panel, the second of the year on the business of cannabis, will be held Sept. 18 at The Imperia.

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Gabrielle Saulsbery

Gabrielle Saulsbery

Albany, N.Y. native Gabrielle Saulsbery is a staff writer for NJBIZ and the newest thing in New Jersey. You can contact her at gsaulsbery@njbiz.com.

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