As I approach 60 and reflect on over 40 years in the healthcare IT industry I sometimes feel that I’ve transitioned from a rogue upstart to the leader of the status quo - always about to be disrupted. I’m no longer a trouble maker, I calm the troubled healthcare technology waters. If I’m not careful, that could mean I’ll become a rate limiting step to radical change since I’ve been shaped by a lifetime of experience that started with punch cards, paper tape, and Fortran.
The themes I’ll write about twice a week in 2019 will be about exploring new technology around the world and in a Boston-based lab, the Healthcare Technology Exploration Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Healthcare System, which I lead. We’ll evaluate new products, ideas, and workflows. We’ll pilot innovations and fail fast (if needed) so that we can rapidly converge on the right tools for the business requirements we’re given.
In our first quarter we’ll describe an evaluation of the Google ecosystem and potential healthcare implications for Android, Chrome OS and sensor devices such as
Google Pixel 3 phone
Google Home Hub
Google Chromecast 3rd Generation
Google Chromecast Audio
Nest Outdoor Camera
We’ll review internet of things devices including the Withings suite of watches, blood pressure cuffs, sleep monitors, thermometers, and scales.
We’ll evaluate telemedicine devices and services that bring cloud hosted, machine learning driven decision support to patients and providers.
And of course, we'll take a deep dive into everything Apple is doing in digital health space.
Why am I starting a new lab as I approach 60? Simple - the meaning of life (in my view) is about finding a purpose that serves the world selflessly, while surrounding yourself with people who give you a sense of belonging, enabling you to pursue your passion, and ultimately composing the ongoing narrative of your life.
To me, improving wellness with digital health around the world excites me every day
For example, today I'm in Patna, India at the corner of Nepal, Bhutan, and India evaluating the potential for cloud services, apps, and devices to be used in resource constrained settlings for the management of tuberculosis.
There is no better way to solve a problem than to immerse yourself in the lives of the people you are trying to help, which is what I’m doing this week in homes, clinics, pharmacies, and hospitals.
However, a sense of purpose needs a group of like minded people who give you a sense of belonging. People you can talk to - sharing your successes/failures, and asking for feedback on your ideas. Throughout my life I’ve been lucky enough to surround myself with people smarter than me, who are a constant source inspiration and energy. At the moment my sense of belonging comes from extraordinary collaborators in international governments, academia, industry, foundations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). I have a special respect for people in their 20 and 30’s who have far fewer biases and battle scars than me.
Although my passions have changed over the years, there is a common theme. I’ve always worked at the edges of disciplines. I'm a physician but my academic work has been at the intersection of medicine and digital health. In my youth I was the first student at Stanford to have a computer in my dorm room (I built it). I was the first young journalist to review a portable (25 pound) computer from a new company called Compaq. I was the first person in Wellesley, Massachusetts to get broadband. All of my experiences have been at the margins of the possible before the ideas were even considered reasonable.
And I’ll continue to tell my story via the evolving narrative of my life. In an upcoming post, I’ll explain that my biography should start with the sentence “He was the Forrest Gump of healthcare information technology” purely because by random chance I’ve been present at every major health related IT innovation of my generation. And over the next 30 years (I’m vegan, so I should last that long), I’m hoping to be present for the amazing things my friends, students and collaborators do to change the world.
So my meaning of life is about making a difference in digital health around the globe, surrounded by inspirational people, investigating new ideas at the edges of the possible, while creating a story filled with impactful events.
And that’s what I’ll write about over the next year.
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