Teaching old doctors new tricks: Dell Med integrates health care with high technology

Samagra Jain

The health care field experiences rapid growth and development, with new technologies and procedures constantly being added. Austin’s doctors must adapt to this technological boom.

UT’s Dell Medical School hopes to be at the forefront of this technology revolution, said Aaron Miri, the chief information officer of Dell Med.

“We attract the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent of the physicians in the world, and we want to be at the front and center of innovation,” Miri said. “My job is to equip these world-renowned physicians with the right health care technology tools so that they can make relevant decisions regarding medical care.”

One of the biggest shifts in health care technology is the use of electronic medical records for practitioners to record patient information. Historically, these records were done on paper and stored physically. Today, the widespread use of computers has made electronic medical records an integral element of modern health care.

Miri said the technologies that are being developed for use by doctors aren’t always intuitive or easy to use, which is one of the biggest barriers to improvement.

“The places I’ve been before forced doctors to use (electronic medical records) systems that required clinicians to learn two different types of work flow to see the same the same patient,” Miri said. “Do you know (how) frustrating that can be for a doctor? It’s like you’ve been driving down the right side of the lane for your entire life and suddenly you’re being forced to use the left side of the lane.”

Miri said Dell Med avoids these issues by actively utilizing physician input to develop software programs that synchronize physician use.

“When our clinicians practice at UT Health Austin and then go across the street to practice at Seton, they encounter the same data, ordering and software,” he said. “This results in ease of use, ease of access and makes it much easier for them to practice medicine.”

Texas Health Catalyst, an initiative by Dell Med, recently showcased the work of doctors using technology to change the way they practice medicine. Thomas Kurian, a clinical assistant professor at Dell Med, is chief medical officer of RFMX, Inc., a technology company that has developed a platform to help doctors track trends in their patient’s health histories. Kurian shared his experiences with a class of first-year medical students.

Kurian’s system involves patients utilizing apps on their phones to input their health data into a database for their doctors. Physicians can then use the system’s analysis tools to see trends in the health of the patient and predict the onset of diseases.

“What I’m creating is a digital ecosystem that lets doctors detect when subtle changes occur in their patients, and treat them earlier,” Kurian said.

Kurian said he credits the rise of smartphones as a driver of this technology.

“These devices have ushered in a digital revolution,” Kurian said. “Health care is going to change because of them and I’m excited to be a part of this new era and this new space.”

Akhil Surapaneni, one of the medical students who attended Kurian’s talk, is currently working to develop a home monitoring system to assist patients who are highly susceptible to heart failure.

“Patients would be able to monitor their health from home while still being able to maintain a dialogue with their physician,” Surapaneni said. “Being able to integrate our modern technology with health care is really exciting, and I think Dell is teaching us how to transform the way that we look at health care.”