How Digital Health is Shaping the Future of Patient Care


Verana Health

Advanced technologies can help further therapeutic innovations and improve patient outcomes. In this Q&A, Dr. David W. Parke II, MD, Executive Chairman of the Verana Health Board and former CEO of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, shares how utilizing real-world data can help enhance clinical practice and research.

Q: You have been a practicing physician (ophthalmologist) for many years. How did you come to be involved in a digital health company?

A: I had been previously involved with a couple of companies in an advisory or board capacity, discussing various aspects of this space. Although I have no real digital health expertise, interest in digital health was natural for someone like me, who has a background in health policy and health system design and operation.

Q: In what ways has your experience as a physician enabled you to better understand and address the needs of clinicians using Verana Health’s tools and services?

A: I’ve spent 40 years as a practicing retinal surgeon and in leading academic departments and physician organizations. This experience provides a ‘top-down’ view of the value of quality datasets in care delivery and a ‘bottom-up’ concept as to what will be clinically relevant at the level of individual physician-patient encounters.

Q: As someone bridging the gap between healthcare and technology, what advice do you have for aspiring clinicians interested in the digital health space?

With more powerful computing and machine learning, every clinician should understand the digital space to optimize not only his or her own work, but also the performance of our healthcare system.

A: Datasets and data analytics connect our individual patient encounters to the ecosystems of science and public health in a way that can transform how we individually and collectively deliver care. The digital health space has the transformative potential of therapeutic biologics or surgical robotics—probably more so. I’m very excited that each succeeding generation of clinicians is more digitally sophisticated than the preceding one. With more powerful computing and machine learning, every clinician should understand the digital space to optimize not only his or her own work, but also the performance of our healthcare system. This involves everything from image analytics to AI to real-time large dataset-powered clinical decision support tools.

Q: Can you provide an example of a successful collaboration between Verana Health and healthcare institutions that resulted in improved patient outcomes?

A: For a young company, we’ve already seen a handful of these events. Data analytics revealed that a very serious neuro-ophthalmologic problem in children (amblyopia) was more common and serious in Black children—an observation never previously appreciated, and which is leading to a series of investigations and public health interventions. In another example, clinical data registry data supported the use of a previously approved therapy for a different disease, leading to a drug label expansion and new treatment for a blinding condition.

Q: Our readers may not be aware but you have been with Verana Health since its inception. How has the digital health landscape changed over the past few years?

A: The digital health landscape has expanded substantially. The initial focus on electronic health record (EHR)-derived clinical data now includes linkages to image analytics, patient-reported outcome tools, and genetic information among others. The artificial intelligence revolution is allowing us to mine unstructured notes, rather than depend largely on structured data, thus opening up the vast majority of EHR clinical information to potential analytics. But, we’ve also come to understand how very hard all of this is to do reliably and accurately and without excessive data lag.

Q: How do you see the intersection of technology and healthcare shaping the future of patient care?

A: New imaging technology, diagnostic testing, drugs, and devices will provide the next generation of clinicians with powerful new tools that don’t yet exist. More and more of this should migrate from the hospital to the outpatient setting to the home. But I think one of the biggest leaps will be in clinical data integration and then benchmarking against large datasets in real-time using clinical decision support tools. It will also provide individual clinicians with a more effective measuring device for lifelong learning. They will be able to benchmark  their processes and outcomes of care against peers, published data, and clinical guidelines—thus helping to identify areas for potential improvement. Once linked to available educational resources, it will help us all become better clinicians.

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