After a surgical procedure, what happens?
The vast majority of the time, the surgeon hands the patient a few sheets of paper outlining basic care instructions. They chat with them for five to ten minutes about the recovery process, and then send them on their way. And should the patient have any questions, well, they can try to reach the doctor during office hours.
As a surgeon, I’ve never understood why we do things this way.
From my perspective, the surgery itself is only one piece of a much larger puzzle. After the procedure, a patient has all sorts of questions pertaining to their health — potentially more questions than they’ve ever had in their lives. This is because a surgical procedure is what I like to call an “acute event,” meaning it suddenly makes the patient realize the importance of their health. And if anything, this sparks their interest to learn about how they can not only recover effectively, but integrate preventative and health-conscious habits into their daily life.
Which means, as surgeons, our job isn’t just to perform the surgery, but actually provide patients the tools and resources for them to both recover and feel empowered to move forward on their own.
This is not how the majority of the healthcare world thinks.
If you want to know why more money was invested into digital health startups in 2017 than any year prior, it’s because innovators and entrepreneurs are starting to realize the immense opportunity that exists in the healthcare space. From analytics to patient follow-up platforms, there isn’t a single vertical in healthcare that isn’t ripe for improvement.
The issue, however, is that many of these healthcare entrepreneurs have not worked within healthcare themselves. So while certain ideas may sound great on paper, they lack the internal awareness of the pain points that are currently prohibiting these changes from grabbing hold. On the other hand, healthcare entrepreneurs that don’t work within healthcare often times have a huge advantage, in that they question the things that people who work within healthcare often overlook. However, it is a rare and exceptional individual who can look from the outside-in, realize a gap, and then make real change happen.
As a result, you have investors like Rob Coppedge, CEO of Echo Health Ventures, seriously questioning the $3.5 billion that was invested into 188 different digital health companies in the first half of 2017 alone.
I believe the most viable digital health solutions in the provider-patient space will come from the people who experience the pain points of healthcare on a daily basis.
Being a surgeon, I am very aware of what aspects of the patient-provider relationship I can improve.
It has always been a glaring issue to me that patients leave a surgery without the tools they need to undergo a smooth recovery, while also feeling at ease. I never felt good about sending patients home with a pamphlet or a couple of pieces of paper in a handout. And unfortunately, most surgeons don’t have the time or interest to step into an entrepreneurial role and work to find a solution to these day-to-day problems. Because the truth is, people who work within the healthcare system are already so inundated with regulatory practices that the thought of adding more to their plate just seems unmanageable.
But I didn’t want my patients to continue going home and not knowing what to expect after their surgery. The problem, however, was I also knew I couldn’t follow up with each patient individually. There just simply aren’t enough hours in the day for any doctor to do that.
So, over the last 2 years I created a digital health platform called Pulse, which walks patients through an automated follow-up sequence, guiding them through the recovery process. Before we send them home, we get them set up with the platform, show them how it works, and then if they have any questions along the way, they can message our team directly through the app.
When you break it down, it’s really quite simple: as a surgeon, I saw a pain point in my daily work, and decided to create a solution that solved for that specific issue.
I really just saw a problem in the way we were caring for patients as a provider, and it ‘didn’t seem right.’ I wanted to fix it.
Truly, I believe Pulse is only the tip of the iceberg. Platforms like the one our team has built for our patients (and for other providers to use as well) reveal many more aspects of the patient-provider relationship that can be improved upon.
What matters to me, and what I want to solve for with each and every patient, is that they never head home after a surgery the same way they always have. They shouldn’t worry, or wonder if things are going according to plan. They should feel like we are there with them every step of the way, even if it’s just a quick check-in on the Pulse app. And the reason is because a surgery, an acute event, is a major moment in a person’s life. So not only is it imperative that we, as surgeons and healthcare providers, help them through that process — but also take it upon ourselves to educate them during the process.
I am a firm believer that digital health startups and innovations should not be about making things digital for the sake of it. What matters is that these platforms and solutions weave themselves into the patient’s life in a way that is both effortless and empowering, keeping them aware of how they’re doing — so they don’t have to frantically pick up the phone and call their doctor.
The future of recovery technology has to do with prevention, not reaction. That shift alone will improve a patient’s experience tenfold.
The Future Of Recovery Technology: You’ll Never Head Home After Surgery The Same Way Again was originally published in Healthcare in America on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.