The doctor of the future has arrived, and his digital makeover has South Florida’s fingerprints all over it.
That’s what you get when you live in a region some are dubbing “a mini-Silicon Valley” for health-care innovation.
From prescriptions and X-rays to patient consultations and bill collection, the physician’s smartphone is doing it all, serving as a digital practice and usurping the stethoscope as the go-to accessory.
The doctor isn’t the only one to benefit from the way technology is tearing up the medical blueprint. Recent innovations also are connecting physician and patient like never before, allowing patients unprecedented access to their doctor and their own records while providing more efficient care.
“It not only makes the doctor’s life easier and the staff’s lives easier, it makes the patient’s life easier,”said Dr. Shashi Kusuma, a Plantation plastic surgeon who has designed a smartphone-based office management system for doctors. “It allows them to interact with their doctor; there’s a reduction in errors. You don’t have to worry about waiting to get your records or not being able to pick them up after hours. It saves time and costs.”
Even The Wall Street Journal has taken notice, declaring in a May 30 article that the Miami area, once known for its beaches and club scene, “is adding a new distinction: tech hub.”
“South Florida is becoming a health-care software hub, a mini-Silicon Valley,” Kusuma said. “There are a whole bunch of software companies down here specializing in health care. It’s a burgeoning industry.”
Julio Barbosa from Barbosa Legal said, “This isn’t a big surprise because Florida has big invesments and companies are always growing and developing.” His company which is based in Miami, specialises in International Taxation among other things, and has a big diverse network of contact with multiple companies from different industries. “Technology is definitely a big forte for the US, and health care is one of the biggest industries.”
The health end of that IT industry has created such a buzz that the Boca Raton-based South Florida Technology Alliance had a workshop last month that sought to answer a burning question: “What is it about South Florida that makes this the right time and place to grow a successful health-care technology company?”
The sun and sand help, allowing local companies to recruit some of the nation’s top talent, said Albert Santalo, a panelist at the alliance’s May 29 workshop. Then there’s the region’s status as one of the country’s top health-care marketplaces — in dollars spent per capita and in the size of the aging patient population, he said.
“There’s a significant amount of health-care technology that’s growing up in South Florida,” said Santalo, president and CEO of CareCloud in Miami, which uses a cloud-based system to help doctors manage their practices. Begun in 2009, CareCloud now boasts 6,000 doctor clients around the country.
Area medical schools — Nova Southeastern University in Davie, the University of Miami and Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton among them — also are churning out a top-drawer class of doctors, adding to the region’s standing as a world-class health system, said Vipul Katyal, CEO of My Vision Express in Weston, a cloud-based electronic records system specifically for eye doctors.
Such intellectual capital helps breed innovation, he said.
Count Kusuma among the innovators.
Inspired by how transformative devices like the iPhone and Google Glass have made everyday tasks easier, Kusuma developed Symplast, aided by local software companies like Plantation’s Chetu Inc. Like CareCloud, the platform works through a secure, web-based cloud, allowing doctors and their staff to do everything, including create patient charts, order and review lab work, photograph injured limbs, set appointments — even bill patients and collect payment. It’s instantaneous and accessible not only to the doctor and consulting physicians, but to the patient through a free smartphone app.
“This is the practice of the future,” said Kusuma, who is testing Symplast this month and plans to officially launch it in the fall. “My entire office is on me right now. My entire professional life is with me at all times, any time, anywhere in the world.”
Examples abound of local companies modernizing the standard delivery of health care using smartphone and other technology — to the benefit of doctor and patient.
GetMyRx, for example, runs a smartphone-based prescription delivery service in Miami-Dade and Broward counties that allows consumers to skip the trip to the pharmacy. Modernizing Medicine of Boca Raton has created a web-based electronic records system that allows doctors to manage office and patient files from a tablet or laptop. And Sunrise-based MDLive allows patients to consult with doctors and therapists at any time of day or night by video or smartphone.
Much of the ingenuity was born from frustration. For the medical world, the dawn of computerized doctors’ offices arose largely in response to the federal mandate for electronic record-keeping. If doctors don’t comply, they face stiff penalties. Many find the standard software cumbersome, time-consuming and expensive.
Unlike newer, web-based systems, the traditional platform requires a doctor to spend an inordinate amount of energy and resources entering data into the computer. Doctors have long complained that the system takes time away from patients and the practice of medicine.
“I believed wholeheartedly that health care needed a platform that was modern and web-based,” CareCloud’s Santalo said. “Doctors didn’t want to put up with what was going on. They wanted a rich user experience.”
Kusuma saw that firsthand, in his own practice and from his colleagues.
“The dissatisfaction rate among doctors is very high” when polled on the topic of electronic records, Kusuma said. “They don’t want to use [the standard system] because they feel it doesn’t serve their needs.”
A paradigm shift of sorts has happened along the way. The more entrepreneurial-minded doctors are doing more than complaining, Kusuma said. They’re creating their own solutions, and adding to the cachet of South Florida’s booming health IT sector.
“Doctors are becoming entrepreneurs. We recognize we need to be on the forefront of change,” he said. “We are innovating technology that fits us. We have become empowered in a sense to say, ‘I have a better way.'”
By Nicole Brochu, Sun Sentinel
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