Fielding School of Public Health- Health Forum on “Digital Health Innovation: Data & Devices Driving Population Health.”

Summary by Zita Dixon

Here's a brief summary of last week's Health Forum for those of you that missed it. Dr. Leah Vriesman moderated the Wednesday, September 25th Health Forum panel discussion on “Digital Health Innovation: Data & Devices Driving Population Health.” She started off the night with a quote from Henry Ford, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” When we think of innovation and healthcare, some would say that we have yet to imagine the possibilities. Last Wednesday 9/25 we had the opportunity to hear from Dr. William Kaiser, Co-Director of UCLA Wireless Health Institute (WHI), Dr. Richard Singerman, CIO and co-founder of TrustNetMD, and Dr. Sajjad Yacoob, CMIO and physician champion for the KIDS (Knowledge Information Decision Support) Clinical Information System at Children’s Hospital LA. 

Dr. Kaiser started the night’s presentations with an overview of the new innovations coming out of the WHI at UCLA to monitor, guide, and treat patients. Dr. Kaiser gave us specific examples of medical technologies that are revolutionizing the way we deliver healthcare to patients, such as monitoring the digestive process of patients with digestive disease through an abdominal sound wave monitoring device called AbStats. Patients and healthcare providers can use this information to manage how and when to alter behaviors and treatment. (Check out more about UCLA Wireless Health Institute here:

Dr. Singerman enthusiastically showed us how social media technology, like, can close the feedback loop in medicine. This virtual forum gives radiologists, nurses, radiation technicians, etc. a valuable and vetted platform to share valued and quality information through this crowd sourced community.

Dr. Yacoob echoed the importance of communication in his presentation of the digital health technologies he is spearheading at Children’s Hospital LA. Dr. Yacoob emphasized the need for data to be user friendly and actionable so patients can have ownership of their treatment process. Dr. Yacoob uses their hospital app store to help patients help themselves. Patients are given tools to understand their lab results and make changes in their daily behavior to help improve their health. Dr. Yacoob peppered his presentation with winning and poignant one-liners on how we can embrace and encourage digital health innovations, or as he says, “the gamification of health,” to make healthcare professionals and patients react, prevent, and predict health outcomes through the use of correctly messaged data summaries and interactive phone applications. As Dr. Yacoob put it, “Madison Ave is good at selling. We should sell health to our patients.”

Dr. Vriesman opened the floor to the audience for a lively Q and A discussion that included an important question from Dr. Neal Kaufman, founder and CMO of DPS Health and professor of Pediatrics and Public Health at UCLA Schools of Medicine and Public Health. Dr. Kaufman asked how we can create and implement digital health initiatives when we need evidence-based research in order to move forward. This type of research can take years to complete and may end up leaving the researchers with an approved, yet obsolete, innovation due to this delay. Dr. Yacoob suggested that, along with the need to advocate for quicker trials, most research is moving toward the usage of existing big data sets to see patterns and trends in healthcare delivery and service.

Another guest shared a concern about the disproportional time spent with patients vs. technology with the residents at his hospital. Dr. Yacoob answered that question and ended the night with a powerful message “We need to use technology as a tool, not as a prime driver for how we take care of patients.”
The next Health Forum will take place on Wednesday, October 30th and will explore “Workplace Wellness Programs”.

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