How Tech is Connecting (and Disconnecting) Patients and Doctors, with Dr. Bryan Vartabedian

May 12, 2021
Josie Rasberry

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For episode eleven of our podcast, we were joined by Dr. Bryan Vartabedian. Dr. Vartabedian (also known as Dr. V) is a physician leader and writer covering the intersection of medicine, technology, and culture.

He is the Director of Community Medicine for the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition for Texas Children’s Hospital, a full-time faculty member at Baylor College of Medicine and is the Associate Director & Co-founder of the Medical Futures Lab at Rice University. He is also on the advisory board of Stanford’s Medicine X Conference, is a founding advisor to the Health Care Track at the SXSW Interactive Festival and is the founder of 33 Charts, which has come to serve physicians transitioning to the digital world and is read daily by thousands of healthcare influencers seeking a fresh and focused look at technology and its impact on medicine.

Our hosts for this episode, Steven Cutbirth and Mark Camero, discuss how tech is connecting (and disconnecting) patients and doctors with Dr. V.

You can listen to the whole episode here or on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever else you listen to podcasts. If you’re short on time, we’ve included a few highlights from our conversation below:

Mark: “With respect to the intersection of medicine, technology, and culture that you do, what does that mean really for you in the actual practice of medicine and how do you incorporate that into the practice of medicine?”

Dr. V: “I kinda don't. I'm sort of a unicorn in that what I do with my blog and what I do on social media is kind of unrelated to my day-to-day work. So a lot of docs on Twitter are tweeting about their research, and I don't think in 10 years I’ve talked very much about digestive health and children. I should, and I don't, but what I'm really fascinated about is all these changes that are happening around us with technology and healthcare. I'm kind of obsessed with thinking about how just that mother taking that picture of that whiteboard is changing the way we have an interaction. A lot of what I used to do with my eyes, my ears, and my hands as a doctor is now being completely replaced by imaging technology.

Advanced practitioners can now, because of this, do a lot of what I used to do. And so doctors are being completely redefined. Technology is defining and redefining who we are. And so for me, we're undergoing this really radical change in medicine that hasn't been seen in a couple of hundred years, honestly. So watching it and observing it, and sort of narrating what's happening and trying to make sense of it is kind of what I do in the blog and a little bit on the newsletter. So seeing those connections and how technology is changing medicine and changing culture is something I'm really kind of excited about, and that's what I do in my night job with the blog.

Steven: “In your opinion how can technology play a role in improving how patients interact with the healthcare system? Broadly in finding care, but also more specifically when they're actually directly interacting with their doctor.”

Dr. V: “Probably the biggest, broadest change that we're probably seeing with technology changing the encounter is, even as recently as 20 years ago our interaction with the healthcare system was a once-a-year physical, right? You go to the doctor, doc listens with a stethoscope, and you go home and tell your wife you passed your physical. Right. And things have advanced so much further. Now that our engagement, and I think it's going to evolve this way and the EHR is going to evolve this way, that our interaction with the healthcare system is really going to occur on a continuum. It's not going to be a once-a-year visit. It's going to be sort of an ongoing interaction, data feedback, and all that sort of thing. So I think that interface of a continuum of care rather than a once-a-year visit is the biggest change we're going to see, I think, in the future.

I think there's also going to be sort of this Renaissance of human connection, I suspect. If you take the EHR, for example, I think if we look at the emergence of voice-first interface there are some interesting companies that can listen to an ambient conversation between the doc and the patient and form the note. And so that's a great example of how technology will flip and reconnect us and allow us to have conversations where the doc is not staring at the screen.”

To hear the whole conversation, click here for the full podcast episode. You can also hear more from Dr. V by following him on Twitter at @Doctor_V  and on LinkedIn. Make sure to also subscribe to his newsletter, 33Charts!

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