Practicing Medicine at Scale at Inception Health
Being trained as a physician, it is no brainer that I should be operating within the realm of Healthcare. My MVP — e.g. minimum viable productivity — following several years of medical training is to see and treat patients; exactly one patient every 25 mins of which 13 mins will be looking at a 17-inch computer-screen, filling in information, prescriptions, and follow-up notes. My goal is to help my patients get healthier and have a better quality of life.
However, I chose a slightly different path. I now look at two 27-inch screens at Inception Health. My goal is to build and use digital technologies to support hundreds of patients every hour. In the near future, I — in collaboration with my colleagues at Inception Health and our network of partners — hope using digital tools to care for our entire population of several millions and this in real time. In my new role I deem my goal to help all patients get healthier and afford a better quality of life.
This does not represent a change of my underlying philosophy and my ethical responsibility of being a physician. In a sense, my new job at Inception Health concords with the fundamental tenets of medicine and its sole aim of caring for patients. Nonetheless, I must conceal that it is a dramatic shift in the way I practice medicine and at the meta-level a change in the way I project myself as being a doctor. Being at the fore-front of the digital transformation in medicine is shaping my and other colleagues’ role towards a novel speciality of medicine which I designate as “digital health engineering”; a similar definition of what others may call “data science in healthcare”.
Why Inception Health?
Paradoxically, Healthcare, once the pinnacle of innovation and discovery, is today lagging behind almost all other industries in terms of productivity gain and digital innovation. While it is still regarded as the industry of excellence for science and research, it has not evolved from the traditional way it has been orchestrated and delivered. It is almost completely paralyzed to translate current discoveries from the bench to the bedside in a cost-effective and safe way for patients. So while other industries have evolved following the vague of digital disruption, healthcare has but resisted any digital integration. Only governments are lagging behind in this digital transformation — they too have data scientists now. More, healthcare embraced the worst of what digital transformation can offer: the Electronic Health Records — the healthcare equivalent of what Internet Explorer 6 is for the web.
What is certain is that a lot of Healthcare organizations are moving towards digital transformation.
As in the case of any evolution and disruption, current incumbents try to adapt through various pathways and strategies. Some are cosmetic, others are radical; Some are deeply entrenched in the culture of the healthcare delivery ecosystem, others are tangent to it and often labelled as consumer products.
Inception Health merges both! At Inception Health, the distinction between consumer-facing vs healthcare-centric is senseless. Inception Health defines Innovation as the delivery of new customer value — independently from its format, channel, or tools.
Before making my decision to join Inception Health, I have been approached by other amazing groups, genuinely working on making an impact on Healthcare. Most are very well funded, and have the necessary talent pool to produce at the scale and the quality that is required to stage an innovation loop. All offered great streams of funding and an opportunity to collaborate with great minds. So, the choice came down as to a few factors; one of which is velocity. Inception Health is fast! And by fast, I mean really fast. We are embedding Agile methodology and generating iterative design and implementation cycles continuously. Furthermore, Inception Health is built as an independent entity from the mother healthcare organization. This makes it quite nimble, agile, and more importantly frictious: The basic recipe for innovation.
What is my plan?
My role is to lead the digital health engineering. This entails building the DevOps of our healthcare digital ecosystem and the tools that will be required to deliver care services. When mentioning “services”, I shall not distinguish between the digital and traditional care: Both are complementary and part of the same equation of care. A similitude that many health startups omit and avoid to explicitly tackle.
In addition, in collaboration with my colleague Brad Crotty MD MPH, we are launching Inception Health Labs; An academically-focused entity within Inception Health and the Medical College of Wisconsin. Inception Health Labs mission is to build tools, methods, and the pipeline to support evidence-based validation of our digital integrations. Embedding the research component and the validation pipeline into our DevOps and our integration of digital services allows us to build a transparent evidence-based evaluation and monitoring.
Another part of my philosophy is to share thoughts, ideas, and new discoveries. This, I hope, will help distinguish the signal from the noise. It is also a way for us to clarify thoughts and have a bouncing mechanism with the community out there. I will be writing quite often on this blog. Let’s get the conversation started!
Melek Somai, MD. MPH. is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Medical College of Wisconsin and Principal in Digital Health Engineering at Inception Health.