At NJIT, doctors learn how tech can help patient outcomes

Shoe supports with sensors to help Type 2 diabetics avoid potential amputation and hands-free shoes were featured at the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s fourth annual Innovation Showcase.

“My son had a medical condition. He was in a scoliosis brace for years and it prevented him from being able to bend over and put his own shoes on,” said Steven Kaufman, founder and CEO of Hands-Free LLC.

Many of the innovations at the showcase included the intangible, but what some consider invaluable benefits to the medical profession to improve patient and population health.

“We’re 15 years behind pretty much every other industry when it comes to computing, electronics, and so we have a lot of catching up to do,” said Dr. Thomas Ortiz, medical director of the New Jersey Innovation Institute.

“People use everything, they use their phones now for everything, they use their smartphones, and people want to engage in their health care differently,” said Linda Schwimmer, president and CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute. “They’re taking care of their health care differently and our medical community needs to be ready for that and to really lead in that.”

With all the talk about innovation and technological advances, the conference really boiled down to one thing: better care for patients.

The American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation says it has an app for that called “Choosing Wisely.” It’s not a competitor to WebMD, rather it’s an app to focus on better care.

“Choosing Wisely is all about fostering conversations between doctors and patients about care that may not be necessary,” said Dr. Richard Baron, president and CEO of the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation. “We know that there’s lots of unnecessary care in medicine, and some of that care, some of the problem with that is it wastes money. But the real problem is it exposes patients to unnecessary risk from which they don’t benefit.”

Baron says the app is producing results. Johns Hopkins Medical Center cut excess cardiac biomarker testing by 66 percent, saving more than a million dollars in one year. The National Academy of Medicine estimates wasteful tests and treatments cost $210 billion a year.

Dr. Noel Ilogu, a primary care physician at the University Medical and Treatment Center, says it’s challenging to get some patients to accept his caution against over-testing.

When asked if it exposes doctors to patient lawsuits, Ilogu said, “Sometimes they feel that you have failed to do something because they wanted it.”

Another doctor said it’s frustrating when even her friends and family think some medical information shared on social media sites is the gospel.

“The other thing we’re discovering about this is that fake news with alarming headlines spreads faster than real stuff,” said Baron.

Doctors say the issue is trust. Baron says Choosing Wisely helps patients consider the source.

“Board certification is an interesting part of that equation, too. That’s how you know that your doctor is staying current in their field, so that you want to be sure that the doctor you’re seeing actually knows today’s medicine, today’s health care,” said Baron.

Organizers say innovation is leading to a better understanding about life expectancy based on where people live, as the Robert Wood Johnson survey shows. The wealthiest ZIP codes have the best outcomes.

“That all ties into this, so helping the physicians, being smart about how we spend money. Because that money, then you’re saving money, and then that can be used for other things, like safety, lighted playgrounds, things like that. If we really wanted to turn New Jersey around and have it be safe and healthy for everyone, we really need to think about how we spend our money more wisely,” said Schwimmer.