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In this Digital CxO Leadership Insights video, Amanda Razani speaks with Dr. Vik Bakhru about the ways in which the medical industry can embrace digital transformation to help underserved communities.



Amanda Razani: Hello, I’m Amanda Razani, with Digital CxO. And I’m excited to be here today with Dr. Vik Bakhru. He has a lot of information about the health industry and how they can digitize. How are you doing today?

Dr. Vik Bakhru: I’m doing well. Thank you so much for asking. And more importantly, thank you for having me here. I really appreciate the opportunity to speak with your listeners.

Amanda Razani: Yes, thank you for coming on the show. So tell me, you’ve worked with a lot of underserved communities. And you’re really passionate about bringing digital transformation to the medical industry. What have you done? Can you share a little bit about that?

Dr. Vik Bakhru: Yeah, absolutely happy to do so. You know, for me, a lot of it started when I was in medical school, and I worked on a nonprofit that builds clinics, specifically pediatric clinics, in the developing world. And so we ended up building facilities that would care for kids and their families, in communities in Uganda, in Central America, in Asia, quite literally in about 10 countries. And that formed a lot of the base for me in understanding how best to serve and how to scale what are always limited resources, because the need is that great. So digital transformation became a real key part of my learning journey, in terms of how to reach more individuals, and how to make your services more accessible. And technology ends up being a core part of that answer in many cases.

Amanda Razani: So can you tell me how do you reach these individuals? How are you utilizing technology? Can you give a few examples?

Dr. Vik Bakhru: Yeah, absolutely. Across a number of different operating environments and different companies I’ve worked with, you can never replace the human. In fact, you shouldn’t. You should really try to maintain that human touch and feel. Throughout whatever services you’re delivering, especially in healthcare, it’s so incredibly important to establish a human connection and make that last. But the back end technology can often be quite transformative. So if you think about the connection, we may feel through texting, and through messaging, you can have a connection. In one example, and one company I worked with, we built technology that allowed us to engage with patients in a very personalized way, meaning we could message back and forth together. And on the back end, the technology supported a doctor or a nurse having conversations with 10 people at the same time. Now, it’s hard to keep track of that, which is why the technology was so important to be able to tee up when someone had replied how much time had passed, since they were, you know, since they had messaged you, and you needed to get them at least some kind of response. A lot of people ask the same questions. And so you can draft a lot of the answers that are very customized to the need of the moment. But you can do it in a way that feels very personalized. And so in that case, technology was a key part of the service delivery experience. Instead of having each letter typed anew, there were some quick shortcuts that our clinicians were able to use on the back end still deliver a very personalized interaction with great information. So that’s just one example. But a lot of it tends to be how you support the caregiver. How do you support the clinician? How does your technology enable scalability of what you bring to the table, because there’s really only one of you, and there are many patients that you may need to serve. That’s a very clinical context, right? So happy to share other examples about different environments, but each environment carries with it the potential for digital transformation. I think that’s what’s important to keep top of mind. It’s a commitment to technology, and to digitizing the experience.

Amanda Razani: Absolutely, and getting that medical help around the world. So in regard to that, you mentioned a few countries. When a country doesn’t have a lot of access to technology in the first place, how do you bring digital transformation to those countries? How do you utilize technology when there isn’t a lot of technology there?

Dr. Vik Bakhru: You know, the first thing that we do whenever we’re operating in a new environment is to do an assessment; you got to survey and see what are the tools and resources. When we walk in with a lot of assumptions, unfortunately, we fall behind on our ability to build correctly for the community we’re trying to serve. So the first step is really assess and understand what are the tools and resources that are available. You’d be surprised, and countries that you would maybe not see the same level of infrastructure in front of you in terms of roads and bridges and so forth – they actually have some of the latest and greatest cellular technology infrastructure that’s available on the market today. Because it’s new; it’s more recent. So it just depends on what exact need is in the community and how you’re trying to serve it with what level of technology deployment. So transformation, I think is, it’s important to take a step back before you you know, charging, if you will, and just assess and see what the needs are before you before you start deploying some of the tools you have available to you.

Amanda Razani: That makes complete sense. So I hear more and more about Teladoc as a way to get medical help. What do you have to say about Teladoc and where that’s going? And then also, I’m seeing more and more robots being used in the medical industry. Even for diagnosis at the ER, they’re talking to a robot, and the physician is at home. So and that all is, of course, part of digital transformation as well. So can you share a little bit about those technologies?

Dr. Vik Bakhru: Yeah, so there are so many exciting things happening in healthcare when it comes to new ways to deliver care to deliver support to be able to help understand what people need in their home environments and how they live their daily lives, especially when we’re talking about communities in need. And so whether it’s Teladoc, or any other number of telemedicine companies (there are quite literally are a lot on the market today that are doing some important cutting edge work on rethinking the care pathways, and being able to augment our ability to understand from the patients we’re trying to serve from the people we’re trying to serve); one of the things that I think is, it’s very interesting to me that if you’re talking about someone who has high blood pressure, the current standard of care might be seeing your physician or your nurse practitioner in an office setting once or twice a year, maybe three or four times a year. That’s it. And you might be given a blood pressure cuff or asked to buy one. And you might be tasked with writing down those numbers and bringing them in with you. But more often than not, we forget the notebook at home, or we don’t actually record it. As consistently, I did have a patient once, who recorded their heart rate as one of the numbers instead of the systolic and the diastolic blood pressure, the top number and the bottom number that we typically associated with a blood pressure. And it was an innocent normal thing that someone who’s non medical may not know how to do. But to me, it stuck out like a sore thumb. And I was very curious why these were the numbers and why they were recorded in a certain way. I hadn’t done my job to explain properly how to record this information. And so I think we have, as we think about the role that digital transformation can play. using telemedicine, we can connect with our patients and the communities we’re serving more frequently, we can do it with digital templates that allow us to automatically collect the information and put it into our electronic record or medical record where we can access it and react to it. And there’s so much more that we can do that we’re not doing. And if we were appropriately managing blood pressure for every single person, then we wouldn’t need this technology. But the truth is we’re not as a healthcare system, we have a long way to go to serve those people who suffer high blood pressure or low blood pressure or blood pressure issues in general. You know, I don’t know if you deal with blood pressure issues or diabetes or any other number of medical concerns. But I can tell you that if you did, I would want more for you than a once or twice visits a year to a doctor’s office that may not fully allow the level of behavior change that is needed to complement whatever medications you might be eligible to receive, and so on and so forth. So the role that telemedicine and companies like the one you mentioned, as well as many others that are out there, the role is to introduce that technology to help people adopt it, and learn how to adopt it. And then ultimately to access the level of support that you need. And I do think that digital health at this moment is perfectly poised to make some of these advancements in the outcomes that we drive for the communities we’re serving, especially when you live a very difficult life. And it’s hard to go to the doctor because you may work an hourly job, you may not be given the time off that you need. You may have other barriers to care such as a lack of transportation. And I could go on and on on this. But health equity, and the ability to achieve equivalent outcomes for the people we’re serving actually starts with digital transformation and a recognition of what tools we can bring to meet people where they’re at.

Amanda Razani: Absolutely. And something you said there – I’ve actually had conversations with people who didn’t have easy methods of transportation, and they took time off or they scheduled the taxi to get to the doctor and the appointment was canceled or rescheduled. And this happens on numerous occasions to most anyone, even myself. And so – especially in the underserved communities – when that’s difficult to get there in the first place, that’s very frustrating. And so utilizing these technologies will be very helpful. And then another thing you said, just in general, using digital transformation as a way to track data more; to track medical data of individuals to get a better medical diagnosis for them.

Dr. Vik Bakhru: Absolutely, you know, I mean, I think that when you properly house the data and you leverage it for the outcomes that you’re trying to achieve for the people you’re serving, that is the full end-to-end solution. You know, you can’t just do the assessment and wish that, or hope, that after they leave the office, that they’re going to be perfectly empowered and comfortable and knowledgeable about what they need to do to improve their health. You’ve got to provide a support network along the way. I need that with my health issues, and I think everyone deserves that ability to receive the level of support that they need. And different people need different levels of support; my parents need a little bit of help using their phone and understanding how a continuous glucose monitor can actually be applied to the skin and then connected to the app. And there are a few steps there that are not just, you know, easy for everyone to do. So in their case, they need a little bit of extra support. Someone else may be perfectly fine opening a box reading a pictorial diagram of how to do the different steps and be off to the races. So we’ve really just got to make sure that as we do digital transformation, as we commit to it, we’re building in the right user journeys and right pathways that accommodate different levels of need different levels of support.

Amanda Razani: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for coming on the show today and talking about digital transformation in the medical industry. I appreciate your insight.

Dr. Vik Bakhru: Oh, my pleasure. Thanks so much for having me. Thank you.