October 3, 2023

In our most recent Digital Health Institute for Transformation (DHIT) Happy Hour, the team hunkered down in Chapel Hill, NC at DHIT HQ on historic Franklin Street for a lively event equipped with cold drinks, tasty bites, and full of innovators, educators, and entrepreneurs to learn about the intersection of data and health. The evening was sponsored by Duke University’s Master of Management in Clinical Informatics (MMCi) program. MMCi is a one-year master’s degree program that equips working physicians and clinicians, as well as business and IT professionals with the multidisciplinary expertise they need to design better, more efficient patient care. The highlight of the night was a fireside chat with DHIT CEO, Michael Levy, and Duke veteran Dr. W. Ed Hammond.

Dr. Hammond is the current director of the Duke Center for Health Informatics, as well as the director of academic affairs for Duke’s MMCi program in the School of Medicine. Dr. Hammond has also been a professor of community and family medicine, the chair of the HL7 Standards Committee, and continues to competitively dance. Dr. Hammond has been at Duke for 63 years!

Living legend!

Dr. Hammond opened the discussion by bluntly stating that “the current healthcare system is broken,” and questioned, “what would the perfect system look like?” In an attempt to answer this question, Dr. Hammond discussed a study he conducted in which he brought together a group of clinicians, nurses, students, and professionals. The answer? It depends.

The results of Dr. Hammond’s research were distilled into three conclusions:

  1. Patients are Number 1
  2. Community is paramount &
  3. Care providers need additional education in data use and management 

Levy commented that we are living in “1923 in the 21st century,” a hint that we are immature to the changes that are coming to the healthcare system, driven by emerging technologies like generative AI. Dr. Hammond’s research pointed out that nearly everyone has a different view of what the “perfect” health system looks like, but we can generally agree that patients are the priority and the healthcare system needs to be reoriented around how people live their lives today, encompassing the everyday use of technology.

In shifting the health paradigm, an abundance of new technologies are appearing on the scene, and care providers are struggling to keep up with the pace of technological development. This is leading to a phenomenon known as “therapeutic inertia” – a feeling of being overwhelmed and falling back into old ways of practicing medicine. Dr. Hammond pointed out that, “we are all going to have to change – we need to stop thinking in the past and present and start thinking in the future. If you can change the behavior of people, you can have more impact than any drug that has ever been invented.”

Dr. Hammond emphasized data as the key driving forces to shaping the future of healthcare. Instead of focusing on the apparent risks of data acquisition and ownership, Dr. Hammond said we should focus on the benefits that sharing data can bring. Because with proper access to data, clinicians and physicians can acquire, analyze, and compare data to make a proper diagnosis and prescribe an appropriate, more personalized treatment. During the Q&A portion of the discussion, Dr. Hammond pointed out that the future of Digital Health resides with the younger generation – it is their growing understanding of data use and management in everyday life which can lead to more informed practice of healthier lifestyles. Dr. Hammond emphasized this point by stating, “If you have anything that’s working, it’s already out of date; that’s how fast technology is advancing,” emphasizing the need for continued digital health education.

Many thanks to Dr. Hammond for sharing his experience and knowledge and thank you to all our champions and supporters for advancing digital health in service of our communities!

Join us for our next Digital Health Happy Hour on October 18 at 500 W 5th Street on the 10th floor in Winston-Salem!

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Talk soon!