The Brightest Minds Speak Up

Amul Patel envisions a kind of “open source” healthcare IT ecosystem where insurance payers, providers and startups can collaborate and evolve best practices. In his vision, everyone benefits – especially the healthcare consumer.  That’s the kind of innovative thinking Amul brings as the newest member of the HIMSS Innovation Committee. Born and raised in England, Amul spent his early career managing technology teams in the foreign exchange and money market trading systems. This was his early grounding in mission-critical, high-quality, high-transaction systems. Amul is a passionate entrepreneur who has led several successful tech startups. He thrives on using his startup and consulting skills to “bridge the gap” between business and IT.

For the past 15 years, Amul has worked with healthcare leaders and clinical visionaries to identify customer pain points and deliver innovative tech solutions. Amul has served as a consultant with Stanford University School of Medicine and is a volunteer mentor for startup companies. At Blue Shield of California, Amul is responsible for advancing “health data-driven innovations” for virtual care, population health management, and personalized medicine through new and emerging technology.

HIMSS: What do you see as the most important new innovations in digital health?

Amul: What excites me most is the rapid development and convergence of digital health capabilities and genomic data to prescribe “digital therapeutics” at the molecular level.  For example, in my own situation, regardless of whether I eat right or exercise, I am at high risk for diabetes and heart disease based on my genes, my South Asian ancestry, stress, environment, and other traits.  As I head into my 50s, this is the time to follow a personalized plan for being active into my 60s and 70s. 

So, let’s anchor on patient engagement, personalized health and wellness and virtual care. The great thing about digital health is that the capabilities are already there and at scale -- machine learning, AI [artificial intelligence], and advances in telehealth, microservices, IoT [Internet of Things], and edge computing. And now, with interoperability standards, the secure data flow is coming. 

Digital health platforms can better empower and engage individuals not as an insurance member or subscriber or as a patient -- but as a consumer on their terms.  And they can help us better understand individual needs to “prescribe” the best evidence-based digital health programs to predict the best outcomes – using a baseline from personalized data collected themselves as well as their EHR data. 

HIMSS: What are the most pressing needs on the healthcare horizon?

Amul: The pace of change is too slow, and the capacity for change is limited, especially within large established organizations. People with great ideas need the time to explore those ideas. We need to move the needle on accelerating innovation and the right culture that supports innovation. 

The key to change will be to release capacity for everyone to innovate. Innovation is no longer a central division – innovation is everywhere, in every department.  To be competitive in healthcare and to control cost of care, we must release people’s capacity to explore, take risks and challenge the status quo.  And we must remove the friction startups and entrepreneurs face when they try to engage established health plans, hospitals and other health systems.

HIMSS: As a new member of the HIMSS Innovation Committee, what have you gained so far?

Amul:  I’m honored to have the opportunity to serve as a member of the HIMSS Innovation Committee.  In just the first few months, I’ve learned so much from brainstorming with the industry’s leading health innovators (Rasu Shrestha, Santosh Mohan, Jay Srini, and many others) to take healthcare transformation to the next level.  Within the HIMSS forum, I have this amazing opportunity to extend what I do at a regional level to a national and even global scale. It’s been a great experience!

HIMSS: Any other thoughts to share?

Amul: Healthcare is a closed and competitive industry. Let’s open up our learning and be less proprietary. If you really want to transform healthcare – and we all have personal stories about why we want to see change – it can’t be about the returns, but about what’s the right thing to do.  We need to extend collaboration on best practices to the masses and streamline engagement with startups.