'Healthbeat Conference' aims to bring medicine, computers together

May 23, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
More than one-third of all doctors' offices still keep patients' medical records on paper. In fact, doctors have been so slow to adapt to computers that the federal government is offering them money to make the change. Some of the top minds in tech are in San Francisco this week trying to figure out how to make that transition easier.

Thursday's event started out like any tech conference. A journalist interviewed a high-profile chief executive in a room packed full of bloggers. But there was another group there. "Any physicians in the room? Just a few? Would any of you wear Google glass when consulting the patient?" the journalist asked.

There were many doctors in the audience. Not many of them responded. Doctors, it seems, are not early adopters.

"If you go visit a doctor or a physician, it still feels like a very sort of old and antiquated process. There's a lot of paper forms you have to fill out. There are a lot of, sort of, in-person conversations," Box CEO Aaron Levie said. He says a lot of that boils down to privacy rules and red tape.

Levie is the CEO of file sharing company Box, which has just gone through the rigorous process of getting approved by the government to store sensitive medical records in the cloud where doctors can pull them up from anywhere.

"So instead of your doctor having to go leave the room to go pull up other information or go consult with other people, they have at their fingertips infinite access to any data they've been able to store or create," Levie explained.

Though this is the first year they've held this conference, the crowd has been standing room-only because even though medicine and computers have both been around for a long time, trying to bring the two together has always been a challenge.

"It has been stuck in the dark ages, it really has," said VentureBeat CEO Matt Marshall. Although, he says this was the time to start the HealthBeat Conference because now, Medicare is giving doctors cash incentives to modernize.

Innovators like "Practice Fusion" are offering free software that improves care. "They see all of the data from one patient. So if they're about to prescribe a drug that might interact with another drug that they're already on, we just alert them in real time," Practice Fusion Associate VP Chris Hogg said.

And, the cloud is enabling new hardware, like the Scanadu Scout. It gets your vital signs just by touching your forehead, wherever you are. "What happens when you drink alcohol? What happens when you drink coffee? What happens when you work out? What's changing your blood pressure?" explained Scanadu Chief Medical O fficer Dr. Alan Greene.

Because of all the information out there, that's some of the most important. "Because you know, in the end, your health is everything," Marshall said.

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