Overtaxed system to see influx of new patients


California is facing a doctor shortage. By some estimates, the shortage will reach 17,000 two years from now. There's no question physicians and hospitals are going to be treating a lot of new patients, with an estimated 700,000 new patients expected to sign up for affordable health care in California starting Tuesday. So, those medical professionarls are turning to technology to help.

"We have a shortage of primary care access and I'm hoping that technology is going to be a tool to allow our patients to interact with us in a way that makes our time with them more efficient and productive," said Professor Urmimala Sarkar, Ph.D., at the UCSF School of Medicine.

That's why entrepreneurs have gathered in Silicon Valley -- to peddle tech-based innovations they hope will provide better and faster care. Dr. David Wong, a Stanford professor, also runs a start-up called "Direct Dermatology." Doctors consult patients online.

"This technology enables us to give access to patients a lot quicker, no wait times, no needing for the patient to take time off from work, come in to see us," Wong explained.

Today's faster Wi-Fi connections will enable Palo Alto-based "Beam" to connect medical experts via keyboard-driven mobile video devices. Many of the discussions at the health conference focused on getting patients to develop trust and confidence using smartphones to share medical records and data in both directions.

Some technology will work behind-the-scenes, such as helping doctors decide what genetic tests to order. "It's really changing medicine, but there's a lot of confusion in the physician community, so we have an IT tool that helps them select the appropriate test for their patient and place an order electronically," said NextGxDx CEO Mark Harris, Ph.D.

The challenge for entrepreneurs is to attract investment capital in the millions of dollars while making a case that it will save money for care providers and patients.

"The tools of technology, whether they be communication tools, electronic record tools, disease management tools, all of those things together that can help a patient who otherwise wouldn't know how to manage their care, are absolutely important to develop," said Zero Divide President and CEO Tessie Guillermo.

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