Interview with Arup Roy-Burman
Pediatric intensivist, innovator in technology and active in international health Dr. Roy-Burman was Medical Director of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit for UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.
In 2016, his experience led to the founding of UCSF startup Elemeno Health, the first best practice personal assistant, specifically designed for healthcare teams: the right practice to the right patient at the right time.
A platform that gets everyone on the same page, and keeps them there. It reduces variability, increases consistency, and improves outcomes.
Check out our exclusive Q&A session with Arup:
We understand Elemeno Health has already saved lives. That thought must lend a certain sense of urgency to your plans for business growth. How widely adopted would you like your technology to be in a year’s time?
The fact that our solution has helped hospitals to save lives tells us that this is a solution that it is too important not to scale. We would like this to move on as quickly as possible, but we realize that we are a young business and we need to make sure that we do things right. The more we do them right, the more we can replicate and work to scale even faster. So, our goal for this next year is to be in 20 to 50 different hospitals in a year's time; when we are be able to prove our successes, then each one of those hospitals will be the path through which other hospitals can crystalize around them. Our vision is to ultimately grow to be nation wide and we already have interest in other countries.
In your eyes, why is a digital coach the ideal solution for bridging the knowledge-practice gap in nursing? How did you decide that delivering this solution was what you wanted to do next in your career?
As the knowledge-practice gap as grown and we’ve seen more inconsistencies, we find that every nurse is doing things a little bit differently, so nobody knows what exactly is the gold standard and also we have a cultural and health care where a few people want to raise their hand and say: ”Hey, I don’t get it.”. There is an expectation, unfortunately, that everybody should know everything. When we made this into a digital and virtual coach, the nurse can access the gold standard whenever he or she wants to, right at the point of care and everybody's accessing the same standard. I can go into the application without embarrassment and see the "right way to do it" and take care of the patient in a very confident manner. In regards to the question around why I wanted to do this: we are doctors and the healthcare delivery revolves around the doctor and the patient, the reality is that there is a whole layer of people in between, the nurses. They are the people who enable us to provide care, those are our troops. We I saw a solution that we developed at UCSF that was engaging those troops and helping them providing better care, this was too important not to share! What better thing for me than to actually build a platform so that everybody around me, all of my peers, can provide better care and practice at the to of their capabilities, that's why I did this.
Smartphones, much like binders and paper resources, are not particularly clean objects. Do you have any plans to explore using hands-free technology such as AR in future?
The goal is to bring the caregiver close to the patient. The mobile device untied us from the desktop computer to bring us closer: the next step is to allow those hands that are giving care to be freed-up. So, we have had clients that talked us about their interest in allowing voice-activaction, the ability to coach audio through earbuds or AirPods, and similarly to be able to use technology such as Google Glass, to be able to broadcast procedures of video for you in the screen as you were actually giving care to the patient. Going one step further, not only bringing to the patient, but really helping you in real time to make sure you do the right thing.
In your opinion, which elements of human care could technology never replace?
Healthcare is delivered by care givers and nursing. Where's nursing coming from? It's from the mother caring for the baby. This is all about people caring for people. It is about the human touch and the compassion. It is not just about healing the body, but it's healing the mind and the soul. Through technology we can help those care givers to be better, but we cannot replace the compassion that is essential to nurturing and healing one another.
You’re also on the Board of Directors at Global Healing, an organization aimed at improving healthcare in developing countries. Would you consider rolling out Elemeno Health’s technology to less developed parts of the world?
For so much of the world the most powerful piece of computing is the mobile device. What we can do through Elemeno is to be able to take best practices that are developed in environments rich of knowledge and resources. We can pour that knowledge through the cloud to those who are in the resource-poor areas, helping them to elevate their care. It’s like Robin Hood, except that there is no stealing, it’s all about sharing, to be able those who are knowledge-poor. The other piece of these is that there is a raise of micro-learning in the form of video, that is a agnostic language, so the best practices that are developed in one country are applicable to another, even without language and the ability to read and translate, we can still move them from one area to another.
Your business partner, Ed Nanale, used to work in the videogames industry. To what extent have you incorporated elements of gamification into Elemeno Health?
I really enjoyed working with Ed [Nadale] on Elemeno Health. He comes from the gaming industry, which is all about engagement: listening to your users, seeing what they like and makes a difference, what they need and brings them back again - and when you find that, you make more of it.
Medical errors are the 3rd leading cause of the death in the US. What has created this problem?
The real cause of the problem is the knowledge-practice gap. One or two decades ago, there was a limited number of tasks that one needed to master - five or ten. Now it's five hundreds or even a thousand! A way far from the capacity that anyone of us has to master them all. So, with that, we combine an increasingly complex medical environment, because technology has also pushed the limits of what we can care for. There is so much that we can do, so much longer, and so much more interventions that we can do to save somebody's life.
My first question though is why Elemeno Health? I think it would be nice to start out with the reason you co-founded the company...from your personal experience as a medical caregiver
I've been practicing pediatric care for over twenty years and over that time, I've really seen the rise of healthcare complexity. Unfortunately the rise of that knowledge has overwhelmed our frontline staff. The nurses, the young doctors, the therapists had the bad side: the could no longer master everything they are supposed to know. The result is a growing gap between knowledge and practice, therefore inconsistencies, which bring errors.