On January 17, 2017, the Stanford University School of Medicine announced the launch of the Center for Digital Health, which is dedicated to supporting collaborations between Stanford’s faculty and tech companies in Silicon Valley. These collaborations will have the potential to result in the development, testing and implementation of new digital health tools. The Center for Digital Health works to advance the field of digital health by conducting clinical research, promoting partnership and spreading education to the next generation.
Stanford has been working to improve patient care through precision health, and Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the School of Medicine, feels that the Center for Digital Health will be able to further this mission. Because Stanford Medicine’s faculty are equipped with biomedical expertise and are located in Silicon Valley, Stanford Medicine has immense potential to become a leader in digital health. The Center for Digital Health uses the most advanced digital tools and technologies to tailor care to individual patients. For this reason, Minor states, the choice to open the Center aligns with the mission of the biomedical revolution in precision health at Stanford.
According to Sumbul Desai, MD, clinical associate professor of medicine and executive director of the center, the idea for the center came from the need to provide guidance and support to faculty who were being contacted by tech companies and startups with offers to collaborate. Stanford’s faculty wanted to give the faculty more opportunities by providing the resources and infrastructure necessary for these relationships to develop. The center will be able to help connect faculty with people in the tech industry, and vice versa.
There are currently a lot of digital health startups in existence. It’s important that doctors, hospitals, patients, insurers, investors and regulators are aware of which solutions will work. Mintu Turakhia, MD, assistant professor of cardiovascular medicine and senior director of research and innovation at the center, stated that high-quality evidence is necessary for making informed decisions.
He leads efforts to advance research in digital health. This can involve anything from implementation studies to technology assessments to multicenter trials. Turakhia is also the principal investigator for five trials in the field of digital health. Of these trials, the largest one is a randomized trial to test whether digital interventions combined with health coaches improve adherence to medication in people with atrial fibrillation. The trial involves 400 patients at 25 sites. This is an important trial since atrial fibrillation affects 4 million U.S. adults.
Turakhia says that even after evidence has been found, there are a number of questions that need to be answered. The faculty members need to figure out the best way to make new digital tools a part of health care. They need to determine if the new advances will actually make patient care better and whether they are worth the costs.
Lauren Cheung, MD, BMA, clinical assistant professor of medicine and senior director of strategy and operations for the center stated that there is not much evidence that can determine how to incorporate digital tools into practice. This is where Stanford’s faculty members come in. With their experience they can help design and implement digital health tools.
Training will be provided to physician in digital health medicine through the center’s fellowships, conferences, internship opportunities and traditional classroom material. Educational programs will also be offered to industry members.
It is clear that the center has the power to truly change the way medicine and tech collide. With the launching of this new center, Stanford will be able to make strides in digital health, which will have a large positive impact on patient care.