Digital Transformation

A smart toilet may be the future of IoT healthcare

Revon CEO Ted Smith explains why data scientists, medical specialists, and developers are all vital to the healthcare industry's digital transformation.

New York-based Dan Patterson, of TechRepublic and ZDNet, spoke with Louisville, Kentucky-based Ted Smith, CEO of Revon Systems about the digital innovations that will change healthcare, including, perhaps, how the most revolutionary insight into healthcare may be a smart toilet.

Dan Patterson: Revon Systems blends technology innovations with real-world applications. For TechRepublic and ZDNet in New York, I am Dan Patterson, and I'm speaking to Ted Smith, CEO of Revon Systems in Louisville, Kentucky. He also used to run TechRepublic.

Let's talk about how Revon blends technology with healthcare systems to overcome challenges of foiled analog systems.

Ted Smith: Revon is a long list of companies focused on making the most of the technology at home or in your hand. There are hundreds of thousands of medically oriented mobile phone apps. Now there are hundreds of Alexa Skills. Revon captured the power of what machine learning and artificial intelligence brings about medical decision making and puts it in your hand, so that you at home, not at the doctor, not in the hospital, have access to high quality medical decision making and assessments.

And so we make applications that help people with asthma and COPD and, in the future, congestive heart failure, and other conditions where people are uncertain at home and would love to have accessible, affordable, expert medical help.

SEE: Hiring kit: IoT developer (Tech Pro Research)

Dan Patterson: The healthcare system is incredibly complex. There are so many different cogs. Help us understand the digital transformation of each cog, and the journey your industry has been on leading up till today.

Ted Smith: Clinicians operate in the healthcare provider system, Innovations and transformations occur in the home, transformations occur in payment, as well as the people who ultimately reimburse the service providers. In those three areas, there's an interaction with government, as government is a payer and a standards-setter.

In the healthcare system, there are providers, innovators and transformers who have a better understanding of an individual's future health status, that population's health-management, people who were treated at that hospital, or who go to that practice. Having historical data on patients is critical. Our tools run analytics to determine interventions most effective for patients, a really promising, high-growth area, and other similar fields, focused on better understanding individual risks for future health outcomes.

Big technology companies are increasingly making homes smarter or helping with personal productivity. Those companies remind you of your circumstances, of what you might do differently, and to keep you well, different than removing disease.

On the payer side, there's interest in adopting digital technologies, because they're more cost-effective, in theory, than drugs, than medical devices, than getting procedures done. And so we're looking for this new category, which isn't covered by most payers/insurance companies today. But, in the future, your doctor will prescribe a software application. Today, it doesn't happen that often.

We see each of these three areas of the healthcare system embrace technology and digital transformation differently with different objectives.

SEE: Travel and business expense policy (Tech Pro Research)

Dan Patterson: You mentioned the impact of artificial intelligence and automation. What are some of the other technologies powering the digital transformation of healthcare?

Ted Smith: The Internet is revolutionary for healthcare, because so much of healthcare, historically, has been very expensive equipment in clinical settings, or a very subjective analysis of a person's situation. If you call a nurse line, the only information available about your situation is what you can describe to the person on the phone.

With home-sensors, with wear-ables, we know more about a specific situation, so you don't determine you to try to figure out how well you are. It actually can be more knowable to them. So sensors in the home or on a person, are a tremendous inflection point for the industry.

Dan Patterson: You mentioned benefits to consumers and benefits of knowing and the ability to forecast future health challenges. What are some of the digital transformation benefits to business, healthcare providers, and other agents within the healthcare system?

Ted Smith: Everyone shares the same goal: keep you as well as possible, for as long as possible. Everyone, from your employer, your family, your insurance company, to your doctor, is increasingly interested in anticipating what could go wrong, or getting ahead of an awkwardly trending situation. This is a whole new frontier. We spent a lot of time, essentially, remediating disease, treating disease, trying to remove disease, reacting to disease, and this future chapter of healthcare is very much focused on preventing the disease, or lessening the extent of some kind of an attack that you might be scheduled to have in the future. This is a great time to be alive, because we all want to work in a system trying to keep us well.

Dan Patterson: This is healthcare, and there are things that can go wrong. What are some of the potential challenges of digital transformation for the industry?

Ted Smith: Many years ago, I worked at the Department of Heath and Human Services, in The Office of the National Coordinator, the health-records people. It was a great experience, because it was an opportunity to learn what friction exists in healthcare, and it's data exchange. We'd like to believe if we were traveling across the country, that if we were in an accident, we'd be able to be in the hospital and they would know our health history, based on our home health system. That's just not a reality today, because of various parties' vested interests in holding and not sharing data. It always gets in the way of receiving better care, because we really need data flowing more like water. You get the privacy folks who say, "Well, there's too much risk in sharing data." You get the vendors who say, "It's not in my best interest to share data, 'cause it commoditizes what I do." So you have data exchange, the number one problem we have to tackle right now.

Dan Patterson: It's impossible to discuss healthcare without also talking about the government. What are the best ways public-private partnerships can exist within healthcare systems and use technology to create efficiencies which deliver healthy solutions, pun intended, to consumers?

SEE: Time management tips for tech professionals (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Ted Smith: There's been a great shift in how Medicare will reimburse for health services, and it comes loosely under the idea of shared value, or accountable care systems; it's not about paying for individual procedures, it's about paying for outcomes. The good news is, with the federal government shift in Medicare and Medicaid towards paying for outcomes, rather than paying for procedures, the private marketplace is encouraged to think about the Medicare Advantage companies, about the Managed Medicaid companies. It encourages them to take more risks and adopt technologies truly beneficial to reducing the overall medical intensity many people have. It's a great example of the kinds of shifts we need:

the private sector should make those investments, take those risks, knowing they'll get the upside, if it works out, that kind of shared value work is tremendously important.

Dan Patterson: Can you forecast the future for us? Some advice and insight on what technologies may be most disruptive, and what technologies may be most helpful in the next 18-36 months?

Ted Smith: I'll leave you with something controversial that will be memorable. But my money is on the toilet, just to be clear, based on biometrics, considering all that can be done by sampling by what's going on with someone, believe it or not, we can learn a lot about your health with a smart toilet.

It's kind of a gross thought, but it's something we all use multiple times a day. It's probably the gateway to always knowing about your health.

Also see

About Dan Patterson

Dan is a Senior Writer for TechRepublic. He covers cybersecurity and the intersection of technology, politics and government.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox