Leslie Saxon, M.D.

Chief, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California

Principal organizer, Body Computing Conference

Graduate Ross University School of Medicine, 1985

Former director of the electrophysiology laboratory, UC San Francisco

- Interview By Gary Baldwin

Having practiced invasive cardiology for nearly two decades, Leslie Saxon, M.D., takes the long view of clinical IT. She envisions implanted devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators as a streaming treasure trove of clinical data. In her view, the devices will one day put patients in the driver's seat of health care treatment. Her annual Body Computing conference seeks to explore ways technology can enhance clinical care. And the topic is not just theoretical for her. At the third event, conducted last fall at USC, she demonstrated two of her own iPhone applications. One, Beating Heart, is a type of medical game that enables teenagers to dispatch their heart rates to friends in social networks. The other, called Connect, was developed with a grant from Boston Scientific. It helps patients with implanted devices stay in touch with their physicians. Neither is yet commercially available. Yet, Saxon is confident that as health care becomes more outcomes oriented, and consumers take more responsibility for their treatment, such applications will become indispensable.

On Inevitable Change

Medicine is like the phone company, which used to be a monopoly. Then cell phone communication changed everything. That's how medical care feels to me. It will involve companies like Google or Microsoft with personalized health records and other companies with handheld devices. It's going to be a different mindset. We will see an increasing democratization of the medical information stream. Being a naked patient in a room with a doctor is not the only way to get information.

On Engaging Teenagers

At the Body Computing conference we explore ways to expand the ability of technology to deliver information to consumers and get better outcomes. Can you put entertainment in? With the Internet, the draw is entertainment, and that can be very motivating. So the Beating Heart is totally for your kid to play with. You stick a patch that looks like this cool glowing heart on your chest, and it communicates the heart rate to the phone. It gives kids insight into what the heart rate is. They can send a photo of the latest teen idol and see what effect it has on their friend's heart rate. We will have increasing capability of monitoring ourselves this way.

On Outside Interest

A gamer who attended the conference saw the Beating Heart application, and said, 'forget about medicine, I want to use this for war games and see how nervous my opponent is.'

On the Limits of EHR

If most of your patients are streaming data to a Web site, do you really need an EHR if you can transmit the data to a device?

This article can also be found at HealthDataManagement.com.

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