Dr. Iyer is an experienced doctor of internal medicine who is well recognized in the medical community. He currently serves as the Chairman of the Department of Medicine at the Reston Hospital Center, Reston, VA, and previously served as the Medical Director of Heartland Hospice. His academic background includes his degree in Medicine from Nalanda Medical College, India, a Ph.D in Biochemistry and Genetic Engineering from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, two post-doctoral fellowships at Harvard Medical School, and his residency at George Washington University Medical Center. He has authored several papers in highly acclaimed medical publications, including the Journal of Experimental Medicine.
Dr. Iyer founded his clinic to provide patients a place of empowerment and a genuinely personal health care experience. This was based upon his vision of a doctor as a healer and an agent of empowerment with a single-minded commitment to service. Today, he spearheads his team towards achieving this objective and his patients attest to the individualized attention they receive from the doctor.
I had the privilege of being able to speak to Dr. Iyer about his thoughts on the ways in which technology is revolutionizing the provision of health care in the U.S. Below, he shares his insights from his decades of experiences practicing medicine.
Q: As a physician, how have you used information systems and technology to improve your provision of health care to your patients?
A: When the Iyer Clinic began in 1997 as a single physician practice operating from a sub-leased office in Reston, I recognized that technology had the power to enable me to practice efficiently and inexpensively. In those days, I used a homegrown Interactive Voice Response system (IVRS) to handle all calls flowing through my office. In those days, I could not afford to have more than a single person as my staff and I could not afford an answering service. But I designed the IVRS to give 24/7 responsiveness to my patients. They could page me through the system, punch in their ID number and listen to voicemail that I left for them regarding their lab reports and a certain subset of patients could even record their pulse, blood pressure, daily weights, blood sugar readings and heart rate into this IVRS system and I could monitor their vital signs in this way.
However, in 2011 the Healthcare Information Technology Act booted the entire healthcare industry into using federally certified electronic medical records (EMR) software to record all patient interactions, revolutionizing the use of technology in health care. This was implemented by a series of policy decisions that used a carrot & stick approach of financial incentives to early adopting physicians and financial penalties to those who dragged their feet. The strategy worked. Between 2011 and 2015, 95% of all physicians began to use certified EMR software to do all their patient care transactions, whether it be writing prescriptions, ordering investigations or reviewing the reports of these investigations.
At the Iyer Clinic we opted to use a popular EMR platform called Practice Fusion. Our ability to use this EMR resulted in such high levels of patient satisfaction that we were named the Top Independent Physician Practice of 2012 out of 30,000 physicians nationwide. The early and aggressive adoption of these and other technologies have since then earned us Top Doctor Awards every year since 2012.
Q: Your practice, the Iyer Clinic, prides itself on keeping up-to-date with the latest medical advancements. What role has technology played in those advancements?
A: The single major improvement in the past decade has been the increasing computing power available in portable format. In 1996 you had to go to a doctors office to have an EKG done or a Pulmonary Function Test performed. Today, small hand-held devices bring those technologies to the home of any patient. This increase in computing power coupled with the progressive miniaturization of powerful electronics has allowed us to deliver health care on a mobile platform.
Q: What do you believe are the benefits to physicians by increasing their incorporation of technology into their provision of care? What are the benefits to your patients?
A: Todays physician who is tech savvy can powerfully leverage it to deliver care cheaply with a sizeable boost to the practices operating margin. Used wisely technology is a tremendous force multiplier that can dramatically impact the bottom line of practices in a positive manner. Simultaneously such practices can position themselves to deliver higher quality care and the higher patient satisfaction that accrue with this. The virtuous loop that is generated can propel such practices to the top of their field.
Q: Do you think technology will continue to revolutionize the way physicians treat patients in the future in a hospital setting and in a private practice setting?
A: Absolutely! Todays physician carries tremendous power in their pocket. In our practice we routinely use connectivity technology like facetime to remotely examine the bedsores of our patients in their home. The caregiver in the home executes a facetime session with us and we are able to visually assess the stage of healing of the patients wounds, etc. All this is of course done within accepted safeguards of patient confidentiality and privacy with appropriate consent from the involved parties. But this would not be possible without technology.
About the Author:
Mayura Iyer graduated from University of Virginia in 2015 with a BA in Foreign Affairs. She is graduating this year with her Masters in Public Policy from the University of Virginia. She is moving to Dallas to pursue her dream to work for Teach for America.