Jacques Kpodonu on The Value of Health Tech

In Health Tech, Stakeholders, Stakeholders Health Tech 12 by Mary Kurek

Stakeholder Series:  The Value of Health Tech – Q & A With…

Jacques Kpodonu, Faculty, Harvard Medical School and Cardiac Surgeon, Beth Israel Deaconess Med Center, US

Jacques Kpodonu shares his viewpoints on the value of health tech. Jacques’ focus is on healthcare innovation, cardiac surgery, capacity building, and health systems innovation.  You’ll find more of Jacques’ interests and accomplishments within this Q & A sheet, but, you can also check out his Linkedin profile.

Q:  What is the most disruptive innovation in health tech you’ve seen in the last couple of years?

A:  I have been fascinated by advancement in robotics, artificial intelligence, advanced visualization technology, and virtual and augmented reality in medical education. I, however, believe that the power to use smartphones as digital tools for healthcare and digital health technologies are the biggest advances in the last few years that will enable whole populations with no access to healthcare (for example in Africa) to now have the ability with a smartphone to access telemedicine, telehealth, remote monitoring technologies, monitor their blood pressure or EKG (Apple 4 watch). https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/disrupting-detection-treatment-abnormal-heart-beat-using-kpodonu-md/ 

Q:  What is the technology you feel has the most potential for cardiac patients?

A:  The advent of the transcatheter aortic valve (TAVR) which I am a pioneer of and have written books on has been a major advance in how we treat patients with aortic valve disease. We are now at a point where you no longer need open heart surgery to replace your aortic valve.  Such advances in minimally invasive heart surgery have been made possible with evolution in advanced 3D imaging CT and echocardiography technology. Other noted technologies I am excited about: the use of genomics to predict who has heart disease, precision medicine https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/betting-cure-precision-medicine-bold-prediction-2017-kpodonu-md/   to determine who would respond to a particular medication, and the potential to use CRISPR technology to edit and cure heart disease. Genomics would, in the coming years, be a very significant part of population health and disease predictions.

Q:  How is the robotic operating room (a project you led for UCI) changing surgery?  How is it impacting patient recovery and outcomes?

A:  I was instrumental in building one of the world’s most advanced robotic imaging operating rooms when I was director of cardiac hybrid surgery at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach and faculty at UCI. We spent $6.7 million for such a room which had the latest 3D advanced imaging technology.  We could incorporate catheter-based operations with robotic surgery operations to provide the most minimal invasive heart operations possible. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/planning-build-cardiac-hybrid-surgery-operating-rooms-kpodonu-md/ The room was built to teleconference any procedure worldwide and we were able also to import imaging data from outside the operating room and fuse that data in real-time. It was much fun to make trips to Germany to meet with the engineers and architects to design the space and the room and all the software and technology.  The availability of such a room with mood lighting and music was very comforting to patients and we were able to offer the most minimal invasive procedures which resulted in speedy patient recovery, wonderful patient experience, and excellent outcomes in high-risk patients who would otherwise have had to have more invasive procedures. The future of heart surgery was born at that hospital.

Q:  From your own experience in Ghana, what technologies are currently creating impact there?  Where’s the future of health tech for countries like that?

A:  As background, I was born in Paris, France to a French mother and a dad from Ghana. I do speak, reach, and have networks in France, Europe, and Africa. My biggest work to come would not be what I do at Harvard but what I envision doing in Africa–Africa, and particularly Ghana, where my dad comes from, is dear to me. Together with the Government of Ghana we are looking at deploying  technologies at scale like drone technology for delivery of essential medicines (the most advanced in the world to date ) https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/health/MoH-Zipline-commence-testing-and-diagnostic-flights-727506.  We intend to build a personal health record based on blockchain to keep all of a person’s healthcare data including medicines, social determinants, and genomics at scale.  We are also exploring using an AI-based smartphone ultrasound to remotely image patients with rheumatic heart disease and use machine learning and AI to predict diagnosis and enable a remote consultation using Butterfly Network’s new AI ultrasound technology. Finally, to eradicate rheumatic heart disease we are exploring how we can use the largest database on strep A infection (The Afrostrep study) out of Africa https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26916694 and using microbial data and genomic data from those patients stored in a biobank to create a vaccine against Strep A to eradicate rheumatic heart disease from the 33 million currently affected. The last work I am involved with is developing a low-cost polymeric heart valve that can be deployed in a minimally invasive manner to treat young patients with rheumatic heart disease in line with the Cape Town Declaration that I helped to put in place.http://rhdaction.org/news/cape-town-declaration-calls-improved-strategies-treat-rheumatic-heart-disease  These are all large social impact projects that have the potential to affect billions mostly in Africa…and this might be the most important aspect of my work with Africa.  Africa leads in mobile money so I do see digital health and blockchain as the technologies that may have the biggest impact. The next Amazon would come out of Africa which is a young energetic Africa and the technologies outlined will scale as Africa removes all economic barriers between countries – and is happening within the future.  No need for a passport within any African country. Whilst we talk about Brexit and Europe breaking apart – Africa is joining forces. It is that future that excites me much.

Q:  If you could predict the most important advancement that could be made using tech for cardiac surgery in 10 years, what would it be and how would it impact that entire space (surgeons, surgery, patient outcomes, medical education, etc.)?

A:  3D printing in the next few years could revolutionize surgery. I can see a future where your own heart valve would be able to regenerate through the use of 3D bioprinting and regenerative medicine (stem cells). https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/3d-printing-your-heart-valves-using-imaging-data-jacques-kpodonu-md/ It would be possible to use minimal invasive techniques to deploy a polymeric  biodegradable heart valve to replace your diseased heart valve, and using stem cells and regenerative medicine techniques, your stem cells will populate the polymeric heart valve with your own cells and the polymeric biodegradable heart valve will be biodegradable based on how we program the process for degradation. We will see advances in augmented reality, simulation, and virtual reality to replace current models of medical education, and it could be possible to rehearse a surgery on your computer using digital simulation tools. Robotics would make significant advances and also telerobotics when 5G networks become available which will permit remote surgeries to take place across continents in resource-low settings.  A master surgeon could perform surgery in a remote location with the use of robotics, 5G networks, and telesurgery. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/surgical-tele-presence-image-guidance-via-your-smart-phone-jacques/ 
The future is bright in health tech……
(Stakeholder Series shares commentary of thought leader viewpoints.)