In 2015, Austin cardiologist Manish Chauhan, MD, decided to finally act on an idea he’d been knocking around for a while – something to fill a void he’d witnessed when it came to engaging patients in their care.
“Patients are looking for clear information about their health from their trusted clinicians to make better decisions and self-care, but we oftentimes don’t have the tools or the time or digital resources to sit and simply explain to patients about their conditions and different treatment options [during or after office visits],” he said.
To fix that, he decided to create an app that could provide physician-approved videos that explain in simple language the causes and consequences of heart-related problems like heart failure or atrial fibrillation. The internet already has plenty of medical websites with text-based and ad-filled information, but his tool would allow any health care professional to present video-based information to patients about their conditions, treatment options, and new therapies.
Dr. Chauhan talked over with his wife the pros and cons of taking such a big step and decided to jump ahead.
“[I told her] if I build an app that only one doctor uses, and that’s me, I know it’s going to help my patients,” he said. “So I’m going to build it.”
That was the start of CardioVisual.com, an app that boasts more than half a million clinician and patient viewers.
Out of the comfort zone
Physicians and other health care professionals should not only embrace new technology, they should help lead in the creation of it, Dr. Chauhan says. Driven by physicians, health care technologies are much more likely to improve care and not waste the time of either patients or those overseeing their health care.
“My message is, clinicians should lead in the innovation in health care because we can make a difference,” he said. “That’s how we’re going to be able to create better solutions that are relevant on a daily basis.”
Dr. Chauhan knew what he could contribute as a physician. He also knew he’d have to step out of his comfort zone to learn about technology and venture capitalism. But once experts in engineering, technology, and business saw the value of the app, Dr. Chauhan quickly found they’d step up with the knowhow and the money to help.
For instance, he knew the app had to be easy to share, accessible to patients and clinicians, and up to date and detailed enough to cover most medical eventualities.
“Most people don’t have one [medical] condition,” he said. “They may have several conditions, e.g., heart disease, diabetes, and high cholesterol. So how do we give them comprehensive information that is consistent, that most doctors will agree is good information?”
On the technical side, however, Dr. Chauhan was at a loss.
“From a medical standpoint, we knew we were in the right space,” he said. “But from a business and technology standpoint, we needed the guidance from bright folks, so I had mentors.”
Many of the app’s most important features have come about because of physician input, Dr. Chauhan says.
“The whole reason to have separate language content came from three separate clinicians in South Texas sending us feedback saying, ‘Where are the Spanish-language videos?’” he said. “So now we try to create a Spanish and English version for all our content. [Also] clinicians are worried about medical discussions on social media, so we built a secure forum just for clinicians.”
At first, Dr. Chauhan says he “bootstrapped” the funding, running the app on a small budget and a dedicated technical team. As the app grew, he ran into some luck: A large investor was willing to fund the project.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle Dr. Chauhan says he faces is that many physicians – especially older ones – understandably are reluctant to adopt new technology.
“Clinicians are smart,” he said. “They use their smart phones and apps all the time. But they don’t want to adapt new technologies in health care, and I think in part because a lot of the tools – for example electronic medical records – are not built to be user-friendly. They’re not built around the busy work schedules and the flow of the clinicians or the needs of the patients.”
Tex Med. 2020;117(3):10-11
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