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Samsung Electronics America Chief Medical Officer highlights digital health priorities (Q&A)

Samsung has shown a keen interest in digital health with collaborations such as virtual reality technology to ease pain and anxiety and artificial intelligence for stroke patient clinical decision support. Samsung Electronics America Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Rhew detailed some of the company’s digital health priorities as well as how it is working with provider partners and startups in emailed responses to

What prompted you to move from working as a practicing physician to technology?

In addition to my work as a physician, I have a background in computer science and artificial intelligence so I have always been passionate about technology. As result, I spend a lot of time exploring how technology can improve health outcomes and reduce costs. I joined Samsung because there was strong alignment in tackling this industry challenge.

What are some examples of the digital health technologies Samsung is producing?

We apply technology to improve health outcomes, specifically access to care, quality of care, cost and efficiency, and the patient experience.  We focus on three areas: In-hospital (with a particular emphasis on improving

  • In-hospital, with a particular emphasis on improving efficiency of care and improving the patient and family in-facility experience;
  • In-health covers connected health and mHealth technologies such as remote patient monitoring, wearables, and telehealth); and
  • In-home This includes  Internet of Things technologies in the home or apartment are designed to meet the needs of seniors and those with disabilities.

What are some of the digital health technologies that excite you and why?

Digital health could potentially help address some of the biggest problems that we face today. Let’s start with access to affordable care. Imagine a world where anyone, anywhere, and at any time could access a healthcare provider to receive health services that are covered by their insurance and/or offered at an affordable price. Now imagine a world where cost and quality were made transparent to the consumer to enable informed decision-making. Finally, imagine a world where all types of healthcare, fitness, and wellness services were readily available on this digital health market place. This is precisely the vision for Samsung Health (formerly S Health).

Through a strategic partnership with American Well and leading healthcare organizations, Samsung has launched a direct-to-consumer telemedicine platform called Samsung Health. Samsung Health is currently available on all Samsung and Android mobile devices with the goal of expanding to other operating systems.

Another area where digital health could potentially have a dramatic and unexpected impact is in battling the opioid epidemic. Clinical research now demonstrates that virtual reality (VR) can reduce pain and potentially decrease narcotic usage for those with both acute and chronic pain.  Samsung is participating in a randomized controlled trial with Cedars-Sinai and Applied VR to evaluate the impact of VR in hospitalized patients with pain. We are also seeing very promising results with VR as a therapeutic tool for individuals with a variety of conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder, stroke, spinal cord injury, macular degeneration, and dementia to name a few.

Finally, digital health can help seniors, as well individuals with disabilities due to disease and/or accident, live longer, happier, and healthier lives. At the same time, it can improve the quality of life for the caregiver. One of the most common fears for seniors is being sent to a nursing home. The inability to care for oneself could potentially be addressed if the home and/or apartment were made safer and smarter. Imagine a home where the appliances were digitally connected to make everyday activities seamless; where sensors in the kitchen, bedroom, and bathrooms could enable early detection of falls; where wearables could help identify and proactively alert when an individual’s condition is worsening.

What have you learned from working with hospitals and care teams to implement digital health tools?

Increasing patient/consumer engagement in their health is one of the most important factors in improving outcomes. Digital technologies need to be seamless, easy, and secure. This means we need to think about the consumer “workflow”, motivation, and the internal needs that we are addressing with the solution. Data is only useful when it has been properly filtered, analyzed, and pushed out as actionable insights. Clinician involvement and when, how, and to whom the data are presented is a vital part of a successful digital health program.

How many startups are you collaborating with?

We work with a wide range of “startups”, from the very new to the more established. What unites them all is a commitment to innovation and using technology to solve specific healthcare problems – whether that’s senior isolation, medical treatment adherence or pain management.

What are some of the biggest challenges when collaborating with startups?

I would say the main challenge —no matter the size of the company – is that digital healthcare innovation is a relatively young sector. While we’ve come a long way in a short period of time, there are still many regulatory and structural considerations that need to be addressed.

What advice would you give to startups that want to collaborate with Samsung?

We want to hear from any organization that delivers technology solutions to improve the healthcare delivery process and patient outcomes. We are interested in startups that can provide a clear solution to a problem—or can show a specific barrier that they help patients or providers overcome.