Alan Portela, CEO of AirStrip, has more than 25 years of experience in bringing medical technology solutions to market. Portela originally joined AirStrip as a senior advisor and member of the board of directors prior to his appointment as CEO in 2011. Prior to joining AirStrip, he was CEO and principal of Hybrid Clinical Transformation, LLC, where he developed EHR adoption strategies for the U.S. Military Health System and much of the Veterans Health Administration. He also served as president and chief strategist at CliniComp, Intl., and in senior executive roles in several innovative healthcare technology and service organizations.
AirStrip provides a vendor and data source-agnostic, enterprise-wide mobile interoperability platform that advances care collaboration and serves as a catalyst for health system innovation. Here he discusses mHealth trends; why and how it needs to change; interoperability; security and protecting against breach;and the biggest issues facing healthcare in the next year.
Can you tell us about yourself and your background prior to starting AirStrip? Why healthcare?
Prior to joining AirStrip, I was the president at CliniComp and responsible for the implementation of high acuity EHR systems at the U.S Military Health System, Veterans Health Administration (VA) and a number of prestigious healthcare organizations in the private sector. In my more than 25 years of experience in the healthcare industry, I have held several senior executive roles with innovative healthcare technology vendors and helped pioneer an mHealth company more than a decade ago that came out of UCLA Medical Center Department of Neurosurgery (Global Care Quest). Leading the industry via disruptive and continuous innovation has become a true passion. Each day I see how technology improves patient care, and I enjoy being an active part of that transformation.
What do you think the mHealth industry needs to change to better support doctors and patients today?
Mobile technology and clinical decision support tools will undoubtedly be the biggest contributors to the needed clinical transformation revolution, providing physicians with a means to deliver proactive quality care to millions of patients throughout the continuum of care. However, for clinical transformation to occur, the industry needs to establish – and enforce – interoperable standards so that data and technology can move seamlessly across systems and provide clinically relevant patient information at the moment of care regardless of where the caregivers and the patients are. Interoperability will remove the data silos that currently impede access to information, and allow for clinical decision support that lets clinicians provide the best care, improving overall patient outcomes and well-being. The fact that legacy vendors are not sharing data means that innovation is being stifled. Unfortunately, both the federal government and a handful of legacy vendors seem to be driving us deeper into the crisis by carrying the flag of interoperability, but only limiting requirements to minimal clinical data sets, which do not contribute to the move from volume to value-based reimbursement.
What do you see as the most important mHealth trend currently affecting the market? Why?
The ability to aggregate, normalize, stream, analyze and visualize clinically relevant data on a real-time basis via mobile devices will create the biggest healthcare industry revolution in decades, and will be the driving trend for decades to come. All we need is for powerful healthcare providers to use their buying power and for the federal government to force vendors to open up and penalize the ones that stifle innovation.
Once all data becomes available, the key drivers of transformation will come from those technologies that process real-time big data combined with clinical condition specific algorithms for diabetes, sepsis, heart failure, etc., along with mobile technology for care coordination. Mobile technology and the analytics engines are there, ready to consume and mobilize the data. The biggest trend will focus on bringing the innovation resulting from more than a decade of work funded by the intelligence community around real time processing of structured and unstructured data for early detection of terrorist threats to the nation. This technology is now being applied for early surveillance of patient instability, starting in critical care units and extending to home monitoring to support patient population management. The ability to analyze data in motion and proactively take action will transform healthcare in ways that are almost unimaginable now.
What transformation do you see mHealth going through this year to better support the healthcare industry?
The collaboration today between true innovators coming from all sectors in the industry has never been seen before. Over a year ago we created a Translation Business Unit with the goal of finding the next generation of technology coming from the research community with the intention of productizing it and jointly bringing it to market. The initial partnerships with University of Michigan and MedStar Health System led to discoveries of sophisticated chronic conditions algorithms, as well as an ecosystem of vendors that today is joining forces to execute on the innovation trends I mentioned earlier.
In addition, the growing interest of this group of innovative thinkers and their dedication to the issues plaguing the healthcare industry directly ties to the development of new body sensors and wearables that can dramatically help improve patient care. Certain segments out there are realizing that technology must be used to better support care coordination, in order to address the challenge of a dwindling number of caregivers available to handle a skyrocketing number of patients.
With the subject of security on everyone’s minds, how do you see patient data being protected?
When it comes to mobility, patient data should be treated just like your financial data. For example, when checking a private account via a mobile device, standards dictate that there are multiple encryptions, audits and other measures to protect data. The most aggressive security attacks happen in a similar manner as an adverse event in healthcare; there are a number of early warning signs that need to be monitored to proactively stop data from being compromised. The Defense Department requires defense and military systems to go through the risk management framework developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. As an industry, we should aim for that level of security.
In your opinion, what is the most pressing issue facing the healthcare industry today?
The mission of healthcare organizations is to keep patients alive. That mission can propagate to the technology they use. Healthcare providers seem to keep legacy systems alive even if they reach the end of their life cycle and, as a result, bring limited benefit to the user and/or fail to be adopted by caregivers. Those siloed legacy systems are now attempting to bring their poor user experience to mobile applications that are not interoperable, and are designed only to mobilize a single vendor’s application. While healthcare will manage to keep them alive anyway, ultimately, innovation around mobility and clinical decision support will not come from legacy vendors but from their ability to expose their data.
What do you see as the biggest change in healthcare we will see this year?
Healthcare tends to be slow to change, but this year, I see providers seizing the opportunity to change the industry by pushing for interoperability. It is going to require a true team effort – healthcare providers, payers and technology vendors must work with the federal government to support this transformative movement. Hopefully, if you ask me the same question a year from now, interoperability is accepted as a standard. From there we can ensure that discussion focuses on the patients who, after all, are the ones who ultimately should own their data.