Stanford Children's CMO: Silicon Valley boon for health innovation

Photo of an iPhone and an Apple Watch

Stanford Children's Health, located in the heart of Silicon Valley, is taking advantage of all the technology opportunities inherent in such a unique location and expanding its healthcare innovations and opportunities to pilot new tools, from apps to wearable devices. It also works with Stanford Biodesign, which is an incubator for innovators aiming to build and create new healthcare technologies for boosting patient care. SCH also is participating in a Google Glass study on autism.

To learn more about the technology efforts of SCH and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford, I recently spoke to Chief Medical Officer Dennis Lund, who also serves as an associate dean for maternal and child health at Stanford School of Medicine. In part one of this two-part interview, Lund discusses the benefits of being in close proximity to Silicon Valley, SCH's participation in Google Baseline and goals going forward for Stanford Biodesign.

FierceMobileHealthcare: How is Silicon Valley innovation fostering care enhancement and healthcare provider capabilities?

Dennis Lund: Lucile Packard's proximity to Silicon Valley offers a number of opportunities for Stanford Children's Health providers to be innovators in caring for children and expectant mothers. For example, a recently developed smartphone application provides diabetic patients with the ability to constantly track their blood sugar levels and share the data information in real time with their physician. In this case, one of our physicians worked with the Apple HealthKit team in Cupertino to design an interface between the iPhone and a continuous glucose monitor that is worn by the patient. 

Continuous blood sugar levels are transmitted directly to the patient's electronic medical record in real time. This allows for review of blood sugar levels with different kinds of activities, such as exercise or meals, and the medical team can work with the patient based on this information to fine-tune their insulin dosage and maintain tighter control of blood sugars. Stanford's Byer Center for Biodesign, an incubator for medical technology, allows engineers to work alongside clinicians to develop novel solutions to clinical problems. When such a solution looks like it has potential to be licensed and developed, sitting adjacent to a large number of venture capital firms on Sand Hill Road makes capitalization of such ideas possible.

Medicine has entered the era of big data, and our proximity to Google, Facebook, Apple and others allows Stanford clinicians and researchers the opportunity to collaborate on ways to mine that data.

FMH: How did SCH come to participate in Google's Baseline Study and what do you hope the effort will produce?

Lund: As of now, the Google Baseline Study, which is a collaboration between Stanford Medicine, Duke University and Google, plans to track 10,000 individuals in a longitudinal cohort study to identify risk factors for disease and/or relapse of disease. It will use genomic data, phenotypic data, family histories and wearable data to look for important clinical predictors. Currently, the study does not include children, but our hope is that once this study is more established, it can be broadened to recruit pediatric patients.

FMH: Can you give some insight on Stanford Biodesign and the goals ahead?

Lund: The newly named Stanford Byers Center for Biodesign is a unique juxtaposition of bioengineering and clinical horsepower at Stanford. Sitting immediately adjacent to the schools of medicine and engineering on the Stanford campus, the Center allows for ready interaction between members of these two schools. The center recruits bioengineering graduate students and offers them the opportunity to work directly with clinicians to understand clinical problems and then invent novel solutions.

As these ideas evolve, the center then provides the infrastructure to license and develop them and take them to market.

Our surgeons remain intimately involved in these endeavors. A recent example of this has been the design of a special kind of stabilizing device for children who have feeding tubes placed directly into their stomach. These tubes can move around, causing irritation of the skin and leakage of stomach contents. The device keeps the tube stable and reduces the discomfort and skin breakdown associated with these tubes. Another example has been the design of special instruments that can be used through a laparoscope for the in utero repair of defects such as myelomeningocele. However, in this new era of wearable technology and smart phone applications, there is a much broader array of problems to can be solved with this kind of creative thinking.

Editor's Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Suggested Articles

Mahmee, a startup focused on maternal and infant health, just closed a $3 million funding round that includes Mark Cuban and Serena Williams.

When it comes to telemedicine, more physicians are getting on board, with interest doubling over a three-year period.

Just as it promises to increase speeds and reduce latency for consumers, 5G technology also has the potential to transform how healthcare is delivered.