Digital

Sports medicine doctor finds the ideal digital health teammate

Since his residency training, Adam Bennett, MD, has been interested in using digital health tools to improve outcomes for his patients. When he wanted to pursue this further professionally, he found the right match for his interests and skills through the AMA Physician Innovation Network (PIN).

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An attending physician at the NorthShore Orthopaedic Institute in Chicago, Dr. Bennett is also a clinical assistant professor of family and community medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a team physician for the Chicago Bears.

Last fall, he added another title: chief medical officer of Kitchry Health, a Chicago-based startup whose digital platform aims to combine health, data and behavioral science “to amplify health.”

Initially, the niche area that Dr. Bennett steered Kitchry toward is using their digital tools to help patients with obesity, arthritis or other problems improve their health so they can more safely undergo surgeries such as hip and knee replacements.

“We’ve had some good successes,” he said. “We’ve had patients that never lost weight effectively before, and now they are losing 40 pounds in the four to five months before their joint-replacement surgery—and doing it all through their phone with digital health tools.”

Pioneering digital pilot

When it comes to digital health, Dr. Bennett was an early adopter and promoter. As a resident at St. Joseph Hospital in Chicago (now part of Amita Health) in 2002, he gave a presentation to hospital officials stating the case for why all residents should be calculating medication doses and checking for possible interactions using PalmPilots.

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“Remember those?” Dr. Bennett asked. “The hospital decided to do it, and that was my first dabble in health care technology.”

Since his PalmPilot days, Dr. Bennett’s interests have evolved into studying how telemedicine and virtual visits could be used to enhance patient convenience and engagement.

“There was no real or good mechanism by which physicians could team up with companies,” Dr. Bennett said. “You have all these tech companies with solutions, but they don’t really know what problem they are solving because they don’t know about the interactions between patients and physicians and where they need help—so I joined the Physician Innovation Network.”

PIN is an online community that connects physicians with digital health companies and entrepreneurs—ensuring that the voice, experience and needs of physicians can be heard and incorporated into new products as they are developed.

Dr. Bennett said he connected with about 10 companies during his first weeks.

“It was very easy to start an initial conversation to figure out if there was a good fit,” he said.

Dr. Bennett liked Kitchry’s health-amplification tools that help users get guidance from registered dietitians and “nudges” developed by a psychologist to reinforce positive behavior. But he struggled with finding the best way to use them.

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“Then a light bulb went off,” he recalled. “I see a lot of patients with diabetes and, eventually, many of these patients need hip and knee replacement. But what do you do if someone is too obese to safely perform the surgery?”

His idea was to target the Kitchry Health tool to help these specific patients. Next, Dr. Bennett said helping patients with prediabetes make the necessary lifestyle changes to prevent full diabetes is “definitely an area we’re pursuing.”

Unlike weight-loss programs where a relatively healthy person seeks to temporarily shed pounds before an event, his company’s programs are geared toward people with multiple comorbidities who can be helped by making permanent adjustments to their diets and physical activity levels.

Problem-creator can be problem-solver

In addition to helping patients, Dr. Bennett wants to help physicians avoid burnout.

“Technology and burnout are intimately related,” he explained. “I think a lot of the attempts at technology have led to burnout, but I think it could also end up being a solution.”

To that end, Dr. Bennett applauds the AMA’s effort to ensure that technology becomes an asset and not a burden to physician practices. He sees boosting technological innovation as a promising way to avoid burnout.

“The AMA is positioned to be one of the few organizations to really solve physician burnout,” Dr. Bennett said, adding that, with PIN, “the AMA is making some good choices and I find that encouraging.”

Learn more about how AMA Physician Innovation Network connects health care innovation ecosystems to improve the development of emerging health care technology solutions.