A Spotlight on Patient Empowerment and Equity at This Year’s Pediatric Innovation Showcase

Stanford Children’s Health’s Pediatric Innovation Showcase brought together leading innovators to discuss transformative pediatric technologies being developed at Stanford and beyond.

The Stanford Children’s Health’s Pediatric Innovation Showcase brought together leading innovators to discuss transformative pediatric technologies being developed at Stanford and beyond.

“One of the most powerful messages that’s come out of this pandemic is that it has underscored, in our country and indeed around the world, the inequities that exist in health and health care. I think all of us here at Stanford Medicine have a passion for addressing these inequities,” said Lloyd Minor, MD, Dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine, in the opening remarks of the 2021 Stanford Children’s Health Pediatric Innovation Showcase.

On April 23, Stanford Children’s Health brought together innovators, researchers, clinicians, and industry experts for the third annual Pediatric Innovation Showcase to highlight the innovative pediatric technologies developed at Stanford and beyond. The event included three thought leadership panels, led by executives and pediatric health care leaders, and short videos highlighting a number of innovative pediatric medical devices between sessions.

Dean Minor’s statement was echoed throughout the showcase as experts discussed inequities across patient populations and worked to identify solutions to address the unique needs of pediatric patients from different backgrounds.

As innovation changes the world in profound ways, the health care system is transforming too, said Chris Gibbons, MD, MPH, founder and CEO of the Greystone Group, a health technology innovation company focused on multicultural innovators and solutions, in the event’s keynote address. From the potential for broadband and 5G infrastructure to improve connectivity, to robotics that enable virtual interactions, to mobile health applications that allow for new forms of patient engagement, there are many opportunities to reimagine health care through innovation, Gibbons said. The increased use of technology, data, artificial intelligence and broadband to deliver automated health services on demand mean that hospitals must also adapt to keep up with shifting demands.

The showcase’s first panel on “Unique Challenges with Apps, Wearables, and Remote Monitoring for Children,” moderated by Anshul Pande, vice president and chief technology officer at Stanford Children’s Health, covered the sensitivities of pediatric-specific health data. Panelists acknowledged that there is still work to be done to program apps to improve access to data, while protecting the unique sensitivities of pediatric health care, including adolescent confidentiality and access to your own data.  

In the “Digital Health and Adolescent Privacy” panel, moderator Natalie Pageler, MD, MEd, chief medical information officer at Stanford Children’s Health, presented the changes necessitated by the 21st Century Cures Act—federal rules aimed at improving health information exchange, which are designed to make it easier to share data between health care organizations and with patients. However, releasing information is even more complicated for adolescents than for adult patients, posing challenges for pediatric hospitals.

Emerging health technologies do not yet reflect the highly challenging, complex and confidential use cases that permeate pediatric and adolescent health care – and these are key concerns for pediatricians and adolescent caregivers. For example, adolescents have a legal right to certain types of health care interactions without parental involvement, including mental health and reproductive health needs.

“Everything gets a little more challenging when you talk about adolescents,” Dr. Pageler noted. These patients are at an important stage of their lives, transitioning from children to capable adults who are able to take charge of their own health care. They need both parental guidance and an appropriate amount of privacy and independence.”

“We have to recognize that teens are a vulnerable population,” said adolescent medicine specialist Rachel Goldstein, MD. “We have to be their voice.” It is critical for hospitals and providers to demonstrate the importance of trust, compliance and access in adolescent care, as this patient population would be left out without providers advocating for adolescents’ care, said Goldstein.

Charlette Stallworth, MBA, vice president of strategic partnerships at Stanford Children’s Health, hosted the final panel about “Digital Access and Equity in Pediatric Health Care” to round out the showcase. Stallworth reiterated Dean Minor’s opening message that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated health care disparities and that universal access to the right digital health tools, including telehealth, is critical – otherwise, existing disparities will continue to grow.

“I believe having equity top of mind will drive us to greater discovery,” said James Wall, MD, director of program development for the Biodesign Innovation Fellowship and Director of the UCSF-Stanford Pediatric Device Consortium. Patients need ownership of their own health data in order for all individuals – especially those in underrepresented communities – to take charge of their health care, the panelists said. Ramesh Johari, PhD, professor of management science and engineering, agreed that from a transparency perspective, moving to a health care model where the patient is in control of their data is an important part of the future health innovation landscape.

While each panel focused in on pressing themes facing health care innovation today, the showcase’s message remained centered around patient empowerment – giving patients access to their data for the sake of transparency, privacy and equity overall.

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