The physician as a health care innovator


This week is Physicians Week, and this is one in a series of interviews with members of the physician community that are bringing a variety of ideas and networks together in order to improve the relationships between physicians and between physicians and their patients.

Dr. Colm Murphy is a cardiologist and the founder of a tech company that is about building a community of physicians in order for them to help one another. With physicians from all over the United States and Canada involved, their software platform provides a place for physicians to share their knowledge and educate each other on the latest insights so they can make the best decisions for their patients.

How did the idea for building a software platform for community physicians to come together?

I’ve always been really interested in the intersection of technology and medicine. I come from a technical background myself. I’m a mechanical engineer originally and then basically was inspired by my uncle who is a gastroenterologist to get into medicine. He was such a charismatic guy, clearly had a love of patient care. So he got me inspired, and I applied to medical school in Toronto, and I managed to get in. I did my training in internal med, eventually cardiology and subsequently, my specialization in interventional cardiology. I went down to Stanford to do a technology innovation program. I met my wife Christina there, and we eventually talked about some of the things physicians are facing and the challenges that they face in the practice. Essentially from that, the idea for this company was born. We’ve been working on this since March of 2016. We’re pretty excited with the progress so far.

What is your mission in all of this?

We see physician-patient relationship as the fundamental building block upon which healthcare is delivered. Our mission is to empower that relationship. We are doing this by building a community of physicians who are helping one another in their medical decisions. Whether they be complex treatment decisions, to discussing barriers that they face in providing quality care. The platform is designed so that physicians can voice their concerns and empower one another in their medical decisions. In addition, we leverage cutting-edge technology — such as machine learning — and we have built a state-of-the-art platform to provide physicians, and by virtue, their patients with the tools for the 21st century.

How many people are working on this initiative?

Right now we have five full-time designers and software developers. On top of that, we have about 70 physicians and residents and medical students that are building out the content side. They are focusing on diseases across a broad array of specialties. We have built this platform for physicians on the frontlines — so your family doctors, your hospitalists. The ones who see kind of a diverse set of diseases. Their jobs are challenging because there are so many things you need to know to be a good physician in their medical practice. So there are an equally large number of specialists who are providing the content on the platform. Specialists from infectious diseases at Cleveland Clinic and Stanford to internists at the University of Pennsylvania to cardiologists at Harvard to physicians from right across Canada. It’s a diverse group!

With health care being dependent on where you are located in many cases, are there a lot of hurdles as far as working on this in order for it to be relevant to physicians from all over?

I think you hit on the real strength of the platform. It’s based on this idea of precision medicine. The recognition that each individual is unique. So no matter where your patient comes from, whether they come from a background where they have limited access to financial resources, to they are wealthy, to individuals based in a rural community, to their unique genetic profile — the diagnostic and treatment strategies can be adopted to the individual in a manner that is easy for physicians to use. That is the strength of the platform. It has the versatility to deliver care for the specific patient in their specific environment. So that’s really what we’re trying to do. There are some platforms out there now, but they are static. They don’t really offer the information that you need to deliver care in these different circumstances. That’s how we are leveraging the technology: to be able to provide care for each specific patient, no matter what diseases they have, what medications they are on, what genetic profile they have, what insurance company they get their medications from. So there are all of these doctors trying to integrate this information to provide the best treatment for the patient, and that’s what we are trying to empower.

Getting the physicians involved right out of the gate will be a key part of this right?

Yes, we are building a community. One of our advisers on the platform is John Willinsky. He’s at Stanford, and he built out the world’s largest open-journal platform. So we’re really trying to do a similar thing with physicians. We’re trying to essentially build this open community that they can access. The more physicians we get on from different specialties, the more they can contribute, the more we get a vibrant sort of discussion about different decisions, the more the platform will take shape. So I think that’s the exciting piece — having all these specialists from all walks of life really coming together to make medicine better.

Colm Murphy is a cardiologist and founder, Zenxmed.

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