Dr. Puneet Seth: Using digital technology to improve health care
Change and challenge are integral to Dr. Puneet Seth’s very busy career. As Chief Medical Officer of InputHealth—one of Canada’s leading digital health companies—Dr. Seth is heavily focused on virtual models of care. However, the Hamilton resident is also a part-time practising Hospitalist in southern Ontario, as well as an instructor on minor surgical procedures at McMaster University.
But his interest in digital health stemmed before his medical school training. While pursuing an undergraduate degree at the University of Ottawa in biochemistry, Dr. Seth interned at a telecommunications company.
“Both of my older siblings are software engineers, so I was exposed to the world of coding and development at a young age, and have always had an interest in tinkering in the space,” he said.
During his residency training, Dr. Seth expressed that interest in the form of doing research relating to technology, while his post-graduate project during his family medicine training involved looking at email communication with patients in primary care and what patients’ perceptions were.
“I began to dabble in different start-up ventures related to technology,” he said. This began with a podcast that educated family physicians and residents about new topics in primary care, as well as a social media health promotions start-up that combined evidence-based medicine, art and social media to communicate public health messages.
“There were a number of important learning experiences that came from those early experiences, which ultimately led me to becoming involved in InputHealth,” he said.
InputHealth is a cloud-based platform designed to connect patients to their health-care teams, pushing for a paradigm shift in the Electronic Health Record (EHR) market by introducing the Collaborative Health Record (CHR). Dr. Seth describes it as a combination between an electronic health records system and a personal health record. “We allow patients to be active participants in their health record, and allow them to plan an active role with regards to how they communicate with their health-care team.”
Aside from the traditional health record functions, the CHR features include virtual visits (telemedicine), patient messaging, online appointment booking, digital health education modules and a patient portal. InputHealth also allows patients to contribute to their health process by providing information before and after each visit, and helping them to track their symptom and functional scores between visits.
“We’re the only Canadian platform that’s seamlessly built to be a patient personal health record, a patient-engagement system and an electronic health record,” he said. “So rather than having patient-engagement functionalities as an afterthought, patient engagement is really something that was built into the platform from scratch. And, as a result, it fits into clinical workflows.”
In addition to Dr. Seth as the Chief Medical Officer, the leadership team at InputHeath also includes its two co-founders: Dr. Damon Ramsey, CEO, who was a fellow colleague of Dr. Seth in medical school, and Shawn Jung, Chief Technical Officer. They were fortunate to have Blair French join as Chief Growth Officer earlier this year, bringing a wealth of experience in marketing and communication.
Now in their sixth year of operations, Dr. Seth says hundreds of thousands of patients are on the platform because the team has been fortunate to be working with several large health-care organizations.
InputHealth is privately funded; the team had a round of angel investors at first, and they “bootstrapped” in their early years. Today, however, the platform is revenue-generating, with licenced clients from across the country.
Although the platform is being used by almost every specialty, the main area where Dr. Seth and his team have the most activity is in mental health, chronic disease and peri-operative medicine. The reason being, he says, that there’s often long-term relationships that develop between patients and their teams in those settings and there’s a very important need to see how patients are doing when they’re not directly in front of their health-care team.
“It’s probably more mission-critical in those settings than in single encounters,” he said. “There has been a lot of attention around the need to change how mental health delivery is occurring or to change how chronic disease delivery has been occurring.”
In terms of success, Dr. Seth says the InputHealth technology was procured by the Mayo Clinic in 2015 when they were looking for a patient-reported outcome measurement platform. The team has also received several accolades, including an award from Canada Infoway in 2014 for the Imagination E-Connect Challenge and being the first Canadian company to become a certified solution by the International Consortium of Health Outcome Measurement (ICHOM). InputHealth was also a semi-finalist for the Harvard Health Acceleration Challenge in 2016, and was the only Canadian company to make it to that level.
While still working as a Hospitalist out of three community hospitals, Dr. Seth is thankful for the support from his family and clinical teams who provide both encouragement and understanding with his erratic schedule.
What’s next for this keen entrepreneur? “I’m a very strong believer in the idea of life-long learning and I believe it’s becoming increasingly relevant for the 21st century clinician,” he said. “We are at the brink of really being able to leverage the capabilities of digital health, and with it I know exciting things will be possible in healthcare. It’s important for physicians to contribute to the space and ensure patient safety and evidence-based practices that make sense in the clinical world are utilized.”
“There’s a lot of work to be done – I’m excited to be helping play a role in this space, and look forward to continuing to learn with my colleagues, from the technical and scientific community, and from patients.”
This article originally appeared in our monthly e-newsletter, Spotlight on Health.
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