Dr. Lishan Aklog is chairman and CEO, PAVmed and Lucid Diagnostics, a surgeon and medical technology entrepreneur, and board member of AdvaMed and Human Rights Watch. From those vantage points, he sees the tremendous value of medical technology, the sharp disparities patients face, and the importance of policymaking to ease those disparities. Dr. Aklog shared his insights at The Hill newspaper Future of Health Care summit sponsored by AdvaMed.
“You go a couple of miles… and to this day, patients even 15 years later, do not have the same access…”––Lishan Aklog, Chairman and CEO, PAVmed
Just one example of gaps in medical technology puts a widescale problem in sharp focus, Dr. Aklog said. An AdvaMed board colleague describes how technology allowing patients to treat their heart valve disease without requiring open heart surgery came out 15 years ago. Immediately, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles could offer the technology to its upper socioeconomic patients. “You go a couple of miles, to MLK Community Healthcare hospital, and to this day, patients even 15 years later, do not have the same access to that,” Dr. Aklog said.
Well-funded hospitals will take on new technologies as loss leaders, attracting patients who can afford to pay for the latest methods until reimbursement systems catch up, Dr. Aklog said. A predictable reimbursement path, particularly for innovative technologies, is key to ensuring that the technology “doesn’t become something that only wealthy areas can provide.”
Federal policies, whether congressionally approved, such as the 21st Century Cure Act, or regulatory proposals, such the Medicare Transitional Coverage for Emerging Technologies proposal, embrace the concept of predictable reimbursement that will lead to easing patient access gaps, he said.
Exciting Technology in the Works
At-home Hospital Beds
Digitalization increasingly applies to health care, Dr. Aklog said. He gave the example of his alma mater, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, developing 200 at-home hospital beds, allowing patients to receive hospital care and even intensive care unit-level monitoring at home, made possible via implantable and wearable technology. “That’s a really exciting, most paradigm-shifting way technology can impact how we improve health care,” Dr. Aklog said.
“Dumb Port” to “Smart Port”
A PAVmed subsidiary, Veris Health, uses digital health to improve cancer care. Most patients who require chemotherapy require the implant of a port for delivery. The company is converting a “dumb port” into a “smart port” that can provide continuous monitoring of parameters that allow physicians, through the patient’s cell phone and a cloud-based platform, to effectively monitor patients at home and pick up serious conditions as such sepsis to prevent complications, he said.
Detecting, Preventing Esophageal Cancer
One of the fastest-growing cancers is esophageal cancer. It doesn’t get a lot of attention but is the second-most lethal cancer. About 80 percent of patients die. “It arises from heartburn, something that we all know about,” Dr. Aklog said. While 50 million people have weekly heartburn, they don’t know they could develop esophageal cancer. A new biomarker can detect esophageal pre-cancer, he said.
“Once you detect the (esophageal) pre-cancer, you can monitor it, you can treat it before it develops into cancer, with noninvasive techniques,” Dr. Aklog said. “Absolutely, it’s an opportunity to save lives. That’s the goal of the Cancer Moonshot of this (Biden) administration. I think we can play an important role in that.”
Scott Whitaker is AdvaMed president and CEO.
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