It is difficult to be an innovator. I have learned that people are not always receptive to new ideas and technology. The light bulb went on when I was presenting to a group of people and they kept putting up roadblocks as to why something new is better. It was then I looked down at the table and saw my iPhone and looked back up at them. I asked the question who remembers the rotary dial phone and half the group raised their hand. I then picked up my iPhone and asked who has one of these; most of the room raised their hands. I said congratulations you adopted an innovative technology.
As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing MaryRose Reaston.
Mary Rose Reaston is an innovator, author, expert witness and is the CEO and Chief Science Officer of Emerge Diagnostics, Inc. MaryRose has a successful track record in the development, commercialization, marketing and governmental acceptance for advanced Electrodiagnostic testing. She is the Co-Inventor of EFA technology and holder of several U.S. and international patents. She has been named as an Industry Risk Innovator and Responsibility Leader.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Many years ago, I was involved in a severe car accident that left me with debilitating headaches. I was told, after trying medications, various treatments including physical therapy that I was “suffering from” soft tissue injuries and since there was no way to diagnose these types of conditions that my treatment with be” hit or miss”. This was not acceptable to me. I just wanted to get better. After much research become a Co-Inventor with Phil Reaston of the Electrodiagnostic Functional Assessment, EFA technology. EFA technology has proven to be the gold standard for soft tissue injury diagnosis and treatment. It was thought that I had migraine headaches after the car accident but with the development of the EFA, it was found I had tension headaches with a vascular component. Being able to distinguish the difference allowed for site specific treatment. With the specific treatment I became pain free and have not suffered these types of headaches. This led me on my journey to be able to further develop this innovative cutting edge technology so that other people could benefit.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
One of the most interesting events that will always stay with me, was when we decided to make the technology wireless. In order to be able to accurately evaluate soft tissue injuries, you have to be able to look at many muscle groups simultaneously. Also, just looking at muscle groups wouldn’t be enough because in order to understand the muscle pathology you needed to know what the person was doing. We decided to integrate range of motion testing with the muscle testing and that meant more sensors. More sensors with wireless technology was an issue as current technology only allowed a few sensors to be connected. Phil Reaston came up with an innovative method that allowed many sensors to be used simultaneously so that many muscle groups could be monitored with multiple access for range of motion- our EFA technology. This was unheard of and critical for effective diagnosis. Our first large technical meeting scheduled a demo of the technology with industry leaders at Intel. Walking into the meeting with the introduction of the technology, I was met with overwhelming skepticism and everyone saying that connecting all the sensors we needed could not be accomplished. The joy of my face and the looks on their faces when we provided the working demonstration of the project is something I will always treasure. Phil Reaston has continued to upgrade and expand on the technology so that it is truly cutting edge and proven to be successful in the diagnosis and treatment of soft tissue injuries.
Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
The 100 billion dollar problem: soft tissue injuries, typically defined as back, neck and shoulder pain is a leading health cost driver in the United States. These conditions are the most common reasons for people to seek medical care. They are difficult to diagnose and treat. Previously, there has been no way to access the injury and a doctor often must rely on the person’s complaints. Now, there is Exciting Emerging Technology: Electrodiagnostic Functional Assessment. (EFA) EFA uses FDA registered technology and is the gold standard for the diagnosis and treatment of soft tissue injuries. For the first time, connection via wireless technology multiple muscle groups and range of motion can be monitored. This allows for pinpointing the precise location of the injury and allowing for site specific treatment. This has helped prevent surgeries and helped people to become better and lead productive lives. In fact, the EFA technology is changing the face of diagnosis and treatment and allowing for better care via telemedicine. With the advent of EFA technology and telemedicine a doctor can gain more information than if the person was sitting in front of them in an office. This is important especially with COVID. Since bringing EFA technology to market, we have helped thousands of people get better, return to work sooner, and lead more productive lives. With COVID facing the World and in person care being limited, we had to adopt our technology to be better able to handle telemedicine visits. In the past, telemedicine was not an option for people who had a soft tissue injury since the doctor was not able to palpate of feel the person through a video link. The EFA enables “virtual palpation” for a more objective assessment, which is a critical component of the physician’s evaluation process that was, until now, impossible via telemedicine or any other remote/virtual platform. In fact, with the EFA the doctor actual receives more information than if the person were sitting in front of them. Better care anywhere with the EFA especially via telemedicine will enable people to get more accurate diagnosis for the leading healthcare issues/cost drivers. Being able to pinpoint with the EFA the precise location and type of soft tissue injury will allow for better directed care, anywhere.
How do you think this might change the world?
I really do believe the EFA technology can change the world because it fills a void in medicine. There are great diagnostic tools, and each serves a specific niche, for example x-rays are excellent for broken bones but they cannot look at soft tissue injuries. EFA technology is designed just specifically to evaluate soft tissue injuries. With the advent of EFA and telemedicine this innovative solution can be offered worldwide. The EFA solution dramatically reduces the costs associated with inaccurate diagnosis or prolonged treatments. By being able to ascertain if conservative care is appropriate and offering site specific treatment recommendations an individual can recover faster and not only return to work but all the activities of daily living. If surgery is appropriate that can be identified early on and the person can get the best treatment possible. Accurate diagnosis and treatment also reduce the reliance on pain medications and narcotics which has become a worldwide epidemic. I have many stories of how the EFA has benefited humanity, but I would like to share two of my most memorable. A young AAA picture who had undergone rotator cuff surgery and was unable to return to baseball, came to me and asked if there was anything, we could do to help him. His arm hurt to throw pitches and he was “demoted” to the A team. He was going to be cut from baseball. Baseball was his entire life and livelihood. The EFA found he had referred pain from his neck muscles that was affecting his arm. With appropriate care as outlined by the EFA evaluation, he was able to pitch and was once again return to the AAA roster. Using our guided EFA telemedicine program, we evaluated an individual who was injured at work and we were able to compare him to a baseline EFA and determine he had a work-related change in condition to his shoulder. He was able to be seen very early on in the case, had surgery, and returned to work 8 weeks later with a full duty release. Because of the site-specific care, he had appropriate early treatment and had very little pain medication. Better diagnostics equates to better care and with telemedicine that can be anywhere.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
The EFA technology is truly an innovation for the diagnosis and treatment of soft tissue injuries. That being said, there is no panacea in medicine. There is not one global solution so the only drawback I could foresee with the EFA, as with any technology, is that it been used for what it was intended for: no more no less.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
The tipping point that lead to this breakthrough came from Phil Reaston. The limitations of getting to a telemedicine option and an option that could be mobile rested with the ability for us to make the technology wireless. Wireless technology was limited to very few sensors and no real time or live access. The A- HA- moment came when Phil thought outside the box and found a way to connect it all together. That is the secret sauce so to speak, and this has enabled us to be able to offer the EFA to anyone including unmatched telehealth care. I will never forget the day that Phil took many EMG sensors and range of motion sensors and said watch they can all connect. He made it seem so simple but so many years of development went into the effort. Our technology and programs are now offered worldwide.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
For wider spread adoption, we need people not to be afraid of innovation. A good story, I will always remember is from a friend of mine who is an orthopedic surgeon who embraces the EFA technology in his practice. He had a deposition and the EFA was mentioned. He was asked did you learn about the EFA in medical school doctor, and he replied no. I went to medical school over 30 years ago and at that time I did not even learn about the MRI. Medicine must constantly progress and change, and people need to embrace change and innovation.
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
One focus of the EFA is to assist employees and employers with work related soft tissue injuries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Soft Tissue Injuries are the leading cause of lost workdays and health care dollars spent. Our EFA-STM (EFA Soft Tissue Management Program) is a bookend solution that helps give better care to employees with work related injuries and uses our telemedicine platform. Achieving better results in a complicated and challenging worker’s compensation environment is what every employer and employee should want. If a workplace incident happens, the employer is responsible to return the employee to the employee’s condition prior to the incident. The employee wants better care and back to work quicker. The EFA-STM program is built to achieve these results for the employee and employer, a win for all parties. Our clients and their employees have had tremendous success with the program. Employee’s with work-place injuries are returning to work quicker with a more focused diagnosis and our clients are benefiting from less lost workdays, less recordable days and the knowledge that EFA tested employees will have the benefit of the EFA-STM program in the event a work-place incident occurs. This is an innovative concept and it changes the game of workers’ compensation into a win for all parties.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am particularly grateful to Robert Thompson. Bob was the prior CEO of Emerge Diagnostics and my mentor. When we first started to work together at Emerge, I was the Chief Science Officer of the company. Bob saw in me the ability to become more to the company. He helped me learn the business side of the company and help me ease into the role of COO. As COO Bob helped me refine my management style and learn more about delegation. He had confidence in me and when he left the company, he promoted me to CEO and President. He left me with invaluable knowledge: people love sausages, but they don’t really want to know how to make them. This might sound corny but so true it taught me solve the problem and provide the results.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Absolutely. With my success as Emerge, I am focusing on affordable healthcare and wellness. We are developing a program that will allow individuals and their families to have unlimited access to telemedicine and wellness programs at very low cost.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- It is difficult to be an innovator. I have learned that people are not always receptive to new ideas and technology. The light bulb went on when I was presenting to a group of people and they kept putting up roadblocks as to why something new is better. It was then I looked down at the table and saw my iPhone and looked back up at them. I asked the question who remembers the rotary dial phone and half the group raised their hand. I then picked up my iPhone and asked who has one of these; most of the room raised their hands. I said congratulations you adopted an innovative technology.
- Be true to Yourself. Often on this journey I received overwhelming negative feedback as the EFA would never be accepted, would not work, would not be reimbursed by insurance. This chatter was sometimes more pervasive then any positive feedback. It was during these times I would look back on my struggles with ineffective care and headaches and look back to how the EFA changed my life. This gave me the strength to continue on this journey.
- Always surround yourself with excellence. If it were not for Phil Reaston’s thinking outside of the box and being a true innovator in his field, we would not have the EFA technology that is changing medicine today.
- Listen to the experts and incorporate their ideas into new technology. An earlier adopter of the EFA technology was a gifted neurosurgeon. He loved how the EFA could assist him in providing a more objective diagnosis. When we wanted to advance into telemedicine for soft tissue injuries, he said no way. He was a surgeon and he had to “feel” the patient. His suggestion and needs advanced the development of the EFA telemedicine platform.
- Think Outside the Box. If you are willing to be creating and evaluate a problem for many different perspectives, I believe a solution can be found.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Always strive for better healthcare and new technologies and innovation to offer to people everywhere. Don’t make better healthcare options unobtainable to the majority of people.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of my favorite Life Lesson Quotes is Believe in Yourself. If you do not believe in yourself then how can you expect anyone else to believe in, you. If you believe in yourself, you project confidence and that is what is needed to be an innovator to have breakthroughs for cutting edge technology.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Want to change the world for the better with cutting edge healthcare…. We have it. There is no other technology for the diagnosis and treatment of soft tissue injury and most importantly in today’s times of COVID where social interaction are limited, we have the most objective telemedicine platform. Don’t’ be left out, together we can change the world for the better.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
MaryRose Reason — Linkedin
Mary Cusimano Reaston Facebook
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.