Affordable, point of care and diagnostics telemedicine will help people living in rural areas or underserved communities to access decent health care and will save more lives.
One of the consequences of the pandemic is the dramatic growth of Telehealth and Telemedicine. But how can doctors and providers best care for their patients when they are not physically in front of them? What do doctors wish patients knew in order to make sure they are getting the best results even though they are not actually in the office? How can Telehealth approximate and even improve upon the healthcare that traditional doctors’ visits can provide?
In this interview series, called “Telehealth Best Practices; How To Best Care For Your Patients When They Are Not Physically In Front Of You” we are talking to successful Doctors, Dentists, Psychotherapists, Counselors, and other medical and wellness professionals who share lessons and stories from their experience about the best practices in Telehealth. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewingSoner Haci.
Soner Hacihaliloglu started his professional career as Project Manager at Siemens Health and Building Technologies. During the time he served as Business development manager he was responsible for the operations in 5 different countries in 3 continents. Soner has been chosen as one of the best Innovators under 40 and Best young Energy Professional in Europe and MENA region in 2017 and 2018.
As of 2019 Soner is the CEO and co-founder of PONS Technologies.
Soner has a Computer Science Degree from California University Newport and MBA degree from Erasmus University Rotterdam School of Management.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
As John Lennon suggests, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
It was the last summer where I watched my father drive out to our summer house with my mother. He was in his sixties, and a great father to our family. He had some blood pressure problems and some headaches before, but the hospitals were not watching or monitoring the situation closely. One day as he was driving the car from the supermarket to home, his brain started to bleeding and caused an accident that not only he but also a 12-year-old child passed away. The most difficult part was to see the pain in the face of my mother and the family: The expression of deep sorrow.
I have never been afraid of failing before. I always believed and still believe that failure is a great way to learn and improve. As Thomas Edison said as he was trying to invent the lightbulb: “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that will not work. “However, failing in medicine meant the life of an innocent person and I would have never forgiven myself for hurting an innocent, or worse. So, I and my twin brother started to consider other ways we can use to prevent such things to happen.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I like the quote of Abraham Lincoln
“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”
Resilience is the key factor to success. I have survived 2 coup attempts in 2 different countries, 1 financial crisis that destroyed 50% of the economy in a developing country. We did not give up and managed to sustain our teams in those countries, adapt to the existing situation and never surrender. So here we are, founding PONS with my twin brother and learning continuously. Always trying new things and failing many more times.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Gandhi said once: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”
That quote is also our mantra and we want to provide our technology to everyone so that people have access to decent health care, no matter where they live.
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 believe that everyone has someone like a mentor, friend or leader that helped him or her to overcome the problems in professional life and private life. I had the chance to work with great people earlier in my carrier, at the time I was working in Siemens we had a great VP of business development, he was the one that has thought me how to deal with difficult people, how to adopt into different cultures and not to give up early. I still use his advices and also give those advices to the people that I am working with. But also, my brother is the second person that has an important role, his devotion into his work, his passion to develop a technology that can help people encouraged me to focus on PONS and develop a technology that can help people and save lives.
Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how doctors treat their patients. Many doctors have started treating their patients remotely. Telehealth can of course be very different than working with a patient that is in front of you. This provides great opportunity because it allows more people access to medical professionals, but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits of having a patient in front of you?
Of course, we are now living in an era where we must optimize the processes in health care and diagnostics. But at the same time, the emotional connection between the doctor and the patient should be protected because the physiological effects of being in front of the doctor is always an important fact in doctor-patient relationship. AI driven digital diagnostics are still on the early stages of development and it will take a while in order to gain the people full trust.
On the flip side, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main challenges that arise when a patient is not in the same space as the doctor?
The most important factor is the trust to technology especially in health care. Patients still don’t trust the technology very much, but the positive side is doctors are very engaged to use those new technologies in telemedicine and point of care-diagnostics systems. The most important barrier is that the time that doctors need to transfer the patient to the hospital. Remote diagnostics and monitoring will help doctors to stay connected with the patient but in a hospital environment doctors can perform further critical diagnostics or even surgery right away if the patients situation gets worse, that is still an important challenge that needs to be solved.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Best Care For Your Patients When They Are Not Physically In Front Of You ? (Please share a story or example for each.)
Connected, real-time, anywhere, preventive, affordable, Those are the 5 Things that needs to be addressed alt the time.
- Connected health system are the key for better health care, the point of care systems will generate medical data that can be shared in order to make better and faster diagnostics in the future, the field will be connected with the hospital
- Real-time, the medical imaging and diagnostics will be done in real-time without needing the patient going constantly back and ford from the hospital, that will prevent losing time in further diagnostics
- Anywhere, Today, we need to democratize and decentralize the diagnostics ecosystem in health care. People would have access to diagnostics while they are at home or in a nearby pharmacy.
- Preventive, by staying connected with the patient all the time will help to prevent over-crowding hospitals but also give the opportunity to the doctors to monitor the patient’s situations while they are away from the hospital.
- Affordable, point of care and diagnostics telemedicine will help people living in rural areas or underserved communities to access decent health care and will save more lives.
Can you share a few ways that Telehealth can create opportunities or benefits that traditional in-office visits cannot provide? Can you please share a story or give an example?
Imagine someone in this situation: a kid with a stomach ache, or he or she failed down and hit his or hers head or a guy with abdominal pain. Now imagine the diagnosis and the medical imaging is made without having to go all the way back to the doctor’s clinic. And now, imagine that telehealth and point of diagnostics systems can significantly cut down costs for both patients and doctors. Like we said, it sounds like science fiction right? We hate when people say that though, because it isn’t. It’s just a really great idea we were lucky enough to come
Working from a distance with patients can be difficult. Is your doctor in another country? Are you away from your country? Then it’s difficult for him or her to diagnose your condition from home in real-time. You must book an appointment and travel time is precious.
The inconvenience and costs for the patient are considerable. Wouldn’t it be more convenient for patients to connect with their doctor from home or a nearby pharmacy?
Telehealth and remote medical imaging and monitoring will help people to stay connected with their doctors, but also will help doctors to perform remote diagnostics and monitoring of the patients, especially the ones with critical health conditions.
Let’s zoom in a bit. Many tools have been developed to help facilitate Telehealth. In your personal experiences which tools have been most effective in helping to replicate the benefits of being together in the same space?
The most important fact is providing the doctors a tool and system that will help them to stay connected with their patients. A lot of doctors need to release their patients very fast from the hospital, that is one of the most critical problems that they face, and they want to be able to perform further diagnostics and monitoring of the patients.
Therefore, the most important systems are the ones that can help doctors to perform remote consultation and medical imaging of the patient while they are away from the hospital. That will help the doctors to monitor the healing process and prevent something serious to happen.
If you could design the perfect Telehealth feature or system to help your patients, what would it be?
“We’re now looking at health in the same lens as when people bought books from Amazon, because that was the only thing Amazon was selling, but we completely failed to understand the dramatic impact of online retail, which was championed by Amazon. Telehealth is going to be for everything, so that’s the corner that we’re turning right now.”
Our target is to develop affordable decentralized medical imaging hubs in order to provide doctors to perform medical imaging remotely for better and faster diagnostics and monitoring of critical injuries and health conditions.
Are there things that you wish patients knew in order to make sure they are getting the best results even though they are not actually in the office?
The patients should know that the new digital technologies will not replace doctors or hospitals, they will not be in a world where the doctors or radiologist will be robots and AI driven systems. Those system are there to help doctors to stay connected with them and to make better and faster diagnostics.
It is the same like work from home situation, before CoVID no one would every accepted that working from home would be possible, but now it is becoming the new norm. That will and must happen in the health care system as well.
The technology is rapidly evolving and new tools like VR, AR, and Mixed Reality are being developed to help bring people together in a shared virtual space. Is there any technology coming down the pipeline that excites you?
The most important developments are done in medical imaging, those will be the most important developments that will help doctors to perform remote body scans, or patients will have at their homes wearable ultrasound devices that can perform full body scans, or sports industry will also benefit from wearable medical imaging systems. With those technologies they will be able to track the athlete’s health condition in real-time.
Is there a part of this future vision that concerns you? Can you explain?
Covid showed us that we need to move fast especially in remote diagnostics and telehealth, we can not rely anymore only to hospitals, we need to create a decentralized diagnostics hub and connect the health system with each other. The pandemic helped us to convince regulators that they can act faster and provide fast tracks for approvals, the biggest concern that we have is that the regulators will again slow down the innovation process of new technologies.
Ok wonderful. We are nearly done. Here is our last “meaty” question. 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. 🙂
We are developing an affordable mobile diagnostics technology by utilizing ultrasound technology. The system is meant to be used by doctors who serve in difficult circumstances and geographies like 3rd World countries, villages, immigration centers. Doctors without borders, Red Cross, UN, are some of the target groups that we want to reach and provide a smart and affordable diagnostics tool that can be used to track and monitor brain, spine injuries and pregnancy progress in young women, where expensive and big systems can not be used.
We want to reach out to 1000 doctors that are working on the field. According to the studies of the UN and Accenture 5 Billion people don’t have access to smart surgery and diagnostics systems in health care. Every year we will spend by 2030 over USD 12.3 Trillion by 2030 because of a lack of early diagnostics and surgery systems. We want to reduce that amount by 25%
How can our readers further follow your work online?
We are very active on social media, they can find us on twitter and LinkedIn
Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.