Digital Innovation at UVA Children’s

October 27, 2021 by

by James Nataro, MD PhD MBA, Chair, Department of Pediatrics & Jeffrey Vergales, MD, Cardiology

We all know that we live in the digital age. We have electronic medical records, you can fill your prescriptions from your phone, and the device you hold in your hand is more powerful than the computers that landed men on the moon in 1969. Digital technology has transformed medicine in countless ways: therapeutics, diagnostics, scheduling and registration, and care coordination. The pace of digital innovation is dizzying indeed, but also very exciting. The rewards for innovators can be substantial, and the benefit to patients, families and providers can be enormous.

Most of you know that UVA in general and UVA Children’s in particular are innovators in digital medicine. We have seen advances in neonatal care from the HeRO system, we received national attention for our remote monitoring programs that has spread extensively across the country, and we are applying digital innovation to understand disease mechanisms (ask Sana Syed about her new R01 grant, applying machine learning to histopathologic specimens from IBD patients). It’s truly an exciting time to be us, and we plan to make the most of it.

UVA has recently joined a collaborative called KidsX. KidsX is an international consortium of pediatric hospitals focused on improving digital health innovation through collaboration. KidsX is committed to solving the most pressing problems in pediatric care delivery, and accelerating the development of digital innovations. Specifically, KidsX facilitates relationships among member children’s hospitals and entrepreneurial innovators.  By connecting these individuals via regular meetings and presentations, the innovators find “clinical laboratories” in which to test their inventions, and the participating children’s hospitals get to be the first to try new solutions to old problems. UVA has recently signed a contract to join the KidsX consortium along with some 20 of the nation’s leading children’s hospitals.

Kids X participation provides access to well-vetted startup companies; networking opportunities with other children’s hospitals; digital health education opportunities, including lectures and workshops; and digital health adoption support, support functions that help members work with new startup partners. KidsX, and digital innovation in general, at UVA Children’s will be shepherded by our own Dr. Jeff Vergales, the pioneer of our digital remote monitoring program.  Jeff is our new Associate Chair for Clinical Innovation in the Department of Pediatrics; he has already participated in a large number of kids X accelerated programs and is poised to get us quickly up to speed as a productive consortium member.

UVA Children’s will be an ambitious participant in the KidsX program, and more importantly, we want to distinguish ourselves as digital innovators.  Being digital leaders will produce great benefits not only our clinical brand but also in providing the reputation we need to submit successful grant applications and attract the attention of promising digital startup companies. We want to not just participate, but help lead the transformation of healthcare to a more efficient, effective, and healthy environment for kids, families, and providers.

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