Coffee with Dr. Daniel Schwartz: Physicians are often criticized as technophobic and that is just not correct

Daniel Schwartz is a nephrologist at the University of British Columbia and is the founder and Chief MedicalOfficer of QxMD, a medical apps producer that is improving patient care. His interests are unified around the areas of innovation and medical education. He truly has a vision for digital health and is working to make it a reality. Let’s see how his work in medicine is enhancing patient care.


1. What inspired you to create QxMD?
What I found was a large number of clinicians were adopting mobile devices and they had this clear desire to increase the amount of evidence-based medicine they were applying in their practice. But they didn’t have those tools. The question I wanted to answer is: how can we take advantage of the fact that people have these mobile devices in their pockets and are willing to take 5-10 minutes to learn about something at the point of care? Knowledge translation is really important to me: how do we take what we know and get people applying it? While I would love cures for rare diseases, that’s a very hard problem to solve. But better application of existing knowledge is going to be truly revolutionary for the improvement of healthcare. We may not have invested $100 million in one drug; what we’ve done through QxMD is far simpler than that.
2. Can you describe some of your key milestones? What are some challenges you faced in developing QxMD?The opportunity today is truly unique: a small group of people can really impact the world with a modest budget and a great set of ideas. READ (iOS, Android, web: http;//, is our most ambitious product and one that I am most excited about. READ, a Flipboard for healthcare, is a project designed to ensure that physicians and other healthcare providers read the research that changes practice. We know published research is an incredible source of valuable and reliable information – if we can get ground-breaking work applied more quickly at the point of care, we will see change on a massive scale. One challenge with QxMD was to achieve tremendous reach on a global scale. As one doctor, I am able to have an impact on a community of people, which is fantastic. I enjoy that. But for me, when we hit the milestone of surpassing one million healthcare providers using our platform, it was for me, wow, this mobile revolution is an unbelievable opportunity. We can raise the bar in healthcare on a global scale with a solution which is reasonably easy to build and implement.3. You’ve seen health technology and its adoption change over the past few years I’m sure. What drives providers to use it and what barriers did you face?

Physicians are often criticized as technophobic and what we’ve discovered is that this position is entirely incorrect. We discovered, specifically with the launch of the iPhone, that if you build something easy to use that solves their problems, physicians will flock to it. What that taught me is that if you build something that caters to the individual physician, they will love it and will love you for it. Too often we see products that serve anyone but the actual physician. One strategy that I would suggest to other health IT developers is to avoid having to integrate with larger institutions, at least initially. Trying to integrate with hospitals can be extremely challenging due to many internal barriers. The best strategy is to target the end user directly. Offer the nurse or doctor a product they can use today, with no barriers.

4. Physicians and patients have different uses for mobile tech. What has your career in medicine and your work at QxMD taught you about patient engagement?

One of the problems we face with patient engagement is that it is often most challenging to connect with the sickest patients, the exact group of individuals where we stand to gain the most. These patients often face barriers of socioeconomic status, mental illness, cognition, language or education, and may find it more challenging to engage due to both intrinsic and systemic barriers. We still have a number of limitations in terms of reach. Where diseases affects young people, mHealth opportunities are huge due to the rapid adoption of mobile devices. We need to explore ways to reach a larger audience using these novel technologies.

5. What should physicians who are interested in mHealth do?

The first thing we need from them is their investment of time and interest into both supporting and developing these solutions. In Canada, we are lucky to have some funding opportunities like the Canada Infoway Project which provides government support during the initial implementation stage for some innovations. I am confident that the solutions being built today will pay for themselves. They just need to be championed by a few dedicated clinicians to provide an opportunity to demonstrate just how much of an impact they can have.

6. If you were given the chance to address every single physician in North America with regards to health technology and your experiences in the field, what would you say?

We have to stop being scared about privacy and security. I’m not suggesting we should be complacent or irresponsible; we have a moral obligation to be adherent. Too often, I hear of projects not getting off the ground because of privacy concerns. As a physician community, we need to be advocates for the patient and say that the current status quo is unacceptable. One of the easiest things we can change is how we leverage healthcare IT and that means we have to champion these opportunities and address privacy and security just as they are: simple problems that can be overcome. For example, new companies like TrueVault and Aptible exist to make it much easier to be HIPAA compliant.

Are you a thought leader in digital health or do you know someone who is? Give me a shout at – I would love to chat!

This post was written by Yashvi Shah, Marketing Associate at SeamlessMD.

The Seamless Team

SeamlessMD transforms paper-based instructions into an interactive, personal navigator for patients on smart phones, tablets and the web to improve outcomes and lower costs.

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