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USC Launches its Own Virtual Care Clinic

The digital health hub promises to use wearables, apps, VR and predictive analytics, among other mHealth tools, to help providers create their own virtual care platforms.

- The nation’s digital health hub may very well be Los Angeles.

The University of Southern California’s Center for Body Computing, for many years the home of an innovative conference focused on wearables, has launched its own Virtual Care Clinic - and named eight mHealth companies as “foundational partners.”

The clinic, housed at the USC Institute of Creative Technologies in Playa Vista and draw from the resources of Keck Medicine of USC, will develop and deploy digital communications tools, mobile apps, wearables, augmented and virtual reality platforms, artificial intelligence and predictive analytics and be the hub of a virtual care platform. Two of the spokes will be the USC Eye Institute and the USC Institute of Urology.

The goal of the new clinic, officials say, is to take cutting-edge mHealth concepts and push them out into the provider community, enabling health systems to create platforms of care for patients regardless of their location.

"Our Virtual Care Clinic is not only the democratization of healthcare, allowing anyone access to our medical experts without leaving their home, but it also capitalizes on the promise that digital health is supposed to offer," Leslie Saxon, MD, founder and executive director of the USC Center for Body Computing, said in a press release. "Because we have worked in collaboration with our VCC partners and our medical experts, this healthcare model will empower patients, improve quality outcomes with more precision medicine analytics and diagnosis, and enhance the physician-patient relationship by creating a contextualized experience and seamless communication that puts the patient in the driver seat of their own health care experience and outcomes."

Saxon is well known for her stewardship of the USC Body Computing Conference, an annual one-day event now entering its 10th year. Saxon broke the news of the Virtual Care Clinic at the conference last October, and unveiled the foundational partners this week.

Among the technologies to be developed at the Virtual Care Clinic is what Saxon described as the “hologram house call.” At Last year’s Body Computing Conference, she demonstrated the concept, “beaming” herself to a clinic in Dubai for a consult with a patient.

"This is really the moment to transform traditional health care and transform digital healthcare systems," Saxon told the conference attendees. "In doing so, we can really provide patients around the globe with healthcare where there’s never been any. And we can provide patients with the type of data they need and the information they need to be in command of their healthcare story."

Also in development at the clinic is an app that offers tailored treatments based on the user’s personal profile – age, family medical history, health.

"If you get any diagnosis it’s very hard to find data on that condition on outcomes that are specific to you,” Saxon told FastCompany.  “You can get breast cancer but it makes a big difference how old you are, how predisposed you are to different things.”

USC and its cross-town rival, UCLA, have long been leaders in the West Coast digital health space. UCLA, long led by Chief Innovation Officer Molly Joe Coye before she joined the Network for Excellence in Health Innovation in San Francisco last year, established the Health Technology Center (HealthTech) in 2000. In 2014, Stanford joined the party with the launch of the Stanford Center for Medical Mobile Technology.

Others of note include UC Davis, just up the road toward Sacramento, and the San Diego area, home to Scripps Health (and its Center for Integrative Medicine), Palomar Health, the West Health Institute, the Wireless-Life Sciences Institute and Qualcomm.

Identified as partners in this public-private collaboration are the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, an AI and VR partner of the Defense Department, mHealth app curator IMS Health, Doctor Evidence, Karten Design, Medable, Planet Grande, VSP Global and Proteus Digital Health, whose ingestible sensors are part of a newly launched mHealth trial at Barton Health in Lake Tahoe.

"University-based medical centers like ours are natural sources of health care innovation given the focus on basic science, clinical and translational research," Tom Jackiewicz, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Keck Medicine of USC, said in the press release. "But to achieve truly transformational medicine, we have to collaborate with the private sector, particularly the digital health and technology companies. … Innovative patient care models such as our VCC will create operational efficiencies and cost-savings allowing us to refocus resources back into more innovation and constantly improve the patient experience. This is redefining medical care."

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