Sports Medicine to Digital Medicine: Why I Transitioned

I’m on the sidelines watching the movements of every soccer player on the field, anticipating the next sports injury. The game was well into the second half with no injuries and it seemed I would be able to go home early. But then, like a dramatic scene on ER, I see a coach collapse face down on the ground. He is not moving and he is not conscious. Without hesitation, I rush towards him, ignoring the panic and chaos ensuing from the field. I am the lone certified athletic trainer on site, left only with my skills and experience to guide me. But that’s the nature of sports medicine in the traditional outreach setting; resources are limited, time is of the essence and I must do everything I can to ensure his safety and well-being.

This is what “another day at the office” used to be like for me before I decided to work at a digital medicine company. I still remember my initial job interview when I was asked, “Aren’t you going to miss working with patients and athletes every day?” At the time, I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into. Now, almost a year into this new endeavor, I’ve learned a few things about myself and what lies ahead for the future of healthcare and rehabilitative medicine.

I Can Still Help Patients

Even though I no longer work directly with patients and clinicians, I’ve found this position allows me the opportunity to still have a positive impact on them. Just so happens, I’m able to do this in an entirely unique way, yet I find I am still able to utilize my knowledge and skill sets.

My title is no longer Certified Athletic Trainer. Now, I work as a Clinical Specialist and Producer for a company that develops in-home tele-rehabilitation software using a digital avatar and motion capturing technology. Instead of watching athletes on the field and taking patients through their rehab with hawk eyes for exercise form and technique, I now spend most of my days working with engineers, UI/UX designers and animators. My job is to supervise and maintain the clinical relevance of our animations and the development of our exercise library and feedback system. I also work to ensure that our content is safe to use by patients and that all the components involved in creating an exercise come to fruition smoothly.

Technology Can Improve The Health Care Experience

There is a lot of innovation happening in the healthcare space right now. There is quite a bit out there that can help clinicians have an even greater impact on their patients and deliver quality care to people who grow so ever despondent with today’s healthcare system. Technologies such as remote monitoring and tele-rehabilitation are generating quite the buzz these days because it’s allowing clinicians to gain insight into the progress of their patients outside of the clinic. It can also keep patients engaged during their recovery. This is huge because it presents an opportunity to help patients recover from their injury sooner and even lower their chance for being readmitted to the hospital.

Times Are Changing

Healthcare is changing rapidly. With the many regulatory reforms that are happening in healthcare, especially with the newly finalized CMS mandatory bundled payment initiative for total hip and knee replacements – Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR) -there is going to be a greater demand for providers to not only deliver good outcomes for their patients, but they will have to do so at a much lower cost, and be able to manage more patients. This puts a primer on a clinician’s ability to communicate well with their patients but also leverage the right technologies so that it improves the process of care and help enhance the connection between the patient and clinician. This idea of improving the patient experience, improving populations, and lowering the cost of care has been termed the Triple Aim. It just so happens that policy makers are aggressively pursuing this notion, and it will cause clinicians to do things a bit differently in order to be successful.

It Will Still Come Down to The Patient

Ultimately, it all comes down to the patient experience. And one thing I’ve learned from working at a tech startup is that all of these fancy patient engagement features don’t mean anything unless the patient can derive any meaning from it and use it to help them achieve their goals. And that’s what it still comes down to- how well patients can get back to what they’re doing and live their lives the way they want. And it’s our job to provide tools that can help clinicians get their patients to that point. These are exciting times in healthcare.

by So Young Ho, ATC, CSCS, PES, CES