HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 58

Editor's note: A look back on two years of Houston's InnovationMap

After two years of InnovationMap, let's look back on the Houston innovation ecosystem. Photo via Getty Images

If I've learned anything from this year, it's that time cannot be trusted. Have we been in the throes of this pandemic for eight months, six weeks, or three years? They all feel accurate in their own ways.

I similarly question how the past two years of InnovationMap's existence has felt to me. On one hand, I completely recognize the time it has taken me to craft over 100 Houston innovators to know roundups and more than 50 episodes of the Houston Innovators Podcast — not to mention the countless other stories with my byline on the site. But at the exact same time, I still feel like there's so much work to be done chronicling the growth of the Houston innovation ecosystem as more and more startups emerge and scale.

I took a moment to talk through both InnovationMap's past and future at an Ask Me Anything-style chat with Grace Rodriguez, CEO and executive director of Impact Hub Houston, as a part of The Houston Innovation Summit. In case you missed the chat, we've uploaded it as an episode of the Houston Innovator's Podcast. So, rather than an interview with a Houston innovator, the tables have turned as I'm asked the questions.

Listen to the episode below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.


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Meet MIA — Houston Methodist's new voice technology assistant. Photo via Getty Images

Hey, MIA. Start surgery.

These are the words Houston doctors are learning to say in the operating rooms, thanks to a first-of-its-kind voice technology developed by the Houston Methodist's Center for Innovation in collaboration with Amazon Web Services. In the same way we use programs like Alexa or Siri to make our everyday tasks easier, the Methodist Intelligent Automation, or MIA, is allowing medical professionals to improve the way they interact both with technology and patients alike.

"There's been a push in the industry for a long time that people sitting behind computers and typing and staring at a computer screen is inadequate," says Houston Methodist Chief Innovation Officer Roberta Schwartz. "There's been a desire to return people back to each other rather than physicians and look at a screen and patients look at a doctor looking at a screen."

Currently in its pilot phase, MIA is working to do just that through two key functions that shift the way medical professionals work in what Schwartz calls the "era of electronic medical records."

The first is through operating room voice commands. Here medical professionals can run through a series or checklists and initiate important actions, such as starting timers or reviewing time of anesthesia, through voice instead of by typing or clicking, which can become cumbersome during lengthy and highly detailed surgeries. Information is displayed on a large 80-inch TV in the operating suite and following surgery all of the data captured is imported into the traditional EMR program. The technology has been prototyped in two Houston Methodist O.R. suites so far and the hub aims to trial it in a simulation surgery by the end of the year.

Additionally, the hub is developing ambient listening technology to be used in a clinical setting with the same goal. Houston Methodist and AWS have partnered with Dallas-based Pariveda to create specialized hardware that (after gaining patient permission) will listen into doctor-patient conversations, transcribe the interaction, and draft a note that is then coded and imported directly into the EMR.

"For EMR the feedback is that it's clunky, it's click-heavy, it's very task oriented," says Josh Sol, who leads digital and clinical innovation for Houston Methodist. "Our goal with the Center for Innovation and this technology hub is to really transform that terminology and bring back this collaboration and the patient-physician relationship by removing the computer but still capturing all the pertinent information."

The ambient listening technology is further off and is currently in user acceptance testing with clinicians.

"They've had some great feedback, whether it's changing how the note is created, changing the look and feel of the application itself," Sol adds. "All feedback is good feedback at this point. So we've taken it in, we prioritize the work, and we continue to improve the application."

And the hub doesn't plan to stop there. Schwartz and Sol agree that the next step for this type of medical technology will be patient facing. They envision that in the near future appointment or surgery prep can be done through Alexa push notifications and medication reminders or follow up assessments could be done via voice applications.

"It's all going to be of tremendous value and it's coming," Schwartz says. "We may be taking the first baby steps, but each one of these voice technologies for our patients is out there on the horizon."

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