Dr. Amar Gupta, Professor of Computer Science & Artificial IntelligenceLab at MIT interview at Converge2Xcelerate Conference (Boston, MA)
- Dr. Gupta pioneered research that led to the innovation of e-checks
- Dr. Gupta just named Editor in Chief of Telehealth and Medicine Today journal
- Global telehealth market expected to reach $16.8 billion by 2024
INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPTS: Dr. Amar Gupta, Professor of Computer Science & Artificial IntelligenceLab at MIT
Ed Kim – Host, Traders Network Show: 00:00
Very pleased to have my next guest here with us, Dr. Amar Gupta the esteemed professor at MIT who has spent his career trying to solve the most difficult question in technology, which is what comes after innovation and that is deployment and why we so often fail. Doctor, thank you for joining us. Thank you for your time today. You’ve spoken often of that there’s no shortage of innovative technology being developed around the world, but we fail so often at the corporate level, at the university level we fail so often in deploying that technology. Why do you think that is?
Dr. Amar Gupta – Prof. of computer science & AI lab, MIT: 00:42
I think there are several factors. One is that the people who develop the technology, they have the skills in terms of the innovation. They have, the turns in terms of the research. We see it all the way all the time in biology and chemical engineering and all, but they’re not the kinds of people who generally have either the interest or the skills to go ahead and talk to people who play the role in terms of applying it. These could be policymakers, these could be government officials, these could be private industry, it could be when the patients for example, and that’s where you have to work with other people and that’s where it’s very difficult for people in different fields to work together. In the case of telemedicine, for example, the biggest weakness I see is the ability of people with medical skills, business skills, engineering skills, legal skills, policy skills to work together.
Dr. Amar Gupta – Prof. of computer science & AI lab, MIT: 01:29
And as a fact, I should tell you that the most advanced States in the US today in terms of telemedicine, are Alaska, Arizona and Hawaii and the re and the only reason is that there was one university at each of these places where people in all these different skills were willing to work together to make an advance on it. And on the other hand, if you take the Eastern coast, for example, we have universities here in Boston, maybe and others, but they do not want to play this role of different people working together. And as an example, I should tell you that when my own people in terms of the constitutionality was taken up by the department of veterans affairs and applied, one of my own colleagues walks up to me and said, why did you waste your time writing this paper? A lawyer could have done it in less than half a day. So that’s the way we try to undermine other skills and that’s what makes it very difficult to apply any of these ideas.
Ed Kim – Host, Traders Network Show: 02:17
Now you’re famous for teaching perhaps the most popular course at MIT right now. Telemedicine, telehealth for enhancing global health for our viewers. MIT students rate all their classes on a scale of one to seven, and Dr. Gupta’s class rates a median score of seven, which is an astonishing score. What do you find that your students are most interested in when they’re taking your course?
Dr. Amar Gupta – Prof. of computer science & AI lab, MIT: 02:44
Well, I think the unusual thing about the course in my view is the fact that I take classes which represent the real world. I don’t try to bifurcate them. So in my class for example, we have people all the way from freshman year, not even in computer science or medicine, they’ll be totally different areas like say anthropology of women’s studies and all. And then we practicing doctors week. So we are one of the very unusual courses which takes people from all disciplines at all levels and puts them in a class together. And the deliverable is not a test or an exam. The deliverable is to change the world in some way. So you can rate a people a publishable quality. You can be involved in a startup, you can be in something else. We want them to do real work on it. And we fight to take guest speakers from different places.
Dr. Amar Gupta – Prof. of computer science & AI lab, MIT: 03:28
And I’m very honored that we have people who have come from far even five foreign countries to come and speak in the course. We want them to interact with them, come up with problems, work on those problems. Actually make a change. And I really feel privileged that some of the students from my class, they’ve done wonderful work. One of them has started a tele dentistry company and he claims this is routine is outperforms the best dentist in the world. Another lady who took my class, she has come over with a bra which is fully washable and all and a woman can wear it to work. And all our measurements for lungs and heart will be taken while she’s at work. So those are the kinds of innovations we try to do. So my guideline is to see things which will really work in life. And that’s why I feel very privileged and honored that the students have done so extremely well with it.
Ed Kim – Host, Traders Network Show: 04:09
That’s wonderful. Now throughout your career you’ve advised companies such as IBM, city, Chevron what companies today do you do you think are, are really at the forefront of, of translating innovation to deployment?
Dr. Amar Gupta – Prof. of computer science & AI lab, MIT: 04:25
Well, I assume that you’re asking this question in the context of healthcare. Yes. And I actually find that companies are very deficient in this area. If I take the Liberty of seeing that. I remember years ago I was working on the area of personal computers and I remember going to a very famous company and they said, we are in the real computer business. We are not in the toy computer business. We want to deal with pike computers, go to apples and oranges and Apple had come out at that time. Maybe I should have taken that advice at that point. Then I went around different companies. They were all very nice to me. They were all very happy with two companies. Give me a hard time trying to talk with you. One was Xerox and one was AT&T and they essentially made no inroads into personal computers at our time today.
Dr. Amar Gupta – Prof. of computer science & AI lab, MIT: 05:05
The irony is when I talk to executives at different companies, I do not find the vision at any of them. It’s a really unfortunate, so my contention is that we are going to have a situation where somebody else is going to come in from the back like Facebook and suddenly become the dominant player based on the way the, the corporate structures that I’m seeing right now. The old talk about very fragmented. We use the content about it, cross discipline, the way they can’t think about it, how to really affect it. It’s a very localized and very shortsighted view that these companies are taking.
Ed Kim – Host, Traders Network Show: 05:36
And the costs involved are, are extraordinary. There’s a famous statistic that the VA spends a billion dollars reimbursing transport costs and Kurt incurred by veterans. It’s an astonishing number.
Dr. Amar Gupta – Prof. of computer science & AI lab, MIT: 05:52
Yes. To the hospitals that back. That’s all what is spending on that kind of money and other extremely find people who are coming up with wonderful models. I’ll give you one example from a remote area in India where they introduced telemedicine and you call it a number like nine one, one and all. And they have people from different specialties and they have people who can speak different languages because so many of different are there. And when they are talking, of course you just see the difference between night and day because some of these places they’re coming up with an average cost of less than $1 for a treatment of a patient. And we take it slowly ridiculous to put numbers like that. So that’s the difference between C and just as in the case of check processing, I think it will be again, a case of reverse reverse innovation where the development will first take place in other countries. They will start applying it first and use will we actually a latecomer in this field.
Ed Kim – Host, Traders Network Show: 06:38
Right. And you mentioned check processing. We should mention for our audience, Dr. Gupta’s research he did pioneering research that led to the creation of electronic check clearance addition the commercialization of voice over IP technology. He also developed a neural network algorithms for mammograms to reduce false positives and false negatives. One of your themes is healthcare interoperability for the lay people. What does that mean to you?
Dr. Amar Gupta – Prof. of computer science & AI lab, MIT: 07:10
Well, first I want to clarify one issue. A lot of these work has been done by people under my supervision, so let me be the first to tell that they are the ones who do the work. I just shoot them out of trouble and I get the money what they need to do and I give them a direction. The second thing in terms of interoperability is that we all speak different languages in the sense in real life, but in hospital environments also historically different hospitals vented for different systems, different way of holding, say nurses notes for example, recording it down. Then we had companies which came in for billing. Those were the companies which came over the electronic health record systems primarily from a billing point of view. Then the federal government came along, wanted more things to be done, so we have had different agencies, different organizations pull the information from different needs.
Dr. Amar Gupta – Prof. of computer science & AI lab, MIT: 07:56
The problem it creates is that we have come to a situation where these people cannot speak each other. And in the old days you go to the same doctors, same thing, it was fine, but when you have telemedicine, when you have all these different medical specialties, this information shouldn’t be fully exchangeable. Today there’s situations where the same hospital, and I’ve had this myself, in fact over the last one year we went to x-rays for one place and the other hospital we win, even though it’s part of the same chain, they could not go there directly and they wanted us to go through that extra gain and we had to go behind the scenes. I had to call the CEO of the hospital chain and he went and got those extra done and transferred. But again, after normal level for a normal patient that won’t have taken place.
Dr. Amar Gupta – Prof. of computer science & AI lab, MIT: 08:33
So all these things are adding cost. And to give you an example in the world, some years ago there were 200 different languages which involved 200 different currencies, which were in world. If you wanted to convert money from one currency to another currency, you had to have 200 times one 99 ton waters. What do you do in real life is to convert it first $2 a pound and then you convert back. So we need some in which you can minimize or reduce this effort, which is involved. But the problem which is there is that different medical specialties are going in different directions within the US there are multiple people who are trying to take care of interoperability. Different countries are doing it. There’s no synergy. And this is medicine and healthcare is really a global industry. And unless we think about global leadership in this area, we are not just going to have these shortsighted kind of views and social solutions. Right.
Ed Kim – Host, Traders Network Show: 09:21
Now let’s talk about your latest venture. You have recently become a named editor and chief of Telemedicine & Telehealth at MIT. Talk about that.
Dr. Amar Gupta – Prof. of computer science & AI lab, MIT: 09:32
Well, my newest role is the journal, which is called Telehealth and Medicine today. And I was invited to become editor in chief of it. MIT’s not directly involved in it. So I’ve accepted the responsibility. And the reason I got interested in this one is that this is one of the few journals which is not domain specific. Some journals come from medical areas, some come from computer science, some come from strategy. This is a journal which is open. It’s not related to any of those domains. It’s authorized or supported by the American telemedicine association. So I’m using thinking of using this as, as pedestal to cover several kinds of issues. One is to take the different segments, factors to it, like the strategic issues, the business issues, the legal issues. Ella, we want to give more examples of what’s happening internationally, draw attention to the kind of environment.
Dr. Amar Gupta – Prof. of computer science & AI lab, MIT: 10:22
Just as I mentioned about the wonderful things being done in other places around the world, which we want people to know. And conversely, we want people to know what’s happening in America. So that’s another machine. And the third issue I want to do is to foster a culture where industry, academia, and government actually can work together to address some of these issues like interoperability issues, payment issues, reimbursement issues. Unless we find mechanisms like this, it’s going to be very difficult. And today we see the perk in terms of cost. The cost involved on treating a patient in the US is higher than that in any other country of the world. But when we take any of the statistics which is there, we are ranked somewhere like 60 or 70 out of 200 countries. These are statistics from the CIA. They’re statistical world health organization. So, and again in some of these cases, our number on this ladder is actually coming down, not going up. So we are not moving up this ladder. We are going down. So those are the kinds of issues that I’d like to tackle through my role as an editor in chief of the journal.
Ed Kim – Host, Traders Network Show: 11:19
Oh that’s wonderful. I wish you every success. Dr. Gupta. Thank you for your time. Really enjoyed it.