Michael Spooner, EdD, is interested in how things once thought impossible become possible. That’s because he has seen data and technology evolve to make better, more personalized healthcare decisions. Dr. Spooner explores the untapped potential of data and technology in healthcare and life sciences.
Welcome to Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Podcast, the Secret to Living to 200. My name is Jennifer Persons and I'm your host. In each episode of this series, we will explore different aspects of health and the factors that allow us to live longer, healthier lives. With the help of a thought leader from the university this year, M-C-P-H-S is celebrating its 200th birthday, and what better way to kick off our bicentennial celebrations than with a podcast about longevity and wellbeing? Joining me in the studio today is Dr. Michael Spooner. He is Dean of the School of Healthcare Business and Technology. Welcome. Thank you so much for having me here today. Thank you for coming. Before we dive into our conversation, we're going to start with an icebreaker that we ask every guest. If you had a time machine, would you travel 200 years into the future or 200 years into the past and why? Oh, this is a good question. I think I'd have to go 200 years into the future. I want to know what happened to the word impossible and see how so many of the things that we look at as impossible today have changed in the future. That's a great answer, and I think that lends well into our conversation today about developing technology. So to start, could you just introduce yourself to the audience? Tell us about your career and how you came to MCPHS. When I think about my career in education and healthcare and technology, it is defined by the word I graduated from high school and decided that I wasn't certain college was what I wanted to do. And at that point I thought I would work full-time and I worked full-time as an archival book binder. And what we did there was take governmental records and digitize them. And this was in the mid nineties, so we were a little ahead of our time with technology. Even then I left archival book binding and went into retail management. I was the youngest retail manager for a retail store that was across the United States and enjoyed that, but at the same time went to community college and after a while working full-time as a retail manager, I decided that maybe I would be serious about college. And I enrolled at the Sawyer School of Business at Suffolk University in Boston and in marketing in particular. And while I was there, I was also a Griffin Scholar, and that was really what got me into working in education, understanding some of the elements of education. Wow. A number of my friends went into healthcare and I would work with them on special projects here and there, and that's what made me interested in healthcare administration. So I had got my master's in health administration and at the same time I was doing some consulting on technology for higher education, looking at reporting. And that's actually how I came to Mass College of Pharmacy. And I'll never forget that first day I walked through the door, it was a Saturday by the way, and there were so many students studying. It just felt different. I could tell something was different about this institution, and that was almost 16 years ago. I was working on the administrative side then, and my focus was technology, looking at the online registration system, helping with rooming, running algorithms to place classes in rooms. So again, applying technology, but a little bit more on the administrative side of higher education. While I was doing that, I decided I wanted to get my doctorate. So I was doing work at Northeastern while working full-time. And in that experience, I was still teaching as an adjunct here, working on my doctorate. And I had the wonderful opportunity to become the program director for the Master's in Health administration here. And then I had the chance to become the assistant dean for the School of Healthcare business when it started, and now the dean of the School of Healthcare Business and Technology. So there's a whole progression in there, but interestingly kind of started with technology right out of high school, who knew? Yeah. And I was going to say, if you could go back and tell 18-year-old you that you would be leading a school head at university, you'd probably think you were crazy. Absolutely crazy. I say that to students all the time. I'm like, if I thought I'd be the dean of a school of healthcare business and technology, even five years ago, I would've thought I was crazy. And here we are and we're doing some really wonderful things. Absolutely. And now you're overseeing the school going through a lot of change. So in the last year, the name has changed to the school of Healthcare Business and Technology. Can you explain why that change happened? When we think about the change or adding technology to the School of healthcare business, it was definitely something that we were really focused on and we were looking at what is one of the major elements of the future of healthcare thinking more particularly about life sciences. And then when you look at what we do as an institution, some of our real core elements, of course, are clinical healthcare delivery. We have so many professions that are focused on excellent care, clinical skills. We look then at interprofessional education, IPE, and all of the different elements that we have in terms of faculty research, student research, what is one thing that binds all of those elements together? Technology, we're all walking around with iPhones or some type of device that is enabling technology in a way that, I mean, I didn't think about it in 1996 when I was working as a book binder, but here we are today looking at the availability of technology that's changing healthcare, that's changing how we interact with patients, and it's changing the whole care team that delivers healthcare. So I think that the move to add technology to the school really is a deliberate way for us to look at the most ubiquitous element of healthcare of business. And that ties it all together for us, and it gives us some really great opportunities and hospitals. Now, hip replacements are the same day. Knee replacements will be done in the same day. I personally have a knee replacement that used 3D printed tools, and it was built by a company right here in Massachusetts that takes a image of your existing knee. They cut the materials to install it, and then they fashion the metal to match exactly to what your anatomy. Is. And that was a single day. One day. Wow. It's amazing what can happen and how quickly these pieces of technology included in care are evolving and how we're using them today. And again, it goes back to the element of technology and the delivery of healthcare and where we are. And the spectrum for what technology encompasses is so broad. So my next question was, in a previous episode, we talked about digital health and wearable devices. You just gave another great example with surgeries. What other kinds of things are we thinking about when we think health technology. Wearable devices and thinking about how diagnostic elements work? When you look at those devices, there's data and there are networks, and what happens with that data? Where is it going? What do we do with it? So I think that's one of the real important elements differentiation between just devices and technology. Think about data for a second. There are so many different data points that come from those wearable devices. If we have 200 folks out there with a wearable device collecting data, we can start to use data science to evaluate what it is about the data we collect from large groups and how we can apply that in healthcare in particular. Are there specific habits that they have that are healthy? Are there specific habits that aren't healthy? Can we provide prompts or more personalized care collecting? That's a large scale example, and it may not be as easy as it sounds, but it's a way we can look at the difference between the data. And that's what I think we see with data science. And if you think also about information management, you see how we're gathering the data, storing the data, querying the data, and using it. And I think those are the important elements for us to consider there. And so what people don't see is that health organizations, they all have people to work with this data and do those things you just described. What is the need in the system right now for experts in health data? This is one of the hottest areas of employment in hospitals, in life science organizations, in just any organization in general. One of the things we're hearing not just about data science, but just in general, is digital skills and the ability to use technological tools, the ability to use data, the ability to evaluate different elements of queries and to make decisions based on what we see. And I think that we can look then at data science and look at the applications of data science in so many different job areas within healthcare. We have some wonderful examples of students who've here, who've gone into areas where they're using data to make improvements in everyday life and frankly, to save lives. Wow. I think it's a thread that really unites a lot of what we do in healthcare and a lot of what our students in the clinical professions do in healthcare, and we're so excited to have that as a focus for the school. There are so many things that we can do and so many areas we're focused on in these new programs that are bringing the element of technology into the school that are exciting. Because data has become so powerful and when people know how to use it, can use it in these amazing ways. Do other kinds of providers have a responsibility to get more involved with the data, or at least understand what's out there? When we. Look at how data is used now in healthcare, we're using it as a support mechanism, and I think that we're using it to help us narrow down some of the clinical decision making that needs to be done. It's helping us to identify possibilities. I think that human interaction though, is still critical. Yeah, we go to see our doctor, we have a relationship with our physician or our providers, and I think that we're relying on them to help guide us just as they may rely on some of this information or data to help make a decision. It is not the only decision. It may help us narrow it down, and I think that's going to be our model for a long time. Are we still in a phase where other providers dealing with this data, does it feel too burdensome? Or how could you see that process improving? So it's really something to help them not add to their already full plates of. Work. And that's an important distinction too, right? All of these elements add to what we're already doing. I mean, I think probably the most prominent example is ai. It can do amazing things, but it can be burdensome to your point. So when is AI going to come to a point where we can use it but not interrupt the opportunity for us to focus as I'm saying, us as a provider to focus on our patient to make sure that that engagement of the patient is still there, that the patient-centric relationship is still there, that they can still make a decision. I think that to your point when we come back to is this too burdensome? It can be for a while, and I think we have some specialists we can work with to develop workflows and tools that will help in this case, but we need to adopt them. I think that examples of where it has been adopted are more in the large language models and also in natural language processing. So voice notes for example. That's one area where you see it adopted. And now we can kind of summarize large elements of data quickly. So numbers of voice notes. If you have a medical record that's complete, you can probably look across a number of different notes at the same time to find something that's in common between a number of different providers. If we can get to that point, we start to see where it's valuable and where it's not taking time away from the provider and the patient, but supporting the provider and the patient relationship. It feels overwhelming. And there's all of these concerns about the digital world and our data. So from the patient perspective now, how can they trust that the information they share with their providers, either in person or over an app, is kept safe? I don't know about you, but I feel like I get a notification all the time that my information was included in some type of data breach, and it is hard to trust. I mean, I will say that I think there are some important elements in place in healthcare that are a little bit different than other areas. Certainly hipaa for example, when we look at all the different challenges, there are so many different cybersecurity elements that are available now. I think even here at Mass College of Pharmacy, we're doing multiple factor authentication. We have a number of folks looking at cybersecurity. I think we have seen some incidents where data was commandeered, and we've learned from that that it must be encrypted and backed up in multiple locations. It's a learning process. Unfortunately, sometimes it's reactive. I do see a lot of great progress in healthcare in protecting some of the data encrypting, like I mentioned, even sometimes going into the provider's office, you'll notice now that there are privacy screens, so you can't look at the computer monitor and see someone else's information. Sure, it's small things like that, but it's also complicated and complex processes like encrypting data, and certainly it's an element of the programs that we have here. We're teaching cybersecurity, we're teaching elements of health data risk, and also all the ethics around this as. Well. We're thinking about the last 200 years plus the next 200. So looking forward, what do you hope the best function of health data and technology is? For me to think about the best use of health data, health technology is really the personalization of care. In particular, looking at our genetic information, I think it takes the equivalent of streaming a hundred movies to store one person's genetic information. Wow. So what I'm getting at is I think for us, the best thing would be to be able to have our own information, let it be ours. We own it as patients, but we have the opportunity to use that data to understand what may happen in our lives. That's a tricky equation because if you are certain that a certain gene expression will lead to a particular type of cancer, it may prevent you from doing some things in your life. Sure. I'd really like to see us take control of our own data. I'd like to see us be able to use that data to improve our own lives, but I also don't want to scare myself. Well, there's a choice element in that too, is there's a difference between having that data force upon you and having the ability to look at it and make decisions based off. Of it. Absolutely. I think about it in this context. My father had leukemia and I wonder if he would've done anything differently in his life had he known about that. And I don't know if he would've, and it's easy for me to guess now, but I suppose that knowing that he may have made some different choices in his life, he may have retired earlier, I don't know. But those are the kinds of things that you grapple with and think about what is the impact of knowing something. Would you take certain risks in your life if you didn't know? Risks can sometimes lead to different endeavors, can lead to wonderful opportunities in your life. You just don't know what that means. And knowing what an outcome may be could change what you do in the middle. Well, thanks so much, Mike. Thank you. We've come to the part of our show called Reds Rapid Fire, so I'm going to ask you a short series of questions, and the goal is to answer them as quickly as possible. Are you ready? I'm ready. Are you left-handed or right-handed. Oh. That's a little bit of both. I can write with either. I most often write with my right hand though. What is your favorite cartoon character? Well, I guess it would be Tom from Tom and Jerry. Are you an early riser or a night owl? Early and night owl too, unfortunately. What is the last TV show or movie you watched? Ooh, the last TV show I watched Shamefully. It was What was your dream job growing up? Early on it was to be a garbage man. Obviously that didn't happen, so I think my dream job is to work in an higher education institution. If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you go? I would go back to London. Sweet or savory? Sweet. Would you ever go to space? Absolutely. What is something you wish was illegal? Something I wish was illegal. Are those scooters running red lights. And last one. What's one piece of advice you would give to your younger self? I would tell my younger self to have more fun. Thanks again, Mike. And thank you for listening to this episode of The Secret to Living to 200. We hope you'll join us next time. And as always, stay curious. Cardinals.