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St. Michael’s Dr. Mike Evans takes on new health innovation role with Apple

Toronto, September 14, 2016

By Leslie Shepherd

Dr. Mike Evans
Dr. Mike Evans

When St. Michael’s Dr. Mike Evans started working as a family physician, he saw 20 to 25 patients a day.

When he created Mini Med School, a series of popular public lectures at the University of Toronto, in 2003, he connected with 400 people at a time.

Since he launched his YouTube Med School for the Public in 2011, it has acquired more than 70,000 subscribers and 14 million views.

And now his potential audience is set to explode as he takes on a new role with Apple’s health division in California, with its 1 billion iPhones sold worldwide.

“I’m very excited for Dr. Mike that he will be able to use his multiple talents to impact an even bigger worldwide audience,” said Dr. Arthur S. Slutsky, vice-president of research at St. Michael’s Hospital. “I’m looking forward to seeing his new innovations and having St. Mike’s collaborate with him in his new role.”

“Dr. Mike” isn’t allowed to say much about his new role, other than that he will be working on health-care innovation worldwide.

But he gives the hypothetical example of a patient with high blood pressure who he might see about four times a year to check his or her blood pressure in the clinic. About a quarter of the time the blood pressure reading is wrong, either because the doctor’s measurement was off or the patient was nervous or had just consumed a large caffeine-fueled latte.

In the future, Dr. Evans said, he might prescribe an app that would monitor the patient’s blood pressure remotely with a watch or some other wearable. If the blood pressure improved over time, an alert might go the clinic’s pharmacist who could reduce the patient’s medication. People could compare how they are doing with other people anonymously, or even compare themselves with people they know.

Or, since one-half of people stop taking their blood pressure medicine because it is a “silent” illness, their phone, through a Bluetooth monitor on the pill bottle cap, could remind them that that they hadn’t taken their medication that day.

The phone and watch could nudge the patient toward a low salt “DASH” diet or to be more active. Finally, one of Dr. Mike’s famous whiteboards would launch from the app that would give them a 101 on high blood pressure.

“We see people a few days a year, the phone and the watch see them every day,” he said. “There is so much opportunity here in data visualization, feedback, education, messaging and nudging positive behaviours.”

Apple has already dipped its toe into the health-care technology world. Its HealthKit software allows iPhones to interact with multiple different health and fitness apps. CareKit is a framework that developers can use to create apps to help people manage their medical conditions and track and share data with their doctors.

And ResearchKit is an open source framework for building apps that makes it easier to enroll participants in research trials and to conduct research studies.

“So, for example, if we just started you on a Parkinson’s therapy I could ask you about common side-effects on your watch, we could track if your movement has improved, you could hold up the phone and we could measure your tremor, and so on. … all remotely,” said Dr. Evans.

“I think the future is a combination of ‘old school’ -- my relationship with the patient and understanding them -- and ‘new school,’ a type of digital public health that helps millions of people in very small ways. Hopefully I can keep doing both in the clinic at Stanford University School of Medicine and at Apple. It’s amazing that St. Mike’s and the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute have created an ecosystem that mixes innovation, research, creativity, etc., that is preparing people like me to be part of this future.”

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.