On the Health Record: Evolving Healthcare with Dr. Ali Sadrieh

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We recently released an interview with podiatrist and foot surgeon, Dr. Ali Sadrieh of Evo Advanced Foot Surgery, which you can find here. Dr. Sadrieh is an innovator in the healthcare space who embraces and implements tech-forward solutions to provide the highest quality care and patient experience possible. During our conversation, he talked about the urgency of digitizing your practice while also noting how starved healthcare is for user-friendly software experiences.

Topics covered ranged from EHRs to the future of the healthcare industry, and this blog shares some of the highlights from the full conversation. Dr. Sadrieh shares a wealth of knowledge and insight throughout, so enjoy this overview of the chat!

We’re excited to have you back. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do these days?

I’m a jack of all trades, but specifically by trade, I’m a foot surgeon and podiatrist and have been practicing for 20 years. Since day one, however, I focused heavily on the integration of technology into the medical practice environment to improve the patient’s and doctor’s experiences. Back in 2001, when I first started to practice, there was no EHR per se. There were databases that you used for running your practice that mostly centered around billing, but health records were kept in file folders.

Therefore, being a Mac user and a proponent of all things tech, I decided I’m going to start day one digitally, so I had to jerry rig my own electronic health record. It worked really well for the lean footprint that it had at the time, but eventually DrChrono came around which we pivoted to after previously working with a less sophisticated Mac based EHR. DrChrono was really the only platform that understood the importance and relevance of iOS to the future of healthcare technology.

Keep in mind that back then iOS was relatively new, the iPad was just released, and shortly thereafter, DrChrono had created their iPad iOS interface. Fast forward to today, I’m proudly still a DrChrono user, and I think if you’re not living in an iPad as a practitioner, then you’re doing something wrong.

Can you talk about running an outpatient podiatry clinic? Why did you decide to do that, and what does it take to run one?

I see there being two parallel methods of practice, one of which I call the big box model where you outsource a lot of the administrative and day to day business affairs to a brand. These big box hospital models are buying up practices and giving you all the backend and infrastructure, so that you just practice medicine, and that lets you focus as a physician or practitioner on the medicine and ignore the rest.

Then there’s the private practice model where everything is connected and personal which is how I run my practice. I tend to have some fairly critical opinions about which model serves patients best, and they’re largely based on user experience.

I’ve given talks about the PX, or the patient experience, and I feel that doctors have an imperative responsibility to curate the patient experience rather than allowing people that are not in healthcare but rather are in the business of medicine to curate that patient experience. I’m open to them collaborating with doctors on the patient experience, but oftentimes it still falls short because when you have people in the business of healthcare curating the patient experience, the driving factors for them are profit motive. Oftentimes the things that we do in our private practice don’t even generate profit; they generate experience. On the backend, theoretically it will increase success because people have a better experience, and they refer their friends to you.

Curating the patient experience, among other things, is why I believe the private practice model is so essential, and today, there really is no excuse not to be in private practice because the tools are all there. There are SaaS tools like DrChrono, like patient engagement platforms, radiographic imaging solutions, testing solutions and so much more. It’s so multifaceted that today is the best time ever for a physician to have their own practice and provide a curated experience. We’re seeing that pop up more and more in the new generation as younger, more tech savvy doctors are leveraging these tools.

Software is unlike any other product in that it’s constantly being tinkered with and improved upon even after you buy it. You’ve worked with many EHRs, so you sort of see the field and not just one piece of it. What do you think is the biggest opportunity for growth when it comes to electronic health records?

Speaking abstractly, the most important improvement for EHRs is to get out of the way. Doctors are some of the busiest people that I know, especially in private practice. Because of this, doctors face this newly emerged topic that we’re talking about: burnout. You have to keep up with your records; that’s essential but challenging. You also have to keep up with the business aspect of it, and medical billing is just an ominous monster. It’s not as straightforward as a restaurant where you come in, you consume the product, and you pay for it.

Then on top of all of that, physicians have to master complex software to manage all of these aspects of their business. Now, I believe my responsibility as a physician is to purvey the best information to my colleagues which is why I tell people that DrChrono is so much easier to use than other EHRs I’ve come across. It’s incredibly intuitive which is key because the less interaction I have with your EHR to create well crafted documentations of my experience with the patient, the better off I am as a practitioner.

It means that I’m spending more time with my patient and less time tapping buttons on the screen. Now that opens up the conversation into the iPad versus desktop world, and I’m a big proponent of the iPad. After all, who likes to go into an appointment where the doctor asks you a question and turns away to type the answer over and over? With a tablet, there’s more intimacy when I’m sitting next to a patient, and I can pull up a diagram and draw on it next to them, rather than lecture from a screen in front of them.

That’s why the future of the EHR is in the background, as a transparent entity that doesn’t get between patient and provider. Templates are readily available for me to make, and they’re less work intensive and simple to engage with. I think that that is the holy grail because that’s going to solve a lot of the burnout. I think the majority of what we hear in the conversation of burnout among medical professionals is records related because notes are hard to do nowadays.

Healthcare is a huge part of our economy, and there are many people looking to create disruptive solutions in that industry. What are your thoughts on disruption in healthcare?

I just don’t like the term disruption; that term is coming from college students who want to prove themselves in the world. No, I’m sorry; you’re not gonna disrupt my world. Physicians hold the torch. What do these other people know about healthcare? We are healthcare. Providers and patients are healthcare. The word disruption should change to evolution.

Healthcare doesn’t operate in a way that is conducive to disruption. Science works on iterative evolution. When it comes to engineering, you evolve by taking your platform and layering on technologies that work over time. Similarly, we should use the framing of evolution in healthcare because that’s going to empower the people that are making tools for the evolution of healthcare.


If you enjoyed this blog and want to hear the full conversation with Dr. Ali Sadrieh, you can find this episode of the On the Health Record podcast on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.