As the Director of Stony Brook Medicine Telehealth, deputy chief medical information officer, and chief quality officer of Family Medicine’s PCMH, Dr. Kim Noel ’01 holds a lot of titles but they all synergize around one theme: delivering medical care technologies for patients.
Dr. Noel entered medicine as a surgeon, but as she spent her days performing amputations and gastric bypass surgeries, she questioned whether this was the best way to treat patients. Now, as a board-certified physician specializing in prevention and public health, “my main goal is to prevent illness.”
Illness prevention is not an easy task, but it is one that Dr. Noel has been meeting head on. “I was doing house calls, but it wasn’t the best way for physicians to reach a lot of people,” she explains. She wanted to empower patients and wondered, “couldn’t we optimize technology to keep them out of the hospital?” Dr. Noel, along with a team, conducted a clinical trial measuring the efficacy of remote patient monitoring. “We saw amazing things, from medication adherence to reduced emergency department visits.” It was a rousing success. “One hundred percent of those involved found it to be valuable.” She was hired to be the director of telemedicine shortly after.
Dr. Noel has been diligently developing Stony Brook’s telemedicine program, working alongside Microsoft’s engineers to create easy-to-use video solutions. Then, COVID-19 hit. Now, the telemedicine program has been expanded across the whole health system. “In a matter of ten days we went from seeing fourteen patients a day through telemedicine to 1,350 patients a day.” The dramatic rise fuels her, though. “We have been working on trying to get innovations and new technology for a long time but there is no better advocate than a crisis.”
Telemedicine has been a boon for overcrowded hospitals, as well as the pandemic’s unique circumstances. “Whether it’s patients who have the virus or are suspected of having it, they need to be socially isolated and we’re able to conduct remote monitoring now for thirty days through recovery. We have enhanced virtual visits with electronic stethoscopes to record heart sounds and EKGs through smart phones.”
This driven and passionate physician does not let anything get in her way, even a COVID-19 diagnosis. She spent two weeks fighting a mild case that presented with fever, shortness of breath, and severe fatigue (She shares her account of fighting COVID-19 in this podcast).
The eternal researcher, she immediately viewed her diagnosis as an opportunity. “I have enrolled myself in two clinical trials on antibody testing, one looking at the role of antibodies and the other donating plasma for convalescence therapy.”
Now recovered, she has launched another clinical trial, Tempredict, focused on healthcare workers at Stony Brook. “We use wearable devices, or Oura rings, to gather data such as temperatures, resting heart rate, etc., and we are looking at the data using machine learning to see if we can predict the onset of COVID-19 and the risk for re-infection.”
While COVID-19 may have cemented the value of telemedicine, as a public health expert, Dr. Noel is always looking for ways to enhance the technology and share it with more people. Currently, she is focusing her digital research on accessibility. She is leading a program, along with engineers at Google, Microsoft, and the engineers that built Alexa, to address the needs of persons with disabilities, as this year marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. “How do you change medicine to address the needs of persons with disabilities? We call it inclusive innovation.”
She will present the program in June at the American Telemedicine Association’s virtual conference.
“I still feel like telehealth is the most democratizing tool we have because you can reach a lot of people.”
Dr. Noel serves as the Director of Stony Brook Medicine Telehealth and the Deputy Chief Medical Information Officer and Chief Quality Officer of Family Medicine’s PCMH. She is an occupational health physician, and practices clinically caring for Stony Brook employees. She is joint faculty of Biomedical Informatics and the Institute of Engineering Driven Medicine, and is an appointee to the New York State Department of Health Regulatory Modernization Initiative Telehealth Advisory Committee. Dr. Noel has a B.A. from Duke University, an M.D. from The George Washington University School of Medicine and Public Health, and a Masters of Public Health from The John Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.