Cleveland Clinic CIO Ed Marx: How digital medicine 'saved my life'

Jackie Drees - Print  | 

Evolving technology has led to significant enhancements in modern medicine, from diagnosis detection to remotely monitoring patients' health with wearable tracking devices. Digital medicine can improve and enhance patients' lives, and Cleveland Clinic CIO Ed Marx even credits it with saving his own.

Mr. Marx, who competes in duathalons, a running and cycling athletic event similar to a triathlon, said he was "the perfect picture for normalcy," and completely unsuspecting of having a heart attack when it happened to him. While running for Team USA in the National Duathlon Championships in April 2018, Mr. Marx had a left anterior descending artery heart attack, due to an unpredictable plaque eruption. His heart attack was first diagnosed with a digital cardiac measuring tool. Mr. Marx shared his experience with digital medicine and why he encourages other health systems to continue adopting digital technologies at Becker's Hospital Review 10th Annual Meeting in Chicago, April 1-4.

"The very things that we all know about or we read about in terms of the digital frontier actually saved my life and extended my life and the quality [of it]," Mr. Marx said.  

When Mr. Marx began having a heart attack, he said he only noticed one symptom: pressure on his chest. With just two miles left to finish the race, he decided to keep running the estimated 15 minutes until he could make it to the medical tent at the finish line. After he reached the emergency medical personnel, who used a portable electrocardiogram, a device that connects to an iPhone through Bluetooth, they determined Mr. Marx was experiencing a heart attack.

"[Without the digital monitoring device,] I may have stayed in that medical tent a long, long time before they figured out what was wrong with me since I had no other symptoms other than the pressure on my chest," Mr. Marx said.

While being transported to the nearest hospital, EMS alerted Mr. Marx's care team, who digitally shared his images with the Cleveland Clinic and determined an operating plan before Mr. Marx even arrived. The CIO said he felt "a lot of comfort knowing that other specialist physicians, in addition to the cardiologist that was treating [him] hands on, were all involved."

Mr. Marx was able to recover from a cardiac stent procedure and even compete in the 2018 Duathlon World Championships, which were just 90 days post-heart attack. However, he said he would not have experienced the successful, and fast, recovery had it not been for the following factors:

Access to great medicine enhanced by digital technology. "We're, all thankful that we're all part of hospital and health systems where we have access to good medicine," Mr. Marx said.

Use of technology to improve the quality of the patient's life. While the digital cardiac tool helped initially diagnose Mr. Marx's heart attack, it also helped speed up his recovery as a remote monitoring tool because he did not have to go back and forth while physicians determined which medications worked best for his recovery.

"That was instrumental because I would take two [blood] pressure [readings] a day, so my [physicians] were reading my chart in real time every day, and as a result they were changing my medications every day," Mr. Marx said. "Not once every four weeks, not once every eight weeks, but for a while there, based on my performance statistics for the data they got from the digital tools, they could make changes to my medications, which was really important in my recovery."

Shared decision making between providers and physicians. Before Mr. Marx was released from patient monitoring, he said his physician sat down with him to discuss why he wanted to be released and to run at the duathlon world championships. Doing this gave the physician more insight into what factors were important to Mr. Marx and allowed them to draw a conclusion together for when Mr. Marx could start competing again.

"That's a really important factor, too, is this shared decision making. [It makes] the provider engage with the patient and allows the patient to be responsible and accountable for some of their healthcare decisions," Mr. Marx said.

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