Charles Doarn has an affinity for looking to the future; more specifically, the future of medicine.
"I keep moving forward because I firmly believe that the way we make medicine better is through innovation and collaboration, specifically interdisciplinary collaboration,” says Doarn, a research professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine and director, Telemedicine and e-Health at the University of Cincinnati. Doarn has been involved in the development and application of telemedicine all over the world for nearly 30 years. Telemedicine or in some circles, telehealth, is the ability to remotely diagnose and treat patients when there is some distance between provider and patient.
And his focus is not limited to earth.
Doarn, a recognized national and international leader in telemedicine as a scholar and teacher, served as the principle author of NASA’s Integrated Strategic Plan for Telemedicine. He currently serves as executive secretary of the Multilateral Medical Policy Board for the International Space Station, and served as the Program Executive for Aerospace Medicine and Telemedicine at NASA headquarters throughout the 1990s.
He has published over 378 manuscripts, editorials, books, book chapters, federal reports, invited commentaries, and served as editor, associate editor, editorial board member or reviewer on a variety of health-related disciplines for 40 different journals. He recently worked with senior physicians and scientists to develop and edit the fourth edition of Space Physiology and Medicine: From Evidence to Practice, a text, he says, is "replete with colorful images that highlight what we have learned over the past 60 years, and the paradigm shift in medicine is directly related to the work done in this extreme environment.” A second book, entitled A Multinational Telemedicine System for Disaster Response: Opportunities and Challenges is the culmination of a four year effort with NATO on telemedicine and disasters.
"While a system of sensors, actuators, end effectors, and intelligence has not yet replaced clinicians, systems with such attributes have been shown to be effective in a variety of settings,"says Doarn, noting that the way we provide medical care in the future will be advanced through technology. These advances will accompany the skills and competencies physicians have.
"I’m not talking about a new kind of CT scanner or a new kind of blood typing machine, I’m talking about medicine that will come to the patient due to an overburdened healthcare system. Personalized medicine, healthcare where the patient is. "With technology we can embrace new approaches to the delivery of care and enable better outcomes.”
When people ask the question: "Is it really possible for a drone to deliver your medication to your door?”, Doarn says we need only look back to the beginnings of medicine (i.e. the practice of placing one’s ear to a patient’s chest to hear breath sounds that led to the invention of the stethoscope –the standard of care in the early 19th century) to see that medical innovations have become commonplace. This will continue to happen with advancing technologies such as e-visits for patient consultations and monitoring and intelligent systems. Even more important is consumer demand.
Doarn points out that when the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) started in 1993 there was no such thing as a smart phone: "Today, you and I could write an app and get it to the market in no time. Mobile phones are everywhere and used for everything…mobile health is a rapidly growing field.”
Doarn, who has served on the board of directors for the ATA, held several key positions, including secretary, treasurer, and chair of the International Special Interest Group for the ATA and serves as one of two editors-in-chief of the Telemedicine and e-Health Journal say the University of Cincinnati and its clinical component UC Health have the potential to lead the way by embracing new technologies, but there are inherent difficulties in a state that ranks in the bottom 25 states regarding adoption and reimbursement of telemedicine. In 2016, Doarn was recognized by the ATA with the ATA President’s Individual Leadership Award, which recognizes national leadership in this discipline.
"Telemedicine goes up against the status quo…it’s scary to many, but these and many of challenge that its adoption has faced are all problems that can be solved and in many cases have been.”
In addition to grant-related tasks, Doarn is also on faculty in UC’s Masters of Public Health program in the Department of Environmental Health where he teaches several courses in global health and public health informatics. He also holds additional academic appointments in Political Science at UC, Aerospace Medicine at Wright State University, and Emergency Medicine at George Washington University. He is a fellow of the ATA and the Aerospace Medical Association, an Honorary NASA Flight Surgeon, and recipient of the Astronaut’s award, the Silver Snoopy for his work in Telemedicine for NASA worldwide.
Doarn is currently on an Interpersonal Agreement(IPA) assignment as Special Assistant to the NASA Chief Health and Medical Officer at NASA Headquarters in Washington DC. He serves as the co-chair of Federal Telehealth (FedTel) for the US Government. He is often invited to participate in telemedicine and telehealth-related functions with the National Quality Forum, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the U.S. Military, and U.S. Department of State. As a Fulbright specialist with the U.S. Department of State, Doarn spent time teaching in Macedonia. Doarn served as the executive director of the award winning, International Virtual e-Hospital, which developed telemedicine in the Balkans, including Kosova, Albania, Macedonia, and Montenegro. He is a peer review funded researcher and has served as PI on a number of federally-funded grants, including NEEMO 12, where astronauts and researchers lived in an underwater habitat off the coast of Florida. Doarn served as executive director of UC’s Center for Surgical Innovation; executive director, Telehealth Video Resources Center in Ohio; executive director and co-principal investigator for NASA’s Research Partnership Center for Medical Informatics and Technology Applications, located at Yale University and Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.
During his long and distinguished career, Doarn has shared his knowledge and experiences with all level of learners here at UC and across the world; and he notes that "healthcare will continue to evolve with new tools and better processes that benefit the healthcare system and all the participants in it."