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Dr. Kevin Campbell, FACC, cardiologist and medical expert for WNCN and CBS morning news

Q&A with Kevin Campbell

Before stethoscopes, doctors looked at the signs and symptoms. They would put their ear over the patient’s chest. Once we had the stethoscope, we could hear what was going on in each chamber of the heart. We could listen to the rhythm and listen to what the valves were doing. And it changed the world.

One of the most significant issues in healthcare is data management and medication. When I was a cardiologist at Duke University and UNC, nurses and physicians spent a lot of time processing data. It was very labor intensive. Sometimes, it took me six weeks to get data from a pacemaker and defibrillator and then act on them. By that point, the data was obsolete and the potential life-saving period negated.

And that’s where PaceMate™comes in. PaceMate created a software program to take that data, process it with artificial intelligence within 15 minutes, and combine it with the expertise of nurses and doctors to provide real-time medical decisions. This is where doctors are most effective. When you get a PaceMate, your doctor will give you a machine that sits beside your bed and a Bluetooth wireless that connects to your device. It will check that machine every time you go to bed, or every time you walk by. If there is an abnormality, it sends that information to the manufacturer, whether it’s Medtronic, Boston Scientific, Abbott or Biotronik and sends that information to the cloud.

Our artificial intelligence will flag the data as red, yellow, or green. Red flags that action is required, yellow flags that something looks abnormal and green is ordinary. Our technicians than looks at the data, validates and verifies for accuracy, and sends a text or email to the physician to flag abnormal signs. Your doctor or nurse then downloads that data, looks at it, and makes relevant, real-time recommendations. Once that is recorded, the information is scanned back into the electronic medical records.

It makes a huge impact to a patient. From a healthcare economics standpoint, we are preventing repeat hospitalizations for heart failure or strokes, and significantly decreasing healthcare costs.

What brought you to this career path?

I studied abroad at Oxford University [as an undergraduate] and came back with a strong global view. I knew I wanted to go into medicine, so I went to medical school to become a cardiologist. I started to notice things within the medical system or the operation process that separated doctors from patients. So I became a sideline entrepreneur and started working with tech firms and investors to create devices and software that can help bridge that gap and make a better experience for both patients and doctors.

Over time, I became engaged with the national media and worked with multiple outlets, including Fox News, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, and CBS national. I would do a healthcare news commentary of the day and provide my two cents on healthcare policy. I became a sort of national media personality and realized that maybe I can make more of a difference by leaving medicine to focus on making medicine better.

When I retired from medicine, the first thing I did was volunteer and travel. A group of physicians, nurses, and I would sail on a 47-foot catamaran to the remote islands of Fiji and provide free medical care. Many of the locals have never seen a doctor, and it was a fantastic experience. We visited an island called Matiki, where they collected water from rain barrels and used solar power because they didn’t have access to electricity. At the end of two weeks on the island, the locals welcomed me as an official chief of the village or Ratu, a huge honor. The Fijians taught me what medicine was about. Before that, I had gotten lost in insurance and electronic medical records.

What have you learned?

1. To be an effective leader or manager, understand that people respond differently to different leadership styles. Some people need coaching, some need autonomy. Learn to understand what each individual needs, and customize your approach accordingly.

2. Listen more and talk less. There is a whole lot that we can learn if we just listen.

3. Know what you know, know what you don’t know, and find out how you can learn what you don’t know. I’ve become a pretty good businessman but there are some things I need to know to be more effective. So I’m going back to school to get my MBA.

What tips do you have for working with the media?

Be in the right place at the right time. I got into media because there was a very famous basketball coach who had a sudden cardiac death. I did not participate in his treatment (he was in a different town) but I was in the middle of setting up the defibrillator, a machine that prevents sudden cardiac death, in the operating room. Journalists came and asked me to discuss this situation, so I talked about how important it was to be aware of your risk factors for heart disease. That story ended up not only in the local news but also the CBS network. From then on, producers started to call me and asked me to go on the show regularly.

My advice is be relevant and be timely. Understand the difference between an evergreen story and a story that is burning hot today. Know how to pitch yourself, and ultimately, build a brand. My brand, if you look through all my materials, is about putting the patients first. And ultimately, be relatable and make fun of yourself on air. Once, I was on Fox News for an exercise and diet segment and I had texted the host a video of me trying CrossFit back in the day. In the video, I was dying—my face was red and it looked like I was going to pass out. She let me know that they would most likely make fun of me. At the end of the segment, they played the video of me working out. I’m a physician but I have the same challenges as anyone—I needed to lose weight and I probably looked funny doing so. Make fun of yourself in a way that humanizes you but doesn’t reduce your credibility.

Follow on Twitter: @Drkevincampbell

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