3 Fronts of the Healthcare Technology Revolution - Part 1

Few would disagree that technology is profoundly disrupting the healthcare world.  Just as the Internet, cloud computing, and SaaS have revolutionized most other business verticals, the same is happening in healthcare, although it’s at a somewhat slower pace.

These healthcare changes are occurring on three fronts:

  1. Clinical breakthroughs

  2. Communications facilitation and care coordination

  3. Healthcare business processes

I will consider the first two impact areas this time and tackle the third along with some ideas about next steps in my next posting.

1.  Clinical breakthroughs

In my work with emerging technology companies, I am frequently amazed by emerging products that are absolutely upending patient care.  Among the astounding technologies are:

  • Tabletop lab equipment that can diagnose traumatic brain injury far more quickly and with exponentially more precision than conventional methods

  • Smartphone apps that bring precise diagnostic capability to remote locations at a fraction of the cost of conventional diagnostics, thereby having a huge impact on Third World medicine

  • Analytics capabilities that can zero in on individualized patient needs and interventions

  • Medical devices that compensate for damaged nerves, making possible mobility restoration

Thousands of other products have the potential to revolutionize patient care at all levels.  Sometimes, these developments can literally mean the difference between life and death.  If I, or a loved one, happens to fall into a clinical category affected by one of these emerging technologies, it’s hard to overstate how these technologies can change our lives

 

2.  Communications facilitation and care coordination

Communication between providers and patients – Every healthcare provider recognizes the need for enhanced coordination and communication up and down the continuum of care.  Patients are routinely discharged from hospitals with multiple instruction sheets outlining the typical post-discharge experience and a set of instructions to maximize the chances for complete recovery.  But:

  • How many of those instructions are actually followed? 

  • How many patients actually report back to their primary care physicians as directed? 

  • How many of the post-discharge prescriptions are filled? 

  • Of those that are filled, what percentage are actually taken?  

  • Of those that are taken, how many patients fully comply with instructions about when to take them, whether or not they should be taken with food, or whether grapefruit juice should be avoided? 

Up until now, many providers may have felt they should also issues lottery tickets along with the discharge orders since the chances of full compliance and monitoring may actually be lower than winning the five number scratch-off.

Thousands of smartphone and tablet-based apps and wearables technology allow immediate and/or continuous feedback, alerting practitioners to the degree of compliance (or lack thereof), thereby potentially reducing complications or other adverse developments.

Coordination among providers – Other apps facilitate ongoing contact among providers, thereby minimizing communications breakdowns among physicians, pharmacies, nursing homes, social workers, home health workers, and others in the current fragmented system.

 

So both the ability of patients and providers to talk with each other more effectively and the enhanced communication among providers amps up the patient care process like never before.

Next up:  Technology’s impact on healthcare business practices and a look to the future