Understanding Health Tech: The 2 Big Buckets and the 6 Sub-Buckets

When I tell people I consult in emerging healthcare technology, their first question is usually whether I help hospitals with their EHRs.  No.  Their next question is, “Are you a CIO?”  No.  “Well then what do you do?”

The best way to explain my focus is to think in terms of two big buckets and four sub-buckets of health technology.


Bucket 1 – Traditional Healthcare Technology

·         Sub-bucket 1 – Electronic Medical Records

·         Sub-bucket 2 – IT infrastructure

Both of these are virtually universal.  It’s hard to have a hospital without them.  There is no competitive advantage in having either an EHR or IT infrastructure.  That would be like saying, “Come to our hospital.  We have elevators.”  Or “We have an HVAC system.”  These are pretty much cost-of-doing-business items. 


Bucket 2 – Emerging, Disruptive, mHealth, Digital Health Technology

You can see by the multiple adjectives that it is a bit difficult to describe this bucket.  It’s largely every kind of tech except what is in the traditional healthcare technology bucket.  Much of emerging, disruptive technology is enabled by the Internet and distributed delivery approaches such as Software as a Service (SaaS) and Cloud-based storage.

The four sub-buckets in this category are:

·         Sub-bucket 1 – Patient-Touching – This technology realm has been around for centuries, but ongoing scientific breakthroughs introduce new products and approaches virtually every day in the following areas:

o   Diagnostics – Everything from bedside lab analytics to peripheral smartphone devices that perform EKGs or other clinical functions

o   Intervention – Multitudes of new treatment modalities

o   Implantables and Devices – Such as 3-D printing or bionic limbs

·         Sub-bucket 2 – Personalized Medicine – Evidence-based and data-driven care customization based on my personal traits and circumstances

o   Clinical – Such as IBM Watson, genomics and automating evidence-based protocols to tailor care plans based on my personal physiology

o   Coordination – Such as customized post-acute care plans incorporating psychographic/demographic data that factors in preferred communications approaches

·         Sub-bucket 3 – Communications

o   Between patients and providers – To monitor patient progress, allowing for early intervention when needed

o   Among providers – Either in the referral process or post-discharge to track patient progress and determine whether the patient is actually following the care plan to allow the various caregivers to regroup if necessary

·         Sub-bucket 4 – Business Functions

o   Clinical applications – Such as Lean analytics for things like improving efficiencies in handling ER throughput

o   Standard business functions – Such as OR scheduling or administering hospital HR functions

Since “technology” is such a broad term that encompasses so much, this analytical framework provides a helpful structure to help sort out the many, many aspects of healthcare technology, especially for hospital executives who are not particularly technology oriented. 

So for the record, I don’t do anything with the first big bucket of traditional healthcare technology, but I’m all over the emerging, disruptive, mHealth, digital health technology group.  I love helping developers and entrepreneurs develop strategies for successful product development and introduction into the healthcare marketplace.