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Healthcare Information Technology - Ripe for Disruption?

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Helthare is one of these polarizing subjects that force people to pick a political spectrum from which to debate. But unlike other hot subjects such as education and immigration, the US Healthcare system is not at a worldwide leading spot (as we explained in our previous article, “Hospital Operations Benefits from Blockchain”).

One –rather funny- way to look at it is the James H. Boren’s way (a political scientist, teacher and humorist):

“I got the bill for my surgery. Now I know what those doctors were wearing masks for.”

Undeniably, Americans are trading a lot of their income for healthcare. As it turns out, we are not the only ones longing for a change. Trying to paint a clear picture of what healthcare would look like in 2020, PwC published a comprehensive  report  containing valuable information about the healthcare organizations worldwide. It looks like they are all struggling to deliver “more” for “less”.

“Healthcare organizations and governments around the world are urgently seeking solutions to temper costs while balancing the need to provide access to safe, quality care. Yet, conventional approaches are failing, even in the most advanced nations of the world – throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Australia, Canada and the United States.”

Reads the report. Aside from the polarizing debate over whether “healthcare” or “health insurance” should be “civil rights”, curing people has been a thriving business for the last decade. Recently though, we started observing signs of a collapse and it’s no surprise that the top three companies with the largest absolute decrease in market cap come from … drum roll … healthcare.

 

Company

 Nationality

 Industry

 Market cap 2017 ($bn)

 Market cap 2016 ($bn)

 Change in market cap

 Change in rank

1

Novo Nordisk

 Denmark

 Healthcare

88

141

-38%

-54

2

Gilead Sciences Inc

 USA

 Healthcare

89

124

-29%

-48

3

Bristol-Myers Squibb

 USA

 Healthcare

90

107

-16%

-35

Table: The 3 Global Top 100 companies with the largest absolute decrease in market cap, compiled from Bloomberg, and PwC’s “Global Top 100 Companies by market capitalization” study

 

By all means, the healthcare industry is ripe for disruption. New information technologies have already demonstrated the effectiveness of radically rethinking healthcare business models and a lot more is on the way (i.e., Blockchain as we explained in our previous articles).

has always done. What’s more complex, however, is to figure out the role of the different stakeholders involved in healthcare. It’s a complex mix of healthcare organizations, non-profit organizations, federal players, state regulators, payers, insurers and technology giants. Intuitive, vague answers are not a fit here just like H. L. Mencken says:

“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

There should more than a simple answer, and effort in several fronts to deliver better healthcare for less. Here are some promising IT pieces of puzzle.

Telehealth Apps

It’s very interesting how connected devices are transforming the relationship between a patient and his doctor. I was recently amazed by a free Samsung app e.g. “Samsung Health” that connects users with therapists ready to provide psychological treatment whenever users need assistance. Patients, or simply curious users can quickly get counseling for anxiety, depression and other health challenges including stress management.

The app also helps manage type 2 diabetes through a “Diabetes Wellness Program” that empowers users to be confident and in control. This is in top of tracking activity, calories intake, weight, sleep quality and being a gym coach and motivator. The cherry on top? It rewards users with all types of Samsung apparel.

Affordable Technology

In hospitals and clinics, mobile devices are making patient/doctor face-to-face times more productive, giving practitioners a handy access to complete case history, pre-op and post-op notes, received medication dosage, and all information needed for an optimized work environment.

With the cost of technology falling innovative solutions are now easy to implement. For instance, wereables like sleep and activity tracking accessories and self-service devices for patients are becoming cheaper and more ‘professional’. Readily available home-based blood pressure monitors and blood sugar readers produce results a doctor can trust.

Another great technological advance with a direct impact on the future of healthcare concerns big data. Notorious for being a huge pain-point, storing and processing the colossal volumes of medical related data has been the biggest hurdle for healthcare AI application.

The good news is: organizations no longer need dedicated servers to analyze big data as even the most complex calculations can now be performed instantaneously and securely in the cloud.

Time For Actions – Time For a Change

The cited examples above demonstrate great possibilities for healthcare made available by IT. With a raising demand for healthcare services, an urge for a change, and ever growing budget constraints, stakeholders in the healthcare value chain are materializing these possibilities into actions.

One very interesting use case is the 2011 Whole System Demonstrator Trial, A UK initiative that is funded by the Department of Health and involved 6,000 patients across three regions of England. It’s regarded as the largest randomized controlled telehealth trial.

By using joined-up information and remote monitoring to prioritize urgent cases, community matrons were able to see twice as many patients per week as compared to pre-trial period.

Other results show that if used correctly telehealth can deliver a 15 % reduction in A&E visits, a 20 % reduction in emergency admissions, a 14% reduction in elective admissions, a 14 % reduction in bed days and an 8 % reduction in tariff costs. More strikingly they also demonstrate a 45 % reduction in mortality rates.

Strategic use of technology is finally showing more than promises. It considerably enhances diagnosis, care delivery and patients remote support especially for chronic diseases. The details of how best to achieve this goal are crystallizing by the day. The use of modern technology to improve care for people, especially those with chronic conditions is inevitable, and it’s time for a holistic change.

 

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