Three ways digital technology is recalibrating supply and demand in healthcare (Reader Forum)
The healthcare industry in the United States is hugely complex, and under increasing strain. Pressure is being exerted by multiple factors. The increase in baby boomers retiring and demanding care is arguably the most significant. Rising demand reveals a chronic shortage in terms of the supply of doctors and treatments.
But what can be done? There are three ways to manage and improve healthcare. Firstly, the decentralization of both the diagnosis and delivery of healthcare is not just necessary but imperative, as hospitals and clinics experience constrained resources and penalties for readmissions.
Secondly, the optimization of healthcare processes, from inputting patient data to issuing medical prescriptions, is an area of constant analysis. Thirdly, prioritization of disease treatment will enable doctors to allocate resources in the most effective manner.
These three focus areas are generating activity on three fronts, to improve healthcare in the United States: in mobile technology, mergers and acquisitions, and in data analytics.
Mobile Technology, as it relates to specialized medical devices for remote diagnosis and the use of cell phones, has been on the rise for the last 10 years. The use of electronic medical devices has been increasingly migrating from health care centers to homes.
In the past, it was nearly impossible to conceive of a patient undergoing dialysis in his or her own home, say, linking remotely to his or her physician for daily blood pressure or glucose checks, or downloading pacemaker activity via cellular network. Today, this is reality.
The accessibility of wireless technology, mobile applications and other connectivity platforms is enabling medical device manufacturers to make complex medical devices available for home use. This trend offers beneficial new opportunities, including added convenience for healthcare providers, improved care for patients, and cost savings for insurers and government payers.
Meanwhile, major players in insurance, medical devices, pharmaceuticals and prescriptions are taking a full-blown horizontal approach, including mergers and acquisitions, to improve their sustainability and competitive position.
Among recent acquisitions, CVS has bought Aetna, Cigna has bought Express Scripts, J&J has acquired Actelion, and Becton Dickinson has snapped up C.R. Bard. The partnership between Amazon, JPMorgan and Berkshire Hathaway is also creating ripples in the sector.
Besides recalibrating the corporate equilibrium between costs and growth, enterprises are also motivated to innovate more quickly. In a fragmented, fast-moving market, accessing innovation through an acquisitive strategy can provide quick access to new technologies and solutions.
Finally, as everywhere, the role of data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare delivery is advancing – not in terms of the Sci-Fi vision of robot doctors, but by creating process efficiencies through the elimination of tedious tasks and ability to make faster decisions in critical situations.
GE and Phillips are at the forefront of implementing AI to power data ‘command centers’ with a sophisticated system pulling information from health records, emergency dispatch service updates, lab results, standard vital signs records, hospital occupancy rate and availability.
Combined with human-trained algorithms that assign a risk factor to specific patterns and issue warnings when needed, these centers offer a pragmatic approach to the Digital Health revolution which is more about making the delivery of care more efficient, smarter, and precisely delivered.
Historically, technology has driven productivity, and brought economic efficiencies. In healthcare today, it is doing the same, by automating patient care, minimising human error, and optimizing decisions, made by humans ultimately.
Data captured by pharmaceutical companies, medical devices and insurance companies can now be linked to deliver unprecedented insights. This data is fueling partnerships and innovation in care delivery.
Fortune magazine said in an article in digital health in March that the quest to retrieve, analyze and leverage data has become the new gold rush. Why? Because, Facebook and Google have shown how to make money from digital advertising, and the healthcare industry touches everyone, everywhere, dwarfing these consumer plays.
Derek Wallace brings 20 years of product management experience to his role as Director of Product Management for MultiTech. He has worked across multiple parts of the value chain and around the world. He is responsible for the entire MultiTech portfolio, including product lifecycle and management process. He oversees a growing team focused on defining and launching the products that will achieve the most business value for our customers as well as MultiTech.