The question ought to be: When will healthcare fully embrace technology and all it has to offer?
It’s widely known that the $2.8 trillion US health system has significant waste and errors – between 25% and 30% of our health dollars go to services that do not improve health. Technology has the ability to put a big dent in that through standardization, real-time insights, convenient gadgets and complex data analysis the human brain simply cannot perform.
Consider some of the early innovators. There’s the heart monitor in the phone. The wristbands that count steps. And then there’s Oto, the cellphone attachment that snaps an image of the inner ear sparing frazzled parents one more trip to the doctor’s office for yet another infection.
Rather than compete with these, physicians ought to welcome handy new time savers that free up valuable clinical hours for more difficult, higher-paying cases. Letting a machine handle the simple stuff enables doctors and nurses to tackle what they were trained for – the truly challenging cases.
Or consider the tricked-out pill bottles that let us know if a patient is taking her medicine. It may sound trivial, but non-compliance costs about $300 million a year, meaning trackers translate into not only a healthier grandma but savings all around.
Moving onto more sophisticated technology, computers enable caregivers to instantaneously sift through reams of data, pinpoint current problems and, most remarkably, predict future issues. Predictive analytics can drastically reduce hospital readmissions, target therapies to individual genes and start us down the path of population health, reaching those most at risk with early interventions.
It’s time healthcare followed the lead of retail, banking and travel and used technology to foster a more customer-centered business model. Consumers are not only ready for – they’re demanding – more information, choice and control over their health. In a recent survey by PwC’s Health Research Institute, 82% of respondents said they are open to trying non-traditional care options such as a do-it-yourself strep test. They tell us they value the doctor-patient relationship but welcome cheaper, more convenient alternatives, including remote monitoring which pairs technology with clinicians.
None of the snazzy gadgets or even the high-end data analytics can cure an illness or create a healthy community. But in a high-deductible healthcare world, purchasers will shop around for the best value. Technology provides tools to improve outcomes and reduce costs. That’s value.