Such a good question from my friend David Shaywitz, MD, PhD, (and co-author with me of the book Tech Tonics). David has spoken and written about this this theme frequently, and most recently at the Health 2.0 conference held last week in Santa Clara, CA. He and I and 2000 of our closest friends were there to talk healthcare technology. Isn’t it ironic that it takes that level of human interaction to talk about the ways healthcare can disintermediate humans from healthcare?
What struck me so loudly at the conference was how easy it is for us all to forget how human the healthcare experience really is. I moderated and attended numerous sessions at the conference, each a twist on the theme of how technology can make healthcare delivery more accurate, more efficient, more effective than anything we have going today.
David participated in a session withMatthew Holt, Vinod Khosla and Dr. Jordan Shlain, who could not be farther part from each other on the topic of doctor vs. machine (David played the role of moderate guy in the middle), Mr. Khosla backed away or at least clarified his earlier statements about how 80% of doctors will be unnecessary in the coming new age of healthcare technology. His revision was that 80% of alldiagnosis will, in the future, be done by computers, not doctors, because computers are far better at seeing a holistic view of a patient and taking in all of the relevant data. He talked about how certain digital technologies can know everything about you, including when you are sleeping and when you are awake. It made me think that Santa Claus must be worried about being replaced by an app.
As a primary care doctor in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, I have been searching for the holy grail of patient engagement for over 15 years. My journey began with an alpha-numeric pager and a medical degree. I shared my pager number with my patients along with a pledge to call them back within 15-minutes, 24-hours a day. My communications evolved into email and texting, with the predicate that by enhancing communication, I could carefully guide my patients down the byzantine corridors of healthcare – with a high probability we could avoid mistakes – if they would agree to share the ownership of their treatment plan. My life’s work has been where the rubber meets the road; where doctors interface with patients: office, hospital or smartphone.
Technology has washed over almost every industry and transformed it, radically. Healthcare is on the precipice of destiny. The wave is here.
Over the past three decades healthcare has lurched from one existential crisis to another; often manifested by an acronym solution: HMO, ACO, PCMH, P4P, PQRS; each a valiant attempt to reign in costs and solve for aligning incentives. However, we can’t have hospitals, doctors, health systems and payers accountable to healthy outcomes if the 300,000,000 people are not paramount to the equation.
Our national healthcare system needs a ‘step-change’, not incremental change. We are facing a vast and complex problem. Let’s use it as an opportunity; rather than blaming our nation’s health problems solely on corporations, providers, insurers, or the government, let’s also think constructively about individual behavior and incentives.
Why do we stop at a red light? Why do we pay our grocery bill when we check out? Why are we compelled to ‘service’ our car when the red indicator light starts to flash? The simple answer is that if we don’t we know we will incur a penalty. Either we have to pay to get things fixed later, or we pay extra financial fees, or we get nasty looks from our neighbors.
A behavioral sociologist would offer a more complex answer: such contracts form the heart of a civic society. We behave in accordance with laws and a sense of civic duty (we abide traffic signals) because we understand that preserving the community is ultimately self-preserving. We act in ways consistent with financial incentives, or disincentives (we service our cars) because it is immediately self-preserving.Continue reading…