Technology: The Health Care Paradigm Shift

I’ve been involved with health care (one way or another) long enough to realize that there is no such thing as “the right answer.” What works for one country (in terms of policy, regulations, insurance coverage etc) won’t necessarily work for another. Yet I’ve noticed that one key component that’s role has remained stable and constant throughout the tribulations of health care reform: technology. As someone put it: with healthIT innovations, its not that people SHOULD pursue ventures, its that people NEED to pursue ventures. The money is there, the need couldn’t be greater, and with ever-growing government regulation (MU etc), the adoption is there as well. These are probably the most exciting times in health care in the last century, and I’m glad to be young enough to get the full experience.

Today, I had the pleasure of attending the 2012 Innovation in Healthcare Conference hosted by Alliance Healthcare Foundation. With a focus on understanding community dialogue in the context of innovation, yet again, one component remained constant: technology and technology innovation. Whether in patient engagement, compliance, access to care, reducing costs or improving outcomes, healthIT seems to be synonymous with health care innovation. Depending on which side of the court you are looking from (patient v. provider), the path may be different, yet the destination is identical: lower costs, improved quality of life, preventing disease and encouraging healthy well-balanced lives.

Technology within the health care sector has already changed many of the processes we do today. WIth Health Insurance Exchanges, electronic claims and telemedicine, to name a few, consumer interaction with the health care system has already seen a positive change. Yet this is just the tip of the iceberg! Once electronic medical records get implemented on a nation-wide level and Meaningful Use sees the light at the end of the tunnel, the clear next major focus is going to be on the one resource collectively ignored in health care: the patient. This will give way to exciting consumer-level innovations in the use of personal monitoring devices and self-measurement. Quantified Self, which is still in a grassroots phase, will become part of standard daily living. Keeping track of sleep patterns or weight will be as natural as drinking your morning coffee.

Robert McCray, one of the speakers at today’s conference, presented some cool gadgets that companies have been pushing out as part of health care innovations. Between using Watson in the context of clinical decision support, and 3G enabled glucose meters, stood GlowCaps, the prescription adherence caps that help patients remember to take meds, provide adherence reports to clinicians, and even enable users to request prescription refills with the press of a button! This left an impression on me. This made me realize that innovation doesn’t need to be complex to make a true impact. Fixing the issue of prescription compliance could be as easy as re-designing the prescription cap! What else will they think of next?

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