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Author's profile photo Christine Donato

How Can Healthcare Maintain the Pace of Technology?

Did Science Fiction predict the future of healthcare in the modern world?

Dr. Bertalan Mesko, MD thinks so. He’s actually dedicated his entire career to exploring this notion.

From printable human tissue to freezing body parts for gunshot victims… science fiction books and movies have foreshadowed much of what we can do today.

Did you ever think that there would be a day when you could have your digestive bacteria analyzed? Or that you would ever be able to buy a sensor to place in your toilet to monitor your health through your urine?

The Internet of Things (IoT) and the Big Data Revolution

With the IoT, we can track almost everything about our bodies… if we really want. And soon, physicians will have more insight into their patients’ health than they could have ever imagined.

So how do we bring billions of patient data sets to the point of treatment decision? At the recent event Health Sciences: Your Digital Transformation Prescription, SAP joined with Accenture, BackOffice Associates, Deloitte, and Capgemini to discuss the future of healthcare within the Big Data Revolution.

Patients as Consumers

People are no longer patients. People are consumers of healthcare. As such, the healthcare ecosystem must evolve to support this shift in consumerism, the increased patient data that is available, the IoT, electronic medical records (EMRs), shifts in politics, and most importantly, the  transformation to outcome based care, explained Jeff Elton, PH. D., Managing Director, Accenture, in his morning keynote.

What changes can we expect in the U.S.?  With the new Trump Administration, Elton predicts that we may see a decrease of huge payer organizations and instead more, smaller payer organizations will emerge and compete with each other on a regional and interregional level.  Their focus will be the consumer as the authoritative voice; value will be measured by outcomes; and IT will be a driving force of innovation and cost efficiency.

Elton predicts that healthcare will move from a volume driven model to a value one.

Half of the Battle is Fought Outside the Doctor’s Office

Similarly to Dr. Mesko, Elton mentioned advances in therapeutic benefit devices, or devices that have a similar benefit as some prescription drugs.

For example, we now have ingestible chip technology and “venture backed” activities like ADHD gaming to soothe patients’ active minds. Increasingly, payers are supporting incentivized programs related to financial breaks – like rewarding non-smokers, gym goers, and those who track steps with wearables.

As Joe Miles of SAP said, “It’s not just about taking your pills. Healthy outcomes stem from also eating right, exercising, and practicing a healthy lifestyle.”

The issue with tracking success rates of a value-based healthcare model lie within patient adherence. Doctors have no control over the lifestyles that patients lead.  Will patients fill their prescriptions? Will they follow instructions? Will they exercise and eat healthy foods?

There’s no way to know.

However, with the IoT and technology platforms, doctors can better track patients after they leave the office, helping to avoid readmission.

How to Mainstream Precision Medicine

“In a system that doesn’t measure data, it is impossible to have precision,” said Dr. Mesko. “The ground basis for healthcare must be data and technology solutions,” he continued.

The lifestyle data that we collect via wearables and chip consumables will constitute 90% of the impact made in precision medicine, explained Nitin Mittal of Deloitte. “Much of the dialogue of precision medicine is anchored around genomics, but that’s just one aspect of it,” Mittal said. Environmental factors can instigate preventative, precision medicine as opposed to the current model of reactive precision care (that we see in, arguably, the most prominent adopter of precision medicine, oncology).

Overcoming Roadblocks

To fully adopt precision medicine, event panelists agreed on the following points:

  • Healthcare consumers must lead the future of the market. As Dr. Mesko said, “Currently, patients are takers of healthcare, but in two to three years, anyone will have access to all the information that physicians have, and patients will no longer be on the outside looking in. Patients will make the decisions around their own health. The future of healthcare will be built around individual patient needs.”
  • Patients must utilize larger health systems as opposed to community hospitals because many doctors don’t know how to comprehend all of the data that patients can provide them. Some doctors don’t even know what to do with patient genome sequences, the entire genetic blueprint of a person.
  • Because the pace of the technological revolution is far exceeding the pace of regulatory changes, payers must focus time and attention on better understanding, managing, and being proactive of their member populations, said Mittal.

To view a recap of the top healthcare trends of 2016, view this Slide Share presentation, Healthcare Got Personal in 2016…Top 12 Trends of the Year.

For more stories, follow me on Twitter @Cmdonato and connect with me on LinkedIn.

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