In our last post, The Intersection of Tech and Health Care Part 1, we discussed the introduction of a report from Bank of America released on March 24, 2016 titled, “Healthcare | Automatic for the people; the intersection of tech and healthcare.” We noted how in the last 25 years there has been a glacial pace to adopt new technologies in health care.
With some degree of success, we have been transforming patient paper records to a digital format, and we are now ready for the next step. The next step entails using the information available in those personal electronic health records (EHR), along with clinical data stored to create a master health profile on patients. We can assume that the convergence of data will allow us to create smart systems from static records, provide a cost savings, and improve the overall health care for patients.
Almost every day, we see advancements of the Internet of Things (IoT); we are at the threshold of being able to collect, aggregate and track the health matrix of individual patients. This would include vitals such as: glucose levels, blood pressure, weight, BMI, geolocation, fitness tracking, and sensor-enhanced wearables that can be updated on a real-time basis to the medical provider level. This will make the data collected actionable; collecting data by itself is not actionable. There are 4 or 5 billion medical transactions performed every year. A few of these medical transactions are used to change the outcomes, improve patient care, or reduce the waste in medical cost.
The enhancements of noninvasive centers and other technologies can provide for the aggregation of data sets into a single profile. This could become even more meaningful and more important in the advancement of health and medicine. Additionally, this could include early prediction of diseases, assignment of symptoms to diseases, determining the correlation between behavior and wellness, determining cures, enhancing patient-doctor communication, allowing for seamless flow of data, barrier-free and more efficient care. With the help of data collected, we can expect that such integration will have a material impact on wellness over the next two to three years. For example, IBM is building technology that is able to aggregate a massive amount of data available to multiple sources that will run analytics and use the insight of the IBM Watson platform. Companies like Apple are also putting the building blocks in place for a comprehensive patient profile that could aggregate (we’re not sure how they will do it in a HIPAA compliant format) retrospective and real-time patient information to enhance the understanding of comprehensive wellness. IBM expects that cognitive computing could create new opportunities up to $2 trillion dollars (USD) over the next 10 years.
Separately, Apple is on the cusp of playing a larger role in the health care industry. As the company continues to set groundwork by trying to establish stringent privacy control, they’re positioning themselves to be a major contender in the battle to gain control over the mass aggregation of the health-related data. As we have all witnessed, Apple has been pushing into health care with the Apple Watch, iPhone accessories and sensory input devices for its health apps alongside its HealthKit and ResearchKit to facilitate the storage of large analysis of medical research data. The Apple Watch seems to be an important component of Apple’s attempted penetration into the health care industry as an enabler of medical data consumption and analytics. Smart watches are designed to serve as a fitness tracker that seamlessly integrates with the app. The watch uses an accelerometer to measure body movement throughout the day. This custom sensor measures intensity of tracking heartbeat from its gyroscope to determine orientation and integrates with the GPS and Wi-Fi on the phone to measure distance. Ultimately, the Apple Watch encourages users to achieve daily fitness goals.
Years ago, we saw that the big issue was going to be the integration of data and we filed for patents in the field of health data integration into the patient’s personal wellness record. One of those patent applications we participated in creating, can do even cooler things: “Personal Attribute Cartography with Analysis Feedback” filed on August 23, 2013. Just imagine when all these systems will be able to talk to each other and to the patient’s EHR.
For the health care and IT nerd that I am, these advancements are exciting; however, even these large companies will struggle as they enter the health care IT field. The reasons are multi-faceted, the least of which is they’re coming into one sector that already has providers and health care tech companies, people that understand the way things connect or don’t connect and the industry’s resistance to outsiders. As an outsider once, only after hard work and total dedication was I accepted into an industry I now love. They will have to pay their dues, not with money but with total immersion and collaborations. It will be difficult for these non health care tech companies to break into those relationships and understand the health care ecosystem. That ecosystem may begin with the consumer, interconnect with the providers (from care givers, nurses, doctors, hospital and all other ambulatory care), be influenced by case managers and ultimately by the insurance companies who pay most of the bills. This does not even take into account the highly-regulated industry from the local to the national level, from Medicare to Medicaid, or from the 1,000 plus insurance companies, along with the 50 states and dozens of medical specialties associations. This industry – today over $3.7 trillion (USD) and over 17% of GDP – is not an industry that you can read a book on or watch a YouTube video about. For the most part, this industry has been ignored by technology innovation; however, as we have noted in the past few blogs, those times are changing and technology innovators from the health care industry are beginning to make an impact.
We believe that with the use of new technologies, we will be able to help providers reduce the administrative cost of providing care, streamline documentation and eliminate unnecessary and duplication of cost for services. We also believe that with the push for new payment models, providers are looking for better ways to track data to improve quality and understand the best practices; furthermore, we see the beginnings of material transformation in the managed-care/insurance industry. Managed-care organizations are starting to use technology to both identify high-risk and high-cost patients for the access to health care system, and also for care management for patients with chronic conditions. The best way to improve health outcomes is to engage patients early and get them to take more ownership of their personal health care. I certainly believe that wearable technology applications and other forms of data aggregation will both reduce costs and improve overall wellness. To that extent we have filed, as well as been awarded, multiple patents with the U.S. Patent Office that we believe could have a material impact. These patents deal with the gathering of information, the processing of that information and even the creation and use of a wellness health index we call Qx2™. This space is not new to us; we have been planning for this day for decades.
Let’s be realistic, technology by itself – wearable or not – will not materially improve wellness or reduce costs. If we use those technologies to automatically and seamlessly connect to a real-time, integrated and interconnected personal wellness record that is actionable to a situation that either develops or can be acted on, we will finally see the emergence of 21st century health care; the power of using technology to actually save lives.
As someone who has been around health care technology now for over 25 years, I believe there is no better time to see the use of computers, software, wearables and data analytics as we can today. I also believe that over the next four or five years, we will be able to use the diagnostic technology that saved millions of lives in the United States over the last 50 years; however, we will now use the analytical technologies, the mobile technologies and the wearable technologies to have a similar impact in wellness over the next decade.