Can Technology Transform Healthcare?


How many times in your life do you have an opportunity to make a real difference? I think I have one of those!  EMC has asked me to look at how we can help transform healthcare with the technologies we create and way our customers innovate with them.

Why do I think it’s such a massive opportunity? Because all the elements are there, an urgent requirement, existing proven solutions and a direction that is compelling.

The Urgent Need
There are many forces driving a structural change, from individual’s demands, to the availability of skills, etc. But let me just paint the dire financial picture. Over the last decade in Australia, the growth in healthcare spending has been about double GDP growth.  If GDP is an indication of the tax base, then more and more of government spending is required for healthcare. Now add in the fact that the majority of health costs occur in the latter stages of life, these costs are going to grow faster in the future as the baby-boomers push the population age up! There is a problem today and the diagnosis is bad, this is an unsustainable situation, something has to change!

Existing proven Solutions
I believe that the answer is in transforming the system using technology, (no surprise to anyone who reads my blog.) Let me outline what I see as the major trends and how technology is vital to these:

–          From Hospital to Home.
My father was a radiologist and he used to say ‘Don’t go to hospital –more people die there than anywhere else!’ Although if you study the statistics, hospitals are becoming more dangerous places as more people contact new diseases and complications due to their stays. The point I want to make is that this method of care is like a mainframe, a time shared resource that you have to go to, but is this the optimal model? In computing terms we are moving to the second generation after this model due to better utilisation, more efficient and lower costs of computing. Surely healthcare infrastructure must transform away from this mainframe model as well?

–          From Consultation for Collaboration
When I grew up we had a family doctor, and he was almost part of the family. He knew my grandfather, (also a doctor), and knew me from the moment I was born until I left the country, I don’t think I saw another doctor! He knew everything about me, not just my medical history, but my lifestyle – (rugby injuries), my neighbourhood, (lived a couple of blocks away). Today, especially as you age, the number of clinicians a person consults with is growing, while there is little to no collaboration between these specialists.

More fascinating, (as I grew up in a radiological darkroom), is that although all x-rays are taken digitally, the patient invariably walks out with a film in their hand! Surely healthcare information must be accessible, shareable, and persistent?

The Future of Healthcare or “From Prognosis to Prevention”

Today healthcare diagnoses and treats, tomorrow we will analyse and avoid! The most promising outcome of technological advancement, as well as the most fascinating, is to truly understand how our bodies truly function and from this knowledge be able to avoid getting sick and to keep us strong all through our lifetime.  I was confused, I thought the practice of medicine was a science, however today for the most part it’s an art. But as we gain an understanding from a genetic and molecular level how the body works, the practice becomes a science, a science of ‘wellness’!

The only issue with this is the magnitude of the data we are dealing with, we are simply drowning in data. The massive amount of research data that is published on a daily basis is way beyond the practitioners capability to ingest and so diagnoses are made that are not based on full knowledge. For the individual, we are creating ever increasing amounts of data from wearable technologies to the tsunami of sensor data. Surely gaining meaningful use from all this data is the key to transforming the quality of the healthcare system?

I invite you to join me on this journey, to share your thoughts and let’s make a difference together!


One response to “Can Technology Transform Healthcare?

  1. A comment was posted to the LinkedIn link for this that I thought would be of general interest, so I have copied it here thanks to Tarkus Murphy

    Tarkus Murphy
    New Business Development at PlexAN, Inc.

    * From Hospital to Home. If you engage in transitions of care to include the mobile patient and patient at home, you must have a system that travels with the patient. Too often, monitoring solutions are about keeping a patient inside their homes, tied to a sensor network and gateway in the home. The ultimate goal for “Active” Aging in Place is not a system to tether a patient to the home, but to work with a variety of 4G and mobile devices that allow patients the freedom to remain active in their community or wherever they choose to go.

    If Hospital to the Home is a focus, then the focus must be one that includes advocacy for broadband availability in both urban and rural communities in general (and medical traffic, in specific – not just the Body Area Network to the Gateway device, but the whole value chain of professionals, staff, caregivers and others who must participate in media rich and bandwidth intensive systems and networks (much of which is neither seen nor used, directly, by the patient).

    All of the network communication is well outside of the physical network within the control of the hospital. The extension to the patient requires a system that can deliver symmetrical broadband via terrestrial, aerial, satellite and undersea networks, little of which is paid for by the medical community.

    A transformative medical community is merely one participant in a larger system of community anchors, businesses and residents. The medical community may be a leader, which helps the community to achieve economies of scale, but it will not be the group to create the entire broadband delivery system to reach the end users (nor should it bear those costs).

    “Transitions in Care Need Transmissions in Air” (feel free to substitute the word “need”)

    * From Consultation for Collaboration

    “Healthcare information must be accessible, shareable, and persistent” – it must also be kept private and secure. For that to happen, there may be no central network, so the presumption of data transit must be that data will traverse unsecure data networks (see above). The burden of privacy and security for the end user increases with the ubiquitous availability of disparate networks.

    That which travels must be kept secure.

    End user settings must also be the focus of secure delivery. The end points at which data is presented should be an environment appropriate to patient care. Policies should also be in place to address the recording and storage of the transmitted data at EACH end point.

    The record is the patient’s (a concept often forgotten by the stewards of the record). The point of the privacy and security is to manage the data on behalf of each patient (and protect that data from those whom access should not be granted).

    * The Future of Healthcare must be Proactive

    Too often medical systems and payments are for care after the development of a condition or an emergency. Instead of a hospitality industry that is not fond of repeat guests, hospitals and the medical community are (as above) participants in a larger community.

    A better focus is on the care of people over a lifetime.

    Wellness is not a medical field, it is a community field in which the medical community is the voice of knowledge and science and the provider of care. As with broadband, there is much which takes place in the community which is outside the hospital. A medical community can be an advisor and work with other knowledgeable groups to provide information and resources.

    The medical community can make an outreach to people and do much to help people engage in lifestyles which may delay them from becoming patients.

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