How IT Buzzwords Impact Healthcare

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Picture from: http://www.healthcarereformmagazine.com/issue-16/feature-issue-16/healthcare-cheaper-better-faster/

Every industry loves their buzz words, and IT does more than most. Today you can’t talk about technology without one of the big four, (Social, Mobile, Big Data or Cloud), being dropped into the conversation. The question is, what has this to do with Healthcare? Well let me discuss this in the next few blog posts, but first context is required.

According to many commentators, such as analyst firm IDC, IT is entering its third epoch. Starting with the birth of IT in the form of the original mainframes, through the current ‘pc’ dominated client server and into the emerging 3rd Platform, typified by the ‘web-scale’ organisations. What I find interesting is that I can see the parallels with healthcare, let me explain.

The first platform was a time shared infrastructure which you would go with a particular job and walk away with a certain outcome. Sound like a hospital?  The issue with this model is that a massive infrastructure investment is required, and it makes use of very high levels of expertise, to use it effectively. That is why today, while there are still many mainframes in use, the ‘jobs’ they tackle are very specific to what it was designed for and where it is the most efficient way to achieve that outcome.

Today, however most computing is performed on the second platform – client server – enabled by the birth of PC’s and networks. This new model enabled new capabilities, such as interactivity, specialisation and a lower cost of production. The ‘work’ was split into different layers and specialist organisations created software solutions which automated processes.  (Think a PACS, RIS, EMR.) This structure is mostly a hub-and-spoke, with specialists performing their specific task and then passing on to the next layer. I would argue much like the delivery of healthcare outside of the hospital today, where a GP refers to a specialist that refers to an ‘ology’ that reports back to the specialist that diagnoses/treats and then reports back to the GP – each performing a task and passing off to the next entity. Now this model is effective at automating a processes but does it inherently improve that process or add to the quality of what is being done?

In my previous blog post I spoke about Big Data and some of what is enabling this… “What’s changed? Over the last decade technologies that can economically store and reason over disparate data types have been developed… (carry on reading here).”  This leads us to the 3rd Platform, if you like consider how the ‘web scale’ organisations do what they do! Such as Amazon predicting books you would like to read, Google giving you the latest information and Facebook changing social connectivity.

What does this mean to healthcare?  You are familiar with the past, computers have helped add up numbers and do accounting, (mainframe), they have automated processes like patient record keeping and image management, (client-server), now technology is help us to predict, understand and tap into the collective. In doing this we get assistance in diagnosis, discovering new protocols and drugs, and predicting likely outcomes. The advantages to healthcare of better planning, decision support and accelerated innovation are dramatic. In essence this is the platform enable healthcare to move into ‘Personalised Wellness’ or ‘Patient Centric Healthcare’. Consider the 3rd Platform as now helping improve thinking, the human process!

Three ‘platforms’ for technology and three ‘platforms’ for healthcare delivery. The IT industry delivers better, faster and cheaper, our challenge now is to use these technologies effectively to deliver better, faster and cheaper healthcare!

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One response to “How IT Buzzwords Impact Healthcare

  1. Dear Clive
    While I was working at RNSH I walked past your building many, many times and noting the sign that reminded me of E=MC2 (don’t know how to make a subscript.)
    I have read your interesting article. Everyone thinks that IT is only for medical or clinical use. What was never seen was the “back of house”. IT has extended to there too.
    I have been in the healthcare design, construction and maintain since late 70’s and have seen the technological advances. I implemented for the first time in a hospital in Australia, the use of Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGVs)
    to transport food, waste, clinical and other supplies, linen up and down the new Acute Services Building soon to extended to the net building, under construction in the north eastern corner of the campus. This system of robotic vehicles is being adopted in many new hospitals being built and or planned around Australia. I have recently prepared the methodology framework for all service streams incorporating AGV transportation in the new Perth Children’s Hospital.
    i look forward to meeting you to see if the is synergy between what your company does and my expertise.
    Yours sincerely
    David Newman

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