During a conversation with my team here at Hixny last month, we got started on the topic of progress in the healthcare industry. While we think about this most often from the perspective of data, information and technology, we’re also looking at it in the context of convenience care delivery and consumers’ increasing comfort level with electronic communication.
Here are five areas we think we should all be watching and helping to evolve over the next decade.
1. Healthcare has to function like every other industry in terms of technology.
People are used to doing things online in their daily lives—like paying bills, checking accounts and shopping. We need to be able to interact with our healthcare providers and our healthcare data the same way.
While privacy regulations and other standards in healthcare make it harder to accomplish certain tasks digitally, they don’t eliminate the possibilities. Where the world is going, people will expect their providers to communicate with them and provide information automatically. When you think about it, tests, follow-ups and other interactions with the healthcare system are a lot like the process of buying and tracking items from Amazon. We need to make the process just as reliable.
2. Providers must become proficient in technology as part of their training.
I learned recently that some applicants for a marketing job here at Hixny had to earn Google Analytics certification as part of their university graduation requirements. Shouldn’t providers be required to know at least as much about the technology in the healthcare industry—the capabilities of electronic health records and health information exchanges, for example?
The shifts in healthcare technology now are not that different from the changes in law enforcement after 9/11, in that everyone needs to know what everyone else is doing. To make that shift, it’s critical for emerging providers to see the use of technology as part of caring for their patients—not as a separate and distracting add-on.
3. Consumers—called patients by their providers—must be integral members of their care teams.
For years, the healthcare industry has seen the “care team” as various types of providers, with the patient as an object of care, not an involved participant. In the last decade or so, payers, especially insurance companies, have started to encourage consumers to become active members of that team. The healthcare system is only now beginning to catch up.
For consumers to be active participants, they need to have access to the same information as providers. They also need to be able to contribute data that assists in their own care. Over time, the ability to capture high-quality data through self-monitoring may help some people avoid expensive hospital admissions or ongoing visits for simple condition monitoring.
4. Healthcare providers and payers need to weigh social factors into care plans.
Throughout the healthcare industry, there’s a need to tailor protocols to recognize that different people have different social determinants impacting their health. Right now, social determinants are often considered to be things like food insufficiency or smoking. But the view needs to be broader.
Someone who is 85 and lives alone needs a different approach to a hip replacement than someone who is 70 and has a family member to drive them to appointments, a social support structure, medical knowledge and more. A provider might choose to admit the first patient to the hospital for a longer period of time, or to order inpatient rehab, because the outcome would be better and challenges as small as getting dressed could be addressed.
I hope more physicians understand those big factors affecting care. It would make them more effective in improving the health of distinct populations in much the same way as keeping up with evolutions in technology and treatment.
5. The healthcare industry as a whole must evolve to accommodate new care models.
Recent research has shown that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can review radiology and identify prostate cancer as effectively as doctors can. As similar advances take place, affecting the decision making of physicians, the healthcare industry has to evolve to support new ways of interacting with patients.
Human experiences may disappear in some contexts—or research may show that it’s still needed, even with advanced technology. Are patients more or less likely to follow the orders of an AI? Can an AI “provider” interpret and anticipate what I am or am not going to do? Will wearables be able to track when we pick up medication—and when it’s in our bodies?