Ready for Healthcare Anywhere?

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Joe Shields
Joe Shields

Language should be precise. "Healthcare Anywhere" is the term I use to describe the massive changes and disruptive convergence that is transforming healthcare dynamics and delivery in the US and around the world. While “mobile health” begins to describe these changes, it tends to focus on the mobility of the devices and other technologies, and not on the mobility of the people—the patients, caregivers, health care professionals and others who now fit healthcare into their hurried and overscheduled lives.

As articulated by Ernst & Young in 2012, the traditional model for healthcare delivery is characterized by periodic measurement, treatment of disease, opaque decision-making and financing, and control firmly in the hands of providers. However, healthcare is moving from its traditional two places for delivery—the hospital and the doctor's office—to the patient, aided in part by mobile devices and always-on connectivity.

Delivering healthcare to this third place—the patient—relies on continuous monitoring, a focus on prevention, wellness and behavior modification, and transparency in all aspects of care, billing and reimbursement. Healthcare Anywhere also requires a shift in control and responsibility for good health to the patient, and arms him or her with the necessary tools, information and other resources required for improved self-management. As we have seen over the past few decades, one of the main motivators for patients to take more ownership of their own care has been the accelerating trend of rising deductibles, co-payments and co-insurance that have made them painfully aware of how much things cost.

Let's take a look at two areas that are already undergoing significant changes due to the dynamics described above, and consider how we can best position ourselves and our companies for this brave new world:

1. Updating Our Understanding of the Doctor-Patient Dialogue

Technology continues to have a huge impact on what we have historically called the “Doctor-Patient Dialogue.” The new doctor-patient relationship is longitudinal and multi-channel, with more symmetrical access to the vast sources of online medical knowledge. Think of it—using a smart device from any location, most patients and doctors can now access the same search engines, journals, clinical trial databases and educational modules. A search engine doesn't know if the person entering the query is a doctor or a patient, and it doesn't care. It responds to the same query in the same way, so patients and HCPs are often seeing the same results.

Also, both HCPs and patients are now using tablets and smartphones in the exam room together to tap into these resources and enhance a patient's visit. Some patients are even using their devices to record their conversations with the doctor so they can review them later by themselves or with their families. Patients are also bringing months of biometric data from fitness and medical devices to share with the HCP in order to provide a much richer picture of what is happening between visits.

2. Making Sense of New Technology Purchase & Use Habits

Analysts at Accenture have recently observed four emerging consumer technology purchase and use trends. In this case, “consumer” can mean patients, caregivers or HCPs.

First, due to convergence they use fewer multi-function devices, with the big four being PCs, HDTVs, smartphones and tablets. These tools are the digital Swiss army knives of today, and we can expect to see them evolve over time into, among other things, wearable computing devices from Apple, Google and others. Small and cheap biometric sensors to track health have already found their way into smartphones and fitness devices, and this proliferation has the potential to expand the Quantified Self movement into the mass market.

Next, consumers have become platform agnostic. No longer do they feel the need to choose between iOS, Android, Microsoft, et al. for all of the devices they own at home or at work. The developer and commerce ecosystems for all platforms are now robust, and consumers are mixing and matching to best meet their needs and stay one step ahead of obsolescence. 

Third, consumers are much more comfortable with the Cloud. iTunes and Amazon were only the beginning, and now many HCPs routinely use cloud-based EMRs, billing and scheduling tools. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt astutely recognized that “your phone is a front end for a supercomputer,” and that supercomputer is the Cloud.

Finally, we have seen the consumerization of IT in the workplace. BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, refers to employees who bring their own computing devices to work for use and connectivity on the corporate network. Expect that trend to continue, even as IT departments grapple with security challenges. This is especially acute for healthcare companies under HIPAA or non-US equivalent laws that must ensure high levels of data privacy and security for their customers.

We are still early in this transformation, and the technologies, business models and ecosystems are still in flux. Forrester Research eloquently characterized how serving mobile customers requires a different approach: “Mobile engagement empowers people to take the next most likely action in their moments of need.” Imagine Healthcare Anywhere as a fluid ecosystem that assembles on-the-fly at the point of need, laser focused to enable the next best action required to improve a person's health. Imagine that it is infinitely scalable, repeatable and automatic. Then imagine your role in making that happen.

As an EMMY-award winning filmmaker early in his career, Joe Shields learned how to craft beautiful images and compelling stories. Applying his unique perspective to business, he has led global marketing, new product development, emerging technologies and enterprise innovation for Fortune 100 companies in specialty chemicals, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and medical devices. 

Contact Joe at www.linkedin.com/in/joeshields.

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