By Alex Zlatin, CEO, Maxim Software Systems.
Technology is changing everything that we know.
Artificial intelligence makes suggestions about what we should buy at the grocery store. If we need transportation to get to the grocery store, we can use ride-sharing applications. Swiping right on a dating app has become a new way to look for romance. Banking with your phone, without the need to physically visit a branch office, is common practice.
If, in the past, the public did not trust technology enough, nowadays, the convenience aspects of technology outweigh the risks.
But healthcare has always been a conservative industry when it comes to technology. For the most part, this is a good thing. I’m sure you wouldn’t have liked to be treated with a fairly new drug or piece of equipment, or to be diagnosed by a robot-doctor.
On the other hand, technology has come a long way and is now more reliable, stable and trustworthy than ever. It has already penetrated the health industry, which means you are going to see more and more of it. The combination of rising costs, Amazon’s promise to go into healthcare, and the government pressure for affordable care are pushing healthcare providers to embrace technology and adapt to all the risks and benefits it brings.
Technology at its core is being used to reduce overhead cost, provide better data analysis (to facilitate better decision-making), automate human tasks, and provide comfort and convenience in our day-to-day lives. When it comes to the health industry, what we all would like to see is (in no particular order):
- Increased Access to Care – Access to care has been, and still is, a major concern throughout North America. When speaking of access to care, we oftentimes think of financial barriers to care. However, there are many other barriers that are as prevalent: Geography (distance and mobility to a healthcare provider), anxiety and even opening hours of a healthcare provider can be serious barriers for access to care.
Telehealth is quickly becoming a technological solution to resolve the above mentioned challenges and increase the ability for the general public to receive healthcare services in a way that is convenient for them. When we look at telehealth from the perspective of remote communities, it is the difference between seeing a healthcare provider and not seeing one at all.
- Better Diagnostic – We look up to doctors and expect them to be able to identify our illnesses and prescribe the treatment that would enable us to overcome them. In reality, illnesses are becoming more complex and require interdisciplinary collaboration to diagnose with better accuracy and prescribe an effective treatment. There is no way of achieving this without the use of technology.
A centralized database that will store all health information from all practitioners is the only way to provide doctors the information they need, when they need it. Having information from all healthcare providers you have visited provides a better picture of habits, complaints and parallel treatments already prescribed (without the need for the patient to remember and be able to verbalize correctly). This is crucial to be able to treat you more effectively.
- Cheaper Insurance – Since the inception of insurance, it has based its risk assessments through statistics and research. With wearable technology (e.g. Fitbits and smart-watches) becoming mainstream, it can provide a stream of individualized data. That, together with other smart devices (e.g. smart toothbrush that provides data on how long have you brushed and whether you have covered all teeth), allows insurance companies to have a more accurate understanding of various risk factors.
In turn, that can reduce or increase your insurance premiums, depending on your habits and actions. Obviously, proper exercise, adequate personal hygiene, and following your physicians’ advice will respectfully decrease your insurance premiums.
There are many other aspects in which technology is going to change the way we consume healthcare services, making it cheaper and more effective. However, the economic aspects and convenience does not come without risks and threats. Security is a main concern that is handicapping the adoption rate.
With a concerning increase of ransomware attacks on healthcare organizations and the tight regulatory requirements for health information safekeeping, it is up to the practitioners to decide if the benefits outweigh the risks. As for the consumers/patients, it is up to them to ensure their data is secure and to be curious enough to learn the practices of their healthcare providers – “consumer beware.”