Shifting From Volume to Value with Technology

Guest post by Abhinav Shashank, CEO and co-founder, Innovaccer.

Abhinav Shashank
Abhinav Shashank

Since 1966, Americans have received more Nobel Prizes in Medicine than rest of the world combined with astonishing advancement in medical treatments, but how much of it reflected on ground level is still a troublesome figure. The soaring costs of healthcare; the amount spent on healthcare is approximately 20 percent of the country’s GDP and the amount spent on one person per year is going to be roughly $10,000 in 2017; much higher than any other country. Despite ACA, more than 30 million people in the U.S. are still uninsured. With so many concerns, the healthcare industry needs innovation to change this bleak picture.

Innovative solutions have emerged in these aspects – the delivery of treatments to patients, the technology as well as the business aspects. A few innovations in healthcare are here to stay, resulting in a more convenient and effective treatment for patients today, where time is of the essence and providing patients a better future is a priority.

Big Data. Big Use. Big Outcomes

Data-driven innovations are poised to do wonders in healthcare industry. Big data has been used to predict diseases, find their cure, improve the quality of care and avoid preventable deaths. From increasing awareness in patients to transforming data into information, big data offers healthcare a paradigm shift. Instead of analyzing a single patient’s data, we can now explore entire patient population and predict patients’ health trend.

Some healthcare leaders have already extracted value from big data and are already putting them to good use. Many value-focused healthcare organizations are working to improve healthcare delivery and healthcare delivery and patient outcomes by making an integrated technology system that will allow practices to deliver evidence-based care that is more coordinated and personalized.

Patient Engagement Technology

Patient engagement is not a new idea, but a crucial one that health care industry needs to encourage. Although highly arguable, and patients being central to healthcare systems, patient engagement is one the most underutilized aspect of the healthcare industry. Patient engagement is a promise of better health outcomes as well as the increasing knowledge and skill of people to manage their and their family members’ health.

Better connectivity with mobile health: mHealth is still a frontier; every day some new app, or a gadget is introduced to make the delivery of healthcare services less cumbersome and reaching out widely, addressing the need to improve health outcomes. With the growth in mobile health, patients are now able to book and schedule their appointments, view their lab and test results, access their health records and interact with their providers. A rise in the number of apps facilitating health information indicates a positive response, and by the end of 2015, 500 million people were making use of these services.

Transparency through patient portals: A survey was commissioned on thousands of U.S. adults, and 84 percent of them said their doctors have a patient portal from where they could fix appointments and catch a look at their provider’s opinions, and 61 percent of them are regularly making use of these portals to access their health information. Although a convincing outcome on health stretches far beyond perfect implementation of patient portals, it’s encouraging to know that the idea is being advocated.

Telehealth: Telehealth has emerged as a vital solution to the most prominent problem in healthcare – remote and improved access. Providing healthcare services through telehealth has received a positive response from patients and providers alike. 76 percent of the patients with children under 18 years of age would prefer telehealth, and 61 percent of physicians admitted they would recommend telehealth to their patients at least once.

Wearable Technology: Fitness trackers that record steps and calories are already popular and can be seen on the wrists of people as an everyday item. And now with breakthroughs in technology, we have smart hearing aids, blood pressure monitors and devices designed to relieve pain with infrared technology. And so far, people are responding assuredly.

Interoperability Standards

Although this eight-syllable word has been healthcare’s Holy Grail, it has no standard definition with respect to healthcare. The HIMSS board on April 5, 2013, finalized a definition:

“Interoperability means the ability of health information systems to work together within and across organizational boundaries to advance the effective delivery for healthcare for individual communities.”

System interoperability involves the capacity for multiple devices and system to exchange and interpret data between them and making the process of information sharing easier than ever. So far, interoperability has been aiding and there is still a whole lot to explore. According to a report by the National Health Information Exchange and Interoperability report, 80 percent of the providers were able to increase their efficiency with extensive electronic data exchanges and the number stretched as high as 89% when providers were asked if they were able to improve their patient’s quality of care. To improve their patient population’s safety and security, it is important to have these systems in sync with the latest technology and security standards.

Secondly, it is well known that healthcare costs have been on the rise. The introduction of Affordable Care Act has drastically reduced the rate of increase in costs: the average annual increase in health care costs was 9 percent, from 1980 to 2008 and is estimated to drop down to 5.8 percent annually over the next decade. Although this is a significant drop, a better number can be realized with a shift toward interoperability, saving no less than $30 billion from the wasteful expenditure.

It is obvious that healthcare industry needs system interoperability all the way. What remains to be seen is how willing are healthcare organizations for this major transformation, and how will this change be brought about.

Precision Medicine

With the use of big data, healthcare systems are now making themselves accountable for their patient populations, and they have shifted their focus to intricate details: what kind of drugs, devices or technologies are most required by a patient. To treat a patient better, it’s always helpful for physicians to have a better insight into the environmental, social and behavioral aspects of a patient. Following this, President Obama launched the Precision Medicine Initiative in January 2015, making PMI into a promise to deliver individualized care. $215 million were raised in 2016 F.Y. to support the initiative, out of which $130 million was given to National Institutes of Health to form a Cohort, a large-scale research group and $70 million was allocated to National Cancer Institute to develop precision medicine for cancer, under PMI for oncology.

Patient-centric Care is the Need

If there is still anything that is hindering the progress in health care, it’s patchy care coordination. Health IT-driven care coordination still seems far-fetched: according to a study organized on 350 clinicians, only 49 percent used health IT systems to impart timely acknowledgements of hospital discharges. Greater use of health IT to support care coordination is deemed important by most, but less than half of the practices considered were actually implementing it on a practical level. It is not just about clinical data integration and notifying discharges; it’s also a way to control the surge in cost. With better quality care of a patient, the gaps would be filled in, making the entire process cost-effective and efficient.

With the access to real-time socioeconomic data and interoperability providing new opportunities, it is possible to have a complete and intricate view of a patient’s profile, combining the data with EHR and PHM tools. The eventual goal is to develop and have a patient database that can be accessed anywhere, anytime and would result in providing the right care, at the right time, the first time. With data analytics booming, the dream of having a holistic view of a patient and imparting healthcare correctly might be realized soon.

Innovative solutions really are coming up in every aspect of health care industry. There is still a long way to go: Technology and analytics are just one of the many ways to bridge the gaps and reduce redundancy. These upcoming ideas are not only going to change the course of future and how health is perceived, but are futureproof and will only improve with the enhancement of technology. It now falls on the entities involved to embrace the change and get on board with the change and make quality healthcare affordable and accessible.

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