A recent article in Medical Economics explores how three major trends—aging demographics, new requirements under the Affordable Care Act, and investor dollars flowing to software solutions—have combined to attract high-tech firms to healthcare. The article, “Silicon Valley’s vision to transform healthcare,” features commentary on electronic health records, telehealth, productive partnerships, DNA data storage, and HIT priorities. In the following excerpt, our San Francisco-based Health & Life Sciences Partner Sam Glick speaks to the power of healthcare information and the unique skill set IT innovators bring to the market:
Sam Glick, a partner with New York-based management consulting firm Oliver Wyman, says IT innovators are uniquely positioned to uncover new sources of value as payers and providers digitize patient records and researchers aggregate mountains of medical data.
“Over the past decade, healthcare has evolved to become an information business,” he says. “It’s not just about scientific innovation, not just about finding new ways to engage people, but increasingly it’s about how do we know which patients are going to be the sickest sooner, what costs are going to be the most significant, and how can we predict which patients we should reach out to today? These are information questions that the Googles and Apples of the world are very well equipped to answer.”
Their foray into healthcare, he notes, follows a more pervasive corporate trend. “There is a move across all industries, from hospitality to financial services to retail, to empower consumers and find new ways to engage them,” says Glick. “Companies are using big data to make for a better, more convenient, more targeted consumer experience.” It’s a move towards mass personalization, he says, in which service providers have the power to customize for the individual—and healthcare is no exception….
Healthcare IT includes an array of technologies to store, share, and analyze health information. For patients, it enables better access to care via telemedicine and patient portals. For researchers, it allows for more granular analysis of health data for the development of new therapies, and for providers it helps identify opportunities to improve efficiency and outcomes.
Many of the latest innovations are aimed at personal health treatment for patients–particularly those suffering from chronic illness, which consumes 86% of the nation’s healthcare costs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports….
Tech firms bring a unique skill set to the market, says Glick. “They bring expertise in technology, but also in consumer engagement,” he says. “People love Google and Apple and Amazon for the user experience they provide. They are much more beloved by the average consumer than most hospitals or health plans.”
Recently, the most substantial commitments to healthcare IT have been partnerships between tech firms and medical researchers, which lend not only scientific credibility to their discoveries, but multidisciplinary expertise. “Pharmacists, nurses, and doctors are among the most trusted professionals in the U.S. so these partnerships are really important right now,” says Glick, who adds that that may change as delivery channels evolve.
“Today, most patients go into their doctor’s office to receive care, but I could envision a world 10 years from now where instead of going to a clinic or urgent care center, they might click on Google and find a link across the top of the page next to ‘news’ that says ‘medical visit’ where they could be seen using telehealth technology.”…
By all accounts, innovation is the cure to fix the ailing healthcare system. New gadgets and gizmos, however, are just the beginning. As big data redefines the way doctors deliver care, medical schools, payers and providers will need to keep pace, says Glick.
“Right now we have a lot of experiments between Apple and the Mayo Clinic, for example, but if we get to the point where big data tells us that we should be treating patients differently, that this population of patients needs more care and these need less, we’re going to have to adjust our entire healthcare system,” Glick says.
Doctors may no longer need a stethoscope, but learn instead to wield a smartphone app that defines more precisely what each patient needs. “Training may have to focus more on information skills,” says Glick. “We may need a whole new category of professionals who are able to interpret genetic test results, or coaches who help people change behaviors and stay healthy.”
At the same time, payers will need to alter their reimbursement structure so providers at all levels get paid fairly for the work they do. “It’s an exciting time and I’m very optimistic, but if we succeed, and I think we will, we’re going to have to think about how the rest of the system needs to evolve.”