Podcast: Alexa, How's My Health Today?


Voice recognition devices like Amazon's Alexa, who already knows so much about our daily lives, may bridge precision medicine's past and future.

Sam Hanna

4 min read

In this episode of the Oliver Wyman Health Podcast, Helen Leis, Partner, Health & Life Sciences, Oliver Wyman, chats with Sam Hanna, Program Director, Masters of Science in Management of Health Informatics & Analytics, and Professor of Healthcare Strategy at The George Washington University, to discuss harnessing precision medicine’s power and potential. Sam speaks about health innovations and emerging technologies in various circles. 

For this episode and more, check out the Oliver Wyman Health Podcast page, featuring executive conversations on the business of transforming healthcare, available on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Soundcloud, Google Play Music, Stitcher, and Spotify. Or, just tell Alexa, "Play Oliver Wyman Health Podcast."

Sam, who spoke at last May’s HIMSS Precision Medicine Summit in Washington DC, says precision medicine is no longer a sci-fi topic – it’s here now, especially as voice-activated devices such as Amazon’s Alexa, with the potential to track consumer health on an ongoing basis, gain popularity. Although, precision medicine is still in its infancy, Sam says the convergence of genomics, artificial intelligence, informatics and analytics, and machine learning is creating unique opportunities for extreme advances across the human race.

“When we think about precision medicine, we have to step away from existing models, and the things we know work (or work somewhat) and start thinking about a new proposed model that’s more collaborative, efficient, and productive, and has a continuous feedback loop amongst different sectors,” Sam explains. “Precision health, powered by data, and continuously enhanced by analytics insights, will drive the future of discovery and better outcomes.”

Three Key Elements of Precision Medicine Programs

Precision medicine, as Sam detailed at the HIMSS Precision Medicine Summit, is driven by three primary factors:

1. People and Population: Population health data and information must be accessible. Data must be protected, safe, and secure. Information should be used appropriately, ethically, and to enhance and expedite knowledge.

2. Research and Technology: Data and various inputs will come to life through robust data analytics and modeling. Research and technology encompasses key research approaches, and the latest thinking and innovations. Expedited clinical trials and knowledge need to be disseminated to allow for greater implementation of targeted therapies.

3. Knowledge: Interdisciplinary networks will spark innovations. Continuous feedback loops have the potential to elevate the conversation and further impact policy and practice.

Precision Medicine is About “Well Care,” Not “Healthcare”

Sam says precision medicine may help shift the healthcare industry’s transition away from the current fee-for-service focus to a value-based care focus. Harnessing precision medicine’s power in this way is about streamlining the patient-provider, patient-payer, and payer-provider relationships.

“Our infrastructure, skill sets, hiring, talent, and technology is still in that old mentality. As we implement electronic health records, connect our devices, and start innovating in the genomics space, new processes and solutions are going to drive us further into the future of precision medicine,” he explains.

Disruption of the status quo model is about using precision medicine to redefine “healthcare” as predictive “well care” by collecting consumers’ health information on an ongoing basis, not in isolated fragments.

“We need to stop thinking about healthcare as care for the health of the patient and start thinking about it as care for the wellness of the patient,” Sam says.

“Well care” is about predicting and preventing illness by assessing how a patient’s habits – such as eating, sleeping, exercise, and stress habits – may cause him or her to get sick long before stepping foot in a physician’s office.

At precision medicine’s core and greatest means of changing the consumer landscape? Data. Consumers’ devices – from an autonomous car to an electronic health record – have to be connected to paint a holistic picture of a patient’s journey, Sam says. This picture – which will change as a patient changes – has to be responsive and fully able to continuously receive feedback and updates.

“I know that sounds very theoretical, maybe sci-fi, but it’s happening now,” says Sam. But, although data pieces are at the fingertips of both patients and providers, this data is not yet connected – even though it’s being continuously collected.

Sam predicts voice recognition devices such as Amazon’s Alexa may bridge precision medicine’s past and future. Products like Alexa have the potential to positively disrupt consumers’ lives.

“A device that knows so much about you because of your patterns, habits, and the way you use it can infer, learn, and use the power of artificial intelligence to determine what you will need. In terms of scheduling an appointment, refilling a prescription, and ordering your groceries, it knows what is conducive to your wellness,” he emphasizes.

“[Companies] jumping into the healthcare arena to play in this space have an advantage in that they have so many different lenses to look at the same person from,” Sam says. “It’s not just the care at the hospital. It’s the care at home, when you’re outside, and when you’re in your car. All of these connected devices provide data, and that data could become action toward better health.”

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For more information on this and other podcast episodes, check out the Oliver Wyman Health Podcast page, featuring executive conversations on the business of transforming healthcare.

  • Sam Hanna