In a previous blog post reporting in after the 2012 AusMedTech (Australia Medical Technology) conference, we discussed the need for healthcare technology companies to quickly demonstrate how their innovations add value.
My presentation at AusMedTech stressed four important elements that are driving the industry now, and that will continue to do so over the next decade. We believe that addressing each of these areas – as outlined below by me and my colleague Ken Walz – will be vitally important as healthcare innovators seek to demonstrate the value of their technologies.
Imperative of operational efficiency
Caroline: Cost constraints in both developed and developing countries are making efficient operations a requirement. Emerging markets and non-healthcare industries like manufacturing or hospitality are more quickly embracing methods that enhance efficiency; we could learn much from them.
Ken: There’s been a greater scrutiny of inefficiencies in healthcare in the past few years. This has led equally intense efforts to develop disruptive innovations in healthcare (for example, smartphone monitoring, or a consumer healthcare ranking system). What’s encouraging is that more life science and healthcare organizations are working to develop and incorporate these disruptive innovations into their operations.
Importance of the consumer
Caroline: Consumer power is only going to grow, fueled by smartphones and more widespread internet access. Consumers are demanding more transparency and they are comparison shopping. This will encourage more consumer-oriented companies to enter the healthcare market; new methods of reaching, educating, and retaining consumers will be crucial to success.
Ken: We have focused on the issue of growing consumer power in previous posts, such as a recent entry by Caroline chronicling the demystification and democratization of healthcare. Consumers will be less willing to accept inefficient healthcare delivery, especially as their other consumer experiences become more efficient and convenient.
New biological insights
Caroline: Genomic sequencing and other new tools have helped us understand biology like never before. Genomics, in particular, opened the door to personalized treatments. Understanding proteins and cellular functions is also providing critical insights. The lightning-fast pace of discovery in this area is showing no signs of slowing down; hence our significant focus on and interest in this area.
Caroline: Information technology makes healthcare information delivery possible—it also enhances services and is the bedrock of the consumer power revolutionizing healthcare. Technology that was developed for other industries has become incorporated into healthcare. This is what led us to add Paul Sonnier to our team as head of Popper and Company digital health strategy.
Ken: This application of technologies from other industries goes hand in hand with business models, also borrowed from other industries, which are now applied to healthcare. Leveraging these ideas and technologies can maximize return on investment, which goes back to improving operational efficiency.
Do you think these four points are the key healthcare technology drivers today? Are there others? How willing is the industry to accept “outside” technologies and ideas? Share your thoughts with us.
Tags: ausmedtech, biological insights, health innovation, health innovation drivers, health technology, healthcare innovation, importance of the consumer, operational efficiency
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I had the very fortunate opportunity to meet with Dale Alverson, M.D., Medical Director of the Center for Telehealth and Cybermedicine Research at the University of New Mexico and current President of the American Telemedicine Association (ATA). Dr. Alverson has been instrumental in bringing telemedicine to New Mexico for the last several years, and is now actively engaged in bringing telemedicine to the rest of the world.
Telemedicine, defined by the ATA, is the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve patients’ health status. Closely associated with telemedicine is the term “telehealth,” which is often used to encompass a broader definition of remote healthcare that does not always involve clinical services. Videoconferencing, transmission of still images, e-health (including patient portals), remote monitoring of vital signs, continuing medical education and nursing call centers are all considered part of telemedicine and telehealth.
Dr. Alverson presented at the ATA’s Fourth Annual (2010) Mid-Year Meeting in Baltimore this past September. His presentation was entitled “The Perfect Storm.” He described significant changes occurring – and which will continue to occur – given the current conditions in the U.S. healthcare system and the convergence of some key elements within, including:
- Need for effective and affordable health care
- Need for access to care
- Integration of new and emerging technologies
Following are excerpts from my interview with Dr. Alverson:
Q: What is the significance of telemedicine?
A: Telemedicine is becoming a standard of care and is utilized in many healthcare programs including early detection and early intervention programs.
There is evidence that telemedicine/telehealth programs have favorable outcomes. One example is the success of a program in New Mexico called the ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes), which is led by Sanjeev Arora, M.D. This program has shown improved outcomes for patients with hepatitis C infection who may not otherwise be able to receive the care and treatment needed for their condition. Through the ECHO program specialists collaborate with healthcare providers in rural areas of New Mexico and provide quality healthcare to patients living in areas where access to care may otherwise be limited or nonexistent.
The ECHO telemedicine model has reached beyond the treatment of hepatitis C to address several other chronic illnesses. Additionally, the program provides rural practitioners access via videoconferencing to a much larger professional community enabling the rural practitioners to enhance and expand their skills.
One of the major funding sources for the ECHO was from AHRQ (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Dept of Health and Human Services) under THQIT (Transforming Healthcare Quality through Information Technology).
There are many other projects developing across the U.S. and many new and innovative technologies in the market. During this time of urgency to create change in healthcare, there are also many unsolved issues that need to be addressed as telemedicine becomes a standard of care.
Q: What role does the ATA play?
A: The ATA is the leader in telemedicine. The organization began in 1993 with the purpose to create standards, guidelines, and policies and to serve as a resource to distill information to its members. The ATA works in collaboration with several federal agencies, such as the FDA, FCC, CMS, VA, DOD, as well as with international stakeholders, industry, and others involved in healthcare.
Q: What questions still need answers before the full potential of telemedicine can be achieved?
A: We need answers to questions such as:
- What are the best devices to use given there are so many and that the technology is changing and improving everyday?
- Who is reviewing the data coming through the device?
- How is the data acted upon?
- What will be done with the data?
I was fortunate to talk to Dr. Alverson, a thought leader in telemedicine, and I look forward to sharing additional insights from this rapidly evolving and important segment of the health care sector.
Do you feel there are other related questions that should be addressed? If so feel free to make suggestions here, and stay tuned for more information on this critical topic.
Tags: ATA, Dale Alverson, health innovation, healthcare, mHealth, patti doherty, public health, telemedicine
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