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How Modern Technology Approaches Are Set To Change The Healthcare Paradigm

Providers, insurers, and governments across the globe are struggling to improve health outcomes while limiting healthcare costs. The cost of healthcare is skyrocketing predominantly because the incidence of chronic disease is rising. There are several factors playing into this rise: the global aging population, increased sedentary lifestyle, and increased consumption of processed foods are examples of such. Chronic disease costs $863 billion annually across the globe, and accounts for over half of the global death toll each year according to the World Economic Forum.

Technology has already made footholds in global healthcare, and it is now considered to be the best untapped life saving and cost-effective option. The paper records that used to adorn physicians’ offices are now cloud-based electronic health records (EHRs). Virtual reality is providing real-life training grounds for new doctors, and 3D printing enables new techniques for treating everything from a broken bone to models for surgical planning. In the operating room, robotics is evolving to assist surgeons with difficult, precision-reliant procedures. Genetic mapping is opening new horizons for achieving individualized care, treatment of genetic disease, and cancer. Healthcare is now looking to technology to help combat the rising burden of chronic disease.

The quantified self combined with the “bring your own device” (BYOD) movements have changed the role of the patient to that of the patient-consumer. The shift has encouraged caregivers to engage patients via wireless devices and adapt phones and tablets within the care structure. To further encourage patient-consumer adoption, technology approaches must respond to their needs through devices that are affordable, accountable, and simple to use. Yet, before a technology can even reach and help patients, it must break into existing care infrastructures. To do so, they should integrate seamlessly into existing workflows, reach patients and physicians effectively and efficiently (without requiring additional resources), and offer a significant return on investment in terms of improved health outcomes and overall savings and income. More importantly, they must provide the following capabilities:

Interoperability 

 

To ensure physician adoption and acceptance, next generation medical devices need to be more than just easy to use for the individual. They must take into account physician involvement. “Physicians are first and foremost looking for technology that is able to engage the patient without burdening the physician. If a technology is too complicated, it simply won’t be adopted,” says Dr. Fareeha Siddiqui from Global to Local, a not-for-profit aimed at improving health in underserved communities. “Physicians don’t have the time to be bogged down with research, teaching patients how to use technology, or data entry.” Therefore, the device must be designed with the physician in mind. It should be customizable, push specified data into the physician’s workflow, and optimize a physician’s time by demanding no effort on their part. Physicians are fully supportive of reliable technology that can deliver trusted, accurate information without a heavy learning curve for either party.

Iterative

 

Modern technology solutions that couple a personalized medical device with mobile health software must be iterative by sustaining patient engagement and stimulating use. Beyond simply managing diabetes, “Technology must be capable of adapting to each patient, whether they are 20 or 65,” says Dr. Siddiqui. “No matter the level of patient management required, technology has to remain useful. It has to offer something more.” As patients become better at managing technology it must, in turn, offer customizability. Dropping from three reminders to take medications per day down to one, for instance. The devices can also offer new use cases such as the ability to keep a food diary or track their glucose levels compared to fellow app/device users, or enabling social and health care network connections are a few examples. There is plenty of emerging research about the gamification of healthcare improving patient engagement. As people begin to self-manage with technological solutions, developers should strive to create technologies that offer multiple, iterative capabilities. Iterative technologies have the capacity to improve patient adherence over the long term, which saves physicians time and money.

Feedback 

 

Finally, patients are more willing to use a medical technology if it is perceptibly useful and capable of building trust. If the patient can hear, see, feel, or measure personal changes while the technology gives feedback, then the patient can corroborate that the technology is collecting the correct data. For instance, a 2010 study on patients hooked up to an electronic fetal monitor showed that when patients could both feel their own contractions and see the device capturing the data, they began trusting the technology. Newer, more interactive, technologies can not only demonstrate their accuracy but can generate actionable feedback for patients and physicians to use. Apps, like the one that Global to Local uses to help their diabetic patients monitor glucose levels, can allow patients to see their results, tailor their care plans, make health goals, and provide the support and feedback necessary to meet them.

New medical technology should also improve bi-directional communications between patients and doctors. Physician adoption goes a long way to helping a patient trust that the technology is working and providing value. If technology can reinforce that trust, then this increases the patient’s likelihood of adopting the technology and adhering to their physician’s health regimen. Once there is a loop of trust among patient, doctor and technology, communications about the patient’s health is more involved and knowledgeable. Improved patient adherence and engagement with these technologies has the added benefit of providing a constant flow of relevant data that can be used on an ongoing basis to effect personalized care.

Filling a Tall Order

 

Creating new medical technologies designed for the patient-consumer and taking into account a physician’s unique needs is a tall order. Inevitably, the patient-consumer will be a key driver to shaping the future of technological healthcare solutions, and in turn the future of healthcare. Creating an engaged patient population by developing useful, customizable solutions for both patients and physicians will drive patient adherence, engagement, and improve overall healthcare outcomes. Physicians are ready to adopt innovative technologies, like medical devices and accompanying software, so long as they are designed to align with and support physicians and their practices. Continuously evolving technologies that can slip into a physician’s workflow and offer constant relevant data that creates engaged patients will truly allow physicians to improve patient-physician relationships, focus on high-risk cases, and realize better health outcomes.