Visualize these scenarios:
- A chip in a pill to send data from inside your body to a web portal where your doctor can check the treatment progress
- A fetal monitoring device to remotely observe women with high-risk pregnancies
- An electrocardiogram necklace to help your physician monitor your heart health
We’re not talking about a futuristic vision of medicine and healthcare. Such disruptive technologies are transforming clinical outcomes and redefining patience experience in healthcare today. There are multiple data points that show this sharp change. Average life expectancy has increased from 30 to 60 years between 1800 and 2000 at an average rate of 1.5 years per decade. It is now expected to increase to 90 years by 2020, at an average rate of 15 years per decade, or 10x faster. Welcome to the age of patient centricity – the world that we live in today.
What is patient centricity?
Through my work with healthcare, life sciences and medical technology companies across the world, I have come to define patient centricity in three major aspects:
- The first is about utilizing patient data more effectively for better R&D, diagnosis, treatment and monitoring. Today, real world evidence is becoming increasingly important in the FDA granting new drug approvals. Similarly, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is rapidly enforcing providers to better measure and report outcome data through the implementation of the meaningful use regime.
- The second is about enhancing patient engagement and experience to make them active participants in all care related decisions and improve overall patient experience. The trend is moving towards social clinical trials during advanced stages of drug development to actively engage patients. Through Obamacare reforms, patients today have significantly greater choice in deciding their health insurance plan.
- The third is about improving patient outcomes by shifting the focus from individual encounters to a population health management approach which looks holistically at patient risk and targets interventions on specific cohorts
Today health care firms are realizing that the industry is moving towards consumer orientation and they need to leverage technology to enhance the experience for the patient, who is now the customer. This is the beginning of what I call the Digital Health Revolution.
Technology, analytics, and digital
I believe that technology plays a significant role in the overall vision and philosophy of patient centricity. In today’s connected world, this involves creating a seamless digital experience for patients. Analytics helps healthcare professionals (HCPs) identify high-risk patients with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, and target them with focused interventions that prevent hospitalizations as well as readmissions.
A related development is the rapid increase in wearables, medical sensors and other devices - collectively referred to these days as the Internet of Things (IoT) - that creates huge possibilities to improve the quality of care. Importantly, these technologies enable patients to monitor their own health and wellness.
Information technology at enterprise levels enables patient centricity through mobile gateways, integrated databases, and multiple digital channels to access patient medical information and use it for treatment decisions at the point of care.
Headwinds to watch out for
While we have rapid advancements in technology and the possibilities of greatly enhancing the digital patient experience, we must also recognize some of the headwinds that could impact the patient experience.
- First among these is the interoperability between different systems that store and transmit patient medical information. A lack of a common set of standards as well as data privacy laws such as HIPAA make it very difficult for all of the patient medical information to be available to a caregiver on a real-time basis. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) in the United States has recognized this to be a major barrier to the increased use of information technology in improving healthcare outcomes.
- Secondly, many of the technologies used today were designed for meeting statutory requirements such as Meaningful Use incentives, and were not really designed for improved patient experience. A new approach to enhancing the patient’s digital experience has to emerge.
- Finally, the vision of patient centricity in healthcare can be realized only if the information technology environments in hospitals are up-to-date and robust. Recent high-profile cases of data breaches in major healthcare companies have underscored the urgency of investing in up-to-date technologies designed for today’s needs.
The future, as they say, is closer than you think. I believe healthcare is in the process of rediscovering patient centricity as a core principle in a technology-enabled world.
How do you think can technology and healthcare leverage on their synergies to deliver the best of healthcare services to the world? Share your comments in the section below.