By Chris Cullmann
As technologist, it is easy to assign transformational milestones to specific innovations, devices, or platforms. This kind of tectonic change is rare. For a field like healthcare—a category seeing change on an almost daily basis—this attributable change is an anomaly. A meaningful transformation in healthcare is going to be the result of rapid iteration.
For healthcare, innovation is going to come from the attitudinal change from patients and caregivers: An expectation in experience and responsiveness to parallel what we are seeing in many other modern categories. From making appointments, waiting times, payment options to the actual clinical experience and predictability of therapy. This change is going to drastically change our care experience and place a burden on many emerging trends and technologies to facilitate this change:
- Telemedicine: The internet has conditioned us that access to all services can be virtualized or accessed through our smartphones and computers. Many patients and caregivers—faced with unsatisfying physician visits—are asking why their process cannot be circumvented the same way. Telemedicine outs this promise in the hands of patients. Lower-costs, short wait-times, and mitigation of travel are all benefits of what the future of basic family practice care can look like.
- Retail-Store Urgent-Care: For convenience, costs, and approachability, large retail pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens are fast becoming providers. Through in-store minute-clinics and even urgent-care, these neighborhood retails spaces are replacing the community PCP as the standard in healthcare. Like Telemedicine, this is a response to years of non-personal care, inconvenient experiences, and poor experiences. This is also creating a side-effect of local PCPs moving into a high-touch, high-value luxury-like service that is creating a divide in the market between these two kinds of services.
- Machine Learning and AI: Another area where technology is driving change is the application or data and the tech to analyze that data changing the speed at which new therapies are introduced and also the way physicians review data. In many hospitals today, radiologists and imaging specialists are assisted by computers that increase the accuracy of scans and provide context based on millions of records-well beyond the experience of most physicians.
- Chatbots: Will address many patient questions long before they reach a telemedicine experience or live physicians. Dr. Google was the first generation of our reliance on curated content being shown to us. Chatbots—available via text-tools or voice tools like Amazon Alexa or Google Home—will be our 24-7 doctor on call. The quality of the results returned by our chatbot will help alleviate our stress or send us to the next leg of our journey with anxious breath.
- Interoperable Healthcare Data: Patients and providers are feeling the burden of having their health data tied up in proprietary “buckets” held by institutions, IDNs, and departments. Patients, providers, and insurers are all going to be advocating for the ability to securely share data presentient to the next phase of their care. Everything from your eyeglass prescription to the specific model of our replacement knee should be transportable in real-time allowing all of tour support team to know what the next steps look like for you.
As a technologist, I am very excited by how technology will change healthcare. As a patient and caregiver, I am even more excited by the promise of the new era of care I will have access to in the transforming world of healthcare.