Technology and health care: The future is bright
ANAHEIM, Calif. — A new era of health care innovation is here, with novel technologies aimed to improve the lives of patients and physicians alike, from mobile technologies to intelligent care.
Since advancements were made during the “communication revolution,” a host of new technologies are evolving every day and improving the daily lives of the average individual. Health care is finally catching up to the rest of the world, with regard to technological advancements, according to health care experts speaking at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions.
“Everything else in our daily lives has been disrupted by this communication and computing revolution, but not health care,” James Mault, MD, FACS, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Qualcomm Life, said here. “We didn't see that disruption, but I'm here to tell you ... that we’re now at that moment in health care.”
Pivot toward intelligent care
Mault proposed that the health tech revolution should focus less on the tools and gadgets being used, and rather more on the information that is being conveyed. For example, by streaming data and using algorithms to pinpoint the most urgent problems presenting in patients, real-time predictive analytics can highlight for physicians the most effective course of action.
“Although we skipped that communication revolution, we are undeniably going to see a cognitive revolution,” Mault said. “What you’re about to see in the next 10 years will have as much impact on human health as the introduction of anesthesia, antibiotics and immunizations a hundred years ago. It really will have that much impact.”
Unlocking new frontiers in uncertain times
The current state of the world plays a role on the acceleration of innovation, according to Sue Siegel, chief innovation officer at GE and chief executive officer at GE Ventures.
"We've had tough times and we've had some pretty wonderful evolution with regard to technology," Siegel said during a presentation. “When you think about this, where there is much complexity, and frankly, much change, it's a petri dish for a tremendous amount of innovation and creation. You never waste a crisis."
According to Siegel, user interface is one example of an innovative technology that could play a large role in the evolution of health care. User interface makes for a seamless environment for participation in the areas of health care practice and research.
Additionally, the use of autonomous technology may play a larger role in the health care field. Looking ahead, Siegel said robotics, artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, and machine learning will likely results in a much more automated health care system in the coming years.
Siegel also noted that the health care system could benefit by making a physician’s professional life more closely mirror their consumer life. The use of “swipe-and-tap” technology, for example, has the potential for integration into the average working day of clinicians.
The ultimate goal is tech-enabled clinical services that benefit both patients and health care professionals, she said.
Another focus of health tech is digital transformation, or the creation of new business designs by blurring the digital and physical worlds of people, business and things, as well as the fourth industrial revolution, Dennis Schmuland, MD, FAAFP, chief health strategy officer at Microsoft US Health & Life Sciences, said during a presentation.
“Health care, as an industry, has the honor, or dubious distinction, of being the single most inefficient industry on the worldwide scale by any standard,” Schmuland said. On the upside, “opportunity is enormous,” he said.
“Nobody can argue that our current system isn’t fragmented, reactive, unevenly distributed, bureaucratic, inefficient and obscenely expensive, but really the elephant in the room is that it's all this even after we've invested a trillion dollars in electronic health records,” he said.
Ideally, digital transformation could improve capabilities into the future, and deploy these capabilities in a way that amplifies human ingenuity and effort alongside electronic health records or other systems.
“What's great about systems of intelligence is they empower clinicians to redesign clinical and business processes from end to end,” Schmuland said. “Systems of intelligence can more importantly begin to work on behalf of clinicians and amplify their productivity, their expertise, their leadership and the reach of clinicians into the community.”
Understanding new technological tools
As innovation in health tech continues, with it comes the need for exploration and testing, according to Jessica Mega, MD, MPH, chief medical officer at Verify Life Sciences.
“While we want to tap into all of these wonderful technological advances, when we deal with people’s lives we have to think about the regulatory [systems] that we work with,” Mega said. “I think conferences like the one we're having right now really state the fact that we're trying to bring technology and healthcare together in a very meaningful way."
According to Mega, while collaborating with a team at Google and witnessing new technology, she was struck by the innovation and energy of the team.
"I realized, as someone who really cares about patients and doctors, we are either going to be part of this dialogue and sit at the same table, or the train is moving on without us,” she said. “All of these different efforts are going to start to converge. The more we can learn from all of these data, the better. And, I think we've just started this journey." – by Dave Quaile
Siegel S, Mault J, Schmuland D and Mega J. Health Tech: Technology and Healthcare: The Road Ahead. Presented at: American Heart Association Scientific Sessions; Nov. 11-15, 2017; Anaheim, California.
Disclosures: Mault reports he is an employee of Qualcomm Life. Mega reports she is an employee of Verily Life Sciences. Schmuland reports he is an employee of Microsoft. Siegel reports she is an employee of General Electric.