By Brad Mascho| Co-Founder and President of CrossChx
Think about smartphones as just one piece of the evolution of the internet. The iPhone launched eight years ago and is now a part of the everyday lives of millions of people around the world, connecting them to information like never before.
Healthcare missed that revolution. It watched the industry develop around it but never took advantage of the solutions the internet offered. Instead, healthcare ended up with monolithic pieces of software forced into creation by government mandates that impeded knowledge sharing and the creation of unique universal patient IDs.
Today, the “Internet of Things” is connecting everything from washing machines to door hardware, but healthcare, predominantly continues to operate the same way it has for decades. The fact is, healthcare isn’t as safe and efficient as it can and should be. It needs the internet to provide better care. It needs the “Internet of Healthcare.”
The good news is, innovators are beginning to make inroads, building solutions that have the ability to improve the patient experience and deliver better care. Changing one of the country’s largest institutions certainly won’t create results overnight, but the trends below are worth noting as we head into the new year:
Your Healthcare, Personalized: Over the past year the industry has experienced a surge in various wearables that empower patients to take control of their own health. We are just in the beginning stages of the wearables game, but take for instance the Apple Watch, which now offers apps that monitor each user’s blood pressure, then record and upload vital signs. This could be a transformative technology for the more than 100 million Americans who suffer from some type of heart condition.
Beyond wearables, expect biosensors to become big players in the healthcare space over the next several years. Biosensors will not only be incorporated into clothing, but available as implants. Imagine an implantable biochip that can apply diabetics remedial insulin doses automatically based on the levels of blood glucose levels. Sensors of this nature will eventually be able to provide doctors with patient information to diagnose and treat a range of chronic problems.
Predictive Healthcare Solutions: Predictive technology is beginning to help healthcare transition from a reactive to a more proactive model. Take for instance the wearables we mentioned above that could be used to identify changes in a patient’s vitals, routines and even moods.
Predictive technology is also experiencing greater acceptance with skilled nursing facilities. For residents, the probability of an incident increases when they deviate from their normal routines. The predictive systems developed are learning individual resident patterns so that staff can be alerted when a change occurs.
Using electronic medical record data, some researchers are using predictive algorithms to determine which hospital patients have the highest risk of cardiac arrest. Based on the information provided, a response team monitoring patients’ predictive scores in real-time can alert staff to take proactive measures to address the risk.
Improved Patient Access: Think about all of the medical professionals, clinics, and hospitals a patient visits over their lifetime, beginning at birth. Chances are, nearly every single one, from their pediatrician to their dentist to their primary care physician, has a unique and fragmented idea of who each patient is. As critically important as this information is, no doctor has access to our complete patient profile. The sobering reality is such a thing doesn’t exist.
Wearables and personal care devices will continue to empower patients with better information, and also provide patients the ability to become more engaged in managing their own healthcare profile. Creating a unique ID for every patient, that combines their healthcare information into one profile would not only streamline check-in processes, but eliminate the risk associated with misidentification and incomplete or inaccurate records.
In the not-too-distant future, patients, who have always been the rightful owners of their health data, will have the ability to control that information, make edits and changes to their electronic medical record and allow or grant providers access to that information as needed. This process eliminates the clipboard questionnaire and hands the keys back to the patients.
Smart Medication: Implantable electronics, designed among other things to slowly release medication, are becoming more common in today’s healthcare. The natural next step is ingestible technologies, or ‘smart’ medications, that can work to relay information to doctors, while avoiding the complications associated with surgical implants.
In September, the Federal Drug Administration agreed to review a “digital pill” from Otsuka Pharma and Proteus Digital Health, the first such medication to be accepted for review by the agency. Patients using the smart pill would also wear a patch that receives information from the pill’s sensor after it has been ingested. The information is then relayed to a mobile device, providing doctors direct knowledge of whether or not the medication regimen is being followed.
In addition to measuring medication adherence, smart pills have a variety of uses that could revolutionize healthcare. In fact, the idea of ingestible technology isn’t a new one — researchers have been experimenting with ingestible technology since the 1970s. Ingestible devices consisting of elements such as sensors, cameras, patches and trackers could offer a non-invasive, thorough examination of the gastrointestinal tract and a comprehensive health monitoring of various physiological metrics.
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Any time you set out with a goal to fundamentally change one of the largest and most sensitive institutions in the country, such as healthcare, you’re facing a challenge. Change by most standards, will not come easy. But the benefits certainly justify the work it will take to get there. It all makes for an exciting time to work in healthcare, and I’m pleased CrossChx is part of it.
Brad Mascho is co-founder of CrossChx, the leader in identity resolution for smarter healthcare.