Will Technology Ever Improve Healthcare?

By | August 14, 2018

In most industries, technology has been credited with driving innovations and improving the productivity and quality of products and services we utilize every day. Unfortunately, Healthcare has not experienced this same occurrence. There are numerous cutting-edge technologies occurring in healthcare, but one must question if the value of care has progressed? Has technology provided a marked increase in quality? Has the service significantly improved with simultaneous reductions in the cost of medical care delivered? Finally, have there been gains in productivity?

Technological advances are deemed to enhance yields, but is that the case in Healthcare? For instance, self-reported burn-out rates by physicians are higher than ever with the blame placed on the utilization of newer technology. Specifically, physicians report that the electronic medical record increases their workload with no increased value to the patient versus benefiting the patient and lessening their workload.

Unmistakably, there are advances attributed to technology, but most agree that the Healthcare industry has not reaped the rewards as quickly as one would expect. Does this convey industry failure in all things technological? Just as we have sought other industries for guidance on technological advances, we must use them as well as reference points on how to unleash the value of technology. Industries such as banking and retail did not experience the improvements for approximately 20 years. Being able to use an ATM to withdraw money from a machine anywhere in the world that is tied to one’s bank account regardless of the institution or location did not occur overnight.

Reimagining our workflow will be required to optimize new technologies. How do we implement these technologies to improve the productivity of providers, aid in decision support, and aid us in areas we may have weaknesses will involve thinking differently. EMRs are an excellent example; initially designed to replace a model of documentation, they ultimately will allow for the collection of data in a manner that advance our ability to deliver care, including supportive improvements in both process and decision enhancement.

Other industries have also shifted the focus of who is the ultimate beneficiary of their technology from an internal perspective to one of the consumer experiences. Healthcare has the same opportunity. How do we create and implement health technology in a manner that best assists the consumer? Currently, we are incredibly focused on connectivity to the provider versus enhancing the end user capabilities, (when appropriate) for self-management.

Better defining the problems we are attempting to solve with technology will allow us to adopt and benefit from its integration. Continually reviewing our technological advances for other possible uses is paramount to our success. A health system exemplified this methodology via the utilization of glycemic monitoring in hospitalized patients. They shifted the function of its endocrinologists to reviewing all situations presented and to making recommendations versus waiting for a consultation request before becoming involved. By focusing on the problem of glycemic control in hospitalized patients, and consequently departing from the notion that a specialist must see the patient before recommending a treatment protocol allows us to optimize the usage of technological innovations. Technology itself will not solve our problems. Let us embrace our present situation, and adapt our thinking concerning technology to better deliver value to those we serve.