What could a digital future look like in health care?

It took me until 2010 to buy an iPhone and in just a few years, I’ve become so dependent on it, without fail, I will always make a U-turn to make sure it’s with me — my smartphone is essentially a new limb for me.

I know I’m not alone.

Most did not predict the rocket speed adoption and transformative power of modern smartphones when the iPhone launched in 2007. But, in just seven years, smartphone penetration in the U.S. is approximately 70 percent of the population, making it the fastest adopted technology in history.

While other industries have embraced mobile technologies, the health care industry is still mostly in the experimentation phase, with only a few players actually committing to mobile health solutions. That’s a missed opportunity given the vast potential for digital health to improve operational efficiencies and patient outcomes.

If we in health care don’t lead the charge with incorporating digital delivery into the current physical delivery care model within the next half-decade, outside pressures, and disruptive companies will surely force this change on us.

We’ve seen recent evidence in other industries that technology can disrupt incumbents and position new players in the market at astonishing speed: retail being shaken up by Amazon, financial services with e-trade, ride sharing companies such as Uber with traditional taxi service and potentially private car ownership, and a host of others built on the principal of white glove, instant gratification service.

What could a digital future look like in health care?  It’s my job at Boston Children’s Hospital’s Innovation Acceleration Program to figure that out. But, also as a patient in the health care system here’s what I hope my future as “patient 3.0” will resemble: it will be a simplified, connected and digital experience seamlessly integrating my everyday life into health and care delivery.

1. My smartphone becomes my health care brain, connecting all the sensors in wearables on me or in my environment to analyze my health in real-time, providing me with insights when I want them. My doctor will be able to analyze my relevant data in the context of my personalized genomic data and years of electronic health record information will be visually displayed in less than a minute, powered by big data analytics. Our precious few minutes during the e-visit will be laser focused to target the right medication and treatment plan for me.

2. In my home, we will have a “robot” that is connected to all the smart devices like my fridge, coffee maker, front door, you name it. Everything in my home will be synced up to this digital ecosystem with Apple’s iBeacons or comparable technology. If I forget to take my medications my robot will tell me. Maybe even my walls or coffee maker will signal me if one of my biometric data points are out of range — and alert others if I’m unresponsive. I’m sure my prescription lenses will incorporate augmented reality to project relevant information on command about health care shopping choices.

3. I want my entire care team to know the relevant information and have it seamlessly integrated into my patient experience. I want technology to make this effortless. The last thing I want in my future patient 3.0 experience is technology creating a life of noise about every detail. The data should be contextual, relevant, and actionable. I want technology to be smart enough to adapt to my routine and notify me only when needed. See, for example, Viv.

With the buzz of activity in the entrepreneurial community, the growing expectations of patients, untenable costs, and the interest of non-health care technology players like Facebook, Apple or Google, this future of health care could become a reality. And yet, my reality as a patient today? I’m lucky to have email exchanges with my doctor. What will it take to move beyond already outdated technologies?

Alexandra Pelletier is a manager, Innovation Acceleration Program, Boston Children’s Hospital. This article originally appeared in athenahealth’s Health Care Leadership Forum.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular

✓ Join 150,000+ subscribers
✓ Get KevinMD's most popular stories