Technology is rapidly changing today’s society – increasing productivity, creating more efficient use of people, materials, and improving safety. The world of the Internet, information systems and digitization is fundamentally changing healthcare and how patients receive their care.
The latest technology allows procedures and processes to flow with minimal to no human assistance. These changes look different in every industry but the basics are the same. The goal is to provide improved patient care with increasingly less human involvement and less cost.
There are numerous ways that technology is changing healthcare. This technology provides the ability for remote, realtime monitoring, real-time alerts, increased safety, and automatically updated electronic databases. One significant benefit of digitizing healthcare is the ability for medical providers to access patient files virtually anywhere at anytime. Doctors and nurses also have access to extensive medical databases through automation, which can help make important patient treatment decisions. The dark side is the possibility of compromise of these databases and dissemination of its contents to unauthorized and undesired individuals and organizations.
Another excellent way technology is changing healthcare is the development of wearable technology, part of the “Internet of Things (IOT)” initiative. This could allow providers to improve patient monitoring while also reducing expenses. Healthcare providers can monitor critical parameters such as blood sugar levels (glucose), heart rate, blood pressure and other key data points. If problems are caught early, then patients can be treated quickly and thus lowering expenses down the road.
Technology, and more specifically the Internet and the resultant systems connectivity, is changing the healthcare field rapidly. However, there are concerns. These include security of personal information, systems failure, and the creeping loss of skills by medical professionals as they become increasingly reliant on technology to perform the tasks once performed by humans. The increase in productivity while desirable for many reasons also has a dark side. The zeal to reduce the use of expensive human resources will result in decreased interaction with human health care providers. We already see this. The office visit that once lasted up to 45 minutes depending on the issue now becomes 15 minutes (or less). As a physician, I have seen this over the years and am concerned about this and other “unintended consequences” of this rush to automate as much as possible. Think of our use of GPS that helps find our way while traveling. Some time soon when a device fails and a suggestion to use a map is made, the suggestion may be met with “what’s a map?”
The healthcare industry is governed by the ever increasing need to decrease costs while maintaining quality of care. Technology has provided and will continue to provide a means to achieve desired, higher efficiency, lower cost and broader access to care. We must be judicious in it’s implementation as we cannot know the long term implications of this revolutionary change in the way patients and their healthcare providers interact.
Robert Desai is an successful equities investor in Massachusetts, and also spent time in the medical field. Check out his investing website or follow him on Twitter for the latest healthcare policy blogs!