Technology is changing our world. Healthcare is no exception.
Andrew Arnold writes in Forbes of four technological innovations that are having an impact on our healthcare. He makes the following statements:
- Cloud electronic records improve access to health information
- Telemedicine is becoming more accessible
- Big data and artificial intelligence usage is going mainstream
- IoT devices and robots will improve the care quality
Cloud electronic records
Electronic medical records have largely taken over most hospitals and many physician offices after strong arm-twisting by the Obama administration. Those hospitals and physicians who refused to make the switch are paying now in the form of deductions of their Medicare payments.
While most of these institutions maintain their own records in house, a growing number are relying on cloud technology to provide storage. Arnold says the use of cloud technology for storage has two benefits:
- Patients can access their own records – by using passwords or key codes
- Multiple providers can access individual patient records – by sharing the passwords or key codes. He believes a national database of medical records is the next logical step.
Arnold says millenials want much more control over their health and the care they receive. Furthermore, he says they are impatient by nature and don’t want to be bothered with ancient concepts like “making doctors’ appointments and getting treatment for what are non-serious conditions/illnesses. They prefer internet-based visits on their own time.”
He believes the solution is more telemedicine. Furthermore, this will improve healthcare in rural areas where fewer specialists are available. The use of video monitors may make it easier to have a conference with other physicians at the patient’s bedside. This may save lives in poorly served areas.
Bid Data and Artificial Intelligence
Pooling of data from sources all over the world will lead to improved diagnostic accuracy and treatment. He says:
- Providers can use data to develop better patient profiles and risk factors.
- Computers can predict the future effectiveness of treatment by analyzing data of past successes and failures.
- Reduction in provider costs – by predicting re-admission rates of patients and times of months and year of high and low demand. This will lead to lowered provider costs and presumed lower healthcare spending.
IoT Devices and Robots
This refers to devices worn by patients that monitor heart rates, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Electronic stethoscopes and goniometers are now available in educational institutions. Arnold says this will lead to savings by reducing costly office visits that will no longer be necessary or alert providers to conditions that warrant immediate care and treatment.
Robotics such as the DaVinci surgical tool are currently in use for those procedures that demand greater precision through smaller incisions – such as brain and prostate surgery. Arnold sees robots providing many of the activities of nurse’s aids.
Count Me Skeptical
All of the above sounds great from the perspective of the outside world (those not providing healthcare). But as one who has been a physician providing care for the last 43 years (including training), I have a few concerns:
- Electronic medical records – These were supposed to revolutionize medicine and eliminate medical errors, reduce employee staffing, improve efficiency, promote communication across distance barriers, and reduce costs. None of these expectations have been fully realized. (For more on this see Electronic Health Records – Another Obama Train Wreck.)
- Cloud storage may be a method of improved storage and facilitated recovery of information from remote locations. However, security has not lived up to the promises given and increased access by more people will only increase this problem.
- Telemedicine – This is no substitute for a “hands on” examination and “face to face” conference with your doctor. Millenials may be impatient but they will pay a price in lowered quality healthcare if they try to get their healthcare online without establishing a proper patient-doctor relationship. (For more on this see Beware Online Medical Treatment.)
- Telemedicine does make sense for remote areas of the world where there is no other alternative.
- Big Data and AI – Certainly we should use increased data analysis to improve our understanding of disease processes and treatment outcomes. Orthopedics has been leading the way in this area for years with registries for outcomes in total joint replacement worldwide.
- Reduction in Provider Costs – Don’t expect any savings by the hospitals to be passed on to consumers. They are not building bigger and fancier buildings by returning savings to those who pay the bills.
- IoT Devices and Robots – These devices may improve our ability to monitor our health (or our disease) better and may lead to improvements in treatment and recognition of emerging health crises. However, don’t count me excited to think that a robot will replace the human touch when it comes to nursing, even for nurse’s aides.
Arnold is certainly correct when he warns there is a risk with all this new technology. He says, “But with all of this promise comes a huge risk – security. And technology has had a hard time keeping up with the cybercriminals who are quite adept – just ask Experian or the IRS. A potential solution lies in blockchain technology, and some healthcare providers are already experimenting with it.”
I’m sure the cybercriminals will find a way to figure that one out, too.