Emerging Healthcare Technologies to Keep an Eye On

Emerging Healthcare Technologies to Keep an Eye On

By Ed Smith

Chief Information Officer, Alere Health

Medicine and technology have matured, dramatically improving outcomes for critical conditions, and yet we still have epidemic levels of diabetes and obesity. As healthcare has become more specialized, it has also become more fragmented; losing site of the fact that patient engagement in the treatment plan is the key to sustained health improvement.

We are seeing an explosion of at-home biometric devices, real-time care alerts, and a variety of social applications that are being used to facilitate engagement. Clearly one size does not fit all, so maybe the answer is all of the above.  Mass customization based on personal preferences couldn’t be more critical than in healthcare where it’s the personal context (i.e. history, location, goals, etc.) of a situation and timeliness of an alert or intervention that can be the difference between life or death.

So if long-term behavior change and relevant/timely interventions are the key to reducing healthcare costs and improving quality of life, what emerging solutions are we experimenting with?

  • Social communities − An obvious trend in healthcare, they are providing the appropriate support group to enhance engagement.  Sometimes gaming-styled competition promotes participation by making it fun; sometimes support from other people who care is what makes the difference. What is critical to improve outcomes is mitigating privacy concerns and integration with the provider’s care plan. Social media solutions like Facebook and Twitter are enabling patients to connect with natural support groups – sometimes family, friends or strangers to provide the support that a clinician alone may not be able to.  Social communities can also make healthcare more fun by linking online education games, trackers and contests with incentive programs with financial and health benefits. Tracking devices can be used to promote activity. According to Jawbone, a provider of these devices, tracking can increase activity as much as 26 percent simply because  measuring behavior increases awareness of it.
  • Analytics and Visualization −  With the deluge of personal biometric tracking devices, increasing access to electronic medical records, and an abundance of free health information, how will payers, providers and patients make sense of it?  This deluge of data requires enhanced visualization technology, which analyzes, interprets and presents data to show patterns and trends that would otherwise be missed, as well as predictive analytics and large data management solutions. Technologies like Hadoop and EMC’s Greenplum will be critical to solving this increasingly complex issue.
  • Globalization – Although there are enormous differences between payment models, diet, and language – people are people and treatments vary less than we think.  The key is to share best practices, adapt to regulatory and cultural change while still adapting infrastructure costs effectively.  Pegasystems provides a scalable technology platform, simplifying many of the workflow, clinical, customer and country-specific rules while still providing deployment consistency  and global management through a variety of cloud-based infrastructure-as-a-service offerings. This approach delivers economies of scale and a platform for transferring best practices across populations.

Each of these technical trends provides exciting new solutions and challenges with privacy, speed and scale, all while the industry is changing.  Although there are many complexities – the patient will continue to be at the center of the solution.

Lastly, this wouldn’t be a tech blog if we didn’t mention the roles of the cloud and mobile technologies in driving increased patient engagement.  The increased ubiquity of mobile access devices and rapid availability of cloud solutions are becoming the fabric of these trends accelerating time to test new ideas, gain feedback and reach more people in a more natural and cost-effective way. Just like DNA-tailored drug therapies which were once cost prohibitive, new technologies are empowering users to tailor solutions that fit their needs vs. one size fits all.