That smartphone in your pocket today is more powerful than the computers onboard the historic Apollo space capsule when it sent three men to the moon in 1965. True story, if the computers on board Apollo malfunctioned, the astronauts had to rely on a HP–65 calculator to make manual calculations to get home.
Given that healthcare is one of the largest and fastest–growing industries in our country, it seems rather implausible. Why is it that we can check the health of our bank account from virtually any device, but we can’t do the same for our health? Even when we can access that information, it is disjointed and hard to decipher, let alone useful for making a decision.
But these troubles do not exist only on the patient side. Hospitals, physician offices, laboratories—virtually all aspects of the system—are affected. According to one study, clinicians waste an average of 45 minutes a day due to the use of pagers and other antiquated technology. This alone costs the industry over $8.3 billion a year. Another study estimates that 15 percent of physician diagnoses are inaccurate or incomplete. Why? Information overload. Doctors simply have too much information to sort, and no easy way to navigate.
Vital signs: how the landscape is changing.
Despite these hurdles, there are some signs the healthcare industry is moving toward significant change and growth. Here are a few examples of how innovation is changing the game:
- Mobile Prescription Therapy: FDA–cleared and reimbursable. Enabling patients to improve self–care. WellDoc’s BlueStar is the first mobile health product to secure reimbursement as a diabetes therapy. The FDA–cleared, mobile product offers real–time coaching, information and support for people with Type 2 diabetes, and will be viewed as a pharmacy benefit, similar to other prescription products.
- 3-D Printed Prosthetics: A new take on personalized medicine. The collaboration of a South Africa–based woodwork and prop maker in Seattle, Robohand is a mechanical 3–D printed hand that can be made using a Makerbot 3–D printer. While the pair originally set out to design inexpensive prosthetics, they soon found out they could apply the same technology to produce custom–made prosthetics.
- Mobile Diagnostics: Proactive approaches to preventative care. Is it a mole, or something more? SkinVision transforms the smart phone into a diagnostic tool, making it possible to monitor and track your skin health. Users can upload photos of moles and receive instant analysis, as well pertinent information and links for local dermatologists.
So, what does it take to innovate in healthcare?
Innovation is not a trivial accomplishment. It’s not about applying technology, for the sake of applying technology. The incredible opportunity here is having the technology and the ability to re–think paradigms of care, how that care is delivered, paid for and ultimately experienced by the patient.
A smart approach to advancing healthcare is one that combines technology and collaboration with clinical and business insights.
Consider the following:
Solve the Right Problem
The real question here is: Did you solve the RIGHT problem? Solving the problem RIGHT is great, but before you go there, be sure you’re solving the RIGHT problem. How do you know you properly understood the core issues that need to be addressed? People really love a well–executed solution that works. But, is it something that is useful and meaningful for the task, job, or goal your target person has in mind?
Throw Away Your Biases
It’s not uncommon to come to these scenarios with biases. We often think we want something specific, or believe that we already know the specific solution. Technology is a tool that we use; it is not a solution in and of itself. Ask yourself, “Why am I committed to a specific technology or direction?” “Does that choice support the solution to the right problem?”
Plan for Change
Let’s be honest, the technology landscape changes rapidly. It is very hard to scale and keep pace. It’s important to not only plan for how you will manage the ever–changing environment, but also build for change—functionally from an infrastructure perspective, as well as a design perspective. Change needs to be an accepted part of your process.
Take Action and Iterate
Don’t wait around. At this point, it is assumed you understand the problem, and have identified the right issues to address. Ideally, research has given you some sense and direction on how you are going to approach this. So now is the time to invest and move forward.
Getting people to say “I love this!” right out of the gate is hard. But they can also tell when you have dialed it in. Set a direction and get going, at this point all you will need to do is course correct.
There’s no question that technology can drive extraordinary innovation in medical science. And, with a demonstrated commitment to push healthcare into the present and beyond, it undeniably will. Probably the bigger questions are... “How will it evolve?” and “Who is going to do it?”
Is there something YOU can do to help make innovation in healthcare happen?