Clearly our health care sector has lagged behind all others in using leading edge technologies to improve operations- vested interests have really not worried too much about costs; these were just passed on to consumers, directly and indirectly. But new tools and technologies are rapidly emerging in the health care sector and these are driven by emerging entrepreneurial firms rather than the traditional major players. No surprise here- statistics show more than 95 percent of all radical technology innovation in the past 60 years has been developed by SMEs (small medium enterprises) not major corporations as you might expect.
Bolder options are needed now to address today’s health care problems – the prescription: deploying new technology and capital on global best practices.
Let me share a vision on the possibilities. Suppose we create a new national eHealth program. Program objectives are to commit to use leading edge information and communications technology to improve patient safety, accessibility and quality of care; enable patient mobility nationally and internationally; meet the increasing demands from our citizens and healthcare professionals; and use eHealth as the main tool for renewal and improvement of our nation’s health care services. We will use telemedicine and other technologies to support creative, cost effective new solutions to improve our health care system. Consider some possibilities:
Your patient records are stored as secure Electronic Health Records or ‘EHRs’. Just like your secure on-line bank account transaction records, you can access this information, identify issues, alert your practitioners, and if needed, request your EHR be sent to another physician or laboratory. No more going to a physician’s office to pick up copies of imaging data and records, paying extra costs and using ‘sneaker net’ to move this data between offices.
Patients with heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and chronic illnesses, are monitored using at home telemedicine devices including ‘smart beds’ which automatically monitor and transmit diagnostics and vital signs to remote telemedicine centers.
Patient monitoring services are enhanced with predictive analytics and decision support systems that monitor all patient diagnostics, including ECG sensors transmitting data via mobile phones. Using intelligent, real time, secure predictive analytics technology, the diagnostic system helps assess patient status, identify any deviations and alerts the appropriate medical resources, including emergency services.
Telemedicine systems will provide rural, remote regions with access to practitioners, including specialists. The same infrastructure will be used to support ‘mobile’ health care clinics to treat some of the 42 million people in the United States who have no health insurance.
Remote consultations among practitioners and patients can be easily accomplished using secure, on-demand multimedia eHealth communications channels.
You have a wide range of online eHealth physical and wellness program alternatives available offered within the national eHealth program.
The above sounds impossible or ‘decades away’ to many. Not really. The eHealth vision above is widely promoted within EU countries now making excellent progress in deploying these new capabilities throughout Europe. And the specific program objectives above were cited in a speech by the Swedish Minister of Health in December 2007, less than four years ago. One EU study reported that about 70 percent of European physicians now use the internet and 66 percent use computers for consultations. Administrative patient data are electronically stored in 80 percent of general practices which is impressive. European physicians transfer about 40 percent of their data to laboratories electronically and about 10 percent to other health centers. Electronic prescriptions (‘e-prescribing’) is widely used in only three member states: Denmark (97 percent), Sweden (81 percent and the Netherlands (71 percent). Sweden has an impressive track record in deploying new national technology solutions such as ‘Sjunet’, their secure national information and communications technology or ‘ICT’ infrastructure supporting eHealth applications in Sweden.
‘Intelligent’ remote telemedicine technology may sound far off, but these services using predictive analytics are now offered. One example is the Kiwok BodyKom Series™ technology which offers patients in Sweden capabilities going well beyond traditional patient monitoring, such as ability to detect early disease symptoms; to follow up treatment processes for patients out-of-hospital; to follow and predict care demands in pre-hospital services; to directly transfer the information to a patient’s individual Electronic Health Record; among other features.
Summarizing, all would agree our health care system is broken. We can argue about policies, but we need to fix the systemit. The prescription: establish national level priorities to develop and deploy creative new technology solutions. Recognize that entrepreneurial firms will be a key driver in our progress and we reap significant benefits by more effectively leveraging our nation’s entrepreneurial assets. And we should learn lessons looking at global best practices of others are well ahead of the United States in developing an effective health care solutions. That is the recommended prescription to fix our ailing health care system. No need to call me in the morning.