This post is part of the #HIMSS15 Blog Carnival which explores “The Future of…” across 5 different healthcare IT topics.
As I think about the future of a connected healthcare system, I get very excited. Although, that excitement is partially tamed by the realization that many of these connections could have been happening for a long time. A connected healthcare system is not a technological challenge, but is a major cultural challenge for healthcare.
The Data Connected Healthcare System
Implementation challenges aside, the future of healthcare absolutely revolves around a connected healthcare system. In the short term these connections will focus on sharing the right data with the right person at the right time. Most of that data will be limited to data inside the EHR. What’s shocking is that we’re not doing this already. I guess we are doing this already, but in a really disconnected fashion (see Fax machine). That’s what’s so shocking. We already have the policies in place that allow us to share healthcare data with other providers. We’re sharing that data across fax machines all day every day. Over the next 3-5 years we’ll see a continuous flow of this data across other electronic channels (Direct Project, FHIR, HIEs, etc).
More exciting to consider is the future integration of consumer health device data into the healthcare system. I’m certain I’ll see a number of stories talking about this integration at HIMSS already. These “pilot” integrations will set the groundwork for much wider adoption of external consumer health data. The key tipping point to watch for in this is when EHR vendors start accepting this data and presenting the data to doctors in a really intuitive way. This integration will absolutely change the game when it comes to connecting patient collected data with the healthcare system.
What seems even more clear to me is that we all still have a very myopic view of how much data we’re going to have available to us about a person’s health. In my above two examples I talk about the EHR patient record (basically physician’s charts) and consumer health devices. In the later example I’m pretty sure you’re translating that to the simple examples of health tracking we have today: steps, heart rate, weight, blood pressure, etc. While all of this data is important, I think it’s a short sighted view of the explosion of patient data we’ll have at our fingertips.
I still remember when I first heard the concept of an IP Address on Every Organ in your body reporting back health data that we would have never dreamed imaginable. The creativity in sensors that are detecting anything and everything that’s happening in your blood, sweat and tears is absolutely remarkable. All of that data will need to be connected, processed, and addressed. How amazing will it be for the healthcare system to automatically schedule you for heart surgery that will prevent a heart attack before you even experience any symptoms?
Of course, we haven’t even talked about genomic data which will be infiltrating the healthcare system as well. Genomic data use to take years to process. Now it’s being done in weeks at a price point that’s doable for many. Genomic medicine is going to become a standard for healthcare and in some areas it is already.
The connected healthcare system will have to process more data than we can even imagine today. Good luck processing genomic data, sensor data, device data, and medical chart data using paper.
It’s All About Communication
While I’ve focused on connecting the data in the healthcare system of the future, that doesn’t downplay the need for better communication tools in the future connected healthcare system. Healthcare data can discover engagement points, but communication with patients will cause the change in our healthcare system.
Do you feel connected to your doctor today? My guess is that most of you would be like me and say no (Although, I’m working to change that culture for me and my family). The future connected healthcare system is going to have to change that culture if we want to improve healthcare and lower healthcare costs. Plus, every healthcare reimbursement model of the future focuses on this type of engagement.
The future connected healthcare system actually connects the doctor’s office and the patient to treat even the healthy patient. In fact, I won’t be surprised if we stop talking about going for a doctor’s visit and start talking about a health check up or some health maintenance. Plus, who says the health check up or maintenance has to be in the doctors office. It might very well be over a video chat, email, instant message, social media, or even text.
This might concern many. However, I’d describe this as healthcare integration into your life. We’ll have some stumbles along the way. We’ll have some integrations that dig too deeply into your life. We’ll have some times when we rely too heavily on the system and it fails us. Sometimes we’ll fail to show the right amount of empathy in the communication. Sometimes we’ll fail to give you the needed kick in the pants. Sometimes, we’ll make mistakes. However, over time we’ll calibrate the system to integrate seamlessly into your life and improve your health based on your personalized needs.
The future Connected Healthcare System is a data driven system which facilitates the right communication when and where it’s needed in a seamless fashion.