I was recently talking with one of my healthcare IT friends about the future of technology in healthcare. As we were talking, they made this really interesting observation:
“We Need Technology to Scale Healthcare”
I don’t think I need to go into too much detail with readers of this blog about the possible shortage of doctors that could happen. In fact, Kyle Samani covered some of this shortage in his post, “The Nurse Will See You Now.” In that post he talks about the limited number of residency slots that are available. Not to mention the lengthy path to becoming a doctor. I read an astute observation recently that the only reason we don’t have a real crisis in general medicine is because there’s a limited number of residency slots for the other specialties. When a med student can’t get into their desired specialty, then they fall back into general medicine. The idea of general medicine being a “fall back” profession doesn’t bode well for us, but that’s a topic for another day.
Consider the supply and demand constraints that Kyle talks about, we’re going to have a growing problem where the demand for healthcare outstrips the supply of doctors. Kyle covered the move towards nurse care, but I think there’s also an important case to be made for how technology can help to scale healthcare as well. As one example, Telemedicine has the potential to make our healthcare visits much more efficient. Properly implemented technology can do that across a wide variety of healthcare. Plus, technology has the potential to reduce unneeded office visits as well.
What I find even more intriguing is that right now we look at a visit to the doctor as a last resort for our healthcare. How many of us go to the doctor in order to remain healthy? Almost no one. If we really want to scale health care to the point that we’re providing health care and not just sick care, then that will require a scale that healthcare has never seen. I personally call this movement “Treating Healthy Patients” and I think this movement will be data driven with technology at its core.
Lest those reading at home get confused. I don’t think most of the healthcare technologies out there today work on scaling healthcare. Most of the healthcare IT solutions out there today are about optimizing the status quo. That’s very different than what will be required to scale health care. I’m excited to see these later technologies come to fruition.