IT is rapidly disrupting healthcare.
By Jorge E. Galva, JD, MHA, Healthcare Operations Executive
Disruption is a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors (Carnegie Mellon University, 2017). Healthcare had been relatively isolated from technological disruption by a convoluted set of operational, financial, professional and regulatory barriers. These barriers are falling in the face of relentless technological advance.
There are three areas where IT disruption is more incisive:
Remote healthcare: IT enables a broad variety of delivery modes away from the physical visit to a facility. These include virtual doctor appointments, at-home tools capturing vital signs, cloud-based medical records accessible to physicians, diagnosticians and patients, and broadly enhanced telemedicine resources (Libert at al., 2017). Remote healthcare improves efficiencies as duplication and siloing of patient care are reduced, downtime wasted for office visits disappears, and follow up is achieved through continuous sharing of information (van Hooijdonk, 2015). Healthcare leaders must plan for a future where brick and mortar investment will be downsized by the growth of virtual healthcare.
Artificial Intelligence: Artificial Intelligence (AI) is defined as the science of creating intelligent computer systems able to perform tasks without receiving instructions from humans. (Chouffani, 2016). AI allows diagnosing conditions, designing treatment for individual patients, medication management and virtual nursing, among others (Novatio, 2017). AI boosts the capabilities of providers by removing guesswork and time-consuming analyses from the care process. The use of AI may soon become the new standard for medical care as more providers adopt it. Healthcare leaders must be prepared to acquire and utilize AI to maintain competitive parity and avoid potential legal consequences.
Health data security: Healthcare IT enables the acquisition, storage, and transmition of huge amounts of data. This capability is subject to a high risk of unlawful breach. More patient and health plan member records were exposed or stolen in 2015 than in the previous 6 years combined; 2016 saw more healthcare data breaches reported than any other year, with 2017 set on becoming a record breaker (HIPAA Journal, 2017). As healthcare systems expand their IT capabilities, disruptive changes are affecting data security.
Systems must strengthen their encryption protocols, improve firewall protection, and experiment with biometric and blockchain technologies (Weintraub and Borenstein, 2017). The adoption of these technologies will disrupt established administrative practices, along with payer, provider and patient relations. Leaders implementing an aggressive plan to protect data will be faced with elevated expenses and difficult operational changes going forward.
IT disruption of healthcare will only accelerate. Leadership must face it with strategies leading to proactive exploration and experimentation. These include external focus, internal incubation, and capability development; disruption is external, but must be embraced internally in order to succeed (Kaplan, 2017). Healthcare must learn to love the problem and guide the solutions. This is the road to success in a disrupted world.
Carnegie Mellon University, Disruptive Health Technology Institute, What Is Disruptive Health Technology, 2017, retrieved 11/8/17
Barry Libert, John C. Grady Benson, Steve Schutzer, Megan Beck, Why Healthcare is Ready for Digital Disruption, Wharton, University of Pennsylvania, 2017, retrieved November 6, 2017 http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/why-health-care-is-ripe-for-digital-disruption/
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Reda Chouffani, Biz Technology Solutions, Four Uses for Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare, 2016, retrieved 11/8/17 http://searchhealthit.techtarget.com/tip/Four-uses-for-artificial-intelligence-in-healthcare
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