REPOST: Transforming Healthcare with Technology
The following is a repost of a blog post that originally was written for, and appeared on, www.datstat.com/blog.
Transformation of industries, and particularly widespread adoption of technological innovation, doesn’t happen spontaneously or without reason. There is too much resistance to overcome, too much love for the status quo. There has to be a precipitating circumstance, or root cause, driving the change.
Technological Disruption in the Legal Industry
For legal, that percipient was government-led investigations into corporate wrongdoings (thanks, Enron). An industry with more experience being the butt of a joke than the center of technological disruption, these investigations inadvertently led to a need for lawyers to adopt new technology.
Up to this point, the legal discovery process involved paper documents only. However, the vast trove of content within emails and other electronic files suddenly became important pieces of evidence for these investigations. The volume of content that had to be extracted, analyzed, and produced to opposing counsel was on a scale they simply weren’t ready for.
As Chief Technology Officer at EED , I was on the front lines reshaping this process. We built systems that processed unstructured data and could scale to handle the unimaginable volume of content that needed to be collected and reviewed. I saw technology averse professionals embrace software as the only answer to a very real, and seemingly insurmountable obstacle to their success.
Today, the need to aggregate information from multiple sources to drive insights and outcomes is widespread. Unlike the disruption for the legal sector, these information, or big data, initiatives are focused on creating exceptional consumer experiences and saving lives.
Disrupting Healthcare: History Repeats Itself
I can’t help but draw parallels between the challenges faced in legal and the challenges we face in healthcare. Another industry resistant to change, for one reason or another; an industry where the stakes are extremely high, and where trillions of dollars, are at stake.
The healthcare landscape has changed dramatically over the last half century. The bulk of care has transitioned from the treatment of acute / infectious disease to the treatment and management of chronic illness. According to the CDC, almost 86% of today’s healthcare costs are associated with caring for those with chronic conditions.
While the need has transitioned, on the whole, the approach to care (and paying for it!) has not. The current system was built around the concept of curing a specific disease and acute condition. These are episodic moments of care, resulting in a few data points around one specific detail of a patient’s health.
Chronic Diseases: A Different Set of Challenges
Chronic diseases pose a completely different set of challenges to the system. These conditions are complex beasts, with no discernible beginning, and no determinable end. They have no single, identifiable cause, no targeted treatment course, and they are influenced by complex internal and external factors.
According to the CDC, almost half of Americans suffer from at least one chronic disease. Patients 65 and over show an even more startling trend with over half of them suffering from multiple chronic conditions. The costs associated with caring for a person with chronic conditions is estimated at 3 times higher than someone without.
[Tweet “The costs associated w/ caring for a patient with #chronicdiseases is ~3x higher.”]
You can see the problem here: a massive aging population, rampant growth in the rate of chronic illness and a healthcare system that was constructed to solve a completely different problem set.
Improving Outcomes Begins with Measurement
The healthcare system and providers need to begin understanding these conditions on a granular level. This means measurement and gathering more information on patients. It means beginning to identify questions that need answers and the outcomes that need to be continuously measured to answer those questions. With more information and data points, providers can understand their patients’ chronic conditions better. They can make better informed, data-driven decisions and begin personalizing care treatments.
>Similar to the legal sector’s need to mine data from emails and other electronic content, healthcare needs to begin thinking seriously about how they’re going to capture data from non-traditional sources outside of the clinic. They need to begin thinking how to move from paper to electronic mediums. A technological disruption, as witnessed in industries across the board, can help them accomplish this.
The healthcare system as it lives and breathes today is fragmented and unprepared for the tsunami already reaching its shores. It is improperly constructed to handle the majority of patients and cases it will see day in and day out. It is unprepared to begin gathering the data needed to improve the outcomes of these patients.
Please don’t get me wrong, the system is filled with passionate, caring, and well-intentioned individuals who head to work every day looking to positively impact the lives of their patients. It isn’t their fault that the system is constructed as it is. It is simply the existing framework – a framework which constrains them.