Transforming the Healthcare industry with a foundation of information

In 1961, IBM created the first electronic health record (EHR) system at Akron Children’s Hospital in Boardman, Ohio. Roughly 50 years later, ~80% of office-based physicians use some type of EHR. With the increased availability of data, healthcare technology is evolving faster than ever before.

What does all this technological progress really mean for our future medical visits – especially if today’s run-of-the-mill patient faces the same journey that he/she may have experienced many years ago? 

In August 2012, Kaiser Permanente released this video to help consumers think about what the healthcare experience might look like in the not-so-distant future.

Watching the video you’ll notice several technologies that would dramatically revolutionize the way we, as patients and family members, are treated. Almost all of these technologies are readily available in several other industries which already address the omni-channel consumer. Take retail, which has few regulations, or finance, where the payoff might be quicker, larger, and more obvious.

But shouldn’t an industry as impactful as healthcare be ahead of the curve, or at least keep pace with others?

The truth is that there are incredible technologies already available and in use or a testing phase at some of the world’s top institutions: from artificial intelligence, to patient-provider and provider-provider communication platforms, to wearable technologies. But perhaps this quote from a health plan EVP/COO interviewed for the IBM Center for Applied Insights’ study on sustainable healthcare best explains the many obstacles to adoption:

“Technology is only 15% of the effort. Organizational capabilities and culture is 60%, and the remaining is process and techniques.”

Though not a silver-bullet, cognitive systems and cloud computing will undoubtedly help advance personalized medicine and make individualized treatments mainstream. IBM researchers have even highlighted the future of DNA testing and personalized treatment options in this year’s IBM 5 in 5, but these again will only be 15% of that effort.

Technological change through cultural change – the 60%

One aspect of healthcare delivery that will revolutionize the industry over the next few years is the value-based care model. This will, of course, create substantial technological ripple effects on the consumer-focused patient journey. Personalized data will not only redefine the delivery of care, but moreover how it is measured and valued for payers, providers, and patients alike. As we move away from a pay-for-service model and toward a more mature model that places the emphasis on cost, quality, and outcomes – the delivery of care will evolve simultaneously.

IBM has conducted insightful research on the econometric model that calculates the anticipated value of IT investments in patient-centered care. There is a continued need for similar research in order to erode the undercurrent of skepticism around the ROI of healthcare IT adoption. As a payer/provider, it will become ever more important to understand how to integrate and adjust ahead of the curve, technologically and culturally. And as a patient, it is time to take control of your data, the value of your healthcare, and the intricate connections between the two.

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