MHE: What are some of the new/innovative technologies that healthcare executives should have on their radar?
Linkous: Automation and artificial intelligence potentially represent the greatest transformation in healthcare services. Robotics and computer-assisted decision making have actually been used in many clinical environments for over a decade in critical care, lab testing, and imaging. Computer diagnostics are already being used to read EKGs, automating Pap smear analysis, and providing decision support in the ICU. Robotics are allowing surgeons to perform minimally invasive surgery and do grand rounds from their home.
The growth of downloadable digital apps for providers and patients combined with artificial intelligence is exploding the possibilities of moving the doctor’s office to the home. Testing is already underway for handheld devices that will monitor and diagnose over a dozen healthcare conditions independent of a healthcare worker or facility. In the clinical environment, robotics and artificial intelligence have improved quality metrics, especially for complex diagnoses and procedures.
Plus, such innovations are allowing clinical staff from one facility to see and treat patients in other locations, thus opening up the possibility of shared staffing on regional or even national levels. In some instances, such technologies could reduce the need for additional specialty services.
MHE: What are some specific technologies having the greatest impact on managing chronic conditions?
Linkous: Home lab testing and intelligent apps are starting to revolutionize the management of chronic care. Home lab testing allow consumers convenience, privacy, and control by using technology to provide results for a wide variety of conditions from high cholesterol to STDs. The availability of low-cost, almost instant lab tests allows a consumer to not only get the results right away but also use computer analytics to interpret the results and receive recommendations for actions to take as a result of the test.
Intelligent apps for wireless devices take this a step further, allowing patients with chronic conditions to monitor their vital signs anywhere they are located. This explodes the concept of “home care” to “anywhere care,” allowing many patients who are restricted on travel to be almost anywhere and still be able to send in notifications, send in vital signs, and talk to a provider.
For example, a device could pick up elevated blood pressure or glucose and alert the provider before the patient has to be sent to a hospital. Some estimates predict 500 million patients will be using mobile health apps. There are over 150,000 health-related apps which run on one or another of the two main smartphone operating systems, Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. PwC, a consulting firm, forecasts that by 2017 such apps will have been downloaded 1.7 billion times.