Until very recently, healthcare was behind the curve on technology adoption and innovation. Other industries — from banking to retail to transportation — have seen the tech-enabled disruption of products, services, and entire business models, while healthcare has been notoriously slow to embrace the digital era.
That is beginning to change. Rapid advancements in health technology in recent years are ushering in a new golden age for the industry, re-inventing everything from the way we track public health threats to the way doctors communicate with patients. Treatments that once seemed impossible are quickly becoming standard, thanks to the intersection of data and technology. From artificial intelligence solutions that can predict who is at risk for certain diseases, to the use of virtual reality to treat pain, innovation abounds. We are seemingly only limited by our imaginations.
Out with the old?
However, the relentless focus on innovation overlooks a key issue: that many healthcare organizations are struggling with implementation of technologies that already exist. Health systems everywhere see the value in the latest digital health solutions, but they face challenges adopting these solutions and integrating them into their existing systems and workflows. We have amazing capabilities in areas like remote monitoring, digital therapeutics, and data analysis, but the reality is that many organizations are still working to fully digitize their health records, a process that began in earnest in the 1990s and continues to this day.
Innovation has outpaced implementation. Before we can realize the full promise of data and technology in healthcare, we need to acknowledge the implementation gap. Right now, healthcare is investing more heavily in discovery than introduction. It’s certainly understandable, given the exciting emerging technologies coming to market every day. However, ultimately healthcare is about the patient, and whether clinicians have what they need to provide the best possible care. In that sense, we would be better served to invest in helping providers and health systems make smart, pragmatic choices about their technology investments, and support them in addressing their implementation challenges.
Intentions are important
This isn’t to suggest that innovation should stop. We can and should continue pushing the boundaries of what’s next in health — but we should be thoughtful about how we do it. Prudent discovery that puts the patient and clinician first can ease implementation challenges down the road. Would-be innovators need to ask themselves: “Why are we doing this? Why does the patient or clinician need this solution? How will the patient access their care? Where will the patient access their records?” By getting back to the fundamentals and asking these questions first, we can help ensure we are developing technology for patient-focused results.
It’s an incredibly exciting time to be working in healthcare. The ever-expanding potential of digital health tools enables all of us to live healthier, happier lives. As healthcare organizations continue seeking ways to integrate emerging technologies into their existing systems, technology providers have an opportunity to harness the power of data and technology for our shared goal — connecting patients to better health.