COMMENT: Why healthcare providers must do more to embrace innovation

Peter Woods, marketing and decisioning specialist at Pegasystems, explains why healthcare providers must keep their fingers on the pulse of technology innovation

One of the few things that binds us all together, no matter what our age, gender, location or lifestyle is our health.

It doesn’t matter where you are, or how healthcare is organised where you live, the fundamental need for a healthy body and mind is one that affects us all.

Too many healthcare providers are still stuck in the rut of sticking faithfully with the processes they have already taken the time to understand, instead of looking for newer ways that they can improve the way they operate

So why is it that the difficulty in providing these services in a way that is both efficient and cost effective continues to pose so many problems?

This question is particularly relevant when you consider that we live in an age when there are so many new and innovative ways that these problems can be solved.

Unfortunately, the answer is that too many healthcare providers are still stuck in the rut of sticking faithfully with the processes they have already taken the time to understand, instead of looking for newer ways that they can improve the way in which they operate. Let me give you an example. My aunt recently had to go into hospital for a minor treatment and was told that she had to stay for two more weeks of monitoring and observation after the procedure. This was largely because the hospital was still operating in a more-traditional way, and could only think in terms of physically keeping my aunt in the building to observe her.

If, however, the hospital had fully embraced innovation through technology, there’s no reason why this monitoring couldn’t have happened remotely for a fraction of the cost.

This idea of ‘personalised’ healthcare, using new remote technologies, smartphones and wearable devices as a means of more closely monitoring patients and offering them increased, more-personal care is one of the biggest trends we’re seeing at the moment.

This is no passing fad and a potentially much-more-effective cost lever then the price of care itself

It’s an approach that is already being pioneered by the likes of Philips Healthcare, and its use of remote monitoring of patients has already resulted in less-congested hospitals and doctor’s surgeries and more available hospital beds, while allowing patients to be tracked without any restrictions on their freedom of movement.

It also means that wearable devices such as smartwatches can be used to allow healthcare professionals to offer real-time care to patients when they need it most and react to events as they happen, without waiting for a patient to contact them or physically come in to a hospital to receive treatment.

Ultimately, this provides a win-win situation for all concerned. Patients feel as they are receiving a level of care that is personalised to their specific needs, while healthcare providers can manage their resources more effectively and at a much lower cost.

It’s also important for healthcare institutions to recognise that this is no passing fad – and a potentially much-more-effective cost lever then the price of care itself.

The next logical extension of this trend is that these technological advances will also begin to focus less on monitoring and reacting to specific symptoms and conditions and instead look at ways to prevent them. So, for example, if you’re going through a phase of eating too many fatty foods, under stress, or not getting enough exercise, your healthcare provider will be able to contact you to advise you if you are running the risk of illness.

The value of this ability to provide cost-effective effective, timely advice should not be underestimated.

Over the years, I have seen several initiatives from healthcare insurers to provide advice to clients.

What’s clear is that as technology becomes more readily available and is adopted by more and more healthcare providers, it can only benefit everyone

This has varied from old-fashioned offline face-to-face dietary advice to apps that allow you to measure your own health and act accordingly.

It seems to me, however, that now is the right time to take the next step forward in this evolution, by combining the remote sensoring that is available with adaptive technology that signals events in real-time.

To return to my earlier example, it would certainly allow my aunt to return home at least a week earlier while possibly alerting her carer to any problems, keeping her out of hospital. In this scenario, everyone wins. My aunt would have been delighted to return home quickly, and the costs would be much less for the whole treatment and monitoring period.

What’s clear is that as technology becomes more readily available and is adopted by more and more healthcare providers, it can only benefit everyone involved in the industry, whether you are a healthcare company or a patient.

Let’s face it – our health matters to us, and there’s never been a better time to make sure that healthcare providers are able to keep their fingers on the pulse of how technology can help them.

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