From autonomous cars, to swarms of drones at the Super Bowl, to ever more powerful wearables – there is no shortage of tech innovation happening in 2017. In terms of health tech, there are breakthroughs happening across a wide range of disease categories including sleep deprivation, Parkinson’s, fitness tracking, and glucose monitoring to name a few.
Connecting the dots across several healthcare trends, the thread that ties together these disparate tech innovations turns out to be a growing recognition that big data alone does not necessarily enhance patient outcomes. Instead, health tech is transforming the patient experience itself. This transformation is impacting the “5Ps” of healthcare stakeholders as Patients, Physicians, Professional Healthcare Administrators, Payers, and Policy Makers all must grapple with an increasingly powerful health tech revolution.
1). AI In Healthcare
At HIMSS17, we saw the introduction of several AI skills for Amazon Alexa, but in reality this is just the very beginning of the beginning in terms of how these types of voice-assisted agents will help both patients and providers navigate an increasingly complex healthcare environment. Overall, perhaps the most powerful trend to consider is the “plug and play” nature of these AI applications, meaning that once an application is written, it can be delivered via the cloud to a range of devices. Updates can also be sent out automatically; much like Tesla has been sending overnight software updates to its cars in recent years, AI healthbots will continually grow smarter and more effective over time, providing patients increasingly personalized and contextualized information and guidance.
2). The Internet of Really Smart Things
The Internet of Things continues to gain a great deal of publicity, but we are just starting to see a tipping point in terms of real-world applications. Ultimately, the power of IoT will be built on the ability to seamlessly mesh AI routines to everyday objects. Thermometers and other monitoring devices that send patient data directly to EHR records, pill bottles that routinely track patient compliance, smartphones that can detect depression based on text messaging behavior, exercise equipment and clothing that automatically tracks and records a myriad of workout statistics and vital signs – these are just a handful of IoT devices and applications that are starting to transform a disjointed patient healthcare experience into an integrated anywhere health environment in which patient data is seamlessly leveraged for optimizing prevention, detection, and delivery.
3). Healthcare in the Palm of Your Hand
For the last several years, teams around the world have been competing in the Qualcomm Tricorder X-Prize, attempting to essentially recreate the handheld medical device used by Bones in Star Trek.
Later this year, the X-Prize winner will be announced, showcasing a device that will literally be a handheld diagnostics lab. According to the X-Prize site, “The winning team will develop a Tricorder device that will accurately diagnose 13 health conditions (12 diseases and the absence of conditions) and capture five real-time health vital signs, independent of a health care worker or facility, and in a way that provides a compelling consumer experience.” The competition is now down to two teams, one from Taiwan and the other from the United States.
Dynamical Biomarkers Group’s tricorder prototype
DxtER, Final Frontier Medical Devices’ tricorder prototype
4). Home Health Gets an Upgrade
As technology costs continue to decline and tricorder type devices become widespread, the intersection of AI and IoT will increasingly start to flow into our homes. Driven by ease of use and economic pressures, this in-home health tech transformation will allow baby boomers to age in place, help parents take care of their children, and provide new levels of care and services for patients with chronic conditions. At the same time, physicians, payers, providers and policy makers will need to address the impact that these in home technologies have in terms of patient privacy, reimbursement, public health outcomes, and cost containment.
5). Personalized Genomics
Over the last few years, the genomics company 23andMe has garnered a great deal of press for their $199 personalized gene sequencing service. “The cells in your body have 23 pairs of chromosomes. Your chromosomes are made of DNA, which can tell you a lot about you. Explore your 23 pairs today.”
Now several other companies are also entering the personalized sequencing space, including Genos, a startup company based in San Francisco. According to Wired Magazine, “Genos is telling its customers to ask not what your data can do for you, but what your data can do for science. In a first for the personal genomics movement, the company is creating a research pipeline with academic and commercial partners, and paying customers to donate their data. The incentives range between $50 and $200 per project.” This concept of allowing patients to be paid for sharing their genomic data to various studies could prove to be very powerful.
Exactly how this nascent sequencing market evolves remains to be seen, but one thing we know for sure is that prices will continue to decline, soon hitting a price point that triggers widespread and routine genomic sequencing. Ultimately, patients will be armed with incredible insights into the very foundation of their health and wellness.
So What’s Next?
While it may seem as if there’s been an endless hype cycle about wearables and health tech over the last few years, the rapid maturation of AI, IoT, portable diagnostics, home health tech and personalized genomics are now combining to create a true tipping point that is transforming the patient experience. This new patient experience that is rapidly coming into focus will be defined by personalized data and genomics that are effortlessly collected in a real-time cycle of monitoring and feedback, and linked to the very best AI and diagnostics. Instead of episodic bursts of treatment, healthcare will increasingly be delivered as an ongoing service, with a large percentage of that experience happening at home rather than in a formal healthcare setting. Obviously, there are countless issues that will need to be addressed as this new model takes shape, but given the pace of innovation now occurring in the health tech space it is clear that Patients, Physicians, Professional Healthcare Administrators, Payers, and Policy Makers will all need to adapt to this transformation of the patient experience.
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