SHOWCASE FEATURE: Patient Solutions: Patients Are No Longer Patient for Solutions

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Taren Grom, Editor

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Over the past few years, the term patient-centric has been used so frequently that it almost has no meaning. But despite the centricity over the concept, the strategy of putting patients squarely in the middle of what the industry is doing and where it needs to go is sound. In parallel, the concept of patient engagement is also a topic that has been explored in depth over the past few years, from engaging patients in clinical trials to engaging patients so they take their approved medicines to how these medicines are being paid for.

Experts say patient engagement is of interest to all of the stakeholders in the healthcare industry — physicians, healthcare professionals, providers, payers, technologists, planners, and even the government. Furthermore, getting patients to engage in their healthcare process vis-a-vis technology is a crucial task that can be accomplished by new and emerging tools and services. Patient engagement technology — hardware, software, and services — enable patients and their caregivers to be involved in their self-care. Engaging patients in their self-care significantly increases understanding of their health conditions and allows patients to make informed healthcare related decisions. These technologies encourage patients to moderate their behavior in alignment with their agreed care plan and motivate self-care behavior. Implementation of patient engagement technologies allows organizations to quickly and securely share accurate time sensitive data with all the participants in the healthcare process regardless of their role., an industry consultancy and data aggregator, has found that factors such as legislative reforms of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the U.S., demand for improved quality of care, the Meaningful Use (MU) program of federal government’s Office of the National Coordinator’s (ONC), increasing awareness of mobile health (mHealth), enhanced worker productivity, rising aging population, and incentives by various governments for the adoption of patient engagement technology are driving the growth of the market.

Technology  Trends

As the industry looks to leverage technology to increase access to information and drive better patient outcomes it is facing the enormous challenges of privacy and security that are perhaps more worrisome in healthcare than in any other industry. The experts at Hewlett Packard have identified several technology trends that are transforming every aspect of the way patients live.

1. Smartphones, apps, and wearables are empowering patients, doctors, and caregivers.

In today’s health-conscious world, it’s hard to miss the ubiquitous Fitbit and other personal monitoring tools that help people track fitness activities, sleep patterns, blood pressure and caloric intake. But these tools are just the beginning. Increasingly sophisticated apps and nanotechnology will not only empower individuals to track their own health, they will also deliver troves of actionable data to the medical community. The next step will be integrating all of that data into our healthcare system to help anticipate and prevent broader health issues.

2. Big data will uncover patterns, problems, and opportunities in healthcare.

Harnessing health data allows doctors and researchers to improve collaboration, better understand illnesses, and more effectively allocate resources to get the right treatments to the right patients at the right time. It can also help identify diseases and outbreaks, helping to minimize — and even eliminate — pandemics. But capturing all of that data is not enough. To be truly useful, it must also be easily accessible, which is where the cloud comes in.

3. Cloud computing will unlock the valuable insights that live in healthcare data.

For researchers, cloud technology will make massive amounts of healthcare data easy to access and analyze, facilitating innovation and rapid response to warning signals. For doctors and patients, transitioning medical records from paper to digital and then moving them to the cloud, will improve the everyday needs of the medical community — streamlining billing, giving patients access to their information, and providing doctors with a more complete picture of a patient’s medical history.

4. Security risks must be taken seriously.

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, 44% of all registered data breaches in 2013 targeted medical companies. Cyber criminals can target healthcare companies just like they do retailers, with theft of patients’ identities, payment information, and even data from medical monitoring devices.
With so much personal health information going into the cloud, there is the need for technology — and the commitment — to properly protect it.

5. Computing power and energy efficiency will be star players behind the scenes of healthcare.

By 2020, 30 billion connected devices will generate unprecedented amounts of data, and the world’s data centers will consume up to 30% of the world’s electricity to support them. Simply put, the current course is not sustainable. A more tangible example of computing power in healthcare can be seen in artificial limbs. Icelandic company, Össur, has created the world’s first micro-processor joint system that continuously adapts to the user and the environment.

6. 3D printing will spur a new wave of growth and innovation in healthcare.

As 3D printing technology advances, its medical uses are becoming increasingly clear. It will revolutionize the manufacturing of medical devices and surgical tools — personalized prosthetic limbs and other body parts, precision drug dispensing, fluidics modeling — the possibilities continue.

7. Telemedicine will expand healthcare into our homes and beyond.

Telehealth, which allows patients to connect with doctors using mobile devices and video chat, is gaining traction as a cost-effective way for patients to receive care and will completely change the view of the traditional doctor’s visit. As telehealth becomes more widespread, doctor-patient interactions will become more frequent and expand not just into homes but into remote areas of the world.

8. Global health will improve with the expansion of technology to developing countries.

Nowhere are these emerging technologies felt more profoundly than in developing countries, where medical attention is often delivered by volunteers with limited training. In sections of rural India, for example, HP is helping deliver radically improved healthcare by transforming shipping containers into cloud-enabled, mobile eHealth Centers. The goal is to use these developments to offer care to nearly everyone, no matter where they live.

9. Technology will help us understand the brain.

Technology is not only saving lives, it’s opening up new frontiers that were previously unimaginable. In 2012, MIT researchers Xu Liu and Steve Ramirez found a way to implant memories into a brain, which has enormous consequences for mental health. And, a company called Emotiv has found a way to translate thoughts into action through neuro-headsets. These discoveries and cutting-edge tools will allow us to access brain information in noninvasive ways, opening up new spectrums of science and human understanding.

10. Innovation will unlock business opportunities.

With all of these technological advances before us, it’s time for bold ideas. In some cases, existing regulations will need to evolve to allow for the coming innovation. But the possibilities represent an enormous business opportunity.

Those companies that can use technology to unlock solutions and provide better, lower-cost care to more people will thrive in this new world. (PV)

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