April 4, 2014By Lance Baily

Road Blocks to Technology Transformation in Healthcare

As a simulation champion reading this website, I consider you an early-adopter. Countless presentations at medical simulation conferences over the past ten years have reminded us that we are “pioneers”, “innovators” and “early-adopters” who must face a brunt of scorn and dismissal from the early-majority and late majority groups. While medical simulation is a large component of the revolution of medical education technology, the methodology is but a small component of transformative technologies within healthcare in general. I therefore believe as medical simulation champions we must contextualize and compare ourselves to other sectors of healthcare that are being transformed by new technologies in an attempt to reduce friction and increase adoption.

Cyracom provides us with some statistics from Health IT since 2012:

  • The collection of data at the bedside has increased from 30% to 45%.
  • Remote monitoring of data from medical devices has increase from 27% to 34%.
  • Allowing patients to access their own electronic medical records on a mobile device has increased from 32% to 36%.
  • 52% of us now gather health information on our smart phones.
  • 70% of the “most wired” hospitals in the U.S. now provide Telehealth.
  • Smartphones are #9 on the Health Tech Hazards list due to texting during surgery.

The Most Common Types of mHealth APPs Are:

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  • Exercise, fitness, pedometer or heart rate monitor
  • Diet, food, calorie counters
  • Weight
  • Blood pressure
  • WebMD
  • Blood sugar
  • Medication management

Top Areas for Future Growth in the TeleHealth Market Include:

  • Home-based care and disease management
  • Remote physician or specialist services
  • Personal emergency response systems
  • Video diagnostic consultations
  • Remote cardiac services

Some of the Predictions for the Future with Health Care Technology Are:

  • 3 million people area expected to be using smartphone powered remote patient monitoring devices by 2016.
  • 44 million mobile health apps will be downloaded this year – 142 million will be downloaded in 2016.
  • The TeleHealth market will grow from the $7 million dollars spent in 2012 to $16 billion in 2016.

While progress continues, how are we on the big picture scale? From the recent 17th annual PwC (PriceWaterHouseCoopers) survey of Global Healthcare CEOs the most interesting take away of “Key Findings in the Healthcare Industry” was that 86% of healthcare CEOs believe technological advances will transform their businesses in the next five years. And they’re far more conscious than other CEOs of the huge role demographics will play – 84% see it as a transformative trend, compared to just 60% across the sample.” The research results continue explaining that “Technology is already having a far-reaching impact on healthcare delivery and CEOs are already planning ways to take advantage of this trend: 89% plan to improve their ability to innovate; 93% plan to change their technology investments; and 95% are exploring better ways of using and managing big data. But there’s a big gap between where healthcare CEOs are now, and where they want to be. Only 25% have already started or completed changes to make their companies more innovative; merely 33% have altered their technology investments, and just 36% have made any headway in getting to grips with big data.” Read the full PwC Global Healthcare CEO Survey here.

Here we can see that the future is known to Healthcare providers, but one telling fact behind the low adoption is that “57% of these Healthcare CEOs worry about the speed of technological change”. Seeing as technology refresh cycles make my six-year old laptop obsolete I think this is a fair reason to be concerned. Heavy capital investments into hardware are out-of-date the day they are installed, which I believe will cause healthcare organizations to reassess budget structures to include more technical staff for preventative maintenance fixes as well as increased line items for annual refresh cycles of departmentalized aging infrastructure. (Note: if you don’t know about how technology refresh cycles work for swapping out technology sectionally, visit HealthySimAdmin.com as the topic was discussed in those videos a great deal!).

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The other component of friction to technology adoption is more human. From a US News report “How Technology is Transforming Healthcare” writer Eric Topol explains:

“The gridlock of the medical community, government and the life science industry will not facilitate change or a willingness to embrace and adopt innovation. The U.S. government has been preoccupied with health care “reform,” but this refers to improving access and insurance coverage and has little or nothing to do with innovation. Medicine is currently set up to be maximally imprecise. Private practice physicians render “by the yard” and are rewarded for doing more procedures. Medical care is largely shaped by guidelines, indexed to a population rather than an individual. And the evidence from clinical research is derived from populations that do not translate to the real world of persons. The life science industry has no motivation to design drugs or devices that are only effective, however strikingly, for a small, well-defined population segment. At the same time, the regulatory agencies are entirely risk-averse and, as a result, are suppressing remarkably innovative, and even frugal, opportunities to change medicine. The end result is that most of our screening tests and treatments are overused and applied to the wrong individuals, promoting vast waste. And virtually nothing is being done to accelerate true prevention of disease.”

He then concludes with by calling for “A revolution in technology that is based on the primacy of individuals mandates a revolution by consumers in order for new medicine to take hold. We desperately need medicine to be Schumpetered, to be radically transformed. We need the digital world to invade the medical cocoon and to exploit the newfound and exciting technological capabilities of digitizing human beings.”

I believe the medical cocoon will be broken open by continued improvements within technology, which is why I urge those within the medical simulation champion community to explore how technology is disruptive to healthcare in general. This is an effort to better connect with a larger discussion on the topic, which hopefully will make our lives easier and more fulfilling! Best place to start? Singularity’s University for Exponential Medicine would be my recommendation… more on that soon!


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