Will Connected Health Save the Healthcare Industry?
“I have often said that the future of healthcare is dependent on providers’ ability to live up to three major commitments: care must be high quality, care must be accessible, and care must be affordable. Connected care is all three and technology is helping us get there.” – Bernard J. Tyson , President and Chief Operating Officer of Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Health Plan, Inc.
If you traveled back in time several centuries, you would find little change in the treatment of sick and diseased individuals in society until the mid-19th century when hospitals were developed, beginning the organization of healthcare. Scientific medicine emerged after that and drove 20th century medical advances. After World War II, major social and political structures evolved in the healthcare field and, from around 1980 to now, much of the change in healthcare evolved from a clinically driven system to an economically driven system.
We are currently facing the next evolutionary change in healthcare and living through one of the most dynamic ages in the history of medicine. Through technology advancements, drug discoveries, and new medical device inventions, as well as the ability to communicate worldwide and deliver medical care in all different settings, our generation will witness more change in healthcare within the next few years than all the generations that have come before us.
The medical device ecosystem is changing dramatically from stand-alone “device + patient + physician” in the clinical environment to include access and mobility outside the four walls of the hospital. Every medical device manufacturer should consider developing a strategy around how mobile connected health will affect their business models and how they will play in the evolution of the market. Major disruptions are occurring in the market with new players/alliances and new business models. Consumer devices are entering the medical ecosystem with platforms such as tablets/smart phones running mobile applications and acting as new secondary mobile interfaces to the medical device.
However, we face huge challenges today with the number of uninsured people growing and the cost to deliver medical care already too high and rising rapidly. The U.S. spends more on healthcare than any other nation—$9,000 per person in 2012 . There is a tremendous amount of waste in the U.S. healthcare system along with a growing chronic disease state, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and others. Connected Health is a recent concept that some think will drive the next medical ecosystem in the 21stcentury.
Why Connected Health
There are different interpretations of what the term connected health means. Some think it just pertains to electronic medical records (EMR) while others think of remote patient monitoring and engaging in telemedicine in rural settings. Remote monitoring is bringing the overworked healthcare provider and patient together, so it is no surprise that remote health monitoring  is gaining momentum across the healthcare value chain. Across many industries and applications, information technology has proven its ability to deliver increased performance at lower costs. So the potential benefits of remote monitoring are being touted in the press and forecasted to grow rapidly. A broader definition could be summed up as the individual tied together with caregivers, payers, and clinicians in a participatory healthcare model in which appropriate medical treatment is always available wherever they are to remain healthy.
Connected Health Benefits
Connected Health enables caregivers to make more informed decisions for an enhanced quality of care and better management of diseases. It reduces medical errors and improves administration efficiency and coordination. As patients continue taking more responsibility for their health, when a patient and physician connect by cell phone or Internet, patient motivation increases and therapy outcome improves. Doctors and medical staff are able to diagnose and treat rural residents from medical facilities far away from them and communicate messages via cell phone, text, or Internet to their patients. For example, Adhere Tech  already has a smart pill bottle that uses cell phone technology with sensor devices that send a reminder message via a call, text, or email when you miss taking your pill and keeps reminding you until you comply. This heightened communication frequency between caregiver and patient enhances patient wellness and supports real-time treatment with the opportunity to intervene much earlier when the data seems to indicate poor response to a course of treatment.
It is clear that major efforts will be required to drop medical costs and improve the quality of healthcare in the U.S. According to a report by Research2Guidance , more than 3.4 billion people will have smartphones or tablets with access to mobile health apps and 50 percent of them will have downloaded health apps. The advances in mobile technology and the growing connected health movement are opening up new ways to create more efficient, timely, and convenient medical care that, hopefully, will make a real impact on saving the healthcare system.
How will your current device roadmaps change with the advent of consumer platforms (smartphones, tablets, home gateways) and cloud diagnostics?