Improved Patient Outcomes Largely a Result of Better IT, Collaboration, and Human-Centered Design

Advances in medical tech, devices, pharmaceuticals, disease diagnosis and prevention, imaging, and quality care are either incremental and obscure or awesome and sea change. That’s not bad; it’s just the way things happen. But it does put a spin on how to more consistently and reliably improve not just the experiences, but the patient outcomes, too.
Case in point: San Ramon, California released an iPhone app that alerts CPR-trained residents to nearby emergencies.

In those critical minutes before the ambulance arrives, someone’s been pounding on your chest and is likely aided by a geo-located defibrillator. This isn’t about a new device, new delivery method, or pills, yet it will dramatically improve survival rates of hundreds of thousands who experience cardiac arrest each year outside of a hospital.

Great example, particularly in light of a Parks Associates forecast that mobile will be the key driver of a $6 billion digital healthcare market over the next four years.

And yet in the instance of San Ramon, it’s bigger than just mobile. It’s the connections here that count – and human connections count just as much as the technology. Thinking about the challenge this way opens a lot of opportunity between the lines, and early results look promising: 

  • Apps that track every bio aspect of an individual’s workout
  • Affordable consumer DNA profiling
  • Hospital beds that monitor and record a patient’s bio-data
  • T-shirts that monitor sleep patterns
  • Walking canes that monitor health
  • Nano-tattoos and “smart skin” that monitor data like blood sugar levels
  • A mobile app that diagnoses malaria
  • Disease tracking through social networks

Great ideas—and yet, there’s a paradox here: while more and more health information is being created, captured, and compiled every day through smart hospital beds, medical tests, personal electronic medical records (EMRs), and running shoes that track  physiological performance, less and less of that information is sharable across providers or devices as a means to improve outcomes.

I suppose this is more the result of a choice to go for the closed, proprietary business model in which the patient data captured from that hospital bed only interfaces with add-on monitor and nothing else. But at what benefit and what cost? Does this improve patient outcomes or place them at risk?

Can we do better and perhaps improve the bottom line simultaneously?

Like the thinkers from San Ramon, who found one answer in leveraging mobile devices and social collaboration, it means that consistently improving patient outcomes over the long haul will rely on improving IT infrastructures as a means to increase collaboration and the insight to understand the human condition, not just the patient condition.

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