At last month’s annual Society for Healthcare Strategy & Marketing Development (SHSMD) conference in Chicago, the role that technology is playing in delivering and managing healthcare was a hotly discussed topic. Healthcare technology is being used by physicians, hospitals, emergency transportation, health plans and care facilities to:
- Improve health outcomes
- Support better patient compliance
- Improve access to care
- Improve the safety and wellbeing of seniors
Here are highlights of some of the new technologies and how they are being applied to improve healthcare.
Improving Health Outcomes: Apps & Wearables
Apps and wearables are two key technologies focused on improving consumer health. One in five Americans uses a wearable device; three out of four say they would be willing to use one if recommended by a provider. Here are two examples:
Aetna is teaming up with Apple. The health insurer, which covers about 23 million in the U.S., will subsidize the Apple watch for Aetna members. The insurer is developing apps for the mobile device that will help users monitor their health, remind them to take medicines or enable them to contact a doctor.
Kardia Mobile from AliveCor
Kardia Mobile from AliveCor allows a heart patient to capture single-lead EKGs anywhere, anytime. In 30 seconds, it records a medical-grade EKG, which can be relayed to a doctor for analysis and diagnosis. Kardia Mobile easily attaches to most smartphones, making it convenient to always have with you.
Patient Compliance: Transportation
Transportation has always been an issue in healthcare, especially for the elderly. Missed doctor visits and treatments can lead to complications, more visits and higher costs. Mercy Health System in Philadelphia is conducting a pilot program with Uber. The program uses a patient-centered portal that has access to patient health records. This allows hospital transport coordinators to schedule and manage on-demand rides from one place. The portal brings patient information into the transportation dashboard, including whether the patient needs a wheelchair-accessible vehicle or other accommodations. The portal is HIPAA-compliant and patients don’t need a new app or device for the service. They also have the option to receive ride update alerts through email, phone or text. After a coordinator knows a patient is on the way, the coordinator can start the check-in process, minimize wait times and, ultimately, create a better experience for everyone involved.
Access to Care: Virtual Health & Ambulance Drones
Telemedicine, or virtual health, is here to stay; it is evolving quickly as a new delivery channel to provide on-demand primary and urgent care medicine to consumers at any time, in any location. It is estimated that seven million patients will use telemedicine programs by 2018. These programs reduce costs and deliver care to patients with ongoing chronic condition needs or those who have been medically underserved. Numerous large employers are also considering connecting with telemedicine providers to reduce absenteeism and improve the health of their employees. 80% of employers predict they will offer telemedicine to employees by 2018.
In cases of emergency, sometimes telemedicine doesn’t cut it. That’s why companies like Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands have come up with innovative ways to get patients access to care, faster. Delft has developed an ambulance drone that will dramatically increase the survival rate for heart attack victims. It works by incorporating a two-way, video-supported communication channel in the drone that facilitates communication between the operators and the first responders. Personalized instructions and communication on the ambulance drone can increase survival to 90%. In short, the ambulance drone helps to save lives by extending existing emergency infrastructure.
Improving Seniors’ Mental Health: Virtual Reality
When you think about senior healthcare, there is no doubt that physical health takes center stage. But mental health needs to enter public discussion forums and take precedence within providers’ care plans. Seniors account for 20 percent of all suicides in the U.S., while depression affects nearly 15 percent of the elderly population. To address senior depression, Panasonic has teamed up with Stanford University engineering students to conduct a seven-week study; they’re creating outdoor virtual-reality experiences for seniors who are confined to their homes due to physical, mental or weather conditions. The project lets seniors experience the virtual outdoors through a technology called SUSIE: Senior-User Soothing Immersive Experience. Changes in temperature, wind, sound and light are synchronized with large-screen projections of simulated walks and bike rides through forests, beaches, nature reserves, suburban parks and other pleasing environments. We expect to see more initiatives like this for homebound patients.
Improving Senior Safety: Remote Care
There are undeniable risks associated with aging. As seniors get older, they may not be able to complete the tasks that were once routine. This presents concerns for senior safety, especially for those that want to remain within their homes.
Right at Home*, a leading in-home care company for seniors, and Philips are working together to offer a flexible and affordable blend of in-home and remote care options to proactively help seniors with cognitive and/or physical frailties who want to age in place safely. The Philips CareSensus platform consists of connected, discrete, non-camera-based passive sensors placed strategically in the home to provide 24/7 monitoring of seniors. The data from the connected sensors is processed to identify unusual patterns of activities, enabling a personalized blueprint of behavior, and delivering timely data to the Right at Home remote care team. If the caregiver notices unusual activity, it might be an early indicator that something may be wrong and medical attention may be needed.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of the newest technologies designed to improve communications between consumers and their providers. Some are catching on quickly and others will take time for consumers to adjust to this new paradigm where healthcare technology fills the role of people. It is an exciting time to be a part of the health care industry and witness such incredible changes.
*Right at Home is a re:group client.