It’s a sign of the times – Dr. Phil McGraw attended this year’s Consumer Electronics Show to pitch his new app “Doctor on Demand.” His app allows a patient with a smart phone or tablet to access a board-certified doctor or psychologist for about the cost of an office visit co-pay. DOD has 1,400 physicians and 300 psychologists in its network.
Dr. Phil is not alone. Medical technology is expanding everywhere and it can be a welcome addition or a nightmare. Which one it is depends largely on the strategic plans an organization creates to manage technology across its business model. Hospitals that develop specific, actionable and flexible technology strategies will be positioned to leverage existing and emerging technology to the benefit of their patients, healthcare staff, and the organization as a whole.
Mobile and wearable devices can assist with chronic disease management, extend service to underserved areas, assist medical staffs with diagnosis and treatment, and lead to better outcomes and efficiency. The use of electronic health records throughout the healthcare system promises the smooth transfer of records from one caregiver to another as a patient moves through treatment.
With information readily available, the analysis of “big data” is possible, providing the ability to measure results and forecast trends on a macro level. This type of analysis can guide healthcare system decisions about mergers, collaborations, and partnerships in healthcare delivery. Big data can also enable observational studies at a scale and speed that randomized controlled trials cannot match.
The new technologies, however, will require increasingly sophisticated security strategies. Earlier this year, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield had a massive breach of its information system exposing personal information of 80 million subscribers to unknown hackers. More than a PR problem, Anthem (and others who will face similar situations) must respond to security problems quickly and appropriately or risk losing their customers.
The challenge for any healthcare system is to identify its technology needs in multiple areas and design strategies that address management issues and risk. It’s worth the time it takes to create the plan to avoid frustration, duplication of efforts and wasted resources. I’m afraid that without a comprehensive, flexible plan, you’re going to need a great deal of good luck.