The Future of Healthcare and the Internet
Posted on February 22, 2013 by Adam Burnham
Guest post by John R. Patrick
In a couple of weeks I’ll be a guest speaker at the Markley Data Center Summit 2013, sharing some insights about healthcare in the Internet age. I am very excited to be attending the Markley event and I would like to take this opportunity to preview some of my thoughts about the future of healthcare and the Internet.
The dawn of the Internet age has changed healthcare forever – diagnoses can happen faster, quality and patient safety can be improved, information is more readily searchable, our healthcare providers can more effectively collaborate on our behalf, and our health records are available with the click of a mouse or a tap on our personal digital device.
Here are just a few key ways that Internet technology will be having a much larger role in healthcare:
- Patient Awareness and Home Diagnoses: The availability of information on the Internet has dramatically changed how involved patients are in their own care and diagnosis. There is always the concern that a patient may self-diagnose, self-medicate, and self-destruct, but the increased awareness of common conditions and preventative medicine can go a long way to improve everyone’s health. Smartphones have enormous potential to provide monitoring, testing and video consultations that previously required an office visit. Home healthcare telemonitoring may grow ten-fold over the next few years.
- Process Improvements: In the past, it took days for a lab to run tests, for a doctor to review the results and share information with the patient. With today’s technologies, laboratory, imaging and other tests can be recorded electronically and delivered through a patient portal immediately. In some cases, a doctor may want to deliver the results in person, but in many – if not most – cases the patient can interpret the results. After all, the data belongs to the patient, not to the doctor. Doctors and patients can get the information they need faster and patient care plans can be developed and implemented sooner. For example, there have been great advances in e-prescribing. Not only is it more accurate than the traditional scribble on a piece of paper, but the script is compared against other medications and known allergies, thereby greatly reducing medication errors.
- Mobile Devices: The mobile device explosion has enabled health information to be at patients’ fingertips, helping to extend preventive and diagnostic healthcare to the entire population in a more accessible way. At the same time, mobile technologies have made it easier for doctors and nurses to share and access information – improving their ability to see the latest industry news and advances, to share information with patients, and to provide top-notch care. Today’s smartphones are as powerful as early supercomputers and they will take on a larger role in all aspects of healthcare.
- Analytics: Business Intelligence and analytics are poised to enable new insight into the mounds of big data that are being accumulated in healthcare every day. This will lead to better, more accurate diagnoses and patient care. If Watson could defeat humans at Jeopardy, imagine what Watson will be doing to assist physicians. IBM is working closely with major healthcare providers to do just that.
- Medical Records in the Cloud: There is much to be optimistic about when it comes to electronic medical records. Currently, they’re not as easily interchangeable and accessible as they should be – but this will change over the next few years as the government adds dollar incentives to make it happen. The result will be better quality of care, better outcomes and fewer errors. Doctors will be able to quickly access the latest, most up-to-date information on any patient, from anywhere in the world. No longer is getting sick while out-of-town a threatening situation. Say goodbye to the clipboards! When you go to a specialist, he or she will actually know why you are there and everything about your recent care and diagnoses.
One crucial ingredient that all of these advances will need to succeed is a strong, secure and reliable information technology infrastructure. From hospital records to critical and private patient information, the platforms where this information is stored and accessed needs to be there, all-the-time, anytime. Life or death decisions are made using this information – which means it must always be secure, accurate and available. Healthcare cannot have downtime.
Obviously, what the Markley Group does everyday is completely consistent with the above. Technology is helping to advance healthcare beyond what anyone thought possible – but by the same token, healthcare needs strong, secure technologies to continue to successfully expand into the future.
I’m looking forward to discussing the key trends ahead and more – and learning all I can from the experts assembled at the Data Center Summit. You can register here, just like I did.
Internet visionary and author John Patrick is president of Attitude LLC and the former vice president of Internet technology at IBM. He has been recognized as a visionary by several publications, including being called “one of the industry’s most intriguing minds” by Business 2.0; Industry Week named him “one of the top 30 people who drive innovation and provide the initial spark to economic growth”; and Network World called him “one of the 25 most powerful people in networking.” John was a founding member of the World Wide Web Consortium at MIT in 1994, a founding member and past chairman of the Global Internet Project, a member of the Internet Society, a senior member of the Association for Computing Machinery and a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.