Health Tech Must Keep Pace With the Science That Drives It

The industry is pulled between red-hot hype and lukewarm implementation. Are we ready to bridge the gap?

The Healthcare Analytics News team just finished recording its first Peer Exchange (of many), and my mind is still aflutter with the momentous ideas of our all-star panel. I’m trying to make sense of the wealth of insights that burst forth during the filming, and I’m left with a lingering notion: Healthcare moves faster every day, but challenges remain, and they’re preventing us from keeping pace with our own advancements.

Or are these challenges opportunities? Well, that depends on who you ask.

In one of my favorite segments of the talk (footage will roll out in early August, so keep an eye on iDigitalhealth.com), moderator and HCA News editorial advisory board member Kevin Campbell, MD, a Duke University-trained cardiologist and firm believer in health IT, dismissed the hype surrounding lofty, conjectural tech panaceas for healthcare woes. No matter how advanced tech becomes, it will not replace the physician-patient relationship, he argued.

Fellow panelist and rheumatologist Geeta Nayyar, MD, MBA, echoed that statement. Patients can connect with and place trust in a human physician, she said, and that matters. It’s difficult to do the same with a machine.

But John Nosta, fiery as ever and true to his self-proclaimed “tech iconoclast” branding, wasn’t having it. As the pace of healthcare accelerates to near light speed, he argued, it’s unrealistic to expect humans to keep up. There are “8,000 oncology publications a day. 8,000 a day!” Nosta said. “I want the computer. I want the computer to augment my physician’s input.”

His assertion begged a question from Nayyer. “John, how many kids do you have?” she asked.

“Three,” Nosta said.

“Three kids. Would you like them to be delivered by [IBM's] Watson?”

“No. Not Watson. But maybe Watson 3.0,” he said.

Here, Nosta is thinking about the promise of health tech, not its pitfalls. And why shouldn’t he? The fact remains that both our collective human brainpower and our finest technological advancements have fallen short of the task when it comes to untangling the hordes of data that could be making—or helping clinicians make­­—better decisions. And as time marches on, our brains are unlikely to muster some previously unknown power to process big data. But as Nosta alluded, with the right investments and follow-through, tech could make it happen.

Surely we can agree that the tools of health tech are promising, but our response to them has been tedious. We still don’t know if mHealth is effective, for example, because of our failure to sufficiently study it. Nurses have told Healthcare Analytics News™ that the “art of nursing” is being pushed farther and farther from the bedside thanks to tech. Complaints about electronic medical records are almost passé.

There’s hope, though. If medicine is changing faster than ever and continues on that trend of exponential growth, then the advancements of the last 20 years might seem like a snail’s pace compared with the advancements of the next 20. And the advancements of the 20 after that? And then another 20, and another, and another 20 still? Well, that places us in the year 2118—another hundred years. It might seem unrealistic today, but with the right advancements, many of us alive now could still be around by then. Here’s another prediction, but not as bold this time: In 2118, the clinic will look very, very different.

Mark Reid, MD, an academic hospitalist with more than 20 years of experience (who tweets often about the value of the physician-patient relationship and how to adapt to the breakneck pace of the medical world) provides some keen insight into just how quickly medicine has developed in the past few decades in a recent series of tweets.

Remember hand writing admission orders?

— Mark Reid, MD (@medicalaxioms) July 11, 2018

Remember IV heparin and PO warfarin for a new DVT?

— Mark Reid, MD (@medicalaxioms) July 11, 2018

Remember digoxin loading for rapid atrial fibrillation?

— Mark Reid, MD (@medicalaxioms) July 11, 2018

It feels good to know that medicine is self-correcting and pivots in response to new information. But some responses to Reid’s tweets from fellow clinicians unveiled a critical weakness that’s been precluding healthcare from reaching its full potential: The practices of yore for some hospitals are the practices du jour for others.

In my hospital we still do it 🙈 #The90sAreCalling

— Wilma (@ERNurseWilma) July 12, 2018

Okay, wait. My old hospital still does this. What’s the current EBP?

— Nurse Needs Coffee (@NrsNeedsCoffee) July 12, 2018

I did this today

— Kris (@k_d85) July 11, 2018

While variables like location, funding, leadership, reputation, patient demographics, and more might always play into a hospital’s ability to keep up with the Joneses, a lack of information sharing from “have” hospitals to “have-not” hospitals is inexcusable and benefits no one.

Even if the haves were sharing data with the have-nots, would they have the data-refining tech to draw meaning from it? It all comes back to the question: Can healthcare keep pace with the science that drives it?

Well, I suppose that it all depends on how much we’re willing to invest and place our trust in the tools of health tech.

>>> Get the best insights in healthcare analytics directly to your inbox.

The first Healthcare Analytics News™ Peer Exchange, titled “Can Outside Disruption Save Healthcare?” will be available for viewing in early August. In the meantime, take a minute to get to know our panel.

Kevin Campbell, MD, FACC, is a Duke-trained cardiologist, CEO of PaceMate, an on-air medical expert for local and national TV news, and a member of our editorial advisory board.

Colin Hung, BaSC, is chief marketing officer and editor of HealthcareScene.com and founder and host of the Healthcare Leadership online community, better known as HCLDR.

John Nosta is president and founder of NostaLab, faculty member of Singularity University, member of the Google Health Advisory Board, a member of MYOS Corporation’s board of directors, senior editor and editorial board member for Lifestyle Medicine Journal, and a contributor for Forbes.

Geeta Nayyar, MD, MBA, is is a nationally recognized leader in healthcare information technology. She has been named one of the "Top 26 smartest people in Health IT" by Becker's Report. She is a noted social media expert and blogger for the Huffington Post. Med City News recognized her as one of the "Top 12 Powerful Women Voices in Healthcare Innovation and on Twitter." She is the former CMIO for AT&T and served on the HIMSS Board of Directors. Dr. Nayyar currently serves as the Chief Healthcare & Innovation Officer for Femwell Group Health, Inc., one of the largest management services organizations in the state of Florida. She is a Rheumatologist and serves on the medical school faculty at both Florida International University and George Washington University.

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, MA, MHSA, is a health economist and advisor for THINK-Health, blogger for Health Populi, contributor for the Huffington Post, and a member of several healthcare company advisory boards.

Related

Record-Breaking $3.4B Fuels Digital Health in First Half of 2018

Big Names Put Big Money Behind VR Surgery Start-Up

With $1B Purchase of PillPack, Amazon Fulfills Its Pharmacy Destiny