By Michael Dahlweid, GM Product Management & Director Medical Informatics, Healthcare IT
In a truly connected world, ubiquitous sensors will be measuring all of our bodily functions. My fridge might be able to communicate with a wearable device on my body, understand my present body state and then open its door to present me with the most suitable drink to keep me in optimum health today. Real-time data about my health and wellbeing would reach the devices of my choosing, including, alongside household appliances, the medical staff who can act on my data before I am in danger of any health emergency.
I would know my own health risks. All information about my current state would be transparent to me and accessible at any time of the day. With that knowledge I’d be able to make sensible choices that would benefit me. I would potentially become more accountable for future wellbeing.
Healthcare would be more preventative rather than there for dealing with seriously ill people. Hospitals would not look the same or have the same services in them as they do today. It may even be that they would house only Intensive Care Units for the seriously ill as everyone else could be cared for in the community. Healthcare costs would reduce to a lower level than it is presently in most nations globally.
Current healthcare is very different from a fully connected world. Many healthcare providers managing networks of health facilities for large populations often have no access to real-time information about the big issues lurking in their communities. The issue is sometimes being handled from a national level, regional level or not at all. They are at risk of being caught out by a huge problem that could hit their staff at any time. Healthcare delivery in most places already suffers from being unsustainable in many current models and this problem is only getting worse in many places.
However, technology is now available to collect, interrogate, create insight and disseminate data to help our healthcare ecosystems, including both humans and machines, to act. Those healthcare providers who are already beginning to make changes by using it to monitor health and social data from their populations can expect to better manage the financial, clinical and operational implications. They are trying to move from treating individual patients when they present with a disease to identifying in advance those who are most at risk from specific diseases. More value will be derived from the healthcare system so that providers are ahead rather than reacting.
It is a tall order for these changes to happen quickly and it will take education and a vision for what would work based on a community’s circumstances. However those changes will need to happen. They cannot be avoided if viable healthcare is to survive and deliver for its growing populations.