The Mobile Healthcare summit in Toronto showcases some really amazing one-off mobile use cases that have been developed. It’s hard not to deal with the reality that most healthcare centres have a burden of legacy technologies and contracts that are not going to be thrown out just because there is something shiny and new.
It’s striking how much of the success of the mobile health apps the summit talks about had nothing to do with the current buzzword around healthcare – on-demand, concierge mobile care, i.e. the Uberization of healthcare.
For the most part, the core message is that the successful projects relied on technology to reduce workload to either patients or core team members as a whole. Many of them worked because they provided a long-term, easy to use experience rather than a series of one-off disconnected “touchpoints”. The successes also emphasized the requirement that solutions work for the whole spectrum of care, not just the “franchise players”.
The need for team-based care protocol is why no more time or effort should be wasted in Uberization. The key reason Uber is not a good model for where we need to take healthcare is that people don’t expect a relationship with the Uber driver. They want it on-time, at-cost, and professional from the car service (that is not to say Uber is bad, it just isn’t a model for long-term success in the healthcare industry). Time and time again, we are reminded that healthcare is in a continuum of care—from home care, to hospital, to primary physician—that is both the individual need and the most efficient long-term framework. This is how to reduce the key measurables in healthcare: patient re-admissions, tests per patient, and cost of medication per patient.
So what is the value of mobile in Healthcare?
Let’s start with a blanket statement: technology will not be the saviour of healthcare. Certainly, Watson is going to make decisions easier and telehealth will bring doctors into your house. But is that what the average patient wants? We cannot re-invent healthcare by just de-personalizing it. We know that there are cases where patients, such as those in pallative care, like the convenience of being at home, but if your child is short of breath and gagging, you aren’t going to want to be looking at and fiddling with your phone and hoping for the best. You want a doctor and nurse. You want care for your sick loved one that you can’t get from your phone.
At the end of the day, healthcare requires a team that talks, touches, and listens to a person who is hurt, scared, and unsure. Not to sound paternalistic, but the reality is the average person is neither interested nor equipped to “own their healthcare” – they need a trusted source that will walk them through their care.
The goal of mobile in healthcare should not be to mobilize/Uberize/transform healthcare. It should be to get administrative items and mundane processes out of the way of all parts of the care team so that patients are the focal point and not the technology.
Whether we call it personalized medicine or patient-centred medicine, we should not be thinking of technological hurdles first. It is why most EMR implementations are a disaster – they were deployed with no forethought as to what care is and what it should be. The arrogance of most of the large EMR vendors is that they assume that they know how doctors work (and quite often they don’t even bother to acknowledge the role of nurses and pharmacists).
At the end of the day, just replacing—or enhancing—electronic records software with “smarter technology” is not an innovation. It is repeating the same mistakes, just with shinier toys. We believe that an ECM platform provides the right mix of security, flexibility, and integrations to be key to a healthcare information management platform.