Healthcare IT Technology

Why isn’t there more consumer med tech?

Robert Pearl’s MedX keynote address gives some reasons.

  1. Many New Technologies Don’t Address The Real Problem.  Tech entrepreneurs often take a backward approach to invention. They start by discovering a nifty technology. Later, they figure out how people can use it…Alan Cooper, considered by many to be the father of modern user experience design (UXD), said the ideal approach is “goal directed.”  Meaning, innovators should start with the goals of the end-user. The solutions come next. When the order is reversed, the results usually disappoint.
  2. No one wants to pay for it.  Having a cool technology isn’t enough.  It must produce value in terms of lower cost or higher quality.  Even if it lowers cost, some providers (e.g., physicians) may not want it if it decreases how much they can bill (e.g., fewer physician visits).
  3. Physicians Are Reluctant to Show Patients Their Medical Information.  Conventional wisdom holds that docs held the key to a patient’s medical chart, since they worried that the information could be harmful to patients if they saw it. In the age of EMRs, however, this can change.  “Some doctors are flipping their computers around and using the health data on screen to educate patients.  This transparency ensures the information is accurate. It invites patients to participate more closely in their own treatment plans.”
  4. Technology Slows Down Many Physicians. Entering data into an EMR takes longer than a paper record. Period.
  5. Many Physicians See Technology As Impersonal. As medical knowledge advances, the perceived rift between “high tech” and “high touch” is becoming a relic of the past. Telling a patient he has cancer requires time, compassion and well-honed interpersonal skill…figuring out the exact cancer treatment – given dozens of alternatives, the patient’s unique genetics and the many sub-types of each cancer – is more a matter of technology and science. Increasingly, treatment possibilities exceed the human mind.

In summary:

Across history, it often has been the next generation that figures out how best to use new technology. Health care may be no different.

But if hungry entrepreneurs don’t want to wait 10 or 15 years for the demographics to change, they would be smart to provide solutions that use currently available technology to solve patient’s problems in the simplest and least expensive ways.

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