In the spirit of David Letterman’s top 10 lists here are our takeaways from the San Francisco iHT2 event this past week. ihealthtran.com/
I have had the unfortunate experience of having my wife of over 30 years pass away from pancreatic cancer. She lived for 18 months from her initial diagnosis. Prior to that she had been a very healthy 62 year old. During the course of her illness, she was treated in five different hospitals, was under the care of over 40 physicians, and had numerous surgical and diagnostic procedures. One might say, “Well, this was certainly an edge case.” But hasn’t experience shown that it is the edge cases that bring out the flaws in the system? While I participated in her long and painful journey I came to realize that in spite of all the assertions made about information exchange and interoperability in healthcare, they are almost nonexistent once you go outside the four walls of a hospital.
The fact is, unless the patient or their family takes responsibility for the information that different hospitals and doctors will require when they come on board, they will have no reasonable way to have access to that data. During my wife’s illness, on numerous occasions, I had to hand carry DVDs, CDs, or memory sticks so that other physicians could see the results of CT scans and radiology reports. I had to manually maintain a spreadsheet of her medications since there was no centralized system that was kept up to date, even where she was being treated. Obviously, the more manual recording the greater the chance for error, not to mention lost time.
I am writing this blog as a call to action. While many are wringing their hands over healthcare costs, in my opinion IT Vendors and Hospital Administrators are doing a great disservice to patients and medical personnel by not forcing their vendors to make it a high priority to improve interoperability and information exchange. As we all know, there are a number of high level committees and organizations that are working on this problem. However their progress is slow and the need is now.
Many of them have not even thought through how the Cloud can be a game changer.
The reality is that if Apple can provide iCloud so that users can upload all their content of different types to a single user ID and then deliver it to multiple devices, it is not so far fetched that the same capability could be applied to patient records. Patients typically have single identifiers. The notion that information stored in the Cloud is neither secure nor easily accessible has been proven to be a myth.
In addition, there are companies who provide low cost HIPAA compliant secure messaging solutions that can be implemented in minutes that will securely transfer data to and from the Cloud as well as between applications hosted in the Cloud.
It is my belief that if as much attention and investment is focused on medical information exchange as has been placed on making billing systems interoperable, we will have not only improved patient care but a more efficient use of our medical resources as well.
As a boy growing up, my first camera was a Kodak Brownie—easy to use and, for that era, it took excellent pictures. It was somewhat expensive for a 10 year old because of the costs of film purchase and photograph development. Overall, however, I was a happy customer who would eagerly look forward to picking up my photos at the drug store.
Of course, there are no simple answers for why one of the most prestigious companies in the world has found itself having to file for bankruptcy. We do know that one of the first order effects was their inability to shift the center of gravity of their business. New technologies were adopted by their customers that in fact eliminated the cost of film while significantly reducing the cost of development. All the while, the company continued to be in denial about how big the impact would be on their business.
We can only imagine the internal discussions that must have occurred relative to any endorsement by Kodak that digital photography was the future and that they themselves would develop and sell the worlds best digital cameras and printers. The Kodak film people would obviously and immediately do everything possible to prevent that from happening. Just imagine Kodak’s large investment in film manufacturing plants, equipment, and distribution! As a result, they continued with their former core strength of promoting film while developing mediocre digital cameras. Furthermore, their strategy missed the shift of photography and photo software into smart phones, with an eventual even bigger impact on their core market.
Today, there is a technology shift that I believe will be even more profound than the changes brought by digital photography. That is the advent of Cloud Computing. We are all watching advancements occur at a breakneck pace. Initially it was all about virtualization, but we are now seeing very powerful software development tools as well as applications being hosted in the cloud. The result is a new generation of functionality at costs that in some cases are a factor of 10 to 100 times lower than those hosted on traditional servers. In addition, there is unparalled user access—laptops, tablets, smartphones everywhere! Consequently, all these new cloud-based applications come with an entirely new user experience.
The next generation of Kodaks are today convincing themselves that the Cloud will have limited applicability and therefore they can take a “wait and see” attitude, moving to endorse and adopt when they are sure it is real. What I can say with certainty is that by the time they come to that realization and have to analyze the business impact of dismantling infrastructure and a large IT organization, it will be too late. Their competitors who have moved quickly to adopt the Cloud will roll over them with not only significantly better IT cost structures and associated efficiencies, but with a better ability to focus on their businesses and a stronger and growing connection to their customers.