Can Technology Be The Magic Pill That Cures Health Care?
Posted on 22/02/2018 by
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As we enter 2018, I’m optimistic that technology will positively impact health care in the years to come. Today, we have the nexus of people power, capital investment and technology innovations to drive that forward. I expect that we’re going to witness history repeat itself and see the Airbnb or Uber of health care emerge.
On the surface, the challenge seems daunting. Technology by itself can’t singlehandedly erase the bureaucracy and cost structures that have long weakened the system. VC funding in U.S. health care shot up 26% in 2017, but that seems infinitesimal compared to the total cost of health care delivery. To put things in perspective, in 1960, the national health expenditures were about $27 billion, according to CMS.gov. Today, that’s well over $3.3 trillion. That’s an astronomical imbalance!
A focused approach buoyed by technology and propelled by people power is necessary. The opportunity for tech is to address three fundamental malaises in health care:
A Complex Web
Between physicians, pharmacists, patients, radiologists, insurance, hospitals and sometimes Medicare, we have an impossible combination of relationships to manage. And that’s just in each category. When you get to specific providers and pharmacies and multiply it by 50 states, the fragmentation blows up exponentially.
All of this has naturally created middlemen and unnecessary administrative bodies far removed from the point of care and, therefore, far removed from the patient’s interest. The supply chain for prescription drug distribution in the U.S. is an instance of a multifaceted ecosystem that seems largely entrenched in business models that evolved before internet commerce.
Another case of complexity is the benefit book I recently got from my insurance company. It is about as thick as an old phone book and about as complicated as the tax code. Why isn’t this information posted online, in a space where I can easily access it and search my specific needs or look for a specific context? I am hopeful that software platforms -- specifically ones with APIs and smart contracts -- will break down silos and help deliver faster, cheaper and better health outcomes.