A recent Op-Ed by David Brooks of the New York Times got me thinking again about healthcare and its current (and future) competitive environment.
Unlike manufacturing and consumer hotlines, hospitals and health providers have remained largely in competition with their “neighbors” (nearby hospitals, doctors and specialty centers). If a patient has a life threatening disease they may be willing to travel great distances -across the country or the world- for premiere service.
Medical tourism is a growing piece of the pie but still remains a very small piece. Due to travel constraints and/or the ability of a doctor to effectively administer a physical in-person vs from across a city (let alone across the world) leaves healthcare centralized and subject to a limited number of competitors.
But the advent of the internet and cloud technology are changing that and mobile technology promises to push it even further. Email was first used to send x-rays to be read in India. Now they can be read anywhere and anytime -by someone with secure access- globally through the cloud. This is one example but represents a sign of change to come. At present, scans are outsourced to other countries for help but in the future foreign companies may begin to offer competing health solutions that may be done for a fraction of the cost. Same outcome + lower costs = higher valuer. A comparison could also be drawn to intensive care monitoring. Right now remote ICU monitoring is administered by companies here in the US but one day you may be monitored in real-time by someone in a foreign country.
None of this is to say that proper clinicians will not be available in the healthcare setting, only that the cloud technology promises to make it easier for healthcare to become competitive on a global level and combat our healthcare workforce shortage.
Now to look at mobile health. With a shortage of 30,000 primary care doctors in the US, who is going to administer routine care when you need it or just your annual checkup? If a mobile device you wear compiles and quantifies all your health information and you can access a health specialist by email or telephone around the clock for questions it can be fielded by someone down the street or a hundred miles away. With our healthcare demands as a nation increasing, we must find a way to commoditize what can be in order to make healthcare sustainable.
Mobile presents to make healthcare more efficient as we all know it needs to be. The true benefit of a health dashboard that is monitored by a health professional here in the US or in a foreign country is that real-time information and alterts can be compiled in your PHR and your doctor’s EHR to ensure that information is ubiquitous and will maximize its benefit.
It will be a tumultuous road for sure. Health professionals in this country play an incredible role but as wel advance the abilities of technology, it will help to improve the value of healthcare and the sustainability of our healthcare system.