Everyone loves to take guesses about the future; to be a Nostradamus. Health care has more than its share of these visionaries, or dreamers, depending on your point of view. A recent PriceWaterhouseCoopers report discusses its view of the health care services delivery landscape of tomorrow. (PWC Report) Here is a summary of the report in its own words: “Today the health sector faces a daunting new digital challenge: unleashing the power of technology to fundamentally reinvent how care is delivered. Health care companies should connect their old systems with new digital technologies and merge the data locked inside them to generate meaningful, actionable insights for caregivers.” Nuff said. As part of the report, PWC’s Health Research Institute surveyed 1000 physicians and other clinicians and compared results with consumer surveys. They found that 80% of doctors said mobile devices can help better coordinate care, while almost half of consumers share that view. About 50% of clinicians think that e-visits could replace around 10% of in-office visits and roughly the same number of patients said they would be willing to do such substitution. 42% of doctors said they would be comfortable using home diagnostic test results to guide medication prescribing. 28% of consumers said they had a wellness or health care app on their mobile device and around two-thirds of doctors said they would prescribe or recommend an app to help patients manage a chronic disease. So both consumers and physicians say they are generally receptive to using more health technology in regard to medical care. But concerns about privacy, connectivity, reimbursement and workflow changes are barriers to greater use of mobile health technologies.
And to be really beneficial, health care technology has to show improvement in meaningful outcomes. All of the Health Research Institute’s dreaming is wonderful, but the cold reality is that to date, even basic electronic medical records appear to costing more than the financial benefits they provide and to do as much harm to quality as good. And there is no research supporting the idea that all the fancy digital, mobile, online, apps, etc., etc., have or will provide any widespread financial or quality benefits. A lot of money is being invested and a lot of hype is being sold, but all that really counts is making changes that improve patients’ health status and/or reduce health spending, especially for consumers. I would like to see more very concrete initiatives that achieve those goals and less dreamy theorizing.