The disruption of the healthcare industry is continuing at a frenetic pace. As reported in a World Economic Forum article, $44 billion was pumped into medical innovations in 2021. Experts expect this influx to continue, all with the hopes of bringing machine learning, artificial intelligence, telehealth, and other technological and digital advancements and processes to both medical professionals and the people they serve.
On the surface, this news is exciting and encouraging. Certainly, healthcare has been overdue for overhauls. Yet all this progress is tempered by the reality that not every provider can keep up with new technologies. And that’s starting to create a serious “have versus have not” divide.
Case in point: Some providers can’t even conceive of investing in the tools and programs to integrate patient medical records or ensure they have the right supplies. This leaves them far from being able to utilize the newest technologies when treating patients. They simply can’t take advantage of everything the marketplace has due to the prohibitive cost of adoption under the typical reimbursement system setup.
Of course, the demand for innovations isn’t going to slow down and wait for some healthcare providers to catch up. It’s going to move forward, which is what technology always does. Already, this is happening in rural communities in the energy and telecom sectors. Millions of people who live in sparsely populated regions have trouble connecting to broadband. Consequently, they’re constantly hampered by a lack of infrastructure. Not only can they not enjoy the benefits of working remotely because of clunky or nonexistent internet, but they can’t engage in telemedicine appointments for the same reasons.
The bottom line is that this issue needs to be considered today before it leads to an even less-equitable, two-tier health system where some patients have access to innovative ideas, tools, and techniques and others simply do not.
Ironically, people have never had so much opportunity to take control of their health and enjoy stronger relationships with their providers. However, until and unless healthcare can figure out how to make data and innovations available to all, countless patients and providers will find themselves getting figuratively locked out from benefiting from tomorrow’s healthcare opportunities.
Closing Gaps in Healthcare Tech Availability and Access
Healthcare providers and systems don’t have to just sit back, though. They can take steps that will enable them to ease into technology for themselves, their team members, and their patients:
1. Aim for a technologically focused practice baseline.
Not all healthcare technologies are budget-breaking, nor do they need to be. Plenty are affordably priced because they’re designed to support basic healthcare needs. For instance, upgrading to secure, cloud-based patient management systems can introduce affordable and available technology into even a small provider’s practice.
Many providers forget that digital transformation doesn’t have to be expensive or all-encompassing. Adopting technology in bite-sized increments serves three main purposes. First, it keeps costs in check. Second, it allows providers, their teams, and sometimes even patients to get up to speed with the latest healthcare products. Finally, any digital upgrade will likely give providers the ability to begin gaining more insights from the data they collect to promote more confident diagnosis and treatment plans.
2. Integrate technologies that optimize practice workflows.
Healthcare practices are busy by nature. Doctors and staff do not need to spend all their time on repetitive administrative duties, though. A bevy of digital tools and integrations are available to streamline common workflows.
For example, some software programs are excellent at capturing data, analyzing it, and transferring it in real time. According to a MedCityNews piece on digital healthcare trends, providers may be able to increase internal efficiency levels by nearly one-third with the right technology. In other words, the technology can help pay for itself while having a tangible and positive effect.
3. Partner with innovators during their earliest invention stages.
Mutual collaboration is an often-overlooked way for smaller providers to gain fast access to emerging technologies. Some of the top healthcare tech startups are open to working with doctors and medical systems. Ultimately, this win-win allows both entities to move forward faster with the end goal of helping people and communities.
It’s worth mentioning that if healthcare providers can serve as sounding boards for startups, they can have an exciting hand in the future of medicine. Being able to have a say in the progress of digital healthcare disruption can transform a provider’s role. It can also make certain that innovations have value to end users.
No system embraces digital changes in a uniform way across all the players. Nonetheless, those in healthcare need to concentrate on coming up with reliable strategies to ensure that digital tools are distributed as equally as possible.
About Marc Helberg
Marc Helberg is the managing vice president at the Philadelphia office of Pariveda, a consulting firm driven to create innovative, growth-oriented, and people-first solutions.