Future of Healthcare

How will healthcare look one year from today? Healthcare is a complex system, highly obstinate and often dictated by politics, making this a very difficult question to answer. However, healthcare and its all-encompassing stakeholders are rife with opportunity. Those opportunities were among the hot topics discussed at the inaugural Essential Threads event earlier this month. The theme of the first event was “linking healthcare, technology and design”. Essential co-founder and Partner, Scott Stropkay, welcomed the group of cross-functional industry thought leaders, practitioners and evangelists and kicked off the event with a powerful message:

Tonight’s conversation is where ideas take shape.

The presentation portion of the evening commenced with Dr. John Moore from the MIT Media Lab sharing some of the New Media Medicine Group’s approaches towards greater patient engagement. The New Media Medicine Group at the Media Lab strives to create more accessibility and empowerment for patients, allowing them to manage their health hands-on.  Using a model of apprenticeship, which focuses on education, mentorship and training, Dr. Moore and his team facilitate an ongoing dialogue and collaborative decision making between doctors and patients. Implementing technologies such as sensors, game mechanics, visualization and teleconferencing, these projects improve the patient experience, while creating a new paradigm for a more efficient and accountable healthcare delivery system.

Next, Jeremy Gilbert, Head of Product at PatientsLikeMe spoke about his company’s mission to connect patient insights with those who can help advance patient outcomes. Gilbert reiterated that despite its online sharing platform for patients, PatientsLikeMe is not a social network, but rather a new kind of registry that encourages patients to share clinically relevant evidence about their health and experiences. Using this data, PatientsLikeMe aims to create deeper patient engagement, allowing patients to examine real-time data with their doctors and make informed decisions regarding their health. Data is also analyzed for trends and developments in patients’ health, providing valuable information for longitudinal studies of the effectiveness of drugs and methodologies.

Bill Hartman, the Director of Research at Essential, spoke about the importance of user experience and the potential of Meaningful Use guidelines in Electronic Health Records (EHR). Having been raised in a medical household (Bill’s father was a physician), combined with his background as an adjunct user experience professor at Bentley University gave Bill an interesting perspective on the topic. According to Bill, we must design more immersive experiences to make the best use of EHR and home-health applications through personalized data visualizations. Only then will we be more adept in identifying and understanding significant patterns in our own health, from myriad of personal well-being metrics to personal genomics. Bill also identified some indirect benefits to Meaningful Use, such as stressing the importance of the overall healthcare team, from nurse to doctor to the patient himself, rather than today’s litigious yet paternalistic environment. Hartman concluded his talk by dispelling the long-standing notion that managed care is an oxymoron, characterizing Meaningful Use as an opportunity, not a limitation.

Dr. Anand Iyer, the President and COO of WellDoc, wrapped up the presentation portion of the evening by sharing his company’s approach for helping patients manage chronic diseases electronically. According to Dr. Iyer, patients get better when they are compliant and that is what WellDoc facilitates. Using patient input, WellDoc tracks real-time patterns in diabetes metrics, such as AC1, providing clinical decision support and coaching for patients, increasing engagement and ultimately, compliance. In looking to the future, Iyer expects to see doctors writing prescriptions for software instead of drug, with WellDoc blazing trails in this frontier as the first of its kind to receive FDA approval. During his presentation, Anand alluded to what applications must entail in order to receive approval. What was his recommendation? Make sure your application exhibits concrete results that can be measured relatively soon. If you can demonstrate big change, you will succeed.

The presentations were followed by a panel discussion moderated by Brian Dolan, Editor of MobiHealthNews. During the panel, the speakers answered questions on topics such as whether applications like WellDoc should be compulsory, how doctors should respond to patient over-empowerment and how to turn medical innovations into sustainable solutions. The response from the panel was unanimous: in order to create the “future of healthcare” in the present, we must take note from other industries, share innovation to make everyone healthier and fundamentally change the way healthcare is delivered.

When asked what changes healthcare would undergo in the next year, the panelists implied that one year is simply too short-term to effect the kind of change necessary to overhaul the system. However, panelists all agreed that current players are paving the way for positive outcomes.