Maybe you’ve seen one of those Norman Rockwell paintings of kids in a physician’s office that make it seem as if taking your child to the doctor is an oil-painted slice of Americana.
In reality, a pediatrician’s office can be a nightmarish place, rampant with germs and interminable waits. One reason a visit to the pediatrician has become such a trial is that the setup of a doctor’s office has not changed all that much since the 1950s. Name any other industry with a customer experience philosophy based on something called a “waiting room.”
During a routine checkup, you may see your doctor or nurse for less than 20 minutes, but on average, those visits involve two hours of travel and waiting time. Technology could allow us to wake up from the ordeal of modern medicine and receive quality care outside of the four provider walls.
As Dr. Eric Topol, a California cardiologist and author of “The Patient Will See You Now,” noted: “It takes 2.6 weeks to get an appointment with a primary care provider. Now you can do it in 2.6 seconds.”
Imagine never having to set foot in another waiting room
Say your child has something minor like an earache. Technology has already reached a level where you should not have to brave the waiting room for a consultation.
Instead, you could plug in a smartphone attachment that reads your child’s vital signs and, afterward, input that data into your doctor’s app. The nurse at your pediatrician’s office reviews the stats and symptoms, shoots you a follow-up text and in under an hour, your doctor has prescribed medication.
In short, the art of medicine (with apologies to the timeless Rockwell) is ripe for a technological revolution. Healthcare organizations have traditionally been digital innovation laggards. But the time to embrace digital disruption is now.
The good news: New care delivery business models and cutting-edge patient enablement tools have arrived and will continue to advance. Receiving on-demand urgent care from the comfort of your home or work is a reality through DispatchHealth’s mobile-based app, saving time and money. Concurrent, 24/7 e-visits are beginning to supplant traditional in-person office visits. Kaiser Permanente of northern California reported that it has seen e-visits conducted via email, phone and video outpace traditional doctor’s office visits.
House calls 2.0 are on the horizon
These on-demand and telemedicine experiences are on the rise, in part due to a burgeoning DIY outlook on medicine that has taken firmer hold thanks to breakthrough technology. The market for mobile device apps related to health and fitness exploded into an estimated $26 billion industry in 2017. Medicine in the palm of your hand is no longer a thing of science fiction, which is further proven by the development of the tricorder.
The tricorder — which at one point was literally nothing but a term for a fictional device used on “Star Trek” — is now a real handheld medical device that originally only allowed self-measurement of vital signs. That technology has advanced at warp speed into a powerful diagnostic instrument.
The winner of the inaugural $2.5 million Tricorder XPrize, Final Frontier Medical Devices, developed a tricorder with diagnostic capabilities for 34 medical conditions. This wave of smart tools will increase our ability to receive home-based care. Patients could conceivably transmit quantitative and qualitative measurements of their health status to a doctor without ever leaving their bedroom.
When you combine this rapidly advancing tech with advances in genetic databases and wearables, a more complete picture of patient health can be captured.
And a machine shall lead us
True analytics-driven medicine has been a goal of the industry for some time, but machine learning is putting that goal within closer reach. Robust computing platforms and sophisticated algorithms targeted for healthcare are increasing the accuracy of diagnoses and treatment on both macro- and micro-levels.
For instance, machine learning has measurably improved diagnoses derived from echocardiograms. And while we may have a knee-jerk reflex to distrust machine-made medicine, we know that a big data approach to treatment in ovarian cancer patients has already extended lives: The analytics-driven prescription of beta blocker medication to ovarian cancer patients gave those patients up to four extra years of life.
Some customer-driven companies try to deliver personalized service, but medicine startups Color and HumanCode are now taking that concept to a new level. Both companies developed DNA-driven products to identify genetic markers and redefine just how personalized medicine can become. The genetic test unveiled by Color, for example, tags genes that are known risk factors for a host of diseases, including ovarian, breast, pancreatic, prostate and colorectal cancers.
Not only is technology advancing so far as to allow targeted, personalized care driven by the human genome and big data, but we are now also at a tipping point where the healthcare industry is implementing and leveraging those advances.
Our long wait for the space-age modernization of medicine is over. The wave of healthcare’s future is beginning to crest. Now is the time to get on board and ride it to better health.