Imagine working in an extremely constrained environment. You had to come to the same office, use the same software, the same color pens, the same paper, the same everything. Nothing ever changed, and you were never exposed to anything new.
How would that affect your innovation? Most likely, your innovation would be almost zero, because you wouldn’t have the freedom to explore new avenues, nor the tools to inspire new ideas.
That, in essence, is what is happening to the healthcare industry. It’s operating under constraints that are preventing the adoption of new technologies that can empower patients, provide a better experience, and improve their level of care.
In our meetings with pharmaceutical companies, pharmacies, doctors and other healthcare providers, a common theme we hear is that they are worried about how technology might upend their business models. They see the emergence of new technologies and how they can shape healthcare, and they don’t see how they would fit into how they operate.
This is not an irrational fear, it’s quite natural. Healthcare providers have long-established, rigid business models that are resistant to change. They are that way because of the volatile nature of healthcare on the policy side. Their business models are set up to withstand changing political winds, and ever-changing regulations.
It’s not about resisting change. It’s about surviving despite change.
In recent years, this problem has been magnified. In a time when innovation is moving so fast, new technologies are emerging that have the potential to really affect in a positive way, making it better for the patient.
But it’s really hard for these new technologies to break through, as healthcare companies are slow to adopt them. It’s not that they don’t want to. The issue is they cannot imagine how their businesses will change.
They don’t know how their business model will be affected, so they never want to be the first to try a new approach.
That puts healthcare companies under severe, self-imposed constraints that limit their ability to improve the level of care they offer patients.
As a result of this resistance to change, there is one key thing that healthcare providers are missing: data. True patient data.
Technology is built on user data. When it’s put into user hands, whether it’s software, an app, or a device, it gathers user data so that it can continually be improved to be more useful. That data also gives valuable insights to the company that created the technology, so they get to know their customers better.
The same holds true in healthcare. Technology can provide real data about patient behaviors, including in matters of prescription compliance and drug abuse, giving healthcare providers valuable insights.
And those insights are on both a macro and micro level. The data can show broad trends and issues, but it can also show individual patients’ behaviors. That’s what has the potential to bring patients and providers closer, resulting in more personalized care.
And a better patient experience.
Staggered Regulation Changes
There are no easy answers here. Healthcare companies are rarely early adopters, for reasons discussed above.
What’s needed is for healthcare regulations to start incorporating technology on a rolling, staggered basis. This will enable healthcare companies to gradually adopt technologies and determine how they fit into their business models.
Most importantly, it will begin to remove the constraints that are inhibiting innovation and preventing the patient experience from improving.
Dharma Teja Nukarapu
Raleigh, North Carolina