Former Apple CEO John Sculley recently claimed that healthcare ‘missed the PC revolution, it missed the Web.’ The most influential development of the 20th century was picked up far too slowly by perhaps the world’s most important industry and, as a result, progress has been clunky at best. Healthcare is hardly viewed as a hub of innovation but 2016 is set to be a big year in improvements to the way in which patients interact with practitioners; the clunky steps should give way to strides, as technology becomes not only more abundant, but more affordable.
Essentially, the healthcare industry is just catching up with other industries with regard to ‘disruptive’ innovation, and the shift toward a data-driven healthcare system in not only the US but elsewhere should begin proper in 2016. ‘This year is poised to be impacted by healthcare transformations,' says research and consulting firm Frost and Sullivan. 'Several new demand spaces such as innovative therapeutics (immuno-oncology), biosimilars and regenerative medicine (cell therapy) have emerged. Additionally, pharmaceutical companies are sharpening their long-term positions.’
And a data driven healthcare industry will lead to greater transparency. Over the past few years, both providers and payers have upped their interest in price transparency, and the US is set to focus on the issue for the next 10 years, according to Connor Landgraf, co-founder of digital stethoscope maker EKO Devices. The online healthcare community will be supplemented by apps designed to track co-pays and deductibles, tools that will allow users to compare their medical providers and understand exactly why institutions charge wildly different rates. Landgraf went on to say that ’the price convergence of healthcare and mobile is also going to be powerful - 95% of healthcare that exists in a facility right now can be delivered at the patient’s home’ and elsewhere.
This fits in with the continued rise of diagnosis crowdsourcing. The increasingly empowered consumer will be able to assess not just a lot more data, but far more peer information regarding both diagnosis and treatment. Jessica Greenwalt, cofounder of CrowdMed, said: ‘We’re going to see a lot more data collection and a lot more people getting involved in the medical process, and it won’t matter if you have a background in medicine or not. That allows us to tap the wisdom of patients who have gone through these issues themselves, and they are far more expert in their condition than the doctors who originally diagnosed them.’
2016 is also set to see wearable tech get appropriate testing, and therefore greater involvement in medical processes. Earlier this year, Fitbit was hit with a class-action lawsuit over the alleged inaccuracy of its heart-rate monitoring. The company was sued by consumers from California, Colorado and Wisconsin, who alleged that the heart-rate tracker was inaccurate by a ‘significant margin’. The lawsuit has opened up a constructive dialogue regarding the current limitations of such devices and, since, FDA-approved healthcare devices have been in development. The FDA began soliciting mHealth and wearable tech for clinical trials in late 2016, and expect to see not only more accurate fitness wearables, but also sensors and monitors to keep track of the conditions like diabetes.
US-based InfoBionic last month received FDA approval for a wearable designed to monitor cardiac arrhythmias, for example. The MoMe Cardia is a wireless, remote monitoring system that is hoped will aid physicians in their diagnosis of cardiac arrhythmias in those identified as high-risk. The FDA were handing out approvals to wearable tech in 2015, but this year will see the approved technology embedded into medical practices; reliable information gathered by wearables could streamline both diagnosis and monitoring of patients.
According to Sculley, ‘most of the most innovative health care companies are relatively new and still private. The only reason for a new company to exist is because it believes there is a better way to do something important. It's important that new companies align risk taking with their innovation purpose and mission.’ Given the sensitivity of the field, it is only natural that healthcare will take a little more time to adapt to technological developments. But, with data and analytics belatedly seeping through to the industry, 2016 could be the year healthcare finally catches up with the world around it.