Healthcare is a constant conversation in the American press.  The cost of providing healthcare has continually risen every year despite government interventions.  The quality of care seems to be measured differently by different organizations.  In the end what everyone wants is to be given the best care at an affordable price.  What is recently being added to that phrase is “convenient to the patient and their family”.

How many times have we gone to a physician office only to wait 20 or more minutes in a waiting room after the appointed time then be led back to an exam room to wait another 10-20 minutes without a human contact.  With advances that have been and will continue to be made, this has and will be changing more.

Deliotte did a study in 2016 to learn what consumers are expecting when it comes to their healthcare.  Not to surprising, the study found consumers are looking to have the same experiences they are experiencing with airlines, retail and banking.  They do want a partnership with their physician with an opportunity to question and research options of care. They want to have the ability to determine and control more of their own care.  This is not a new concept but discoveries and improvement in medical care options is given this a new level of expectation by the consumer. Digital tools are not yet a priority with consumers, but with the speed of change in other industries, this will change in healthcare as well.

It was not that long ago that a woman had to go to her physician and have tests performed to determine if she was pregnant.  Today, she can go to a pharmacy and get a test kit that she takes home and, with very good accuracy, can find out the answer in minutes.  Many more such tests are now available to consumers and patients as we learn more about diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, strep, HIV, and more.

With advances in artificial intelligence, three dimensional printing, electronic ink, nanobiotechnology, and photobiology, imagine being able to go to your local pharmacy and purchase a kit that contains a body suit made of paper but this one is pre-embedded with an electronic ink pattern and a solution or pill that is designed to target certain cells or portion of the body.   In the privacy of your home, you remove your clothing and step into the body suit.  You consume to pill or solution and wait the prescribed time.  With the USB cord you use to charge your phone, you plug it into your suit and computer or phone and active it through a software app you downloaded from the instructions in the kit.   In a matter of a few minutes or perhaps hours, you receive the same results you would have taken a week to get through an MRI or CAT scan.

Healthcare Apps for smart phones and tablets continue to grow.  There are now over 325,000 apps available to android and apple users.  Life science contributors are creating new healthcare apps every day.  The capabilities range from helping with physical fitness, to performing biomedical testing, to facilitating appointments.  The growth in android health related apps in just the past year has been over 50% more than the year prior.  Imagine the potential in the next two years.

Now becomes a question of what should be the selections that will push healthcare forward and bring the quality that is expected along with the other characteristic of lower cost and greater convenience that consumers are wanting.  Can those in the life sciences come together to provide some synergy and flow between the vast number of apps and data that is being collected.  Many are now thinking that artificial intelligence will be the answer to creating the connections and bringing the value of the data collected to a usable form.  If you think that is years away, you may want to rethink that position.

Advances in life sciences has already changed medical practice patterns. A little more than twenty years ago, anesthesiology machines were using the collective historical data of biological data from patients who were placed under general anesthesia to determine if they were responding appropriately for the surgeon to begin.  In years past, cardiologists were expected to take the data and let the surgeon know if they could proceed. Imagine the improvements that have occurred over the past twenty years.  Not that long ago, the concept of doctors documenting in an electronic record was a dream.  Now that data is available in individual and mass form to feed innovations of all different kinds.

The future holds so many amazing things to come.  What a tremendous time to be around to watch them unfold.

About the author

Lynn Gibson, CTO & Vice President, CHRISTUS Health