Healthcare technology: drowning in buzzword soup

Cutting through the noise of a crowded technology landscape is critical to understanding the real benefits of IT for the healthcare sector.


Cloud. Big Data. IoT. Wearables. Automation. Transformation. Disruption. AI. Whichever industry you work in, it’s hard to avoid today’s technology buzzwords. And that’s especially true in healthcare, with 3D bioprinting, nanomedicine, smart machines and a raft of other emerging technologies all gaining significant media airspace in recent months.

Indeed, with new developments seemingly hitting the market on a daily basis, it’s increasingly hard for most folks to keep up.

Even the experts are feeling the strain. “There are so many technologies out there, it’s often hard to make sense of what’s important, what’s applicable to your own line of work,” suggests Ian Khan, keynote speaker at the recent NG Healthcare Payers Summit and bestselling author of Meaningful Conversations. “People are drowning in buzzword soup.”

The key, he says, is to look at new technology developments in terms of just one thing: what they offer in terms of value creation.

“Technology helps us do things better in many different ways,” he says. “We have the power of scale. We can make systems and processes better, we can get better results from things that were being done manually in the past. And we can get results faster. Because of artificial intelligence, because of cloud, because of analytics, because of improving broadband speeds, we are able to do so much more.”

Look at the rise of wearables, for instance. IoT and wearable devices are increasingly well-placed to transform the management of preventable and chronic diseases, and represent a big opportunity for digital to disrupt the healthcare industry by providing information – much of it in real-time – to the people who need it most.

“I’m generating data through my wearable device that I can view on my cellphone every night, in order to see how many steps I took, or how I’m doing on the 80km healthcare challenge this week,” says Khan. “If I could feed all that information and more to my healthcare provider, they could probably figure out a few different things about me that would be useful to know. They could use it to enhance other data sets and derive further insights from that, using data collected from various different patient care points.”

“The internet of everything will create a whole new slew of data-driven decisions”

Indeed, it is the huge amount of data that is being generated and collected today by a range of different devices that has the biggest potential to transform the sector. And Khan, who is also a founding board member of the Internet of Things Association of Canada, maintains that the volumes of data that will be useful for improving healthcare management and delivery are only going to get bigger over the next few years.

“The internet of everything will create a whole new slew of data-driven decisions,” says Khan. “These devices and sensors will create a tremendous amount of data, and that will really dictate how decisions are taken by organisations, for their customers, for their stakeholders, for their partners. Data is going to be pivotal to decision-making tomorrow. By 2020, every person on the planet is going to generate 1.7MB of data per second. What will that data be, what can we do with that information, how can we use it? Data is coming like a tsunami, and we need to figure out ways to use that data to create insights.”

“By 2020, every person on the planet is going to generate 1.7MB of data per second”

Data on human health can now be collated to a level and scale that was never before possible, while innovations in machine learning and adaptive algorithms provide credible predictors for the risk of diseases. Nonetheless, challenges still remain.

“There’s tonnes of complexity around big data,” says Khan. “We don’t know how to make it current, we don’t know how to analyse it, there’s multiple platforms. There’s 50 different vendors of BI who will all provide you with a solution to analyse your data. But is it in the format you need it? Is it current? Is it fresh?”

When it comes to the healthcare technology hype cycle, he says, big data – in common with many of those other technology buzzwords listed – has not yet reached Gartner’s fabled “slope of enlightenment” phase, where companies are seeing real and obvious success stories and practical ways to implement new tech in their own organisations. Getting there requires hard work and perseverance, as well as a large dose of clear thinking.

“Sometimes you have to simplify things to remove some of the barriers,” says Khan. “Making things more efficient is everybody’s task.” And that counts double for healthcare, where everyone has a stake. Moving past the buzzwords into the reality of what emerging tech can do for the sector is critical for all our wellbeing.

Future state

 

Here are Ian Khan’s seven predictions for how technology will impact the healthcare sector in 2020:

#1 IOE will create a whole new slew of data-driven decisions

#2 Artificial intelligence will replace people in repetitive jobs, including prescription refills

#3 Blockchain-like technologies will be default for transaction ledger activity

#4 Cyber-criminals will attack information and disrupt data/devices

#5 The marketplace approach will help provide more value to customers

#6 Collaboration and partnerships are essential to success

#7 Value created will have an increasingly short lifespan