by Larry Stofko

How healthcare is handling a flood of advancements

May 19, 2016
AnalyticsCloud ComputingHealthcare Industry

Hang on tight! The world of healthcare is changing fast. Learn how health systems are managing their current trajectories of prolific innovation through leadership and technology.

Today, we are seeing newer, more cutting-edge medical procedures and products. We are experiencing a changing world that calls for exponential advancement in health care. We are approaching a world where quantum computing with its parallel-computing capabilities will solve multiple healthcare problems simultaneously with greater calculation capacity. Meanwhile, IBM Watson is opening doors for machine learning to harness complex clinical data or “big data” to improve personal health and wellness to acute and chronic care. We’ll be able to leverage this data to predict and prevent certain illnesses.

Soon, robots will replace humans and human parts will be commonplace. An estimated 47 percent of jobs will be displaced by technology by 2025, according to a recent Oxford study. 3D machines have already begun to bioprint human parts like heart valves and ears, as well as bionic arms and legs.

In just 10 years, we’ve seen patent activity double. In 2005, 143,806 utility patents and 12,951 design patents were issued. In 2015, that number increased to 298,407 utility patents and 25,986 design patents issued.

Momentum is building and technological breakthroughs are being made in healthcare, a sector where it is needed most. We are fine-tuning that which our predecessors created for us, especially given the advances made in science and technology.

We’ve been awakened to new possibilities, and I don’t think we will ever go back to the days where we accepted the high price of medical treatments or the absence of a cure. And we can no longer accept severe side effects or treatments that simply don’t work.

There’s always been room for growth and, with the urgent call for change, other industries have been taking notice, and they are looking for ways to duplicate their success for the healthcare space. In fact, according to a study by PwC, new entrants in retail, technology, telecommunications and consumer products can engage consumers and innovate at a faster pace than traditional healthcare companies.

We have come a long way in healthcare and people are living longer. Yet, we can do better. Some treatments and medications require further research to improve their effectiveness and reduce their side effects. We need to figure out how to “get the bugs out” like they do for computers or smart phones so that patients don’t have to trade one problem for another.

We’re on a trajectory to seek better and more cost-conscious patient care. Therefore, some health systems are looking to their physicians, nurses and other employees to innovate as part of their strategy and culture.

Currently, The Innovation Institute (the company I am executive VP for) manages the innovation process for five health systems using an innovation management software platform called Brightidea, which has back-end tracking capabilities, to manage our growing pipeline of ideas that need to be vetted, prototyped, patented, copyrighted, developed and marketed. We also have the means to do crowdsourcing to tap populations for their input on specific problems and challenges.

As consumers, we are seeking our own solutions too. We are becoming more informed through online resources such as WebMD, Wikipedia and YouTube. We’re even becoming accustomed to telemedicine for convenience and savings, especially in remote areas. As an example, Avera Health in South Dakota, one of our member owned health systems, has implemented eCare, thought to be the biggest and most comprehensive in the world, covering an area the size of France and Germany combined. This includes ten states, some of them among the most remote and rural in the U.S.

According to Philip Horváth, an international innovation advisor who spoke to innovation leaders at our Innovation Lab recently, the “velocity, complexity and uncertainty in health care are at an all-time high and will only increase.” Therefore, he provided us with tips on how to “surf the waves of change.” He says that a comprehensive approach to continuous innovation requires visionary leadership built on purpose and progress, and cultural competencies need to be in tune with feasibility, intelligence, commitment and resources.

When we combine medical advances and emerging technologies with human ingenuity and the power of crowds, the future of healthcare will most certainly move at a rate of exponential change versus our historic incremental change rate and additive pace.