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Horizontal Innovation and Healthcare: Order vs. Chaos

Healthcare innovationHorizontal innovation refers to the inculcation of technological advancements in different industries and domains of human life.

When we imagine how these life-changing technologies are poised to change our lives, at the beginning of their adoption curve, the future is somewhat filled with hopes and fears. Statisticians and logicians have shown their support for the induction of these technologies into our lifestyle – and rightly so. In its pilot testing, horizontal innovation in healthcare has reaped benefits such as better resource allocation and measurable reduction in hard costs. More importantly, these interventions will only make it easier for scientists and researchers to uncover new ways to make our healthcare system safer.

However, some people have expressed their doubts with the pace at which technology is making inroads into our way of living. These people feel that technology should not be allowed to influence mankind to the extent that it enslaves us. And they are not wrong. Too much technology does make it difficult for us since it takes us further away from how we naturally interact and live. And do we need to mention the people who’ve made these wildest fears public? Geniuses like Elon Musk and Steven Hawking have shown their concerns and, despite both of them being ardent advocates of intelligence-based technologies, they’ve warned us about the potential repercussions that these technologies may bring with them.

Horizontal Innovation – The Big Picture

Following is the list of technological interventions which are likely to bring significant implications in the healthcare landscape:

  1. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Probably the most remarkable technological breakthrough of contemporary times, which has sent reverberations across all domains of our lives, is Artificial Intelligence (AI). Even though scientists and IT experts still haven’t fully deciphered AI, but even in its nascent stage, AI is catering to certain facets of healthcare. The uncanny ability of AI to imitate the human thought process and formulate profound predictive analysis, just by analyzing stored data, is unparalleled.

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The most significant utility of AI comes into effect when Big Data is integrated with AI – giving the intricate algorithms of AI access to massive stacks of data and virtually creating the ‘smartest’ encephalon ever. Modern EHR Systems are already testing AI to assist providers and hospital management in their routine tasks – saving time and improving productivity.

  1. Internet of Things (IoT)

Internet of Things (IoT) is poised to make healthcare a more interconnected place. What IoT does is that it connects all the computer devices and creates a peer-to-peer network to share information. In its bigger picture, IoT visualizes that every computer in the world is connected to this network.

Many healthcare experts believe that all healthcare can only grow if clinical information is open to all providers and researchers, instead of being locked up in computers and servers. A clinical communications platform ensures the safe delivery of sensitive information between healthcare practitioners. It is a HIPAA-compliant solution, allowing clinical teams to propagate information between capable healthcare providers.

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The regulations in place do encourage healthcare companies to sign the interoperability pledge. However, that is just a minuscule step in the grand scheme of things. What IoT will do is to connect every device on a shared network and allow them to interact and contribute their share of data. This will help researchers in carrying out more significant researches while catering far more variables than before.

  1. Blockchain Technology

Blockchain is an interesting means to store information. In easy words, Blockchain is a decentralized network of blocks embedded together, forming a ledger. Each ‘block’ on the network has a copy of the same information, virtually creating countless copies of the same information. The most astounding property of Blockchain technology is that the information once stored on it becomes virtually impossible to delete. Even if a portion of the Blockchain does endure any breach or breakdown, the remaining part of the network will automatically help in restoring the entire chain.

Within a healthcare setup, Blockchain can connect all stakeholders of the system and give them seamless access to the data. The provider will know as soon as the lab tests are done, and the payer will know of the very instance of treatment administration. This will allow for faster and accurate reimbursements. Instead of manually sending individual pieces of information to each entity, Blockchain will allow real-time sharing with no anomalies and errors.

  1. Quantum Computing

Quantum Computing has so much potential that it can completely revamp how the healthcare system works. As per the recent testing, quantum computers can do in 200 seconds what our most advanced supercomputers manage to do in 10,000 years.[1] With so much processing power, not only would our healthcare data management be extremely efficient, but also security breaching would become almost impossible.

Data breaching and cyber-security have always been a burning issue for the healthcare community. In US, the average cost of a single PHI breach is $15 million. Regulatory authorities have also heavily stamped on companies in possession of PHI but not deploying the necessary security protocols. Under HIPAA rules, breaches in sensitive healthcare data are punishable by a maximum fine of $1.5 million per violation. With the advent of functional quantum computers, the healthcare landscape could experience its biggest transformation to date.

  1. Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual reality refers to a self-created, simulated experience of anything – from flying airplanes to enjoying dangerous rides. VR can replicate any life scenario, and so, it took little time to make its presence felt in healthcare.

Errors in operations, in particular, are responsible for a large number of deaths. It is estimated that around 310 million patients around the world are operated each year, among whom 50 million patients undergo post-surgery complications, and 1.5 million patients eventually die from such complications.[2] While these deaths take place due to a multitude of reasons, VR can help in reducing post-surgery complications. With VR, healthcare providers can make use of 3D imagery and graphics to examine and understand the patient’s medical condition better. This will make a surgeon’s life much easier and open up for opportunities to make surgeries safer.

  1. 5G

5G is latest entrant in the cellular arena, and it promises to offer faster data transfer rates with minimal latency. In synergy with AI, IoT, Blockchain, and other such technologies, 5G will accelerate how the world works.

The contemporary healthcare faces a problem of slow data transfers, ultimately creating undue barriers to better patient outcomes. A better medium to transfer data will make treatments effective and reimbursements faster.

The Fear of Horizontal Innovation

Destruction can be really, really subtle, and often undetectable. And that by unbridled technology could engender havoc far greater than nukes and missiles.

What if all the above-stated technologies completely malfunction? What if technologies like quantum computing, which we are still trying to understand, end up in the wrong hands – potentially nullifying all the currently laid out security protocols and national defense systems? What if technology eats up all the jobs and leaves us with millions of skilled people with no source of income? What if AI learns to deceive us and eventually control us?

Uncertainties associated with the growing influence of technology do exist. People are already unhappy with how technology is owning their personal information and are questioning whether the ongoing protocols of data management are safe enough. A research found out that 91% of the people admitted that they had lost control of their privacy.[3]  Risk auditing needs to be reconsidered, reexamined and recalculated. Costs will automatically escalate, and we might potentially find ourselves in a race to catch up with the uncontrolled influence of technology.

Conclusion

Technological advancements and innovations are bound to happen. Critical thinking, logical reasoning, and coming up with new things is what the human race is all about. We can expect a far greater influence of technology in healthcare in the years to come. For instance, AI healthcare alone is expected to account for a $6.6 billion market by 2021.

In its pilot testing, horizontal innovation in healthcare has shown signs of promise, but its future could be full of bumpy rides and twisty roads. However, the IT experts have expressed their faith and are confident that calculated technological intervention will only enhance our current healthcare ecosystem.

Author Bio:

Alex Tate is a Health IT writer for various platforms. He provides perceptive, engaging and informative consultancy on industry wide topics. He knows that no single approach is the right one for every practice, and so shall advice according to the requirements. The consultancy is based around EMR Systems, Practice Management and Billing Solutions. MACRA/MIPS consultancy is also available to achieve the highest returns and revenue for your practice.

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