"Solving Healthcare, the Geek Way" - Pawan Gupta, Co-founder, Curofy
One main reason technology adoption has been a challenge in healthcare is the proposed solution not being in sync with the real problems. Most solutions in healthcare have tried to first identify a cool technology and plug it in to solve some problem.
Healthcare is arguably the most important industry in the world. 3 of the 8 UN’s Millennium Development Goals are focused on healthcare. It is also one of the largest and fastest growing industries. The pharmaceutical companies alone have a revenue of more than a $ trillion.
But even today almost half of the world’s population lacks access to essential healthcare services. There is a huge shortage of Doctors in the world. The shortage is more apparent in smaller towns and rural areas. In those areas a bigger problem is nonexistence of super specialists. Healthcare infrastructure is also a major issue in emerging markets where governments can’t afford to spend a huge chuck of their GDPs on healthcare.
Then, ever increasing globalization has resulted in epidemics spreading much faster and at a much larger scale. Recent outbreak of Zika is a perfect example. It spread to more than 50 countries within 12 months of detection in Brazil. And some reports claim that it took Brazil more than a year to first detect it. At the same time, a heavy burden of patients and paper work has left Doctors with little time to update themselves on the latest in medicine. Amidst all this chaos, Doctor-Patient relation has never been more strained.
Too many problems, too little action in right direction. Yes, building more colleges, increasing spend on healthcare, and more R&D will solve the problems but so will colonizing Mars and finding the elixir of youth. The point is, these are 20th century solutions with very little scalability and even slower results. Often the requirements become much larger by the time they start delivering results.
Does this mean our healthcare is permanently crippled? Obviously no. What healthcare really needs right now is a major adoption of technology. For only technology has the capability to build scalable solutions and greatly increase productivity. One such area needing urgent help from tech is communication. A study by Ponemon Institute of more than 400 U.S. healthcare providers found that hospitals in US waste more than $11bn a year on inefficient communication. This not only increases the cost of healthcare for all the patients but further constrains our limited resources especially the time of Doctors. We need technology adoption that can ease communication, make information sharing seamless and help in clinical decision making.
One main reason technology adoption has been a challenge in healthcare is the proposed solution not being in sync with the real problems. Most solutions in healthcare have tried to first identify a cool technology and plug it in to solve some problem. Fundamentally, one has to first identify problems and then solve them with technology. Also, adopting to a technology has to be beneficial to the person using it. Now, EMR EHR are great tools but they slow down a Doctor who finds it much easier to write on a piece of paper. No doubt their adoption is both low and slow. And then most of these solutions are being built by healthcare insiders who get stuck with their pre-conceived notions of what can and cannot work. More often than not these solutions only add to the cost and inefficiencies.
Fortunately, geeks, the experts at IT, have recently been drawn to the health-tech space because of its size and real life impact. What they are able to do is start with a clean sheet, understand the industry, understand the root causes of problems and then propose out of the box solutions. The idea of a Q&A platform for doctors (Curofy) was a direct inspiration from Stack Overflow, a Q&A platform for software engineers, to help the doctors make better and faster decisions. There are startups who are making doctors accessible to patients from small towns via video / text (Practo, Lybrate, 1mg).
There are startups helping a small town physician discuss super specialty cases with specialists (Curofy). Home healthcare services draw inspiration from Uber (Portea, Care24). Then the recent trend of utilizing Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to help with clinical decision making is a result of data scientists venturing out into the field of healthcare. Recently, PGIMR Chandigarh started digitally tracking as well as auditing cardiac implants to allow public to make evidence-based decisions from the data captured by them.
Improving healthcare access to the underserved is a pressing need but is impossible to achieve in short time with the the 20th century solutions. That’s why healthcare needs to welcome geeks and allow them to build scalable solutions. What geeks need to understand is that healthcare is different from other industries. The inertia in this industry is very high and people’s lives are at stake here. But eventually the extra hard work pays off in terms of the satisfaction one gets by bringing a change to people’s lives.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house
Around The World