by Margaret Brown

What’s Disrupting Healthcare?

In the last decade the healthcare industry has experienced some significant changes courtesy of legislation, technology, and even patient expectations, but the forces disrupting healthcare are not quite done yet. According to healthcare IT luminary, David Chou, Vice President and Analyst at the Constellation Group and CIO at Luye Medical Group, the twin forces of tech innovation and the entry of non-traditional players into the healthcare market have the potential to intensify the disruption.

While Chou sees the promise in these disruptive forces, he cautions that, particularly in the case of technology, the ability to deliver on their promise is dependent on trust. “With companies like Amazon, Apple, Target, and Sam’s Club looking to become healthcare providers there’s a drive for traditional healthcare providers to adopt more customer-focused approaches like loyalty programs and other personalization tools,” he shared. “These shifts, along with the move to value-based care and heightened patient expectations about everything from personalized therapies and the quality of interaction with their clinicians is driving the adoption of more sophisticated technologies.”

So, in order to successfully embrace these disruptive forces and deliver on their promise, what will healthcare providers need to do?

 Personalizing Care, Connecting with Patients

While there are several factors driving change in the healthcare sector, at the heart of it all is the move toward value-based care. Value-based care focuses on outcomes by changing how care is delivered with an emphasis on preventative care and wellness strategies. “Currently most providers are focused on volume – that is how many patients can be seen in a day or on a shift,” said Chou. “To deliver value-based care and address increasing patient expectations, the traditional provider is going to have to change. To meet the needs of today’s market, providers will need to identify their differentiators in terms of service to find and retain patients.”

In other words, to compete, patient care must be customized, tailored, and personalized.

“Hospital systems have to understand individual patients and their behavior better than anyone, in order to keep them healthy and out of the hospital,” Chou explained. “They must have personalized follow up and a personalized approach just to be successful. That is why artificial intelligence and machine learning can be so valuable to providers who are attempting to create that personalized experience.”

On AI and Algorithms

To successfully deliver a personalized healthcare experience, technology is key. Chou believes artificial intelligence (AI)  and machine learning (ML)are the foundations of this new approach. But what AI and ML need first are massive amounts of data and then a similarly impressive compute capability.

“Every organization has more data than ever and the single biggest obstacle to how to put that data to work is getting that data into a format that can be easily accessed and utilized,” shared Chou. “Investing in a data strategy and a long-term data program is essential so that your organization can make sense of the data and access it easily and quickly to process it for meaningful outcomes.”

Whether data is stored in a traditional data warehouse, a data lake, a multi-cloud or hybrid cloud environment, technologies that enable data accessibility is the first requirement.

The other investment that healthcare providers should make according to Chou is in compute power. “Whether an organization is utilizing all-cloud technology or on-premise technology, having, enough computing power and storage is essential to take advantage of the data you have and to implement AI and ML algorithms,” he explained.

An interesting note that Chou brings to the AI and ML conversation is about the importance of trust amidst all this tech-driven disruption. “Behind the scenes of every AI program, there’s an algorithm that’s based upon someone’s assumptions,” said Chou. “The question – and the challenge is – whose algorithm are you going to be trust and believe in? Do you believe in an algorithm that is produced by a technology company, or one that’s put together by a leading health system like the Mayo Clinic or the Cleveland Clinic?

Mike McNamara, Senior Manager. Product & Solution Marketing at NetApp echos Chou’s perspective. “AI isn’t about machines churning out answers, it’s about unlocking the value of data. It’s about developing insights and knowledge that can be put to work for the good of the patient and provider that were previously unrealistic in terms of time and complexity,” he shared.

The Takeaway: It All Comes Down to Trust

As healthcare organizations navigate their way through these new challenges, the ability to put data to work is critical to meeting patient needs and expectations. Being able to access, analyze and apply data via the use of AI and ML is instrumental in getting traditional providers prepared to practice the type of customized medicine that is currently disrupting the healthcare industry.

“Those ‘early adopter’ healthcare systems have shown that there’s no question about the benefits is able to deliver,” concluded McNamara. “By building a strong data-driven foundation AI will make a far bigger impact in the future, as long as there a foundation of trust.” As Chou emphasized, it’s not only about building trust between patient and provider in the digital world but also about building trust between provider and the data-driven tools they are using, and, finally, building trust between the healthcare system and their technology providers. It’s a different way of approaching healthcare both on the frontlines and behind the scenes, but one that Chou assures us – and the healthcare organizations he works with – will deliver a better quality of care for all.

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