Futurist: Tech revolution in healthcare requires systemic change

The proliferation of "fast, cheap and out-of-control" technologies will revolutionize healthcare ... but only if the industry undergoes systemic change and values effectiveness over billing, futurist Joe Flower writes at Hospital and Health Networks Daily.

"The use and propagation of these new, low-cost technologies are entirely wrapped up in [new reimbursement models.] In old-fashioned fee-for-service systems, they will be used only where their use can be billed for, or where they lower the internal costs of something that can be billed for. They will not be used to replace existing services that can be billed at higher rates," he says.

Traditionally, health systems adopt expensive technology on the premise that it might improve care, but still have to pay for it--even if later research shows it doesn't.

In a value-based health system, the questions will be more straightforward, he says: Does it work? Does the technology make diagnosis and treatment faster, more effective, more efficient? Does it reduce costs?

As an example, he points to 3-D printing to create custom replacement bones. Replacement knee joints sell for an average of $21,000 in the United States, he says, adding: "Imagine how ferociously the legacy makers of implants will resist this change, and how disruptive it will be."

In the article, he paints a picture of a future health system incorporating an embedded system of sensors, apps and communication devices supporting strong, trusted relationships between clinicians and patients--one that would be "supported with vigor and ferocity" by the medical community for its extraordinary value in treating the populations they serve.

Technology focused on providing evidence-based care, better coordination of care for the sickest patients and educating patients on how to get the best value in healthcare will help contain healthcare costs, concluded a report from The Commonwealth Fund.

Eric Topol, a professor of genomics at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, who Flower mentions in his piece for promoting tech advances, has told FierceHealthIT that advancement of technology in healthcare requires further validation that it really does work.

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