Telemed, remote monitoring, robotics, social media represent true health reform

Finally, someone said it.

"[P]ublic discourse on health reform is almost entirely focused on the whole [the unsustainable costs and inadequate health outcomes] at the expense of a focus on the parts [improving the health outcomes of individual patients]. As a result, the debate has centered on the provider side [facilities and physicians] while essentially ignoring the accelerating role of technology and the expanding role of individual patients in the healthcare delivery system," Dr. Charles J. Shanley, associate CMO for Beaumont Hospitals in Michigan, and David Ellis, corporate director of planning and future studies at the Detroit Medical Center, write in the online version of Hospitals & Health Networks.

They tout telemedicine, remote monitoring and robotics as means of managing patients at home, potentially cutting down on expensive ER visits and rehospitalizations, and "sociomedical networking" on sites like PatientsLikeMe, 23andMe and SixUntilMe to help improve access to care. "These innovations will dramatically expand the role of the individual patient in the healthcare delivery system of the future. They will require dramatic workflow and structural changes to be efficient," write Shanley and Ellis. "Sociomedical networks are already emerging as a way to manage care effectively and inexpensively. They represent one model of a 'medical home.'"

In our new FiercePracticeManagement, editor Debra Beaulieu makes a similar case from the perspective of a patient and a parent. "How nice would it be if I could just beam our pediatrician a digital photo of a rash, describe any other symptoms and get a response--even if it's that I'll need to make an appointment--without necessarily having to haul both kids over there and inevitably bring the healthy one back with the germs of some other kid who couldn't resist smooshing his face right up against the giant fish tank?"

According to Shanley and Ellis, these forms of "postmodern medicine" help empower patients, but won't take hold until policymakers and healthcare executives are willing to make drastic changes. "Instead of gloom and doom, successful health leaders will see progress and opportunity. Instead of 'draconian cuts,' they will see 'intelligent investments.' The balance of debate will move away from the current emphasis on costs and toward benefits. There will be a little less emphasis on process and a lot more on outcomes," they say.

To learn more:
- read this Hospitals & Health Networks commentary
- check out Beaulieu's Editor's Corner in FiercePracticeManagement

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