The second annual Expo.Health conference was held last week here in Boston. Its emphasis on practical, real-world applications led to interesting panels and discussions, some on topics that have become familiar over the past few years, and others which were genuinely novel.
- More attention needs to be paid to the essential functions of the health system where technology can have an immediate and significant impact. According to CAQH, provider systems can save almost $8.5B dollars annually by increasing the automation of just six administrative workflows. The technology already exists to address most of these gaps, but even at conferences like this, the topic remains on the sidelines.
- As AI becomes an increasingly larger part of the healthcare toolbox, understanding what the terms really mean and how these tools function is more important than ever. ML algorithms can reveal hidden correlations and aggregate relationships within otherwise overwhelming datasets, but gaps in data, algorithmic or data bias, and other issues can’t be addressed if the underlying technical issues aren’t understood.
Functional Deployments in the Back Office
Administrative deployments of AI and technology deserve more attention. Clinical change is hard to implement, generates internal conflict, and often lacks a clear connection to revenue and value. Back-end services that affect every patient or provider can impact the bottom line of a healthcare organization. For this reason, it was encouraging to see panels address non-clinical applications. Panels on AI in patient communication, registration activities, and transition of care all addressed non-clinical issues delivering in technology-enabled care. That’s a good step, but back office, financial, and workflow issues in healthcare are essential areas for technology-enabled transformation that remain under-addressed.
Let’s Get Technical
Too many speakers are wary of speaking in-depth about how technology works. It’s essential for all sides of the healthcare industry to be able to get beyond buzzwords into the technical details. It was encouraging to see some panelists get into specifics of new technologies and what the differences for healthcare will be. On Thursday, Karl Bream from Nokia gave a quick but in-depth breakdown of the opportunities and challenges of upcoming 5G technology, allowing the other panelists to discuss what those changes meant both for vendors and providers. In their breakout group, Niko Skievaski of Redox and Hannah Landes of NowPow led a fascinating discussion of the challenges and opportunities of interoperability layers and how systems can leverage them to drive change for patients. These are the kind of discussions that inform the audience, offer a deeper understanding of the topic matter, and that everyone can benefit from.
The Real Meaning of Patient Engagement
To improve the patient experience, we need a more sophisticated understanding of what the healthcare industry offers. Patients don’t want healthcare and it isn’t what they’re seeking. Patients want health, and buying healthcare is how they can get it. Improving and streamlining the patient experience within the four walls of the practice can only improve things so much. Communicating with patients can still be unwelcome and intrusive. Patient engagement needs to be aimed at reducing the need for time-consuming appointments, while still maintaining patient health and visibility through less disruptive means. New models of technology-enabled care give health systems the ability to keep patients well at home if they can deploy and take advantage of them. You can read more about this topic in our upcoming report, Primary Care in the 21st Century.