All the technology in the world can’t replace the healthcare professional. It is at the most basic level that a human connection is needed to understand one’s symptoms, concerns and illnesses. That doesn’t mean that technology isn’t making care easier. The challenge becomes marrying innovation in technology to the healthcare provider so the ultimate care can be achieved. That means taking education to a level that instills knowledge in how to improve care overall.
When one envisions the latest in healthcare technology advances, 3D printers, electronic records and robotic surgery likely come to mind. These innovations have certainly transformed healthcare and our ability to diagnose, monitor and treat patients at higher levels. In a multi-trillion global industry, it’s no surprise to find hi-tech innovation and advancements have improved recovery rates and reduced costs.
For all those amazing pieces of equipment and programming, it is the national shift to value-based care that brings the greatest advances to our healthcare system. U.S. healthcare accounts for 17.7% of the nation’s spending, according to Policy Advice. This focus on quality of care and successful recovery metrics are leading to predictive care models that can change healthcare from being reactive to projecting future healthcare needs.
This approach has the potential to flip current models upside down, especially when looking at reimbursement. Currently, physicians and hospitals charge based on fees, rather than the quality of care and outcomes based on the care provided. This shift actually aligns better with providers who are focused on the health of their patients. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, value-based care supports innovative approaches to improve quality, accessibility and affordability.
The pandemic has forced the healthcare industry and insurance providers to take a hard look at how services are being provided. Telemedicine has gained in popularity out of necessity. Many have found this approach to be a viable option, reducing costs for physicians and reducing time for patients and their caregivers. This is just one way technology is connecting patients to their providers.
There are apps, software, and devices, also known as “wearables,” that can track your heart rate, monitor blood sugar and blood pressure levels, and keep track of your exercise regimes. All the while gathering data on your health from activity to sleep patterns to diet and disease prevention. You likely have one or two in use every day – a Fitbit, Apple watch or simply your smart phone can now provide important health data. On a grander level, Intel has partnered with ICU physicians to develop Sickbay, an analytical platform designed to aggregate data from ICU equipment for remote monitoring. The result was increased quality of care while reducing the risk of COVID-19 exposure.
This data is the future of predictive care. It is also the driver behind healthcare education. The understanding of analytics and data can lead to system improvements. When healthcare providers can take data and turn it into something meaningful, real care begins. For this reason, Western Governors University is focusing on value-based care and quality improvement as part of their nursing and healthcare degree programs. The programs instill the understanding of embracing change through a system level outlook.
By assessing patterns and trends, future healthcare professionals can make assessments and adjust care accordingly to best meet a patient’s needs once they enter the healthcare system. Predictive modeling can help physicians better target interventions for patients, rather than being reactive, as care is approached traditionally. Best practices can be developed through this ongoing learning.
The right thing to do is to catch health issues before they become problematic issues. The challenge is that it takes having an expanded view. Healthcare providers need a problem-solving approach to uncover contributing health issues. It may be nutrition, exercise or environmental impacts, or maybe a mix of each. Technology can help with collating data to find trends and potential points of intervention.
A shift in teaching will give future healthcare providers the insight they need to adjust systems, leverage data and analytics to develop treatment plans with lasting impacts will improve the overall wellness of our communities. With predictive care we can leverage technology for the good of all with preventive treatments in at the forefront of our healthcare systems. WGU is preparing the next generation of providers to be able to do just that.