The 3 Ways Software is About to Eat Healthcare

Glen Tullman, CEO, Livongo
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Glen Tullman, CEO, Livongo

As someone who was at the forefront of creating software that would impact the way we deliver healthcare, I remember the resistance and doubt that accompanied the rise of e-prescribing and Electronic Health Records. Some physicians said they would retire before they ever used technology in the exam room. When I look at healthcare today, I see the same skepticism of the coming changes. People continue to ignore what’s about to happen, which is, simply stated, that software is about to eat healthcare. I see three critical trends that are going to lead the way:

Making Physicians Great Again: Computer-Assisted Diagnosis is Going to Quickly Go from Science Fiction to Basic Expectations

Software can retrieve, analyze, and act upon amounts of data the human brain could never dream of managing at one time. For example, which would you prefer when driving a car: a friend with a paper map or Waze giving you turn-by-turn directions for the most efficient route based on real-time data—with thousands of other cars on the road providing feedback on exactly what you are about to experience? Yet, for our health, we still trust human-only analysis with critical decisions.

What if we supplemented human capabilities with technology that provided similar real-time analysis? What if, as soon as a doctor entered your symptoms into an EHR, the software analyzed your personal situation and was able to give the doctor the probable causes and suggested next steps based on your age, gender, and other health conditions?

  ​Right now healthcare continues to be a one-size fits all approach, but our technology and data can already take us further 

That’s possible right now with today’s technology, but we have to move from viewing EHRs as data repositories and instead, look at them as real time information systems. This will happen.   

Big Brother is Coming to Healthcare: Someone Will Always Be Watching You, from the Inside Out

24 x 7 monitoring. We want it for our home security systems, for banks, but why not for our bodies? Would you be willing to put a tiny chip into your body if it could tell you that you were about to have a heart attack and you needed to head the ER or take a pill to prevent it? What if you could receive a daily summary on your health projected onto your mirror each morning from sensors inside your body, telling you what to eat to feel your best? What if an algorithm could analyze this health data instantly and notify your doctor’s office to schedule an appointment if there was an immediate threat or a concerning trend?

None of these scenarios are pipe-dreams; the technology is nearly ready today. Sensors and communications technology have become so miniaturized and cost-effective that we’re already able to draw insight instantly from connected devices. Think On-Star for people, not cars! As these health benefits becomes more real, in many cases people will find them too beneficial to ignore. The future is coming—the only question is are you ready to be chipped?

Have It Your Way: Personalized Healthcare is Coming

Right now healthcare continues to be a one-size fits all approach, but our technology and data can already take us further.

We can analyze data like the genome in context of someone’s health and give them targeted recommendations to make the most significant positive impact on their future health. We can understand their genetics and know which drugs will work the best for them and, importantly, which won’t work at all. We can even give tailored suggestions to stop the onset of disease through preventive steps customized to a specific genome and lifestyle.

This won’t be just reams of data either, but concise, actionable recommendations to achieve your best state of health. It will be like having a team of health advisors devoted just to you, 24/7.

Conclusion

Healthcare change is coming. I know there are long lists of reasons why change won’t happen. I heard those same reasons before we started sending hundreds of millions of electronic prescriptions every year. I heard them before we transformed paper information into easily available electronic records. And while I’m hearing many reasons why healthcare won’t change, the people saying that should be sure to stay out of the way of those who are already making change happen lest they get run over.