Connected care is the new healthcare

We all love Saavn.com for helping us find great music that we like, and Netflix for suggesting quality movies that we likely would enjoy and Amazon or Flipkart for making insightful book recommendations. I often think to myself: “it’s about time that health information becomes more personalized, like some of these services are.”

From an individual’s point of view, health care can be very complex. Making decisions isn’t easy when you aren’t sure where to go and what services and information you really need. If technology is to help personalize your health care activities and experience, it must be customized, connected to all and help an individual build a relationship that can deliver a truly personalized health care experience.

Let’s start with healthcare. Think about what happens when you visit a Doctor. You have to schedule an appointment either at in-queue or via telephone and then after waiting sometime for a long-week appointment, you have to physically go to the Doctor or hospital, where you wait with no real predictability for how long, and then the assistant probably takes you and check-in your vitals. Only after all these the Doctor show up and, after some friendly face, asks you to describe your own symptoms and past experiences. The Doctor assesses them for clues, provides the diagnosis, writes a paper prescription with list of medications and tests, and sends you off. Thereafter you visit to the nearest pharmacy to collect your medicine, you pay the bills and go at your convenient to the recommended lab from Doctor to have your test conducted. The next day you again visit the Doctor, wait-in-a-queue, meet the Doctor, handover the reports and get back to your home with revised medications and precautions.

Not only this, you are also left alone to take care of yourself. So, what’s wrong with this situation?

  • Physically having to go to your doctor’s clinic do not make sense for the most part. Time plus cost will often discourage people from taking the first step to visit a Doctor. Most of time, the technology in your hand could advise you when it is worth visiting the Doctor based on your current health profile, health status, risk factors, current trending infections and other symptom trends.
  • For most of the part, the basic consultation could be served from your smart phone, where you can directly connect with your Doctor for a face-to-face consultation and receive an immediate digital copy of your prescription on your phone; that could be further triggered to nearest connected Pharmacy and Labs for medications and test appointment respectively.
  • You are always the one who tell your Doctors the symptoms.
  • The doctor has to inquire each possible set of symptoms, past illness and medical conditions that in most cases are far to reach and recall.
  • The prescriptions are still done on paper, requiring you to, again, physically go to a pharmacy and pick up what you need. Compliance, thus, remained a critical issue.

Looking at this, I cannot explain but think that this is a completely outdated system which is still in practice after several years of technological advancement and advent of low cost handheld devices. Whether it’s a healthcare or not, we need a different radical approach in bringing out the change.

When we set ourselves free to make a dent for a bigger picture in healthcare, there we see, healthcare is defined more by ‘Care’ than ‘health’. For me, Care isn’t just about your visit to Doctor’s clinic or emergency ward, nor is it just about face-to-face relationships between you and your Doctor. It’s about everything that affects you and your family. It’s the question whether you are connected, informed and safe when you or any of your loved ones are put on risk?

Access to your or your family’s health information and health services in a timely-constrained environment has always been a critical factor for you, your family and your Care team which often results into delayed and imprecise care treatment; sometime even a matter of life and death.

Once your health is compromised, you need a system to help restore your feeling of being connected, informed and safe; whether it’s day or night.

Technology enables us to be more engaged. Mobile technology can help us better and more easily access and manage the information we need. By looking at mobile devices — we get a more comprehensive picture of our world. Just think for a moment. When we look at our smartphone, in isolation; it’s pretty good as phone. But its real value is that it’s not just our phone; it’s also our camera, navigator, watch, music player, bank, newspaper and many other form of physical replacement.

Just imagine when we stop looking at one technology in isolation and instead looking at how it can be connected deeper into our lives’ critical information. Then we can think about what they can do together. Imagine if we can use our smartphone to better and more easily manage our and our family’s health. By allowing our phone to be our health profile, personal care companion, as a tool to reach out health experts in need across hours, to manage our kid’s vaccination records or to get the status on our loved ones’ health.

This kind of change is powerful. Fast-moving, convergent technologies can re-frame problems in healthcare and open new paths to solutions. Technology that is more about helping people live connected, informed, and wellness facing lives. By keeping people better informed, satisfied and engaged through this mobile driven approach, they’ll have a better understanding of how to get and stay healthy.

Social media enables businesses to get rid of layers and makes themselves closer to the audience. For people like us, it’s a huge opportunity to engage with others who have similar challenges without the limitations of the physical world which is more of a high-cost driven subject. Using Mobile as the easy and cheap technology, Health subject experts; be it be a Doctor, Pharmacist, a Lab expert or a dietitian can serve people’s needs, as well as bringing people together.

Information and Presentation of information; personalized with one’s health picture and can be used to “inform” the people for a better Care. The sharing of one’s health care information across continuum of care combined with “Information” analytic and presentation could result into a wonderful “Care companion” so that you never miss out anything important for your or your family’s good health and care.

Mobile healthcare, as I believe, is about more than just how we and Doctors interact on a day-to-day basis. It goes beyond in making the promise to contribute to wellness, Care, personal health profile, communication and relationship with our loved ones, tracking, reminders and many other health-related improvements.

According to current health IT principles, the most important reason to use computers and the Internet in healthcare is to lower costs and increase efficiency. But that’s not true. At the core of what I believe is the most important reason to implement technology in health care is to improve the experience for people like you and me. While technology will help us in our quest to deliver the true and personalized experience to people, health providers and experts, health businesses altogether; we must not forget the importance of transparent, open and hyper-connected world where “Care is all about sharing”.

We must move rapidly to tap technology, especially mobile technology to get smarter about Care. Today, healthcare experience is complex, intertwined, and touches every single individual on the planet. The average per capita spent on healthcare costs has been tremendously increasing over the past few years. By leveraging mobile technology, we can also have a greater impact on health care costs by reaching out to almost everyone due to lower cost and higher penetration rate.

As a health care entrepreneur, the challenges seems to be high but the Vision to connect people like you, make you informed and empower with a simple technology, I believe you will have a better understanding of your and your family’s health, which will enable you to make better choices, always.
It’s not simply about bolting an online system in place, but to create something that will truly transform the industry — a culture focused on helping people to not only become healthy, but to stay that way.

And it all starts with you and me working together and contributing to make this happen. As someone rightly said, “The best way to predict the future is not to extrapolate the past and what has or has not worked, but to invent the future we want, the one we believe possible!”

The author is the Co-founder of a healthcare start-up “Menias” based out of New Delhi, India (http://www.menias.com) and can be reached via email: ekansh@menias.com

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