DENVER – With the number of digital health products currently growing at a tremendous rate, entrepreneurs and clinicians alike are predicting that digital health technology will soon become a standard feature of clinical practice. During a recent appearance on Startup Health Now, athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush spoke to this rapid growth when he asked entrepreneurs participating in his company’s More Disruption Please Innovation Challenge to focus their efforts on the few areas of the healthcare system that have yet to be targeted.
But while media attention is focused on the broad range of digital health products that are currently entering the market, several members of the healthcare system are taking a more long-term perspective on the digital transformation of their industry. Todd Evenson, COO of Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), recently spoke with CyberMed News about his wish to see the day when digital health technology disappears.
What do you mean when you say you’re “looking forward to the day when digital health technology disappears?”
When I talk about digital health technology disappearing, what I’m referring to is developers and entrepreneurs finding elegant ways to improve workflow and increase connectivity. When I look at where we’re at today with EHRs, it’s clear that they were not built with the intention of connecting me with you so that I can learn how I can improve your health. They were built to enable me to enter data into a system.
If you ask a physician what their interactions with patients are like today, they’re going to say that all they see is the top of the patient’s head because they no longer get to connect with them. If I were going to build the EHR of the future, I’d start over from scratch and build it with a different purpose in mind – to improve your health with humanity.
Would you say that digital health technology is currently too intrusive?
I think we have a very litigious and complicated system. There’s an overwhelming amount of regulation that’s actually complicating the applications themselves and their development. As a patient, do I want my healthcare provider to have all the data possible that I can deliver? Yes, but I still have concerns about privacy and about how that data will be used.
Does the leadership of MGMA share your desire to see digital health technology disappear?
They’re all looking forward to the opportunity to enhance the potential of digital health technology. We want to move towards a grander vision of figuring out how we can use technology to provide better health and how we can do that through the business of healthcare.
There is a lot of technology out there that’s going to really change the way we interact with our healthcare system. Unfortunately, we don’t actually have a healthcare system right now; we have an industry. There isn’t really anything connecting us together in the healthcare industry. I think we can leverage technology to bring the different members of the healthcare industry together, allowing information to flow freely in the appropriate ways, and letting patients play a bigger role in their own care.
What does a future in which digital health technology has disappeared look like?
If digital health technology disappears, I think you’ll see that systems and processes are no longer being disrupted. Instead, there will be a seamless integration that’s going on behind the scenes.
For example, smartphones represent a great opportunity to help us record and understand patient information. But if I have to move between rooms and have to enter a password every time I enter a new room because of compliance issues, that technology isn’t working in a way that supports how I interact with the clinical environment. Designers of new digital health technologies really need to go into these environments and watch how people interact with them, instead of just creating technologies that are meant to get data into a system.
How is MGMA working towards a future of this kind?
When we set up our innovation space in Catalyst HTI, we will be a little bit different from the other tenants there because we will be able to focus more on collaboration. We’re setting up our space in a way that will ensure that my staff and I will interact with the innovators that will be in the building as much as possible.
Great design is built around iteration. Through these interactions, we will help innovators focus their ideas on achieving the grander goal of improving overall health. Because MGMA is committed to improving the business of medical practice, we will be able to support innovators of all kinds.