05:57 AM

Making Healthcare The Next 'Space Race'

Building out new infrastructure, tools and services for a 21 century healthcare system is the modern day equivalent of last century's space race, according to Eric Dishman, GM of health strategy and solutions at Intel.

By Intel Free Press

Fear of falling behind the Soviet Union in the space race drove U.S. legislators, scientists and industry leaders to radically reform the government's role in technology research and development.

A new commitment driven by the same type of fear might be the shot in the arm needed to save America's troubled healthcare system, according to one healthcare technology expert.

Medical technology innovation, once largely centered in the United States is shifting to other countries. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers research, more cutting-edge healthcare products and services come to market in Europe first, and over the next decade China, Brazil and India will outpace the United States in medical technology innovation.

Yet, amid the presidential election, the focus domestically is on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act while the international innovation gap widens.

Technology is crucial not only to managing costs and improving the quality of care, it can also spur new international opportunities for healthcare companies in America, says Eric Dishman, an Intel Fellow and general manager of health strategy and solutions.

In a recent interview, he discussed how consumer technologies could support a preventive care system and opportunities for healthcare companies to export cutting-edge services, expertise and equipment.

Healthcare is a big issue for U.S. presidential candidates again this year, but what isn't being talked about?

If you understand healthcare through the headlines right now, you're missing the most important things. Every Republican and Democrat, every member of the House and Senate knows that we as a nation, and every other nation of the world, are faced with this aging population challenge. How are we going to pay for more care for more people but with fewer resources?

The U.S. health reform is not the only game in town. This is a global competition to see who is going to reform their healthcare system first and who is going to be at the lead of these new industries that are going to emerge around personal health technologies, genomics and m-health [healthcare that leverages mobile technologies such as smartphones, tablets and laptops].

As we fight about healthcare reform in the U.S., the rest of the world is leaving us behind.

What's the state of healthcare in America?

It's a crying shame that in the 21st century doctors, nurses and patients aren't all operating on the same playbook. What's my past data? What's my care plan? What do my recent lab tests show? What meds am I on? It's embarrassing that for more than 50 percent of patients in America, we don't have this because things are still on paper.

We've had a long-standing paradigm where you get sick, go to a place for care, you're handed your prescriptions and go back home again. We have the technology infrastructure all around us today -- smartphones, computers -- that allow care to come to us anywhere.

The technology has been here for a good 10 years. It's just that the policy and the reimbursement infrastructure have not been hooked up with the technology.

Healthcare reform, information technologies and building out a 21st century healthcare infrastructure for global aging ... this is the space race of the 21st century. It's a competition that other countries are preparing to win.

As soon as the U.S. gets out of the partisan fight and gets back into the fight with the rest of the world, everybody will benefit. A good, healthy global competition will drive innovation up, drive costs down and drive access for everybody.

Where in the world are significant healthcare reforms underway?

Europe will be at the head of caring for its aging population and the industries that are going to support independent living. They're putting billions of Euros in place to try and win those industries and win that science.

China, as they build out age-friendly cities, has set these audacious goals to improve the quality of life for every Chinese citizen and in the process generate thousands of new jobs from multiple new industries that serve the needs of personal health.

This past summer, Australia built its national broadband network and is making personal health record software and infrastructure available to every citizen. They're trying to drive a vibrant industry of personal health software, solutions and services between doctors and patients because they know that if they figure out how to solve that problem for Australia, then they can export those technologies and ideas and sell them to the rest of the world, thus creating jobs for their own people.

Are they concerned that healthcare reforms will require more government investment and ownership?

Healthcare is going to be the largest cost of every segment of every economy because of global aging. You don't need a big government to deal with it. Some counties expect the government to be the entity that helps solve these problems. In other countries, including the U.S., there's pressure for that to be the private market. The reality is it's going to be a combination of private market and government everywhere.

Even in the places that have socialized medicine, we're seeing them build out private insurance for the first time. Even in the places that have socialized medicine, their fee-for-service paradigm is starting to reform toward quality-based measures. The movement toward quality, pay-for performance as opposed to pay-for service is ubiquitous across nations, governments, political stripes, populations.

All are trying to figure things out. How to make patients more proactive about their own health? How can they use technology and care plans to make people more preventive so they're less likely to get sick? How can there be better coordination of care teams so that the primary care doctor, nurse, specialist and neighbor who is part of the caregiving all know what each other is trying to accomplish with making this person better?

How do we move toward this personal healthcare paradigm, where we are treating you based on you not on just guesswork of a randomized clinical trial done 20 years ago?