A Complete Healthcare System Disruption: The Internet of Medical Things

 In Design Strategy, Medical Product Design

What do two medical doctors, the SVP of Qualcomm Life, and the VP R&D of a medical device startup have in common? They were all on the same stage predicting the future of healthcare and the role The Internet Of Medical Things will play.

If they are right and I believe they are, we’re about to see a complete and total disruption of the Healthcare system we know today. If you’re an entrepreneur that’s great news, because the opportunities are endless. If your business thrives on the way the current system works and you’re not willing to change, your time is up.

San Diego based business incubator EvoNexus and their main sponsor and host Qualcomm, put on one of the best medical device related programs I’ve attended this year. Dr. Steven Steinhubl moderated the panel which included Rick Valencia SVP Qualcomm Life, Dr. James Mault VP and CMO Qualcomm Life and Marshal Dhillon VP R&D toSense.

Five topics clearly rose to the top and are what I would consider main drivers of the new healthcare model.

A Value Based Healthcare System

My favorite quote of the night was “Pay for the cure not the pill” by Dr. Mault.

The biggest problem with our healthcare system is how we incentivize doctors and hospitals. They only make money when people are sick, visit them, and use their services. If the goal is really to make and keep people healthy, shouldn’t physicians be paid to keep us away?

Shifting from a fee for service model to a results based healthcare system is clearly the answer. The new Value based model is based on accountability and payment will be received based on positive outcomes.

The New Hospital Model

Don’t be surprised if you visit a hospital in the next few years and hear people asking, “Hey where are all the beds?” and the response by staff is “The beds are at your house”.

One member of the panel mentioned that Mercy Hospital in St. Louis is spending $100 million dollars to build a state of the art hospital facility with no beds that will focus on telehealth services.
The new model doesn’t want you to go to the hospital, it wants to take care of you in your home. Nurses and pharmacists will become the Patient Navigators having the most contact with patients and doctors will become the arbiters.

Patients are beginning to bombard their doctor’s with personal health data created by their wearables and doctors are running for the hills. As useful as the information could be, there is no way for doctor’s to receive, sort, and analyze it all. Entirely new businesses and systems will evolve to handle the coming tsunami of device data.

There are over 1,000 health insurance companies in business today. That number will shrink drastically as the largest ones consolidate and the smaller ones go out of business. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, these companies are committed to making 50% of their payments based off of value by 2018.

The biggest challenge will be creating a new Healthcare system that looks, feels, and operates in a completely new way.

New Opportunities for Innovation

Qualcomm Life is clearly leading the charge in enabling the Internet of Medical Things in many ways. The most impactful and impressive might be the 2Net device platform developed specifically to connect caregivers with people at home. It essentially enables a wireless connection between medical devices used at home and the cloud where data can be accessed by physicians.
A secure and fast data connection with HIPPA compliant servers is a big deal and was a major barrier for device startups just a couple years ago. The 2Net solution allows companies to focus their effort and funding on their medical devices and helping people rather than connectivity, communication, and data storage.

As technology barriers are lowered and healthcare shifts from hospital to home, there will be big winners and big losers. Small flexible startups are best positioned to ride the wave of disruption as large established companies try to keep their heads above water.

User Centered Design

Hearing the emphasis they put on user centered design was music to my ears because it is a cornerstone of our business.
These individual leaders in their respective fields have all come to the same conclusion. Technology needs to serve people, not the other way around. Obvious yes, but ignored over and over again by technologists since the beginning of time.

Dr. Mault noted that “Too many people in the tech field don’t consider who the audience is when designing their products.” The interaction with home use medical products needs to be invisible, effortless, or automatic.

For example there were more than a few eReaders on the market prior to the Kindle. The problem was that they all required a seemingly simple step where the user was required to transfer an eBook from a computer via a USB drive to the eReader. Loaded with Qualcomm’s wireless Whisper technology, the Kindle enabled a seamless transfer of files wirelessly from a computer. That single extra step became a barrier that cost those companies dearly, and helped secure Kindle’s place in history.

Understanding emotional and psychological motivators behind human behavior is essential to the success of home use medical products. Medication non-adherence is a global crisis because 50% of people don’t take their prescribed medications. Dr. Mault suggested that there are four human motivators Money, Sex, Entertainment, and Food that can be used to increase engagement.

Walgreens launched a loyalty program last year powered by Qualcomm technology where patients earned balance reward points by sharing some of their vital signs with the store. In the first 3 months there were 400K uploads of blood pressure, glucose, and weight data. That program equated to $10 million dollars in store credit that was given away. In this example a cash incentive was exactly what was needed as a catalyst for changing behavior.

What enabled The Internet of Medical Things and what will perpetuate it into the future?

Dr. Mault felt strongly that convergence of incentives and technology was a big enabler. Focusing on behavior change and managing the information from a clinical perspective will drive it forward.

Marshall noted that advances in smartphones and the 2Net platform have lowered the barrier to entry and enabled startups to spend 100% of their time working on their core technology like sensors. They no longer have to invent the wireless technology or data storage and transfer ecosystem.

Rick credits the fitness wearable market with creating the experience and engagement model and believes that consumer empowerment will drive the industry.

Is your medical device company ready to lead the revolution, profit from the disruption and remain relevant as the dust settles?

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