Tag: Healthcare Innovation

03 May 2016

Rethinking healthcare [A simplified approach to care]

Before the invention of the stethoscope, doctors routinely laid their ears on chests of patients to check how they were doing. Homemade concoctions, essentially placebos, often made people feel better. Doctors visited homes of patients who would later pay them whatever they could afford. Local apothecaries sold morphine, a derivative of opium, to reduce pain. Medicine for its part was a nascent science – most of today’s diseases were yet to be discovered.

Fast forward to today, healthcare is a multi-trillion dollar industry. Medicine has branched into 120 recognized specialties and subspecialties, spinning out several industries like pharma, biotechnology, medical devices and so on with billions of drugs prescribed and lab tests performed every year. Medicine is no longer within the domain of the doctor and patient – it’s a science with ever increasing complexity.

While this advancement has helped in doubling our life expectancy in the last 100 years, the complexity of our healthcare system is hurting more than helping.

The demand for specialists is so high that they are unable to invest the time required to identify or address the root cause of why the patient has fallen sick, which could depend on factors such as the environment where she lives. Further, the patient is prescribed drugs that often have interactions with those prescribed by some other specialist, inadvertently making patients sicker. In a world of quick everything, neither the doctor nor the patient is able to go beyond fixing the problem at hand.

It’s difficult to keep solving underlying problems of sickness when the industry is paid based on the quantity of care delivered. A doctor gets paid more if he performs more procedures or sees more patients, not if he keeps a thousand people healthy. Most patients today would leave a doctor’s office dissatisfied if they aren’t prescribed a drug or made to go through a lab examination. The result is a business that wants to make a patient feel better for the short-term by doing something because that’s what the customer appreciates.

At an earlier time, patients visited doctors to fix conditions that were gross and obvious like broken hands. But now our expectations have changed. We want everything fixed so that we don’t have to compromise on our desires whatever those may be. But the more we understand the workings of our body, the more we discover how little we know. The quick-fix approach to medicine fails badly because we are trying to fix a constantly evolving target – our body.

While we spend billions of dollars on human genetics, we hardly know much about our microbiome or the genome of our bacteria. Only recently we learnt that 90% of our cells is microbial and only 10% is human. That’s 100 trillion microbial cells that we know very little about. Moreover, they are changing all the time based on where we live and what we eat. How can you then target and control what they are doing or not doing?

Health can be better influenced than fixed. There are four factors that cause disease: the patient’s inheritance, environment, physical capacity and psychological state. We don’t tend to catch a cold when we exercise regularly. Our bowel movements are easy when we eat freshly cooked vegetables. We also know that we suffer body aches or fevers when we are stressed. Our body’s inherent tendency is to stay healthy unless disrupted by the above factors.

I spent 20 years as a hypertensive patient popping a pill, only to discover now that my condition is reversing itself through better lifestyle and habits. While I proactively seek doctors and labs to help me track progress of my condition, I don’t use them to find a quick fix so that I can go back to lying on the couch watching TV with a pizza and drink.

As a society, we need to reflect on our mere pursuit of human longevity by using every medical means possible. The healthcare industry needs to rethink its role and simplify its approach to care. The older role entailed waiting for the patient to arrive and fixing problems based on her complaints. When we reverse those lens, the role might mean identifying precursors to problems and helping people maintain their health before they fall sick. It’s time we think about healthcare differently.

Praveen Suthrum is co-founder and President of NextServices, a healthcare technology and management company with offices in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Mumbai, India. Not coincidentally, he is a passionate alumni of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business.

( This article was also published by The Economic Times and featured in LinkedIn Pulse Healthcare)

16 Apr 2016

Thoughts on Disrupting Healthcare at MIT GSW 2016

mitgsw2016

Reflecting the increased industry attention towards healthcare,Disrupting Healthcare was the first panel of the three-day MIT GSW conference. It was thoughtfully moderated by Christian Tidona, Founder and CEO of BioMed X Innovation Center. Here were three thoughts I left attendees with:

1) Build solutions for the future versus the present. We need to imagine a time when robotics, drones, Internet of things, virtual reality, synthetic biology, genetic testing are not the future anymore but very much a reality. It is for that kind of a future that startups need to build solutions because the future would be here by the time our solutions are completed. We need to ask ourselves, how could healthcare delivery be if most homes had a couple of robots and a VR headset just like they have smartphones today?

2) Global convergence of healthcare. Across various health systems, the approach to healthcare is converging. There’s increased reliance on diagnostic testing. Disease burden across countries is increasing. Insurance costs are rising. Most people would like a more personalized, predictive system. Medical data and its analysis is driving medical decisions. There are more things in common among health systems today than differences. When we think of solutions, we need to see them in the context of a global healthcare delivery system instead of something that’s localized.

3) Jump into the healthcare pool instead of reading about it. It’s an exciting time to be healthcare. It presents the biggest challenges and opportunities of our times. Entrepreneurs need to start swimming before figuring out solutions, which won’t arise by simply reading about the healthcare industry. They need to start doing.

About MIT GSW
MIT Global Startup Workshop hosts its conferences in a different international location every year. Since 1998, the organization has held 16 global workshops spanning 6 continents, attracting participants from 70 countries.

By Praveen Suthrum, President & Co-Founder, NextServices.

16 Apr 2016

How to Spur Innovation in Healthcare

blog_earlydaysofhealthcare

I loved Google Labs, an online site where you could stop by and test drive the company’s latest projects and innovations. Google discontinued it in 2011. In fact, I found this list of discontinued Google products and counted more than 75.

To get winners such as Android and Google Docs, the firm has had to experiment; not all its experiments have succeeded.

The same is true in healthcare. In our company – which serves healthcare providers – we constantly experiment. For example, we extended our electronic health records (EHR) platform to Google Glass, before we recognized that it would still take time before doctors adapt wearable displays to access patient records.

We also integrated our EHR to 23andMe’s genomic health information – a personalized test for individuals that analyzed their spit sample – until the FDA banned the use of the service for health. The promise of personalized healthcare is quite exciting, so we invested time and effort in experimentation. 23andMe recently announced that they would now use their genetic database to start a therapeutics division to develop drugs.

Such activities build competencies that prepare you for the future. It is a mistake to look at them through the lens of seeking immediate benefits. If you expect every project to deliver a guaranteed return, you will never be able to innovate, and you will have a very hard time developing new capabilities.

We started as a services company, but taught ourselves to develop a modest web portal that did analytics for clients. It was a small experiment that gave us confidence to commit to developing a mobile/cloud-based EHR platform, even when we didn’t have the money or skills.

Today, our comprehensive platform has multiple certifications and is in daily use by clients. We perceive that the platform will eventually have global relevance as a healthcare operating system that can support any health organization.

This does not imply that we have the solution to every problem at the intersection of technology and healthcare. We don’t, but we have something nearly as valuable: the willingness to learn, to experiment, and to fail.

To serve our clients in the United States, South Africa, and other locations, we spend a significant amount of time shadowing individual healthcare providers. Some embrace technology, while others find it intimidating. So we tailor our platform to meet the needs of different groups.

Some physicians carry an iPad everywhere, and in large measure delight in entering their own data. They comfortably see patients without the tedium of documenting records on a PC.

Other physicians still dictate information or scribble on a pad of paper, reliant on assistants who transcribe information into the EHR.

In both cases, we adapt our system to work differently for different groups. Both types of physicians still get to access patient information from their iPad or home computer when a problem arises at 2 a.m. This, too, requires experimentation.

Our world – and especially the healthcare industry – has become far too complex for any one solution to solve all challenges. The right approach is to bring ingenuity and a curious mind to each new situation. If you’re not a bit intimidated by each new project, then you probably don’t understand it enough. A bit of fear and apprehension ensure that you will focus sufficiently and bring your best talents.

I don’t think Google necessarily thinks of each experiment as a win or defeat. They are mostly evolutions. Some are stopped, some are changed, and others are released. We have a similar mindset, and so should you.

Originally published on LinkedIn,  by Praveen Suthrum, President & Co-Founder, NextServices.

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