Let's Keep Healthcare Proactive!

Published - Written by Anwar Jebran, MD

The focus on chronic healthcare conditions and continuous monitoring has never been greater. Livongo Health, a healthcare startup helping people managing their chronic health conditions, went IPO this year in 2019. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is moving forward with developing a three-year, $100 million Connected Care Pilot program to support telehealth.

As of 2019, around 147 million Americans, 45% of the population, are suffering from a chronic condition like diabetes mellitus, hypertension, COPD, & mental health problems. With this staggering number, it is essential to shift the focus to "continuous," not intermittent, monitoring of these conditions using new technology and wearable devices offered by healthcare/tech companies like Livongo and other startups with the use of AI & Machine learning technology and Natural Language Processing, or “NLP.”

We need, as healthcare professionals, to take advantage of these technologies, collect and leverage the data generated by these new techs to improve health outcomes. Wearable devices, smartphones, and social media generate a HUGE amount of data that needs to be streamlined, analyzed, and used in a "proactive" way to prevent ER visits, admissions, improve the length of stay, and eventually decrease costs.

Healthcare must be continuously innovative and proactive to be sustainable, especially in the United States. The healthcare budget is getting bigger and bigger every year, with healthcare spending accounted for 18% of the nation’s GDP, twice as much as any other industrialized nation.

Telehealth & telemedicine should also be adopted and be part of the primary care process, especially in rural and underserved areas. While we currently do not have enough data to prove that telehealth improves outcomes, the signs are encouraging. I feel reasonably confident that the use of telehealth will grow exponentially in the next 5 to 10 years with the emerging 5G broadband technology. Can you imagine a world where surgeons in Japan perform a robotics operation in New York, or critical care doctors in Chicago cover an ICU in a rural town in North Dakota? It is all possible with the 5G network and telehealth. Let's hope that the FCC Connected Care Pilot program will produce statistically significant data results to support the adoption of telemedicine.

The implementation of wearables and sensors is not only limited to the rural areas, and remote use; these tools can also be implemented inside hospitals, wards, and ICUs. We could monitor patients’ vitals remotely without having nurses doing the measurement. We could get an accurate read, decrease the in-hospital infection rates by limiting the nurses-patients contacts, and develop more reliable data sets to analyze and predict outcomes.

At some point, Siri or Alexa will be your healthcare companions to help you make your daily decisions regarding your chronic health conditions. Your Apple watches or Fitbit will help collect the data, and software/healthcare tech companies like Livongo will monitor and analyze these data – and your primary care physician will intervene if necessary.

Image Credit: Vincenzo Mura/Data Driven Investor