Amit Rastogi, MD, is senior vice president for strategy, growth and innovation at Inova. He serves as Inova’s principal medical innovation leader and oversees strategy development across the Inova system.
Imagine a man who is experiencing a headache. He attributes his headache to skipping his morning coffee. However, his health-tracking wearable device indicates his blood pressure is running high. The device sends a message to alert his doctor. The doctor knows that this patient has genetic factors that put him at increased risk of a stroke. He calls the patient to assess his symptoms, and decides if the man needs to seek urgent medical care.
It sounds futuristic, but such a scenario is already possible. And that’s just scratching the surface of what technology will be able to do.
In my role as co-leader of the Healthcare Technology work stream for the national Healthcare Without Walls initiative, I am excited to explore more ways that we can use current and future technologies to improve healthcare quality and access while lowering costs.
Improving Healthcare Access
Healthcare Without Walls launched earlier this year as a program of the Network for Excellence in Health Innovation (NEHI), a national nonprofit organization working to identify innovations that improve the quality and lower the costs of healthcare. Healthcare Without Walls will draw on technology to bring healthcare to the people who need it, addressing their needs as much as possible in the home, community or workplace.
Access to care is a challenge for many people, for a variety of reasons. Some have trouble getting timely appointments with overscheduled providers. Others lack mobility or transportation to get to the doctor’s office. In some rural parts of the country, hours of travel may be required just to see a medical specialist.
Lack of access is also a factor in rising healthcare costs. When people don’t receive preventive care, they’re more likely to experience serious and costly health problems down the road. When people can’t see a doctor when and where it’s convenient, they’re more likely to end up in an urgent care center or the emergency room for simple ailments that would have been less expensive to treat in a routine office visit.
It’s clear we can do a better job providing the right level of care, at the right place, at the right time. Telemedicine, which uses the internet to provide healthcare from a distance, is starting to bring down those barriers to access. And that’s just one area where technology can make a difference.
Keeping People Well
Advances in biotechnology have also made genomics an important part of healthcare. With genetic testing, we can identify people at increased risk of developing certain diseases. For such people, we might encourage them to undergo closer surveillance with their primary care doctors or with specialists using telehealth services.
Data analytics is another key area of healthcare technology. Wearable devices and smartphone sensors allow us to collect detailed information about a person’s physiological states, such as heart rate, sleeping patterns and activity levels. These devices might one day be able to alert a person with congestive heart failure that she’s retaining water, or identify changes in tone of voice that suggest a person is at risk for a depressive episode.
The technologies available today are already beneficial, and they’re getting better all the time. In my role with Healthcare Without Walls, I hope to accelerate the adoption of healthcare technology and find ways to encourage medical providers and their patients to take full advantage of these high-tech tools.
NEHI’s goal to improve healthcare access is consistent with Inova’s mission. Inova looks beyond caring for the sick, with an emphasis on keeping people well by predicting and preventing illness. Technology, genomics and data will be necessary components of that mission. Learn more about Inova’s vision for the future of health.