OPINION: Healthcare’s Future Transformation - Humanity Must Remain as Strong as Technology

07/28/2016 - 06:14

Steve Ambrose | @polymathsteve

A part of my life allowed me the privilege of treating nearly 10,000 individual patients. Their openness and trust led to an allowance for me to partner, decide, and help enact a course of care, which often helped change lives. We worked together, accomplished together, won and lost together.

We lived life together.

Showing patients genuine care in their difficult moments of time has incredibly far-reaching positive impacts.

If you’re deep into the business world of healthcare, you will be familiar with the importance of these three little letters… VBC. Per a report from Deloitte, Value-Based Care:

"... describes an array of strategies to obtain better value for health care spending. Clinical initiatives and delivery models focus on getting more coordinated, higher quality care at reasonable costs. Provider payment models involving bonuses and penalties are aligned to cost, quality, and outcomes measures."

We’re collectively moving into the next era of care delivery, where reducing cost, plus increasing quality, outcomes, and patient satisfaction will be the drivers of reimbursement. Value-based care – and the means to get there, are all the rage. This includes hospitals, providers, big pharma, medical device companies, health payers, self-insured companies, home health, emerging startups, and VC investors.

Enter predictive analytics, big data, population management, wearables, mobile healthcare, EHR transparency, and the many flavors of artificial intelligence. We can see a prime example of this as Fitbit based data has been used in 200 clinical research studies. Such digital, connecting technologies and emerging solutions seek to increase efficiency, accuracy, and dependability.

At the end of 2016, the healthcare sector will have the greatest number of U.S. employees. However, those numbers only serve as the fattened calf before the slaughter. Value-based care calls for reducing the greatest overhead – namely human capital – when and where necessary. My prediction is that between 2017 and 2020, we will see a tremendous upsurge in patient-centered care and technology use to meet key care delivery metrics. This, plus greater efficiencies will necessarily result in a sizable number of healthcare employee layoffs throughout the related industries.

Though healthcare will be more patient-centered, we must not make the mistake in thinking that patients will have the same level of dedication to technology and big data via wearables, medication adherence, etc. Their focus is mainly about their well being, those they love, and friends. They care about having enough money and their financial future. They care about feeling good and avoiding pain, but the pain can be deeper than just their symptoms and condition.

We cannot ignore than nine out of every ten patients makes less than $33,000 in income (see below). Nearly 40% of patients carry medical-related debt, and one-third of those must choose between payment for that vs. rent, housing or heat. Many of these cash-strapped individuals will only come into care, and choose to make health a priority at irreversible stages of chronic disease.


Delinquent health payers have acquired a longstanding, terrible reputation for not caring about paying their debts. Many plan members, having physical, emotional and financial suffering, feel treated like just another accounting line item.

We're at a crucial tipping point. As more risk shifts onto the shoulders of hospitals, providers and ACOs, we must not make the same mistakes of the past. Tomorrow's healthcare will involve and require patient compliance and participation to get best results.

It is one thing to put technology in place that captures patient generated health data - but quite another to show patients you care about them, rather than simply big data. Patients deserve to feel the compassion, caring and humanity in our hearts and actions.

The healthcare sector is a target-rich environment, whose underlying industries, more than ever, have a tremendous ability to shape the course and outcomes of human lives.

Technology, big data, and Triple Aim aside, we must remember that the human condition is more than just condition. It is a place where people reside because they often have lost hope and human support. In the future of patient (big) data, we must recognize that behind the numbers lives a human life, heart, and the potential for physical and emotional improvement.