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Opportunities in Healthcare Interfaces

Guest Blogger: Donna Fedor, Founder & Principal, The Arden Group

In the classic 1999 book, Rules for Revolutionaries, Guy Kawasaki stated that opportunities for real, differentiated value can be found if you work the edges, or the interfaces between things. Interfaces are where dissimilar elements come together, where conflict naturally occurs. He says: “The action is not in the centers or areas of sameness.”

Differentiation can occur in the ability to lessen or remove that conflict in the most efficient, simple or elegant way. Apple’s differentiation and success came from their attention to the critical interfaces along the whole ecosystem, the simple and elegant user interface and the deep, rich experience with music, mobile apps and the internet – not just in the guts of the device.

Significantly more complex and intricate interfaces are emerging in healthcare due to tectonic changes and disruptions. The traditional, stand-alone physician-device-patient interface is transforming into a much larger ecosystem with many more interconnected edges both inside and outside the four walls of the hospital. Chronic care is no longer limited to infrequent face-to-face visits at the doctor’s office. Physicians, prompted by changes in technology and reimbursements, are prescribing portable, on-body or in-body medical devices that interface to the patient to measure and monitor their conditions throughout their daily lives.

Mobile technology and the internet are providing more effective touch points to patients. Critical interfaces have expanded significantly and now include patient-device-communicators, mobile apps for the mobile network, data hosting, data analytics and health information exchanges. Hospitals also use Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems and physician call centers with virtual care teams.

A new Connected Health ecosystem, for example, is being driven by many elements, including:

  • The need to expand care into patients’ homes to control and monitor chronic illnesses.
  • The need to reduce costs by creating more efficient care delivery.
  • The need for hospitals to meet meaningful use requirements for monetary incentives.
  • The use of technology to augment the decreases in the numbers of physicians and nurse.
  • The need to promote patient engagement in their own wellness and health.

The value in medical devices will lie in easing the conflict and friction between:

  • The device and the patient through highly accurate sensing technology that can fit into discrete, comfortable form factors that can detect and measure device signals quickly and easily.
  • Sensor data translated into actionable information both for patients and health care providers through algorithms and analytics.
  • The interconnectivity, interoperability and integration of multiple medical devices or sensors within the network for comprehensive diagnostics, monitoring and closed loop treatment systems.
  • The healthcare provider and their patients by offering personal health records including genomics combined with trending data for better individualized knowledge, diagnosis and treatment.
  • Mobile applications, social media, communities and websites for the patient to better motivate them to manage their health or condition.
  • The virtual care team, including call centers and home care, supporting the healthcare providers and patients for more effective care delivery and prevention.
  • People and their relationship, understanding and engagement with their own healthcare.

Well-designed wireless biologic, physiologic or anatomic sensors combined with engaging downloadable mobile apps running on patient smartphones, or proprietary devices, can help smooth the bumpy and conflict-ridden terrain of most patient-to-device interfaces. Jabil’s expertise is in designing and miniaturizing devices, wirelessly connecting them to smartphones, developing and optimizing proprietary communicators, optimizing commercial manufacturing processes and enabling service of devices deployed in the field.

Change is not static, and critical interfaces introduced by the Connected Health ecosystem will continue to evolve. One can argue that future physical medical monitoring devices might consist only of sensors with two interfaces: one to the patient and one to the network. If we could miniaturize and reduce the power required for a connection, whether it is to the 3G/4G mobile network or the network within the hospital, then medical sensors could connect directly to the network to upload and download data.

Tablets, although still considered the secondary display now, could replace traditional displays on medical devices in the future. Standardization of the interfaces between sensors and networks as well as standardization of a framework for infrastructure elements could greatly enhance inter-operational reliability and bring costs down across the healthcare system. Servers and storage in the hospital IT infrastructure and in the cloud will improve the interface between networked medical devices. As industry efforts guiding the development of the Integrated Clinical Environment (ICE) framework solidify, it may become possible to utilize the infrastructure to reliably perform, manage, control and monitor data analytics and analysis.

Eventually, the display could be minimized on medical devices, and computing power and storage requirements could be reduced, altering the medical device closer to the “sensor only” form factor.

What Guy Kawasaki so eloquently stated so many years ago still holds true – real value can be found if you work to lessen or remove friction and conflict between the edges of dissimilar elements. This new Connected Healthcare system is providing many opportunities to do so. By gaining a deeper understanding of the difficulties and conflicts that occur at these interfaces all along the value chain, a design, development, manufacturing and service partner like Jabil can better assist medical device manufacturers to positively impact the delivery of more effective, less costly care.

What new business models and services will you offer due to connected health and mobile technology?

Donna is founder and lead strategist of The Arden Group since 2009. The Arden Group is a team of strategic thinkers that can transform ideas into realistic, actionable initiatives for growing your healthcare business. Throughout her 20+ year career, Donna has held numerous strategy, technology, business development and management, channel management, and marketing positions.

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