The world of technology has revolutionized almost everything we do – from how we work, shop and travel, to how we consume news and information. However, changing the way we access healthcare – one of the most important services in our lives – continues to elude tech giants.
As much as they try to undermine the nearly $ 4 trillion healthcare sector, their big ideas continue to fall by the wayside. The liquidation of Google Health and the defunct Haven Health, partly founded by Amazon, are just the latest casualties. So why does big tech continue to lag behind when it comes to healthcare? I believe this is because they are missing the most important ingredient: human connection.
Transformation is long overdue in healthcare, which is one of the last bastions to fully enter the digital age. New technological solutions are clearly needed to improve the delivery of care and ensure accessibility, accessibility and quality. But at the end of the day, healthcare is all about getting people to serve other people, especially in times of greatest need. Technology will never replace this. Rather than trying to get rid of traditional healthcare providers, the tech world should seek collaboration. The focus should be on providing, not replacing, the sacred meetings between patients and providers that are so important to healing.
As a 42-year physician and CEO of one of the largest healthcare systems in the country, I am inspired every day by the compassion and dedication of people in the healthcare industry. I have experienced this in my own professional experience. But I also felt it on a deeply personal level. Like many Americans, my family members have been to the hospital for serious medical problems more than I can count.
Recently my wife was diagnosed with a terrible diagnosis: “You have cancer.” When we heard these words, we did not turn to the bot to develop an algorithm-based care plan for the responses. We have reached out to healthcare professionals who provide world-class care with genuine compassion. From phlebotomists to paramedics, nurses to doctors, the exquisite harmony required when dealing with a difficult diagnosis is incredible. At every visit, we felt immense gratitude for each member of our medical team. Technology can and should make things easier and easier for patients and carers. But it can never replace the teamwork that only exists in clinics, hospitals and health systems across the country.
I hope the pandemic has enabled tech companies to better understand the important role that healthcare professionals play in our communities. Over the past 21 months, we’ve seen caregivers take steps time and again to respond to the surge in COVID-19 patients. They have also responded to a range of natural disasters, from the devastating Hurricane Ida in the Gulf Coast and East Coast to deadly California wildfires and record heatwaves across the country. Many tech companies and other newcomers have bold ambitions to take advantage of the low-hanging fruit or the more lucrative aspects of healthcare. Instead, they could better serve a greater good by partnering with hospitals and health systems to build stronger safety nets during crises such as natural disasters and public health emergencies.
The pandemic has taken a huge toll on medical personnel. According to Mental Health America, 93% of healthcare workers reported higher levels of stress, 86% anxiety, and 76% exhaustion and burnout. One of the valuable ways the tech world can help is by focusing on the tools and technologies that make it easier for healthcare professionals to get their jobs done. For example, improving electronic health records to make them intuitive and easy to use could reduce the amount of time physicians currently spend documenting. In addition, a deeper understanding of the data can facilitate real-time clinical decision making. By using technology to improve the daily work of clinicians, we can help them bring time back into their daily lives and rediscover the joy of clinical practice.
Many tech companies are arrogant about healthcare, suggesting they can do it better than traditional healthcare providers. I will be the first to admit that clinicians are not technology experts. Likewise, software engineers are not health experts. But when you bring doctors and technologists together, magic happens.
With the shutdown of companies like Google Health and Haven, this suggests big tech companies are cutting back and rethinking their healthcare strategy. As I plan my next move, I urge tech companies to get to know healthcare providers better and understand their pain points. Real solutions will be found by partnering with health systems, not competing with them. The goal should be to use technology to reduce distractions and to simplify and support the caregiver’s work. In this way, the most sacred aspect of healing – the human bond – can continue to shine.