At a recent talk at TCT2011, Stanford cardiology professor Peter J. Fitzgerald, MD, PhD explained how IT would be used to tackle some of the country's (and the world's) most-pressing healthcare problems.
He began by explaining his perspective on those health issues. The United States must reduce hospital readmissions, he said. "26% of all Medicare patients in this country get readmitted 30 days after they are discharged. That’s a huge cost issue to this country," he said. He also said that the lack of patient compliance was another big problem; there are simply many patients who do not follow doctor's orders with respect to their medications.
The solution? IT, which can, at the minimum, help redefine what it means to " be smart in healthcare," he said. It can push the envelope in terms of "the ability to monitor disease, the ability [to provide] early warnings. Those are going to be truly cost saving issues."
We would do well to consider the example of consumer electronics. At one point, he asked how many people had either an iPhone or Android smart phone. Nearly everyone raised their hands.
Fitzgerald mentioned the iPad has been groundbreaking in terms of its adoption. "Remember most of these iPads—the 45 million [on the market] in 2011?" 41 million customers who bought the devices this year didn't plan on doing so last year. "This is truly a disruptive process."
Such disruption, however, "is not what happens in medicine," he explained. "If we solved a technical problem or solved the clinical problem, the market plateaus like it did with respect to stents."
But IT will clearly disrupt the healthcare industry. Consider the global population demographic: "The average person around the world is [now] a 24-year-old with a growing bank account and a cell phone in their right hand," Fitzgerald. "This is going to be an opportunity to take care of patients through one of the most exponentially growing information conduits."
Why else will health IT be important? There will be a shortage of medical doctors by 2012, he says. In light of that, physicians will be forced to do more with less. "We [already] have to see more patients today and we get paid less. The only way to actually facilitate this is through some of the IT processes that we have available."
One of the areas where health IT can help the most is in treating patients with heart disease. "Heart failure is a huge problem in the United States. 50% of heart failure patients get readmitted within six months." That number will have to go down and IT willl help that happen. "We are going to see that facilitated by being able to follow in a trend analysis of various parameters. Those trends are going to help keep some of those chronic heart failure patients out of the hospital."
Fitzgerald summed up his talk referencing what he had said beforehand in a portion of the talk dealing with globalization. "So in conclusion, medtech will continue but it will definitely be more global," he explained. "Not only in invention, innovation, but also in execution. regardless of the geography, the patients' need is the most important." The patient must be the focus throughout the whole process. "IT will be a major component of MT cost savings. And that will be one of the biggest components of globalization."