Technology in Health Care: Thriving in a Patient-Centric Era

The present is a great time for health care innovation. Instead of looking at the shutdown in Washington, D.C., or the battle over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as a failure of the system, entrepreneurs and inventors should be looking at it as an opportunity. As the financier Nathan Rothchild so famously stated, "great fortunes are made when cannonballs fall in the harbor, not when violins play in the ballroom." Likewise, the current upheaval and chaos in the health care industry is providing the opportunity for those on the cutting edge to implement new methods focused on the triple aim of improving outcomes, reducing cost, and improving patient experience. With the expenditures in Medicare quintupling from $111 billion in 1990 to more than $500 billion in 2013, and with a changing demographic whose people aged 65 and older will increase by more than a third in the next decade, this is a huge market opportunity ready for the taking. Moreover, due to improvements in technology, it is no longer a few large providers, pharmas, or health plans that are best suited to seize this opportunity. Instead smaller, more nimble start-ups and even individuals who focus specifically on the patient experience can now play a significant role in this health care revolution.

Recent innovations in the cloud, advances in big data analytics, and the explosion in mobile device usage, have broken down many health care industry barriers, enabling its own transformative positive changes. Ultimately, these innovations have ensured that more data can be captured and analyzed in real time, allowing the user to better understand, react, and plan for patient conditions. Most notably, this has allowed for numerous patient-centric start-ups to gain a foothold in the industry. "Patient-centric" means the active involvement of patients and their families in the design of new care models and in decision-making around options for treatment. This ensures that patients are now active consumers and their preferences, needs, and values help guide all clinical decisions. Oliver Wyman's "The Volume to Value Revolution" report argues that patient-centric population models will cause more than $1 trillion of value to rotate from the old models to the new and create more than a dozen new $10 billion high-growth markets in the near future. This transformation in the value equation means that health care will shift from a supply driven economy to one that is more driven by demand.

The active patient engagement promoted by patient-centric models ultimately means the consumerization of health care. Long passive, consumers will now have a new role in how they are treated. Retail access, employer incentives, and new technology will ensure that consumers will be pushing for value and demanding more information and involvement in their treatment options. As a result of these new demands, cross-industry competition of health care will intensify and eventually erase traditional boundaries. In its place will be new and attractive value propositions for patients, payers, and physicians.

This is not a far-off phenomenon. In fact, initial efforts can be seen today with traditional consumer-facing companies, such as Walgreens and CVS, offering clinical services such as check-ups and flu shots and even opening their own Accountable Care Organizations to cater to their consumer patients directly. Only a few years ago, these were services reserved solely for hospitals and insurance companies.

New technologies are not only designed to serve the new "consumer patient," but are also involving these patients to help improve health care. Tapping the trends of social media, crowd sourcing, and open innovation -- tools once reserved for consumer products and non-profit campaigns -- corporations are now turning their sights on health care.

Target Corporation recently launched a "Simplicity Challenge," in which they urge their customers to submit innovative ideas for addressing critical health care opportunities.

Likewise, my company, Edison Nation Medical, a medical device incubator, health care innovation portal and online inventor community, provides a clear pathway for anyone -- physicians, nurses, health care clinicians, entrepreneurs, and even patients and caregivers - to submit a medical invention idea for in-depth analysis and potential commercialization by a team of medical, product, and licensing experts. In addition, Edison Nation Medical partners with various organizations, such as medical device manufacturers and nonprofit disease-specific groups, and then taps into its deep industry connections and utilizes sophisticated global marketing to gather ideas specific to that organization's needs.

Both of these models are examples of open innovation, which allows individuals to overcome barriers to innovation -- funds, time, expertise, and access -- that commonly derail the success of great ideas and inventions. Ultimately technology has lowered cost, time, and risk, which in turn has opened doors for the lay person to develop an industry-changing idea or product. Patient-centric care efforts are putting the individual in charge of his/her own well-being while open innovation is allowing him or her to contribute constructive ideas and inventions that improve their quality of care. Never before has the individual had so much control.

With tremendous change comes tremendous opportunity. Entrepreneurs should not sit in fear of the future, but rather be proactive in charting the new course of health care in the 21st century.