Medicine is Desperate for Disruptive Technologies. So, Where are They?

Even today with broad access to good online information and a wealth of evidence about the myriad ways that disruptive technologies provide access to services, most of us still leave healthcare choices to trusted advisors – usually our doctors.

What we don’t realize is that this behaviour is exactly what governments and private health insurers rely upon to ensure a tightly controlled, cost-conscious environment that correctly assumes we care more about nothing going wrong than anything getting better.

These brokers know more about us than we consciously know about ourselves.

This grooming of the medical profession – through guidelines and restricted work practices – directs us to an ever-decreasing range of institutionalized resources. What it should be doing is enlisting the support of our trusted health advisors to create a 21st Century health shopping solution initiated from our laptops or within a stones throw of our homes.

In other sectors disruptive innovation that is not dependent on large institutions has blossomed. We have taxi services that don’t own taxis (Uber), merchandisers that don’t have products (Amazon) and even hoteliers that don’t own hotels (Air BnB).

In these industries, where the status quo doesn’t work to benefit individuals, virtual organisations have evolved to address individual needs. Decades on, these brokers know more about us than we consciously know about ourselves. Isn’t that what we used to say about our GPs?

I can only imagine what would have happened to our health care with similar developments. In the UK alone, if the estimated £1.4 and £2.1 billion per year spent on pressure sores was spent on developing new ways to deliver services, we would we be a closer to closing dangerous hospital beds, alleviating our nursing workload and adequately reimbursing young doctors.

The real problem in healthcare is that health systems have been rigidly defined and regulated and are therefore almost impossible to move. For example getting access to new targeted technologies in cancer, a condition in which there is rapidly advancing knowledge that increasingly requires a personal approach, is blocked at every level: legislation (because of cost), regulation (because of efficacy and safety), professional associations (due to guidelines), and providers (who are focused on profit and loss).

And diagnostic and pharmaceutical providers, where most of the innovation has come from in the past, are now so tightly bound up in these processes that they have become disinterested in innovative service provision. Increasingly they rely on local, national and regional reimbursement red tape to inhibit the marketing of competitors in an effort to increase their sales and market share.

We have, courtesy of the commercial sector, a visible but inaccessible global Medical Supermarket, i.e., an Internet that shows us what we can’t buy.

The future of health services is ripe for home delivery: in just a decade we could make many diagnostic and therapeutic services instantly accessible if GP commitment and a relatively minimal investment were forthcoming.

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