“This is the optimal way to provide patient care,” Zamora said. “I believe the medical profession will be using video connections and remote presence on a large scale in the future. It will become almost the standard of care for many things we do. So many of the patients that visit doctors in their offices today don’t actually need to see the doctor in person. Using technology, we can save huge amounts of time and money.”
Assisting and Accelerating
Some states are helping encourage technology innovation around health care. The New York Digital Health Accelerator, for example, is a nine-month program for early and growth-stage digital health or health IT companies that is being run by the New York eHealth Collaborative and the New York City Investment Fund. The program is designed to provide a vehicle for health-care providers and entrepreneurs to work together to develop innovative technologies that leverage patient health records to support collaborative care and coordination.
The program’s participating providers are actively looking for new technology products that will help them effectively implement the new Health Homes model, which is part of New York’s Medicaid redesign initiative. Approximately 975,000 patients with multiple chronic illnesses are being transitioned from fee-for-service to this new managed care model. Under the New York Digital Health Accelerator program, eight companies that are developing software applications for care coordination, patient engagement, analytics and message alerts for health-care providers were selected to receive up to $300,000 of funding per company from a syndicate of leading venture capital and strategic investors. The companies will have priority access to the Statewide Health Information Network of New York, the technology platform that’s connecting electronic health records across New York state.
“Providers were looking for new apps to help them meet their emerging needs as we move from Medicaid to a managed care model, but they didn’t have the technology tools to make that happen,” said Anuj Desai, director of business development at the New York eHealth Collaborative. “The New York Digital Health Accelerator program was developed as a way to bridge that gap.”
In addition to helping encourage health-care and technology innovation in the state, the program also has an eye toward economic development.
“The applicant companies must have an office in New York, so another angle here is we are looking to create jobs for the future of the state,” said Desai. “We want to make New York a health-care IT leader.”
Some federal programs are also helping encourage innovation. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation hosts an award program designed to empower states to test new payment and service delivery models that will help improve quality of care and reduce the costs of care for the nearly 9 million people enrolled in both the Medicare and Medicaid programs. To date, 15 states have been awarded design contracts of up to $1 million to develop new ways to meet the needs of the Medicare/Medicaid population.
The vast changes the health-care system is currently undergoing makes it difficult for even health-care experts to predict what the future will look like.
“Because there is so much uncertainty around health care at the moment, most people in the health-care arena only look as far as 2020,” Camillo said. “But I think technology is a key element to achieving the goals of the program, improving health coverage and quality, and reducing costs. A large part of that is the expansion of electronic health records and electronic medical records.”
Data analytics will likely play a large part as well. “With data analytics, it is now computationally possible to predict which 5 to 10 percent of patients are most at risk of getting sick or requiring coordination of care,” said Chopra. “If a doctor can identify those patients early, he or she can figure out who needs to be seen before the patient even calls.”
But Chopra and others warn that technology alone won’t be the “cure” to our health-care woes.
“Technology alone will not change the health-care industry,” Chopra said. “But technology paired with a new business model has the ability to make that change.”