‘The future is already here—only it’s unevenly distributed’
CHICAGO – Paddy Padmanabhan has seen seismic advances in home health care technology over the past 20 years through his work at Wipro and Accenture, as well as two Silicon Valley startups.
Currently founder and CEO of Damo Consulting, a health care growth strategy firm, Padmanabhan has released a new book, “The Big Unlock,” which focuses on how health care technology companies and venture capitalists can harness the power of data and grow a digital health business in a value-based care era.
HHTN: How is digital innovation changing the face of home health care?
PADMANABHAN: There is a wave of innovation in home health care technology that is under way. The digital transformation of all industries, including health care, is driving this wave, along with the emergence of new sources of data, falling costs of computing infrastructure, such as the Cloud, and new technologies, such as artificial intelligence and blockchain, that can potentially transform the way data is stored, shared and analyzed.
HHTN: What trends have you observed?
PADMANABHAN: There are two broad trends that are relevant: 1) Health care consumerism is rising and the industry is moving away from hospital-based care—we are likely to see that health care is increasingly delivered in outpatient settings and from home, in contrast to the predominantly clinic and hospital-based care we see today. There are several factors influencing this. Cost is one of them. The rapid advances in technology, such as remote patient monitoring that is enabled by smart devices and other Internet of Things (or IoT), are another. Demographic changes mean that we have a baby boom generation that is entering retirement and wants to enjoy a healthy life without having to leave home or go into a hospital for routine care. 2) Millennials want to have health care delivered via their smartphone devices. As a result, we see the growth of telemedicine. However, telemedicine is also enabled by home health technologies, which allow remote care providers to gather information about health care consumers and patients from their home-based settings to determine the appropriate diagnosis and treatment. Over time, many of these home health technologies are going to develop AI capabilities that will enable remote care providers to predict and intervene in case of health-related emergencies, or even for managing the routine health and wellness of consumers. All this may sound very futuristic, but as a friend of mine said, the future is already here—only it’s unevenly distributed.
HHTN: Why is data important to home health care?
PADMANABHAN: In all aspects of health care, data will be center-stage in the future. We are awash in data, and we are constrained only by our ability to harness it, make sense of it and design health care experiences around it. The digital transformation of health care, whether it is enhanced health care experiences for patients, improved care coordination and efficiencies leading to lower costs, or even just the optimization of health care industry operations, is driven by data. In line with Moore’s Law, which broadly says that computing capacity doubles every two years as the cost reduces by half, technology is now providing us with options to harness vast amounts of data through cloud-based infrastructure that is cheap, reliable and secure. Companies like Amazon have built multi-billion dollar businesses providing cloud services to an emerging army of innovative technology startups that are using data to design new experiences targeting specific problems in health care. These startups raised more than $11 billion in venture capital last year. Apple has launched a new platform that enables consumers to gain access to patient medical records and make it available to consumers through their Health app, empowering consumers with not just knowledge about their own health but also enabling them to share the data with caregivers, friends and family of their choosing. Blockchain, another emerging technology, can potentially transform the way we store and share patient records and manage access to the data.
HHTN: What technologies will make the most impact?
PADMANABHAN: Home health care, which will get more and more automated through smart medical devices, wearables and sensors, will all transmit data to some remote cloud server where powerful AI algorithms will run real-time analytics and issue alerts to consumers and caregivers alike to intervene in a timely manner. Many consumer devices will gradually become capable of understanding and responding to medical questions, “listen” to what is going on in a home and learn to recognize medical emergencies and call 911 or a caregiver. Some of us may not feel comfortable with the notion of a device like Amazon Echo listening to everything in our home. However, if we look past the privacy concerns, it’s not hard to see how lives can be saved with these new technologies. People will live healthier and longer.
HHTN: Is it possible for health care enterprises to keep up with advances in information technology?
PADMANABHAN: Health care has traditionally underinvested in information technology. It was partly due to the fact that there wasn’t a need to invest in the latest technologies, especially consumer-facing technologies. With rising consumerism, and a shift from fee-for-service to value-based care models, there is not only an increased focus on costs and profit margins, but also on providing better experiences to patients—or should I say, health care consumers. One other aspect that’s critical to health care is the vulnerability of information technology to cyber-attacks and ransomware, and we have seen a rash of those in the past couple of years. Many medical devices have been found to be vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Naturally, health systems are cautious about integrating with devices due to concerns about data breaches and potential liabilities. Things are changing, and I believe healthcare IT is becoming more resilient. IT is also increasingly embracing cloud-based models for enterprise computing needs, which paves the way for broader acceptance of data from multiple sources to drive care delivery, which will be a big boost for home healthcare.