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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, July 30, 2014

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Health care apps are the wave of the future.
Health care apps are the wave of the future. (Photo: shutterstock.com)

Health care is due for next disruption

One of the coolest aspects of my job is that I get to meet and interview a lot of smart people.

A lot of real smart people. People such as Kay Plantes, an MIT-trained economist, author and expert on business model innovation.

Plantes recently predicted the next big wave of innovation in health care.

"As a nation we pay more for health care than other nations yet achieve worse health outcomes. The three to six extra GDP percentage points we pay in healthcare costs are needed for infrastructure, education, federal R&D investments and our pocketbooks. We pay more because payers exert too little pressure on providers relative to other nations; and we’ve historically paid providers to do procedures versus improve health. In addition, many consumers are sheltered from cost and do not know the relative cost or quality of providers," Plantes wrote.

"Capitalism’s competitive forces disrupt markets that are inefficient or serve customers poorly. Wal-Mart disrupted Main Street retail, Staples disrupted local office supply businesses, Google disrupted Encyclopedia Britannica and Apple’s iPhone and iPad disrupted Microsoft’s Windows. Disruption creates greater benefits at lower costs for consumers. Products, categories, companies and entire industries can be disrupted.

"The only barrier to disruption is crony capitalism, of which our nation has too much. If we can keep people healthier, identify health issues earlier, and treat health issues less expensively while still as expertly, we can move the needle on health care costs. Every other industry is figuring out how to do more for less while enhancing customer well-being. Health care, government and higher education, three sectors in need of radical reinvention, are ripe for disruption. A number of driving forces are weakening the forces of crony capitalism in health care, with technology being a key one."

Almost as if on cue, one day later at the Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi stepped to the stage and demonstrated why many technology geeks believe he is picking up where the late, great Steve Jobs left us.

Federighi demonstrated what is sure to be a revolutionary smart phone app called Health, which will be part of the iOS 8 system to be launched this fall.

"Developers have created a vast array of health care devices and accompanying applications, everything from monitoring your activity level, to your heart rate, to your weight, and chronic medical conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes," Federighi said.

"But up until now the information gathered by those applications lives in silos. You can’t get a single comprehensive picture of your health situation. But now you can, with HealthKit. HealthKit provides a single place that applications can contribute to a composite profile of your activity and health."

Apple also is partnering with Mayo Clinic and Verona, Wis.-based Epic Systems, to link real-time personal medical data with health care providers. Imagine getting a text message from your doctor alerting you that your blood pressure has spiked, your glucose level has dropped or your cholesterol levels have changed.

Then imagine how linking all of this technology in an efficient dashboard can create a more efficient and timely delivery of health care. Finally, imagine the improved quality of life – and lower costs of medical care – because so many problems will be detected and treated in the early stages before diseases have advanced.

"Nothing is predictable other than the current system will be reshaped," Plantes said. "Industry participants should have one and only one drive: How can we improve outcomes while lowering costs?" 

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