Disruption is never what you think it is. No one every thought we’d move away from the horse and buggy. Then, there were cars. No one ever thought we’d get any better than Blu Ray… until streaming took over; “Hey, Blockbuster, say ‘Hi’ to Netflix for me.” No one ever thought phones would be portable, technology would be wearable, or that payment could be without physical representation. Well… it’s all happened. And, it WILL happen again.
For technology, I am expecting a downward curve again… from large devices to smaller more compact ones. But, this post isn’t about technology. It’s about healthcare.
First, I want to say that there are two industries RIPE for disruption: healthcare and education. While I’m not any expert in education (simply a long time consumer of it), I do have some grounds to stand on when it comes to my thoughts on healthcare.
As far as I can see, healthcare disruption will occur in a combination of two legs:
- Smart data and patient portal driven changes in service consumption
- Ultra-precision robotics changing the way medical interventions and diagnostics are delivered
Specifically, I see a further blunting of frontline healthcare providers into an agile, content driven process versus the current linear/hierarchy driven process. Instead of going through a nurse’s hotline or a primary care physician, data will automatically direct who the best provider is for any particular concern, hint of a concern, or trending data which will likely or eventually lead to a health concern.
After all, why go through 20 hoops to get to the person you need? Why not go directly, the way any consumer would of any industry for any product?
All this will be powered by smart data and patient engagement. Why? Because, payers are all trending towards the fact that it is more cost effective to prevent a knee from becoming injured than to pay for the surgery when it has become too late.
Also, I foresee that technical skills of healthcare provision such as surgery, imaging, and other diagnostics & interventions will be crazy disrupted. Common surgeries, interventional radiology, and other diagnostics, will more than likely be replaced by robotics in due time. However, the robotics will be managed by the clinicians currently providing services until such time when the robotics make better decisions than the humans who manage them.
In a specific address to physical therapy…
it is more than likely that outpatient and home health services will merge into a population management/case management segment, driven by patient service & patient engagement via a communications portal, smart data, and wearable interfaces. I expect outpatient businesses, home health agencies, and staffing companies to start forging very interesting strategic partnerships to prepare for this change. I anticipate this because scaling up for such changes will be very difficult to do alone. And, scaling has always been something PTs have struggled with.
The profession will no longer have time “to be about” fixing sprained ankles, painful knees, or strained backs. It will be about preventing them from ever occurring.
It will no longer be about the clinical squabbling of style-vs-style. It will be about keeping a large group of people healthy, rather than how to individually rehabilitate an injured back to full health.
While certainly, the unexpected will occur, elective surgeries will continue… healthcare services in such veins will remain as they always have been. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if you see a progressive diminishing of volume in that area with a refocus in population health.
For inpatient physical therapy services, a similar effect of case management will occur; however, this will be driven by labor substitution and provider extensions regardless of whether or not the industry and/or the profession is ready or willing for the change. Much of this has to do with a grandfathered culture of dealing with costs by cutting rather than by raising value — but, such is life and such is also a topic beyond this post 😉
What does this mean? This means, the healthcare and its entire lattice; its clinicians, ancillaries, support staff, etc. all need to prepare to meld with technology in their daily jobs. Or, become disrupted by it.
It also means that the professionals in the front lines as well as the academics who train the next generation need to integrate heavily, the technology that will soon replace and become the new standard of their technical skills. Therefore it is paramount to integrate technology, computer engineering, and bioengineering into curriculums so that when disruption occurs, professions have the right surf board to ride the wave. Speaking of which, such topics need to become the new focus of continuing education for the current generation. Not the same review of remixed concepts and relabeled courses.
The key is to stay with the disruptive curve and adapt, evolve, grow, progress, innovate, emerge, assimilate, integrate, and become reborn as the next generation need rather than the current generations boredom.
If Physical Therapists wish to ride the wave of disruption and serve as the cutting edge of innovation, it will come through the wave of emerging technology, integrated and independents — wearables, implantables, patient portals, smart data, and population health management.