I thought it would be fun to look back at some of my predictions for health tech from almost a decade ago in Forbes. And to make it even more fun, I tried to gauge my prognostic capabilities. But something more interesting than a simple assessment emerged. It seems that I was right, a lot. But also failed miserably in my attempt to define and catalogue the future. Our trip back starts here, where I thought something was aligning…
“It seems that the stars are aligned. These glimmers of facts, figures, innovation and needs are converging on the year 2013. And the result promises to be an inflection point for digital health. The curve of innovation will shift and place us all on a new course for managing disease and wellness.”
#1—2013. Explosive new technology
Think about the smart phone and how far it’s come in just a few short years. Today, technology is the new intellectual playground that connects vision with application. And the players are both big, well-funded companies as well as smart, adroit and nimble startups.
#2—2013. The pressing need to advance healthcare and the Affordable Care Act
There’s almost no scientific, political or sociological discussion that doesn’t find its way to health and healthcare. The costs, access and resources are a key driver to seeking solutions to the health dilemma that exists right now and is projected to only get worse. Technology has always been part of the answer in other areas. Today, innovation and technology are poised to advance care in new directions that can drive new efficiencies and lead a course to self-care and wellness.
#3—2013. The caldron of connectivity
Ideas are promiscuous. The profound interconnectedness of thinkers and ideas create a “neural-network” that powers our imaginations. Another important driver to the digital health revolution is the increasing level of patient / caregiver connectivity. The role of telemedicine will foster new connections for care and become essential, proving ground for new “tricorder-type” technology that makes the interaction more clinically robust.
#4—2013. The power of cool
The advantage of the digital health movement is that carries “the stamp of cool” and takes clinical / social utility to a place beyond the practical—the emotional. It’s not about taking a pill but living the life of innovation that is validated by science and medicine.
#5—2013. The empowerment of the “quantified self” in health
Our lives are quantified in many ways…tools to measure key clinical parameters (serum glucose, blood oxygen, etc.) will combine with mainstream devices used by joggers and athletes. The result will become “full circle” data that will proactively inform us of issues and concerns. And all this data and knowledge will become less of burden and more of reassurance that all systems are go!
#6—2013. Pharma’s search for new meaning
The evolution of pharmaceutical science will move therapy to include preventative care, gene therapy and other innovations. The pill, as it conventionally exists today, will have a role, but innovation (and digital health) will make conventional therapies a bit harder to swallow.
#7—2013. Big Data and the electronic medical record
New technology and the vast amounts of generated data come a rich source of information. Research protocols, family history, medical records and large-scale epidemiological studies are a significant aspect of digital health. These data may become the single biggest aspect of this new area.
Money is a key driver to innovation. The increasing role of venture capital in digital health sends a clarion call of validation that this initiative is here to stay.
#9—2013. The voices of brilliance
Science, medicine, genomics, electronics, analytics, etc. The list of contributors to digital health is vast and smart as heck. And the very nature of the mixed and varied voices coming together will result in a “critical mass” of brilliance rarely seen in the conventional business model.
#10—2013. The moral imperative
There’s another simple, yet powerful driver at work here. It’s the right thing to do. The application of digital health to global health issues and the practice of medicine in developing countries can play a tremendous role in changing the very nature and quality of care that directly translates into life-changing and life-saving treatments.
So, there you have it. Ten powerful reasons why 2013 was the “year of digital health” and it would reach its proverbial inflection point. It didn’t. But the interesting thing here is that we can just change the date from 2013 to 2022 and these predictions feel about right for this year. Maybe I’m too good of a futurist. But my sense is that there’s something more fundamental about this “failure” and why technological innovation have been stuck at the starting line.
The reason is both simple and complex: innovation is tough. But the diffusion of innovation can be even more difficult. The idea of just building a great solution that will simply be embraced and adopted is false. “Build it and they will come” isn’t a market-driven strategy, but a wish.
Prominent tech, consumer goods and pharmaceutical companies have failed to drive adoption of new products hailed as big ideas and game changers. The same may be true for technology and digital health and how 2013 offers up many of the same opportunities and challenges as 2022.
In many ways, medical innovation is part technology and part humanity. And driving adoption along one path can get many heads nodding, but few feet moving in the right direction. The healthcare system is driven by complex vectors of inertia. From financial gain (companies and providers) to cognitive rigidity to the essential cautions that must be applied to clinical care, advances are often defined as “that same, but better” with concern for the status quo and even self-preservation.
Perhaps an essential fix to this dilemma is to take a page from the “patient centricity” play book that has captured the minds of many in 2022. Innovation, startups, accelerators, and incubators need to think past the big idea and consider the process of adoption as integral to success. Otherwise, we’re stuck in the quagmire of complacency.
My look back to almost a decade ago to the advances of technology and medicine was an eye-opener. Interestingly, it seems like the future is here now and has been for a while. And a key path, in many instances, is to focus on implementation of the brilliant ideas at hand today. Innovation is disruptive, but adoption is gradual. And recognizing this simple truth might just get things moving!