Category: Future of Healthcare

Industrialized Medicine

Check this out. What you will see is a psychiatrist, who specializes in helping physicians and their organizations deal with “complex personal challenges,” asking his colleagues a question. Are they “healers” or are they “widgets.” According to Dr. Adelman, the trend over the last 50 years toward “industrialized medicine,” where doctors’ workflows are controlled by corporations rather than by their own wills, has caused there to be so much “coming at them” that they are like Ethel and Lucy in the chocolate factory. They just can’t keep up. They become unable to do “their best work.”

A powerful quote from Adelman’s post:

Malaise sets in when you realize that you have become an almost inanimate object.  This is ‘physician burnout,’ which has been conceptualized by some as a form of moral injury visited upon us by industrialized medicine.

Bottom Line. The move away from being a healer and toward being a widget seems inexorable. This is not likely to get better in coming years.

My question? Then what will “worse” look like in years to come???

Are Physical Exams Obsolete?

Sometimes! Check this out. What you will see is a post by our friend, The Country Doctor, who argues that such examinations are often conducted without a good reason.  and perfunctory. As evidence, he offers the successful journey that most physicians made into telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic, successfully treating patients without laying eyes or hands on them. 

BUT. The conversations I have been having with physicians for my ongoing On Doctors’ MindsSM project have clearly indicated to me that many of them feel otherwise. For them, telemedicine was a necessary, temporary adaptation to permit their practices to go on rather than being put under, in terms of both patient care and finances, by the coronavirus.  Now that offices have reopened to personal visits, telemedicine is being relegated to extremely limited use, if any. Doctors report that they need to observe their patients to get the full picture of what is going on. Specialists in fields from cardiology to neurology have specific evaluations that they want to make, and they have to be done in person.

But is the same thing true for PCPs in a “routine” office visit? A brief story. When my wife and I moved to Hilton Head Island almost a decade ago, we promptly joined the concierge practice of what we were told (and it is true!) was the best Internist in Beaufort County. On my wife’s first visit, the physician laid her hands on my wife’s throat and “felt something.” Scroll forward and her cancerous thyroid was summarily removed. A good “routine” physical exam? Damn straight!

Bottom Line. I get the Country Doctor’s point.  Sometimes physical exams look a lot like “going through the motions” for no reason whatsoever.  BUT. To catch the unanticipated, as well as to build patient relationships, they are probably about as far from obsolete as they could possibly be!!!

Covid’s Long Term Effects

Check this out. What you will see is the prediction, published in Becker’s Hospital review, that while cases of COVID are mercifully declining, the effects of the pandemic on mental health will likely linger on for years.  

Negative psychiatric pandemic sequelae come in a number of flavors. PTSD for the first responders and front-line medical workers who had to deal with it directly. Anxiety exhibited by millions of people rightfully concerned about coming down with the disease. Depression being manifested by those who have been thrown into financial ruin by the coronavirus.

Bottom Line. The article concludes by pointing out the obvious, i.e., that these problems need to be dealt with sooner rather than later. Not so obvious is the other conclusion, that “dealing with” these long-term effects not only requires access to mental health services, but also the restoration of long-term financial solvency that one-off “recovery checks” can’t provide. Maslow’s need hierarchy and all of that.

A thought question. What will be the long-term impact of all of this on your products? On your company? On you?

Think about it!  

“Good Morning From Vietnam”

Older readers will recall Robin Williams’ memorable “Good morning, Vietnam” movie quote. I can still hear his enthusiastic rendition of this line as he portrayed a military radio announcer during the war. Captivating! May he rest in peace!!!

This is not that. But it IS a good morning in Vietnam. Check this out.  

What you will learn is that Vietnam, as of December 2020, had 1,465 laboratory confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 35 deaths. You will also see the stupid easy principles on which they relied to keep these numbers so laudably low. 1. Detect. 2. Contain. Period!  

It turns out that having had severe outbreaks of novel viruses in the past, the country had the experience, infrastructure and commitment to avoid it happening again. My manicurist, who was denied her annual return for a visit to her native Vietnam last year and this, has described all of this to me based on her personal experience. The URL I sent you to here does a more rigorous and thorough job of laying out the cookbook for success in pandemic control. 

Bottom Line. Thought question. Has the United States learned from COVID-19 these same kinds of lessons? You know, the ones that would keep over 500,000 Americans from dying the next time a pandemic comes knocking on our door?  

Sadly. I am guessing that the answer is “NO!”

10 Important Healthcare Trends For 2021

Check this out. What you will see is a listing of the ten most important trends in healthcare, as identified by a company, Augmedix, that specializes in using technology to help physicians make better use of their time by automating repetitive activities in their practices. Some of these trends, like Telemedicine, are obvious. Others, like “Asynchronous care,” actually made me stop and think for a minute.  

Bottom Line. My recommendation? After you consider each of these trends individually, stand back and look at them in their totality. What you will see is that in 2021, healthcare in the U.S. is going to be undergoing a fundamental and broad reaching metamorphosis.  

Those of us who work in the healthcare marketing vertical had better be prepared!!!

Alexa Goes HIPAA Compliant

Check this out. What you will see is an announcement that Alexa is now HIPAA compliant, and is being employed by several healthcare systems to allow patients to make appointments, check on prescriptions, etc. using voice technology.  

Key here is the piece’s use of the terminology “nascent” to describe the current state of the application of voice technology to healthcare, potentially being used by patients and clinicians alike. Everything from supporting patient compliance programs to scribing for physicians can enjoy enhanced effectiveness and efficiency by using voice technology based applications.

Bottom Line. Here is the really interesting part of this. I have absolutely no belief that the Bezos gang is pursuing these apps for apps sake. Nope. What they are doing here is developing a marvelous platform that will let them get into pharmacy and even clinical practice, all connected and accessed through Alexa. And once they do, they will become a formidable competitor for the healthcare dollar. Perhaps an unbeatable competitor. They can develop what amounts to a closed system. They are being very circumscribed and judicious in offering development kits here. Their competitors won’t likely get one, or if they do, they will be paying a significant royalty just like everybody else does that runs their business through Amazon.

Exciting possibilities here. For Amazon. For healthcare.  

Question. What should pharmaceutical companies be doing at this point to make sure that they are on this train when it leaves the station?

Elon Musk’s Neuralink

Check this out.  If you don’t want to commit 18 minutes to watching this video, I’ll understand. It’s okay to skip around a little here. But don’t miss the big takeaway. Elon Musk has done it again. He has established a new company that is developing a tiny wireless device that can be robot-implanted in the human brain. Once implanted, the device can conduct two-way communication with the module pictured above. AND. Once this communication bridge is established, the brain can be linked to virtually anything electronic. Artificial Intelligence, for example. Picture your mind hooked up to Watson. Heck, even a neural hookup to Siri or Alexa would revolutionize what it would mean to “think.”

Bottom Line. So why do I include a discussion of this gadget in a blog series that usually focuses on the healthcare vertical? Easy one. Just kick back and think of the implications if doctors and/or patients had their brains hooked up to all knowledge.

What we would have then, quite simply, is a new ball game in healthcare!

Remember The Caregivers

Check this out.  No, you will not find a sappy reminder to keep caregivers in your “thoughts and prayers.” What you will find are some important business considerations for those of us in the healthcare vertical. Like. With the aging of the baby boomers, caregivers are becoming increasingly important members of the broadly defined healthcare team. Translated. They will become important members of our customer base. No, they won’t be making “prescribing decisions,” but they will be bending the ear of practitioners to get what they feel is appropriate care for their care receiver. Drug adherence, efficacy and side effect reporting, and other important pieces of the puzzle are also in their wheelhouses. And. We know precious little about these caregivers. What their habits are, what their thought processes are, what they are doing online and in the social media, etc. 

Bottom Line. Folks, there is a clear opportunity here. Let’s start to work to understand caregivers. They are just going to keep getting more and more important in years to come.

The “Dental Therapist” Train Just Keeps Rolling Along

Check this out. What you will see is a report that Vermont is joining a cadre of other states, and many foreign countries, in moving toward the recognition of “Dental Therapists” as hamburger helper for dentists. Translated, we will increasingly see these Therapists performing tasks that have taken up a lot of Dentists’ days.

That’s sort of not very important. What is important is that we have now come to recognize the litany of standard issues that arise when PA’s, NP’s and other care extenders seek to occupy territory previously only occupied by “doctors.”

Like. Pushback from the appropriate professional societies.

Like. Debate as to whether they can operate in solo practice or need “supervision” and, if the latter, what kind of supervision?  

Like. What kinds of procedures are they allowed to perform?

Like. What good does it do to argue that they are going to be working in “underserved” areas when any law providing them with licensure lets them work anywhere they damned well please?

Bottom Line. And so it goes. The big question here is really the extent to which, a few decades from now, the majority of “healthcare” will be provided by care extenders? Obviously, for those of us in the healthcare marketing vertical, the answer to this question matters a lot. Restated, the question sounds a lot like “Who will our customers be in the future?” 

Place your bets!

The Algorithm Will See You Now

Check this out.  What you will see is an amazingly thorough (sorry about its length!) and well researched piece about the applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the practice of medicine. Read it. It is worth your time.

Several important top lines here. First, we learn that about 33% of physicians are already making some use of AI in their practices, and we get exposed to some of the “early successes.” As I am prone to say under such circumstances, “The future is already here…It is just not widely distributed.” 

We also learn what success looks like in the application of AI to clinical practice. In a nutshell, faster and better diagnoses!

We see from surveys that doctors are almost evenly split between doctors that are bullish about the use of AI in clinical medicine, and those who are more reticent. The latter group site risks such as malware being introduced into the system as reasons for their concern.

Bottom Line. Fascinating is the fact that you will note from the article’s masthead and some of the contents that this piece was penned from the perspective of a malpractice insurance company. Yup. AI has some pretty substantial capacity to reduce the risk of malpractice suits. How? By making sure the physician doesn’t “miss something.”  

As I close many posts by saying quite candidly, you are going to want to keep your eyes on the application of AI to the practice of medicine.

AND…You may want to start to think about how you can inveigle your company’s product line into the “algo.” This could well be the crux of pharmaceutical marketing in the future!