I had an opportunity to spend some time wandering around Vancouver last weekend and the one store that caught my eye was HMV at the corner of Burrard and Robson. Initially a flagship store for this retailer in Vancouver, HMV has tried to reinvent itself adding electronics and a variety of other mechandise to stave off the hemorrhaging from loss of sales of its traditional business — music. For that it can thank the revolution started by Napster with the final nail in the coffin being the launch of Apple’s iTunes store and a new model for purchasing music in which users were able to personalize their selection and disaggregate the individual tracks from the album.
Two disruptive technologies that changed the course of business for the entire music industry: music sharing (much of it illegal), and new sales models such as iTunes.
When one applies these lessons to health IT and EMRs, there are similarities and some differences. It is not yet clear which will be the truly disruptive technologies for the sharing of healthcare information. There are some frontrunners: mobile applications, personal health records, and cloud-based storage of healthcare information. However there is no clear winner.
Comparing EMRs, EHRs, and health information technology to the music industry is not an apples to apples comparison. Beyond the obvious, a major difference is maturity. The music industry was mature when the disruptive technologies took hold. The business models regarding creators, distribution models, and consumers were rigidly maintained. The Internet changed that at a speed that was difficult for established players to respond to.
However, we are seeing similar signs in healthcare. Traditional family doctors are slowly disappearing, replaced by walk-in clinics that respond to the just-in-time need for care, albeit without the same level of consistency as someone who has known you from early years. Individuals are consuming services differently — making use of disease support forums and social online communities, mobile health applications, and other care providers such as nurse-practitioners vs. physicians. At the same time that healthcare is becoming more personal and granular, it is also becoming more fragemented. Information no longer lives primarily in your family doctor’s medical chart. It can exist in a multitude of walk-in clinics, hospitals, diagnostic systems, repositories, and ancillary care provider offices.
In the same way that music sharing changed a business and turned it upside down, disruptive technologies are also going to change healthcare as we know it today. We just don’t know what and when.
The physician has not just been the holder of the knowledge; he/she has also been the translator of that information and had the skills to sort through the relevant vs. irrelevant in order to make a diagnosis and suggest a treatment plan.
However in a fast-paced world, the desire for the right information at the right time in the right format is not just a priority for providers of care. As the power shifts from caregiver to consumer, expect to see dramatic changes in care delivery and the roles and functions of care providers in the future.
What do you think? How do you see healthcare changing? Which are most important “disruptive technologies”? Click on the “Comments” link below to share your thoughts.