With the background we discussed earlier on the healthcare scenario in India, let’s now examine the scenario across the world. We wondered if the existence of a single large player in this field can ensure optimal use of technology in healthcare and have found that this is not necessarily true.
Some of the best healthcare models in the world are in the Scandinavian countries. These countries provide the best balance of healthcare money spend, technology adoption, patient experience and health outcomes. In comparison to other countries in the west, the USA is spending more and more in healthcare (nearly 18% of GDP), has relatively low technology adoption rates, patient satisfaction, and health outcomes.
The UK spent a lot of money on technology adoption in healthcare but is still working hard to integrate its use in mainstream practice. This proves the fact that throwing money on buying new technologies alone does not solve the problem.
So what can go wrong with technology adoption despite the existence of a single, large player? As with any other form of automation, the end user needs to see the value to use new technologies. Many doctors did not train using the same technologies that are available today.
While many doctors are getting more tech-savvy in their practice, for technology to become a part of their work life, it has to provide an immediate value to the doctors today. Using technology may increase patient satisfaction and health outcomes in the long term, but today, right now, if I am an extremely busy doctor seeing 50 patients a day, the value for me as a doctor to take this additional step of using a new technology needs to be obvious before I use it!
Another factor that continues to surprise us is how often healthcare innovations ignore basic design principles. For example, we recently visited the neonatal ICU of a large tertiary care hospital and were proudly shown the instructions for parents/caregivers to wash their hands before going to the babies.
The only problem was that the washbasin was located at the other end of the ICU, making it more likely for a visitor to ignore the instructions. Similarly, many surveys indicate that the much talked about electronic health record systems actually reduce the number of patients seen by doctors, as more time is needed for data entry per patient. To add to this, your doctor is more likely to reserve eye contact for his/her computer screen than for you as a patient.
If healthcare technologies were creating a new market segment (like touchscreen mobile phones and tablets have done), they could get away with focusing merely on aspirational looks and features. To make a serious dent in how technology improves the healthcare experience for doctors and patients (with their set behaviors), they will need to be better and more intuitively designed to integrate into existing workflows.
The responsibility of communicating the positive impact of innovative technologies to our doctors and nurses is also vital to encourage the adoption of these technologies.