Transforming future health care technology in the U.S.

A panel of experts at CES 2023, the world's most influential tech event, discusses the potential of technology to improve health care in America.
Paul Ratner
Future medical technology concept
Future medical technology concept

Krisada tepkulmanont/iStock 

  • A panel of experts at the Consumer's Electronics Show, CES 2023, revealed technology's role in transforming the U.S. health care industry.
  • Tech innovation should help bring health care to people but also allow for new opportunities in preventive care.
  • From T-shirts that gather data on health to drones that distribute nutritious foods, several forms of revolutionary technology are uncovered.

How will technology transform the health care industry in the United States? A panel of experts at the Consumer's Electronics Show (CES 2023) looked into the crystal ball during the keynote conversation titled “The Future of Care in America: A New Hybrid Model."

Susan Turney, the CEO of Marshfield Clinic Health System, shared that the changes in health care over the last couple of years have accelerated in a way that was hard to imagine previously.

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Some of the technologies like telemedicine have actually been available for decades but the pandemic brought them to the forefront and caused a tremendous jump in their adaptation. A greater amount of patients are now accessing health care remotely even from their local providers, for a variety of conditions. 

“American health care needs more than a tweak,” said Stephen Klasko, who currently serves as an executive in residence at General Catalyst and advisor at Stel Life. He believes that the pandemic brought out the glaring deficiencies in our medical system, especially the lack of easy access to health care for everyone who needs it, and particularly of that related to behavioral health medicine.

Vidya Raman-Tangella, the Chief Medical Officer at Teladoc Health, proposed that, for her, the future should focus on addressing the care of the “whole person”. Improving technology should help bring health care to people but also allow for new opportunities in preventive care, addressing chronic conditions and providing extensive health education. One challenge with that is people’s fear of adopting new technology. 

Tech for advancing personalized healthcare 

Transforming future health care technology in the U.S.
Personalised healthcare technology concept

Stephen Klasko predicted that technology could cause a revolution in personalized care by offering it to a much greater variety of people from different walks of life, ages, and with varying health needs.

Anne Docimo, the Chief Medical Officer at UnitedHealthcareChanges, saw the fragmentation of health data as an issue to overcome. She explained that there are different doctors and institutions that keep our data, but what’s needed is one common platform that should contain a person’s health information. “That has to catch up for us to leapfrog ahead," she stated. 

The panel’s moderator Carlos Nunez, the Chief Medical Officer at ResMed, agreed with the reality of the data glut, sharing that during a recent Intel presentation it was revealed that healthcare data is one third of all the data generated in the world every day and more than 90 percent of it sits unused. 

Vidya Raman-Tangella also sees the many different apps that contain people’s health info as a big problem. Making the data unified and useful is key in creating personalized care, she shared.

Klasko added that besides the data fragmentation, what needs to happen is the growth of natural language processing and similar technologies to help people improve their health in a way they can understand.  Additionally, using data to get an overview of a person’s life circumstances and various health conditions could allow doctors to treat them more precisely and quicker. 

To Susan Turney, what’s really important is to create trust in the consumer in how their data is being used. People need to know who benefits from their metrics, who manages it, what type of infrastructure is set up to process it.

Another aspect of this is in who is responsible for addressing larger systemic issues. She gave an example of food insecurity. She argued that although we may have the data that, say, one out five kids have food insecurity, who in the community is going to “make the necessary changes” to address these types of concerns?

Could technology close the gaps in access to care?

Carlos Nunez pointed out the great inequities exist in access to care between people within different communities in the United States. One part of correcting this, according to Vidya Raman-Tangella, is making sure there is equal access to broadband internet. There is a great variety of speeds and levels of affordability across even neighboring communities. 

What’s also causing a lot of problems, said Stephen Klasko, is that the U.S. healthcare system is very hospital-oriented. It’s financially beneficial for the hospitals to bring the patients in versus offering health care in the homes of the patients. Changing such priorities could revolutionize access and the costs involved. 

Susan Turney explained that a lot of the access issues stem from the exorbitant costs related to inefficiencies within the system. She pointed out that is also often hard to get on-time appointments, with a tremendous backlog of patients.

Making medical help available in different venues and offering telehealth even for “high-acuity visits” is the place to start healthcare transformation. This will lead to better outcomes for both the patients and the doctors. 

So, what tech could have a profound impact on health care?

As moderator, Carlos Nunez pointed out that despite the promise of technology, the talk of improving the American healthcare system always seems to run into its existing inefficiencies. But is there one kind of tech that could be revolutionary?

Susan Turney and Vidya Raman-Tangella believe that ultimately it’s the tech that collects data. There are many tools we can put in place but the gathering and analyzing of the data is what has to be at the forefront to change patient outcomes. 

For Stephen Klasko, it’s food distribution technology that will make the difference. Using services like Instacart, drone delivery, and adding incentives and education around distributing healthy food could be a game changer for child obesity and other nutrition-related ailments among the populace. 

Anne Docimo shared that monitoring technologies like glucose monitoring, fitness trackers, medical games, personal urine testers, and other similar tools can make dramatic impacts in getting people engaged in their own health care. 

Klasko added that if, for example, a person’s t-shirt constantly monitored their health for vital information, even without them having to do anything about it, and sent data and alerts to a monitoring center, people’s lives could be changed. 

Elaborating on her experience working with medical technology startups, Docimo explained that tech creators need to work closely with hospitals and healthcare providers . In the way, they could develop testing and retrieve precise data about the success of their applications as related to patient outcomes. 

Our current system is very much focused on sick care, according to Raman-Tangella. Still, she would like to see developers of technologies zero in on preventive care, to make sure people don’t get sick in the first place.