By: Al Krueger
Designing future health care through innovation
Healthcare organizations today seek new ways to ensure quality and patient safety, improve access to care, increase efficiency, eliminate waste, lower costs and improve patient outcomes. Innovation has become a major focus to help accomplish these goals.
Disruptive versus Incremental Innovation
Health care innovations occur across a wide spectrum, ranging from small changes that improve some aspect of health care to major shifts that have sweeping effects on the entire industry. Smaller changes are often described as “incremental innovation.” The term refers to minor improvements made to an organization’s existing services, processes or methods to improve their core business.
Disruptive change or innovation, on the other hand, occurs when business models are fundamentally challenged, changed or reinvented. This term is used to describe what happens when a new technology or innovation causes the existing marketplace to change in fundamental ways.
In health care, disruptive innovation often produces new products or services that are less expensive, simpler, and more convenient. Here are several examples of disruptive innovations the health care system has witnessed in recent years:
• the launch of retail primary care clinics, staffed by nurses and nurse practitioners in pharmacies and grocery stores
• the marketing of home monitoring devices for people with diseases such as diabetes
• the development of oral chemotherapy regimens
Innovation driving health and wellness
At Advocate Aurora Health, both incremental and disruptive innovations improve the patient experience and assist consumers on their wellness journey. Technology-based innovations such as wearable sensors, mobile computing technologies and remote patient management systems are used in various healthcare settings to encourage health and wellness.
Advocate Aurora’s entrepreneurs have developed many innovations that are changing the health care experience — including offering 24/7 remote access to health care providers (through telehealth and virtual visits) and using technology to support patient engagement and self-management of health. Here’s an example:
When someone feels ill and deciding if he/she needs medical attention, a digital concierge can help make that decision. A chatbot called Symptom Checker — powered by artificial intelligence (AI) — provides users with possible symptom causes and suggested care options. It simplifies the process of determining whether or not someone needs to seek medical care.
Symptom Checker uses AI to understand natural language and the user’s intent. If the user types “I have a fever,” the bot will ask appropriate follow-up questions about the patient’s symptoms. Symptom Checker then offers possible causes and suggests an appropriate treatment venue. This might be seeking urgent care, seeing a primary care provider, or simply staying home to rest. If the user decides to seek medical care, the person can click through to reserve a place in line at an Advocate Aurora urgent care location. Symptom Checker helps patients make informed decisions about their symptoms. It helps them identify and access the most appropriate level of care, right in the palm of their hands.
Offering the right care, in the right place, at the right time
Innovation promises meaningful, continuous changes in important areas of health care. Two examples are:
• preventative care in population health - health care organizations will increasingly focus on health and wellness of covered populations, directing resources those who are well, along with treating those requiring medical intervention
• personalized, targeted medicine/treatments tailored to a patient’s specific genetic profile
Going forward, health care organizations face many challenges that will drive the need for greater innovation, including:
• our aging population (requiring more health care resources)
• shortages of key health care providers (especially primary care providers in certain geographical areas)
• the increasing prevalence of chronic disease in our population (diabetes, obesity, etc.)
• marketplace pressures to reduce costs, while improving patient safety and outcomes
Technology will continue to play an important role in healthcare innovation. The pace and focus of new technology-enabled health care innovations is expected to increase. Advances in digital technologies will create new business opportunities for those health care organizations that encourage innovation.
Advocate Aurora Health will continue to nurture a culture of innovation — using the experiences of our patients and caregivers to drive improvements and innovations into new directions. By fully understanding the patient experience and engaging both patients and staff, our organization will create innovations that improve the lives of the patients we serve.
Al Krueger is Advocate Aurora’s Commercial Innovation Domain Leader.