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Technology has transformed nearly every industry—from retail, to transportation, to telecommunication—causing paradigm shifts that give consumers more power, more convenience, and lower costs. Yet the one industry that’s most central to our well-being remains stubbornly unchanged by technological progress. Healthcare, at it’s core, isn’t keeping up with innovation. Even though new technologies are appearing all of the time, none of them are working together to make a real difference in the care continuum. 

Industry experts, investors, and technologists (including leadership here at Aspire) have been calling for a technological revolution in healthcare—one that fully integrates new technologies in a holistic way to improve outcomes and prevent disease; one that fundamentally changes the patient experience with mobile and IoT; and one that uses big data and AI to streamline operations and lower cost. 

Now, doctors are also joining the chorus in the call for change.

In an excellent article in Tech Crunch, precision-medicine physician Florence Comite calls for a “Silicon Valley-style overhaul” of healthcare, and she explores the myriad reasons why we haven’t done so yet.

“Why is the nation’s $3 trillion creaky, monstrous and convoluted healthcare sector seemingly impervious to technological change?” Comite asks.

Innovation silos, incomplete understanding of human biology, and a massive, complex system of providers, patients, payers, and vendors have thus far prevented healthcare from keeping up. Add that to strict regulation, low profit margins, and overworked physicians who are too busy taking care of people to rethink new ways to integrate technology, and we have a recipe for stagnation, Comite concludes.

But Comite finds reason for optimism. Investors, researchers, and physicians are all beginning to coalesce to find a solution. And with more and more great minds addressing the challenge, there are sure to be breakthroughs that will extend throughout our lifetime.

Already, we’re beginning to see where the puzzle pieces fit. As AI technology advances by leaps and bounds, doctors are realizing the immense role it could play in making sense of the ever growing sea of information.

In his blog The Medical Futurist, Dr. Bertalan Mesko lists the many ways AI could be applied to healthcare to make him a more effective doctor. Ultimately, Mesko writes, empathy and communication are the most important factors to delivering better care, but as the amount of medical information explodes, it’s becoming humanly impossible to keep up with data and also have sufficient time for each patient. Mesko writes that the assistance of AI would free him as a doctor to spend more time with his patients.

Mesko lays out how AI could be used to eradicate wait times, help doctors quickly find the information they need, handle administrative tasks, improve doctor/patient communication, and encourage more collaboration.

But before AI can be truly useful to doctors, it will need access to data. And currently, no one is sharing it.

At the Health Datapalooza in Washington DC last week, Vice President Joe Biden pleaded with researchers and healthcare professionals to break down silos and begin sharing data more openly to advance research. If technology platforms can’t talk to each other, or if researchers don’t share their data, making accurate assessments is difficult, no matter how powerful the intelligence—human, artificial, or otherwise.

As important technologies like AI, predictive analytics, cloud computing, IoT, and mobile reach maturity, the key players in the healthcare space are all beginning to recognize how those technologies could be applied to revolutionize healthcare. It’s just a matter of willpower, along with some creativity, to bring it all together within the healthcare continuum. As the writer William Gibson famously said, “The future is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed.”