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From a CIO: What Should Be Apple’s Next Big Healthcare Move?

The only thing consistently at the point of care is the patient. The second most common item is a phone. So, it’s only fitting that we combine the two: I would like to suggest Apple’s next play in healthcare.

Some like to dream of a future where Apple is a full-blown healthcare company, complete with telehealth, remote patient monitoring, and Siri replacing physician dictation systems. While these ideas are interesting, I would like to propose something far less exciting. My idea doesn’t require Apple to change industries, or even its business model.

There is one thing that Apple can do which would add value to the consumer, make their devices more valuable, help the healthcare industry with two of its biggest issues, solve a federal problem, assist our veterans, and potentially save lives. Quite a tall and impressive order for a single change, but it’s possible.

So, what is this one thing?

The Solution

Digitize the intake process. Help us to transmit our foundational health information at the point of care. That’s it.

I’ll make the case below for how this accomplishes all of the goals above. But before we go there, let me elaborate on what this might look like.

When I was CIO of a health system, we found that we had over 100 different intake forms within our medical group practices. We evaluated and found that over 95% of the information was the same on each form. That should hold across the industry, and you don’t really care if your form is entirely complete as it is augmenting an existing workflow.

Create a user-friendly way to collect the information and update it when necessary. Store the information securely on the phone. The solution would work just the same as mobile payment in retail. Every participating health system or physician practice would have an NFC device, that could receive the medical intake form from the mobile phone.

Apple — and Google, for that matter — are uniquely positioned to bring this innovation to healthcare. IOS and Android represent 98% market share in the US and the number of mobile phones exceeds the US population. If these two companies were to digitize the intake process, it would become part of an accepted workflow at the point of care much quicker than any other strategy being deployed in the industry today.

Let me lay out the case for why this is good for everyone.

Healthcare Industry

The healthcare industry has as it’s mantra the triple aim: reduce cost, improve outcomes, and improve the experience. Simplifying the intake process would both reduce cost and improve the experience.

Imagine an intake process where all the data is entered once. That process can even be assisted by a loved one and digital native.

It’s conveniently stored on their phone. They go into a health system and there is a device in front of the intake staff person which uses NFC to collect their health information. The information is transmitted and reviewed by the clerk, instead of input. Wait times are decreased, and experience improved. Plus, the cost of this redundant and manual process is decreased.

The Consumer Patient

The most common complaint I hear about healthcare is “They ask me the same questions over and over.” Obviously, an iPhone data store doesn’t eliminate that, but it certainly takes a giant step in the right direction.

What if we had an ICE (in case of emergency) function on our phone, which allowed for one’s medical intake information to be transferred in the case of being incapacitated? Perhaps we might even save a life.

Healthcare’s Largest Client – Federal

The cost of healthcare is high as a percentage of GDP. This addresses several wastes that currently exist in the healthcare system.

  1. Manual and redundant processes
  2. Waiting (human productivity)
  3. Misplaced staff creativity

Some health systems have automated the intake process. By doing it at the phone level, you have now made it easier to automate across an industry in a uniform way. This would greatly reduce, and put us on a path to virtually eliminating, any manual intake. It would also provide the ability to adjust workflow to reduce redundant questions.

Waiting rooms are a drain on the human spirit. Let’s eliminate them if we can.

Finally, put 10 healthcare CIOs in a room and you will hear about their digital applications. Most of those applications have a function to gather medical information from the user. This solution could be developed once for IOS and Android, and the information accessible via a programming interface.

Let’s have our industry experts focus on higher-order problems.

Veteran Care

We all agree that our veterans deserve the best care possible. Their modern EHR will not be in place for another eight years, according to recent articles.

However, this shouldn’t stop us from providing advancements that will enhance the patient experience. Innovation at the edge can scale in place today, and transfer in the future when the core is swapped out.

Waiting for the core to get complete is not necessary and would be an unfortunate delay.

Good for Google and Apple

I would think this is obvious but in case it isn’t: the company that creates this experience will deepen their relationship with the consumer.

You’ve made their life easier. You are bridging the digital/physical divide for them. There is a deeper level of trust that is developed when one shares their medical information. This deeper trust relationship becomes a jumping-off point for additional service, value, and utility.

A word of caution, though. You may be tempted to implement two-way communication or store more of the health record. Resist the temptation. Complexity is the enemy and these two processes just increased the complexity 100-fold.

Solve this one problem and you will be invited to solve others.

If you know anyone at Apple or Google, please forward this along. My hope in writing this is to never be handed a clipboard at the point of care again. Do you share the same desire?

Please follow me on Twitter @ThePatientsCIO, connect on LinkedIn, or reach out at [email protected] if you wish to discuss further.  Thanks for reading.