The Future of Healthcare – A Consumer View

This is Part 1 of a 2-Part series focusing on healthcare consumers, practitioners and researchers.

By Kurt Roemer, Cheif Security Strategist at Citrix

What does healthcare mean to you today as a consumer? And how can you best leverage technology to improve the health of those for whom you care? Whether you view healthcare as maintaining fitness, visiting the doctor, engaging in corrective therapies, or in other activities that impact wellness, we all agree that the experience and affordability of healthcare could be better. You're not alone in seeking improvements – healthcare practitioners are likewise seeking to improve the quality of care while saving time and improving costs.

Healthcare providers dedicate themselves to caring for our well-being and we owe them many thanks for working to improve our lifestyles.

Awareness and advancement of personal health and fitness is also a strong personal goal for many folks around the world.  It's an exciting time as healthcare technologies evolve to combine our mutual interests, bringing real-time statistics, medical specialists collaborating world-wide, vast knowledge bases of medical information available at the touch of a button, data analytics on disease metrics / diagnosis, and a myriad of other technical and communications advancements that illuminate new health insights for practitioners and consumers alike.

The prescription for improving healthcare satisfaction involves a healthy dose of innovative healthcare technologies. In this article we explore many of the forward looking technologies and advancements in medical information management that will take us into the future of healthcare.

A Glimpse at the Future of Healthcare

Healthcare technologies are rapidly evolving from sporadic clinical measures to the continuous daily integration of heath parameter monitoring. Over the next 5+ years, Citrix envisions the following evolution of healthcare and its associated phases:

The following sections discuss these evolutionary phases of healthcare in some detail.

Phase I: Fitness and Sport

The first phase of health integration has been introduced through wristbands, smartwatches, sensors in shoes, heart monitors in school sports and telemetry from gym equipment.  The sensors all give basic information on key indicators of performance and health for athletes (runners, cyclists, gymnasts, etc.) while training. The health information is typically tied to a specific device vendor’s apps and services.

As this phase progresses, more diverse sensors and more personally-targeted info of higher quality will be available at attractive price points.  The data will increasingly be tied to web-based health knowledge and social media, combining personal performance indicators with goals, games, contests and events.  For those of you who have a Fitbit, Nike Fuel Band (or similar), you are already participating in this phase!

Phase II: Health Awareness

The proliferation of health sensors in next-generation smartwatches and devices that are empowered by Apple Health, Google Fit and others will bring focused and instant awareness of health information and condition. Moving beyond fitness and sport, more information will be available for additional activities of daily living, including detailed sleep analysis, continuous monitoring of blood glucose for diabetics, as well as blood pressure, pulse and heart rhythms. Consumers will be more educated and aware, but will also increasingly turn to Dr. Google for more information on potential ailments, often leading to social hypochondria.  “On the internet,” says Ron Gutman, “every headache becomes a brain tumor in four clicks or less.”

 Of course, the other outcome of increased access to medical information is that patients become more actively involved and informed in their care.  They can better understand what is happening to their health, go to the doctor prepared with informed questions and often become consultants with the doctor in arriving at the best care plan.

Services that collect and analyze data from personal health sensors will expand globally, providing health analysis (and assurance) at price points in some countries like the U.S. that may drive some consumers away from clinics. However, consumers must remember that trained healthcare professionals can provide a much more complete picture of health at this phase and ongoing consultation with medical professionals will be important for their wellbeing.

Phase III: Health Management

During this phase, professional-quality health information is available at your fingertips and is integrated with your personal health history for trending and identification of ailments.  Sophisticated sensors will be continuously monitoring and collecting info for doctors throughout a patient’s various Activities of Daily Living (ADL).  In addition to aggregated data in cloud services, it’s feasible that you’ll be walking around with your personal health record and the most recent data to support it.  This dramatically increases the need for mobile data privacy and ensuring there are a highly secure means to authorize medical professionals access to your healthcare information.

Diagnosis based on data from personal sensors and services will combine with a collaborative and participative health model to quickly identify potential new issues and aid in tough differential diagnoses.  Your doctors may even be on the other side of the world.  The personal benefits, combined with insurance and healthcare system incentives to participate in active, monitored health management, has the potential to keep the majority of us plugged into these services despite privacy concerns.

Phase IV: Personalized Healthcare

Remembering way back to Biology class, a genome consists of genes and genetic sequences encoded in DNA that is unique to the individual organism.  In this phase of the Future of Healthcare, the mapping of your personal genome will look for genetic abnormalities that indicate susceptibilities to disease or an active disease process – and will be used to remarkably improve the accuracy and specificity of care.  Your genome will be part of your medical record. Specific therapies can therefore be targeted to personal body chemistry leading to Personalized Healthcare.  Ever wonder why a certain drug works so well for one individual but is ineffective for another with an identical condition?

One downside to genomic sequencing is that it opens the door to targeted health profiling and the potential to deny health care due to pre-existing conditions. Knowing your genome means that employers, insurance companies, healthcare systems, friends and family could know your native traits and susceptibilities. In this scenario, it’s more important than ever to only release specific information on a need-to-know basis when everything your personal genome reveals can expose your most private health status!

Further advances will unlock areas of medicine that have mostly remained in the dark ages of gnosis, such as neurology. If you know anyone with Alzheimer’s, dementia, motor neuron disease, MS (Multiple Sclerosis), Parkinson’s and others, you're aware that these diseases can be devastating and currently have no cure.  Unlocking an individual’s genome will streamline the complex diagnostic process and increase researchers’ understanding of the root cause of these diseases – getting us closer to much needed cures.

At this phase, we may even have an MRI for the Mind that will help visualize brain circuitry associated with thought processes and identify subconscious activities. We’ll undoubtedly have smart pills with chips, cameras and robotic parts that are tuned to identify and thwart disease before it can take hold. These advances in diagnosis, treatment and overall medical knowledge will vastly improve the health and wellbeing of individuals in developed and developing populations worldwide. It will truly be an exciting time in the evolution of medicine and healthcare!

Citrix in Healthcare

Citrix is positioned to be a leading technology partner in delivering the Future of Healthcare, where Personalized Healthcare will transform prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Today, Citrix delivers and protects EMR (Electronic Medical Records) and clinical systems for healthcare organizations across the globe. The use of Citrix technologies by healthcare and medical professionals assures the instant authentication required to quickly access potentially lifesaving information, enables the ever-increasing mobility of healthcare professionals and caregivers, connects health networks through Health Information Exchanges and helps people collaborate to improve wellness.

Citrix is also well-positioned to assist Healthcare IT to integrate emerging and future technologies such as the Internet of Things for remote patient monitoring, secure text messaging for communicating sensitive data and in connecting an ever-increasing array of devices and services to health networks and medical specialists around the world.

The Future of Healthcare - A Practitioner and Researcher’s View focuses on healthcare consumers, practitioners and researchers.

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