Imagine this- a home with a mind of its own, bound only by your imagination. In one touch, the movie of your choice starts, the curtains close, dynamic surround sound kicks in at the perfect volume. While you can plan a hot bath to begin with on the way back home from work, but can’t recollect if you left the induction stove on or the garage door open? Well just check them out on your phone. Smart homes no longer get portrayed in films or are the chosen few properties of billionaires. It’s the new normal for homeowners in all states around- Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Florida, California, Maryland etal– to “smartify” their homes, resulting in more tailored options, for excellent comfort, improved efficiency, and a quick, silent and seamless technological acknowledgments to human communication.
Here are just some of the key features or characteristics of connected products, even though the possibilities are truly infinite, and varied in nature:
Usability of Connected Products– To put it into perspective, it is the extent to which the connected products can be used by you to attain specific goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use. In this case, let’s take the example of a connected home where the defining feature is a completely networked home. Anything that can be controlled with taps or clicks and allows access from anywhere in the home or even controlled remotely through your mobile. Imagine every device in your home being synced to operate as per your personalized settings and is centrally managed. Like- the curtains automatically close at 7:30 p.m. while lights dim to the perfect setting; you can start or end your day with a push of a single button. With plenty of technology formats such as Blu-ray, Bluetooth, MP3, 3d, HD, 4K etc. Monitoring and managing energy consumption for optimum efficiency, controlling specific environmental conditions, security and delivering updates and important information to us are just some features of connected products.
Backward Integration of Connected Products– Sounds like going back in time! The truth is while IoT enabled products or solutions use embedded technology to communicate with each other or the internet, they create an invisible network which allows us to sense, control and program the products to the desired level of operational efficiency. However, the true promise of IoT is yet to be realized- where the invisible fabric of the network would act the way we want it to respond. Consider these hypothetical scenarios, for instance::
You just walked out of the door without taking the keys with you. Your phone beeps and your door which is now upgraded to smart door delays locking the door for 15 seconds because you just left, without your keys, giving you the chance to get back inside if need be.
You are fast asleep while your house is on fire. The smoke sets off your smoke alarm but you don’t hear the alarm. Post 5 seconds your smoke alarm sends out a message to the motion detectors throughout your house, but there is no movement inside the house. What does it do next- the motion detectors send a message back to the smoke detector, which alerts the local fire brigade to take control of the situation, and the police for a possible breakout.
You have met with an accident and have had a hard fall from your bike. You lie unconscious as You’ve hit your head, and you’re away from home. The accelerometer in your helmet has detected the hit to your head. Your helmet ‘calls out’ to see if your bike is nearby and triggers an alarm. Next, Your bike sounds an emergency alarm and sends your exact location to an ambulance, and the highway patrol. Your bike alarm continues to sound, attracting the attention of passers-by. It also sends out a signal to the road sign 1km down the road warning motorists to slow down.
Ecosystem- Redefining the Boundaries: Expect the unexpected– with the growing abilities of smart, connected products are not only reshaping the game within enterprises but are also expanding the enterprise limits. This happens as the basis of engagement shifts from discrete products, to product systems comprising of closely allied products, to IoT enabled systems that connect a host of product systems together. A tractor company, for example, may find itself competing in a larger farm automation industry.
Source: Porter & Happlemann
Increasingly, industry limits are growing even beyond product systems to systems of systems—that is, a set of diverse product systems as well as related external information that can be organized and optimized, such as a smart building, home, or a smart city. Enterprises whose IoT enabled products and designs have the highest impact on total system performance will be in the best position to drive this process and capture disproportionate value.
Always on: Network/Cloud Infrastructure: Connected IoT devices are projected to grow at a combined annual rate of 17.8% for the period 2018-2022, reaching nearly 14 billion units shipped by 2022 according to IoT Analytics GmBH. Smart is the new concrete based on which buildings are designed and constructed, be it corporate office buildings, public venues, government facilities, schools, and universities, or transportation hubs. Why? Smart products running on smart and secure networks deliver an enormous amount of value to consumers and businesses – saving time through usefulness, saving money through less consumption of energy and water, and even saving lives through applications designed to ensure safe, clean environments. Growth in IoT is projected to rise much faster than the growth of smartphones or tablets. Given the “perfect storm” of omnipresent and affordable broadband, less expensive components, cloud computing commerce, and open APIs which are kindling creative applications in dozens of smart product categories. Smart Products which are designed to be “always on” and extremely well perceived, when implemented properly go well beyond the idea of adding a sensor or sensors to a product and connecting them to an application.
Smarter Systems: “Industry 4.0” will be unable to make headway without “Logistics 4.0” a well-recognized fact. Therefore everybody needs to win in order for Smart Products and Smart services to scale and generate value for all participants. There are business, technology, and human aspects, including the experience of the end-consumer and the administrators who will be handling connected systems in the future. Notwithstanding, how autonomous we want systems to be, there remains an important human element whereby people and their IoT enabled products communicate intuitively and securely – end-users and administrators alike. Not everything can or should be automated. However automation can streamline the contextual interplays between people and things – and when the solution delivers convenience and delight, Smart Products and Smart Services will thrive.
While it’s still early days for the smart home market – and the wider consumer IoT ecosystem in general – we anticipate a substantial growth over the next few years, notably as consumers become more informed and increasingly interact with smart assistant platforms like Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa “Whether in the form of a smart speaker or embedded in a thermostat, fridge, TV, or any other device, smart assistants are on the verge of being the cornerstone of consumer IoT by improving the accessibility, use, and functionality of connected devices, which will clearly boost adoption rates in the future.
The best piece of advice ever doled out to me that I remember above all others was: “If you have a plan, you can win.” And I never forgot that – it bolstered what I thought I knew and gave me the courage to always ask people as to where we were headed. My earliest lessons in this were learnt during a treasure hunt at a birthday party I think, but this principle, of course, applies to businesses as much as to individuals. The importance of starting with a clear, defined, business strategy cannot be overstated, and the process of implementing the strategy successfully involves asking some key questions, and being aware of the purpose each day, prioritizing and adjusting along the way.
The biggest challenge that many leaders think they face is preparing for the future. The common question in this line of thinking is: How can we anticipate what is coming up next and be prepared? The question has become harder to answer, as the pace of change accelerates due to the widening impact of digital technologies. The solution, of course, is to adopt digital technologies and embrace the future, and this is something a large number of enterprises are attempting already. However, most enterprises find very soon–and yet often too late–that there is more to digital transformation than just adopting a set of technologies.
Where exactly are they going wrong? The answer, we’ve discovered repeatedly in our interactions with business leaders from a wide variety of industries, is that businesses that rush headlong into digital transformation (as they understand it) are far more likely to fail. On the other hand, businesses that pause to ask some key, fundamental questions, and then rush headlong into digital transformation tend to have far better chances of succeeding.
You read that right, yes. The ‘rushing headlong’ part doesn’t really change. After all, pace of innovation is a key ingredient in digital transformation. Still, there are some critical questions leaders in an enterprise must ask before they begin the digital transformation journey. Let’s take a look at these key questions fundamental to formulating your digital strategy.
Whatever you’re going after– is the successful launch of a new product or growing an existing service at a rapid pace, a robust digital transformation strategy will help you see where you are going and help you get there.
To start creating a robust digital strategy, ask yourself these three critical questions:
What data do I have and what insights can I gain from that data? How can I increase the data that am collecting? And how can I contextualize it all in terms of services and personalization?
OK, so first off, I cheated. When I said three questions, I actually meant five. Or maybe nine? I haven’t counted yet, but let’s move on.
Thoughtfully done analytics or business intelligence solutions invariably unlock a tidal wave of insights for digital business strategy. While many companies struggle to justify their data and create value with their big data spend, the promise of actionable insights is critical. Forrester reports that 74% of firms say they want to be “data-driven,” but only 29% are actually successful at connecting analytics to action. Clearly, actionable insights are the missing link for companies that want considerable business outcomes from their data signaling a digital transformation.
The universe of data modeling has vastly changed over the years, leading to a change in the way the volume of information is interpreted and providing opportunities to gather more. So how does a company fully exploit the data and analytics to get a working model? This requires three mutually supportive capabilities. First, they need to identify, combine, and manage multiple sources of data. Second, they need to develop the capability to build advanced-analytics models for predicting and optimizing outcomes. Third, and the most critical–management must have the muscle to transform the organization so that the data and models actually produce better decisions. Two important features support these competencies: a clear digital business strategy on how to use data & analytics to compete with the distribution of the right technology architecture and capabilities.
Knowing what you want to accomplish through your digital strategy is important since the speed of doing business has increased by quantum leaps. Businesses move forward when the technology enables them to be closer to their ultimate strategy and achieve what they aspire to be. It starts with an initial framework of the company’s desired goals keeping in context the conventional business strategy to get the desired outcome.
What is the ecosystem that I’m playing in? How can I leverage a clear understanding of internal capabilities and external factors to fine-tune my digital strategy?
While there are multiple layers of models that are put to use in a business set up to achieve the goals, the very first layer of digital strategy is the basic business model. A business’s use of digital can’t be analyzed in a separate petri dish. A digital strategy needs to be integrated into the organic whole of how a company runs, as well as what they aspire to be. Therefore, in order to build upwards from the basic business model, we need to look at:
People: A digital strategy relies on the skills of your entire team. It doesn’t start out in the cloud; rather, it is inseparable from the efforts of the developers, designers, marketers, strategists, content writers and so on.
Process: Articulating precisely what a business human capital will do and how you will blend your work with one another to create a fully synergized strategy comes next.
Platform: Only after the goals, people and processes are in place do we consider the platforms they’ll need. Again, technology is the means, not the driver. Platforms depend on individual company goals; they can include cloud servers, content management systems, data analytic systems, mixed reality, artificial intelligence, geo-based apps and more..
Products: Once platforms have been classified, then the individual products that make up your digital strategy are identified. These could possibly include apps, wearables, responsive websites, IoT smart products, augmented reality experiences and more.
Channels: Once you have your digital products, then the question is how you’ll connect those products with all concerned. Which channels work adequately as delivery conduits in your digital business strategy? Which include in-person shopping experiences, email, social media, workplace networking, intranet, websites, IoT remote connections and so on.
Experience: It’s critical to pursue and retain a clear sense of user experience. Are your brand’s visual cues consistent and addictive? Does it evoke a sense of ease and delight as people interact?
Customers: Right at the top of the digital strategy framework, it’s all about people and not just the customers who purchase the products or services — although they are extremely important. An effective digital strategy which is followed by transformation enhances the experience of all the parties involved like employees, vendors, suppliers, partners, and stakeholders etc.
Do I have the innovation chops and people skills scalability?
A key reason why digital strategy needs to be agile is that it involves constantly trying to strike a balance between two opposing forces of innovation and acceptance. Willingness of the agents to change is important, as they need to feel inspired to give their best and perform at the highest level. As goals don’t change, however, the methods of achieving those goals, and the tools that underlie those methods evolve so swiftly that keeping up with them has become a profession of its own. So how do we reconcile these opposing forces? By building teams who collaborate across functions is how it begins- because it touches across many functions in a company.
Digital leaders are quick to spot this and place a premium on collaboration. They allow the creation of processes, form cross-functional teams who share the best practices and develop expertise. To gain momentum, cross-functional teams need support from the top and a clear mandate which provides enough resources to build out a program. Therefore effective teams need real business responsibility, coupled with the authority to break through functional silos, and a passion to lead.
Per IDC- “Digital transformation (DX) is at the center of modern organizational strategies, and estimates the economic value of DX to almost $19 trillion or more than 20% of global GDP. Advances in 3rd Platform technologies and associated accelerators are transforming whole industries and represent the largest driver of technology investment for the foreseeable future”
Well-informed, designed, and activated business strategies are necessary for the digital era. As digitization modifies the behaviors of customers, the type of business and competition changes at greater speed and scale. To achieve the highest standard of business performance, executives must reinvent their enterprise through digital strategies and innovative capabilities that constantly generate and sustain brand, product, and operational advantages. Digital strategy consulting and agency services consequently play a vital role in helping build enterprise leadership, vision, goals, business structure, and organizational forms, with necessary talent requirements, and data and technology. Therefore, in the enterprise context, it is crucial to communicate a sense of long-term direction to employees and other stakeholders, explain the detailed steps the company needs to take in the near future, and at the same time allow for adaptability to evolving along the way.
For enterprises that have already experienced disruption or are facing competition from new digital entrants, the goal is to identify how digital business strategy changes and refines your understanding from broad to specific points which form the core of your digital strategy foundation. Therefore digital strategy should be agile and deliver iterative value to the business on a frequent basis. Agility enables the strategy to change as the organization continues to evolve taking input and suggestions from all levels of the organization. By starting with a clear understanding of a company’s purpose, one can avoid wasting time and resources implementing technology that doesn’t enable new competitive advantage.
What do you want to be when you grow up? This was, back in the day, a far easier question to answer: you either wanted to do what your mother or father did, or you wanted to teach, just like your favorite school teacher. Or maybe you chose your profession based on what you liked to eat (ice cream!) or based on what vehicle you fancied (firetruck!).
Over the past few decades, the question has become more and more difficult to answer, and is almost impossible to answer today–or will be soon. Some people even today seem to comment on this change with a tone of surprise, but we have seen this transition coming. Thanks to automation, robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and thanks to a globalized, connected world where one can do almost any job from anywhere, there has been a fundamental change in how jobs are created, how they are phased out, and along the way, the whole concept of having a career tied to a specific skill set, or the knowledge of a specific tool or piece of equipment has become outdated.
As a result, the world that we live in today, the world that we have created for ourselves, is forcing us to ask some very fundamental questions about how we organize as a society, what sustains our economies, how we educate and train the next generation, and more.
As we look ahead to this pace of change and evaluate the benefits brought by a host of emerging digital technologies, we also find it worthwhile to look back and study the past. In this series, we will look at obsolete jobs, skills, and careers. What were some lucrative careers back in the day that have become irrelevant today, thanks to technological advances? We’ll review these ‘Jobs of Yore’, partly as a nod to nostalgia, and partly as a way look ahead: what can such changes in the past tell us about our future? And about the future of the next generation? Check out our Jobs of Yore switchboard operator infographic.
How Healthcare is Becoming Consumer-centric, Unbundling Primary Care
With the rising cost of healthcare and the advent of new digital technologies, patients are turning into savvy healthcare consumers, seeking best in class service and experience. Companies such as Apple, Google and Amazon are moving in to digitally transform the healthcare space and take advantage of this shift. Their focus- improve the experience and create a bouquet of customer-friendly services for an always-on, informed audience.
The healthcare industry faces high regulatory constraints and incumbents who have not realigned their businesses face an existential threat. Affordable Care Act, higher deductibles, and new technologies converge to make consumer experience central to how healthcare companies operate, and how they plan for a digitally transformed future. From medical-grade wearables and chat-based telemedicine services to subscription-based primary care models, companies are placing bets on technologies to make healthcare more accessible, affordable, and personalized.
Healthcare costs are going up by the day. US expenditure on healthcare passed $3.68T last year and accounted for more than 18% of GDP. According to the Milliman Medical Index, the cost of healthcare is growing by $1000+ dollars per year on average for a family of four, reaching almost $28.16K in 2018.
One of the ways to bring down the cost is by making consumers better at shopping for their healthcare solutions which the government, insurance carriers, and employers encourage. In other words, if consumers opt for high deductible plans, then they have to pay out of their pocket before insurance starts covering them. The expectation here is that consumers will become more price sensitive and carefully evaluate different options based on price, quality, and convenience. This is one of the big drivers in healthcare consumerization.
MOBILE AND BIG TECH IN HEALTHCARE
The proliferation of communication technology and the convergence of services on hand-held mobile platforms has redefined access and consequent user experience. While this ubiquitous transformation has been felt and analyzed in sectors like entertainment, banking etc. healthcare is still predominantly seen as face to face meatspace interaction. In recent times the emergence of a variety of service providers has sought to redefine this landscape. Notably, telemedicine and robotic surgery have enabled healthcare service specialists to advance their reach and scope of expertise.India based healthcare services aggregators like Practo and Call-Health, for example, have added to the market dynamics of access and availability.
The mass adoption of mobile phones has also helped consumerize healthcare. Mobile now allows people to monitor their health, especially through wearables which collect data and sync to mobile interfaces for tracking and analysis. This also creates an opportunity to develop new business models- telemedicine, which allows for remote communication with physicians. Mobile lowers friction to obtaining care, by enabling access to it anywhere and anytime at your convenience.
With their expertise in building direct-to-consumer relationships and software proficiency, large tech companies now see the opportunity in consumerizing healthcare. Companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, and others are increasingly investing in healthcare startups or focusing on internal initiatives aimed at healthcare innovation. Tech giants focus on the customer experience and see primary care as the best place to enter the healthcare market- the gateway for people into the health system. Especially with significant shortage of primary care services, in rural areas. These companies recognize an opportunity to bring health-focused services to underserved individuals and develop new consumer relationships via technology.
UNBUNDLING THE PRIMARY CARE
Increasingly people are entering the healthcare system in new ways, unlike the traditional visits to a primary care physician or an emergency department. With new avenues and tools that are available directly to consumers, there are more options for people to look for depending on the severity of sickness, ability to pay, and schedule.
With access to monitoring and diagnostic tools, consumers can now proactively monitor their health and seek professional medical help in a timely manner if the monitoring tools throw up any alerts. Patient-generated data can now be retrieved from diagnostics tests, wearables, direct-to-consumer medical devices, and genetics, among other sources. With data coming in directly from the consumer, healthcare professionals are in a better position to assess patient risk and personalize treatment. However, not all data is created equal, as seen with Fitbit and Scanadu who have had to face difficulties in the diagnostics and monitoring space. Fitbit stocks slumped as the company failed to offer consumers actionable health data, while Scanadu raised money to develop a diagnostics device but was ultimately unable to get approval from the FDA.
With FDA approval, providers are more likely to trust data-sets coming from consumer devices. In tandem, the big tech companies are able to anticipate the rapid expansion of regulations and opportunities which open up to accommodate many of these new devices and diagnostics tools. “Over-The-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017” by FDA is a seemingly small but far-reaching piece of legislation that was recently passed, allowing hearing aid makers to skip the physician and sell directly to consumers without a prescription. The FDA is creating a fast track for approving lower risk wearables and tools that create clinical grade data.
On the diagnostics front, 23andMe effectively helped create the category of direct-to-consumer genetic testing, with lots of startups now raising money in the direct-to-consumer testing and carrier screening markets. These companies are blurring the lines between diagnostic and predictive analytics and are able to create direct relationships with consumers.
From Reactive to Proactive Healthcare
Increasingly new genetic information at the disposal of patients and providers are giving them personalized data, thereby facilitating informed healthcare decisions. FDA-approved diagnostics such as Kinsa and Cue detect temperature and hormonal changes for flu, fertility and so on providing a wealth of information. Medical grade wearables such as these are the driving forces to the future.
This is a significant step of moving away from reactive health towards proactive health. Intuitive software can alert providers to anomalies in the data, help them to check up on a patient, and confirm if something’s unusual or wrong. This is a significant step forward from the traditional way where patients often wait until they feel sick to see the doctor.
Retail clinics are expanding from distributing health goods to offering health services. Services like STD testing, vaccinations, microbial culture tests, and other preventive health tests, can be conducted much faster than a primary care visit since most people know the specific reason or the test they need.
With more in-house clinics like CVS Minute Clinic being built across Walgreens, Kroger, and Walmart stores, among others, the strategy is for these retailers to Amazon-proof themselves by giving the customers a reason to come into the store. The idea is to make these stores the new distribution avenues and use them as a means to extend the types of care one can get at a local pharmacy. This includes introducing kiosks for telemedicine, more diagnostic tools to check temperature, weight, biomarkers, etc. But it’s also an area that’s tough to crack due to the expensive space that real estate clinics take up, the high costs involved in maintaining them, and the challenge in proving to pharmacies that these services actually get people in the door. Some well-funded shutdowns like healthspot, as well as notable partnerships with Pursuant Health rolling out in different Walmarts, and Higi entering into a similar partnership with Rite Aid, suggest that this space is as yet wide open and will see significant activity in the future.
The CVS-Aetna acquisition for $69B has put the spotlight on how retail clinics can be used in population health (group of individuals). CVS has talked about its desire to use digital tools to help its customers improve their health via a mobile app, medication adherence tools, and more. With this acquisition, it has the financial incentive to do so by being their insurer as well. This could force other retail pharmacies to respond as well. In fact, several of them are already active investors in private markets, looking to consolidate their core pharmacy business and look towards more telemedicine, health analytics, and medicine delivery tools to help deliver enhanced healthcare services to their customers.
AI in Primary Care
As the technology starts a big impact in a variety of domains including automotive, transportation, finance and more, it is no surprise that artificial intelligence (AI) is also set to make a big impact in healthcare.In fact, AI promises to impact almost every facet of primary care. AI-enabled systems will collect and synthesize disparate patient data and present it to physicians alongside insights into the patient’s medical needs. This will help physicians better identify patients who need more attention and provide personalized recommendations on what protocols would work best for each individual. AI will even help diagnose patients by analyzing quantities of information that would be otherwise time-consuming to assess.
Even though AI is in its early stages, it is poised to impact both clinical care and administrative tasks in primary care practices and will allow physicians to treat more patients. AI could be envisioned for a variety of different uses. Like screening patient data from physician notes, tests results, and other data sources to combine that with information from protocols, clinical studies, and recommendations to identify a patient’s condition. Finally advising on follow-up tests that are needed, and suggest medicines that suit the diagnosis. In other words, AI will power significantly more sophisticated versions of today’s clinical decision tools.
AI will be able to collect and analyze patient data as it is generated from multiple sources, including fitness trackers and at-home monitors, thus aiding physicians as they monitor patients’ health in ways that time and resources without AI don’t allow. Moreover, AI is expected to enable primary care physicians to engage in precision medicine, where care protocols culled from large-scale studies are tailored to the individual patient based on analysis of his or her own conditions, genetic makeup. Thus, AI will help to accurately identify patients who need specialty care and better manage the situation. For example, IDx is an AI application of screening diabetic retinopathy for the use of primary care physicians. The federal Food and Drug Administration in April 2018 approved IDx, as a diagnostic system that uses AI to detect diabetic retinopathy. IDx does not require a specialist to interpret the images or results, making it the first such system cleared for use by the FDA. Physicians and their care teams, even those not normally involved in eye care, can use this technology to screen their patients for the condition during routine office visits.
Level Playing Field:
With wide variety of high impact of initiatives in progress, healthcare technology and affordability could benefit enormously from the weight of these IT-driven, software-centric technology companies like Apple, Google & Amazon. While Apple and Google are investing heavily in healthcare technology, Amazon’s focus is on offsetting insurance and improving healthcare distribution.
Apple is looking to blur the line between wellness and healthcare, using its position- in your pocket to connect the two. If it can break open the personal health record and patient data platform, it would empower patients to make decisions and allow access to their data to whoever they choose. This is going to be a paradigm shift in healthcare, where patients are in a position to leverage information and have agency in their decision making.
Apple is also approaching healthcare cautiously. The company has achieved success by vertically integrating its experience and products, and is approaching healthcare from a similar angle by connecting different parts of user experience(device, health record, platform, and potentially services like telemedicine).
The incumbents directly in the line of fire would include health IT and electronic medical record companies, as well as medical device makers building commodity consumer-facing devices. These are incumbent types that have historically not prioritized user experience, and would potentially lose to Apple if people begin to expect better user experience in their medical care. Clinical Research Organizations (CROs) are also potentially at risk as Apple continues to further reshape the medical research industry. Apple has the device ecosystem, built-in user base, brand, and incentive structure to make healthcare truly patient-centric. As the pieces start coming together and Apple starts entering the healthcare market, existing industry giants will have to figure out how to adapt.
Google – Let’s Google it:
As Google enters healthcare, it leans heavily on its expertise in AI- as this is the differentiating factor in the healthcare space. Google is well-positioned with health data getting digitized and structured, from a new electronic record standard to imaging to DNA sequencing. Google is helping speed up both the processes- by creating new means of ingesting health data and betting that it can use AI to provide meaningful data quickly and potentially more accurate than the current methods used for deriving them.
In 2015 Google restructured into Alphabet, and AI become the centerpiece of nearly each division’s strategy. In that restructuring, healthcare projects, which previously had fallen within the R&D labs of Google X (Google’s secretive special projects lab), instead moved to new subsidiaries at the company.This restructuring siloed Google’s health initiatives a bit more — but also aligned them into specific subsidiaries for precise outcomes.
The three subsidiaries focused on healthcare are Verily, DeepMind, and Calico and their strategy comprises of an end to end approach to healthcare including:
Data generation and integration across differing EMR’s which is heavily siloed with little or no interoperability between systems
Google has a solution- by powering a new data infrastructure layer via 3 key efforts:
Create new data pipelines for health giants
Push Google Cloud
Build Google’s own healthcare datasets for third parties
Taking into account the bigger picture in Google’s health initiatives, it appears the company is working across many different arms that have yet to come together cohesively. This could be one of the drawbacks to Google splitting into subsidiaries. Eventually, the company will want to implement the lessons and most successful projects from across its various organizations into cohesive solutions.
In terms of applying AI to healthcare, Google is aiming to be the new lens for diagnostics and treatment. The company is trying a spray-and-pray approach to finding areas to implement AI, as opposed to concentrating in a few projects. Based on the above analysis, Google’s most likely areas of success will likely come in augmenting providers’ ability to detect, triage, and plan around disease, especially in cases that use imaging as a means to do so (eye disease, cancer, etc.).
One can expect Google to face more difficulties in developing hardware, and the verdict’s out on how it will differentiate new lifestyle management solutions like Onduo from existing solutions like Omada Health. Google is working on so many initiatives focused on so many different facets of healthcare across so many areas of the company that both the potential chances of success and failure are high. Ultimately, if Google can find effective solutions for any one of the many issues it’s tackling, there’s a potential to apply lessons and successful approaches elsewhere, and create a new data- and AI-driven healthcare paradigm.
Amazon, for one, is no stranger to the health industry and with its expertise in cloud and retail it could disrupt everything- from the pharmaceutical supply chain to Medicare management. The retailer has sold over-the-counter products like pain relief and band-aids for a while now and has made significant headway by acquiring Pharmacy PillPack for $1B (gained a $100Mrevenue run-rate business, a built out pharmacy supply, and pharmacy licenses in all 50 states) and also teamed up with JPMorgan and Berkshire Hathaway, to make a deep impact in the health insurance sector as well.
Amazon’s potential foray into the healthcare space has prompted players in the space to scramble and reevaluate their core competencies.
While Amazon has barely scuffed-up the surface of healthcare, it potentially could upend the space with its e-commerce expertise. Without the need to drive profit in healthcare right away, the high margin and convoluted parts of the healthcare business are ripe for disruption.
Amazon’s approach would actually allow other companies to outsource parts of their businesses which are complex,messy and outside their main focus. This can happen on multiple fronts, impacting:
Payers — by allowing Amazon to handle the claims and marketplace so that companies can focus on offering their services
Providers — can outsource the handling of documentation into the EMR or coordinating buying and transporting supplies to Amazon
Pharma/Biotech — Amazon can run the actual experiments while researchers can focus entirely on experiment design and analysis. Also, Amazon could handle the packaging, tracking, and transportation for larger drug manufacturers given its expertise in retail and supply chain.
As healthcare is swamped with middlemen and profit extraction, Amazon is particularly well-positioned to change the space and drive in transparency in an efficient manner. Despite numerous obstacles coming their way, including market leaders, established processes, and general risk-aversion of buyers to new players, Amazon’s entrance will either change how the system is designed or force existing players to become more competitive and remain on top of their game.
The future looks interesting as we are all set to witness the battle of the tech giants in an all new field. They are names with immense value, carry adequate arsenal and are driven to conquer new territory. A revolution is on the horizon, and as long as it entails better care for patients, we are all for it.
There is a great scene in one of the Harry Potter books, where the students are taught to deal with a shape-shifting monster. The monster can take the form of your worst fear—whether it is a spider, a giant snake, or a strict teacher that you are terrified of. And the strategy to deal with the monster? The students are taught to cast a spell to make the monster look ridiculous. A spider without legs, a snake that can only meow like a cat, that sort of thing.
I like this scene because the idea of confronting your worst fears and slowly getting better at dealing with them is a well-known method of phobia treatment in psychology. Psychologists, however, do not have convenient access to shape-shifting monsters to use during treatment. They’ve tended to rely on pictures and video clips mostly, but new technological advancements in the field of Virtual Reality are making treatment for phobia easier and more effective.
What is a Phobia?
But let’s first be clear about the concept of a phobia. When someone has a persistent (and often extreme) fear of an object or situation, to such an extent that it causes great anxiety, you can say that this person has a phobia. There are many types of phobias. Specific phobias are phobias relate to objects or situations, causing excessive fear. These include Aerophobia (the fear of flying), Astraphobia (the fear of thunder and lightning), Arachnophobia (the fear of spiders), Acrophobia (the fear of heights), Ophidiophobia, (the fear of snakes), and many others. And then there is also social phobia, that causes extreme social anxiety in social situations, causing people to often avoid socializing and meeting people altogether.
Not all phobias are created equal, of course. If you suffer from Ophidiophobia, for example, it may not disrupt your daily life too much if you live in a city, surrounded by concrete, with little chance of encountering a snake. As long as you avoid the nature documentaries and TV shows about shape-shifting snakes, you should be fine. But fear of spiders or ants? Fear of flying? Hard to lead a normal life if you suffer from one of those. People with such phobias typically seek treatment to overcome their phobia.
The phobia treatment depicted in the Harry Potter scene, as it happens, is surprisingly accurate. Phobia treatment using therapy focuses on systematic desensitization and gradual relaxation in the face of the phobia, and uses humor in a big way in the course of exposure therapy. The general idea is to expose patients to their fear gradually, teaching them to relax as they encounter their fear, so that familiarity and exposure eventually help them overcome their phobia.
Medication is also sometimes used in treating a patient suffering from a debilitating phobia, but, on its own, medication typically only helps reduce anxiety, and does not treat the root cause itself.
The Role of Virtual Reality
So what role can a technology like Virtual Reality play in phobia treatment? The answer is fairly straightforward. Even if psychiatrists do not have access to a handy shape-shifting monster, they do have access to a technology that allows the patient to immerse herself in a virtual environment. And the psychiatrist can enter this virtual environment along with the patient. In this environment, prolonged exposure, desensitization, and progressive relaxation while encountering the phobia can be practiced easily. Strictly speaking, this is how phobia treatment has been done so far anyway, but where psychiatrists relied on pictures and videos of spiders or airplanes earlier, now they can use a far more effective technique of actually immersing their patients in a virtual environment, and bringing them face to face with their fears in a controlled manner. This means that phobias that were a lot harder to treat earlier— Aerophobia, or the fear of flying, for example—can now be treated far more easily, since Virtual Reality can convincingly simulate the experience of flying, of great heights, or of wide open spaces.
And since these virtual environments are interactive and changeable, patients can also use humor effectively. Sitting in a virtual airplane, terrified of flying? Change the music in your airplane to something relaxing, or have soap bubbles fly out of the mounts of your (virtual) fellow passengers when they speak to add some humor to the situation.
Phobia treatment is only one of the many areas of psychotherapy and mental health where Virtual Reality can make a big difference. VR can help with meditation and in fighting depression; it can be applied in all forms of counseling-focused treatment; and there is also research in progress to study how effectively it can help treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), paranoia, and schizophrenia.
The folks in the world of Harry Potter may be able to rely on their wands to combat their worst fears, but we Muggles need to use technology in clever ways to solve our problems.
I watched many sci-fi movies and TV shows as a child. One TV show that made a strong impression is Star Trek, which is about a spaceship from Earth traveling through the galaxy, encountering alien civilizations. The show presents two technologies that I found fascinating. One was teleportation, a form of travel where people are able to leave from one place and instantaneously reappear at another location. The other impressive bit of technology was virtual, immersive reality, seen in many episodes where crew members of the spaceship enter ‘imaginary’ pubs and restaurants. They are even able to enter the universe of a novel that they like, meet and interact with characters from the novel, or even play a character in this fictional world. This pastime is valuable for the crew, as it helps them cope with the monotony of the spaceship.
Back then, I remember thinking that both the technologies are probably impossible. Fortunately, I was only half right. We are no closer to mastering teleportation, but Virtual Reality is something we can already get our hands on. There is a lot of excitement around Immersive Tech as these technologies can be useful in a wide variety of domains, from education and training to fitness and athletics, from industrial design to interior design, from travel and tourism to medicine and healthcare. Let’s take a quick overview of what Immersive Tech is all about.
This is a general purpose term used to refer to any technology that blurs the boundary between the physical world around you, and the digital, software-created world that you interact with.
As you look at the real world around you, the AR technology looks with you, and enhances your interaction by offering intelligent, context-sensitive information. For example, if you are just taking the picture of a sunset from your mobile phone, there is no Immersive Tech involved there. But what if, as you take the picture, the phone scans the surroundings, and tells you about what trees and flowers are in the picture?
Augmented Reality often uses special glasses that you can wear. These allow you to see normally, but they have a little computer and a projection system inside them so that, based on what you are seeing, the AR glasses can superimpose additional information related to what you are looking at. AR can work without glasses too. For example, instead of going to a museum and leafing through a booklet, as you walk around, you could simply turn on your mobile phone camera and the phone-if it has appropriate AR software installed-recognizes where you are and superimposes relevant information onto the screen. Google Glass, now discontinued, was an AR device. Currently, the most exciting AR device is Hololens by Microsoft.
Virtual Reality While AR refers to ‘augmenting’ the reality of our physical world, VR refers to creating a digital reality that can-temporarily-completely replace our physical reality. To experience VR you need to put on a specially designed device called HMD over your eyes, and this device completely blocks your view of the world around you. Instead, you see a digital world, which could be anything-a farm, an alien spaceship, or a theme park. VR is really a combination or two things: A powerful computer that can run VR software, and an HMD (a device rather like thick glasses) that connects with this computer to create-using clever but simple optics-a 360-degree, immersive view. Renowned companies such as Facebook, Google, HTC, Sony, and many others now offer VR devices, and corresponding software to purchase and download new VR apps.
The clever part with VR is that these systems have sensors that register your physical movement and react accordingly. So if I were to look up while wearing a VR device, inside my simulated reality too my avatar would look up and maybe see the sky. This goes for walking as well as hand movements, which is how the immersive, 360-degree world becomes a ‘reality’ for us.
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