How Technology Platforms and AI are Changing Healthcare
New technology-enabled services are transforming healthcare and becoming a new breed of entity that we’ve called the flipped stack company.
Indu Subaiya, MD, MBA, Co-Founder and President, Catalyst @ Health 2.0; Senior Advisor, HIMSS
Whereas traditional care delivery organizations began as brick and mortar institutions that added services and technology infrastructure to support the delivery of care, new entrants are starting with a technology platform. This platform could be a cloud-based EMR with application programming interfaces that connect to sensor-based inputs, a large pharmacy database with prescription and claims data, or a SaaS platform enabling health systems to better engage with consumers.
On top of these technology platforms, many new players are adding continuous monitoring services and deploying algorithmic coaches, as well as human caregivers in virtual or in-person settings as needed in a highly targeted and personalized way.
The digital health revolution has introduced thousands of applications that have expanded this tech platform into five component layers and has transformed from being primarily infrastructural to functioning in a new stack. These layers include:
Data Storage—Movement from passive storage to the cloud and further extensions into the blockchain.
Transaction Layer—A new generation of automation technologies that are improving workflow, addressing labor shortages and increasing operational efficiency.
Data Exchange—A movement from painfully slow data sharing and interoperability to new FHIR-based architectures.
Data Analytics—From data repositories that used to collect dust, to big data and AI now receiving inputs from multiple databases.
Interface Layer—Changing the way we interact from all sides including new methods of provider transcription support and voice AI or chatbots for consumers.
The key to note here is that AI is not a separate part of the technology stack. In fact, it is functioning at each level of these layers. With improved data collection, sharing, storage and analysis, we’re gaining new insights faster and more accurately than ever. Focusing on the interface layer, however, gives us an opportunity to evaluate how AI comes together with new form factors to enable new ways for humans to engage with technology and exchange data.
Three Ways AI is Infusing Into Technology Platforms
Chatbots are being driven by intelligent algorithms and are making an impact in some novel areas. For example, there are chronic disease management platforms using AI-infused health coaching and on-demand, virtual nurses for symptom management. There are even technology platforms that assess and track risk levels of mental health addiction using cutting-edge neural networks to observe the same inputs a psychiatrist does.
Clinical-Grade Wearables and Non-Invasive Diagnostics
Wearables continue to grow more intelligent, and AI has infused the wearable category in a big way. Just one example of that is emerging technologies that can detect cardiac arrhythmia through a variety of form factors, including watches and patches. There are also validated and U.S. Food and Drug Administration-cleared portable EKG monitors and AI-based, non-invasive tests for coronary heart disease.
Implantables and Biometric Devices
Increasingly, devices are interacting very closely with human biological systems to both monitor and treat conditions. There’s a wide array of companies emerging in this space including biometric innovations of convenience, allowing you pay for your prescription with the wave of your palm. There are also semi-invasive devices like an artificial pancreas that automates insulin delivery and augmented reality contact lenses that overlay information, including health data, in your line of sight. One-drop blood tests work to monitor glucose levels but have the potential to help track other conditions.
As we continue to see AI impact all aspects of the health experience—we expect form factor innovation to follow suit. As both providers and consumers expect ever more user-friendly and clinically meaningful ways of managing health.