Podcast: Wearables Are Saving Human Lives. Can They Save Hospitals Too?

Tom Castles
SEPTEMBER 28, 2018



DIGITAL HEALTH TOOLS LIKE WEARABLES
 can help people become proactively engaged in improving – or at least paying greater attention to – their health. What’s more, they can help curb preventable trips to the hospital and expedite necessary ones. Just ask William Monzidelis, who might’ve died at work from an erupting ulcer if his Apple Watch hadn’t preemptively notified him of an alarming heart rate. Or you can ask the thousands, if not millions of people who use wearables to track and gamify their physical activity.

For patients, the benefits of wearables and other real-time health monitors are clear. But if you’re in charge of sustaining the profitability of a hospital and that profitability rests on the number of patients you can treat inside its walls, then the prospect of digital healthcare might keep you up at night. Can you imagine the sheer terror that gripped executives when the swelling tide of the digital revolution swept over the taxi, music, and retail industries?

>> READ: The Challenges and Benefits of Implementing Virtual Care

It can seem so perturbing, at least at first. But think about what's left in its wake: We now live in a world where you can get a taxi without having to wait in the rain. A world where all of recorded music is at your fingertips for one low price. A world where almost any object you could ever desire will appear in a tidy brown box at your doorstep within 48 hours.

That rising tide of digitization threatens to upend healthcare just like it upended taxis, music and retail. It can feel like it’s ushering in the end, especially for those who try to swim against it. But for those who adapt it’s a brave new world full of potential. Because what we’re almost certain to be left with is a society where, just like taxis, music, and retail, you can get healthcare whenever and however you want.

Of course, that means there will be a sea change in the business models execs leverage to sustain successful hospitals. And as a result, that might mean that the definition of a hospital becomes much more fluid. But for those who think that empty hospital beds are a scary proposition, this week’s podcast guest has three words for you:

“Get over it.”

Here’s a sneak peek at what Dave Albert, M.D., told me during a conversation on wearables this week:

Digital health in general is frightening. But if you look at hospitals, many of them are piloting digital health…They’re all doing it because the last thing they can afford to be is left behind. So what I think you’ll see is people being intelligent about their capital expenditures. Are we going to be able to treat more people quicker on an outpatient basis? Will we have heart attacks treated in the emergency room, a stent placed and a guy sent home a few hours later, not even admitted to the CCU, with a remote monitor and a vest that can defibrillate him if he has an arrhythmia? That’s not science fiction. That’s reality.

So that bed that never gets filled, that kind of thing is what everyone’s looking at. And the hospital administrators – at least the smart ones – are trying to figure out how it’s going to impact their census, their revenue, and how they can get involved with it. And so I think you’ll see hospitals…embracing [digital health].


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