What drives us in healthcare? As practitioners, patients, payers, governing bodies, hospital system and healthcare leaders, employers, and societies, what are our goals? What’s the end game?

There are many answers to these deep questions, but most of the paths lead back to some variant of the following: we want better outcomes, better engagement, and we want more affordable care. Simply put, we want to prevent diseases, prolong life, and promote health.

Dr. Lloyd B. Minor, MD, a scientist, surgeon and Dean of the School of Medicine at Stanford University articulates this well: “It is time we rethink our approach entirely — focusing on prediction, prevention, and, ultimately, cures. Today we can approach medicine from a more personal angle, tailoring healthcare to the unique biology and life circumstances of each individual. This approach is called precision health, and it has the potential to transform both our profession and our patients’ lives…instead of a frantic race to cure disease after the fact, we can increasingly focus on preventing disease before it strikes. By focusing on health and wellness, we can also have a meaningful impact in reducing healthcare costs.” Dr. Minor further posits: “Bringing the promise of precision health to patients requires a fundamental shift in our view of medicine, one which combines two seemingly different approaches — high tech and high touch.”

Achieving Precision Health
Precision health — that’s the end game. We need high tech and high touch to get there. And we need to do things better, cheaper, and faster. As an IT provider, it’s relatively straightforward to inventory the various high tech things we need to get there. We need machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), analytics, deep learning, -omics sciences (such as genomics, radiomics, proteomics, and more), and a plethora of other outcome-focused science and technology.

It’s also fairly simple to list all the underpinning technologies and processes that are needed to enable these higher-level supporting themes. For example, we’d want to focus on better interoperability across various systems, leverage technology to enable deep learning, and deploy systems to exploit scientific and technological breakthroughs such as digital pathology and IoT.

We can keep going down this path, drawing out a well-structured set of dependency graphs which would eventually allow us to get there. Yet, we continue to struggle to make any meaningful progress toward a state of precision health.

Addressing the Friction and Distractions
I’ve intentionally oversimplified some of the steps to emphasize the simplicity of the bigger picture. The truth is that there’s an immense amount of friction caused by the past, present and future states of healthcare that’s really hard to overcome. This friction is a massive distraction, but the reality is that it’s an ironic necessity to keep our current ecosystem inching forward, including keeping the lights on (KTLO).

What is rarely talked about is the massive debt that we’ve accumulated from a technology and process perspective, where the awkward processes still in place today are driven mostly by antiquated technologies ― applications and IT infrastructure, alike. This causes things like KTLO to consume an inordinate amount of energy, resulting in an immense amount of stress on an already fragile IT organization, and exploding, unchecked costs. With one foot firmly stuck in the past, it is incredibly hard, if not impossible, for IT providers to focus on making true progress in the healthcare system.

So, how do we get there? And how do we do it economically, expeditiously, and in a scalable fashion?

In this series we will review specific examples of adoption of scientific and technological advancements with the express goal of precision health and financial optimization. We’ll also look at some of the challenges and opportunities ― the sources of friction ― that stand in the way of us accomplishing our goals. And, finally, we’ll look at a few unique approaches to overcome these sources of friction so that we can truly make strides toward better healthcare IT and toward a state of precision health.

Sirius is a national integrator of technology-based business solutions that span the data center and lines of business. Built on products and services from the world’s top technology companies, Sirius solutions are installed, configured and supported by our dedicated teams of highly certified experts. For more information on the Sirius Healthcare practice visit the Sirius Healthcare page online.