Technological Disruptors Poised to Change the Industry
By Lorie Damon, Managing Director, Healthcare Advisory Group
The traditional healthcare delivery model – where a hospital anchors the care delivery hub – may soon be a thing of the past, as providers and payers angle for strategies to provide efficient and cost-effective healthcare delivery closer to patients. Technology will play a significant role in shaping new care delivery models. These innovations are part of a new approach to healthcare delivery known as “precision medicine”, bringing care closer to the patient while customizing care to the patient’s specific biochemistry and disease profile. Already, smart watches and other “wearables” that began as novelties are playing a role. The capabilities of these devices will certainly expand over time, providing consumers and care providers the ability to monitor a myriad of health conditions without an office visit. However, wearables are just one facet of innovative technology that will transform care delivery.
In addition to wearables, expanding technology in other personal-device platforms is transforming healthcare. We are also seeing innovation in diagnostic tools that can be plugged into phones. The iPhone otoscope is one such technology, supported by an app, Cellscope. The cone-shaped tool that allows physicians to examine ear canals now can be used by parents to transmit images of their child’s inner ear to the pediatrician, who can diagnose common conditions like ear infections. If an infection is diagnosed, the prescription is sent to the pharmacy via the internet, and parents are saved a trip to the doctor’s office.
The combination of sophisticated cameras and wireless technology is even transforming the approach to invasive diagnostic procedures. Soon, doctors may prescribe a pill equipped with a tiny camera to diagnose conditions in the GI tract. On the day of the test, the patient dons a vest that includes batteries that power the camera in the pill. The pill is swallowed, and the camera transmits images to the physician. No surgery center and no anesthesia.
Another technology tool with a very promising future – 3-D printing. 3D printing is widely expected to revolutionize medicine, from prosthetics to organ transplants to pharmaceutical uses. The technique employs a method in which “objects are made by fusing or depositing materials – such as plastic, metal, ceramics, liquids, or even living cells – in layers to produce 3D objects”. In medicine, 2D images such as x-rays or CT scans can be converted in 3D CAD files the printer will use to create a prosthetic or an organ. This technology could be a game-changer for patients requiring organ transplants, where current need far outpaces supply.
Inevitably, these technology disruptors will have tremendous implications for healthcare real estate. On the one hand, wearables and camera-equipped pills are likely going to reduce the number of physical physician office visits for certain conditions. These changes could really be beneficial for rural patients or in places where access to specialist physicians is limited. On the other hand, many advances in personalized medicine are going to require ever more sophisticated facilities – at least initially – and not just for diagnosis treatment but also for labs where these therapies and devices are created. The pace of these rapid technological advancements requires a real estate strategy that supports complex undertakings while remaining flexible, adaptable and cost-effective.
Soon, these cutting-edge technologies may be as commonplace as a smart watch or cell phone. So look for them soon – on an app or iPhone, or in a physician office or e-office near you.
Lorie Damon is the Managing Director of the Healthcare Advisory Group at Cushman & Wakefield, providing leadership and promoting best practices in healthcare real estate leasing, management, and transactions across the continuum of healthcare assets.