Five of Our Favorite Healthcare Innovations

Health Care Innovations

As big believers in a market-driven health economy, it’s frustrating to watch the goliath U.S. health system in a slow creep toward a more market-based model – but it is a creep forward.

And if you look closely, you’ll see some pretty exciting activity taking place. Market-savvy entrepreneurs and innovators recognize that the incumbent, fee-for-service healthcare system is on its way out, and they’re responding to consumer demands with solutions that deliver convenience, quality, and lower costs.

Read on for some of our favorites.

1. Apple Watch + electrocardiogram app

Cleared by the FDA, the latest Apple Watch includes biosensors and a built-in electrocardiogram (ECG) app that can detect atrial fibrillation. Apple collected study data from 400,000 participants and demonstrated that its app could specify atrial fibrillation 99% of the time. It’s the first direct-to-consumer ECG device that measures and records heart rhythms.

Apple sells millions of smartwatches every year. The ECG app will bring an accessible screening tool to large populations of consumers who are likely to trust the device’s health alerts and follow up with their doctors.

Note that Apple isn’t the only maker looking to drive health solutions though mobile devices. The FDA responded to more than 900 inquiries from digital health providers from 2013 to 2017 alone. It also vows to do more work in modernizing its regulatory approach to keep up with the pace of technology tools poised to enter the consumer market.

Our take: We’re not surprised to see Apple developing in healthcare. They have the innovation chops, and this app delivers convenience while promising to improve outcomes through early intervention.

2. Distance health

By linking patients and clinicians remotely, distance health innovations allow for improved patient engagement and greater access to care, especially in rural areas. While consumer demand for such convenience has been obvious for years, the larger infrastructure to support it, such as widespread broadband, is finally emerging.

Trends indicate telemedicine visits are accelerating, with an annual average compound growth rate of 261% from 2015 to 2017. Meanwhile, the Internet of Things is expanding from real-time monitoring to predictive modeling. Such technologies are already helping diabetic patients track glucose levels on a near-constant basis, for example, allowing care teams to help them remotely manage (and prevent) blood sugar highs and lows throughout the day.

Our take: A Canton & Company favorite – we love innovations that provide remote care to communities lacking in “bricks and mortar” options. This ticks the boxes for convenience, lower costs, and better outcomes.

3. Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the ability of computers to think dynamically like humans, but with greater speed. By churning through terabytes of data in seconds, AI has made the delivery of care more robust.

Providers are leveraging AI at the point of care for diagnostic support, voice-to-text recordkeeping and personalized care planning. Insurers are using it to automate prior authorizations and streamline medical chart audits for faster turnaround times. For accountable care organizations, AI-powered chatbots can prompt chronic care patients to stay on track with their medication regimens through tailored messaging.

AI’s core value lies in its potential to automate time-consuming manual processes. The market is expected to hit $35 billion by 2025.

Our take: Applied right, AI has the power to improve quality by delivering deeper insights faster, and to lower costs by reducing the need for manual work. We especially love it applied to predictive modeling for population health efforts.

4. Convenient care options

Health systems are investing in urgent care centers, retail clinics, and ambulatory surgery centers to respond to market demands—particularly from the millennial generation that has little patience for long wait times and unpredictable service. Convenient care options have proliferated across the country since the early 2000s, boasting high patient satisfaction scores.

Demonstrably cost-efficient, many of these fast-growing access points are staffed with nurse practitioners (paid a salary half that of a physician) and provide an alternative to costly emergency department use. In fact, FAIR Health found that private insurance claims for urgent care centers grew 1,725% from 2007 to 2016—more than seven times that of emergency department claims in the same period.

It’s an $18 billion industry expected to grow 5.8% in 2018.

Our take: Another huge step for consumers who want and need convenience in their busy lives! Options are a cornerstone of a market-driven economy, and these care outlets deliver convenience and lower costs.

5. 3D printing

3D printing offers greater precision in the era of personalized medicine. By building layers of material modeled from a digital blueprint, the technology enables innovators to produce complex, customized medical devices for a variety of applications.

For example, external prosthetics can be printed to match the exact contours of a patient’s body structure. Other significant uses include orthopedic implants and customized airway stents. Recently, Cleveland Clinic surgical teams used 3D printing for jaw reconstruction in a 31-hour total face-transplant procedure.

Although today’s materials include everything from plastic to nylon to titanium, the future could include biologic materials like plasma—3D printed as human skin. The market for 3D printing is expected to reach $4 billion by 2022.

Our take: Talk about your innovations – who knew a printer would find its way into the operating room? It delivers convenience, lower costs, better quality, and outcomes. Pretty cool.