How Technology is Advancing Healthcare Beneath Our Very Noses

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Cancer. Heart Disease. Diabetes. Stroke. These are just a handful of the leading causes of death throughout the United States.

We all know someone that has been directly or indirectly affected by these cruel and devastating diseases. My own grandmother passed away from a heart attack in September. She would’ve celebrated her 78th birthday this week so, at this time especially, I can’t help but think of her and the many people my close friends and family have lost over the years. As a technology enthusiast with a Type A personality, I’m always looking for answers. And this week I felt inspired to do a little research to take a look at where we are in terms of bridging healthcare gaps with technology. And I must say… it’s looking good folks! Much like myself, if you’ve been blessed with good health, perhaps researching medical advancements hasn’t been a top priority. So, let me share some good news.

Last month, JPMorgan Chase, Berkshire Hathaway and Amazon announced that they’ll be collaborating to create a new healthcare company for U.S employees. The dynamic trio hasn’t revealed many details yet, but rumor has it you’d be able to get your prescriptions through Amazon. A monthly delivery of my prescriptions, my dog’s 900 poop bag pack, and my activated charcoal toothpaste? I get chills thinking of the convenience! The financial expertise of Chase and Hathaway combined with Amazon’s dominance in supply chain management will surely disrupt the healthcare industry in a most productive way.

Technology giant, Uber, is also looking to tackle complex healthcare issues related to transportation with the launch of its latest platform, Uber Heath. This exclusive ride-hailing platform for healthcare organizations allows providers to coordinate rides for patients receiving care at their facilities. Reliable transportation to and from doctor’s appointments is critical for older patients who may not have the mental or physical capacity to drive. The service doesn’t require users to have the Uber app or a Smartphone, as everything is done through text message. The Uber Health API (Application Programming Interface) also allows the service to be integrated into existing healthcare tools so that more organizations and institutions can implement and utilize the ride-sharing system.

However, as I read more about all the ways technology is tackling the largest healthcare issues head first, I wonder how perceptive it is, and believe there are many usability gaps companies will need to address to have major breakthroughs in the industry.

For example, in 2016, IBM employees in the Raleigh-Durham area were offered a healthcare app that had dozens of features, including a symptom checker, video appointments with doctors and maps to indicate which nearby facilities were covered by their insurance. IBM sent letters and emails to employees offering $20 gift cards just for signing up, but only 30 employees registered. Here you have this amazing app, but no one utilizing it. This highlights the main gap between technology and healthcare that we still need to crack. A tech company can code all day long to make a brilliant piece of software, filled with knowledge from world class physicians, but what’s the point if no one downloads or uses it?

Apple’s Health app is another example. With it, you can download and view your medical records from hospitals such as Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles and Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. It’s a great feature, but is it available at every medical provider? No, and that’s a major limitation. Technology giants can certainly fix these missing links, it’s just a matter of when.

Together technology and healthcare are doing good. As a society we’re living longer, and diseases that were death sentences decades ago can now be managed. But there’s always room for growth and improvement, and companies like Uber and Amazon are appropriately taking advantage . I’ll never have the opportunity to order an Uber for my Grandmother to take her to a check-up or Amazon prime her medication to her doorstep, but the important thing is that others will. So for anyone out there that doesn’t think advancements are being made, the proof is in the medicated pudding. I bet you an Amazon prime membership on it.