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PatientIQ Thought Leadership

Staying “Human” with Health Tech

July 5, 2022
Kendall Shadley
2 min read

Modern healthcare delivery is rooted in technology. However, as the health tech industry grows, so does concern amongst clinicians that the tools meant to supplement their services will make care delivery inherently less personal. And it’s an entirely understandable concern.

Each one of us, at several points in our lives, will be patients. And, as patients, we know the importance of the patient-provider relationship – of having a real person to talk to, seek guidance, and trust with one of your most important and cherished belongings - your physical wellbeing.

At the same time, each of us is a consumer, and we know the frustration of inefficient manual processes. Our expectations have been raised by the technologies surrounding us that have largely become the cornerstone of our modern-day existence.

Because of this, the healthcare industry is challenged to find the intersection of humanity and technology, and clinical and technology leaders are responsible for striking and maintaining the balance.

Clinical problem-solving and the role of technology

As recently discussed in FierceHealthcare, “Healthcare delivery, at its core, is about providing care and building emotional connections that enable complex problem-solving. Apps cannot capture the nuance of a person’s life context or build an empathetic connection, both of which can provide clues to underlying or unexpressed health needs.”

Similarly, just as technology has its limitations, humans are not infallible. We’re prone to inefficiencies and error. Our knowledge can be expanded but is not limitless.

As such, effective and efficient clinical problem-solving requires a human hand supported by technology. And striking a balance begins with identifying technology that is rooted in understanding of the people who will use it and the humans they serve.

Supporting the clinician

Technology is only as effective as its understanding of its end users. For healthcare technology, that includes both the clinician and the patient.

For example, considering the clinician, healthcare technology cannot be disruptive – it must understand and integrate with existing clinical workflows. Every additional step technology requires results in frustration and delay. Every minute of delay is precious time wasted and potentially dangerous consequences. And any technology that wastes time, is ineffective, or leads to adverse results will be abandoned.  

Additionally, just as health tech can’t disrupt, it needs to deliver. Being able to deliver means ensuring the technology solves a very tangible problem in healthcare, and understanding and solving that tangible problem requires involving clinician expertise in the technology’s creation.

Lastly, the technology must be rooted in understanding that care delivery is more than just a process map. The patients that providers serve are more than just data points. A clinician’s ability to identify and solve a health problem is the difference between a grandparent playing with their grandchildren or watching from the porch. Between an athlete making it back to the field or cheering from the stands. It is the difference between giving someone their life back or having to watch as they struggle to breathe, stand, walk, or function.

Rooted in patient understanding

Just as technology needs to be built with understanding of the clinician, the clinical environment, and the challenges within care delivery today, health tech also needs to understand the patient.

As the article highlights:

- Less than 60% of Americans have downloaded a health app

- Approximately 46% of those Americans have stopped using the app

- 40% of people are comfortable using digital health

- 30% of people are less likely to trust a diagnosis or treatment decision derived by artificial intelligence

Any technology that interacts with the patient must build trust and facilitate consistent engagement. It must provide a frictionless and personalized experience. It cannot be difficult for patients to access or difficult for them to understand. And it must be seen as a supplemental partner of their trusted provider.

Striking a balance

Health leaders are responsible for identifying technology that understands the above, and they are responsible for ensuring the balance between the technical and the personal is organizationally maintained.

Health IT companies are responsible for building technologies that understand their role. They can help solve problems, but they are meant to rally around clinicians, not replace them.

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