As I made my way from the airport terminal to the parking lot during a recent business trip, I was directed to a kiosk where I was told I could rent a car. With a press of a button at this booth, I was instantly interacting with a video of a live customer service representative. After a short conversation about the exact car I would be renting and swiping my credit card, I was on my way.
The transaction reminded me of how far technology has come in the 20-plus years I have been working in information services. Many businesses and industries have had to adapt to this quickly shifting landscape: bookstores (Amazon), newspapers (any news site), cabs (Uber), dining (OpenTable), networking (LinkedIn). At first, these changes meant fewer interactions between people, as technology eliminated the need to do so; but now, we’re seeing the next wave of technological change, which can bring us closer to colleagues, family and customers.
As the Head of Local Information Services (IS) for EMD Serono, a US-based biopharmaceutical company, I help employees from around the globe hold virtual meetings, collaborate on shared cloud-based documents and communicate with patients and physicians in real-time to improve patient outcomes. While some of the changes brought about by technology have eliminated some jobs and industries, in healthcare, it has strengthened our ability to have meaningful interactions, and the next two decades should only bring us further.
Recently at EMD Serono, we launched a program to connect physicians via video-calls with members of our Medical team, to answer questions about our medicines and help them get them the information they need to make the right decision for their patients.
One of the more exciting aspects of technology in healthcare is how it’s allowing patients to get more personal care. In some remote locations, technology has been developed to enable patients to use a kiosk-like unit to connect with doctors hundreds of miles away to get a diagnosis remotely, and get prescriptions called into a local pharmacy to treat things like ear infections.
Even how new drugs are discovered, tested and used to treat people have seen advances thanks to better information technology. Companies are mining genetic data from customers to look for the causes of disease and potential treatments, while others are helping to usher in the age of personalized medicine by finding therapies for a patient’s specific disease.
It’s also hard to miss the proliferation of activity trackers more and more people are wearing. These, along with our smartphones and other devices and programs are helping people quantify their daily movement, food intake, sleep quality and other factors, and influence how we understand our health.
These types of data have already given us a clearer picture of how our bodies react differently to medicines during various times of the day or how exercise can have an impact on a drug’s effectiveness. As the “Internet of things,” or devices that are connected online, increases, we’ll be able to better mine this information for more personalized approaches to medicine.
While new technologies can often be disruptive to how people live their lives, in healthcare, these changes have improved how we interact with each other. By continuing to adopt information technology advances from other industries, the healthcare world will only increase its ability to help patients.