ATA keynote: ‘Not a technology problem’

May 6, 2013 in Medical Technology

Jeffrey O. Henley, chairman of the Oracle Corporation, offered a technologist’s perspective on the opportunities of reshaping healthcare in his Monday morning keynote at the American Telemedicine Association’s 18th Annual International Meeting Trade Show.

The mission, should we choose to accept it: “We’ve got to figure out how to do more for less.”

Actually, with healthcare spending exceeding 17 percent of the United States’ GDP, it’s a mission we pretty much have to accept.

That’s no small task, of course, especially as challenges and change buffet the industry from all sides. There’s “regulatory scrutiny and competitive threats,” said Henley. There’s the promise – and potential pitfalls – of a data explosion that will only get bigger and more complex as genetic sequencing and personalized medicine transform our conception of care delivery.

Mostly, though, there’s just the plain reality that “healthcare is this unbelievable cost engine,” said Henley, something we need to “figure out how to get a handle on.”

Big Data and Healthcare Analytics Forum June 4-5 Washington

Oracle, he said, believes that better and more efficient care are well within reach – that, “if we can do things radically different, we can get a 360-degree view of the patient and tailor treatments to the individual.”

The good news is that the means are well in place to do that.

“It’s not a technology problem, going forward,” said Henley. “Computing is going to continue to scale up, networks are going to be 100 times bigger and faster, chips are going to be 100 times bigger and faster, and we’re going to be able to technically solve this.”

The sticking point is that “because we have all these silos, it makes it very difficult to get a good 360-degree view of the patient.”

It’s crucial that “more people work together to integrate this information,” he said. “There has been progress made … but we still have a long way to go.”

An uptick in electronic health record adoption is terrific. But it’s just the beginning.

“It’s not the be-all, end-all,” said Henley. “It’s part of the solution.”

Looking forward, healthcare will be transformed by “lots of big databases (and) lots of number crunching,” he said. Data will flow from all sorts of sources – from Fitbits, from medical devices, from smartphones. There’s “a big mobile explosion” under way.

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