LA: Always a pleasure Rebecca.
RDC: We talked a great deal during the first hour of President Johnson’s legacy – which – over time has been greatly misconstrued in films like Selma and other accounts. . .but there’s no question that the getting the Affordable Care Act through will be viewed as one of the jewels in Obama;s crown – what do you think Luis?
LA: It’s interesting that you ask that Rebecca because it’s hard to believe that even today – FIVE years after it was enacted, – we are still debating the merits of the Affordable Care Act – or Obamacare – as many people refer to it. There’s no question that it was the most consequential change to healthcare laws since Medicare was introduced – but you’d figure by now the pundits and politicians would’ve moved on to something else.
RDC: You would think . . .
LA: Though I am not personally thrilled about EVERY provision in the law – as a technology expert I can tell you that it has done more to advance the delivery of healthcare than any other single law related to health. And I’m not just talking about the billions of dollars the ACA gave to healthcare providers to update their technology – though that has been very effective in improving health records management and also lowering medical costs.
RDC: So if you don’t mind my asking – how else have these ACA dollars modernized healthcare?
LA: Well let me give you a specific example: A few months ago, the doctor I’d been going to for over a decade decided to retire. And imagine this – he didn’t even bother to consult me! Anyway, I’ve been avoiding the issue of his retirement for a while – but my wife, Ronni, has been bugging me all along to find a new doctor and get my annual check-up. So I finally decided to step up and find a new doctor. I thought this was going to mean starting all over from square one again but it turned out I was completely wrong.
RDC: How so?
LA: Well, my previous doctor was very old school, and used a computer only because he had to – and only to record patient information. But my new doctor is completely different. Dr. Oppenheimer actually embraces technology and that’s obvious from the first moment you walk into his office. Not only is the diagnostic equipment all new and shiny, he’s of the modern breed of doctor that wants me to participate in my own healthcare planning. When you talk to one of these new breeds of doctor they tell you about many of the new innovations in medicine today – all of which are the direct result of the Affordable Care Act. Medicine is becoming updated across the board and that is good for everyone.
RDC: I had the same experience with our family doctor – he retired and I felt he knew everything about me so I wasn’t looking forward to finding a new doctor – but once I did I realized I had not been doing myself any favors by going to an outdated office with outdated equipment. . .
LA: I know what you mean. Actually – one area of medicine that is just starting to gain momentum – and which may mean another sea change for healthcare – is telemedicine. For those that don’t know what we’re talking about, telemedicine or telehealth as some people call it refers to a way of using technology to enable physicians to diagnose, monitor and even treat patients remotely, in distant locations. For example, let’s say you’re a patient with diabetes. Rather than go into the doctor’s office all the time to get seen, you hook up a device to your computer that tests you blood and securely transmits the results to your doctor so she can evaluate your condition and confer with you about it. It goes from being a two hour ordeal involving a ride to the office and waiting until your name is called to a fifteen minute consultation that is vastly less expensive and quite frankly more effective.
RDC: Sounds like this is going t be a big change.
LA: I think telemedicine is the next big thing in healthcare. And I’m not alone. Billions of dollars are being invested in new tech startups that are focusing on delivering healthcare remotely, whether its new sensors that will collect vital information and transmit it to your doctor, to designing drones that can deliver critically needed medical supplies to remote areas.
RDC: It’s funny you brought that us – while I was in France I saw a drone deliver a syringe of life saving medicine to the wife of a man who was dying and the drone got there with the medicine 9 minutes before an ambulance arrived and this saved his life. It was a little flying saucer like drone which when it arrived, had a small door which opened and inside the compartment was a syringe of medicine. And the wife reached in, grabbed it and administered it. . isn’t that amazing?
LA: Yes- its true we are looking at drone delivery systems in every industry right now. But speaking of modernizing, even the Department of Veterans Affairs is rushing to embrace telemedicine as a way to provide access to healthcare to the millions of military vets in the U.S. There just aren’t enough VA hospitals anymore and many vets have to drive hundreds of miles to get to one, so the VA is setting up a lot of these vets with systems in their homes equipped with sensors and testing equipment that can securely communicate back to a VA clinic or hospital so that veteran can get the care he or she needs without the hassle and delay of an office visit. And, of course, it’s cutting the cost of delivering that care.
A lot of physicians like my personal doctor are embracing telemedicine as a way for patients to get more involved in their healthcare. He wants me to test my blood pressure periodically and not just wait for my semi-regular physical. He wants me to use my activity tracker to record my workouts and how much physical activity I get daily. And, next time I see him, he wants to review that information with me. He gets it.
RDC: I agree with you it’s an exciting time in medicine and we will soon see life spans doubling and tripling thanks to better care.
LA: which leads me to my point: You may not be a fan of Obamacare, but it’s hard to argue the fact that it’s done more to advance the delivery of healthcare in country than anything else in the last 30 years. The technological innovations empowered by the ACA are just now starting to make an impact.
RDC: Well that’s all the time we have for technology today but thanks for bringing us this update Luis and we’ll look forward to talking to you gain next week.
LA: Thank you Rebecca. This is Luis Alvarez from the Alvarez Technology Group reminding you that when it comes to technology, forewarned, is forearmed!