Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Technology, Transparency and Better Healthcare

Interestingly, medical mistakes tend to go unnoticed despite their devastating consequences. In the United States, if medical errors were considered a disease, they would be the sixth leading cause of death (Makary). The consequences of medical errors have a profound financial impact costing the  United States billions of dollars annually. Fortunately technology has the ability to shed light on these medical mistakes and to force healthcare organizations to improve the quality of care they provide.

In “Clouds, big data, and smart assets: Ten tech-enabled business trends to watch”, Bughin, Chui and Manyika make two things very clear. Technological advances are undoubtedly changing traditional business environments and organizations must be prepared to operate in these new settings. The healthcare industry is a classic example of the dramatic impact technology plays and will continue to play in the industry's competitive landscape. 

Dr. Makary proposes several uses of technology within the healthcare field to improve transparency and transform the health care industry in his article “How to Stop Hospitals From Killing Us”. He suggests using video cameras during procedures in conjunction with reviewal of these tapes to confirm that the best practices within a doctor’s field are being performed.  Dr. Makary also urges healthcare providers to allow online access to their patient notes, so that the patient can confirm the information provided by the doctor is accurate. Most importantly, Dr. Makary insists that all hospitals should have an “online informational dashboard” outlining key statistics like their surgical complication rates, readmission rates, and number of errors that should never occur (Makary).

Adoption of these technologies will force providers to be more accountable for the care they provide. In turn, healthcare institutions will be forced to compete within a more competitive landscape. Patients will no longer choose hospitals for reasons like better parking or proximity to their homes but rather quality of care. With new knowledge provided to patients thanks to the help of technology, healthcare organization strategists would be compelled to devote their efforts and resources to improving the quality of care rather than frill features like improved parking. Providers will be forced to be innovative and focus on a different set of competitive advantages.

It is important to note that although the technology proposed by Dr. Makary is very capable of capturing information pertaining to quality metrics, their use and impact on the healthcare industry will depend on whether the information is shared with the public. It is no surprise that healthcare institutions are often reluctant to share their quality scores especially if they know they are poor. Therefore in order for technology to improve healthcare quality by increasing transparency of the quality of care provided, the government will likely be a major player.  Public policy will aid technology in the transformation of healthcare.  

Do you believe the implementation of technology suggested by Dr. Makary will occur? What impact will this have on the strategy of healthcare institutions?


“Clouds, big data, and smart assets: Ten tech-enabled business trends to watch.” Jacques Bughin, Michael Chui, and James Manyika. McKinsey Quarterly. August 2010

Makary, Marty. "How to Stop Hospitals From Killing Us." Wall Street Journal (n.d.): n. pag. 24 Sept. 2012.  Web. <>.

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