Emerging Healthcare Delivery Paradigm for the 21st Century

6/30/08

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other D2H2 enabling technologies and the clinic. Integrating these systems into the clinical workflow has been projected to be a large contributor to the transformation of the current healthcare system. Other major pulling forces behind the need for distributed diagnosis and care in the form of EHRs and personal health records (PHR) are the need for faster diffusion of medical knowledge, the need for reduction of medical errors, duplication of tests and misdiagnosis, and the need for more comprehensive knowledge bases of healthcare information. Although there are many EHRs and PHRs already developed, most require the manual, repetitive input of information, which can lead to no or slow adoption due to the increased workload and the workflow impediment of system integration into the clinic.

This new healthcare delivery system will introduce a new patient-doctor relationship based on partnership, where the patient will be involved in their healthcare more actively by being responsible for data collection and managing their health along with the provider, and where the provider-patient interactions in the clinic will have room for more decision-making and discussion. The overall healthcare system will be patient-centered, where the provider can be an overseer and aide to the patient in his/her more informed healthcare decision-makings and proactive management.

The era of a new healthcare delivery system is on the horizon, and stakeholders from government, industry, and academia as well as employers, insurance companies, care providers, and individuals need to come together to define a smooth path towards D2H2. By various stakeholders collaborating on D2H2 and its implementation and deployment, this new paradigm can be realized faster and rising healthcare costs contained, along with improved quality of care for the increasingly aging and chronically ill populations. To facilitate a smooth transition into increasingly distributed healthcare delivery from existing hospital-centric care and to balance the resources and care, carefully thought-out incentives, policies, and strategies need to be developed, tried, and optimized. Emphasis on early detection and prevention needs to be valued as well as ease of use and monitoring in the development of enabling or disruptive technology and integration into clinical systems. Interdisciplinary research and collaboration needs to be encouraged and supported in various ways to facilitate a quick transfer from clinically-useful technology developed in the laboratory to widespread clinical use via commercialization.

I believe that D2H2 is the most reasonable solution to overcome the crisis in current healthcare delivery, and that this new paradigm—with all the stakeholders working together toward the common and societal good—will aid in developing a sustainable 21st-century healthcare system with the potential to improve accessibility to healthcare, increase care quality, and control healthcare costs.

Dr. Yongmin Kim is Professor of Bioengineering, Professor of Electrical Engineering, and Adjunct Professor of Radiology and Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington, Seattle. Follow @

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