The worldwide challenge of treating ageing populations is driving the healthcare industry toward innovation, according to HIMSS CEO Hal Wolf.

Speaking at the Health 2.0 conference in Santa Clara, California, on Monday, Wolf said 49 per cent of healthcare costs in the US are covered by the government and as the ‘silver tsunami’ continues to grow the price-tag is expected to leap to 53 per cent.

But the problem isn’t just money, it is also the lack of manpower and skilled providers to take care of the ageing population. Currently, there is a gap of 7 million healthcare professionals and that gap is expected to grow, he said.

“That is why purely and simply … every healthcare system on the globe is trying to figure out how they are going to use innovation to take all of the disparate and disconnected components [and] bring it back together, so we can deliver care to rising populations that are going to be sicker,” Wolf said.

“That is what is siting behind the rising investment in digital health. It is not something that is going to easily burst because the drivers that sit behind it are not the evaluations themselves as much as the socioeconomic drivers.”

Many are looking toward data as a way to solve problems in healthcare, as more and more of it becomes readily available. But data alone isn’t the solution, Wolf said.

“Data is fundamentally useless until you turn it into information.

“Until you take the data that is ones and zeros and categorise it and put it into digestible chunks, we do not have the ability to use it the way we want to.

“If you think about your own apps or apps you’ve worked with, it is about taking that data and turning it into information … [and] that information, when you do comparative analysis, turns itself into knowledge. This is where knowledge management is so important because it creates standards and targets and goals.

“There is inside knowledge and outside knowledge. Then finally when we apply little bits of data targeted against clinical utilities or capabilities or services that is what we deliver to the healthcare system.”

Healthcare is often behind on innovation, and Wolf said the system is playing catch up to other industries in some ways. That doesn’t mean healthcare should catch up to old technology but should look towards new and improved innovation.

But it isn’t just the healthcare providers that are seeking to change. Wolf stressed that patients are becoming more engaged and informed about their health.

“The individual and the consumer are going to grab apps on their own, and manage [what] they are looking for because they aren’t waiting for the medical model to catch up,” Wolf said.

The confluence of an ageing population and more educated consumers means that transformational change in healthcare is coming down the pipeline.

“If we think the healthcare industry has a chance to innovate incrementally, they do not,” Wolf said. 

“We did not move from the candle to the light bulb with an intermediate stop of a candle inside a light bulb — it was a fundamental shift and a significant shift.”

Originally published on the US edition of Healthcare IT News.

Hal Wolf will be addressing the HIMSS AsiaPac18 Conference & Exhibition to be held in Brisbane from 5-8 November.

HIMSS is the parent company of HITNA.




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