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Deloitte's Life Sciences & Health Care Blog

Innovation in health care: Getting more for less

As someone who accumulates close to 200,000 frequent flier miles each year, I recently had a chance to do something I could not pass up: pilot a Boeing 737 out of John F. Kennedy Airport. After we lined up on runway 31L with the engines at full power, the acceleration pressed me firmly back into my seat, even with 130 passengers and 15,000 pounds of fuel on board. My co-pilot and experienced instructor, Jim, called out critical speeds. First, “80 knots” (to which I replied “checked”), then “V1.” And, finally “rotate,” easing back on the yoke. “Positive rate,” Jim said, indicating we were, in fact, climbing. “Positive rate, gear up,” I replied. We continued to climb as the gear retracted, and Jim called out when we’d reached 400 and 1,000 feet. Turning toward the southern tip of Manhattan, the view was amazing. So was the sensation of banking and climbing as we passed the Statue of Liberty, flew over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, and leveled off above the clouds.

Seconds later, we were back on the ground again, looking down runway 31L preparing for take-off. Such is the miracle of simulation. Utilizing an authentic 737 cockpit, wraparound video screens, and full-motion hydraulics, the experience is amazingly realistic. Through this experience, I had been safely immersed in the essentials of instruments, checklists, and callouts needed to function as part of a team.

Since the earliest days of flight – even as far back as 1910 – innovative technologies such as simulation have not only improved teaching the mechanics of flying, but have also addressed crucial communication, information-sharing, and critical thinking skills crews need. It is this holistic approach to problem-solving that can unleash the true value of innovative technology.

Innovation in health care is no different – developments that impact broad aspects of care can provide the greatest impact.

Recently, the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions surveyed leaders across the health care system to determine what 10 innovations in health care were most likely to accelerate the transformation toward achieving the Triple Aim over the next 10 years. For the analysis, we defined innovation as activities or technologies that can result in getting more for less. More value, better outcomes, greater convenience, access, and simplicity all for less cost, complexity, and time required by the patient and the provider. Like the airline industry, many of the industry leaders we surveyed and spoke with believe that the health care industry will be able to break traditional constraints of medicine through innovation.

One innovation that tops the list is virtual reality (VR), or simulated environments that could accelerate behavior change in patients and train clinicians in a way that is safer, more convenient, and more accessible. VR is being used to help soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder, and many clinics and hospitals use VR simulations to help veterans who are, in many ways, continually reliving the traumatic events. In a safe and controlled environment, the soldiers can learn how to deal with instances that might otherwise be triggers to behavior that could be destructive to themselves and others. VR has also been used to support clinician training via surgery simulation. Surgeons can learn new survey methods, and new residents can practice techniques without putting a patient at risk.

And, just as the airline industry uses technology to monitor the health of planes as they fly through the air, using sensors, scales, compasses, and more to help ensure the plane is on track, another innovation that the leaders we spoke to mentioned was biosensors and trackers. These technology-enabled activity trackers, monitors, and sensors are often incorporated into clothing, accessories, and devices and allow consumers and clinicians to easily monitor health. More and more, these technologies are included in rapidly shrinking wearables and medical devices. Now, they allow consumers and clinicians to monitor and track more aspects of patients’ health, enabling earlier intervention – and even prevention – in a way that is much less intrusive to patients’ lives.

The report, Top 10 health care innovations: Achieving more for less, explores eight other innovations that could help expand the frontier of health care. These innovations will likely lead to new care delivery models to proliferate at rates unseen before now.

But, incorporating these top 10 innovations into business models may require changing how health care organizations currently prevent, diagnose, monitor, and treat disease. Industry leaders should consider building ecosystems that embrace non-traditional players and sources of knowledge outside their own four walls. Building pilots before expanding programs to scale, learning to embrace change, and evaluating new revenue sources can also help organizations succeed. And, organizations should strive to be agile in anticipating and adjusting their strategies as innovations continue to evolve.

As my simulator session continued, we worked on progressively more challenging scenarios: weather deteriorated, systems malfunctioned, engines failed. It was an incredible lesson in teamwork. On our last landing, with a fire in the cargo hold and only one working engine, I was thrown sharply against my seat harness – the landing gear had collapsed upon touchdown and the plane veered sharply off the runway. My heart was racing as we bounced to stop and prepared for an emergency evacuation. In that moment, I felt the real impact that this innovation has had on the airline industry – these simulations have helped create better outcomes at a lower cost than training pilots in the air.

Now, the question before the health care industry is, “Can we apply the latest innovations to derive similar results: better patient outcomes for lower cost and complexity?”

Read the entire Health Care Current here and subscribe to receive weekly updates.

Author bio

As director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, Dr. Greenspun serves health care, life sciences, and government clients on key innovation and clinical transformation issues. He has been named one of the “50 Most Influential Physician Executives in Healthcare” by Modern Healthcare, co-authored the book “Reengineering Healthcare,” and has served on advisory boards for the World Economic Forum, WellPoint, HIMSS, Georgetown University. Prior to joining Deloitte, he served as the Chief Medical Officer for Dell.