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Will Smartphones Replace Doctors? The Impact of Disruptive Innovation in Healthcare

By February 20, 2014 February 23rd, 2016 No Comments

The U.S. healthcare system is in the midst of major disruption – by mobile technology. Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), investment in healthcare tech startups – like the patient-to-doctor texting service First Opinion and Google-funded Doctor on Demand, which enables video chat – has skyrocketed. The mobile health phenomenon is helping tackle some of the industry’s biggest problems while resisting the status quo, says healthcare innovation expert and physician Jason Hwang. And that’s a good thing.

Dr. Hwang, best known for his groundbreaking work with Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen and their best-selling book “The Innovator’s Prescription” (McGraw-Hill, 2008), recently wrote: “Retail clinics that use nurses to provide care are not threats to patient safety, but offer the affordability and convenience lacking in the current model. Telehealth providers are not inferior substitutes deserving of low reimbursement; they reach patients that the traditional brick-and-mortar facilities cannot. Smartphone-based apps and consumer-oriented health devices are not toys to be scoffed at; they hold the potential to put an ‘always-on’ healthcare system in the hands of everyone.”

But while these disruptions are full of promise, they will only succeed if the system – and doctors and others who lead within it – embraces them. Business history tells us that those who suppress, resist or simply fail to recognize the inevitable changes that follow typically end up on the losing side.

The pace of innovation in highly scalable digital health technologies and the novel delivery models that accompany them will continue to pick up speed, further forcing the industry to rethink how and where healthcare is delivered. To help ensure the healthcare system reaches its full potential, says Dr. Hwang, “We must move beyond managing patients as we have always done; we must also lead the people and shape the organizations that care for [them].”