Why the best ideas in digital health are still to come

Tom Andriola, vice chancellor of information technology and data and chief digital officer of University of California Irvine and UCI Health, is bullish on the future integration of technology in healthcare.

Despite the huge lift it takes to make changes in the healthcare system, Mr. Andriola believes now is the time to focus on where digital technology and data can improve care delivery. He joined the "Becker's Digital Health + Health IT" podcast to discuss current and upcoming trends.

"We are in a transformational moment and the possibility of delivering better healthcare in our country and around the world," Mr. Andriola said. "There are so many forces pulling and pushing on healthcare to improve it, whether it's the digital movement with technology being driven into the space, or the explosion around data and the focus on really understanding the health consumer and not just the patient personalization."

The pandemic accelerated the digital transformation in healthcare, Mr. Andriola said, and healthcare organizations weren't able to go through the typical change management process. Instead, organizations had to move forward with telehealth, data gathering, artificial intelligence initiatives and more.

Some technology initiatives that were sidelined before the pandemic — because some thought they couldn't be done while maintaining high quality of care — were moved forward out of necessity once COVID-19 hit, and health systems proved they could integrate technology and change quickly.

"I think you'll see as we go forward, and what I'm excited about, is patient care designed around the individual," said Mr. Andriola. "It's going to be very personalized and much more consumer friendly, and consumers will drive their business and dollars toward those options for themselves. We're moving to an era where patients are going to be back in control of their data, not only how it's used for them, but also how it's used for research discovery and understanding breakthroughs around disease."

With the data and information UC Irvine is able to collect, the health system plans to tackle healthcare disparities and use artificial intelligence and machine learning in an equitable way. The technology can help identify underserved patients and make sure those individuals receive access to care as well.

"I see a really exciting period going forward, because there's more open mindedness in healthcare leadership now than any other time in my career working in healthcare," said Mr. Andriola. "We're going to see a lot of amazing progress."

UC Irvine is examining every aspect of the healthcare ecosystem and rethinking what care delivery looks like in the future. The health system can now deliver quality care outside the hospital walls and use data to become more cost effective as well. Mr. Andriola is also seeing regulators champion new and transformational models of healthcare.

"We need breakthrough thinking; with as many dollars that have been put toward research in the healthcare sciences space, we haven't seen movement on things like lifespan for Americans and the percentage of people who are suffering with chronic disease," said Mr. Andriola. "So we really have to ask ourselves questions about what we are not doing well in translation and what the translation models will be for the future. It starts with really an open mindedness to challenge the status quo and then ask the question about where we are not leveraging technology and data in ways where we could be doing things radically different."

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