THE BLOG
09/28/2016 03:53 pm ET Updated Sep 29, 2017

How Can Technology Improve Healthcare for Everyone?

How can the tech and startup industry affect the healthcare industry in the US? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Prabhjot Singh, M.D., Ph.D., author of Dying and Living in the Neighborhood and director of the Arnhold Institute, on Quora.

Edward Deming, an engineering guru, said that automating poorly performing processes simply makes bad things happen faster. To be sure, technology will play a pivotal role in helping us solve complex challenges, but we can't have technological capability define what constitutes a worthy challenge. At the same time, I would encourage everyone who cares about health and healthcare to be curious about and familiar with the rapid advances in data science and machine learning, hardware prototyping, communication technologies, and sensors networks, because we can then better define complex challenges in ways that motivate technologists. This is particularly important for community advocates, public health practitioners, and healthcare administrators who may at baseline be skeptical about what technology has to offer. Instead, they should help forge requirements, and celebrate the people who can bridge the divide.

Here are two ways that come to mind:

1. Smarter neighborhood-scale problem-solving platforms: We have seen a revolution in individual, consumer-centric technologies through wearables and remote sensors, but we haven't seen the same intensity of effort put into larger scale problem-solving platforms that are fun, interactive, and goal-oriented. When I saw Pokemon Go (yes, seriously!) take off, I could see the power of augmented reality in allowing us to see physical spaces in a different way. For example, imagine not having a day of community service, but a space for community service, where you can just build upon someone else's contribution at a different time? There are really bright people out there who understand how to build smart incentives to solve challenging problems. They ought to look at building platforms that create healthier neighborhoods!

2. Service design: Have you ever stood in line at a food pantry, or to submit public housing applications, or waiting at a clinic? It takes hours, it's usually a bad experience, and it's very clear all along the way that you're just a number in a big system. And if you have a job, you can be sure your boss isn't going to be happy about you taking the time off. There have been amazing advances in how services are designed, through really understanding the motivations, interactions, and goals of users and the people who build systems. We need technologists, system engineers, and service interaction designers to work together to build more efficient and dignified services for low-income Americans. Why? Things will work better, and it's possible to motivate and educate people along the way.

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