Tennis has been a big part of my life for over 30 years. During that time, my level improved steadily, leading to regional (New England) rankings and coaching opportunities. A coach once told me that tennis is a “What-have-you-done-for-me-lately?” type of sport. Maintaining a high level of play requires regular, intense practice, along with daily off-court gym workouts. It takes a toll on your body but it also makes you feel like you’re in complete control of your health and nothing can go wrong.
It’s surreal how life can be totally fine one day and turned upside down the next. It was about two years ago during a routine tennis practice that I felt an ache deep in the muscle tissue behind my left knee. As usual, I popped a few Advil and kept playing. Bad decision… Two weeks later while on the court again, I unexpectedly experienced a “Zap!!!” below my kneecap – like a severe electrical shock. My knee swelled up and the pain was intense. Unlike my younger days, the pain didn’t fade. So began the saga of my knee and my introduction to the world of medical specialists.
The doctors in Boston are truly world-class. Nevertheless, it was critical that I learn to be my own advocate. Doctors are smart, but they don’t always have answers – or the right answers. Becoming my own advocate required learning about many aspects of human anatomy and sports medicine. Thankfully, there are countless learning tools at my disposal that never existed in the past. A digital transformation for medical consumers has enabled access to such things as online diagnostic tools that helped determine what muscles, nerves and associated doctors might be worthy of more research. I also found forums where doctors and people with injuries like mine worked together to share ideas and potential diagnoses, and where people empathized and shared solutions that worked for them. When doctors suggested medicines, stretches, exercises and surgeries that might provide relief, I was able to find related web sites and watch examples of everything they were talking about on YouTube. I even found videos that explained (at a high level) how to interpret my digital MRI images (provided on a CD) at home and better understand the associated radiology report. Using this information, I was able to have much more meaningful and collaborative conversations with my doctors, and also debate and eliminate some of the more bizarre and extreme recommendations a few of them made. This was especially important because there was no smoking gun for my injury – no badly torn cartilage or other things that an MRI or X-ray would immediately expose. Consequently, the doctors were especially cautious with their recommendations. Surgery was an option, but the decision to go through with it would need to be my own.
But I’m not a doctor – what do I know??? In fact, thanks to all the online medical information at my disposal, I actually know a lot. For me, the journey ultimately led to an acceptable diagnosis that a football injury from high school had healed incorrectly and silently wreaked havoc within my knee joint causing severe arthritis, which over the years led to muscular compensation, imbalances and other issues. My path to healing included arthroscopic “clean-up” surgery, many months of physical therapy, and regular deep tissue massage. Two years later, I can finally see an end to my saga in the not too distant future and I’m grateful to already have the opportunity to swing a racket again.
The same digital transformation that’s occurring on the consumer side of medicine that empowered me to advocate for myself is occurring on the business side as well. I’m confident that there will eventually come a day when all of the relevant medical systems across the world are better connected and data can be securely mobilized so that multiple doctors from any healthcare provider can consider the data simultaneously, record observations, and expedite a diagnosis. In hindsight, if this were possible today, I think my own diagnosis would possibly have taken no more than a few months instead of two years.
Indeed, in a January 2016 article, the consulting firm McKinsey & Company published the following insight:
We believe the solution is to promote collaboration among providers and digital-health companies by enabling the exchange of health data—a vital enabler of more efficient care delivery. To drive technology advancement and adoption, each national or federal health system should consider an open innovation platform that holds healthcare data (beginning with highly standardized claims records), and provides data access that is enabled for application programming interfaces as well as common technical IT services such as identity, access, or consent management. This platform would serve as the basis for an ecosystem of digital-health-services innovation by certified third parties and could be steered by the respective health system. Such a data platform could revolutionize health-service use and delivery and also help health systems bend the cost curve.1
In fact, the type of storage platform technology McKinsey described already exists - it’s Hitachi Content Platform (HCP). HCP is a software defined object storage solution that is designed to evolve with changes in scale, scope, applications, and technologies throughout the data lifecycle. With high-density, highly efficient multitenant storage and unlimited scalability, HCP is ideally suited for optimizing massive amounts of unstructured data. HCP is leading the way for businesses to digitally transform themselves to achieve:
- Cost savings and accelerate time to market by rethinking operations and processes.
- An increase in customer loyalty and revenue growth through improved customer experiences.
- The uncovering of new revenue streams and reaching newmarkets with new business models.
HCP is already in use by many medical care, research, and insurance organizations across the world. In my next blog entry, I’ll share some interesting stories about how HCP is delivering value to them.