Healthcare's technology isn't behind the times, but its consumer focus is, says Northwell CEO

Northwell CEO Michael Dowling says the new drive in healthcare will be consumer-focused technolgoies.
By Laura Lovett
11:39 am

Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling (photo by Jennifer Romonyske)

It would be hard to find a health tech conference where some technologist isn’t critquing the health field for being behind the times. But Michael Dowling, CEO of Northwell Health is pushing back on the idea that healthcare technology is outdated. 

“Healthcare has been phenomenally technologically advanced,” Dowling said.  “If you go into one of our operating rooms today, it’s like Star Wars.”

At the Enterprise Ireland’s North America Healthcare Forum in Dublin, Ireland yesterday, Dowling cited dozens of technological advances in the last 50 years that save lives everyday. 

But there is one key area that the industry is behind on: consumer-focused technologies. Currently there is a rise in digital information that is accessible to the public. In the spring Apple launched its health records feature, which gives consumers the ability to store their records on their iPhone. 

“The connection between healthcare and the consumer is behind. Healthcare in general has never been consumer-focused in the way it should. They have been patient-focused,” Dowling told MobiHealthNews. “There is a subtle difference. Patients, when you think of a patient and when providers traditionally think about the patients they basically had this view 'I’m the doc, I’m the nurse. I know everything and you are the patient and you are basically subservient. So I’m going to tell you what you should do.' A consumer is knowledgeable. They have more access to information. They are more technologically savvy. They Google everything. They have chat rooms. They come in and have gone to Dr. Google. Healthcare is making the transition from the pure traditional model of patient to the world of patient/consumer.”

New technologies enable customers to do more at home, even checking in and come to the providers with more informed questions, which has the possibility to change the way patients are cared for. 

“The consumer is going to drive what you do. It’s not asking the question "What is the matter with you?' but 'What matters to you?'" Dowling said. "The patient is going to tell you. In the old days, the doctor would tell you. That model is breaking down big time. That changes the interplay between both. We have patients now involved in delivering their care.”

Dowling said that consumers are also driving the way care is delivered. For example, younger people are more engaged with the digital space than older generations are, and perhaps even more engaged with virtual outlets than in person. 

“Technology is going to connect. Today we do extensive telemedicine, telestroke, teleICU,” Dowling said. “The young people are more comfortable with the screen than they are in person.”

As for where business is going, he said he sees more consumer-focused technologies on the rise, including patient-facing home care products. But its not just the patients that are changing, it’s also the doctors, and as younger doctors begin to practice we could see a shift in the way care is provided.

“You sit with a 65-year-old doctor, they don’t get this. You sit with a 40-year-old doc, they get it,” Dowling said. 

Editor's note: This story is part of our coverage of Enterprise Ireland’s North America Healthcare Forum. Enterprise Ireland invited MobiHealthNews to the event and paid for travel and accomodations. As always, MobiHealthNews maintains its editorial independence and made no promises to Enterprise Ireland, including about the content or quantity of coverage.


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