Column: Winning the race in connected technology

Wright Lassiter III

In 2013, the average adult spent 4 hours and 31 minutes per day watching TV, and 2 hours 15 minutes on a mobile device, not including talk time. In 2017, the average time spent watching TV is trending downward at 4 hours, while the time spent on mobile devices is trending sharply upward, at 3 hours, 15 minutes (Source: GeoMarketing.com marketing report).

At the same time, the average time spent using a desktop or laptop computer is declining. These statistics suggest what we all see clearly, whether in line at the supermarket, driving on the highway, in the hospital, or on vacation: People are more connected to mobile devices and demanding mobility more than ever before.

There are certainly downsides to a hyper-connected society, but the upside is that there is now a platform for billions of individuals to not only collaborate socially but to manage their finances, households and, of course, their health. More than embracing “technology for technology’s sake,” the potential exists for us to use these devices to actually improve our health status and quality of life.

Imagine being able to tell Alexa or Siri that you’re not feeling well, and then have that device tell you that you’re running a fever, or your blood sugar is low. Imagine Alexa or Siri reminding you that you’re getting low on your blood pressure medicine, and perhaps you should refill your prescription before you take that vacation next week. Imagine getting a proactive call from your family physician, just checking to make sure you’re OK after noticing through your health portal that your heart rate spiked dramatically about an hour ago during your annual trip with the kids to Cedar Point. These ideas and many others were farfetched just a few years ago, and now they are very much within reach.

Michigan has been a leader in automotive engineering and manufacturing for many years, and yet the Great Recession of 2008 taught us that we cannot rest on our laurels if we are to continue to lead the way in creating change. Now, thanks to Ford and GM transitioning to mobility companies, the rise of technology corridors throughout the state, and the opening of Michigan offices of some of the biggest players in the technology world (e.g. Google, Amazon), “the Motor City is poised to the next hot spot for tech,” according to CIO.com.

The health care industry in this state is poised to do the same — and success is directly linked to understanding and responding to the voice of the consumer. Retail pharmacies, energetic startups and others are quickly looking to challenge incumbents and the traditional model of patient care, all around the basic premise of our growing consumer need to be connected at the push of a button, but with a very selective eye on value and quality. Precision medicine is another new horizon that is allowing physicians to develop personalized treatment at the molecular level, leading to more accurate treatment and prevention strategies. Millions of dollars in National Institutes of Health funding is being granted to Michigan researchers to take precision medicine to the next level by using algorithm-based data for actionable clinical decisions.

Can the health care industry in Michigan evolve from a place people have to go when they are sick to becoming the partner in managing your overall wellness and quality of life? The answer is a resounding yes but partnership means commitments on both sides. Much will depend on how well we compete in the race to connect individuals with the information and services that they need and want most.

Wright Lassiter III is president and CEO of Henry Ford Health System.