Health care transformation / Health news / Knowledge-powered tools / Long-Term Care / Technology

Past, Present and the Pace of Change!

November 23, 2016

Guest Post – Sachin Aggarwal, CEO

It’s been a busy time at Think Research! Earlier this fall we took the time to gather the entire team together to talk strategy for the tsunami of changes coming to our industry and our little company.

I’ve always believed an important element of planning for the future is a firm understanding of your past. Think Research has grown a lot in the last year and it’s been an incredible journey so far. I took the opportunity to share our story with the growing team, some having started in their positions that same week. I wanted to give everyone the benefit of understanding how Think Research got here, not to mention it’s a really great story, more importantly we’re about to launch into another transformational period of the company’s history.

When I started at Think Research in 2010, we were 5 people, we had a different name and our meetings were held at Abe’s dinner table. I came from a career in politics and business. I didn’t have the slightest idea about healthcare or technology. But, like any political campaign or business endeavor, you start with an idea of something people need.

It’s the idea that matters most.

Chris O’Connor’s idea that the best in medical knowledge should be standardized and available to everyone. The idea that if we spread the cost of organizing all of that knowledge across many organizations… the idea that through our network of hospitals, many hands make for light work in organizing best practices… and in doing so, everyone could get the best care.

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We had our idea!

In those early days, it was just the five of us, we had to learn so many new skills and use whatever tools we had at our disposal. I had to be:

  • the operating mind of the company
  • the lawyer
  • the salesman
  • the writer
  • the marketer
  • the helpdesk
  • the human resources professional.

And then in the midst of juggling all of these balls came the realization that the business in which we operated is in turmoil, and tomorrow will not look like today. The very definition of success, or what it means to be good was shifting around us. We woke up to the fact, that our present system of healthcare is unsustainable. From 2005 to 2015, health care spending grew from 34% of provincial spending to 41% of provincial spending, and is expected to be more than 50% of all Canadian provincial government spending by 2030.

But the problem is not governments. It’s not insurance companies. It’s not even the drug manufacturers. The problem is the complexity and pace of change that science gives us, and how we incorporate it into how we deliver healthcare.

Consider this – in 1965, a transistor was the size of a Christmas tree light. Today, to see a transistor, you’d have to enlarge a computer chip to the size of a house. If an Android phone were built using 1965 technology, the phone’s microprocessor alone would be the size of a parking space. Two-thirds of the jobs that newborns will hold don’t currently exist. The majority of our existing jobs will be a thing of the past.

The world we live in is changing, and changing fast. And that includes the pace of change of medical knowledge. Yesterday it was a drip. Today it’s a water fall. Tomorrow it’ll be a tsunami.

And yet, we still care for our sick like its 1929. We try to deploy this avalanche of knowledge, doctor by doctor, patient by patient, hospital by hospital, town by town. Relying on our clinicians to. And in doing so, we deprive the most vulnerable, the most marginalized, from any meaningful care at all. We have no methods, no strategies, no systems, to distribute the onslaught, the avalanche of knowledge that will come at us in the next decade, to our sickest and our most vulnerable.

We just can’t do it by ourselves. The pace of change coming to us in healthcare is frightening and awesome, at the same time. The sheer complexity means that the very tools, the values that were central to success in the past: autonomy, self-sufficiency, independence; are barriers today. Hard working, well-trained, brilliant clinicians would lift the world on their shoulders. There just aren’t enough of them, and they just can’t absorb the onslaught of knowledge.

Just like the early days of Think Research I couldn’t do 6 jobs effectively on my own. We have grown significantly over the last six years. And we will grow significantly in the coming year. We will specialize and we will automate, just like the industry we’re aiming to transform. We will preach and embrace change, and we will be the catalyst for it.

The doctors of the future will specialize further, the nurses will take over for our physician generalists, the pharmacists won’t just deliver drugs, but will prescribe and care for patients. You and your family will be much more responsible for your health. And yes, automation, software, and artificial intelligence will take over those tasks that are well known and no longer require human intervention. Not in 50 years, but in 5 years.

Sachin Aggarwal

So there is hope. The knowledge to treat that which ails us already exists today, or will soon exist. We have only to get it to the bedside. But who will synthesize all that knowledge? Who will rationalize it all? Who will organize it so everyone gets the best care?

Ultimately one team will lead that charge. My guess is that the story of that team is just being written. The name of that organization isn’t well known yet. But it will be soon.

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I’ve been here 6 years and every morning I feel like we’re just getting started. We began with an idea and now we have our mission – to organize the world’s health knowledge, so everyone can have the best care. I know the Think Research team is ready to lead that charge.

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