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The invasion of the techies

Artificial intelligence.  Block chain.  Wearables. Smart phones. Chatbots. Various combinations thereof.

All these tech wonder-things are working their way into workers’ comp…or at least trying to. I’ve been tracking this sporadically (who has time to monitor all the press releases announcing this revolutionary app or that whiz-bang solution??) and have come to a few conclusions.

  1. With rare exceptions, the companies developing and offering these “solutions” are founded and run by either a) clinicians or b) techies.
  2. Those run by techies seem to think they can stitch together a wearable thingie connected to a smartphone app and voila’! they’ve built a substitute for/adjunct to physical therapy.
    Of course, the techies KNOW tech, understand AI and video tracking of movements and integration of smart-phones with remote devices. What they do NOT know is medical stuff, what really happens in rehab, the role of the therapist/prescriber/patient, the realities of the therapy process, where things break down in the patient/therapist process/interaction and why. And a lot of other stuff I can’t think of this second.
    Oh, and patient engagement.  That’s kind of super-important.
  3. Those run by clinicians really understand the care process, clinical issues, the reality that effective therapy and recovery is driven largely by patient compliance. What they don’t get are the tech challenges, the singular importance of reporting information back to other stakeholders, the limits of technology and adoption/effective/consistent use of technologically-driven “solutions”.

So, tech-centric approaches rarely address patient engagement, compliance, or the obstacles thereto.

It doesn’t matter how great your tech is if people a) can’t figure out how to download it; b) don’t have a smartphone; c) can’t figure out the app/wearable/bluetooth connection/whatever; d) it isn’t specific to the needs of each individual patient (language, physical characteristics/comorbidities/functional limitations/pain levels, reading level, therapy needs and evolution of same…).

And it doesn’t matter how great your clinical expertise/knowledge/experience is if: a) the tech is clunky, b) your staff has to onboard/explain/coach/be tech support for your patients, c) the data collected isn’t automatically shared with stakeholders, and d) the data isn’t entirely secure yet accessible for reporting/analysis/research.

On that last point, no device/app/tech is helpful if other stakeholders (the therapist/prescriber/case manager/claims handler/employer) don’t get reports on progress and alerts on potential problems – especially if those reports and alerts aren’t easily accessible/pushed to them so they don’t have to go looking for them.

What does this mean for you?

Apple beat Microsoft because it made using a computer easy. Adoption of tech-enabled “solutions” requires making the entire process/use by all stakeholders “easy”.

Put more succinctly, Ideas don’t matter – execution does.


3 thoughts on “The invasion of the techies”

  1. Good post Joe. I am seeing a steady uptake in companies offering high tech digital solutions to monitor patients and provide corrective exercises at home or at work. Some pretty cool stuff coming on the horizon. All your points are valid. I think will see these tech tools/devices as nice adjuncts for a real live therapist/provider. However, what I am seeing from some of these new digital health companies is a reliance more on the tech and less on the provider. I don’t see that being effective in the long run. The therapy disciplines require real patient engagement so each treatment plan can be tailored to an individuals needs. I think if we approach this new tech as a tool to enhance the therapy process and better engage the patient will be on the right track. Too much reliance on the digital device or AI therapist/provider will not be helpful in the long run.

    1. Thanks for the note Mark.

      Agree on over-reliance on technology as problematic. Completely agree that therapist engagement – as well as patient engagement, is key to recovery and successful sustained return to work.

      Also agree these services/applications are a tool. Correctly used, they can be very helpful.

      best Joe

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates



A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.



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