Disruptive Technology Can Expand Healthcare Access

By Sean Singel
May 3, 2021

Just as technology has expanded access to – well, everything – technological innovation is a key to expanding healthcare access. One of the nation’s top experts in this area is Dr. Robert Graboyes, Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center.

In this article, I’ll give a brief summary of a fascinating interview with Dr. Graboyes, which highlights the changing nature of health tech. Dr. Graboyes discusses the ways that technology can be used to increase the quality of healthcare while simultaneously reducing costs.

The discussion covers technological innovations such as portable electrocardiogram (EKG) machines, telehealth, and medical drones. Dr. Graboyes also mentions the importance of conducting a risk-benefit analysis when evaluating innovative medical technology.

The portable EKG example Dr. Graboyes mentions regards a portable EKG machine that he has personally used. The machine has helped him determine if he needed to go to the emergency room due to a personal condition. The information that the portable EKG provides him has saved him tens of thousands of dollars by helping him avoid potential emergency room visits.

Dr. Graboyes also highlights the merits of telehealth through a story about how the technology impacted his own family. A physician was conducting a video conversation with Graboyes’ grandmother and determined that she had to go to the emergency room immediately because she was in the early stages of septic shock. Graboyes noted that the biggest barrier to more expansive implementation of telehealth practices that could help more patients is licensure restrictions. Since this interview was conducted in 2019, many states, including Mississippi, have relaxed their licensure restrictions as a reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Graboyes further discusses a story involving the use of medical drones to carry blood samples and blood supplies in Rwanda. He stated that the United States is researching the concept in North Carolina, and that its potential benefits are extraordinary.

Finally, he concludes the interview by seeking to quell the fears that many regulators have about embracing new technological innovations. It is important to measure the risks and benefits of each program. He recognizes that many people feel that we need to be more cautious about utilizing medical technology, but compared the technological advances in the medical industry to those in the information technology industry.

Graboyes notes that the IT industry has exploded in terms of advancements, but the healthcare industry has only made marginal advances by comparison. He believes that the reason for this is because of the regulations hampering medical technology growth.

There are risks that come with innovation in any industry, but if the benefits outweigh those perceived risks, then the pursuit is worthwhile. Graboyes compares the current healthcare industry to a fortress, focused on protecting the various professionals and industries dedicated to the current healthcare apparatus. He encourages innovation through a frontier model as an alternative to the fortress strategy. This model would encourage growth with less regulation, but with the potential for greater risk. However, as stated before, if the benefits outweigh the risks, it is worth pursuing the technology.

All in all, Robert Graboyes makes a compelling case for embracing new and innovative medical technologies that will potentially lead to higher quality care, and that will also reduce costs and reduce the frequency of hospitalizations. Instead of hindering these innovations, Mississippi should cut red tape to encourage the adaption of revolutionary medical technologies.


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