There are many factors the digital health technology industry needs to get right to create the change it is dreaming of creating and boost the technology adoption.
As it stands, the future of healthcare is not looking good. In most high-income countries, including the UAE and other GCC states, the healthcare costs are increasing at a faster rate than their GDPs. This can be attributed to increasing incidences of chronic illnesses, increasing ageing populations and the increasing costs of drug development. These cost-driving factors are here to stay for a long time.
The question then boils down to this – Can we realistically assume that digital health technology has the potential to disrupt this pessimistic situation and fundamentally alter the way healthcare is being conceived, practiced and delivered to do away with the problems mentioned above or are we simply being naive, like most tech hyper-enthusiasts, in overestimating the impact of digital health?
The answers aren’t simple. There are multiple factors such as technical issues, legal problems, business models, policy bottlenecks, privacy concerns, systems and processes at work. While everybody understands how digital health technology impacts healthcare, in a general sense, it is difficult to identify the specific changes it would bring and how the existing healthcare models would react to it.
In this context, it was a pleasure to watch Digital Health Summit 2014’s Day Two panel session on a Digital Health Manifesto. Moderated by Dr. Reed Tuckson, it brought together some of the brightest minds in digital health (Margaret Anderson, Dr. Yan Chow, Todd Hixon, James Mault, Dr. Travis Stork and Grant Verstandig), representing diverse interests in the industry on one platform to discuss the role of technology in the future of healthcare.
We, at nuviun, have always believed and imagined a radically new healthcare landscape enriched and enhanced by digital health technology. Digital health is to healthcare what internet is to retail. Many views expressed at the Summit resonate closely with our beliefs and vision. Here are a few excerpts from the Digital Health Summit 2014’s session on the Digital Health Manifesto:
- Translate Innovation into Meaningful Engagement
The timelines for new medicines to go from laboratories to market must be sped up. Technology is not an end in itself. The patient should be the guiding star of innovation. Improving outcomes should be the focus rather than innovating for the sake of innovation. Unless digital health entrepreneurs keep the end user in mind, they will miss many opportunities to add value to the health ecosystem. More opportunities need to be created for cures and innovations to travel through the innovation pipeline more quickly to reach the patients.
- Insights, Not Data, is What is Important
The fitness revolution, the quantified self movement and mHealth apps generate a lot of data but little insight. Just because something can be tracked and measured does not make it worthwhile to do so. Data for the sake of data is not going to change much in the long run. To accelerate technology adoption, digital health technology should strive to meaningfully engage patients by not just making them aware of their health but also offer insights on which they can act upon and take charge of their lives to achieve better health outcomes.
- Empower the Patient
We strongly believe that the greatest impact digital health technology can have on healthcare industry is to make it patient-centric by empowering the individuals with insightful information in real-time when and where they want it to enable them change their behavioural patterns and manage their health to achieve better outcomes. And we want this to happen with complete ownership and control of patients over their health data.
- The Shifting Paradigm of Patient-Physician Relationship
Without disregarding the need for the physician to place hands on the patient, in most circumstances, care can be delivered to patients over telemedicine and digital health platforms without patients having to physically appear before physicians. The disruptive nature of this transition from physician-centric reactive model to patient-centric proactive model should not be underestimated. Digital health technology stakeholders must make an active effort to engage, educate and incentivise physicians to change their entrenched behaviours and adopt new technology and platforms more openly.
- There is a Need for an Enabling Regulatory Environment
Lack of regulatory mechanisms and standards about digital health technology is confusing many entrepreneurs about legal obligations and design specifications. On the other hand, with the US moving from a pay-for-procedure model to pay-for-outcome model which penalises underperformance and readmissions under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), hospitals and insurance organisations are rushing to adopt technologies that deliver better outcomes at affordable costs. This has produced a boost in digital health technology adoption.
- The Drive Towards Connected Care
Healthcare isn’t just an interaction between the patient and physician. There are multiple points of transition with multiple stakeholders. Digital health technology should focus on these transitions and relationships between different constituencies in the healthcare ecosystem. By improving the ease and effectiveness of transition from hospital to home and back to hospital and by improving the nature of interactions between patients and physicians and between patients and patients through telemedicine systems, remote patient monitoring and social networking, the digital health technology can bring a truly connected healthcare experience.
By making user experience and cost-effective value addition as their focus and leveraging a favourable environment created by the ACA, the digital health technology entrepreneurs have the opportunity to add huge value to the healthcare industry by striving to provide products, services and solutions that empower individuals to take charge of their health outcomes. We truly believe that we are on the cusp of such a phenomenal change.