By Dr. Harietta Eleftherochorinou, vice president 0f innovation ventures, IQVIA.
Patients, health systems and CROs are embracing digital health, as indicated by the number of digital health apps, digital diagnostics, digital biomarkers, digital therapeutics and devices being created. At the same time, over a third of these apps don’t survive longer than a year, devices struggle to get regulatory approval, digital biomarkers are yet to be proven, while digital diagnostics and digital therapeutics are not cheaper alternatives to the standard of care. The question skeptics therefore have is “what is the real value of digital health to patients and the healthcare systems?” Below, there are several tangible value-points of digital health in quantified metrics to give an answer.
The digital health innovation market is experiencing exponential growth. Investments of $24 billion were made globally in digital health in 2020 according to the IQVIA Institute Digital Health Trends 2021 report. And according to CBInsights, in 2021, $39.6 billion were invested on digital health alone, out of the total $100 billion invested globally in healthcare startups. These investments are resulting in greater numbers of mobile apps, wearable devices and other digital tools.
Digital apps are redefining the health experience
Multiple types of digital health tools contributed to mitigating the impact of the pandemic and are now established part of the digital health landscape. Consumer apps remain the most widely available and used digital tool with more than 90,000 new digital health apps added in 2020 — an average of more than 250 apps per day — resulting in over 350,000 apps currently available. Apps are increasingly focused on health condition management rather than wellness management, with the former now accounting for 47% of all apps in 2020, up from 28% in 2015, and with mental health, diabetes and cardiovascular disease-related apps accounting for almost half of disease-specific apps. Downloads and use of apps are heavily skewed with 83% of apps being installed fewer than 5,000 times and collectively accounting for less than 1% of total downloads, while a cohort of 110 apps have each been downloaded more than 10 million times and in aggregate make up almost 50% of total downloads.
Moreover, patients have easy, mobile access to health information and quality healthcare. For example, the Moodpath app allows users to track their mental health through cognitive behavioral therapy. At the same time, mobile apps connect doctors with patients who need assistance in real-time, thus easing the burden on healthcare workers. HealthTap is one such mobile app which offers 24×7 virtual assistance to patients by connecting them to certified doctors through call, text, or video call. .The value is increased patient engagement, patient education on one’s own condition and patient centricity coming to life rather than talked about.
Positive results from digital therapeutics
With the incorporation of technology to assist with the treating, preventing and managing of specific diseases, innovation amongst digital therapeutics and digital care products is increasing. According to the IQVIA report, Digital Therapeutics (DTx), and Digital Care (DC) products — incorporating software to treat, prevent or manage specific diseases or conditions — have been proliferating. Over 250 such products are now identified, including about 150 products that are commercially available, and the rest in development.
Digital therapeutics, which typically focus on a narrow clinical indication and generate evidence of clinical efficacy, follow a development path that typically requires market authorization by a regulatory body and sometimes a prescription from a provider, though some may be exempt. Neurologic and psychiatric conditions are a key focus of both DTx and DCs, making up over two-thirds of all DTx indications and over 40% of DCs, respectively, with DCs also used by patients suffering from endocrinology, oncology and cardiovascular conditions.
An essential part of being a healthcare provider, in any capacity, is understanding population health management. This discipline offers a window into the health of a selected population and helps providers understand how a particular demographic is influenced through key indicators such as geography, genetics, medical history, and socioeconomic factors.
In addition to narrowing the focus on specific clinical issues, applying population health strategies can help to address inequities and improve health outcomes.
Putting population health strategies into practice is faced with numerous inherent systemic challenges.
Monitoring and tracking chronic illness rates and outcomes over large and diverse populations
Processing multiple data points simultaneously from multiple source points
Identifying high-risk patients, risk stratification, and grouping by specific, clinical conditions, co-morbidities, or predictive risk models
Additionally, looming over the entire healthcare industry is the growing physician shortage and the fact that hospital employment is expected to decrease by almost 96,000 employees in about two years.
Digital solutions are emerging as a much-needed approach to maximize the utilization of available resources, meet the growing need to meet patients in a virtual setting, and streamline demanding workflow. They can streamline implementation and enable quicker, easier outreach to targeted populations. They can enable improved patient care and community outreach. Digital solutions can also support data integration and interoperability for a more complete view of the patient, can assist with targeted patient outreach, and can allow results and outcomes to be monitored and tracked.
Benefitting patients, providers, and the community
Regardless of how a healthcare organization addresses population health strategies, at its core, it involves collaboration between leaders in healthcare and the community. Factors that make up the complete picture of individual and population health span health behaviors, for example, tobacco use, diet and exercise, and alcohol and drug use as well as access to care and quality of care.
Organizations need be able to prioritize, process, and integrate a multitude of data sources, data sources to provide better transparency into the population’s health history and health journey. This transparency helps better manage networks, risks, opportunities, and strategies to improve health efficiently.
Effective population health strategies will allow for better patient management and care by enhancing communication with the patient, coordinating care, lowering health and other risks, and processing and aggregating data. The end goal for population health is to enhance the outcomes and quality of care while managing costs. Digital solutions and technologies are emerging as valuable tools to make this a reality.
Now an integral part of our daily lives, digital technology connects every aspect of our world. Innovation, especially in the digital ecosystem, is occurring rapidly. Nevertheless, there is an immense opportunity to improve various populations’ well-being through digital health solutions.
Healthcare continues to change and evolve as time goes on. It’s essential that with the advancements in technology that doctors, hospitals, and medical practices alike keep up.
Your top priority as a provider should be your patients and their overall experience working with you. In a digital era, this can be a tough transition if you’re set in your old ways and not online. If you want to provide the ultimate care and earn respect in the industry then you must embrace technology. Learn four ways to optimize the digital patient experience in healthcare.
Launching amobile-friendly website is one way to optimize the digital patient experience in healthcare. Make sure that it’s easy to access and read on a mobile device. Include all pertinent information and ensure that your patients don’t become frustrated or confused when viewing your site on a phone or tablet. Also, you may want to consider sending out reminders via text message and giving patients the ability to schedule appointments online through your website. Your patients will appreciate being able to hop online and make an appointment instead of having to wait on hold on the phone.
While the COVID-19 pandemic forced healthcare into a reactionary crisis state in 2020, 2021 offered an opportunity to rethink traditional care delivery models. Divergent views on vaccines, powerful COVID-19 variants and ongoing capacity issues have shown that providers, and the technology companies that support them, will need to continue to evolve in order to serve patients effectively.
As we look towards 2022, experts at Wolters Kluwer Health, a clinical technology and evidence-based solutions provider, outlined their predictions for next year and what they think it will take to properly equip providers to deliver the best care everywhere.
Building trust in an age of digital information overload
Digital health investment in 2021 has focused mostly on technology innovation and workflow improvements. What I’m seeing in the digital health space is akin to the implementation of EMRs, which really focused on the technology itself and not the content inside, which creates the experience for both clinical users and consumers. What’s missing from digital health strategy, and what providers will need to focus on in 2022, is increasing access to high-quality, evidence-based health content that consumers and providers alike can trust and understand. This ease of access is crucially important to overcome the infodemic of COVID-19, with an influx of misleading and rapidly evolving information we’ve seen expand across all areas of healthcare. Effective, engaging digital health requires more than the right technology, but a full-fledged experience that informs and motivates consumers towards evidence-based action.
Jason Burum, general manager, Healthcare Provider Segment, Clinical Effectiveness, at Wolters Kluwer, Health
More compliance, less burden
The pressures of COVID-19 spurred USP to issue interim guidance that provided flexibility for compounding pharmacies, but 2022 is likely to represent a return to stricter compliance. In September, USP issued a Notice of Intent to Revise (NITR) for both USP <797> and USP <795>. With COVID-19 cases continuing to surge across the country, I anticipate hospitals and pharmacy staff in 2022 will increasingly rely on expert solutions and technology to automate and standardize compounding operations in accordance with best practices and the latest compliance requirements. Burnout and technician shortages are happening in pharmacies too and software tools will help alleviate burdens pharmacy staff face right now.
Annie Lambert, PharmD, BCSCP, Clinical Program Manager for Compliance Solutions for Clinical Surveillance & Compliance, Wolters Kluwer, Health
Pitting AI against HAIs
Data show that while hospitals have allocated more resources to infection prevention and control efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, it has largely come at the expense of controlling other far too common healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). It’s true that a larger volume of sicker patients at higher risk of infection and sepsis have been admitted to the hospital over the last year, but the CDC concluded that 2020 increases in HAIs were also a result of lacking surge capacity and other operational challenges. Looking ahead to 2022, as hospitals take aim at controlling all HAIs in addition to COVID-19 with more resilient care teams, they will be looking more closely than ever at AI-powered technology to support proactive and real-time monitoring of patients to empower staff with quick risk identification abilities and opportunities for earlier clinical intervention.
Mackenzie Weise, MPH, CIC, Infection Prevention Clinical Program Manager for Clinical Surveillance & Compliance, Wolters Kluwer, Health
Telemedicine grows up
Contrary to some news stories, telemedicine will prove resilient well past the pandemic and will establish itself as a permanent, significant fixture in the healthcare ecosystem. In 2022, I expect healthcare providers themselves will strengthen and formalize training to research and promote telehealth best practices to their clinicians. It’s already happening, and I expect to see specialties like mental health and urgent care shifting to a predominantly virtual model in 2022. Ultimately, I believe that the rise of telehealth will drive more dialogue around modes of access as an issue not only of tech but also equity in the years to come. This in turn will have big impacts in the future of medical practice.
Vikram Savkar, vice president and general manager, Medicine Segment of Health Learning, Research & Practice
Modern medicine is constantly evolving. Whether it’s wireless stethoscope or infrared scanning that can detect minuscule cancers, it’s nothing short of amazing. And as we continue to dive deeper into technology, as a healthcare provider, you might be wondering how this can benefit both you and your patients. Read on to learn about the latest health IT trends and how they can help your practice.
During the height of COVID, healthcare facilities had no choice but to find ways to treat patients. And while virtual care isn’t necessarily new, it became the go-to choice to treat patients who otherwise wouldn’t be seen. And even though most medical establishments are seeing patients in office, virtual care is still being utilized.
By Juan Pablo Segura, president and co-founder, Babyscripts.
In a crisis, finding the “right” solution is much less important than finding the “right now” solution. During the COVID-19 pandemic, clinical practices scrambled to quickly transition care out of the office, with some practices fully turning over to virtual strategies in the course of a single weekend — and they used whatever means available to do so.
Relaxed HIPAA restrictions and expanded CPT codes made it easier for practices to leverage the tools at hand to help with remote delivery of care — whether it was using the EMR to patch together messaging or collect vitals or Facetime and Zoom to get video visits off the ground — the boomerang went out to the market to capture a solution simply to plug the hole in the dike.
But now that the crisis has abated, leaders are turning their attention away from quick fixes to think about the long-term sustainability of pandemic solutions.
Physician buy-in is no longer the challenge that it was — the urgency for virtual solutions in the face of the pandemic leapt that barrier, and the success of remote care for managing patients through the crisis proved its value. Covid-19 has accelerated a massive behavioral change around digital health — providers are more willing to prescribe it, and patients even more receptive to using it.
In order not to lose these massive gains in digital adoption and changing mindsets, though, leaders need to think more holistically about digital health and virtual care. They need to consider and address questions of scale and ease of use. Makeshift solutions like drive-through blood pressure measurements worked in a pinch, but how do they function when the weather changes? When people can’t take off work?
Leaders know that efficiency and optimization is crucial to clawing back margin and to transition away from massive losses. So, in response to these changes, a few thoughts:
A major subject of concern amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic spread and related financial crisis is- could this situation be the trigger for a new era of technology and emergence of widespread acclamation of digital health platforms and applications?
The massive outbreak of dreaded coronavirus has brought about a radical change in what is usually perceived as “normal.” With over more than million cases worldwide, COVID-19 has sent a wave of fear across the masses, causing an upheaval not only in their lives but also across various economies and businesses, given the stringent lockdown policies.
Major industry verticals have been touted to be severely affected by the pandemic explosion. However, one of the industries that has been successful in keeping its business alive amid the ongoing financial crisis is the digital health market. The corona pandemic has demonstrated the pivotal role of digital health in the medical fraternity. Although digital health was already on the rise before the humongous pandemic spread, in the wake of the virus, it will become an integral part of the routine medical treatment in the years ahead.
At this time, digital health stands as an ideal solution for both the healthcare professionals and patients as it completely reduces the risk of infection spread while offering complete and accurate healthcare expertise. While the global scientific community is racing towards development of effective vaccines or therapeutics, digital health remains the most essential defense.
The proliferation of artificial intelligence, cutting-edge technologies, and big-data have been majorly responsible for advancing digital health and are expected to drive the demand for the same over the next few years. COVID-19 undeniably, is anticipated to stay for a longer period of time due to delay in proper treatment methods and vaccines.
In this scenario, numerous tech firms are trying to get involved in digital health while undertaking various distinctive measures. For instance, IBM, a tech giant, in March, announced the launch of coronavirus map and application for keeping a track of COVID-19 infections.
According to official sources, the company’s The Weather Channel has introduced new tools for tracking coronavirus infection. The app would showcase estimated COVID-19 cases on the map that would further help individuals and business establishments to keep a track on the spread of virus around them. Above that, the free tools are likely to run on the IBM public cloud and implement IBM Watson with an intent of scrutinizing data from the WHO in tandem with state and national government bodies.
Even before the outbreak, digital technology was at peak in China and was extensively used to accelerate, optimize, and complement health care services, which enabled the region to make use of these in difficult times like the ongoing health crisis.
By Matt Henry, senior manager consultant, Denver, Point B; Talia Avci, managing consultant, Chicago, Point B; and Ashley Fagerlie, managing consultant, Phoenix, Point B.
As the COVID-19 crisis disrupts traditional care delivery, digital tools such as telehealth are making it possible to deliver care outside your facility’s walls. Here’s how to prepare your organization both now and in the future.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare has literally left the building. With millions of Americans under orders to stay home, in-person care delivery and elective procedures have been effectively shut down, elevating the need for alternative care delivery options.
Health systems are in a crisis, balancing heroic action to ramp up and support their communities through the COVID pandemic with existential threats to established service line revenue and cost structures. The importance of using technology to extend reach and effectiveness of your mission has never been greater.
While other industries have spent years disrupting traditional operating models to deliver online engagement to meet customer needs, healthcare has lagged due to many practical, economic, regulatory, cultural and quality of care reasons.
As health systems prepared for a surge in infectious patients, many have leveraged their digital front door as a way to deliver credible information, guide care, and deliver safe and effective services to patients.
Taking lessons learned, the time is now to plan for your post-COVID plans and how your digital front door can extend your mission as you intentionally re-open your care facilities.
Re-imagine access: As you build your strategy, consider how new front door solutions are being offered by non-traditional ‘providers’, like Anthem, Walgreens and CVS/Aetna, to address gaps in the primary care landscape.
These gaps include inaccurate online health information, lack of access to personal health information, long wait times for appointments, lack of price transparency and other issues that impact patients along their care journey.
Barriers can be addressed by tools that assist in triaging, medication adherence, capacity management as well as two-way patient communication via websites, patient portals and apps.
Anthem has partnered with a digital health start-up, K Health, to offer symptom triaging to their 40 million members to provide care guidance and access. Members provide their symptoms to an AI-enabled algorithm and can text directly with providers for advice. Walgreens, with locations that are accessible by 78% of the U.S. population, has launched Find Care, which offers everything from lab tests to virtual consults.
CVS/Aetna has spent nearly 10 years building out digital health tools, focusing on medication adherence, with the power to leverage data as a pharmacy, payer and retail clinic to connect with their patients. Other organizations are launching chat bots for assessments and triage or more deeply leveraging remote patient monitoring for care. Each of these digital front door tools is changing how patients access care.