The Possibilities Of A Digital Health System
It’s exciting to see the possibilities that a digital health system has to offer, but the proper resources are needed if we plan on reshaping the future of care. Patients have experienced the freedom and flexibility that modern technology solutions have provided in nearly every other aspect of their lives — from shopping on Amazon to calling friends and families using FaceTime and Skype, requesting an Uber or Lyft from anywhere, anytime, and accessing social media on mobile devices. This same type of flexibility has seen a demand for the healthcare market, creating a new way for interaction with healthcare professionals. While this demand has been increasing over the past few years, many healthcare professionals started their career before the thought of implementing digital technologies within the healthcare spectrum. At the same time, healthcare providers and organizations are under increasing pressure to treat a greater number of patients in a more cost-effective way. In turn, the adoption of digital therapeutics and other digital health technologies has skyrocketed. While more providers and organizations continue to adopt digital health technologies, adoption alone will not drive innovation and help achieve better outcomes for patients.
A changing healthcare industry brings new roles and responsibilities to healthcare provider organizations. Experts that recently attended the 2018 HIMMSS Digital and Personal Connected Health conference agree; innovation is one of the most desired things in healthcare, but it’s also one of the most poorly understood. Adopting new technology just to adopt new technology is a mistake.
Defining And Distinguishing Digital Therapeutics From Other Digital Technologies
As more of our healthcare interventions are focused on chronic rather than acute diseases, behavioral therapy is surpassing pharmaceutical intervention as first-line therapy.
While there’s not a fully agreed-upon definition of digital therapeutics, in this article I will use a broad definition. The definition chosen is from the Digital Therapeutics Alliance (DTA), which represents the healthcare industry’s leading manufacturers of clinically validated digital therapeutic (DTx) solutions. DTA’s mission is to broaden the understanding, adoption, and integration of digital therapeutic solutions into mainstream healthcare through education, advocacy, and research. Healthcare that uses innovative, clinically-validated disease management and direct treatment technologies to enhance, and in some cases replace current medical practices and treatments. According to the DTA, these clinically-validated solutions may be used as standalone interventions or in association with other treatments to engage patients and improve the overall quality, cohesion, outcomes, and value of healthcare delivery.
One rapidly-growing approach to healthcare delivery has been telemedicine. Although the deployment and management of telemedicine have been around for more than two decades, it has really achieved impressive adoption rates in the past five years. A number of research studies indicate that telemedicine is now a multi-billion-dollar industry that is expected to enjoy healthy double-digit growth rates well into the next decade. One survey found that up to 40 percent of doctors visits were unnecessary and could have been handled remotely. Cutting down on unnecessary doctors visits provides many potential benefits. Introducing telemedicine will be an important part of the patient engagement process for healthcare organizations moving forward.
Potential benefits include:
- The ability to see more patients in less time
- Improved quality of care through more patient engagement
- Reduced costs
- Easier scheduling
- Improved patient satisfaction
Change Requires Engaging The Industry
Digital therapeutics will be the first-line treatment for chronic disease. As organizations consider implementing new technologies or digital therapeutics within their standard of care, the most undeniable element is that it represents powerful change. Change is understandably hard and often times met with resistance. It is not easy to adapt to change quickly and as we continue towards a connected healthcare environment, resistance will be a risk. But healthcare is smart; we can do it. We are natural lifelong learners…it will just take time and proper resources. And while organizational goals will vary, there are common practice goals that can be achieved through digital health technologies and digital therapeutics. These goals include:
- Increase revenue
- Improve accessibility
- Improve outcomes and care plan compliance
- Reduce hospital readmissions
- Improve patient satisfaction scores
- Attract new patients
- Improve patient loyalty
Across the board, interoperability has been a large focus area for digital therapeutics and digital health technologies. Afterall, healthcare providers deserve technology that lets them focus on what really matters: patient care. The demand for digital clinical workspaces will intensify as the natural productivity and mobility benefits become more integrated into health care delivery strategies. As health systems seek to forge an integrated, high-value network, an assessment of current resources and clinical capabilities is necessary. For the most part, patients are undoubtedly the most underused resource. This provides a huge opportunity for the healthcare delivery system that many other industries don’t have the opportunity to collaborate with.