Real Talk: Innovation and Digital Health
Recent surveys show that healthcare leaders are increasingly prioritizing improved patient outcomes over cost-cutting measures, which gives a glimpse of how important the patient experience is already and will continue to become. Healthcare is more innovative today than ever before, with ideas like on-demand drone prescription delivery services taking off and research around the potential for virtual reality video games to improve one’s health breaking ground.
Digital health advancements will continue to improve the overall patient experience. This theme was ever present at the recent Oliver Wyman Health Innovation Summit 2019, which I had the pleasure of attending to see our client AbleTo speak about the intersection of healthcare and technology.
The conference left me inspired, having seen hundreds of healthcare leaders gather to discuss advancements in digital health and plan for healthcare of the future. Here are my three biggest takeaways:
Watch Care Come to You
One of the sessions I got to attend discussed healthcare’s “innovation inflection point,” highlighting recent changes in the delivery of care driven by technology. Many of the trends outlined were ones I’ve been very attuned to as a health tech PR pro working on various aspects of the consumerization of healthcare, but the historical context provided took things one step further.
For example, back in the day before modern medicine, doctors would come to your home to care for you. Over time, hospitals were built and established as central locations where doctors were based, and you came to your care. But today, and looking at the future, we’re seeing a trend where care is coming back to us thanks to technology – and doing so in a very personalized way. With telemedicine, we’re almost being taken back to a time when the doctor came to us, and our smartphones are serving as an active front door for that care.
Tech For Both Patient and Provider
As a consumer, I often think about the technology I use to interact with my physician and more broadly, improve my healthcare experience. Hearing two clinicians discuss how patient encounters have shifted due to technology was particularly interesting, because I rarely think about my physician’s experience with the technology – just my own.
Patient and physician desires for tech to interact with each other align so much – which is why it’s encouraging to see the growth of patient portals, for example, where individuals can communicate with their doctors (often on a mobile device). As a consumer, I want an easy, convenient way to reach my doctor with questions – and with the added flexibility to fit into my busy schedule. Clinicians simply want tech that’s going to help patients improve their health, but in a way that’s easy for them to use to meet this end. I’m excited to see how the industry further innovates, keeping in mind the needs of both clinicians and patients alike.
As a millennial, I’ve welcomed digital health apps that can aid my healthcare journey with open arms. I use my iPhone to manage almost every other aspect of my life (shout out to my Reminders app!). So if the opportunity to seek treatment through a digital therapeutic arose for some reason, I would have been very likely to do so without doing much background research on the app itself, simply because of the convenience. After attending the conference, what I learned about digital therapeutics is that this area holds so much promise for the delivery of care – but we need to proceed with caution.
Today, there is no standardized definition of our approach to digital therapeutics, and while there are some companies doing truly impressive work in this space, there are others that don’t quite measure up – and it’s difficult to differentiate the two! As digital therapeutics grow thanks to an industry-wide effort to make healthcare more convenient for consumers, it becomes even more important for the space to lift up the apps that are working to ensure quality treatment through regulations and have proven themselves with measurable outcomes. Digital therapeutics won’t succeed in improving patient outcomes if the industry doesn’t find a way of distinguishing a true therapeutic program from an unregulated lifestyle app.
The Future is Bright
While healthcare has historically been slow to innovate, we’re at such an exciting crossroads, where tools are finally being more widely used across the industry to improve outcomes, reduce costs and maximize the patient experience. I can’t wait to see how innovations in digital health not only improve my own healthcare experience, but also continue to transform healthcare for all.