As we re-examine the healthcare system in the wake of the pandemic, we are continually identifying opportunities to rebuild parts of the system to new and improved specifications. One critical facet is digital health, where we continue to struggle with what should really be table stakes: the ability to integrate data from disparate organizations and systems into a unified view of the whole person and take action.
During the height of the pandemic, telehealth made it possible to deliver care that was personal yet socially responsible. As a direct benefit, the use of digital health tools on both the clinical and consumer side picked up a tremendous and timely head of steam. But what will become of these innovations once we make our eventual return to normal?
Today, many healthcare consumers can talk to a therapist or a counselor through text, monitor glucose levels through a diabetes app and meet with their primary care provider over videoconference. The challenge is that a lot of this patient data is still landlocked in electronic medical record (EMR) systems that do not communicate or coordinate with one another or with payer systems or consumer apps.
The sustainability and applicability of digital health tools are still often questioned despite reports that investors had poured a staggering $5.4 billion into the digital health industry just by June of this year (Rock Health). The key to success is to seamlessly connect these tools with legacy systems and siloed access points to create a truly integrated healthcare continuum. Jumping between systems, each holding only its own limited slice of patient data, and then trying to take action on this data, is neither scalable nor sustainable.
Healthcare consumers have long looked at the seamless nature of apps in other areas of life and asked for a similar level of accessibility and on-demand, high-quality information from the healthcare system. Accenture found in its 2020 Digital Health Consumer Survey that although consumers are interested in virtual services, a cumbersome digital experience turns them off. Additionally, the survey found that concerns over privacy, security, and trust remain, along with difficulty integrating new tools and services into day-to-day clinical workflows.
The good news is that the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) has made several major data exchange rulings this year that will push providers and payer organizations to update legacy systems to make consumer health data more assessable and sharable across all parties, all for the benefit of the patient.
The Stage is Set: Healthcare Leaders Must Act, Now
The incredible investments in the industry, increasing consumer demand, and data sharing regulation show that healthcare connectivity and interoperability have never been more essential. To ensure that the digital health transformation and remote healthcare delivery models progress optimally beyond the current environment, we must support healthcare organizations in evolving their infrastructure and software capabilities to support this kind of strategy. This is where health tech has a critical role to play in building flexible pipes to connect the full spectrum of repositories and players, including doctors, specialists, nurses, care managers, health coaches, caregivers, and, of course, the healthcare consumer.
What does this look like in practice? Imagine if an unusually high heart rate warning was triggered by a patient’s smartwatch, which then alerted the patient’s care manager to check-in. With a comprehensive view of that patient, the care manager calls the patient to assess if they are okay and learns the patient ran out of their prescription which helps lower the heart rate. Knowing that patient does not have access to a car and is afraid to take public transportation due to COVID-19, the care manager then sets up a prescription delivery straight to that patient’s doorstep.
Through this process, digital health tools, patient data, and social determinants of health all came together to equip that care manager to deliver personalized care to the patient. Sound like sci-fi? This innovative approach can actually be a reality for organizations that manage large populations. The key is educating more healthcare leaders about the benefits of a comprehensive healthcare platform that improves health outcomes, lowers costs and increases member satisfaction.
This all starts with a platform that coordinates and aggregates the siloes of data and tools (clinical and digital) into a central hub. that allows providers to oversee the access points, plans, and processes in a patient’s healthcare journey without the task of building or maintaining the system themselves. This can be a game-changer in the way we assess and treat patients and help the industry to fully realize the dream of truly comprehensive, coordinated care.
About Adam Sabloff
Adam Sabloff is the founder and CEO of VirtualHealth, provider of HELIOS, the leading SaaS care management platform, serving more than 9 million members across the U.S. Prior to VirtualHealth, Sabloff served as VP of Development and Chief Marketing Officer for Midtown Equities, a $7 billion real estate, media and aviation conglomerate, where he also oversaw its technology subsidiary, Midtown Technologies.