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Everyone Will See You Now: The Future of Digital Healthcare

There has never been a more exciting time to work in digital health. The combination of policy changes coming to life, the proliferation of digital platforms, data interoperability and customer demand creates the best opportunity to make an impact on health service delivery more than ever before. These were big mountains to climb, and many are still climbing them. As any obsessed climber knows, there are always new challenges and climbs to face.

There are four challenges that healthcare professionals need to consider to drive meaningful impact in patient-centered healthcare: making platforms work for customers, advancing data interoperability, fostering new health relationships and reimagining service delivery.

When being patient-centered is not enough: the imperative for change

While doctors have the mantra do no harm, those working in digital health should ask: Am I really improving healthcare? For a decade, “patient centricity” has been a hallmark for better health engagement and outcomes, spurring a movement away from a top-down, “paternalistic” style of modern medicine.

By harnessing digital technology, patient centricity seeks to democratize healthcare and empower patients to take charge of their health which ultimately delivers better health outcomes. Books have been written about it, hospital networks have hired chief experience officers to advocate for it, famous doctors have been champions of it and some have even started revolutions.

That said, it’s time to acknowledge that the concept of digital health, empowered by patient centricity, hasn’t yet fully delivered on its promise. To realize the necessary outcomes in the future, it’s important for the healthcare field to be transparent about how it adapts to the changing digital health journey.

How the past decade has set up healthcare to achieve its goals for the decade ahead

As of 2023, the cost of care in the U.S. continues to soar.  The first steam engine didn't transport passengers until 50 years after James Watt patented the steam engine, which was 57 years after Thomas Newcomen invented it. The progress made in the last ten years is not invalidated because the end goal hasn't been achieved (although, hopefully, it won't take 107 years). So, what has been achieved, and how does it build a framework for healthcare to achieve its goal of a fully patient-centric experience, allowing patients to focus on recovery and take charge of their health?

Patient experience design is mainstream.

The last decade has brought about an influx of focus on patient needs and understanding of their lives and conditions. The use of human-centered design tools—ethnographic research, personas, pain points, journey mapping, service blueprints and use cases—is now table stakes.

“The importance of designing for patient centricity has been picked up by policymakers and payers too—not just with CMS quality measures and star ratings, but in the value-based care contracts now forming 60 percent of incentive-based payments in 2023. Incentives now align to what we know about the importance of focusing on the patient, their needs and what they value.” – Hugo Manassei, GVP customer experience and innovation consulting

Digital point solutions are proven to work.

It is well established that digital health can solve some of healthcare’s most intractable problems, especially when it is focused on a particular need. Hence the rise of services aimed at men, women, the LGBTQ community and condition-specific services. Take post-heart attack support, for example, which is notoriously difficult to deliver, resulting in a large percentage of second heart attacks. As early as 2014, the Duke Cardiology Research Center launched Day-by-Day, the first-ever post-heart attack digital coaching service. It saw a 43 percent increase in medication adherence and a four-fold increase in people attending cardiac rehab, from 23 percent to 82 percent. These are two of the biggest indicators of a second heart attack. Providers know that people's lives can be improved if they engage in digital services that largely sit outside the mainstream patient pathways. But these need to be fully integrated into existing workflows in order to scale and make a real impact.

There is established demand.

2022 will be remembered as the year that digital drove demand at scale. According to a Rock Health study, telemedicine reached the 80 percent adoption mark in 2022. The study reports that for the first time, telemedicine surpassed in-person visits as consumers’ preferred channel for prescription refills, with 61 percent of respondents reporting a preference for telemedicine, and minor illness care, where 51 percent of respondents reported a preference for telemedicine. Offerings include the likes of Amazon Pharmacy and RxPass and appeal to consumer desire for convenience. Additionally, there are significant gains in digital health usage among rural, uninsured, 55+, women, and Hispanic groups, strongly indicating that digital can improve health access across demographics.

Government-backed initiatives such as the Enhancing Oncology Model are driving demand with requirements to create digital experiences and platforms that deliver personalized patient experiences in order to receive reimbursements. That said, digital engagement increases are largely siloed experiences, with provider portals, telemedicine and other point solutions still not connected.

Although the healthcare industry is well-versed in patient needs, it is crucial to design the right digital services that improve outcomes and reduce costs in order to meet those needs. The challenge of breaking silos is ever-present, and the full impact of digital health cannot be realized unless healthcare moves towards becoming a fully integrated personal health service. There needs to be less emphasis on what it needs to be, and more on how it needs to happen. This is the challenge of the next decade. These are the next mountains to climb.

Setting the challenge of the next decade

The market conditions are presenting themselves, and now is the time to move to a cohesive, ecosystem approach where the various parts work together in order to reduce the cost of care, improve outcomes and increase access. There are four key areas that, when organizations focus on them, accelerate their transformation into a successful part of the ecosystem.

The digital health revolution is here.

It’s been hard for healthcare leaders to fulfill the future impact of digital health. Until now. Finally, the “train has left the station” with data interoperability in place, making platform investments worth it, which will unlock innovation amongst startups and existing health organizations. Along with continued policy support, healthcare will undergo more significant changes in the next 10 years than in the previous 10. If the past decade was overly focused on defining what healthcare needs to be, the next decade will concentrate on how it needs to happen. It’s time to shift gears and make it happen, so we can scale impact on accessibility, cost reduction and improved outcomes.

Tim Lawless
Tim Lawless
Senior Vice President Sales and Leadership

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