At the turn of the century, we started to see a movement towards the next generation of digital health. As with any movement, a moniker was slapped on and the industry started to coalesce around the term Health 2.0. Since that time, however, the name has fallen into what Dr. Dugan Maddux described in her September 28th post as “business lingo”—just another marketing term that does little to explain the movement’s goal in respect to patient care. So, what is that goal? The advancement of technology as an enabler for care collaboration.
Based on that definition, where are we now? To find out, I recently attended the Health 2.0 9th Annual Fall Conference in Santa Clara, CA. After 150 product demos, 130+ speakers, dozens of company launches, and several very lively panel discussions, I can safely say…we’re getting there. Let’s talk about a few highlights.
A commitment to sharing
At the heart of collaborating on patient care is the ability to share patient data across a wide variety of entities. This foundation of data sharing was the subject of many discussions at the conference, but it left me the most disheartened about where we are now.
Many companies are making great progress in establishing connections and transmission lines that will allow healthcare data to flow. In fact, solutions are everywhere. But I heard too many presentations that touted “our ecosystem” and access to “our network”. The going trend appears to center around the massive hub theory—with many players wanting to be that hub. But whom do providers hitch their wagon to? Or vendors? Or patients? I’d much rather see progress towards a truly open system (built on open APIs and open vendors) that will work due to the protocols in place, rather than due to the volume of participants locked in by a single or few vendors.
Parsing the data
For folks successfully participating in the hubs that do exist, another problem has quickly emerged. All of this focus on sharing means there will be (and already is) too much data! Thankfully, tools and technologies are being developed to filter through all of the content to create something meaningful.
Audience is key in this arena, as the definition of “meaningful content” is dependent upon the end user. For that reason, we are seeing progress across many areas. A company called CareSync™ gathers and organizes healthcare information, for the patient. They target patients dealing with a chronic or acute illness that requires care from many different providers across many different systems. Often, these patients simply don’t have the time or energy to stay on top of all of the data, and that is where CareSync™ steps in.
Similar tools for different audiences (which analyze data to help drive better patient outcomes) include Noona, for care coordinators, and Ayasdi, for providers. This is an intriguing and growing field, but even good ideas need cash flow to survive. I’m interested to see which companies find a business model that works.
Collaborating with the patient
Our next stop involves a dynamic that is often overlooked in the sphere of care collaboration. Typically, the “collaboration” component is thought of as collaboration across physicians in order to treat the patient. But we often lose sight of collaboration with the patient—to choose and follow the care plan that is right for them. Several new tools are hoping to change that by connecting physicians with patients outside of the office visit.
Conversa Health and HealthLoop both automate patient follow-up by sending emails or texts directly to the patient and, importantly, collecting the patient’s feedback and turning it into actionable data for the physician. This allows the physician to know who is doing well and who needs attention before their next follow-up—a great concept that I believe will be a key component as we move towards value-based care. Conversa’s tagline is a good one: “Health happens between visits. Healthcare should too.”
Also part of patient collaboration is home devices—particularly those that automatically upload patient data to a portal with physician access and alerts. Overlapping with the Internet of Things movement, you’d be hard-pressed to find a device that isn’t being built for connectivity—heart rate and blood pressure monitors, home EKGs, and even air-quality sensors. I’d like to see more progress in the analysis of the data before it’s presented back to the clinician (many are pure data dumps that could quickly prove useless due to the volume of data). But this particular area is buoyed by consumer demand and a hot market, so improvements are sure to come.
Collaborating across patients
Finally, what would a health conference be in 2015 if it didn’t discuss the buzzword du jour—population health management? In this case, I think it fits. Think of population health management as global collaboration on the global patient (if not on a world scale, at least the city, state, or nation).
The discussion at the conference was more of a call to action than an update on current tools. There were a lot of health geeks in the audience, myself included, so it was a great venue for governments and organizations (the California HealthCare Foundation, the CDC, and the Clinton Foundation, to name a few) to make a plea for better tools and technologies. That’s a clear indication that technology vendors aren’t yet meeting the needs of those responsible for managing population health.
So where are we now? As noted above, we’re making progress. But we have a long road to go. And that road is becoming increasingly crowded with too many choices that could hinder our ability to make a good selection. The AMA is starting to get involved in helping to locate and recommend the technologies that are good and valid. That might help, but it’s up to us as clinicians, vendors, and patients to keep abreast of the changes in digital health and voice our opinions on what we see. What are your opinions? Add a comment below and join the conversation.
Carl Schick is vice president of product development at Acumen Physician Solutions. He oversees all aspects of product development for Acumen’s many nephrology-specific products, including Acumen Mobile Charge Capture, a tool that improves patient care and revenue by interfacing the disparate systems nephrologists use in the office, hospital and dialysis units.