Digital health has helped transcend care management by engaging patients and democratizing healthcare. The New York eHealth Collaborative’s Fourth Annual Digital Health Conference convened earlier last week to understand this idea, hoping to shape changes in healthcare and IT and to improve patient and care-giving experiences. The big idea: the need for greater democratization and interportability of personalized healthcare.
The conference brought together leading thinkers from across the ecosystem to share their understanding of how rapid changes will benefit customers who are expecting cost-effectiveness, greater transparency and better delivery models. Keynotes were presented by Eric Topol, MD, Director of Scripps Translational Science Institute and Ezekiel Emanuel, MD, Vice Provost for Global Initiatives & Chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at University of Pennsylvania – talk about star power!
The two-day conference was bustling with passionate entrepreneurs, astute venture capitalists, experienced industry leaders and novice enthusiasts, all looking to find their niche in the wave of healthcare innovation. Here are some breakthrough ideas that we thought were intriguing:
Digital health feeds the quantified self movement, as patients are now able to continuously monitor, digest and relay their body’s messages. This shift, while giving consumers more responsibility for their own care, has also altered the roles of traditional providers.
Dr. Topol believes that we can also expect a lot more house-calls – think Uber (although amid the company’s recent scandals, perhaps healthcare shouldn’t emulate them). This also means that entrepreneurs should move beyond fitness tracking and focus their energy on patient-intuitive medical solutions. it’s likely that patients will soon make their own diagnoses through at-home tests and will then rely on doctors for expertise.
Topol is a proponent of individualized medicine “from pre-womb to tomb,” he says. Genomics is still at its primal stages and the lack of its incorporation in basic healthcare is a desperately missed opportunity. Look at cancer – it is a genetic disease, yet we don’t use much of genomics in treating it. Undiagnosed diseases are crying for genomics to solve some of medicine’s greatest mysteries, Topol says.
Some folks in digital healthcare have become guilty of hoarding data from consumers and not using the insight for improved care, according to Topol. At present, fitness trackers and medical devices do not communicate with one another or with healthcare providers. The industry needs to tackle the issue of privacy and incorporate data for effective patient care and leaner delivery system. Topol also addressed the $3 trillion elephant in the room: the ownership of data. He affirmed that patients should own their information – and hospitals and doctors have no entitlement to it. This received a roaring applause from the crowd. The path towards improved healthcare is improved transparency, he says. Digital health can help us move beyond the “ignorant patient” mindset and entrust consumers with their care.
France’s GDP for 2013 was $2.7 trillion; the United States spent $3 trillion on healthcare alone. This number is… discomforting at best. Dr. Emanuel believes that America is spending “luxury goods” on mediocre healthcare; price is driving purchase decisions and chronic illness is draining it, he says. Among his solutions are finding better measurements for quality care and predicting high-risk patients for prevention interventions. There will be a push towards high-end specialty care and team based delivery vs. commodity care. Similarly to Topol, Emanuel predicts that hospitals will become a relic as telemedicine and home-care soar.
The marriage of healthcare and IT is alleviating some of the above challenges with greater patient awareness and engagement. There’s immense potential in data mining and utilization and improved patient compliance, according to the event’s speakers. There will also be enhanced convenience, as consumer-based organizations like CVS and Walmart will cover basic healthcare needs. However innovation can’t solve everything, as there’s still money being made in the traditional silo. Payment reform is necessary for a change incentive.
Alan Greene of Scanadu believes that if we give people the tools to take care of loved ones, they will. Challenges like data accuracy, FDA regulations and payment models are short-term hurdles that shouldn’t detract entrepreneurs from long-term potential. The resounding theme was in designing digital health platforms that are seamless and woven discretely into our lives. Finding this value is the challenge for 2015 – are you up for it?
Shreya specializes in health communications and is a copywriter for an advertising agency. She was previously at Bayer Healthcare, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide
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