Digital Health: Innovations Transforming the Management of Chronic Disease

Last week, Shari Tordoff and I stepped out of our traditional educational box and attended the 2017 HITLAB Innovators Summit to learn and experience the emerging innovations in digital health. It was an exciting, and sometimes daunting conference where we were presented with the many opportunities, challenges, barriers, and innovations unfolding in this field at a dizzying pace. Make no mistake about it, healthcare delivery is changing and many of the changes are being driven by entrepreneurs and patients that are eager to experience healthcare on their terms and their turf. If an individual sees their healthcare provider four times per year for 15 minutes, that leaves 8,759 hours per year that they are alone with their disease challenges. Digital technology is providing tools for individuals, and not just for tech savvy millennials, to make better choices about their chronic disease management.

Key Learnings from HITLAB
Digital health is definitely not a field of dreams “build it and they will come” venture. Of the over 312,000 health apps that are available, 80% have less than 5,000 users. Technology is important, but it is important for all stakeholders to remember it is not as powerful as human touch. Marrying technology and touch is an important consideration for developers. The biggest chronic disease for seniors is social isolation. Prolonged social isolation can equal the health risks of smoking 15 cigarettes a day, according to a report from the AARP Foundation. How can technology address the issue of social isolation which poorly impacts health and patient outcomes?

Patients will be drivers of change and the better informed and more engaged they are, the greater likelihood of improved outcomes. We must recognize opportunities to embrace change where patients live. Change is difficult. Barriers to innovation are usually people and process. Building that bridge between providers and patients—a bridge that includes education—can enable solutions to become reality.

Data, data, data. Capturing data, sharing data, and analyzing data will lead to a better understanding of behavior patterns and the patient drivers that are related to medication adherence, exercise, lifestyle modification, etc. as part of disease management. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are exciting developments but don’t always show the whole story. Data put into the hands of providers at the point of care can better inform their treatment decisions.

What Has Us Excited?
The opportunity to be a part of the digital movement that helps patient self-manage their chronic disease is incredibly energizing! Education is essential to keep the excitement and momentum going once the newness of the app, device, wearable, or technology wears off. We believe a digital health technology/education partnership can advance digital health in three key ways:

  • Generate awareness of new technologies to help patients self-manage their disease.
  • Create a digital bridge between providers and patients. Any new program needs integration across stakeholders. Providers need to see the value of these technologies as extensions, not replacements of their care. Education to patients complements the high tech with high touch.
  • To better understand what the data reveals about the impact of social determinants on patient outcomes so that action can be taken to address patient needs.

Transformation of healthcare by digital health is upon us and we need to prepare the healthcare landscape to move and transform along with it. One of my favorite quotes from HITLAB came from Jessica Federer, former Head of Digital Health Development at Bayer, “It is easier to turn the road left than get everyone to make a left-hand turn.” We at CME Outfitters are excited to put our mark on digital health in 2018 by helping to turn the road toward these improvements and we look forward to sharing our successes and learnings along the way.

For more insights from HITLAB, check out #HITLABSummit and @sharit4212 who was tweeting like crazy!

Jan Perez
Managing Partner
CME Outfitters, LLC
Follow me on Twitter: @jansperez