By Dan Spors and Kyle Dolbow, HealthFactors, Inc.
As patient-centered care and mHealth have become driving forces in health care, digitally connected health technologies have emerged as a solution to engage patients and collect data. Many of these technologies are geared toward patients with chronic and complex conditions, which account for 81 percent of all hospital admissions, 91 percent of prescriptions filled, and 76 percent of doctor visits. But patient and provider adoption of these devices can be a challenge.
It’s not that people don’t want technology. Patients and providers just want the right kind of technology with proper clinical support and needed guiding evidence in place. When asked why physicians implemented technology into their practice, participants in a PwC Health Research Institute Spotlight report said they did so to:
So how can connected technologies prove their worth and appeal to patient and physician needs? This goes beyond FDA validation. Health-care systems want technologies that patients and staff can use and understand.
When people think about information and interactions associated with digital health, they may often think of security, privacy, and interoperability. Along with those highly important items, the FDA now considers real-world evidence a part of the review process for medical devices.
Real-world results include data that demonstrate evidence of a product’s ability to improve outcomes and lower costs outside of a clinical research setting, or allow the same outcomes to be achieved in a more effective way. The ability to show that connected devices produce results for patients in real-world settings also increases the likelihood that health systems and patients will adopt the technology. And this, along with hard data about outcomes, ultimately provides the basis for reimbursement under value-based contracts.
Evidence about patient adherence with prescribed care plans and medications can help reduce the incidence of costly complications and improve health outcomes. And that benefits everyone.
For example, imagine the benefit of knowing not only how many times a patient with asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) used their inhaler, but how much of the medication was successfully received and when the medication was dispensed. This data can be used clinically to make a difference in follow-up care, lifestyle management, and patient support.
An effective connected health program will gather valuable data, but first, companies must ask some important questions, such as:
The answers to these questions may differ depending on whether the company is an established medical device manufacturer or a new company. According to the PwC Spotlight report, established companies traditionally emphasize clinical technology used by providers, with a recent shift into expanding beyond the device. New entrants into med-tech focus more on enabling clinical technology and at-home care, with services and broader solutions ingrained in the product.
The report also shows that successful medical device companies share some significant characteristics: Five out of the top 10 offer customized solutions independent of their product offerings; seven out of 10 have undergone organizational changes reflecting a shift toward services-based offerings; and all 10 companies provide training and educational resources. All companies surveyed share a focus on patient-centricity and are focused on evolving payment models.
Organizational Benefits Of Digitally Connected Programs
When health-care providers analyze data from patients and use that data to produce a connected device, they can see short- and long-term business benefits, including:
How Your Company Can Systematically Introduce Connectedness
The key to implementing connected solutions is to choose what you want to offer and establish the right partnerships. First, a medical device or life sciences company must decide whether to offer solutions or products. New companies are building consumer-centered services into their commercialization models, while established companies must examine the opportunities for value-based payment models prior to expanding their offerings. Those who choose not to focus on solutions should still include the customer or patient perspective in product designs.
Next, find partners that support the technology requirements of your connected device. Depending on your device, potential partners might include one who can implement sensor technology, a mobile application, cellular and cloud-based data storage and transfer, adherence protocols, or remote monitoring. When you align yourself with the right partners, you can realize:
Assets And Resources Required To Implement And Support A Connected Program
There are multiple assets that go into the design, implementation, and operation of a successful connected health program:
When life sciences and medical device companies understand how patients interact with their connected device in the real world, they can use that data to deliver a product that addresses patient needs, such as:
Data from patients may include information on medication intake, care plan adherence, and therapy compliance. This data can identify if a patient struggles with a treatment, and enables clinicians and caregivers to take action. Because the data is remotely transmitted to clinicians, therapists, and parents or caregivers, they can adjust the patient’s technique (if needed) so they remain compliant and avoid complications.
Collaborative efforts are underway – particularly in the realms of diabetes and COPD care – to develop the clinical and technology advancements needed to make the implementation of connected solutions part of mainstream clinical practice. As patients of all ages — especially the digital natives that make up the millennial population and generations to come — increasingly seek ways to involve their caregivers and personal support system into their ongoing treatment, connected solutions are sure to become a ubiquitous feature of our health-care system.
About The Authors
Daniel Spors is chief commercial officer for HealthFactors Inc. Dan was a founding member of HealthFactors and Preventice, and held staff and leadership positions at IBM, ShowCase Corporation, and Centerfield Technology. He received a B.S. in computer science and math from Winona State University.
Kyle Dolbow is CEO at HealthFactors Inc. Prior to HealthFactors, Kyle was a pioneer at Preventice and served as president of Vree Health. He received a B.A. in chemistry from the College of Wooster, and completed his Ph.D. in chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.