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2020 facilitated a digital health surge. What new pain point has been revealed?

2020 facilitated a digital health surge. What new pain point has been revealed?

Data ownership questions, infrastructure improvements and longevity have become focal points, according to members of Protocol's Braintrust.

Good afternoon! Digital health is coming off a banner year from both adoption and investment standpoints, so we asked the experts to think about what comes next in the space. With the surge, we asked the Braintrust to consider what new pain points have been revealed and identify what new challenges would need solving. Want more health tech stories? Check out the first few stories in Protocol's newest manual on transformation in 2021, which began this week with a look at health care.

Deena Shakir

Partner at Lux Capital

With a proliferation of virtual care solutions and opportunities for patients to access treatment, diagnostics, and even participate in clinical research from home, it is clear that the world of digital health will never be the same. But with the advent of myriad new solutions, a number of pain points have also risen to the surface:

1) Patient data now exists in even more silos than ever before. Not only are providers and payers missing out on critical information, but patients too have to navigate multiple apples, web portals, logins, etc. and are forced to advocate for themselves. A movement toward patient ownership of data and care navigation solutions is imminent.

2) Digital health companies need to figure out how to scale nationally fast. It has heretofore been difficult from a labor supply, licensing/credentialing and compliance perspective to open up telemedicine in new markets. There is a real opportunity for a company to emerge as the "Stripe" for digital health companies -- providing a plug and play and economical solution for digital health companies, payers, providers and even pharma to keep up with the trend toward virtual care.

3) As we learned with the vaccine rollout, we need to make sure our digital solutions are accessible to all; human-centered design will continue to be an important part of building digital health solutions moving forward.

Dr. Maulik Majmudar

Principal Medical Officer at Amazon Halo

The Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant policy changes have provided a much-needed boost and accelerated the adoption of digital health solutions. However, it has exposed some major gaps in infrastructure and operational readiness, financial health of institutions and access to digital care.

Most health systems were ill-equipped and ill-prepared for the rapid and unexpected surge in virtual care. It is clear that majority of health systems did not have the infrastructure and logistics in place to handle an exponential rise in virtual visits. Nor did they have the right protocols and processes in place to deploy hospital at home or remote patient monitoring programs at scale. It has also exposed the financial vulnerabilities and economic realities in which health systems are operating.

The pandemic has led to significant volatility in revenues under fee for service reimbursement, which should accelerate transition to value-based care models that provide more predictability. Finally, the digital health surge has also highlighted that there is an uneven distribution of digital readiness (devices, connectivity, and digital literacy) across countries and societies.

Steven Allen

Director of Health Solutions at Intel

While healthcare organizations have increasingly found innovative ways to meet their healthcare needs through technology, there remains a common challenge: data. Data privacy concerns are at the forefront of the conversation in developing healthcare solutions, but we must also focus on the flow of data and data stewardship, including interoperability and security, to enable the digitization of an increasingly distributed, yet connected, and more intelligent healthcare system.

Simply collecting and storing data from different systems doesn't create value. It's the analysis of the data that creates actionable insight. However, even the most innovative and well-meaning solutions are limited to the context of their data silos and usability of their data. To unlock the full potential of digital health, individual patients and the healthcare ecosystem must work together to find ways to share data between devices, systems and platforms, with a goal to improve outcomes for patients, providers and healthcare organizations while protecting data privacy.

Imagine a future in a data-connected world where you're on vacation in an unfamiliar place, your wearable device notifies you of an impending medical issue, your phone is ready with contact information for the best care facility available nearby, your pertinent medical history is a secure click away for the facility upon arrival and your emergency physician can collaborate with your regular physician in real-time to diagnose the issue, so you can all agree on the best next steps.

Digital health needs the connectivity, data interoperability, data management and stewardship to unlock its full potential.

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Dr. Pravene Nath

Global Head of Digital Health Strategy, Personalized Healthcare at Roche/Genentech

The pandemic-driven digital health surge of 2020 opened new channels for patients and caregivers to access health care virtually. Health care providers responded to the increased demand for quality remote care and information by embracing new digital tools at breakneck speed. While the majority of people who tried virtual care during the pandemic seem to intend to stick with it, those who did not, or could not, have been left with even greater access challenges. Many systemic contributors to health disparities, including low digital literacy and limited technology access in underserved populations, are now exacerbated in a widening digital health divide. And as adoption has surged for those with digital access, technological and cultural challenges related to integration, interoperability and care coordination remain mostly unaddressed.

We need to now focus on long-term sustainability of today's digital-first world, by seamlessly integrating tech-enabled digital tools with new models of care which reduce waste, deliver the most value for patients and physicians, and enable more people to get the treatment they need in both the digital world and the real world. At Roche, we focus on designing tools that are intuitive, accessible, clinically validated, and foundational for new models of care and access. For example, we partnered with Moorfields Eye Hospital in the United Kingdom to pilot a mobile app designed to detect early vision changes in patients with retinal disease, as well as support programs to help patients understand and use the app, making it easier for physicians to integrate the tool into their practices.

By engaging patients and physicians as active partners, we can achieve a future in which personalized digital care is seamlessly integrated into the healthcare system and made more equitably accessible.

See who's who in the Protocol Braintrust and browse every previous edition by category here (Updated Feb. 25, 2021).
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